Technosystem: The Social Life of Reason
Harvard University Press, Forthcoming Fall 2017
We live in a world
of technical systems, designed in accordance with technical disciplines and
operated by a personnel trained in those disciplines. This is a unique form of
social organization without historical precedent. It overshadows traditional
democratic institutions and largely determines our way of life. Technosystem: The Social Life of Reason reconstructs
the idea of democracy for this brave new world.
Like fish who are
so used to the water they do not know that they are wet, we take for granted a
technical environment that determines most of our choices and actions. True, we
maneuver freely within this environment, but it forms an almost invisible
barrier to democratic social change. Corporations and government agencies
reproduce their overwhelming power with every technical advance. The public
occasionally intervenes through protests and hacking in the interests of goals
not supported by the technocracy. Technosystem
regards these democratic interventions as essential expressions of public
life for which there is no adequate theory.
The author draws on
the tradition of radical social criticism represented by Herbert Marcuse and
the Frankfurt School as well as contemporary Science and Technology Studies
(STS). The social critics recognized the role of instrumental rationality in
modern societies, but they did not analyze any actual technologies in detail,
nor did they develop a convincing theory of democratic resistance to the new
forms of domination by rational systems. STS has developed methods of analysis
for a fine-grained study of technology. Technosystem
brings these methods to bear on the resistances emerging in the world
described by the radical social critics of the Frankfurt School.
An interview with Rorotoko: Andrew Feenberg on his book 'Technosystem: The Social Life of Reason'