From the Luddites to Neo-Luddism
Routledge – 2006 – 288 pages
This book addresses the question of what it might mean today to be a Luddite--that is, to take a stand against technology. Steven Jones here explains the history of the Luddites, British textile works who, from around 1811, proclaimed themselves followers of "Ned Ludd" and smashed machinery they saw as threatening their trade. Against Technology is not a history of the Luddites, but a history of an idea: how the activities of a group of British workers in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire came to stand for a global anti-technology philosophy, and how an anonymous collective movement came to be identified with an individualistic personal conviction. Angry textile workers in the early nineteenth century became romantic symbols of a desire for a simple life--certainly not the original goal of the actions for which they became famous. Against Technology is, in other words, a book about representations, about the image and the myth of the Luddites and how that myth was transformed over time into modern neo-Luddism.
"In Against Technology, Jones has opened up a rich field of study that cries out for more examination. The unintended consequences of technology, such as global warming, should not be seen as a call to retreat to a simpler time." - Robert L. Park, Physics Today
'The book is accessibly written and well informed, with technology discussions avoiding naivete and literary analyses resisting theoretical quagmires. As such, it appeals not only to general readers but scholars from a variety of disciplines.' - International Journal of Communication
"Against Technology critically interrogates the supposed continuity between neo-Luddism and its alleged precursor, the original Luddite movement of 1811-16. Along the way, the book provides fascinating insights into the development of this unruly working-class movement and demonstrates its continuing relevance to twenty-first-century culture. Against Technology is a magisterial scholarly work of compelling interest to readers of British Romantic literature." -James McKusick, The Wordsworth Circle
Steven E. Jones is Professor of English at Loyola University, Chicago. He is author of Satire and Romanticism and editor of The Satiric Eye.