JTE v2n1 - Book Reivew- Technology in America: A Brief History
          MARCUS, A. I., & SEGAL, H. P.  (1989).  TECH-
          PP.  (ISBN 0-15-589762-4)
                 Reviewed by John R. Pannabecker
               This book on the development of technol-
          ogy in America by Alan I. Marcus and Howard
          P. Segal should be of special interest to
          those who teach technology education and its
          educational heritage, the history of technol-
          ogy, and the history of industrial education.
          The organizational approach of the authors is
          conventional by intent, based on the iden-
          tification of "specific, dominant cultural
          notions and social themes for different eras
          in the American past" (p. iv), such as colo-
          nial manufacturing America or the development
          of America as a social unit from the 1830s to
          1870s. The authors affirm the importance of
          the history of technical and organizational
          aspects but they concentrate on the "impact
          of American society and culture on technol-
          ogy, rather than vice versa" (p. iv).
               The book is organized into three major
          parts:  (a) From the Old World to the New:
          1607 to the 1870s; (b) Systematizing America:
          The 1870s to the 1920s; and (c) From Indus-
          trial America to Postindustrial America:  The
          1920s to the Present.  Each part is approxi-
          mately the same length, however, the first
          part covers a relatively long time period.
          This compression of such a long period is un-
          fortunate, but is consistent with the au-
          thors' intent to emphasize the years after
               In the first part, a variety of topics
          are covered such as mills, master-apprentice
          system, arms manufacture, printing, textile
          production, transportation systems, photogra-
          phy, and agricultural change.  This book is,
          however, more than a simple account of tech-
          nological themes.  The emphasis on American
          social patterns is especially evident when
          the authors show how certain technologies de-
          veloped differently in America than in
          Europe, for example, road design and con-
          struction (p. 58), rail transportation (p.
          68), and factory design (p. 107).  The influ-
          ence of major ideological or social aspects
          such as mercantilism, colonial governance,
          the Constitution, and Jeffersonian and
          Hamiltonian perspectives are interwoven into
          the analysis without being overemphasized.
               The second part (1870s-1920s) is the
          most detailed period of American history cov-
          ered in the book.  This part corresponds
          closely to the period covered by Charles
          Bennett (1937) in his second volume on the
          history of industrial education and thus may
          be especially useful to teachers of profes-
          sional courses in technology education.  The
          authors concentrate on technological systems,
          not only in the physical sense but also as a
          conceptual framework.  The Centennial Exhibi-
          tion of 1876 in Philadelphia serves as a sym-
          bol for the developing concept of systems.
          The notion of systems is further illustrated
          through traditional themes such as
          electrification, communications, and factory
               It is in the first chapter of this sec-
          ond part that Marcus and Segal mention the
          Russian System of tool instruction and its
          introduction to America (p. 170).  It is only
          later in the second part (chapter six) that
          the development of industrial education is
          discussed, and then primarily from a voca-
          tional perspective and in the context of sys-
          tematizing factory work.  The teaching of
          technology (e.g., through industrial arts)
          for the purposes of general education is
          overlooked.  The authors are to be commended
          for having included educational aspects, but
          the coverage is heavily oriented to engineer-
          ing education and organizations and thus does
          not reflect a very broad view of
          technologists in general.
               The breadth of themes covered in this
          second section would, however, compensate for
          the scant attention to the heritage of tech-
          nology education if the book is being used as
          a supplementary text.  Topics range from the
          changing urban environment and leisure tech-
          nology (sports, bicycles, automobiles, and
          motion pictures) to domestic technology and
          military technology.  Domestic technology,
          for example, is treated as part of the sys-
          tematizing of workers and the workplace and
          includes women and their work.  The system-
          atizing of spectator sports and the pro-
          duction and marketing of sporting goods are
          interpreted in the context of the rise of the
          middle class.  Marcus and Segal conclude the
          second part with a summary of the period's
          static and hierarchical notion of systems.
               The final part of the book consists of
          two chapters: the period from the 1920s to
          the 1950s when technology was generally per-
          ceived as a social solution and, in contrast,
          the period from the 1950s to the present when
          technology has usually been viewed as a so-
          cial question.  Part three begins with the
          emergence of a new concept of systems for
          which the Hawthorne experiments serve as the
          initial illustration.  This new notion of
          systems is characterized by complex interre-
          lationships, flexibility, and integration and
          is illustrated by such topics as the govern-
          ment and social engineering (Hoover and na-
          tional planning; Roosevelt and the New Deal),
          revitalizing rural America, production tech-
          niques, new marketing and delivery technolo-
          gies, mid-century high tech (computers;
          transistors), and military technology.
               In the 1950s, criticism of technology,
          professionalism, and expertise increased as
          Americans acknowledged both the positive and
          negative aspects of technology. Chapter top-
          ics are varied but tend to focus on high-
          profile technologies that have often been the
          center of social controversy such as nuclear
          power, space flight, high-tech electronics,
          agriculture, and biotechnology.  Divergent
          perspectives reinforce the authors' emphasis
          on how technology reflects dominant social
               The book ends with a concise summary of
          the authors' philosophical perspective in-
          cluding a critique of technological
          determinism in which technology is viewed as
          a cause or a solution for social problems.
          Technological determinism "reduces society
          and culture to objects upon which technology
          acts" (p.  359).  In contrast, the authors
          emphasize that technology has been a "man-
          ifestation or reflection of cultural and so-
          cial perceptions; it is a human product" (p.
               Certain aspects of the book are, how-
          ever, inadequately covered or integrated into
          the text.  Visual illustrations are few in
          number and do not illustrate either the com-
          plexity of technology or its relationship to
          society and culture.  The authors' attempt to
          contrast systems in the second and third
          parts is not as convincing as it might have
          been, for example, through the use of illus-
          trations, schematics, or line drawings in the
          discussion of specific technologies.  The
          interaction of non-Caucasian groups in the
          development of the social and cultural fabric
          of America is virtually absent.
               In a survey text, it is difficult to
          communicate the complex nature of decision-
          making and the uniqueness of patterns of
          technological development.  Although the au-
          thors contrast the American experience with
          that of Europe in the first few chapters, the
          distinguishing features of the American expe-
          rience are less clear in later chapters.
          This lack of continuity is disappointing, es-
          pecially when some major systems such as con-
          temporary nuclear power generation and public
          rail transportation in America and Europe
          could have served as contrasting reflections
          of differing social patterns.  Despite these
          shortcomings, this book should be considered
          seriously as a supplementary text in profes-
          sional courses and main text in other courses
          where the history of technology is a central
          part of the course.  The book's conventional
          organization and thematic approach coupled
          with its emphasis on social and cultural pat-
          terns make it very accessible as a beginning
          text.  Not only will the text help technology
          educators to reinterpret the development of
          their field, it will stimulate them to re-
          flect on how they perceive technology, commu-
          nities of technologists, and their part in
          the American experience.
          John Pannabecker is Professor, Department of
          Industrial Education, McPherson College,
          McPherson, Kansas.
          Bennett, C. A.  (1937).  A HISTORY OF MANUAL
             AND INDUSTRIAL EDUCATION, 1870 TO 1917.
             Peoria: Manual Arts Press.
          Permission is given to copy any
          article or graphic provided credit is given and
          the copies are not intended for sale.
Journal of Technology Education   Volume 2, Number 1       Fall 1990

by Radiya Rashid