Authors: Lewis Mumford

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American philosopher

Author Works

Nonfiction:

Sticks and Stones: A Study of American Architecture and Civilization, 1924, revised 1955

The Golden Day: A Study in American Experience and Culture, 1926 (criticism)

Herman Melville, 1929 (criticism)

The Brown Decades: A Study of the Arts in America, 1865-1895, 1931, revised 1955

Renewal of Life, 1934-1951 (4 volumes)

Technics and Civilization, 1934 (Vol. 1 of Renewal of Life)

The Culture of Cities, 1938 (Vol. 2 of Renewal of Life)

Men Must Act, 1939 (politics)

The Condition of Man, 1944 (Vol. 3 of Renewal of Life)

City Development: Studies in Disintegration and Renewal, 1945

Values for Survival, 1946 (essays)

The Conduct of Life, 1951 (Vol. 4 of Renewal of Life)

Art and Technics, 1954

The City in History, 1961

Technics and Human Development, 1967 (Vol. 1 of The Myth of the Machine)

The Urban Prospect, 1968 (essays)

The Pentagon of Power, 1970 (Vol. 2 of The Myth of the Machine)

The Van Wyck Brooks-Lewis Mumford Letters: The Record of a Literary Friendship, 1921-1963, 1970 (Robert E. Spiller, editor)

Findings and Keepings: Analects for an Autobiography, 1975

My Work and Days: A Personal Chronicle, 1979

Sketches from Life: The Autobiography of Lewis Mumford, The Early Years, 1982

The Lewis Mumford Reader, 1986 (Donald L. Miller, editor)

Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes: The Correspondence, 1995 (Frank G. Novak, Jr., editor)

Sidewalk Critic: Lewis Mumford’s Writings on New York, 1998 (Robert Wojtowicz, editor)

Frank Lloyd Wright and Lewis Mumford: Thirty Years of Correspondence, 2001 (Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer and Wojtowicz, editors)

Biography

Lewis Charles Mumford was a product of the New York City system of education–and one of the most prominent critics of the New York City way of life. Mumford, the illegitimate son of a businessman, was reared by his mother. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1912, took five years of evening classes at City College, and then took graduate courses at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. He never received a degree, but he became one of the country’s outstanding self-educated men.{$I[AN]9810000431}{$I[A]Mumford, Lewis}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Mumford, Lewis}{$I[tim]1895;Mumford, Lewis}

Mumford trained himself in architecture by traveling through New York City and observing the condition of its old buildings and neighborhoods. He branched out into the study of literature, and then of culture in general. In 1922, he was one of the contributors to the famous symposium Civilization in the United States. Thereafter he wrote Sticks and Stones, a history of American architecture. In 1923, Mumford became a cofounder and charter member of the Regional Planning Association of America. In his capacity as planner and urban strategist he was involved in many studies of American cities. Just as notable was his editorial and scholarly work, done in connection with American Caravan, American Mercury, Harper’s, and other publications.

The first of his books that caused him to be called a major influence on U.S. culture was volume 1 of his four-part Renewal of Life, Technics and Civilization, an intensive account of industrial society, its effect on human habits and organization, and the probable ways in which it could be transformed. This book was followed by many others on the problems of urban life. Of particular note is The Culture of Cities, which traced the development of European metropolitan life.

Mumford was politically active in the 1930’s and 1940’s and was one of the first public opponents of fascism. He proposed in books and essays that the United States enter the fight against Nazi Germany, and he resigned from the American Artist’s Congress as a protest over that organization’s approval of the Russo-German non-aggression pact of 1940.

As the world’s population grew explosively, Mumford increasingly became concerned with the philosophical implications of the urban way of life. The City in History is a long study of how the city first gave people a new sense of their capabilities and then betrayed that sense by isolating them in an inhuman and mechanical environment. Mumford received the National Book Award in 1962 for this work. A humanist social critic, Mumford decried the increasing domination of society by a machine-oriented mentality, and he searched for ways to humanize and control what he called “megatechnics.” Mumford was the recipient of countless fellowships, diplomas, and testimonials, and in 1986 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan for his lifetime contributions to U.S. culture.

BibliographyBlake, Casey Nelson. Beloved Community: The Cultural Criticism of Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, and Lewis Mumford. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990. An excellent discussion and overview of these four commentators on American culture and politics.Holtz Kay, Jane. “Lewis Mumford at 100.” The Nation 261, no. 22 (December 25, 1995): 843-845. This retrospective on Lewis provides an overview of his impact on architecture and finds his theories to be as relevant as ever.Hughes, Thomas Parke, and Agatha C. Hughes. Lewis Mumford: Public Intellectual. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. A good collection of essays that examine Mumford’s thoughts and theories on modern culture and technology.Luccarelli, Mark. Lewis Mumford and the Ecological Region: The Politics of Planning. New York: Guilford Press, 1995. Luccarelli argues that Mumford did not break with tradition but defined a rich ecological history to American urban culture.Miller, Donald L. Lewis Mumford: A Life. Reprint. New York: Grove/Atlantic, 2002. A thorough, revealing and penetrating biography. The author had access to Mumford’s original and private papers. This sympathetic biography is the result of ten years of dedicated research.Newman, Elmer S. Lewis Mumford: A Bibliography, 1914-1970. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. This is considered the standard biography. It includes an introduction by Mumford.Wojtowicz, Robert. Lewis Mumford and American Modernism: Eutopian Theories for Architecture and Urban Planning. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Interprets Mumford’s cultural and urban criticism. Includes a fourteen-page bibliography and an index.
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