Lewis Mumford

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Mumford, Lewis


Born Oct. 19, 1895, in Flushing, N. Y. American philosopher. Professor at Stanford University (1942–44), the University of Pennsylvania (1951–59), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1957–60).

Mumford’s theoretical and political views have undergone a considerable evolution: from liberal-reformist illusions of the 1920’s and 1930’s, when Mumford actively supported President F. D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, to pessimistic and conservative convictions about society. His numerous works are devoted to social problems of technology, the history of cities and the processes of urbanization, and the Utopian tradition in social thought. His books on urban planning and architecture, such as Sticks and Stones (1924), The Culture of Cities (1938), City Development (1945), and The City in History (1961), have greatly influenced urban studies in the USA.

In Technics and Civilization (1934), Art and Technics (1952), and especially The Myth of the Machine (1967–70), Mumford reveals himself as an extreme exponent of technological determinism. He considers the principal cause of all contemporary social evils and disturbances to be the growing gap between technology and morality. In his opinion, this gap threatens mankind in the near future with enslavement to an impersonal “megamachine,” that is, an overly rationalized, technocratic social structure. Mumford regards scientific and technological progress since F. Bacon and Galileo as “intellectual imperialism,” to which humanism and social justice have fallen victim. He regards science as a surrogate religion and scientists as the new priestly caste. Therefore, Mumford calls for a halt to scientific and technological progress and for the reestablishment of the values of the Middle Ages, which he depicts as the golden age of mankind. This reactionary outlook has led Mumford to reevaluate the role of utopias. In The Story of Utopias (1922), Mumford considered utopias as a means of transforming society on the basis of principles of justice; however, in the postwar years he has regarded utopias as a realizable nightmare.

Mumford’s political views have been extremely contradictory and inconsistent. He has spoken out against the Cold War and in support of coexistence between the two systems. He has defended the bourgeois democratic tradition from the infringements of McCarthyism and the ultrareactionary circles of the USA. As a liberal, Mumford has harshly criticized monopolies and the bureaucratization of society, as well as the suppression of the individual. However, he has been openly anticommunist.


The Culture of Cities. London, 1946.
In the Name of Sanity. New York, 1954.
The Transformations of Man. New York, 1956.
The City in History. New York, 1961.
The Story of Utopias. New York, 1962.
Technics and Civilization. New York, 1963.
The Myth of the Machine, vols. 1–2. New York, 1967–70.
In Russian translation:
Ot brevenchatogo doma do neboskreba. Moscow, 1936.


Osipov, G. V. Tekhnika i obshchestvennyi progress. Moscow, 1959.
Istoricheskii materializm i sotsial’naia filosofiia sovremennoi burzhuazii. Moscow, 1960.


References in periodicals archive ?
The design of the town was based on several ideas prevalent at the time, including the ideas of architect Lewis Mumford and the Garden-City Movement, which stressed the ideals of having a wholesome, safe environment for families.
The essay, called "The Corruption of Liberalism,'' was written by the unjustly forgotten writer Lewis Mumford.
There is an extensive bibliography of 64 pages, which I was thankful for, since some of the brief passages from major thinkers such as Lewis Mumford, Robert Moses, and Jane Jacobs led me to want to read more of them.
Meyer notes that Lewis Mumford, the famous critic of city bigness, opined that the rats in the study "exhibit the same symptoms of stress, alienation, hostility, sexual perversions [circa 1968], parental incompetence, and rabid violence that we now find in Megalopolis.
Decades ago Constantinos Doxiadis was promoting a vision of Ecumenopolis or a world city, a vision which was strongly criticized and rejected by Lewis Mumford and a number of other humanists.
Among their topics are Lewis Mumford and the quest for a Jewish architecture, architectural histories and national ideologies among the South Slavs, post-colonial nation-building and symbolic structures in South Africa, from nationalist to critical regionalist architecture, and architectural koine and trans-national Spanish architecture.
Lum has assembled a wonderful introduction to and discussion of the key figures on whose thought the media ecology group draws: Neil Postman, Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul, Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, James Carey, Benjamin Lee Whorf, Susanne Langer, Eric Havelock, and Walter O ng.
The critic Lewis Mumford gave Benton his regional focus, where "regional customs and spontaneous rituals, not our theories, account for the nation's dynamism," and "local customs and common experiences trump political or ideological categories" writes Wolff.
2) In painstaking detail, Jacobs refutes the titans of city planning whose ideas dominated her era: Daniel Burnham, Lewis Mumford, Le Corbusier and Robert Moses, among others.
For example, in this category he places the work of Lewis Mumford.
The ties that bind an urban neighborhood, the "lines of social force" as philosopher Lewis Mumford describes them, while nearly invisible, are remarkably strong.
Cohen suggests that Wikipedia has the "ability to attract nonresidents to it for intercourse and spiritual stimulus," as Lewis Mumford described cities.