In this extraordinary introduction to the study of the philosophy of technology, Andrew Feenberg argues that techonological design is central to the social and political structure of modern societies. Environmentalism, information technology, and medical advances testify to technology's crucial importance. In his lucid and engaging style, Feenberg shows that technology is the medium of daily life. Every major technical changes reverberates at countless levels: economic, political, and cultural. If we continue to see the social and technical domains as being seperate, (...) then we are essentially denying an integral part of our existence, and our place in a democratic society. Questioning Tecchnology convinces us that it is vital that we learn more about technology the better to live with it and to manage it. (shrink)
We live in a world of technical systems, designed in accordance with technical disciplines and operated by a personnel trained in those disciplines. This is a unique form of social organization without historical precedent. It overshadows traditional democratic institutions and largely determines our way of life. Technosystem: The Social Life of Reason reconstructs the idea of democracy for this brave new world. The author draws on the tradition of radical social criticism represented by Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School as (...) well as contemporary Science and Technology Studies. The social critics recognized the role of instrumental rationality in modern societies, but they did not analyze any actual technologies in detail, nor did they develop a convincing theory of democratic resistance to the new forms of domination by rational systems. STS has developed methods of analysis for a fine-grained study of technology. Technosystem brings these methods to bear on the resistances emerging in the world described by the radical social critics of the Frankfurt School.--. (shrink)
Thoroughly revised, this new edition of Critical Theory of Technology rethinks the relationships between technology, rationality, and democracy, arguing that the degradation of labor--as well as of many environmental, educational, and political systems--is rooted in the social values that preside over technological development. It contains materials on political theory, but the emphasis has shifted to reflect a growing interest in the fields of technology and cultural studies.
Modern technology is more than a neutral tool: it is the framework of our civilization and shapes our way of life. Social critics claim that we must choose between this way of life and human values. Critical Theory of Technology challenges that pessimistic cliche. This pathbreaking book argues that the roots of the degradation of labor, education, and the environment lie not in technology per se but in the cultural values embodied in its design. Rejecting such popular solutions as economic (...) simplicity or spiritual renewal, Feenberg presents a compelling argument for broader democratic participation in technological choices. This book will be of special interest to scholars and students of philosophy, sociology, contemporary Marxism, and Critical Theory. (shrink)
The technologies, markets, and administrations of today's knowledge society are in crisis. We face recurring disasters in every domain: climate change, energy shortages, economic meltdown. The system is broken, despite everything the technocrats claim to know about science, technology, and economics. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that today powerful technologies have unforeseen effects that disrupt everyday life; the new masters of technology are not restrained by the lessons of experience, and accelerate change to the point where society is (...) in constant turmoil. In Between Reason and Experience, leading philosopher of technology Andrew Feenberg makes a case for the interdependence of reason--scientific knowledge, technical rationality--and experience. Feenberg examines different aspects of the tangled relationship between technology and society from the perspective of critical theory of technology, an approach he has pioneered over the past twenty years. Feenberg points to two examples of democratic interventions into technology: the Internet and the environmental movement. He examines methodological applications of critical theory of technology to the case of the French Minitel computing network and to the relationship between national culture and technology in Japan. Finally, Feenberg considers the philosophies of technology of Heidegger, Habermas, Latour, and Marcuse. The gradual extension of democracy into the technical sphere, Feenberg argues, is one of the great political transformations of our time. (shrink)
In this new collection of essays, Andrew Feenberg argues that conflicts over the design and organization of the technical systems that structure our society shape deep choices for the future. A pioneer in the philosophy of technology, Feenberg demonstrates the continuing vitality of the critical theory of the Frankfurt School. He calls into question the anti-technological stance commonly associated with its theoretical legacy and argues that technology contains potentialities that could be developed as the basis for an alternative form of (...) modern society. Feenberg's critical reflections on the ideas of Jürgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse, Jean-François Lyotard, and Kitaro Nishida shed new light on the philosophical study of technology and modernity. He contests the prevalent conception of technology as an unstoppable force responsive only to its own internal dynamic and politicizes the discussion of its social and cultural construction. This argument is substantiated in a series of compelling and well-grounded case studies. Through his exploration of science fiction and film, AIDS research, the French experience with the "information superhighway," and the Japanese reception of Western values, he demonstrates how technology, when subjected to public pressure and debate, can incorporate ethical and aesthetic values. (shrink)
The Critical Theory of the early Frankfurt School promised, in Adorno’s words, a ‘rational critique of reason’. Science and Technology Studies can play a role in the renewal of this approach. STS is based on a critique of the very same technocratic and scientistic assumptions against which Critical Theory argues. Its critique of positivism and determinism has political implications. But at its origins STS took what Wiebe Bijker called the ‘detour into the academy’ in order to institutionalize itself as a (...) social science. It adopted empirical methods, developed case histories, and limited its scope, avoiding politically controversial issues. Its latent political critique has become explicit in recent years as STS has responded to the rise of technical politics by broadening its concerns. Its wide scope converges with the equally encompassing Critical Theory. Together, STS and Critical Theory offer a new concept of politics. (shrink)
"This fine collection of essays from a diverse group of authors expounding on a wide variety of subjects presents a generous sampling of the new philosophy of technology." —Choice "... informative, original, and provocative.... Many of the writers are major players in defining the contested political terrain of cultural, science, and technology studies as well as critical theory and Heidegger studies." —Gerald Doppelt.
