Raymond Williams, Cultural Materialism and War.

The idea of Cultural Materialism, put forth by theorist Raymond Williams, is one which considers the wider cultural and historical propulsions that provide the background  to certain technological developments.

The reading puts forth that a technology such as the in home television was an innovation that was pushed by a number of cultural factors. For examples of these factors the readings points to things like, larger cities, a more mobile population, and an increased cultural emphasis on the family home.

These ideas go me wondering. What human institution could we point to as the greatest driver of technological development. The answer, in my mind, must be conflict and warfare.

What do you think would have been the very first technology or tool that our ancestors used? Probably a big stick for hitting another poor ape over the head with. From these violent beginnings I don’t think we’ve progressed as much as we would have liked.

Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot is credited with inventing the first automobile (although there is some debate). Guess who he was undertaking his experimental inventions for? The French military. The French military again where one of the first to push the technological ability of human flight as they created the first fully controllable airship in 1884. A more modern example would be the very medium i’m using right now. The internet, arguably one of the largest technological achievements in all of human history began it’s life as a series of experiments undertaken by US Military research or DARPA.

How ironic that our technological development would be so closely linked to our must darkest and destructive tendencies. How symbolic of the human condition that our collective progression be caused, in part, by the suffering of the individual.  Could it be that it is our very nature as an inherently violent species that has enabled us to create the technologies that have lead the human race in becoming the most prominent species on the planet.

Sobering stuff.


Hello. Im a journalism and media student at melbourne's RMIT.

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