Marx, L.  Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. Oxford University Press, NY 1964.


Ch 1.  Sleepy Hollow, 1844

(8)   [Freud] is puzzled by what he calls the ‘amazing’ tendency of presumably civilized men to idealize simple and often primitive conditions of life.  What puzzles him most is the implication that mankind would be happier if our complex, technical order could somehow be abandoned…although he assumes that every social order rests upon the denial of powerful instinctual needs, we are allowed to infer that today’s advanced society may be singularly repressive. [therefore a possible collective neurosis].

(13)   [Hawthorne] is describing a state of being in which there is no tension either within the self or between the self and its environment.  Much of this harmonious effect is evoked by the delicate interlacing of sounds that seem to unify society, landscape, and mind.  What lends most interest, however, to this sense of all encompassing harmony and peace is a vivid contrast:

    ‘But hark! there is a whistle of the locomotive – the long shriek, harsh, above all harshness, for the space of a mile cannot mollify it into harmony.  It tells a story of busy men, citizens, from the hot street, who have come to spend a day in a country village, men of business; in short of all unquietness; and no wonder that it gives such a startling shriek, since it brings the noisy world into the midst of our slumbrous peace.  As our thoughts repose again, after this interruption, we find ourselves gazing up at the leaves, and comparing their aspect, the beautiful diversity of green..’

What troubles him is the discrepancy between the shallow stream of recorded thought (‘distinct and expressed thought’) and the broad tide of dim emotions, ideas, and associations that had been flowering all the while somewhere at the back of his mind.  ‘When we see how little we can express, it is a wonder that any man ever takes up a pen a second time.’

(14)   There is something arresting about the episode: the writer sitting in his green retreat dutifully attaching words to natural facts, trying to tap the subterranean flow of thought and feeling and then, suddenly, the startling shriek of the train whistle bearing in upon him, forcing him to acknowledge the existence of a reality alien to the pastoral dream.  What begins as a conventional tribute to the pleasures of withdrawal from the world – a simple pleasure fantasy – is transformed by the interruption of the machine into a far more complex state of mind.

 - evolutionarily, human experience has been ‘transformed’ from a ‘green retreat’ of diffuse ‘simple pleasure’ to the ‘shriek’ of machines, to more ‘complex’ states of mind.  I would replace the word complex with ‘hurried, distracted, non-present, sick, diseased (dis-eased, ill at ease).’

(18)   To Wordsworth the new technology is a token of what he likes to call ‘the fever of the world.’

(19)   Although Theocritus is regarded as the first pastoral poet, Virgil’s Eclogues are the true fountainhead of the pastoral strain in our literature…he created the symbolic landscape, a delicate blend of myth and reality, that was to be particularly relevant to American experience.

(29)   Most important is the sense of the machine as a sudden, shocking intruder upon a fantasy of idyllic satisfaction.  It invariably is associated with crude, masculine, aggressiveness in contrast with the tender, feminine, and submissive attitudes traditionally attached to the landscape.


Ch2. Shakespeare's American Fable

(37)   Captain Barlowe in Virginia 1584: a “delicate garden” of “incredible abundance.”  The idea of America as a garden is the controlling metaphor..

Geography controls culture: the natives are ‘most gentle, loving and faithful, void of all guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the golden age.”

(43)   Puritans favored the hideous wilderness image of the American landscape[vs. elizabethan romanticism].

(49)   Montaigne’s essay on cannibals – one of the fountainheads of modern primitivism.  (1580)

(69)   What finally enables us to take the idea of a successful ‘return to nature’ seriously is its temporariness.  It is a journey into the desert and back again – ‘a momentary stay against confusion.’

(70)   The contrast between ‘city’ and ‘country’ in the pastoral design makes perfect sense as an analogue of psychic experience.  It implies that we can remain human, which is to say, fully integrated beings, only when we follow some such course, back and forth, between our social and natural (animal) selves.


Ch 3.  The Garden

(75)   Robert Beverley’s ‘History and Present State of Virginia.’ 1705

(80)   The ‘natural production of that country,’ he says, explains the ease of life, the fabulous freedom from care, hence the charm of the natives.  He sums up his reflections on primitive society by noting that natural affluence is what chiefly enables this people to get along:

    ‘…without the curse of industry, their diversion alone, and not their labour, supplying their necessities…none of the toils of husbandry were exercised by this happy people; except the bare planting a little corn and melons, which took up only a few days in the summer, the rest being wholly spent in the pursuit of their pleasures.’

