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Democratizing Technology

Andrew Feenberg's Critical Theory of Technology

Tyler J. Veak

Publication Year: 2006

Largely because of the Internet and the new economy, technology has become the buzzword of our culture. But what is it, and how does it affect our lives? More importantly, can we control and shape it, or does it control us? In short, can we make technology more democratic? Using the work of Andrew Feenberg, one of the most important and original figures in the field of philosophy of technology, as a foundation, the contributors to this volume explore these important questions and Feenberg responds. In the 1990s, Feenberg authored three books that established him as one of the leading scholars in a rapidly developing field, and he is one of the few to delineate a theory for democratizing technological design. He has demonstrated the shortcomings of traditional theories of technology and argued for what he calls “democratic rationalization” where actors intervene in the technological design process to shape it toward their own ends. In this book, the contributors analyze foundational issues in Feenberg’s work, including questions of human nature, biotechnology, gender, and his readings of Heidegger, and they also examine practical issues, including democratizing technology, moral evaluation, and environmentalism.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Democratizing Technology

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The idea for this volume was first conceived at a Society for Philosophy and Technology conference in 1999, where I presented a paper critiquing Feenberg’s latest work, Questioning Technology. Feenberg responded; and from this engagement we began an ongoing dialogue that ultimately resulted in this volume. ...

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Given the interconnections between particular technologies and local/global problems such as war, poverty, environmental destruction, disease, and increasing economic disparity, the importance of formulating a theory of technological transformation seems paramount. ...

PART 1. Theoretical Assumptions of a Critical Theory of Technology

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pp. 1-2

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1. Rethinking Modernity as the Construction of Technological Systems

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pp. 3-18

Andrew Feenberg has carved out a unique and philosophically productive position in the philosophy of technology that is informed by both the essentialist philosophy of technology developed by Heidegger and the Frankfurt School, and by various social historical accounts of science and technology such as those developed Weibe Bijker, T. P. Hughes, and Bruno Latour.1 ...

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2. The Posthuman Challenge to Andrew Feenberg

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pp. 19-36

Andrew Feenberg’s work on technology has been motivated by a desire to reveal its contingent nature. To insist on contingency opens up the possibility of an “alternative modernity,” a differentiated social and cultural framework that can engage productively with technology and not simply be subject to an unavoidable technological logic of rationalization and domination. ...

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3. An Ecofeminist Response

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pp. 37-52

I come to Andrew Feenberg’s work as a Heideggerian ecofeminist. Heidegger’s critique of science and technology has been useful to several ecofeminist writers, some more, some less explicitly. In my case, his work has been more than influential, in fact formative, primarily because of his analysis of the Western intellectual tradition. He argues that this tradition culminates in modernity in a logic of domination. ...

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4. What’s Wrong with Being a Technological Essentialist? A Response to Feenberg

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pp. 53-70

Questioning Technology is Andrew Feenberg’s third major work on the critical theory of technology in a decade, and it confirms his place as one of the world’s leading philosophers of technology.1 In an earlier examination of this important text, I traced out some of the philosophical and political tensions in the legacy of technology critique leading from Heidegger through Marcuse to Feenberg, ...

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5. From Critical Theory to Pragmatism: Feenberg’s Progress

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pp. 71-82

Over the course of more than two decades, during which he has published an impressive number of books and essays, Andrew Feenberg has established himself as an important representative of a new generation of critical theorists. Consistently insightful and articulate, ...

PA RT 2. The Politics of Technological Transformation

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pp. 83-84

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6. Democracy and Technology

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pp. 85-100

Andrew Feenberg takes up the important task of developing a nonessentialist philosophy of technology. His aim, in a series of books written over the last decade, is a more democratic politics of technical decision making and a more rational design of our built environment.1 ...

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7. Feenberg and the Reform of Technology

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pp. 101-111

Reform is often thought to be the touchstone of the significance a theory of technology can claim.1 More precisely, the putative test is whether real reforms follow from a particular theory. Larry Hickman’s recent book illustrates the phenomenon. It ends with a chapter titled “The Next Technological Revolution.”2 ...

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8. Commodification and Secondary Rationalization

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pp. 112-135

This chapter presents a sketch of some ideas on commodities and commodification that I have been thinking about for a long time. I argue that an account of what I call technological commodification can move Andrew Feenberg’s critical theory of philosophy along a step or two, and at the same time link it more firmly with the actor network theory of Latour, as well as with certain themes ...

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9. Democratic Technology, Population, and Environmental Change

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pp. 136-152

T. C. Boyle’s A Friend of the Earth,1 tells the story of Tyrone Tierwater, a one time monkeywrencher and environmental avenger for “E. F.!” (Earth Forever!) whom we first meet in 2025 in his mid-seventies. Tierwater is now working for a character based on Michael Jackson, who in his semiretirement has employed the elder eco-warrior to help save some of the last remnants of a few dying species ...

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10. Technological Malleability and the Social Reconstruction of Technologies

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pp. 153-174

This is an appreciation, gentle critique, and modest extension of Andrew Feenberg’s work on technological malleability and its implications for re-constructing technological civilization. I attempt to show that the “alternative modernity” project could be advanced by making three empirical-methodological moves to help target the philosophical analysis.1 ...

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Replies to Critics

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pp. 175-210

I want to thank my critics for the intelligence and sympathy with which they have discussed my work. They have helped me immeasurably to see the weak points and especially the lacunae in my argument. I will attempt here to respond to those parts of their discussion I am able to weave into a coherent chapter at this time.1 Many other ideas in these chapters will stay with me and...


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pp. 211-216


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pp. 217-229

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480960
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791469170
Print-ISBN-10: 0791469174

Page Count: 254
Publication Year: 2006