Critique of technology

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Critique of technology is an analysis of the negative impacts of technologies. It is argued that, in all advanced industrial societies (not necessarily only capitalist ones), technology becomes a means of domination, control and exploitation, or more generally something which threatens the survival of humanity.

Prominent authors elaborating a critique of technology are, e.g.. Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Langdon Winner, Joseph Weizenbaum, Theodore Roszak, Günther Anders, Neil Postman and Lewis Mumford. Some authors such as Chellis Glendinning and Kirkpatrick Sale consider themselves Neo-Luddites and generally hold that technological progress has had a negative impact on humanity. Theodore Kaczynski's criticism of technology held that: "The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race."[1]

In the 1970s in the US, the critique of technology became the basis of a new political perspective called anarcho-primitivism, which was forwarded by thinkers such as Fredy Perlman, John Zerzan, and David Watson. They proposed differing theories about how it was industrial society, and not capitalism as such, that was at the root of contemporary social problems. This theory was developed in the journal Fifth Estate in the 1970s and 1980s, and was influenced by the Frankfurt School, the Situationist International, Jacques Ellul and others.

The critique of technology overlaps with the philosophy of technology but whereas the latter tries to establish itself as an academic discipline the critique of technology is basically a political project, not limited to academia. It features prominently in neomarxism (Herbert Marcuse and Andrew Feenberg), ecofeminism (Vandana Shiva) and in postdevelopment (Ivan Illich)

See also


  1. Theodore Kaczynski, Industrial Society and Its Future

Further reading

  • Michael Adas, Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance, Cornell University Press 1990
  • Braun, Ernest (2009). Futile Progress: Technology’s Empty Promise, Routledge.
  • Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, Trans. John Wilkinson. New York: Knopf, 1964. London: Jonathan Cape, 1965. Rev. ed.: New York: Knopf/Vintage, 1967. with introduction by Robert K. Merton (professor of sociology, Columbia University).
  • Andrew Feenberg, Transforming Technology. A Critical Theory Revisited, Oxford University Press, 2nd edition 2002, ISBN 0-19-514615-8 - Feenberg offers a "coherent starting point for anticapitalist technical politics"[citation needed] to overcome what he considers to be the "fatalism" of Ellul, Heidegger, and other proponents of "substantive" theories of technology.
  • Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays, B&T 1982, ISBN 0-06-131969-4
  • Huesemann, Michael H., and Joyce A. Huesemann (2011). Technofix: Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada, ISBN 0865717044.
  • Derrick Jensen and George Draffan, Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004, ISBN 1-931498-52-0
  • Mander, Jerry (1992). In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations, Sierra Club Books.
  • Postman, Neil (1993). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Vintage.
  • David Watson, Against the Megamachine, Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1998, ISBN 1-57027-087-2 - The title essay is available online here
  • Joseph Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgement to Calculation, W.H.Freeman & Co Ltd, New Edition 1976
  • Langdon Winner, Autonomous Technology: Technics-Out-Of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought, MIT Press 1977, ISBN 978-0-262-23078-0

External links