technology

Alex Trotter uburoi at panix.com
Sun Sep 17 22:05:05 MDT 1995


Hans DeSpain said in defense of technology and science that it is only
the capitalist ownership and use of technology that makes it destructive.
The "forces of production" would, under worker control, liberate human
powers. Although I don't think that all technology is necessarily an
unmitigated evil, I think there is reason to doubt marxism's
progressivist views on this subject.
	Marxists have traditionally seen the development of productive
forces as not only a good thing, but even the prerequisite for
"socialism." Capitalism itself (at least at a certain stage of its
history) was praised by M & E as revolutionary in its development of
productive forces. Marx talked more of communism as man's reappropriation
of community and reconciliation with nature, conceived as the nature, or
natural, in man (the *Gattungswesen* or "species-being"), whereas for
Engels, technological progress and quantitative economic development were
more important. Although both of them came up with "scientific
socialism," it was Engels, with his *Dialectics of Nature*, who tried to
set down iron laws of mechanistic materialism as science. The Russian
followers of Marx, especially, took this up with gusto and argued contra
the Populists that Russia would have to undergo capitalist development,
that is, development of productive forces, before communism would become
possible. Marxism had become the ideology of economic development.
	The problem is that economic production, indeed civilization
itself, are by their nature destructive of the environment. As long as
these activities take place on a very small scale, the damage is
sustainable and reparable. For a global leviathan like the one we're
living in, clearly it's not. If communism looks more like Marx's
communitarian vision than Engels's technological centralist one, then
things should work out fine (not that there wasn't a bit of the tech
centralist in Marx too!) But bear in mind that that will entail less, not
more technological development. For example, in a communist society, will
there be more, or less, need for televisions, computers, automobiles?
Think about it. Technology of some kind will always be with us, but
technology gone rampant and become autonomous, is part of what alienates
us and separates us from nature and community. If we had a real
community, we wouldn't all be sitting behind our lonely computer screens.
We also probably wouldn't be living in giant cities anymore. (Hey, I'm in
New York; some of you out there may well shun the big cities already.)
The fact that a "post-capitalist" society would inherit such a huge mess
and vast overpopulation is going to make the transition quite difficult.

--AT


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