Alternative Modernity: The Technical Turn in Philosophy and Social Theory

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University of California Press, Nov 7, 1995 - Philosophy - 200 pages
In this new collection of essays, Andrew Feenberg argues that conflicts over the design and organization of the technical systems that structure our society shape deep choices for the future. A pioneer in the philosophy of technology, Feenberg demonstrates the continuing vitality of the critical theory of the Frankfurt School. He calls into question the anti-technological stance commonly associated with its theoretical legacy and argues that technology contains potentialities that could be developed as the basis for an alternative form of modern society.

Feenberg's critical reflections on the ideas of Jürgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse, Jean-François Lyotard, and Kitaro Nishida shed new light on the philosophical study of technology and modernity. He contests the prevalent conception of technology as an unstoppable force responsive only to its own internal dynamic and politicizes the discussion of its social and cultural construction.

This argument is substantiated in a series of compelling and well-grounded case studies. Through his exploration of science fiction and film, AIDS research, the French experience with the "information superhighway," and the Japanese reception of Western values, he demonstrates how technology, when subjected to public pressure and debate, can incorporate ethical and aesthetic values.
 

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Contents

Introduction Technology and Freedom
1
Underdetermination and Public Intervention
3
Legitimacy and Rationality
7
Value Culture and Technology
12
Conclusion
14
I
17
Marcuse and the Critique of Technology From Dystopia to Interaction
19
The Protest against Progress
20
Postmodern Technology
131
Social Memory
134
The Loss of the Code
137
Anticipations of Interaction
139
From Information to Communication The French Experience with Videotex
144
The Emergence of a New Medium
146
The Conflict of Codes
154
The Social Construction of the Minitel
161

Rationality and Dystopia
22
Radical Critique of Technological Society
25
The Ontological Critique of Technology
30
Interactive Strategies of Change
34
Dystopia and Apocalypse The Emergence of Critical Consciousness
41
An End to History
43
The Last Humanist
56
The Vanishing Consensus
65
II
73
The Technocracy Thesis Revisited Adorno Foucault Habermas
75
The Technocracy Thesis
78
From the System to the Organization
81
Delegation and Consensus Formation
83
The Technocratic Technical Code
87
Action and Consensus Formation
89
Underdetermination and Operational Autonomy
91
The Techocracy Thesis Revisited
94
On Being a Human Subject AIDS and the Crisis of Experimental Medicine
96
Caring and Curing
100
The Revolt against Ethical Regulation
102
Participant Interests
104
The Sociotechnical Ethics of Medical Experimentation
109
Science and Ethics
118
III
121
French Theory and Postmodern Technology From Lyotard to the Minitel
123
The Crisis of Narration
126
Postmodern Pragmatics
129
The Future of the Communication Society
165
IV
167
The Problem of Modernity in Nishidas Philosophy
169
Experience and Science
173
Dialectics of Place
177
Cultural SelfAffirmation
183
Greeks or Jews?
185
Conclusion
192
Alternative Modernity? Playing the Japanese Game of Culture
193
The Rules of the Game
194
Autonomy and Reflection
196
The Structure of Conflict
198
The Pattern Disturbed
200
Etiquette or Equity
203
Layers of Meaning
207
Aestheticism East and West
210
Cultural Genealogy
213
The Culture of Place
215
Place and Alternative Modernity
218
Conclusion Culture and Modernity
221
Hybrid Realities
224
Types of Design
226
From Unity to Diversity
230
References
233
Index
247
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About the author (1995)

Andrew Feenberg is Canada Chair in Philosophy of Technology in the School of Communication of Simon Fraser University. He is the author of Questioning Technology (1999) and Transforming Technology (2002).

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