Andrew Feenberg: Alternative Modernity: The Technical Turn in Philosophy and Social Theory (1995)

24 June 2011, dusan

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.

Publisher University of California Press, 1995
ISBN 0520089863, 9780520089860
251 pages

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Bernard Stiegler: For a New Critique of Political Economy (2010)

20 May 2011, dusan

The catastrophic economic, social and political crisis of our time calls for a new and original critique of political economy – a rethinking of Marx’s project in the very different conditions of twenty-first century capitalism.

Stiegler argues that today the proletarian must be reconceptualized as the economic agent whose knowledge and memory are confiscated by machines. This new sense of the term ‘proletarian’ is best understood by reference to Plato’s critique of exteriorized memory. By bringing together Plato and Marx, Stiegler can show how a generalized proletarianization now encompasses not only the muscular system, as Marx saw it, but also the nervous system of the so-called creative workers in the information industries. The proletarians of the former are deprived of their practical know-how, whereas the latter are shorn of their theoretical practice, and both suffer from a confiscation of the very possibility of a genuine art of living.

But the mechanisms at work in this new and accentuated form of proletarianization are the very mechanisms that may spur a reversal of the process. Such a reversal would imply a crucial distinction between one’s life work, originating in otium (leisure devoted to the techniques of the self), and the job, consisting in a negotium (the negotiation and calculation, increasingly restricted to short-term expectations), leading to the necessity of a new conception of economic value.

This short text offers an excellent introduction to Stiegler’s work while at the same time representing a political call to arms in the face of a deepening economic and social crisis.

Publisher Polity, 2010
ISBN 0745648045, 9780745648040
100 pages

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Lewis Mumford: Technics and Civilization (1934-) [English, Spanish]

7 December 2010, dusan

The book gives the history of technology and its interplay in shaping and being shaped by civilizations. Mumford asserts that the development of modern technology, rather than springing up during the Industrial Revolution, has its roots in the Middle Ages. He argues it is the moral, the economic, and the political choices we make, not the machines we use that has produced a capitalist industrialized machine-oriented economy, whose imperfect fruits serve the majority so imperfectly. The development of technology is divided into three overlapping phases: ecotechnic, paleotechnic and neotechnic.

First published in England, 1934
Publisher: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, London, Seventh impression, 1955
496 pages

Wikipedia (EN)

Technics and Civilization (English, 1934/1955, updated on 2014-3-19)
Tecnica y civilizacion (Spanish, trans. Aznar de Acevedo, 1971/1992, updated on 2014-3-19)