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Viewpoints on technology and society (Part Two)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted January 21, 2013

Having mentioned "pre-technological" and "non-technological" outlooks previously, the author continues here with "very optimistic" and "rather optimistic" approaches to technology, 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.

Technology as Generally "Good": (Very Optimistic)

R: in his pre-World War II thinking, Ernst Jünger (German right-wing theorist) sees technology as invariably "authoritarian" and disciplining -- therefore supports it unqualifiedly -- note also Futurism (Marinetti) -- the obsession with speed, adopted by Italian Fascism -- the early Jünger would argue that technology is invariably "militaristic" and "anti-humanistic" and would therefore support it, to sweep away "sentimental rubbish" and "humanism" -- teleological -- optimistic -- assumes that technology = discipline;

C: many liberals and Left-liberals of various stripes see technological development as invariably liberating (assumes that technology = freedom) -- complete support for scientific and technological development, consumerism, effective melding of man and machine (e.g., computers, cars, and popular technophile science-fiction imagery) -- teleological – optimistic;

L: some old-style Marxists embraced technology fully, as the essential vehicle for the achievement of the classless society (e.g., producerism, "the war for production," Stakhanovism, "engineers of souls") -- teleological – optimistic.

Technology as Basically "Value Neutral": (Rather Optimistic)

Under contemporary (or another) system, technology has negative consequences, but under a different (or contemporary) political system it would be used (or is being used) positively; belief in the absolute primacy of society or ideology or human values in the social/historical process.

R: Forward-looking nationalists and so-called "postmodern" Right enthusiastically seek to integrate technology within national and religious traditions -- probable ultimate goal: "feudal values plus high-technology" -- some fictional examples which could be used to illustrate the end-result of this possible synthesis are: Dune (Frank Herbert's far-future epic of heroic intragalactic struggle focussed on the desert-planet Arrakis); or Chung-kuo  (David Wingrove's epic series about a future Oriental-ruled Earth); or, to a certain extent, George Lucas' Star Wars  movie trilogy -- wavering between teleology, eternal recurrence, and indeterminism;

C: Liberals of all stripes, and some Left-liberals, generally support ongoing technological development, with some variations in the proposed intensity of ongoing social  reforms designed to deal with problems caused by technology (problems which can, generally-speaking, be  solved --meliorism and reformism) -- teleological or indeterminist;

L: postmodern Left and some Left-liberals seek to radically build classless, truly egalitarian society, where technology would be used for humanity, not against  it (believe that such an evolution is possible) -- teleological or indeterminist.

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.





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