technology quotes: Andrew Feenberg

From Andrew Feenberg's Critical Theory of Technology (Oxford University Press, 1991). (Thanks to Sharyn Ladner for the tip). Here is an excerpt from the Preface:

Must human beings submit to the harsh logic of machinery, or can technology be redesigned to better serve its creators? This is the question on which the future of industrial civilization depends. It is not primarily a technical question but concerns a fundamental issue in social philosophy: the neutrality of technology and the related theory of technological determinism. If technology is neutral, then its immense and often disturbing social and environmental impacts are accidental side effects of progress. Much current debate polarizes around the question of whether these side effects outweigh the benefits. The advocates of further progress claim 'reason' as their ally while the adversaries defend 'humanity' and 'nature' against machines and mechanistic social organizations. The stage is set for a struggle for and against technology.

The Critical Theory of Technology rejects this alternative and argues that the real issue is not technology or progress per se but the variety of possible technologies and paths of progress among which we must choose. Modern technology is no more neutral than medieval cathedrals or the Great Wall of China; it embodies the values of a particular industrial civilization, especially those of elites that rest their claims to hegemony on technical mastery. We must articulate and judge these values in a cultural critique of technology. By so doing, we can begin to grasp the outlines of another possible industrial civilization based on other values.

rheingold's brainstorms | rant archives | rheingoldian writing