This paper explores the sense in which modern societies can be said to be rational. Social rationality cannot be understood on the model of an idealized image of scientific method. Neither science nor society conforms to this image. Nevertheless, critique is routinely silenced by neo-liberal and technocratic arguments that appeal to social simulacra of science. This paper develops a critical strategy for addressing the resistance of rationality to rational critique. Romantic rejection of reason has proven less effective than strategies that (...) conceptualize modern artefacts, systems, and organizations as rationally underdetermined. This approach first appears in Marx's analysis of capitalist economics. Although he lacks the concept of underdetermination, Marx gets around the silencing effect of social rationality with something very much like it in his discussion of the length of the working day. Frankfurt School Critical Theory later blended romantic elements with Marxian ones in a suggestive but ambiguous mixture. The concept of underdetermination reappears in contemporary science and technology studies, now clearly articulated and philosophically and sociologically elaborated. But somewhere along the way the critical thrust was diluted. Critical theory of technology attempts to recover that thrust. Here its approach is generalized to cover the three main forms of social rationality. (shrink)
This paper argues, against technological and economic determinism, that the dominant model of industrial society is politically contingent. The idea that technical decisions are significantly constrained by ?rationality? ? either technical or economic ? is shown to be groundless. Constructivist and hermeneutic approaches to technology show that modern societies are inherently available for a different type of development in a different cultural framework. It is possible that, in the future, those who today are subordinated to technology's rhythms and demands will (...) be able to control it and to determine its evolution. I call the process of creating such a society ?subversive rationalization? because it requires technological advances that can only be made in opposition to the dominant hegemony. (shrink)
This important collection of essays by Andrew Feenberg presents his critical theory of technology, an innovative approach to philosophy and sociology of technology based on a synthesis of ideas drawn from STS and Frankfurt School Critical Theory. The volume includes chapters on citizenship, modernity, and Heidegger and Marcuse.
The debate between Marcuse and Habermas over technology marked a significant turning point in the history of the Frankfurt School. After the 1960s Habermas's influence grew as Marcuse's declined and Critical Theory adopted a far less Utopian stance. Recently there has been a revival of quite radical technology criticism in the environmental movement and under the influence of Foucault and constructivism. This article takes a new look at the earlier debate from the standpoint of these recent developments. While much of (...) Habermas's argument remains persuasive, his defense of modernity now seems to concede far too much to the claims of autonomous technology. His essentialist picture of technology as an application of a purely instrumental form of nonsocial rationality is less plausible after a decade of historicizing research in technology studies. The article argues that Marcuse was right after all to claim that technology is socially determined even if he was unable to develop his insight fruitfully. The article derives a new approach to technology criticism from both constructivism and Habermas's communication theory. The essence of technology is shown to be historical and reflexive, like the essence of other social institutions. As such an institution, its rationality is always implemented in value?biased forms subject to political critique. (shrink)
The aim of this inquiry is to investigate Heidegger's ontology of technology. We will show that this ontology is aporetic. In Heidegger's key technical essays, ?The question concerning technology? and its earlier versions ?Enframing? and ?The danger?, enframing is described as the ontological basis of modern life. But the account of enframing is ambiguous. Sometimes it is described as totally binding and at other times it appears to allow for exceptions. This oscillation between, what we will call total enframing and (...) partial enframing, is underscored in the work of two influential scholars of Heidegger's later thought, Hubert Dreyfus and Iain Thomson. We will show that like Heidegger, Dreyfus and Thomson unwittingly perpetuate this dilemma that ultimately covers up the aporetic structure of enframing. (shrink)
Though we may be competent at using many technologies, most of what we think we know about technology in general is false. Our error stems from the everyday conception of things as separate from each other and from us. In reality technologies belong to an interconnected network the nodes of which cannot exist independently qua technologies. What is more we tend to see technologies as quasi-natural objects, but they are just as much social as natural, just as much determined by (...) the meanings we give them as by the causal laws that rule over their powers. The errors of common sense have political consequences in domains such as, development, medicine and environmental policy. In this paper I summarize many of the conclusions philosophy of technology has reached reflecting on the reality of our technological world. These conclusions appear as paradoxes judged from our everyday perspective.This paper presents a philosophy of technology. It draws on what we have learnt in the last 30 years as we abandoned old Heideggerian and positivist notions and faced the real world of technology. It turns out that most of our common sense ideas about technology are wrong. This is why I have put my ten propositions in the form of paradoxes, although I use the word loosely here to refer to the counter-intuitive nature of much of what we know about technology. (shrink)
