Luddism's Lessons

Dr. Elizabeth Harry
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The purpose of this conference is to "continue in its endeavors over recent years to develop agenda for the humanities in an era otherwise dominated by scientific, technical, and economic rationalisms. What is the role of the humanities in thinking the shape of the future and the human?" But the question itself assumes that humanities like all fields of knowledge should only think in one direction — forward — an assumption that immediately appears prejudicial against historians. It also betrays the obvious fact that in our culture, the only things of any value to anyone refer to the future. But I am a Luddite, and I find this premise flawed, even disastrous in its implications. And I am not alone.

This paper will seek to provide an overview of scholarly literature from the past decade that consciously equates the present high-tech dilemma, the computer revolution, with that of the Luddites, the workers of early nineteenth-century who raged against the machine. Through this overview I will seek to summarize the answers to basic questions: What is Luddism? Why does this impulse exist? And what does it suggest about a possible response of the humanities to "an era otherwise dominated by scientific, technical, and economic rationalisms"?

Keywords: Luddism, Luddites, Computer Revolution
Stream: Cyberspace, Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Luddism's Lessons, Luddism's Lessons

Dr. Elizabeth Harry

Instructor, Department of History, University of St. Thomas

Elizabeth Harry received her bachelors degree in history and German from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her masters and doctorate in German and Soviet history from the Department of Comparative History at Brandeis University, and has been teaching for five years, in both four-year and community colleges, a wide range of courses on modern world civilization. She also taught modern world history in an online format for two years. Her research and publications thus far have been concerned with the origins of mass conflict, her dissertation exploring the social and psychological origins of Stalinism. At the same time, she has a broad range of research interests, including the study of East and West, conceptions of community, the development of nationalism and communism, the human connection to the natural world and the effects of technological change, women's studies, and the histories of social conflict and non-violence. A native of Wisconsin, she currently lives with her husband and cats in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and teaches world history at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Ref: H05P0165