Technology and Social Process

By Brian Elliott | Go to book overview

reconstitute the relations of civil society, including the institutions of production, work, family life and the relations with our environment, in ways that actualise much of the thrust of the new productive forces discussed above. Central to the view of progress espoused by these groups is the necessity of increasing the autonomy of various social groups through the practice of decentralisation, community control and increased self-help in contrast to the increased pacification of broad areas of social life practised by the bureaucratic structures of the Keynesian welfare state. In Gorz's terms, they aim for an increase in the sphere of autonomy at the expense of the sphere of heteronomy ( Gorz, 1982:90-104; Offe, 1985:829).

The political objectives of the new social movements, ranging from increased local control -- made more feasible by the programmable features of new microelectronic technologies -- to the increased protection of the environment -- reflected in the material- saving nature of the new technologies, such as ceramics and fibre optics -- correspond most closely with the outlines of the emerging socio-political infrastructure discussed above. Yet it is clear that these movements presently lack the political weight to bring about the projected outcome. Continued study of the prospects for future developments in this direction represents an important agenda for further work. A brief cautionary note must be sounded with respect to this research. In a recent paper ( Wolfe, 1986), I analysed the role of unintended consequences in the emergence and dissolution of the post-war social order. This analysis warns us against attributing a direct causal effect to the rational intentions of political actors. The actual institutions which comprise the new socio-political infrastructure, should it emerge from current social and political struggles, is unlikely to correspond exactly to the objectives of any political interests currently engaged in struggle around their vision of the future direction of social progress.


Notes
1.
A technological paradigm is defined as 'a new set of guiding principles which become the managerial and engineering "common sense" for each major phase of development' ( Freeman, 1984:499; cf. also Dosi, 1984).
2.
Although Kondratiev claimed to base his theory on insights derived from Marx and insisted that his analysis of the long wave was a necessary complement to Marx's treatment of the shorter ten year cycle, his view received mixed responses from more traditional Marxists -- cf. Day, 1976:76-7 and 1981:54-5, 91-4.

-148-

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