Langdon Winner has made a name for himself as something of a neo-Luddite or technophobe. But I prefer to think of him as a public historian who raises the very questions many of us are reluctant to ask about new information technologies. This far-sighted and still-timely collection of ten essays explores some the social, political, and philosophical ramifications of these technologies. While he looks at computer networking, nuclear reactors, genetic engineering, the so-called appropriate-technology movement and a variety of other specific issues, his main focus is on the way we think about technology. He believes that, unlike other forms of human creativity, technology has never been considered a subject worthy of philosophical inquiry. This is reflected in our general approach to technology which is more concerned with "how things work" and "making things work" than with the moral and political significance of technical systems in themselves.
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Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. In its pages an analytically trained mind confronts some of the most pressing political issues of our day. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 6. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Whale and the Reactor , please sign up.
Be the first to ask a question about The Whale and the Reactor. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 4. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Apr 26, Jessica rated it it was ok Shelves: work-ish. I was looking for a book that would take a deep dive into ideas of "appropriate technology" and how we should define the goals of technological innovation. Winner does frame the thesis of the book as such and every chapter begins with a tease that the topic might actually be explored in some academic fashion.
What you get, however, is a long-winded rant from a very narrow perspective of a white, privileged, older male american. His main argument is that everyone just knows that life was better w I was looking for a book that would take a deep dive into ideas of "appropriate technology" and how we should define the goals of technological innovation.
His main argument is that everyone just knows that life was better when he was a kid because milk came in glass bottles, women stayed home, and men built their own houses with craftsmanship.
He laments a lot of technology as simply "progress for progress' sake", but he doesn't give any way to evaluate what is good technology and what is bad. The polio vaccine was good it seems because it saved the lives of white American kids like the author. All other technological development is only being pursued by greedy corporations. He doesn't even mention new vaccines, poverty alleviation, or the liberation of women through domestic technology.
An inescapable classic of science and society. A couple of the essays "Do Artifacts Have Politics? The rest of the anthology will appeal more to the technophobic and "limits on growth" advocates: the arguments are stock, somewhat weak, and more extruded old-hippie academic product than truly first-rate analysis.
Jan 14, Michael rated it really liked it Shelves: tech-studies-comps. In The Whale and the Reactor , Langdon Winner argues that technologies have politics and should not be viewed as separate from us: they "become part of our very humanity" He does not want to reduce technology to social forces, but wishes to understand "the characteristics of technical objects and the meanings of those characteristics.
He argues that the adaptation of some technologies has shown that "reasons of practical necessity. He argues that the reasons people have for limiting technology such as threats to health, resources, environment , while valid, "restrict the range of moral and political criteria that are permissible in public deliberations about technological change" May 16, Bryan Kibbe rated it really liked it. Winner does an excellent job of mounting some well-placed and subtle criticisms of technological devices and the way in which we evaluate and discuss those technologies.
In particular, Winner offers very thoughtful discussions of the technological imperatives embedded in technologies, the concept of "nature," and the meaning of decentralization. Ultimately, though, I felt a bit disappointed that Winner did not offer a more substantive proposal concerning how to evaluate technological devices. Th Winner does an excellent job of mounting some well-placed and subtle criticisms of technological devices and the way in which we evaluate and discuss those technologies.
The subtitle of the book is "A search for limits in an age of high technology," but at the end of the book I was still left wondering, precisely what are these limits. I can find evidence of some limits implied and gestured to throughout the book, but it would have been nice to see a more deliberate and extended treatment of the topic.
Nonetheless, still a good book to read in conjunction with other philosophical treatments of technology. Sep 11, unperspicacious rated it it was amazing Shelves: distributism. Highly uneven, and perhaps even a little shrill at times though justifiably so. It also shows all the hallmarks of an extended collection of essays. But nevertheless full of gems. Abounds with references, conceptual analysis and extended discussions of the political consequences of choosing technologies of varying scale.
A keeper. View 1 comment. Nov 28, Jerrid Kruse rated it really liked it. He predicted the inaccuracy of several predictions e. Finally, he explores the thesis of the book by searching for limits. The first limit considered is ecological, then human danger, and finally he concedes that we must simply be more honest about the downfalls of technology.
Dec 08, Jan D rated it really liked it. Contains some excellent essays. The style is accessible. One might criticize that the author is critical of technology in general. Gives a pretty good overview of changing conceptions of technology In terms of the overall thesis that "technical decisions are political decisions," it falls too much into the "using technology for different ends" camp.
Oct 06, Dylan rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. Another well-written, much needed work on our place in the increasingly technological world.
Langdon Winner is currently my favorite living academic. Mar 07, Lilly Irani rated it liked it. Ranty but fascinating look into what various technologies mean, with a somewhat McLuhan-like tint. View all 3 comments. Jen rated it it was amazing Apr 02, Mithradates K rated it liked it Mar 23, Ryan Luetzen rated it really liked it Oct 20, Jason Perlman rated it really liked it Nov 13, Lynnette Fuller rated it really liked it Sep 29, Kamolika rated it it was amazing Apr 13, Ezechel rated it it was amazing Jan 01, Leonard rated it it was amazing Jul 19, Pedro rated it it was amazing Nov 22, Michael Davie rated it really liked it Jul 06, Joseph rated it really liked it Jun 04, Ty rated it liked it Nov 24, Mike Kidd rated it really liked it Apr 15, Shannon rated it it was amazing Sep 30, Sara Grace rated it liked it Jun 24, Sam J rated it really liked it Oct 03, Soyloqueparezco rated it it was amazing Mar 10, Eix rated it really liked it Oct 26, John rated it really liked it Sep 24, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.
Readers also enjoyed. About Langdon Winner.
The Whale and the Reactor
He demonstrates that choices about the kinds of technical systems we build and use are actually choices about who we want to be and what kind of world we want to create—technical decisions are political decisions, and they involve profound choices about power, liberty, order, and justice. A seminal text in the history and philosophy of science, this new edition includes a new chapter, preface, and postscript by the author. Philosophy: General Philosophy. Political Science: Public Policy.
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Review of Langdon Winner’s Whale and the Reactor
He received his B. His primary focus was political theory. Winner lives in upstate New York. He is married to Gail P. Stuart and has three children. His interests include science , technology , American popular culture , and theories of sustainability. Winner is known for his articles and books on science, technology, and society.