(89)   Today it is difficult to realize that Europeans have not always looked upon the landscape as an object of aesthetic interest and delight.  But the fact is that landscape painting emerged as a distinct genre only during the Renaissance, and it did not achieve real popularity until the 18th century, when aesthetic in natural scenery reached something of a climax.

    - cannot be appreciated as art until it is felt as separate from

(98)   While the physiocrats, extremists of the movement, insisted that husbandry was the only true source of economic value, most of the experts, including the incomparable Adam Smith, agreed that agriculture was the primary and indispensable foundation of national prosperity.

(100)   Aurthur Lovejoy’s ‘ethic of the middle link.’  Men, in this view, must accept an unsatisfactory but nonetheless unavoidable compromise between their animal nature and their rational ideals.  Whether we like it or not, the theory goes, we will always find ourselves mediating between these contraries, and so we had best learn to live in the uncomfortable middle.

(101)   Rousseau was drawn to the spontaneity and freedom he associated with primitive life; but he too had to face the undeniable fact that ‘natural man’ was, by European standards, amoral, uncreative, and mindless.  Unable finally to endorse with the savage or the civilized model, Rousseau was compelled to endorse the view that mankind must depart from the state of nature, but not too far.  [he thought that mankind had passed through the ideal state during the pastoral phase of cultural evolution, by which he meant a pastoral situation in a literal, anthropological sense; a society of herdsmen.]

     -of course, Rousseau's "state of nature" is a false premise/straw man to begin with.  what primitive societies did he study??

(116)   Crevecoeur’s “Letters from an American Farmer.”  1782.   Throughout the Letters, the farmer describes America as the ‘great asylum,’ a ‘refuge’ from Europe, from power struggles, politics, or from history itself.

(118)   Jefferson’s “Notes on Virginia.’  1785.  Nowhere in our literature is there a more appealing, vivid, or thorough statement of the case for the pastoral ideal..

(124)   “Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God”  query xix

(125)   “The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body.  It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour.  A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution”  query xix

(127)   Unlike the fully committed agrarians, [Jefferson] admits that an agricultural economy may be economically disadvantageous.  But that does not bother him, because he rejects productivity and, for that matter, material living standards, as tests of a good society.  The loss of what nowadays would be called ‘national income,’ he explains, ‘will be made up in happiness and permanence of government.’

(130)   “State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor.  The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.”

(137)   Lockian environmentalism: a theory of knowledge and behavior which on the whole neglects individual or psychic sources of aggression.  It is the feudal past, perpetuated by corrupt, repressive institutions, that accounts for the evil economic and military depredations of Europe.

    - R Niebuhr

(144)   Jefferson’s genius lay in his capacity to respond to the dream yet to disengage himself from it.  To a degree, he exemplifies the kind of intelligence which Keats thought characteristic of men of achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed above all others, that is, ‘negative capability,’ the capacity ‘of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason..’

    - Jung’s individuation


Ch 4.  The Machine

(145)   “..the most idealist nations invent the most machines.  America simply teems with mechanical inventions, because nobody wants to do anything.  They are idealists.  Let a machine do the thing.”  DH Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, 1923

(155)   Tench Coxe first gathered these scattered impulses and ideas into a prophetic vision of machine technology as the fulcrum of national power.  1787

(167)   A Hamilton “Report on the subject of Manufactures,” prepared for Congress 1791.  “..a blueprint for a society aimed at maximum productivity, not as an end in itself, but as the key to national wealth, self-sufficiency, and power.  The power of the United States as a corporate entity is the ultimate goal.”  [!!!]

(170)   Thomas Carlyle “Signs of the Times” in Edinburgh Review, 1829.

(173)   When Locke makes the contents of the mind contingent upon images flowing in upon it from the outside, he reduces thought to what is ultimately a reflex of the world “out there.”  To account for a man’s ideas and values only, or even chiefly, by the circumstances in which he lives is, according to Carlyle, to divest his thought of will, motion, and creative power…In it’s transactions with the world outside, a mind so conceived responds like one cogged wheel turned by another.  Used in this way the image of the machine connotes loss of inner freedom even as it provides outward power.  ‘practically considered,’ says Carlyle, ‘ our creed is Fatalism; and, free in hand and foot, we are shackled in heart and soul with far straiter than feudal chains.”

    - Fromm

(176)   “By our skill in mechanism, it has come to pass, that in the management of external things we excel all other ages; while in whatever respects the pure moral nature, in true dignity of soul and character, we are perhaps inferior to most civilized ages.”  Carlyle.

