Luddites Didn't Hate Technology

They were actually just labor protesters with pizazz
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2011 9:40 AM CDT
Luddites smash a loom in this 1812 drawing.   (Wikimedia)

(Newser) – The word “Luddite” is bandied about a lot these days, usually to denote someone steadfastly opposed to the march of technology; it’s “simultaneously a declaration of ineptitude and a badge of honor,” observes Richard Conniff in Smithsonian Magazine. There’s just one problem: the real Luddites didn’t hate technology. They smashed machines, sure, but the machines they smashed weren’t especially new, and most of them were quite skilled at operating them.

The Luddites were actually fighting over factory labor practices. They “were totally fine with machines,” says the editor of a collection of Luddite writings. “They just wanted machines that made high-quality goods, and they wanted these machines run by workers who had gone through an apprenticeship and got paid decent wages.” If you look past their romanticized tech-smashing image, the Luddites actually remind us we can live well with technology, Conniff says—“but only if we continually question the ways it shapes our lives.”

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