Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why Today's Technological Phenomenon Started in the 1700s

In Perspectives on Our Age, Jacques Ellul identifies five major reasons why today’s technological phenomenon emerged in the 1700s in Europe. These conditions had never before existed simultaneously. That’s why today’s technological phenomenon did not exist before or elsewhere.
One, a large growth in population (p. 41). This happened because society had become better organized. It resulted in more available workers as well as a faster distribution of people and ideas.
Two, social fragmentation (41). Feudal social groups fragmented first and worst in Britannia, Gallia, and, eventually, Germania. This allowed new social groups, such as factories, to form. It also pressured people, who had lost other livelihoods, to work in them. Peasants became proletarians out of necessity.
Three, a clear technological intention by intellectuals (42). In the 1400s, key intellectuals in Latin Christendom committed themselves to breathing new life into classical culture. In the 1500s, other key intellectuals likewise committed themselves to breathing new life into biblical studies and early Church beliefs and practices based on them. After 1648, intellectuals completely abandoned seeking new forms for old ways. Instead, they committed themselves to creating a whole new world by rationalizing all forms and ways.
Four, the accumulation of an extensive range of technological innovations (42). Between 1000 and 1750, new and better tools and methods had been accumulating. At first innovation was slow and scattered. It eventually became more rapid and broader, expanding geographically as well as across all areas of human endeavor. Finally, it increased to the point that intellectuals could become aware of it and seek, with clear intention, to organize and expand it.
Fifth, enough money (42). For the first time since the collapse of the western Roman Empire, western Olympians had been able to save enough money to afford large investments in new economic infrastructure such as factory buildings and roads.
I would add a sixth reason: exuberant Olympianity. In 1648, after almost 130 years of civil war, the last 30 years being especially vicious, Latin Christendom collapsed into peace. After that, intellectuals abandoned theology and devoted themselves to the Olympian gods with great exuberance. That’s why we may refer to this new historical age as the Age of Exuberant Olympianity.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.