Nicols Fox

Against the Machine: The Hidden Luddite Tradition in Literature, Art and Individual Lives

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Published by Island Press in November, 2002.

FROM the cars we drive to the instant messages we receive, from debate about genetically modified foods to astonishing strides in cloning, robotics, and nanotechnology, it would be hard to deny technology's powerful grip on our lives. To stop and ask whether this digitized, implanted reality is quite what we had in mind when we opted for progress, or to ask if we might not be creating more problems than we solve, is likely to peg us as hopelessly backward or suspiciously eccentric.

Yet not only questioning, but challenging technology turns out ot have a long and noble history.

In this work, I examine contemporary resistance to technology and place it in a surprising historical context. I have tried to illuminate the rich but oftentimes unrecognized literary and philosophical tradition that has existed for nearly two centuries, since the first Luddites--the "machine breaking" followers of the mythical Ned Ludd--lifted their sledgehammers in protest against the Industrial Revolution. Tracing that current of thought through some of the great mids of the 19th and 20th centuries--William Blake, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Morris, Rovert Graves, Aldo Leopole, Rachel Carson, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and others, I have tried to demonstrate that modern protests against consumptive lifestyles and misgivings about the relentless march of mechanization are part of a fascinating hidden history. The Luddite tradition, I am convinced, can yield important insights into how we might reshape both technology and modern life so that human, community, and environmental values take precedence over the demands of the machine.

Selected Books and Articles

Alone Together
A look at the Kellam and their lives on Placentia Island off the Maine Coast where they lived simply and without modern conveniences for 35 years.
Against the Machine: The Hidden Luddite Tradition in Literature, Art and Individual Lives
Resistance to technology has persisted from the original Luddite Rebellion to the present in Romantic literature, the Victorian novel, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Transcendentalism, the Agrarian, environmental, and back-to-the land movements, in modern literature, and in the lives of contemporary neo-Luddites.
Spoiled: Why our food is making us sick
Spoiled looks at how changes in lifestyle, culture, food production, processing and distribution, have created niches for emerging foodborne pathogens.
It Was Probably Something You Ate
How to avoid and Survive Foodborne Illness