Ryan  Burns, phd
December 5, 2012

quick post: linking the technological and the economic

A recent issue of Technology Review asks how technology has “failed us”, noting that “[o]ver a billion people still have no electricity, millions lack clean water, education is inaccessible to many, the climate is changing rapidly, traffic snarls cities, and dementia and cancer can strike any of us” (note: this quote is from the print edition; doesn’t look like it’s online). To me, all these relations depend on a link between technology and economy, a link which has been touched on from diverse perspectives. For Marx, technology can become constant capital, replacing humans’ variable capital; many feminist scholars have discussed call centers’ position within expanding capital markets; Evan Watkins has shown how technology can be mobilized as a cultural signifier of economic relations; and Castells, Bell, and others have talked about the ways technology is ushering in a post-industrial economic machine. Still, in light of the Technology Review article, we’re left questioning the direct relationship between technology development and various social ills (and yes, I do mean “social”), and I can’t help return to the fundamental economic currents underlying these ills: 1) capitalism tends to reproduce poverty, 2) some of these problems can be tied to global political-economic relations, and 3) modern colonialism produces poverty/illness/lack. Although the article inadvertently posits a relation between the technological and the economic, and I think politically it’s very valuable, I still think the onus is on the article’s author (and now me) to theorize this relationship, just as Laclau and Mouffe, in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy seek to theorize the link between the economic and the political.

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