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The Government Machine: A Revolutionary History of the Computer (History of Computing)
 
 

The Government Machine: A Revolutionary History of the Computer (History of Computing) [Kindle Edition]

Jon Agar

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Review

"In this richly detailed and subtly argued study of British bureaucracy since the eighteenth century, Agar shows how mechanization, both discursive and material, gradually transformed the 'machinery of government' from a metaphor to a guiding force. Viewed in that longer historical perspective, the computer takes its place in a line of technologies inspired by a technocratic vision of public administration and designed to extend the informational resources on which it rests. In bringing out historically specific differences between the development of computing in Britain and the United States, Agar provides new ground for discussions of the social forces that have shaped computing and been shaped by it."--Michael S. Mahoney, Professor of History, Princeton University " The Government Machine is a major contribution to our understanding of the history of computing. Agar deploys metaphor and analysis like a two-edged sword to cut through two centuries of British bureaucracy and calculation, revealing a striking view of why the computer came to play a central role in politics. I highly recommend this book to anyone who prefers history to hype and analysis to anecdote." Robert W. Seidel, History of Science & Technology Program, University of Minnesota "*The Government Machine* is a major contribution to our understanding of the history of computing. Agar deploys metaphor and analysis like a two-edged sword to cut through two centuries of British bureaucracy and calculation, revealing a striking view of why the computer came to play a central role in politics. I highly recommend this book to anyone who prefers history to hype and analysis to anecdote."--Robert W. Seidel, History of Science & Technology Program, University of Minnesota

Product Description

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.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 7166 KB
  • Print Length: 576 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (26 Sep 2003)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006V9E186
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #223,136 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars government => information processing 1 July 2006
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Agar takes the computer and more broadly information technology, and uses this as a means of viewing the development of the British government in the last 2 hundred years. Why British? Because Britain started the Industrial Revolution, and hence it has the longest historical involvement with modern technology.

The core theme of the book is to imagine the British government as an evolving information processing entity. Agar takes this viewpoint and derives considerable useful analysis from it. There is perhaps nothing earthshaking in the results. After all, you already know that governments are vast gatherers and processors of information. But the overall picture is still a useful new vantage from which to understand any modern government.
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