This article argues that Gilbert Simondon’s philosophy of technology is useful for both science and technology studies and critical theory. The synthesis has political implications. It offers an argument for the rationality of democratic interventions by citizens into decisions concerning technology. The new framework opens a perspective on the radical transformation of technology required by ecological modernization and sustainability. In so doing, it suggests new applications of STS methods to politics as well as a reconstruction of the Frankfurt School’s “rational (...) critique of reason.”. (shrink)
Marcuse argues that society must be evaluated in terms of its unrealized potentialities. Potentialities are formulated by the imagination, which has an essential cognitive function in revealing what things might be. Utopian thinking, thinking that transcends the given facts toward their potentialities, is thus rational in Marcuse’s view. His explanation for this claim draws on Hegel, Marx, and phenomenology. With Freud, Marcuse elaborates the historical limits and possibilities of the imagination as an expression of Eros. Utopia is the historical realization (...) in a refashioned world of the rational contents of the imagination. (shrink)
Critical theory of technology brings technology studies to bear on the social theory of rationality. This paper discusses this connection through a reconsideration of the contribution of the Frankfurt School to our understanding of what I call the paradox of rationality, the fact that the promise of the Enlightenment has been disappointed as advances in scientific and technical knowledge have led to more and more catastrophic consequences. The challenge for critical theory is to understand this paradox without romantic and anti-modern (...) afterthoughts as a contribution to a progressive worldview. (shrink)
Iain Thomson's critique is persuasive on several points but not on the major issue, the relation of the ontological to the ontic in Heidegger's philosophy of technology. This reply attempts to show that these two dimensions of Heidegger's theory are closely related, at least in the technological domain, and not separate, as Thomson affirms. It is argued that Heidegger's evaluations of particular technologies, the flaws of which Thomson concedes, proceed from a flawed ontological conception.
This acclaimed book is the first comparative evaluation of two primary sources of the Western Marxist tradition: Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and History and Class Consciousness by Georg Luk'acs. Andrew Feenberg offers a new interpretation of the theories of alienation and reification as the basis of a Marxist approach to the cultural contradictions of contemporary society.
In these replies I address criticism of my work on the grounds that I adopt a ‘humanist’ approach, underestimate the aesthetic potential of contemporary video games, overlook the role of the nation-state in resisting technological imperialism, fail to appreciate the risks of reactionary appropriations of technology, and introduce an extrinsic and dubious aesthetic value into the philosophy of technology. In the course of responding to these criticisms, I reiterate several of the basic claims of critical theory of technology.
ResumoEste artigo defende que a teoria da concretização de Gilbert Simondon é útil tanto para os estudos sobre ciência e tecnologia quanto para a teoria política. Por "concretização", Simondon compreende o processo de multiplicação de funções propiciadas pelas estruturas de um dispositivo. Ele oferece o exemplo do motor com resfriamento a ar, que combina resfriamento e contenção em uma única estrutura, a caixa do motor. A concretização contrasta com projetos "abstratos", que acrescentam estruturas para cada função, complicando o dispositivo e (...) reduzindo sua eficiência. De acordo com Simondon, a evolução normal das tecnologias pode ser acompanhada através de suas sucessivas concretizações. O propósito deste artigo é concretizar em um único sistema de referência conceitual as noções funcionalmente distintas de "concretização" em Simondon e de "atores" nos ECT. Essa combinação tem aplicações políticas importantes. Ela mostra como demandas aparentemente contraditórias podem ser reconciliadas através de inovação. Por exemplo, diz-se frequentemente que acrescentar novas funções ambientais a tecnologias existentes implicará na troca da eficiência pela ideologia. Ao invés disso, o novo sistema de referência conceitual abre-nos uma perspectiva de transformação radical da tecnologia requerida pela modernização e sustentabilidade ecológicas. Ao fazer isso, ele sugere um modo de reconstruir a "crítica racional da razão" da Escola de Frankfurt e a noção de "racionalidade tecnológica" de Marcuse.This article argues that Gilbert Simondon's theory of concretization is useful for both science and technology studies and political theory. By "concretization" Simondon means the process of multiplying the functions served by the structures of a device. He gives the example of the air cooled engine which combines cooling and containment in a single structure, the engine case. Concretization contrasts with "abstract" designs that add structures for each function, complicating the device and reducing its efficiency. According to Simondon the normal evolution of technologies can be traced in successive concretizations. The aim of this paper is to concretize in a single conceptual framework the functionally distinct notions of "concretization" in Simondon and "actors" in STS. The combination has important political applications. It shows how apparently contradictory demands can be reconciled through innovation. For example, we are often told that adding new environmental functions to existing technologies will trade off ideology for efficiency. Instead, the new framework opens a perspective on the radical transformation of technology required by ecological modernization and sustainability. In so doing, it suggests a way of reconstructing the Frankfurt School's "rational critique of reason" and Marcuse's notion of "technological rationality". (shrink)
The word "experience" refers to at least four different concepts: empirical experience, lived experience, experience as Bildung, and the domain of pure consciousness prior to the division of subject and object. All these concepts of experience are at work in the thought of Nishida Kitarō, where they take on a specific historical and political character in response to the situation of Japan in the world system.
