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16 March 2011 @ 03:59 pm
Steampunk and the Menace of Technology  
Food for thought:
Together with the demographic, political and economic perturbations that followed, the Great War generated a veritable outpouring of emotional, artistic or intellectual responses. These included a substantial corpus of eschatological writings specifically concerned with the causes and consequences of this catastrophic trauma. The Decline of the Occident by Oswald Spengler or The End of the Renaissance by Nicolai Berdiaev are some of the better known titles of this literature, whose stylistic and topical diversity is underscored by the pervasive leitmotif of doubt, despondency and disintegration. The themes of techniques and machines were favourite subjects of apocalyptic discussions: now that their efficiency as agent of death and destruction was made so evident, their inescapable presence throughout all reaches of life could be seen as a tangible objectification of the moral crisis, if not one of its original causes. With the dazzled optimism of Victorian progress long abandoned, the examples of over-industrialised America and Bolshevik Russia suggested to many that humanity, for all its impressive material achievements (if not because of them), had dismally failed to improve its present condition and future prospects. To all intents and purposes, humanity appeared bent on accelerating the process of its destruction by making it the outcome of its own self-devised machinations.

Schlanger, Nathan. 2006. Introduction. "Techniques, Technology and Civilisation" by Marcel Mauss. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Discussion Questions:
Do you think this apocalyptic fear of technology persists today? Is there any connection between that attitude and the broad appeal of Steampunk and Victoriana at present?