Andrew Feenberg

Looking Backward, Looking Forward: Reflections on the 20th Century[*]

In the year 1888, Edward Bellamy published a prophetic science fiction novel entitled Looking Backward: 2000-1887. Bellamy’s hero is a wealthy Bostonian who suffers from insomnia. He sleeps hypnotized in an underground chamber where he survives the fire that destroys his house. Undiscovered amidst the ruins, he dozes on in suspended animation for more than a century, awakening finally in the year 2000 in a Boston transformed into a socialist utopia. Most of the book is taken up with his puzzled questions about his new surroundings and his hosts’ lucid explanations of the workings of an ideal society.
Bellamy's book is now forgotten except by specialists but it quickly became one of the bestsellers of all times, read by millions of Americans from the closing years of the 19th Century until World War II. It articulated the hope in a rational society for several generations of readers.
In 1932, less than 50 years after Bellamy's famous book appeared, Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World, a kind of refutation of Looking Backward. In the exergue to Huxley's book the Russian philosopher Berdiaeff regrets that “utopias appear to be far more realizable than used to be believed.” Berdiaeff goes on: “...a new century is beginning, a century in which intellectuals and the cultivated classes will dream of the means of avoiding utopias and returning to a less ‘perfect’ and freer non-utopian society.” Unlike Looking Backward, Brave New World is still widely read. It is the model for many later “dystopias,” fictions of a totally rationalized societies in which, as Marshall McLuhan once put it, we humans become the "sex organs of the machine world" (McLuhan, 1964: 46).
We can now literally “look backwards” at the 20th Century and as we do so, the contrast between Bellamy's utopia and Huxley's dystopia is a useful one to simulate reflection on what went wrong. And, clearly, something very important did go wrong to confound the reasonable hopes of men and women of the late 19th Century. While they expected social progress to proceed in parallel with technical progress, in reality every advance has been accompanied by catastrophes that call into question the very survival of the human race.
What happened to dash those hopes? Of course we are well aware of the big events of the century such as the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the perversion of socialism in Russia, and more recently, the threats from genocidal hatreds, environmental pollution, and nuclear war we carry with us from the last century into this one. But underlying these frightful events and prospects, there must be some deeper failure that blocked the bright path to utopia so neatly traced by Bellamy.
Could a spiritual flaw in human nature or in modernity be responsible for the triumph of greed and violence in the 20th Century? No doubt human nature and modernity are flawed, but this is old news. Bellamy and his contemporaries knew all about greed and violence, the insatiable appetites, the pride and hatred lurking in the hearts of men. They understood the battle between Eros and Thanatos as much or as little as we do. What has changed is not our evaluation of human nature or modernity but the technical environment which has disrupted the delicate balance between the instincts that still left Bellamy's contemporaries room for hope, indeed for confident predictions of a better future.
We can begin to understand this technical shift by considering what is missing from Bellamy's description of society in the year 2000. His world is completely industrialized, with machines doing all the hardest work; improved technology and economies of scale have raised productivity to the point where there is enough of everything. Workers are drafted into an "industrial army" where a combination of expert command and equal pay responds to the claims of technical necessity and morality. Although this is clearly an authoritarian conception, it is important to keep in mind that obedience is ethically motivated by the economic equivalent of military patriotism, rather than imposed through management techniques. Workers can freely choose their jobs after a brief period of manual labor at the end of regular schooling. Labor supply is matched voluntarily to demand by offering shorter workdays for less desirable jobs.[1] Workers retire at 45 and devote themselves to the self-cultivation and to the duties of full citizenship, which begin at retirement.
Bellamy's utopia is essentially collectivist but paradoxically members of the society are depicted as highly differentiated individuals, each developing his or her own ideas, tastes, and talents in the generous allotment of leisure time made possible by technological advance. Individuality flourishes around the free choice of hobbies, newspapers, music and art, religion, what we would call "continuing education," and democratic participation in government. Invention too appears as an expression of individuality and a source of social dynamism.
None of these activities are organized by the industrial army because there is no scientific-technical basis for any of them, hence no technology requiring expert administration, and no objective criteria of right and wrong, better or worse. The economies of scale that make industrial technology so productive in Bellamy's account have no place in these activities which depend on individual creativity.
