Casey Nelson Blake at CTA, 2017-2018 — The Legacy of Lewis Mumford in the Age of Trump

“Under Catastrophic Pressure” – The Legacy of Lewis Mumford in the Age of Trump

Casey Nelson Blake, a cultural critic of our own day, founder of the Center for American Studies at Columbia University, discusses Lewis Mumford, the prophetic 20th-century thinker who perceived the destructiveness of American life and society and the need, “under catastrophic pressure”—as he was already writing in “The Myth of the Machine: The Pentagon of Power” (1970)—to resist “the precedence it now gives to its machines and computers.” There is only one thing, Mumford held, of which in this situation we may be confident: “If [human]kind is to escape its programmed self-extinction the God who saves us will not descend from the machine: he will rise up again in the human soul.” Mumford’s vision was exact while his words are infinitely remote from our own. In the “catastrophic pressure” we now live under, what can we make of Mumford’s legacy of striving to make life livable as we struggle to comprehend the ultimate environmental, technological, political and civic catastrophe?