Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance

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Cornell University Press, 1990 - Science - 430 pages

Over the past five centuries, advances in Western understanding of and control over the material world have strongly influenced European responses to non-Western peoples and cultures. In Machines as the Measure of Men, Michael Adas explores the ways in which European perceptions of their scientific and technological superiority shaped their interactions with people overseas. Adopting a broad, comparative perspective, he analyzes European responses to the cultures of sub-Saharan Africa, India, and China, cultures that they judged to represent lower levels of material mastery and social organization.

Beginning with the early decades of overseas expansion in the sixteenth century, Adas traces the impact of scientific and technological advances on European attitudes toward Asians and Africans and on their policies for dealing with colonized societies. He concentrates on British and French thinking in the nineteenth century, when, he maintains, scientific and technological measures of human worth played a critical role in shaping arguments for the notion of racial supremacy and the "civilizing mission" ideology which were used to justify Europe's domination of the globe. Finally, he examines the reasons why many Europeans grew dissatisfied with and even rejected this gauge of human worth after World War I, and explains why it has remained important to Americans.

Showing how the scientific and industrial revolutions contributed to the development of European imperialist ideologies, Machines as the Measure of Men highlights the cultural factors that have nurtured disdain for non-Western accomplishments and value systems. It also indicates how these attitudes, in shaping policies that restricted the diffusion of scientific knowledge, have perpetuated themselves, and contributed significantly to chronic underdevelopment throughout the developing world. Adas's far-reaching and provocative book will be compelling reading for all who are concerned about the history of Western imperialism and its legacies.

 

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In Machines as the Measure of Men, Michael Adas examines the role of science and technology in shaping Europeans’ sense of their own cultural supremacy. He argues, “By the mid-eighteenth century ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
Impressions of Material Culture in an
21
TechnologyPerceptions of Backwardness Qualified Praise
32
Natural PhilosophyIlliteracy and Faulty Calendars
53
Scientific and Technological Convergence and the First
59
Shifting Views of NonWestern
69
The Rise and Decline of Sinophilism
79
The Orientalist Discovery
95
The Machine as Civilizer 22 I
221
Marx on the Impact of Machines
236
Space Accuracy and Uniformity
259
The Case of Ye Mingchen
266
The First Generations of Improvers
275
The Search for Scientific and Technological Proofs of Racial
292
Racists versus Improvers at
318
Science and Technology in Nineteenth
338

African Achievement and the Debate over the Abolition of
108
Scientific Gauges and the Spirit of the Times
122
Global Hegemony and the Rise of Technology as the Main
133
Primitive Tools and the Savage Mind
153
The Retreat of Orientalism
166
Despotism and Decline
177
Material Mastery as a Prerequisite of Civilized Life
194
Perceptions of Man and Nature as Gauges of Western Uniqueness
210
The Great War and the Assault on Scientific
345
The Specter of Asia Industrialized
357
Trench Warfare and the Crisis of Western Civilization
365
Challenges to the Civilizing Mission and the Search
380
Modernization Theory and the Revival of
402
Index 4
419
Copyright

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About the author (1990)

Michael Adas is Abraham E. Voorhees Professor of History and Board of Governors' Chair at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He is the author most recently of Dominance by Design: Technological Imperatives and America's Civilizing Mission .

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