Those who wish to act in the public sphere through journalism, religious propaganda, artistic production, or invention therefore withdraw from the industrial army as they accumulate sufficient "subscribers" to their services to justify the payment by the state of a regular worker's wage. The state provides these cultural creators with basic resources such as newsprint without regard for the content of their activities.
How different this imaginary socialism is from the real thing as it was established in the Soviet Union only a generation after Bellamy published his book! His society is bipolar, half organized by scientific-technical reason and half devoted to Bildung, the reflectively rational pursuit of freedom and individuality. But this bipolarity is precisely what did not happen in the 20th Century under either socialism or capitalism. Instead, total rationalization transformed the individuals into objects of technical control in every domain, and especially in everything touching on lifestyle and politics.
It is interesting to see how close Bellamy came to anticipating mass society. At a time when phone hookups still numbered in the thousands, he imagined a telephone based broadcasting network which, he predicted, would disseminate preaching and musical performances. Each house would have a listening room and programs would be announced in a regular printed guide. Bellamy even understood that musical performance in the home would decline as broadcasts by professionals replaced it. So far his extrapolations are remarkably prescient, but nowhere did Bellamy anticipate the emergence of gigantic audiences subjected to commercial and political propaganda. Nor did he suspect that the small publications of his day, individual artistic production, and personal preaching would be so marginalized in the future that they would be unable to sustain the individuating process that was for him the ultimate goal of social life.
Higher culture, both religious and secular, had a moderating and civilizing effect in his century, so enlarging the space of its influence through a more generous provision of education and leisure promised social advance. This and not wealth as such was the reason for Bellamy’s optimism. In his vision standardization and control were confined to the struggle with nature. What Norbert Wiener called “the human use of human beings” was apparently unthinkable. But the creation of the mass audiences of the 20th Century continued the industrial pattern of efficiency through economies of scale in the application of technology. The 20th Century saw the displacement of higher culture in public consciousness by a mass culture dedicated to unrestrained acquisitiveness and violent political passions.
Brave New World, on the other hand, was written a decade after the first commercial radio broadcasts, which adumbrated a future of mass media manipulation. Huxley's vision was simply extrapolated from the rise of modern advertising and popular dictatorships. In Brave New World, the radical overextension of rationalization makes human beings into willing servants of a mechanical order. The Marxist hope, which Bellamy shares, for human mastery of technology no longer makes sense once human beings have themselves become mere cogs in the machine. This same view underlies much 20th Century thought, for example, pessimistic social theories such as Max Weber's and the various deterministic philosophies of technology influenced by Martin Heidegger.
Heidegger's concept of enframing describes a state of affairs in which everything without exception has become an object of technique. Things are now defined by their place in a methodically planned and controlled action system. All being is raw materials in technical processes; nothing stands before being as the place of awareness. Complete meaninglessness threatens where the unique status of human “Dasein,” as the being through which the world is revealed, is so completely denied.
Heidegger might be thought of as the philosopher of Brave New World, except that he would deny that what we have before us today is a "world" in the full sense of the term. Rather, we are surrounded by an "objectless" heap of fungible stuff that includes us. This deep pessimism and a certain moral insensitivity are reflected in his shocking statement to the effect that “Agriculture is now the mechanized food industry, in essence the same as the manufacturing of corpses in gas chambers and extermination camps, the same as the blockade and starvation of nations, the same as the production of hydrogen bombs” (Quoted in Rockmore (1992: 241)).
After Heidegger, a number of other philosophers developed similarly pessimistic views of modern society. The Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse was a student of Heidegger's and his critique of “one-dimensional society” resembles his teacher’s thought in a Marxist guise. Heidegger distinguished between craft labor, which brings out the “truth” of its materials, and modern technology which incorporates its objects into its mechanism under the domination of a will and a plan. In Marcuse this Heideggerian approach continues essentially unchanged as the distinction between the intrinsic potentialities of things, that might be brought out by an appropriate art or technique, and the extrinsic values to which they are subordinated as raw materials in modern production. And like Heidegger, Marcuse deplores the extension of the latter approach to human beings themselves.
But unlike Heidegger, Marcuse holds out the possibility in principle, if not much hope, of creating a new technology that respects the potentialities of human beings and nature. This “technology of liberation” would be a “product of a scientific imagination free to project and design the forms of a human universe without exploitation and toil” (Marcuse, 1969: 19). This is still a worthy goal although perhaps it should be described as a receding horizon: today we seem to be as far from achieving it as when Bellamy wrote.
