Lewis Mumford

Also found in: Wikipedia.

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 ?
En 1931, Lewis Mumford se hizo responsable de la edicion de la columna titulada "The Sky Line" dentro de la revista The New Yorker.
In addition to the two 'big names', Morris pays homage to Rudolf Rocker, Rene Dubos, Lewis Mumford, and more indirectly even Marx, Engels, Emma Goldman and Mikhail Bakunin.
Cultural critics like Lewis Mumford and then the mighty Marshall McLuhan addressed directly the question of whether and how our tools have effects far beyond the soil they dug or the metal they hammered.
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.
Leiste sobre Lewis Mumford, el arquitecto social detras de la idea comunitaria en Queens?
The essay, called "The Corruption of Liberalism,'' was written by the unjustly forgotten writer Lewis Mumford.
Across divergent approaches and contexts however, each of these articles underscores that media content and technologies never exist autonomously; they are reflective of and impact upon cultural practices and social relations in ways both conspicuous and subtle, a point emphasized by Lewis Mumford, Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, and others in the media ecological tradition and perhaps inadvertently, by the contributors to this issue of JCMS.
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.
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.
Lewis Mumford, in his classic The City in History, argued that human settlements should exist to enrich human life.
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.