djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Wed Sep 27 04:06:14 MDT 1995
I have been looking through what could be rightfully called the bourgeois
antidote to the Unabomber: Joel Mokyr, 1990. *The Lever of Riches:
Technological Creativity and Economic Progress*. Oxford.
Mokyr's book is based on Schumpeterian theory.
What is most fascinating is that like his theoretical mentor, he is unable
to sustain with full confidence his Whiggish interpretation of history.
His omissions or qualifications seem almost cynical (see what I have
starred); he comes close to emptying from the content of progress the level
of society as a whole; and his foreboding is manifest:
"Without assessing the wider repercussions of changing technology on
non-economic intangibles, *such as liberty and brotherly love*, an
economist's judgement of history, colored by the evidence of the perpetual
struggle against poverty and drudgery, finds technological change worthy of
progress. Of course, if technological change eventually leads to the
physical destruction of our planet, survivors may no longer wish to use the
word progress in their descriptions of technological history. Until then,
however, I feel justified in using the term, not in the teleological sense
of leading to a clearly defined goal, but in the more limited sense of
direction. If the same bundle of goods can be produced at lower cost,
provided that these costs are accurately measured to include the social
costs such as environmental damage--the term progress is suitable." (15)
If that is all there is to progress--a limited sense of direction--it seems
that bourgeois intellectuals will fail to enthuse themselves much about the
future, much less humanity as a whole.
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