Theme of the Symposium

The theme chosen for the 41st ICOHTEC Symposium 2014 is very topical and is of interest for historians, but also for economists, political scientists or sociologists.

It covers a large range of subjects and is therefore in line with ICOHTEC traditions in choosing symposia themes. The notion of “period of transition” relates as well to the periods of rapid change in technology stretching from Prehistory to our days, as to the periods of radical (revolutionary) change experienced in the fields of sciences, economy, society, politics, beliefs and mentalities.

Because of the interdependence and the mutual influences between technology, science, economy and social-political aspects, as well as beliefs, traditions and mentalities, periods of transitions are, in many cases, characterized by important changes in most or in all of these fields.

The ICOHTEC Symposium 2014 more or less restricts itself to analyzing the transition period in the field of techniques and technology in the Western World in the 20th Century. This took place after the technological changes in the Middle-Ages, the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and early 19th Centuries. The beginning of the techno-sciences at the end of the 19th Century, mass production and rationalization, the information revolution and the biotechnological revolution extending to the present day have exerted a profound influence on the present period.

But apart from these periods of “positive” transitions, characterized by intensive processes of innovation, there are periods of transition characterized by stagnation and crisis. In Europe, in the Western World and in the former Soviet Union and its satellites, there were several periods of stagnation and crisis, such as the great crisis of 1929 and the following years, the crisis of the Soviet system before the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the present day environmental crisis.

The studies on “technology in the period of transition” deal with this issue also from another point of view. They concentrate particularly on political and socio-economic ruptures. In this context, the analysis of technology policy, concepts and applications, is of particular interest. Here, the evolution of technological systems in the former socialist countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall deserves consideration. This is a vast topic of present interest. The fact that the ICOHTEC symposium takes place in Romania is particularly significant here.

But our world which finds itself in a process of accelerating globalization, faces a serious crisis which does not only extend to the economy and finances or the environment but is also a systemic one. It is a crisis of civilization in which technological change is a vital element. Therefore scholarly investigations analyzing aspects of this difficult situation are needed. To carry this through, historians, and especially historians of technology, are called upon to make their contributions.