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Chapter 55 ~ “Democratic Rationalization: Technology, Power, and Freedom” by Andrew Feenberg October 16, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
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Chapter 55 ~ “Democratic Rationalization: Technology, Power, and Freedom” by Andrew Feenberg (revised – 1992)

Reading chapter 55 was like reading a Who’s Who in the Philosophy of Technology. Many guest stars, to include Ellul, Heidegger, Marcuse, even hackers, make an appearance in this piece; I will say that it feels appropriate to have read this piece after Haraway. Though they tackle the idea of technology in two distinct ways, a bridge between them is that of embracing technology to better self and society.


“Technology is one of the major sources of public power in modern societies” (652) and the “masters of technical systems” – to include corporate and military leaders and professional associations for groups such as physicians and engineers – have far more control over parts of society than all of governmental institutions.

Feenberg notes that this issue is at the heart of Marx and socialism, for there is the argument, found in socialism, that “democracy must be extended from the political domain into the world of work” (652).

Why haven’t we truly democratized industrialism?

Feenberg states two rationales behind this:
1- Modern technology is incompatible with workplace democracy. There can be no democratic theory that would destroy the economic foundations of society.
2- Technology is not responsible for the concentration of industrial power; that is a political matter.

Feenberg argues that technology is neither determining nor neutral; it is, in a sense, a mediator of a variety of social activities, and as such, Feenberg believes that democracy must be extended beyond its traditional bounds to include technology for society (and its relationship with technology) to sustain and actually do better than sustain.

After presenting an overview of various theories that link themselves to technological determinism, Feenberg presents his alternative approach, a non-deterministic theory of modern society: “critical theory of technology.” This approach follows the logic that:
1- Technology is not just the rational control of nature; both its development and impact are intrinsically social.
2- This view undermines the typical reliance on efficiency as a criterion of technological development.
3- Because of this, broad possibilities of change can be realized.

[Discussion Questions]


Chapter 37 ~ “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” by Donna Haraway October 14, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
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Chapter 37 ~ “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” by Donna Haraway

Haraway argues for a connection amongst feminism, socialism, and materialism through the image of the cyborg, a blend of machine and organism, both a creature of social reality and of fiction.

Through this image of the cyborg, the dualisms that confine us – specifically, human/animal, human/machine, and physical/artificial – can be broken down, allowing us to have multiple perspectives of our world.

There were a few things I liked about this piece – despite wishing for more clarity on some of her discussions, like of those she seems to “shut down,” such as Foucault:

1- The idea that the cyborg is a creature without an origin story and because of this if we entertained the thought of a “cyborg life,” we could move past the need to reclaim some paternalistic, patriarchal “wholeness” and get a life that is truly ours.

Love the first full paragraph on the right side of page 430. Because the cyborg does not have an original story, it’s not looking to be made whole or restored by something else.

Though they are “wary of holism,” they are “needy for connection” (430). The problem, however, as Haraway sees it is cyborgs “are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism” (430). But this shouldn’t matter too much because illegitimage offspring are known to have issues with those who made them. “Their fathers, after all, are inessential” (430).

For Haraway, the three major dualisms we fight with, stated above, can all be bridged through the use of the cyborg.

2- The discussion on “the informatics of domination” was interesting because her arguments seems to dismantle the “naturality” we aspire to the objects on the left-hand side of the list.

3- TOTALLY enamored with the idea that the woman must disassemble and reassemble a personal self. Everything from “The ‘Homework Economy’ Outside ‘The Home'” on in the piece struck a personal chord with me. I’m not sure if I’m a cyborg (though with how much technology is engrained in me and I it might suggest I am), but I do see Haraway’s argument about how important it is to embrace what the technology can do for us in assembling what we want to be.

This is a departure from the earlier people we read (and some of the recent authors) who believe we must run from technology. I have to admit, if you don’t think and just read, it’s easy to get caught up in the paranoia of those arguments. But the truth remains that technology is here, and it’s probably not going anywhere any time soon. Makes sense that we would accept this, learn from it, utilize what makes it good, and change ourselves for the better because of it.