The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Langdon Winner. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1986. 214 pp. $17.50.
These 10 graceful essays, grouped under the headings A Philosophy of Technology; Technology: Reform and Revolution; and Excess and Limit, explore the intimate connection between technologies and the political structures in which they are embedded. Winner insists that since many of today's technologies threaten our ecological and social well-being, they must be subjected to limits. His book is a sort of wake-up call for the "technological somnambulism" he believes has engulfed our modern technological society.
Winner is at his best as an artful social critic. In three essays, he asks the important questions about appropriate technology, decentralization and computers that one is embarrassed to ask for fear of being too elementary: Is appropriate technology really appropriate? Do decentralists really know what they mean...
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