Futurs d'antan, Futuribles Journal n° 430

Recherche, sciences, techniques - Société, modes de vie

Lewis Mumford, a Major Source for Thinking about the 21st Century


Even though we are never immune from unpredictable breaks in continuity, the trends at work today and over the last few decades hint at a world which bears the lasting mark of current technological developments (the continuing rise of ICT, AI etc.) and will have an increasingly urban population. In this context, and without making any assumptions about the real hold that technological progress will have on (enhanced?) human beings, nor the way urban societies will be organized in a world that is both hyper-connected and subject to increasing ecological pressures, this seems a suitable moment to re-visit the writings of Lewis Mumford.

Throughout his work, the American historian of science and cities Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) addressed themes that are still very topical in our societies: technics and civilization, the key role of cities in socio-political organization, the prospects opened up by the Man-machine relationship, the need for systemic thinking etc. In this ‘Future of Yesteryear’ article, Jean Haëntjens offers a very instructive re-reading, showing that even the most ‘technicistic’ of human societies still retain scope for agency.

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