Network, Utopia and Fetishism

Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 27)


Filipa Subtil and Pedro Xavier Mendonça analyses the technicizing impact of networks on the idea of communication and the influence of the network ideal on the current direction of technology in the service of power and economic advantage. Communication networks, in the Saint-Simonian ideal of the technical network, reduce the distances between classes and peoples, in that they involve people and society. The operation of democracy, itself inherent in and driven by networks, allows this process to take place, as a symbol and vehicle for democracy and equality. Subtil and Mendonça draw on the development of the media to illustrate how the information revolution made possible by networks has become the axis of a new capitalism, and stress the significance of three factors: the consolidation of nations with the introduction of the telegraph; the standardization and industrialization of news procedures; and the institutionalization of the press as an engine of power and economic intervention.

With the computer and micro-computing, social life has expanded and knowledge have become disseminated, and the Saint-Simonian ideal of world networks has acquired concrete form in the new era of information. Subtil and Mendonça see this trend in Michel Chevalier. While pointing out that there is no straight line from the Saint-Simonian tradition of technical networks to the current shape of technology as an instrument for seeking power and profit, they demonstrate how the libertarian and liberal ideal present in Saint-Simonianism in the person of Chevalier enables (and advocates) information capitalism.

The irreducible nature of the relationship between technical and political networks is explained by the allusion to a technological utopianism of the Promethean type and by consumption. The utopian disposition is the representational aspect of network dynamics, reflecting the projection of an ideal and the search for its realization. In combining the imaginary and realization, involving individual persons in the attraction of their promises, the network lends itself to idolatry as a symbol of social change and acquires ideological content. The cult of networks and the technological sublime reflect the idea that technology is sufficient unto itself as a political goal.


Rationalizable Attraction Political Consummation Commodity Fetishism Ideological Content Universal Association 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Communication and Media StudiesLisbon Polytechnic InstituteLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.School of Business Communication-EFAPLisbonPortugal

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