Chapter 3

Western Technology

KELD NIELSON

By Western technology is here understood a large set of particular technologies and technological practices which mainly have their roots in inventions and developments in Europe and North America. In particular, since the Second World War, most of these technological practices have spread, so that “Western” technology can now be found on all continents.

Technology has been an integral part of the development of modern Western civilization and the way Western modes of behavior and production have reached all parts of the Earth. Western technologies have been at the heart of the change from a rural-agricultural economy to an urban-industrial one that many countries or regions have undergone during the past 200 years.

It is not possible to distinguish clearly between features of technology and technological practices which are clearly “Western” and those which have been developed in non-Western cultures. Some of the characteristics of Western technology outlined below are common to technologies of many different cultures – including cultures which are now extinct – while some are particular to Western technology and make it stand out as remarkable among the accomplishments of mankind.

In fact, some of the characteristics of technology which are often thought of as unique to Western technology are general features found in the technology of other cultures, too. Examples of such features are: the ability of technology to change the conditions ...

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