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The Government Machine: A Revolutionary History of the Computer

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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 -- 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.


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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 -- 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.

38 review for The Government Machine: A Revolutionary History of the Computer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leif

    There's much here to like. I was drawn to Agar's plainspoken yet scholarly precision, his tendency to historicize details of theoretical value, and his investigation of metaphor's relationship with material. Is the government a machine; is the civil service a machine? These have been asserted often through history, and Agar follows up on their relevance and veracity. A good read, albeit with limitations. There's much here to like. I was drawn to Agar's plainspoken yet scholarly precision, his tendency to historicize details of theoretical value, and his investigation of metaphor's relationship with material. Is the government a machine; is the civil service a machine? These have been asserted often through history, and Agar follows up on their relevance and veracity. A good read, albeit with limitations.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tristan

  4. 4 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  5. 5 out of 5

    Azzaz

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sankarshan

  7. 5 out of 5

    Zhenia Vasiliev

  8. 5 out of 5

    Greg Bair

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rwood

  10. 5 out of 5

    Larry Owens

  11. 4 out of 5

    Narinder

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Vittay

  13. 4 out of 5

    John

  14. 5 out of 5

    Teirdes

  15. 4 out of 5

    Subramaniam G

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Willis

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marcell Mars

  19. 4 out of 5

    hb

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aravind

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Lamb

  23. 4 out of 5

    Homakp

  24. 4 out of 5

    Leonardo Muniz

  25. 5 out of 5

    Neverdust

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alper Atasoy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paige

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jon Guah

  30. 4 out of 5

    Justin Grimes

  31. 5 out of 5

    Pravin

  32. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

  33. 4 out of 5

    Paul R

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    Florin Pitea

  35. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Smith

  36. 5 out of 5

    Wolf

  37. 5 out of 5

    Abram

  38. 5 out of 5

    Wiffo

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