technology (Re: Horowitz's center)

frances bolton fbolton at
Wed Mar 10 10:56:15 PST 1999

Carl writes:
>Again, this is at the heart of Ellul's thinking.
>The question is, how does this relate to Marx's thinking? If modes of
>production (technologies) are the primary determinant of social
>relations, what difference does it make who nominally owns those
>technologies, the distribution of social power will be the same.
I'd say the connection to Marx is *a* question, but, at least for me, it is not *the* question. I think this is an area (skating on thin ice here, perhaps) where Marx is not particularly useful--he's way too 19th c. to be really useful in this respect, at least in my own work in this area.

And I don't know how hot 'n' heavy I want to get with Ellul. In *The Presence of the Kingdom* he's got that bit about how living in the world is living in the domain of Satan and we see Satan's actions all around us because of our state of sin etc....I think he has a tendency to equate sin and technique, with technology becoming a modern Temptation (theological, not motown). I get the sense from Ellul, and you are of course welcome to correct it, that there is something *outside* technology that makes technology the iron cage that it is. I don;t know how else to explain his blanket condemnation of it. That said, there's a couple of places one might look towards in constructing a critique of technology that doesn't fall into the trap of unreflective technophobia. One might take a social constructionist approach and ask about the powers and interests represented in the development and subsequent success of a particular technological artifact. Problem here is that critique stops when a technology is adopted, there's no way to discuss that as a constructionist as far as I can tell. Or, one might ask about the secondary effects of technologies--technology x is developed to serve purposes a, b, and c, but it also has effects d, e, and f. One could use either method of critique without, I think, falling into the trap of what Doug referred to as attitude as <<indistinguishable from an aristocratic contempt for innovation and massness.>> As for its usefuless to political economists, I'll leave that question for gentle Rakesh.


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