These are what I call dystopian philosophies of technology. They had surprising influence in the 1960s and 1970s despite their notorious difficulty. Dystopian themes showed up not only in politics but in films and other popular media, discrediting liberalism and gradually infiltrating conservatism as distrust of “big government.” Contemporary politics is still strongly influenced by vulgarized versions of the dystopian sensibility. These changes were accompanied by a dramatic shift in attitude toward technology. By the end of the 1960s technophobia had largely replaced enthusiasm for nuclear energy and the space program. No doubt the arrogance of the technocracy and the absurdity of the War in Vietnam played a major role in this change.
As dystopian consciousness spread, it was transformed. No longer a theoretical critique of modernity, it inspired a populist movement that rejected its own cultural elitism. The question of technology was now a political question. The new left reformulated socialist ideology in a tense compromise between traditional Marxism and the protest against dystopia. In so doing, it opened a space for the new technical politics of recent decades which engages in concrete struggles in domains such as computers, medicine, and the environment.
The French May Events was by far the most powerful new left movement, the only one with massive working class support. In the Spring of 1968, France was paralyzed by a general strike inspired by a student protest. Some ten million workers walked off the job and closed down the entire economy and most of the government, threatening the capitalist system. The May Events was an anti-technocratic movement, as hostile to Soviet style socialism as to advanced capitalism. The students and militant workers proposed self-management as an alternative to planning and markets. Their position was summed up in a widely circulated leaflet: “Progress will be what we want it to be” (Feenberg and Freedman, 2001: 84).
The movements of the ‘60s undermined technological determinism, both in theory and practice. But they continued to employ a dystopian rhetoric in response to the technocratic threat. However, as the 20th Century came to a close dystopianism lost much of its authority. Journalists and science fiction writers devised new utopias inhabited by bioengineered superhumans networked in a universal mind or downloaded to more durable hardware than the human body. Technology plays a central role for Bellamy and Huxley, but the advances they describe are symbols of hopeful or disastrous social trends rather than specific technological forecasts. These contemporary utopias are presented as breathless frontline reports on the latest R and D. Determinism returns as social consequences are deduced from future technology. Serious thinkers perplexed by this upsurge of horrific speculation once again raise flimsy ethical barriers to “progress.” Dystopian humanism struggles to salvage spirit from the Satanic mills of advancing technology. But the whole contest begins to seem routine and not very credible.
Meanwhile, new trends have emerged among researchers who eschew speculation and study technology as a social phenomenon. These researchers view the dystopian critique of modernity as nostalgic longing for a past that is forever lost and that was not so great in any case. According to this view, we belong wholly and completely to the technological network and do not represent nor should we await a suppressed alternative in which “man” or “Dasein” would achieve recognition independent of his tools.
Non-modern or posthumanist thinkers such as Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway have put forward this revisionary approach with singular energy in books and essays with titles such as We Have Never Been Modern (Latour, 1991), and “The Cyborg Manifesto.” The very tone of these titles announces an agenda for the new millennium. According to the authors, we have passed through the experience of dystopia and come out on the other side. Our involvement with technology is now the unsurpassable horizon of our being. No longer opposed to technology, we join together with it in a more or less undifferentiated “cyborg” self (Haraway, 1991). It is time to cease rearguard resistance and, embracing technology once and for all, give its further development a benign direction.
The Internet supplies the essential social background to the wide interest in this posthumanist view. Of course the authors did not have to go online to develop their ideas, but the popular credibility of their innovative vision depends on the emergence of computer networking and the new function of subjectivity it institutes. Without the widespread experience of computer interaction, it is unlikely that their influence would have spread beyond a narrow circle of researchers in science studies. However, given that experience, they articulate a fundamental shift in the relation of human beings to machines, from antagonism to collaboration.
What is it about networking that assuages dystopian consciousness? The fear of dystopia arises from the experience of large scale social organization which, under modern conditions, possesses an alienating appearance of rationality. The loss of individuality is exemplified in the relation of mass audiences to the new media of the 20th Century until computer networking breaks the pattern. Instead of the passivity associated with participation in a broadcast audience, the online subject is constantly solicited to “interact” either by making choices or responding to communications. This interactive relationship to the medium, and through it to other users, appears nonhierarchical and liberating. Like the automobile, that fetish of modernity, the Internet opens rather than closes vistas. But unlike the automobile, the Internet does not merely transport individuals from one location to another; rather, it constitutes a “virtual” world in which the logic of action is participative and individual initiative supported rather than suppressed by technology. This explains the proliferation on the Internet of expressions with the pronoun “my,” as in “My Yahoo,” “My MP3,” and so on.
