Organized Immaturity in a Post-Kantian Perspective: Toward a Critical Theory of Surveillance Capitalism

43 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2022

See all articles by Andreas Georg Scherer

Andreas Georg Scherer

University of Zurich - IBW Department of Business Administration

Cristina Neesham

Newcastle University Business School

Date Written: November 2, 2022

Abstract

Organized immaturity can be defined as the erosion of the individual’s capacity for the public use of reason, pressured by control mechanisms of socio-technological systems built on obscure operating principles, ideologies, or regimes. Recent studies of surveillance capitalism explore the technological advancements of digitalization, identify mechanisms, and analyze societal impacts. This research, however, has yet to develop the theoretical foundations required for critique and reform. We therefore develop organized immaturity as a critical concept in a Post-Kantian theoretical perspective. We focus on the reason-eroding effects of surveillance capitalism (such as infantilization, reductionism, and totalization) and the governance by impersonal systems. Using Kant’s concept of immaturity, and adding premises about the social embeddedness of the individual (Hegel) and the role of communication in the formation of moral consciousness and public reason (Habermas), we define organized immaturity to account for socio-technological systems’ effects on individuals and social relationships. Our angle is the Enlightenment, understood (beyond the label of a historical period) as a critical socio-political project – i.e. a discourse-theoretical extension of the idea of a rational subject (Kant) embedded in her social context (Hegel), who facilitates rational discourse (Habermas) as a means to create maturity and counter immaturity. We propose a new theoretical understanding of socio-technological systems in the organizing of human society – as conduits of immaturity-inducing reductionism, totalization and infantilization via application of technologies otherwise designed to improve human and social life. We develop a critical basis for individual and collective countermeasures to the deleterious effects of organized immaturity. (248 words)

Keywords: Critical Theoy, Digitalization, Social Media, Algorithms, Surveillance Capitalism, Governance, Enlightenment, Kant, Hegel, Habermas

JEL Classification: M10, M14, M15

Suggested Citation

Scherer, Andreas Georg and Neesham, Cristina, Organized Immaturity in a Post-Kantian Perspective: Toward a Critical Theory of Surveillance Capitalism (November 2, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4266060 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4266060

Andreas Georg Scherer (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - IBW Department of Business Administration ( email )

Plattenstrasse 14
Zurich, 8032
Switzerland
+41 44-63 45302 (Phone)
+41 44-63 45301 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.business.uzh.ch/professorships/as.html

Cristina Neesham

Newcastle University Business School ( email )

5 Barrack Road
Devonshire Building
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, NE1 7RU
United Kingdom

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