Political and Social Thought in the Machine Age
Tuesdays-Thursdays 4:30-5:45
Clark 110

Prof. M.R. Levin
213 Mather House
Phone: 368-2624, e-mail mrl3@case.edu
Office Hours:
To be arranged


“Ideas…” wrote John Maynard Keynes, “when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood…. Practical men, who believe themselves… exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist….The power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.”

Industrialization has been a transatlantic phenomenon that continues to alter the material lives, aspirations, and values of millions of people. From the late eighteenth century through today, technology has come to stand at the heart of concerns about how to deal with questions of production and consumption, of alienation, social reform and control, the deteriorating environment, and technological progress itself. It has been seen as both a panacea and an uncontrollable destructive force. This course explores the responses of philosophers, economic theorists, culture critics, public policy makers and urban planners to changes in western society wrought by industrialization by focusing on their concerns with technological change.

Class lectures and discussions will be based on assigned readings and projects. Topics include: mechanization of nature and society; Enlightenment views on science, technology, and the individual; utopia and dystopia, the idea of progress, built environments, development theories, and technology in a dangerous world.

Course work in this class is intended to accomplish two ends. First, to acquaint you with the ideas of a number of influential writers engaged in shaping modern industrial societies. Second, to engage you in critically examining, discussing and writing about their ideas in the context of the major themes of the course with an eye to their continuing relevance in contemporary society.

Course Work and Grading: The course is centered around critical discussion of the assigned readings and films. To guide and stimulate your thinking about this material, students will write 4 ungraded two-page responses to these assignments over the course of the semester. Lectures will provide context and summarize pertinent issues. There will be three short papers (6-7 pages) on subjects to be announced in class, and an oral presentation and 15 page paper on a topic to be arranged with the instructor.

Required texts:

1.Robert Heilbroner
The Worldly Philosopers
, 7TH, REVISED ed.,
Simon & Schuster, July 1999, Paperback, 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade Paperbacks
Pub. Date: July 1999
Edition Desc: 7TH REV
ISBN: 068486214X

2. Terence Ball, Richard Dagger
Ideals and Ideologies: A Reader
, Fifth Edition
Paperback: 442 pages
Publisher: Longman; 5th edition
ISBN: 0321159756

3.Le Corbusier
The City of tomorrow and its Planning

Price: $14.95
Format: Paperback, 10th ed., 302pp.
ISBN: 0486253325
Publisher: Dover Publications, Incorporated
Pub. Date: April 1987

Other: short selections from online texts or material on course reserve in KSL.

Grading: three short papers 15% ea. X 3 45%
Final Project: presentation 20%
Written paper 20%
Classroom participation 15%


Readings are assigned to complement the lecture material and to provide information for class discussions at each class meeting. You are expected to keep up with the assignments.

Jan 11: Introcution to Class. Nature comes down to Earth. The Creation of the Public Sphere

Part I: The Mechanization of the World Picture: society,human beings, nature
The end of the 18th century, saw industriousness move front and center as a prime value in the eyes of a new group of individuals, intellectuals committed to promoting their ideas for building a modern society based on scientifically organized production and consumption. A mechanistic view of the world and of human nature informed their ideas about how historical change happened and could be managed in the future.

Jan. 18 Ideology, Machine Man and French Enlightenment: Turgot, Condorcet, Sketch for an Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind

Ball and Dagger, pp. xiii-10
La Mettrie, Machine Man, Beginning through “it is a beautiful soul which dignifies the man endowed with it.” Text beginning “But since all the faculties of the soul depend to such a degree on the proper organization of the brain” to “the faculty of motion, impenetrability, extension, etc.”


