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J Hist Behav Sci. 2008 Winter;44(1):59-76. doi: 10.1002/jhbs.20282.

Demythologizing the machine: Patrick Geddes, Lewis Mumford, and classical sociological theory.

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School of Philosophy, University of Leeds, United Kingdom. C.P.M.


This paper reconsiders the work of the Scottish biologist, sociologist, and town planner Patrick Geddes and his most famous intellectual disciple: the American independent scholar Lewis Mumford. It is argued that existing interpretations of their work, ranging from a dismissal of the two men as eccentric polymaths to the speculative emphasis on the importance of psychological theories in Mumford's oeuvre, are fundamentally flawed. Examining their writings and the letters they exchanged during their 17-year correspondence, this paper shows that the only way we can appreciate the scholarly conventions underpinning Geddes's and Mumford's work, as well as the context in which it was produced, is by looking to the principles of classical sociological theory.

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