Viewpoints on technology and society (Part One)
By Mark Wegierski
This short series will be listing (in point form) some salient positions of different thinkers and reflective persons (excluding inchoate popular and mass-politicians' attitudes) in regard to technology in the Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries, generally divided into "right"/"center"/"left" (R-C-L) modes. It is important to note that a person's explicitly-held ideology is not all-determining for their outlook on technological and ecological matters.
By "technology" is meant the "advanced" or modern technology that arose out of the triumph of a scientific spirit in the West beginning in the 17th century A.D. Modern technology can be divided into "early industrial," "late industrial," and "postindustrial" (or "electronic") phases. The process of expansion of new processes, devices, and substances is geometric. There seems to be no sign of "technological decadence" (decline in technological advance) in contemporary society.
Technology is ultimately derived from scientific theory. The "ideology" of science, scientific positivism, has had far less impact on society than scientific theory as a whole, while the practical impact of scientific theory in creating new technological processes, devices, and substances, has been far less again than the over-all impact of these new technological processes, devices, and substances themselves, on society as a whole.
Technology can refer both to the "skill" necessary to produce and use technological objects, as well as the objects themselves, thus describing a body of knowledge, processes, and results.
Main Attitudes Possible to World-History:
Teleology -- the belief that world-history is going in a generally "upward," positive direction;
Eternal Recurrence -- the belief in the endless cyclicity of world-history;
"Negative Teleology" -- the belief that world-history is going in a generally "downward," negative direction;
Indeterminism - the belief that world-history is radically open to changes in direction; no "set" direction to history conditioned by previous developments.
Pretechnological Approaches: (Generally Out of Context Today)
This refers to preindustrial societies where mass, machine or electronic-based technology was not an autonomous or existing factor. In such societies, attitudes to the explosion of such technology could probably not really be formulated by thinkers, because it had not yet occurred. (This statement assumes the uniqueness of the modern technological outburst out of the West, as well as the somewhat epistemologically privileged position of serious commentary of those writing in a now-existing context that was nonexistent before.)
Nontechnological Approaches: (Unreflective About Technology)
Although the person is living in the Twentieth Century or today, no serious consideration of the effects of current technology on society is made, owing to the "old-fashioned" nature of one's views.
R: Russell Kirk; "pure reactionaries" -- teleological, indeterminist, or eternal recurrence, but without reference to technology (most rightists probably actually fall under this category);
C: "old-fashioned liberals" who ignore technology -- teleology of "freedom", or indeterminist;
L: what is called today "vulgar" Marxism -- teleology of "classless society," without paying attention to technological context (especially necessity for technical specialization in industrial societies, which probably explodes Marx's brief conceptualization of classless society, i.e., "fish in the morning, criticize literature in the afternoon").
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.