We live in a world of technical systems designed in accordance with technical disciplines and operated by personnel trained in those disciplines. This is a unique form of social organization that largely determines our way of life, but the actions of individuals and social protest still play a role in developing and purposing these rational systems. In Technosystem, Andrew Feenberg builds a theory of both the threats of technocratic modernity and the potential for democratic change.
Feenberg draws on the tradition of radical social criticism represented by Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School, which recognized the social effects of instrumental rationality but did not advance a convincing alternative to the new forms of domination imposed by rational systems. That is where the fine-grained analyses of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) studies can contribute. Feenberg uses these approaches to reconcile the claims of rationality with the agency of a public increasingly mobilized to intervene in technically based decisions. The resulting social theory recognizes emerging forms of resistance, such as protests and hacking, as essential expressions of public life in the “rational society.”
Combining the most salient insights from critical theory with the empirical findings of STS, Technosystem advances the philosophical debate over the nature and practice of reason in modern society.
A complex, sophisticated book, bringing the full weight of Feenberg’s massive erudition to bear.
Many experts would rank Andrew Feenberg as the best contemporary philosopher of technology coming from the critical theory tradition. After this book, the number of readers so ranking him is bound to increase.
An engaging, lucid and illuminating discussion of some of the most urgent questions about the nature of modernity.
Feenberg is widely recognised as one of the major critical theorists of technology in the world today…An outstanding work of philosophy of technology in which classical authors of the field (Marx, Foucault, Lukács, Marcuse, Heidegger, Simondon, Latour and others) are brilliantly given commentary, re-interpreted, and integrated to Feenberg’s own approach: ‘critical constructivism.’
Feenberg’s approach looks beyond binary dystopian and utopian views of technology as dominating and controlling or as uncontested goods. Using thinkers such as Marcuse, Feenberg throughout the book challenges us to think about how technologies are designed, made and used, in our postdigital reality.
Feenberg presents a compelling argument about where we might find democratic sources of resistance to the distortions and pathologies arising from the application of various technologies in daily life. In an extremely far-reaching and important conclusion, he shows that there is no such thing as value-neutral technology, even at the simplest level of a tool. This is one of the best attempts known to me to realize Hegel’s account of philosophy as the attempt to ‘comprehend one’s own time in thought.’
Feenberg has written his magnum opus. It is as ambitious and broad-ranging as it is carefully argued and lucidly illustrated. He develops a theory of politics of technosystems by combining STS and philosophy and thus making politics thinkable in our technological cultures. Technosystem is obligatory reading for all STS scholars interested in democratization of our techno-scientific societies.
Technology cannot escape the hubris of its agents, who expect to change the world without being changed themselves. Andrew Feenberg has provided us with an engaging critique of sociotechnical rationality, designed to uncover the reified, distorted logic of the whole technosystem, while retrieving the Lukacsian project of a de-reified alternative in line with our historical context. An original, illuminating, and scholarly contribution to the philosophy of technology.
- 256 pages
- 1 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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