Heilbroner, pp. 13-41
Condorcet, selection “The Future of the Human Mind”

Turgot, article “Fairs”, at http://tuna.uchicago.edu/forms_unrest/ENC.query.html (you have to use the Case system)


Jan. 25. Adam Smith

Heilbroner, 43-74
Smith: An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
Introduction and Plan of Work; Book I, through chpt.. 3; chpt. 10 to beginning to “The difference between the wages of skilled labour and those of common labour is founded upon this principle.” ; Book V, Part Third, 1st and 2nd paragraphs; Part IV “of the Expense if supporting the Dignity of the Sovereign” and Conclusion to the Chapter. http://art-bin.com/art/oweal1a.html

Ball and Dagger, pp. 98-100

Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments
Part IV (On Utility) all; Part VI (On Virtue), Section ii, Chpt. 3, para. 3.4-3.6.


February 1: The Limits on Progress: Mechanics of Population, and The Utilitarians: Jeremy Bentham, Structuring Humans/Harmonizing Social Relations

Heilbroner, pp. 75-104
Malthus, Essay on Population, Chapter 2
Gunther Stent, Tragedy of the Commons
Bentham, Panopticon, http://cartome.org/panopticon2.htm Letters I, II, VI, XX
Foucault, Panopticism, beginning to “it is in fact a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use,” and final paragraph.
First short paper due


Part II: Inventing the Future

February 8. The Utopians; Marx
Ball and Dagger, pp. 189-202
Heilbroner, pp. 105-164
Marx, Communist Manifesto, selection in Ball and Dagger, pp. 202-214
Marx, selections from Capital: I, 492-508, 544-547, 617 at:


February 15.Theories of Evolution: Bellamy, Looking Backward and Social Darwinism,, visiting lecturer

Ball and Dagger, pp. 267-276 selection plus web text
Heilbroner, 170-212

Part III Modernity and Modernism:Technosocieties and their problems

February 22 The Invention of Sociology, visiting lecturer
International Expositions and Consumer Society

Williams, Dream Worlds, Chapter 1 and Chpt. On Gabriel Tarde


March 1: Second Short Paper due
presentations of second short paper

Mid-term grades March 7
spring break March 7-11

March 15: Urbanism, Urban planning and Systems Theory:

TBA: the Musee Social: Henard, Burnham
Corbusier, City of the Future (all)

22 Film: Metropolis

24:, individual meetings to discuss final projects

March 29: Fascism: Hitler, Mussolini, Spier; Statist economics: Keynes; Capitalism revived: Schumpeter

Ball and Dagger , 287-326
Heilbroner, pp. 248-287; 288-310c
Third short paper due

March 31: Film: The Matrix

Part IV Post-Modernism

April 5 : Environmentalists: the Greens and Web Ideology

Ball and Dagger, pp. 405-440
Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web (NY:Harper Collins, 2000) on reserve
pp. xii-38; 91-115

April 12: Development Theory, international finance, invited speaker
Reading to be announced

19 Final Project Presentations

april 25 last day of class

april 26 27 reading days

April 29 Final Papers due in my office by 5:00 p.m.

Fial exams april 29-May 5
Final grades due May 7th

Key to web sites

@6. LaMettrie, Julien Offray de, Machine Man( L’homme machine)

@7. Encyclopedie—Turgot, article on “Fairs” (“Foires”)[There is a web site for the Encyclopedie which requires an id and pin via CWRU library. I believe once on the Case system you can access it. Pls. Check.]

@8. Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments

@9. Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, e-book Netlibrary via KSL

@Condorcet, Sketch for a History of the Progress of the Human Mind

@Bentham, Utilitarianism and Panopticon

@Michel Foucault, Panopticism, http://foucault.info/documents/disciplineAndPunish/foucault.disciplineAndPunish.panOpticism.html
URL: http://foucault.info/documents/disciplineAndPunish/foucault.disciplineAndPunish.panOpticism.html

@Michel Foucault, What is Enlightenment?,

@Thomas Malthus, Essay on Population

@or *Garrett Hardin, Tragedy of the Commons


@5. Marx, Communist Manifesto, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/index.htm

@ Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, e-book Netlibrary via KSL

@Emile Durkheim, readings

@Gabriel Tarde

@Shumpeter, Creative Destruction

@Film: The Matrix ( video or dvd to borrow)

@Film: Metropolis (video or dvd to borrow)

@film: Le Corbusier, The City (KSL purchase or borrow? On Line?)