In The Government Machine, Jon Agar traces the mechanization of
government work in the United Kingdom from the nineteenth to the early twenty-first
century. He argues that this transformation has been tied to the rise of "expert
movements," groups whose authority has rested on their expertise. The deployment of
machines was an attempt to gain control over state action -- a revolutionary move.
Agar shows how mechanization followed the popular depiction of government as
machine-like, with British civil servants cast as components of a general purpose
"government machine"; indeed, he argues that today's general purpose computer is the
apotheosis of the civil servant.Over the course of two centuries, government has
become the major repository and user of information; the Civil Service itself can be
seen as an information-processing entity. Agar argues that the changing capacities
of government have depended on the implementation of new technologies, and that the
adoption of new technologies has depended on a vision of government and a
fundamental model of organization. Thus, to study the history of technology is to
study the state, and vice versa.