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Do technical inventions determine social transformations?

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Do technical inventions determine social transformations? Throughout human history there have been many technical inventions and there have been many social transformations. How are these two parts of human history linked? Are they inextricably joined in their evolution? Or can they evolve and develop separately from one another? Do, as this question poses, technical inventions ascertain, settle or be the decisive factor in considerable social change? The determinate nature of this question cannot produce a satisfactory answer. If we were to answer yes to this question it would imply that all technical inventions, no matter where they arise, result in a social transformation. This, I will argue, is clearly not the case. Many inventions, in fact most inventions, never play any significant role in the social structure they are introduced into. If we answer the question with a negative this, again incorrectly, implies that every technical invention has no influence whatsoever on a social transformation it might be part of. We must search for an answer between these two extremes. There have been some extremely important technical advances in human history - the wheel, firearms, ocean-going ships, steel equipment, printing presses, glass, and steam engines. ...read more.


From this example of a technical invention that, in some societies was used extensively from the day it was introduced, and in others was rejected once it had been introduced, I now turn to the influential, or not as the case may be, invention of firearms. The use of gunpowder in conjunction with various weapons over time has transformed the nature of war as these weapons have become more and more effective and lethal. Has this transformation in the way war is conducted also transformed the societies involved and affected by war? Or is the simple presence of war, and its various outcomes, the factor which can transform a society? Is not a society that conducts war with spears and fists transformed in the same way as a society that uses guns and cannons? Guns, and their adoption by the countries of Western Europe, have played a major part in the history of those countries. "As early as the first decades of the fourteenth century Europeans began to use cannon in warfare" (Cipolla, 1996:p21). Over the ensuing centuries, through overseas expansion, the bloody Reformation wars of religion, colonialism and the two world wars, the usage of firearms is a significant factor in the conflicts. ...read more.


It took many hundreds of years later before any form of printing become popular. As we can see, a technical invention brought into the wrong place at the wrong time will ensure it has no social transformational effects. It can take many factors to enable a technology to be adopted by society, but seemingly it need only be one factor that can hinder its acceptance. In conclusion, I suggest that in order for the question to be answered correctly, it should be rephrased. Technological inventions, in their nature and their effect, vary according to the invention in question and the effect they have on society. Social transformations, and their causes, also vary according to the structure of a particular society at a particular time. Thus, technical inventions and social transformations cannot be exclusively linked in this way. Technical inventions can be a determining factor in a social transformation, but only one factor of many. Technical inventions can also have no effect whatsoever on society if that society does not need nor desire it. Instead of trying to provide a categorical answer to this proposed link between two huge generalisations, it is much wiser to provide an answer to the question 'Can technical inventions play a determining role in social transformations?' The answer to this question is yes, they can. ...read more.

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