Technical stagnation and technology in the ancient Greece. A Marxian perspective

Sebastiano Taccola


Technical Stagnation and Technology in the ancient Greece. A Marxian perspective.

Why didn’t the ancient Greeks increase their technical development, though they had sufficient scientific cognitions? Was that only a matter of mentality? And, if yes, where do we have to look to find the ‘inhibiting factors’? Questions like these created the background of the debate on the so-called “technical stagnation”. Started in 1938 with the essay "Machinisme et philosophie" written by Pierre-Maxime Schuhl, this debate was developed by the contributions of some important scholars like Alexandre Koyré, Jean-Pierre Vernant, Benjamin Farrington and others (Moses I. Finley, Marc Bloch, G. E. R. Lloyd, Ellen Meiksins Wood). Most of them looked very carefully at the relationship between technical knowledge and science, but only few of them tried to think critically in terms of conditions of social reproduction of that society and, following this path, to define its anatomy.
In this paper, after a brief presentation of the most important theses proposed by these authors, I will try to interpret the phenomenon of the “technical stagnation” with the theoretical apparatus of the historical materialism, in particular through a close reading of some passages from Marx’s Capital Volume One (the footnote on Vico and few others) and from the 1857 Introduction. Finally it will be clear that: 1) the historical category “technical stagnation” must be strongly revisited; 2) the theoretical distinction between “technique” and “technology” is fundamental; 3) a “critical history of technology” is necessary to define the physiology and the anatomy of the ancient Greek society (and of all societies as well).

Sebastiano Taccola –PhD at the Normale Scuola Superiore of Pisa.

historical materialism - technology - anthropology - Historiography - Karl Marx - Marxism - Social Reproduction