Energy and the Evolution of Culture (reading group summary)

The second virtual reading group went well with 4 people in Lancaster and 5 on Skype. Some technical teething problems aside, we managed to have a good discussion of the reading ‘Energy and the Evolution of Culture’ by Leslie A. White.  Not surprisingly we had many criticisms of a piece written in 1943 and making sweeping claims about technological innovation, energy production and consumption and how these have driven the march of cultural ‘progress’ through human history. We did though find value in the recognition of a societal system dependent on energy, some interesting contrasts with the last reading by Illich, and some continuity in deterministic ways of thinking into the present day.