The neo-liberal reform of the university has had a huge impact on higher education and promises still more changes in the future. Many of these changes have had a negative impact on academic careers, values, and the educational experience. Educational technology plays an important role in the defense of neo-liberal reform, less through actual accomplishment than as a rhetorical justification for supposed “progress.” This paper outlines the main claims and consequences of this rhetorical strategy and its actual effects on the (...) university to date. (shrink)
In his critique of my book Heidegger and Marcuse, Jeff Kochan (2006) asserts that I am committed to the possibility of private knowledge, transcendent truths, and individualism. In this reply I argue that he has misinterpreted my analysis of the Challenger disaster and Marcuse’s work. Because I do not dismiss Roger Boisjoly’s doubts about the Challenger launch, Kochan believes that I have abandoned a social concept of knowledge for a reliance on the private knowledge of a single individual. In fact, (...) I consider Boisjoly’s observations just as social, if not as scientific, as the results of rigorous scientific study. Kochan’s reliance on a principle of symmetry derived from science studies to explain such politically charged technological controversies tends to mask the role of power and ideology in social life. Kochan interprets Marcuse as a failed Heideggerian who regresses from Heidegger’s social conception of human being to traditional individualism. I am accused of sharing this view. This interpretation overlooks the importance of the Hegelian–Marxist category of ‘real possibility’ in Marcuse’s work and so mistakes his critique of conformist politics for individualist romanticism. Marcuse always attempted to ground radical opposition in a community of struggle without abandoning the heritage of a long critical tradition. This view I willingly share. Keywords: Philosophy of technology; Principle of symmetry; Challenger disaster; Herbert Marcuse; Martin Heidegger; Knowledge . (shrink)
This book provides an introduction to postphenomenology, an emerging school of thought in the philosophy of technology and science and technology studies, which addresses the relationships users develop with the devices they use.
1. Thomson's critique: Despite the efforts of his followers to show that Heidegger had a progressive theory of technology, his work is clouded by nostalgia. His positive contribution is a fragmentary opening toward a phenomenology of daily technical practice, which I use to develop de Certeau's distinction between the strategic control of technical systems and their tactical usage by subordinates. Heidegger himself made no such application of his own phenomenological approach. 2. Stump's critique: Can an ontological essentialism and a historically (...) oriented constructivism be combined as Questioning Technology attempts to do? Stump claims they cannot, but assumes that I accept far more ontological and epistemological baggage from each position than I do. In fact, what I retain from essentialism is primarily the analysis of the basic technical relation to reality, and from constructivism, historical and hermeneutic methods of analysis of the realization of that relation in actual systems and devices. These elements of the two theories are compatible. (shrink)
In this text I discuss the fundamental problem of human finitude. This is an issue that comes up in both sources of Western ethical tradition, both the Judaic and the Greek source. The ancient wisdom teaches human finitude and enjoins human beings to avoid hubris, the belief that they are gods. Despite, or rather because of the many advances in technology that have occurred in the past century, we can still draw on this tradition for wisdom. The text is divided (...) into three parts: ontological finitude, epistemological finitude and democracy as recognition of finitude. A systems-theoretic concept of human action and the concept of “entangled hierarchy” are introduced to explain the relevance of finitude to technology. (shrink)
In this reply I address problems identified by my critics in my concept of formal bias, my use of phenomenology, the relation between my work and McLuhan’s media theory, and the relation of science to technology.