It is noteworthy that this evolution of the network owes more to users than to its original designers who intended only to streamline the distribution of information. Refuting technological determinism in practice, users “interacted” with the network to enhance its potential for interaction. This was the real “revolution” of the “Information Age” which transformed the Internet into a medium for personal communication.[2] As such it is a switched system like the telephone in which the corporate giants who manage the communication have little or no control over what is communicated. Such systems, called “common carriers,” extend freedom of assembly and so are inherently liberating.
What is more, because computer networking supports group communication the Internet can host a wide variety of social activities, from work to education to exchanges about hobbies and the pursuit of dating partners. These social activities on the Internet take place in virtual worlds built with words. The "written world" of the Internet is indeed a place where humans and machines appear to be reconciled (Feenberg, 1989).
At this point, a note of caution is in order. The enthusiastic discourse of the Information Highway has become predictable and tedious. It awakens instant and to some extent justified skepticism. It is unlikely that the 21st Century will realize the dream of a perfectly transparent, libertarian society in which everyone can work from their home, publish their own book, choose multiple identities and genders, find a life partner online, buy personalized goods at an electronic mall, and complete their college education in their spare time on their personal computer. It is reasonable to be suspicious of this vision. The dystopian critic finds here merely a more refined and disguised incorporation of the individual into the machine.
But both utopian and dystopian visions are exaggerated. The Internet will certainly have an impact on society, but it is ludicrous to compare it with the industrial revolution, which pulled nearly everyone off the farm and landed them in a radically different urban environment. My “migration” to cyberspace over the last 20 years can hardly be compared with my ancestors’ migration from Central European villages to New York. Worrisome though it may be, the “digital divide” is far more easily bridged than the divide between city and country in a society without telephones, televisions, and automobiles. Unless something far more innovative than the Internet comes along, the 21st Century will be continuous with our world, not a radical and disruptive break. Its real significance lies not in the inauguration of a new era, but in the smaller social and technological changes it makes possible at the current level of advance.[3]
The political question is not whether the Internet will liberate or enslave us, as though a technology had that power, but rather the subtle change in the conditions of public organization and activity it promotes. This change had already begun before the rise of the new medium, but intermittently and laboriously.
The Internet promises to enhance the ability of the population to intervene in the technical decisions so vital in a society like ours. So long as citizenship is defined by traditional geographical districts, its influence on technical life is severely limited. What can a local community do about a technology that crosses all boundaries, for example, a new medicine or a new method for producing food? The “public” which ought in principle to be able to comment on such changes and influence them democratically is not locally defined. It is fragmented into subgroups which follow the lines of specific technical mediations. Thus the “citizen” is more and more a factory or clerical worker, a student or teacher, a victim of a disease, a consumer of industrial food products, and so on.
Eventually, these technological citizens may find their needs and interests represented by traditional geographically based politics, but not before many struggles and protests have prepared the issue on the terrain of technically mediated subgroups. These struggles and protests first define the new issues and bring them to the attention of a larger audience. But the task is unusually difficult. Technical publics are fragmented and the problems they confront unfamiliar. The creation of a technical public sphere is thus arduous and uncertain.
It is interesting to note that John Dewey had a better grasp of this situation in the 1920s than many contemporary political philosophers. He worried that traditional local community was losing its integrity in a mobile modern society. New forms of technically mediated community were needed to replace or supplement localism, but these were not easy to create. Dewey described the dilemma as follows:
Indirect, extensive, enduring and serious consequences of conjoint and interacting behavior call a public into existence having a common interest in controlling these consequences. But the machine age has so enormously expanded, multiplied, intensified and complicated the scope of the indirect consequences, have formed such immense and consolidated unions in action, on an impersonal rather than a community basis, that the resultant public cannot identify and distinguish itself (Dewey, 1980: 126).
