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Democratic Socialism and Technological Change

  • Andrew Feenberg
Chapter
Part of the Philosophy and Technology book series (PHTE, volume 7)

Abstract

As the Communist world enters into an ever deepening crisis, socialist theory increasingly detaches itself from practical politics and takes refuge in normative considerations.1 This development has the merit of clarifying the fundamentally democratic inspiration of socialist ideals, but it runs the corresponding risk of recasting these ideals in a Utopian mold that invites dismissal on the grounds of impracticality. Contemporary arguments for democratic socialism are especially vulnerable to the charge that they fail to come to terms with the problems of technology, administration, and the related complex of cultural and educational issues that are ritually brought forward as fundamental obstacles to economic democratization.

Keywords

Technological Change Cultural Capital Industrial Society Democratic Socialism Economic Culture 
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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Notes

  1. 1.
    For a wide ranging survey of the contemporary discussion of socialism and democracy, see Frank Cunningham, Democratic Theory and Socialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). See also Carol Gould, Rethinking Democracy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988)3Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    “What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular, historical phases in the development of production, (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” From a letter of Marx to Weydemeyer dated March 5, 1852. In V.I. Lenin, Selected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1967), volume 2, p. 291.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For more on this concept, see Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon, 1964 ), pp. 219 ff. For an account of Marcuse’s theory of potentiality, see my “The Bias of Technology,” in R. Pippin, A. Feenberg, and C. Webel, eds., Marcuse: Critical Theory and the Promise of Utopia ( Amherst, Mass.: Bergin and Garvey, 1988 ).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    The two most important texts for understanding the Marxian theory of the transition are, “The Critique of the Gotha Program” and “The Civil War in France.” The relevant passages are published in Robert Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: Norton, 1972), pp. 383-398, and pp. 526–576.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Jürgen Habermas, Toward a Rational Society (Boston: Beacon, 1970), p. 87.1 will assume here that technology may be considered socially determined in some significant dimensions. My arguments for this position are offered in “The Bias of Technology,” in Pippin, Feenberg, and Webel (note 5, above), and in “The Ambivalence of Technology,” Sociological Perspectives (Fall, 1989).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    For examples, see Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (New York: Verso, 1985); Carl Boggs, Social Movements and Political Power (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986); Jean Cohen, Class and Civil Society ( Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1982 ).Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    The economic significance of democracy is discussed in Pierre Dokes and Bernard Rosier, L’Histoire ambigue (Paris: PUF, 1988), pp. 291–294.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    The basis for this approach to Marx’s work is Part 4 of Volume 1 of Capital (New York: Modern Library, 1906). For recent accounts, see Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974); Paul Thompson, The Nature of Work (London: Macmillan, 1983); and Ali Rattansi, Marx and the Division of Labour (London: Macmillan, 1982).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Marx, Capital, volume 1, p. 461. For a discussion of this problem, see my “Transition or Convergence: Communism and the Paradox of Development,” in F. Fleron, Jr., ed., Technology and Communist Culture ( New York: Praeger, 1977 ).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    John Diebold, Automation ( New York: Van Nostrand, 1962 ), p. 162.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    For examples, see Walter Buckingham, Automation (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), pp. 96 ff; and David Noble, Forces of Production ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1984 ).Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    Shoshana Zuboff, In the Age of the Smart Machine (New York: Basic Books, 1988).Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    Harley Shaiken, Work Transformed ( Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 1984 ), p. 267.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    For a recent attempt to understand this facticity of classes and its relation to ideology, see Goran Therborn, The Ideology of Power and the Power of Ideology ( London: Verso, 1980 ).Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    For ä far reaching critique of the concept of interest in Marxism, see Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (note 8, above). For a discussion of economic codes, see Jean Baudrillard, Pour une Critique de l’economie politique du signe ( Paris: Gallimard, 1972 ).Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    Marx, Grundrisse ( Baltimore: Penguin, 1973 ), p. 612.Google Scholar
  17. 27.
    Educational programs that required full-time attendance would still represent significant costs for the individuals; but part-time adult education, pursued as a leisure activity, would fall in a different category and might make a large free contribution to the economy. For the distinction between these different costs, see Gary Becker, Human Capital ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975 ), pp. 194–195.Google Scholar
  18. 28.
    On the concept of cultural capital, see Alvin Gouldner, The Future of the Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class (New York: Seabury, 1979). See Rudolph Bahro, The Alternative in Eastern Europe, London: New Left Books, 1978): “Marx and Engels…sought to intervene actively in the abolition of traditional labour, with a process that I would today describe with deliberate political intent as a cultural revolution, since they believed - at the time somewhat optimistically - that the general level of productivity was already sufficient to set free sufficient ‘disposable time’ for the development of the general abilities of all people, by the participation of all in necessary labour” (p. 278).Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    For more on the question of early Soviet education, see Kendall Bailes, Technology and Society under Lenin and Stalin (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  20. 31.
    There is a large literature on the concept of democratic management. See, for examples, Paul Blumberg, Industrial Democracy (New York: Schocken, 1976); and Pierre Rosanvallon, L’Age de l’autogestion (Paris: Seuil, 1976). For an evaluation of Yugoslavia in Marxist terms by a theoretician of self-management, see Mihailo Markovic, From Affluence to Praxis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1974), chapter 4. A skeptical alternative view is presented by Ellen Comisso, Workers’ Control under Plan and Management (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979). For a recent philosophical defense and justification of self-managing socialism, see Gould, Rethinking Democracy (note 1, above), chapters 4 and 9.Google Scholar
  21. 33.
    See Andrew Feenberg, “Remembering the May Events,” Theory and Society (July, 1978 ).Google Scholar
  22. 34.
    For a collection surveying the main themes of the debate on the class status of the middle strata, see Pat Walker, ed., Between Labor and Capital ( Boston: South End Press, 1979 ).Google Scholar
  23. 37.
    For discussions of the actual problems of innovation in Communist societies, see R.V. Burks, “Technology and Political Change,” in C. Johnson, ed., Change in Communist Systems (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1970); and Rensselaer W. Lee, III, “Mass Innovation and Communist Culture: The Soviet and Chinese Cases,” in Fleron, Technology and Communist Culture (note 10, above). For a classic discussion of the wide variety of contexts in which innovation has occured historically, see John Jewkes, David Sawers, Richard Stillerman, The Sources of Invention ( New York: St. Martin’s, 1959 ).Google Scholar
  24. 38.
    For an example, see Tracy Kidder, The Soul of a New Machine (New York: Little, Brown, 1981 ).Google Scholar
  25. 39.
    See, for example, Arnold Pacey, The Culture of Technology ( Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1983 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Feenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.San Diego State UniversityUSA

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