The Hard Years: A Look at Contemporary America and American Institutions

By Eugene J. McCarthy | Go to book overview

41
Lewis Mumford

Lewis Mumford, social philosopher and critic, has taught at several universities. He is a leading authority on the city and the author of many books, including The Myth of the Machine and The Urban Prospect.

Lewis Mumford's efforts to draw the attention of the country to the reality of urbanization and to the need for rational ordering of city life have distinguished him through the years. If one were to make a list of great books which, had sufficient attention been paid, would have changed the culture of the United States and would have prevented degradation and disorder, the books of Lewis Mumford would have to be listed among the most significant.

After the first or second moon landing, I thought that the subsequent flights should have been directed to places like East St. Louis and Newark. The astronauts sent to those places could have been instructed to bring back eighty to one hundred pounds of material. Upon analysis the material brought back would have indicated that there had once been cities on the sites visited, with a culture somewhere between the Late Iron and the Early Plastic ages, but that the sites no longer supported human life.

Not only has Lewis Mumford written about a most important subject in warning of this trend but he has written books under siege. The need for books was challenged first by magazines using the written word and then by magazines using pictures. But Life, the original picture news magazine of our time, finally was done in by its own methodology -- by color television with its instant history and multiple choices. Now I fear that the English language may disappear some Sunday afternoon between the opening of Face the Nation and the end of Issues and Answers -- if it survives Meet the Press. After

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