What the Internet has done is to make it much easier for these publics to engage around the technical mediations by which they are shaped. To be sure, the Internet itself is not essential to this evolution and the mere existence of the technology does not guarantee any particular usage. Before computer networking took off, technical publics emerged around other issues such as nuclear power, environmental pollution, and the AIDS crisis. In these cases too, participants in one or another technical network linked up to achieve political and technical changes. But the very exceptional nature of these occasions, and the extraordinary difficulty of putting together the long chains of activists scattered over huge territories suggests the potential significance of the Internet.
New communication technology enables far more precise, detailed, and convenient coordination and control of business activities at a distance. Administrative and managerial elites can use the network to build disseminated organizations that evade local, indeed even national, restrictions and power structures. Unless citizens can also coordinate and internationalize their movements, they risk becoming totally irrelevant. Imagine the consequences if corporations and governments alone had access to the network and ordinary people remained just as provincial and cut off from each other as in the past. The disproportionate power of large scale organizations would be irreversibly enhanced. Today democracy depends to a significant extent on public mastery of the network.
The first persuasive evidence of the unusual democratic potential of the Internet came from a surprising source: the Zapatista movement in impoverished Chiapas brought its struggle to world attention on the Internet, blocking a violent repression that might have suppressed resistance there for another generation. The anti-globalization demonstrations in Seattle, Washington, Prague, and Genoa have shown the power of the Internet in a more modern context. International protest now corresponds to international finance and trade. We can expect ever more of the same in fields like medicine, education, and the environment. Let me reiterate: this is not a claim that the Internet will liberate us, but rather that it will make it considerably easier to address the problem that worried Dewey, the inability of geographically dispersed technical publics to articulate their concerns.
In conclusion, I would like to discuss briefly some philosophical approaches to understanding these new forms of struggle. As we have seen, the Internet supports a vision of harmonious coexistence between humans and their machines. But these political applications pinpoint something else that was well understood by dystopian thinkers. They argued that technology is a source of power over human beings and not merely an instrument for the satisfaction of human needs. Because that power is essentially impersonal, governed by technically rational procedures rather than whims or even interests in the usual sense of the term, it appears to lie beyond good and evil. This is its dystopian aspect.
What Marcuse called one-dimensionality results from the difficulty of criticizing the “system” in terms of traditional concepts of justice, freedom, equality, and so on. But we have seen that the exercise of technical power evokes resistances immanent to one-dimensional society. Technological advance unleashes social tensions whenever it slights human and natural needs. The narrowness of its social and economic base insures that such slights occur often. After all, the system is not a self-contained expression of pure technical rationality but emerged from two centuries of deskilling and abuse of the environment under the pressures of capitalist competition and bureaucratic socialism. Vocal technical publics arise around the tensions caused by these limitations. Demands for change reflect aspects of human and natural being denied by the dominant structure of the technical system, what I have called its “technical code” (Feenberg, 2002: 74-80). Here dystopia is overcome in a democratizing movement the full extent of which we cannot yet measure.
A modified version of the system/lifeworld distinction introduced by Habermas in his Theory of Communicative Action (1984, 1987) provides a framework for explaining this movement. Habermas analyzes markets and administrations as “systems” that coordinate social action objectively. The potentially conflicting intentions of the individuals are harmonized not by explicit agreements, but by an institutional framework and simple procedural rules. Buyers and sellers, for example, act together on the market for their own mutual benefit without the need for subjective agreement beyond recognition of the forms of exchange such as price, purchase and sale. In contrast, the lifeworld consists of communicating subjects whose action is coordinated by mutual understanding of a wide variety of elaborate social codes and meanings. Production is organized primarily through the system, and social reproduction through the lifeworld. The dystopian critique of modernity can be reformulated on these terms as the growing predominance of system over lifeworld, with potentially disastrous consequences for social cohesion and the survival of individuality.
Habermas’s schema has some limitations for our purposes. He leaves out technology although it too coordinates action objectively. He treats his concept of system as a pure analytic category, without recognizing its functional role in actual social life. “Systems thinking” is not the exclusive prerogative of the social critic, but rather grows out of the actual experience of managing modern social organizations. Finally, he tends to hypostatize system and lifeworld as separate institutional spheres, which obscures their complex intertwining in actual social life. The lifeworld perspective is brought to bear on systems by those enrolled within them. This is not an analytic error but a reflection of the way in which alienation is lived and to some extent masked, reduced, and resisted by subordinate technical actors.
