Sunday, June 07, 2009

Feenberg proposes a reversal of technological destining

Re: Heidegger, Habermas and the Essence of Technology by Andrew Feenberg
by Debashish on Sat 06 Jun 2009 06:15 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

AF: On this basis, I have argued elsewhere for a reform of modern technology to incorporate workers' skills and environmental limits into its very structure. Similar arguments could be made with respect to the possibility of culturally specific technological configurations.

In what I consider a brilliant analysis of the transformative handles of secondary technological characteristics, Feenberg proposes a reversal of technological destining. But, as he himself acknowledges technology permeates the modern lifeworld and determines our world experience and our identity ubiquitously:

Technical choices establish the horizons of daily life. These choices define a "world" within which the specific alternatives we think of as purposes, goals, uses, emerge. They also define the subject who chooses among the alternatives: we make ourselves in making the world through technology. Thus fundamental technological change is self-referential. At issue is becoming, not having. The goal is to define a way of life, an ideal of abundance, and a human type, not just to obtain more goods in the prevailing socio-economic model.

How much contrary agency do we have in such a world whose very episteme is technicity? I have tried to explore this issue in my articles on Techno-Capitalism and Post-Human Destinies (I, II and III)

Here I have tried to show that the intimate and perhaps inextricable braiding of technology and capitalism have led to the ubiquity of technology as the Modern episteme, instrumentalizing human agency to the point of radical objectification and commodification. This lethal compounding of technology and capitalism has set the discursive condition of our Age with technicity as the autonomous and mechanistic basis of an ever increasing and proliferating desiring, building system on system and girding the geo-sphere, bio-sphere and psycho-sphere with its determining regime.

Feenberg in his essay does not address this postmodern technological ubiquity and draining of human agency. Unless this is acknowledged, his critique and reformative initiative, while potentially fertile, will remain either impotent or insignificant. For a cultural revolution in the ground of technicity as he envisages, to be possible or make a difference, one must first theorize the social conditions of global postmodernity under which it can be enacted.

  • Does post-industrial conditions of technicity offer any grounds for such a possibility?
  • What social and political choices are necessary to take advantage of any such grounds?

What I believe Feenberg could profitably add to his critique is the transformation not merely of technological characteristics in production and distribution but in the agency of social becoming which will utilize such transformations in its alternate destining. DB Reply

That dogs identify other dogs as companions for forming social packs or for reproducing says nothing about the human experience of this class of objects. An empirical layer of human experience pertaining to such a class of objects bound by such behaviors may or may not be pertinent as cultural currency (language). Historical contingency determines such things for different societies. Still I can concede that over time commonalities of social experience in a variety of cultures may arrive at universals of description with certain irreducible bases. In fact, it is this problem of subjective indeterminacy which marks the reaction against the "Dark Ages" in Europe and the decision to ground human understanding in empirical descriptions of materiality - the birth of Science. DB Re: Convergent evolution Debashish Sat 06 Jun 2009 06:37 PM PDT Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

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