Marxism and the Critique of Social Rationality: From Surplus Value to the Politics of Technology
affiliation not provided to SSRN
Cambridge Journal of Economics, Vol. 34, Issue 1, pp. 37-49, 2010
The most effective way to silence criticism is a justification on the very terms of the likely critique. When an action is rationally justified, how can reason deny its legitimacy? This paper concerns critical strategies that have been employed for addressing the resistance of rationality to rational critique, particularly with respect to technology. Foucault addressed this problem in his theory of power/knowledge. This paper explores Marx's anticipation of that approach in his critique of the ‘social rationality’ of the market and technology. Marx got around the silencing effect of social rationality with something very much like the concept of underdetermination in his discussion of the length of the working day. There are hints of a critique of technology in his writings as well. In the 1960s and 1970s, neo-Marxists and post-structuralists demanded radical changes in the technological rationality of advanced societies. Soon technical controversies spread, primarily through the influence of the environmental movement. The concept of underdetermination was finally formulated clearly in contemporary science and technology studies, but without explicit political purpose. Nevertheless, this revision of the academic understanding of technology contributes to weakening technocratic rationales for public policy. A new era of technical politics has begun.
Keywords: Marxism, Technology
JEL Classification: B14, B24, B31, B51, P16Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: January 25, 2010
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