Alf Hornborg on Technology as Fetish

Alf Hornborg on Technology as Fetish

Technology as Fetish: Marx, Latour, and the Cultural Foundations of Capitalism

Abstract
This article discusses how the way in which post-Enlightenment humans tend to relate to material objects is a fundamental aspect of modern capitalism. The difficulties that conventional academic disciplines have in grasping the societal and political aspect of ‘technology’ stem from the predominant Cartesian paradigm that distinguishes the domain of material objects from that of social relations of exchange. This Cartesian paradigm has constrained the Marxian analysis of capital accumulation from extending the concept of fetishism to the domain of technology. Both Marxian and mainstream thought represent technological objects as empowered by their intrinsic properties, which derive from human ingenuity and tend to progress over time. To transcend this paradigm will be possible only through the kind of post-Cartesian perspective on material artefacts that has been championed by Bruno Latour. However, Latour’s own neglect of technological systems as social strategies of exploitation reflects his lack of concern with global inequalities.