Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 15, 2014

Das Ende der republikanischen Maschine: Technik und Fortschritt in Edward Bellamys Looking Backward (1888) und Equality (1897)

Christof Decker

Abstract

Edward Bellamy’s utopian novels are usually regarded as important albeit controversial contributions to the political discourse in American culture. However, the crucial role of technology, its impact on Bellamy’s political philosophy, theory of the subject, and concept of fictionality, has not been adequately acknowledged in recent critical discussions. This essay sets out to examine the wide range of machines and inventions introduced in Bellamy’s fiction as an essential aspect of his utopian imagination. On the one hand, technology takes on a metaphorical function by transforming the principles of cooperation and efficiency into a fascinating spectacle; on the other, it opens up a new realm of public entertainment shifting the notion of individuality into the context of an industrialized popular culture. Most importantly, technology contributes to the sense of ambiguity and anxiety noticeable in Bellamy’s novels. Even though the author advocates a republican ideal of technology where machinery should serve the common good by advancing use and beauty, his main character Julian West also comes to appreciate its potential for the creation of transgressive modes of experience. Thus, in a crucial shift indicative of Bellamy’s modern sensibility, the power of technology serves both to embody but also to destabilize and undermine his utopian vision

Online erschienen: 2014-03-15
Erschienen im Druck: 2004-04

© 2014 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co.