(176)   What Carlyle intends by ‘destruction of moral force’ is akin to what soon would be known as ‘alienation.’  This seminal idea, then emerging out of the stream of post-Kantian idealism, has dominated the criticism of industrial society ever since.  When Carlyle speaks of men having grown ‘mechanical in head and heart,’ he means that their behavior is increasingly determined externally, which is to say, by invisible, abstract, social forces unrelated (or alien) to their inward impulses.  Hegel had called this state ‘self-estrangement,’ thereby implying a conflict between the ‘social’ and the ‘natural’ self.

(177)   “Alienation is essentially experiencing the world and oneself passively, receptively, as the subject separated from the object,”  Fromm, Marx’s Concept of Man.

(194)   To understand the American consciousness in this period the key image, as Tocqueville noted, is the ‘march’ of the nation across the wilds, ‘draining swamps, turning the course of rivers, peopling solitudes, and subduing nature.’

“The wide air and deep water, the tall mountains, the outstretched plains and the earth’s deep caverns, are become parcel of his [man’s] domain and yield freely of their treasures to his researches and toils…He has almost annihilated space and time.”       

No stock phrase in the entire lexicon of progress appears more often than the “annihilation of space and time.”  

    - mythopoetic, hunter gatherer culture creates space and time / abstract,scientific, civilized culture destroys it

(198)   In the period between 1830 and 1860 popular discussions of technological progress assume that inventors are uncovering the ultimate structural principles of the universe.

(215)   Miles of railroad:  1830 – 73.  1840 – 3,328.  1850 – 8,879.  1860 – 30,636.

(216)   Mechanization, both literally and metaphorically, means disharmony.  It separates the people from the landscape.

    - from direct experience, therefore meaning


Ch 5.  Two Kingdoms of Force

(231)   “Nature is thoroughly mediate.  It is made to serve…It offers all its kingdoms to man as the raw material which he may mould into what is useful.  Man is never weary of working it up.  He forges the subtle and delicate air into wise and melodious words, and gives them wind as angels of persuasion and command.  One after another his victorious thought comes up with and reduces all things, until the world becomes at last only a realized will – the double of the man.”   Emerson

(236)   Men who confront raw nature will ask ultimate questions.

(237)   Initiated by Massachusetts farmers in 1776, the great revolution always had implied renunciation of the city, the traditional home of economic man.

(298)   “The permanent constitutional condition of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness.”  Melville

(299)   The shattering fact is that his [Ahab’s] madness fits the needs of this technically proficient society.  “all my means are sane, my motive and my objective mad.”

(301)   The ambiguity evoked by the white whale is what accounts for Ishmael’s ineffable horror.  And ambiguity is the attribute of the physical universe that matches the contradiction at the heart of a culture that would deify the Nature it is engaged in plundering.

(325)   Like Walden, or Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn begins with the hero’s urge to withdraw from a repressive civilization.

(328)   Twain is faithful enough to the logic of his ruling metaphor, to admit the limitations of the raft.  It lacks power and maneuverability.  It can only move easily with the current..

(333)   Nothing is fixed, absolute, or perfect.  The passage gains immensely in verisimilitude from his repeated approximations: “soon as night was most gone,” “nearly always in the dead water,” “a kind of dull line,” “sometimes you could hear”…Everything is alive, everything is changing; the locus of reality is neither the boy nor the river, neither language nor nature, neither the subject nor the object, but the unending interplay between them.

     - connote vs denote in S Diamond

(334)   His [Huck’s] willingness to accept the world as he finds it, without anxiously forcing meanings upon it (his language is lacking in abstractions), lends substance to the magical sense of peace the passage evokes.  The sequence follows the diurnal cycle; it begins with sunrise, and it ends, as night falls, with an evocation of cosmic harmony.

     - ie, a picture of pre-mechanical (nature based) existence

(350)   “I firmly believe that before many centuries more, science will be the master of man.  The engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control.  Some day science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide by blowing up the world.”  Henry Adams in a letter to his brother Charles.


Ch 6.  The Garden of Ashes

(354)   For more than a century our most gifted writers have dwelt upon the contradiction between rural myth and technological fact.  In the machinery of our collective existence, Thoreau says, we have “constructed a fate, an Atropos,” that will never turn aside.  And until we confront the unalterable, he would add, there can be no redemption from a system that makes men the tools of their tools.

(370)   [L Marx] considered writing about the ‘proletarian’ left-wing novels of the 1930s.  No other body of American writing contains as forthright and critical an account of working class life in the regime of industrial capitalism.  Implicit in most of those books is a principled skepticism, like my own, about the ultimate compatibility of capitalism with the goal of creating a peaceful, just society.

     - Polanyi, The Great Transformation