Hope for Our Technological Inheritance? From Substantive Critiques of Technology to Marcuse’s Post-Technological Rationality
AbstractThis paper explores the promise that Herbert Marcuse found in late modernity’s technological inheritance—his “other side” to his critique of technological rationality. With the goal of beginning to recover Marcuse’s desire for technological reform and a more hopeful project for a contemporary critical philosophy of technology, the paper first situates and contrasts Marcuse’s double-sided critique of technological rationality with the mostly negative critiques of modern technology exemplified by Heidegger, Adorno, and Horkheimer. Rather than offer concrete possibilities for socio-technical transformation, Heidegger, Adorno, and Horkheimer’s pessimistic views of technology tend to lead towards resignation in our late-modern fate. The paper then meditates on Marcuse’s “ambivalence theory of technology”—the notion that technologies are neither neutral nor inherently deterministic but, rather, politically and socially inscribed and entangled within webs of social struggles where their designed intentions are worked out and often reappropriated in actual use by users. The paper then looks at how Marcuse’s ambivalence theory can help in understanding the possibilities for re-valuing the technological base of advanced capitalist society within re-materialized values of love, joy, refusal, and sensuousness. Illustrating the continued relevance of Marcuse’s analysis for today’s radical left, the final section of the paper presents six key historical-conjunctural moments in Marcuse’s writings on technology that could be seen as prefiguring contemporary examples of technological reform and liberation from exploitative and alienating modes of life. Some of the newest social movements against neoliberal global capital, this final section argues, touch on elements of Marcusean-like re-rationalized and re-sensualized technological and organizational transformations.
Adorno, Theodor W. & Max Horkheimer. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002).
Bell, Peter & Harry Cleaver. “Marx’s Theory of Crisis as Theory of Class Struggle.” The Commoner, 5, (2002): 1-59. http://www.commoner.org.uk/cleaver05.pdf (accessed December 8, 2007).
Critchley, Simon. Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance (London: Verso, 2007).
Day, Richard. Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements (New York: Pluto Press, 2005).
Feenberg, Andrew. Questioning Technology (New York: Routledge, 1999).
Feenberg, Andrew. Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History (New York: Routledge, 2005).
Feenberg, Andrew & William Leiss. The Essential Marcuse: Selected Writings of Philosopher and Social Critic Herbert Marcuse (Boston: Beacon Press, 2007).
Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, 3-35 (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1977).
Horkheimer, Max. Eclipse of Reason (New York: Continuum, 1974).
Horkheimer, Max. “Traditional and Critical Theory,” in Critical Theory: Selected Essays, 188-243 (New York: Continuum 2002).
Jay, Martin. The Dialectic Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1973).
Kellner, Douglas. “Marcuse and the Quest for Radical Subjectivity.” Dogma: Revue électronique (2000). http://dogma.free.fr/txt/Kellner-Marcuse01.htm (accessed March 28, 2007).
Lazzarato, Maurizzio. “Struggle, Event, Media.” RepublicArt, May (2003). http://republicart.net/disc/representations/lazzarato01_en.htm (accessed May 3, 2006).
Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964).
Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966).
Marcuse, Herbert. An Essay on Liberation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).
Marcuse, Herbert. Counter-Revolution and Revolt (Boston: Beacon Press, 1972).
Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1: The Process of Capitalist Production (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co, 1906).
Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1: The Process of Capitalist Production (New York: International Publishers, 1967).
Marx, Karl. Grundrisse: Foundations for the Critique of Political Economy (Rought Draft) (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1973).
Vieta, Marcelo & Andrés Ruggeri. “The Worker-Recovered Enterprises as Workers’ Cooperatives: The Conjunctures, Challenges, and Innovations of Self-Management in Argentina and Latin America.” Co-operatives in a Global Economy: The Challenges of Co-operation Across Borders, edited by J.J. McMurtry & Daryl Reed, 178-225 (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).
- 2021-10-29 (2)
- 2010-12-06 (1)