From International Socialism (1st series), No.20, Spring 1965, p.31.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The Social Sciences and American Civilisation
B. Watson & W. Tarr
Technology and Social Change
ed. E. Ginsberg
Columbia University Press, 33s. 6d.
Written well within the conventional wisdom, the first book nonetheless sets out pleasantly and straightforwardly an account of American society documented fairly generously from the social and political sciences. It is designed primarily for undergraduate reading, and while inevitably spending a good deal of time discussing the family, an obsessive American sociological concern, also discusses military and economic institutions in a useful way.
Technology and Social Change focuses on a major institution, unnoticed, save for one brief paragraph, in Tarr and Watson’s discussion of American Civilisation. The book, like so many accounts of seminars, is patchy, but does stress the dynamic role of technology as a vital factor of social change, and begins to spell the shape that some of these changes are creating in society. One startling example was drawn from the aviation industry, a science-based and therefore fast-moving industry, where the trend is towards a one-to-one ratio of scientist-engineers to production workers, so that in four years production workers declined by 17 per cent and scientist-engineers increased by 96 per cent.
The authors touch interestingly on the increasing role of the scientist-engineers in positions of power in government and business, simply because scientists alone are equipped to understand the new mysteries, and begin the long analysis of how the community can gain rational control over science. It is interesting particularly as the Labour Party seems singularly unaware of this necessity, and as well as forming various advisory committees has created a specialist adviser to the cabinet on science. As Sir Solly Zuckermann is scarcely noted for his commitment to any brand of socialist theory the existence of this free-lance adviser, uncontrolled by any committee or semblance of a democratic process, is a retrograde measure.
Last updated on 14 April 2010