Tekniker och myter

With the aid of his pragmatic contrivances man has outdistanced all other animals and made himself lord of creation. For our purpose here, which is to show how the government of man over man has come to be, it will serve if we divide man’s contrivances into two broad classes. Let us call them respectively techniques and myths.

By techniques we mean the devices and skills of every kind that enable men to dispose of things—and of persons—more to their liking, so as to ease their toil, to increase the return to their labor, to enlarge their satisfactions, to organize and preserve their advantages, to subdue their enemies, to harness the forces of nature, to extend their knowledge, and so forth. A technique is a way of knowing that is primarily a way of control. It is not the instrument man fashions, not the tool or the machine as such, but the craft he employs in making the machine and in putting it into service. A technique is a way of manipulating objects, including persons as objects. It is knowledge compactly applied to the world of objects, changing the relation of the subject and the object in a direction desired by the subject.

By myths we mean the value-impregnated beliefs and notions that men hold, that they live by or live for. Every society is held together by a myth-system, a complex of dominating thought-forms that determin-es and sustains all its activities. All social relations, the very texture of human society, are myth-born and myth-sustained. Take family relations, for example. They are not “biological,” they spring from and express a scheme of valuations centered about sex and the bringing up of offspring. They canalize the biological drives, impose on them form and limit. It is this scheme of dynamic valuations that assigns their role to father and mother, that determines the pattern of mating, that presides over the relations of parents to children, that cements the kin group. And so it is on every level of human organization. Every civilization, every period, every nation, has its characteristic myth-complex. In it lies the secret of social unities and social continuities, and its changes compose the inner history of every society. Wherever he goes, whatever he encounters, man spins about him his web of myth, as the caterpillar spins its cocoon. Every individual spins his own variant within the greater web of the whole group. The myth mediates between man and nature. From the shelter of his myth he perceives and experiences the world. Inside his myth he is at home in his world.

Referens: MacIver, Robert Morrison. 1947. The Web of Government. New York: Macmillan, s 4–5.