A classic book that is often cited in studies of the history and social impact of technology is Sigfried Giedion’s 1948 Mechanization Takes Command.
Lucky for us the always-excellent New York Review Books is bringing it back into print (March 2010). (See update below.)
From the description:
Sigfried Giedion’s extraordinary, encyclopedic book traces the various ways in which, for better and for worse, mechanization has assumed control of our lives, from modern systems of hygiene and waste management, to agricultural production, fashion, and beyond.
Giedion’s book is not only clearly written but also eloquent and thoughtful in its investigation of mechanization’s reach and appeal, and it offers fascinating insights into the intersection between mechanization and the imagination, as manifested in literature and the visual arts. With a wealth of unusual and intriguing illustrations taken from old sales catalogues, industrial manuals, magazines, and other sources, Giedion’s book constitutes a remarkable and endlessly suggestive history of modernity itself, as comprehensive as it is provocative and eccentric.
Link: Mechanization Takes Command.
Update (June 5 2010): looks like it’s been canceled.
Update 2018: Now (since 2014) available from University of Minnesota press, albeit with a less catchy cover.
If anyone visiting this has read it, let me know what you think.