Marxist neo-luddism vs. Marxist techno-boosterism

Debordagoria phantasmagorias at
Wed Jun 28 17:41:05 MDT 2000

   The list has recently met with the appearance of
issues of technophilia and technophobia, though
discussion has largely been limited to environmental
matters.  For those interested I would like to
recommend the work of Marxist neo-Luddites Kevin
Robins and Frank Webster in general, and Robins' book
Times of the Technoculture in particular.

   Robins and Webster's work attempts to place
information and communications technologies within
the historical context of the development of
capitalism.  By focusing on the commodity logic of
the new technologies of the "communications
revolution" they place themselves in opposition to
the prevailing view of them as pristine creations, as
the socially-neutral outgrowth of the advance of human

knowledge.  Before taking seriously talk of a "new
age" of electronic community, it is important to
realize that capital has been integrally connected
with and initiatory of the new technologies.

   Henry Ford's application of "scientific management"
principles to factory production involved the transfer
of knowledge and skill from person to machine.  Robins
and Webster describe how this technological domination
becomes extended to spheres far beyond the workplace
part of the opening of social life to more effective
colonization by capital.  They dub this technological
mobilization of society "neo-Fordism," for they see it
as an intensification of Fordism's original drive to
incorporate both work and leisure time into a
comprehensive system of management control.  At work
here is a process of "social deskilling," whereby
people lose their "social capital," their ability to
create their own networks of mutual benefit as it is
objectified and incorporated into commodities and
technological systems.  Our growing dependence on
equipment and technological systems (for social and
cultural enfranchisement, for the maintenance of our
sense of identity, etc, etc) must be viewed as part of
the expansion of what Braverman terms the "universal
market." The "information revolution" should be seen
as serving to further the mediation of everyday life
by technologies constituted to embody capitalist
social relations.

Michael Davidson

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