The Machine in the Garden in the 21st Century

Stephen Dougherty


In this essay I will suggest Leo Marx’s debt to a style of thinking about technology which cuts against the grain of the liberal humanism and liberal progressive ideology that informs his writing. This style of thinking, associated with the word technicity, underscores the intimacy of our relation to technology. The Machine in the Garden insists that technology is a crucial aspect of our human nature—it encourages us to see that nature is inseparable from our technological condition. In this sense, the machine and the garden are confounded in Marx’s book. The book’s key themes and conflicts short-circuit the mission to promote the liberal individualist illusion of escape from the shaping forces of history. What we can begin to glean in The Machine in the Garden is that there is no place for a transcendence that guarantees the “naturalness” of nature, or the romantic integrity of the self. There is only the world—an increasingly technologically mediated world—which on the one hand creates the very means for our access to nature, and on the other hand, dispels the very ‘Nature’ it reveals through an inevitable process of contamination across the nature/culture divide.

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ISSN: 0044-8060
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