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 ?
Almost entirely absent from these discussions is any mention of Jacques Ellul, once regarded alongside Lewis Mumford as one of the world's foremost critics of unchecked technological development.
A year earlier, reviewing a Royal Academy retrospective of the painter, Roger Fry had declared that his work was 'Wonderful indeed, but most wonderful that this wonderful performance should ever have been confused with that of an artist.' Likewise in 1930, American historian and critic Lewis Mumford wrote that Sargent had 'remained to the end an illustrator [...] The most adroit appearance of workmanship, the most dashing eye for effect, cannot conceal the essential emptiness of Sargent's mind, or the contemptuous and cynical superficiality of a certain part of his execution.'
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.
The book helps fill a void for teachers who desire a more stripped down, contemporary version of large-sized classic texts such as Lewis Mumford's The City in History.
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.
The essay, called "The Corruption of Liberalism,'' was written by the unjustly forgotten writer Lewis Mumford. It's been revived by the magazine's current editor, Franklin Foer, in "Insurrections of the Mind,'' a collection of essays from the magazine's first century.
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.