Let me offer an example of this from the realm of technology. The telephone network is a system in Habermas’s sense, managed in accordance with administrative rationality and distributed on a market. Yet the activities the telephone network supports are essentially communicative and the telephone takes on, accordingly, a meaning and a series of connotations in the lifeworld having to do with intimacy, human contact, security, and so on. The telephone is not merely instrumental to these lifeworldly ends, it belongs to the lifeworld itself as a richly signified artifact. This is more than a matter of subjective associations since it affects the evolution and design of the network, which cannot be understood on pure system terms. The intertwining of power and meaning exemplified by the telephone is general in modern societies.
Michel de Certeau offers an interesting account of the tensions between systems and their subjects which is helpful in articulating this entanglement of apparent opposites (De Certeau, 1980). He contrasts the “strategies” of the managers of modern institutions with the “tactics” of their subordinates. The managers act out of a stable power base with a long time horizon, while ordinary people improvise micropolitical resistances within that framework. These two standpoints correspond roughly with system and lifeworld intertwined as I have suggested here. The strategic standpoint privileges control and efficiency while the tactical standpoint gives meaning to the flow of experience shaped by strategies. In the everyday lifeworld masses of individuals improvise and resist as they come up against the limitations of the technical systems in which they are enrolled. These resistances influence the future design of the systems and their products.
This approach to the relation of system and lifeworld, strategies and tactics goes beyond both dystopian condemnation and the posthumanist acceptance of technology. Dystopianism adopts the strategic standpoint on technology while condemning it. Technology is conceived exclusively as a system of control and its role in the lifeworld is overlooked. The introduction of a lifeworld perspective into the study of technological society completes the picture sketched by posthumanist analysis of technical networks. The contradiction between technology as system and lifeworld that is part and parcel of a technologically advanced society explains the rise of struggles in the emerging technical public sphere.
The utopian and dystopian visions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were attempts to understand the fate of humanity in a radically new kind of society in which most social relations are technically mediated. The hope that such mediation would enrich humanity while sparing human beings themselves was disappointed. The extension of technical control overtakes the controllers beyond a point we have long since reached. But the dystopians did not anticipate that once inside the machine, human beings would gain new powers they would use to change the system that dominates them. We can observe the faint beginnings of such a politics of technology today. How far it will be able to develop is less a matter for prediction than for practice.

Bakardjieva, Maria, and Andrew Feenberg (forthcoming 2002). "Community Technology and Democratic Rationalization," The Information Society.
Bellamy, Edward (1960). Looking Backward: 2000-1887. New York: Signet.
de Certeau, Michel (1980). L'Invention du Quotidien. Paris: UGE.
Dewey, John (1980). The Public and Its Problems. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press.
Feenberg, Andrew and Jim Freedman (2001). When Poetry Ruled the Streets: The French May Events of 1968. Albany: SUNY Press.
Feenberg, Andrew (1989). The Written World. In A. Kaye and R. Mason, eds. Mindweave: Communication, Computers, and Distance Education, Oxford: Pergamon Press.
--(1995). Alternative Modernity. Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press.
--(1999). Questioning Technology. London and New York: Routledge.
--(2002). Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited. New York: Oxford.
Habermas, Jürgen—(1984, 1987). The Theory of Communicative Action: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. T. McCarthy, trans. Boston: Beacon.
Haraway, Donna (1991). "The Cyborg Manifesto," in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.
Heidegger, Martin (1977). The Question Concerning Technology, W. Lovitt, trans. New York: Harper and Row.
Huxley, Aldous (1969). Brave New World. New York: Harper and Row.
Latour, Bruno (1991). Nous n'avons jamais été modernes. Paris: La Découverte.
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Rockmore, Tom (1992). On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy. Berkeley: University of California Press.

[*] Revised contribution to the “ International Symposium on The Twentieth Century: Dreams and Realities,” Hitotsubashi University, December 2, 2000.
[1] This projection implies the application of a primitive notion of marginal utility under conditions of income equality, which is not, be it noted, a Marxian desideratum. The varying preference for leisure remains as a basis for the rational allocation of labor. Unfortunately, this appears to create a vicious circle: the least popular jobs would have the shortest hours, requiring the recruitment of a large number of workers who would have to be offered still shorter hours at the margin, and so on ad infinitum. Still, it is a nice try for 1888!
[2] For a detailed case study of this transformation in the first successful domestic computer network, the French Minitel system, see Feenberg (1995: chap. 7).
[3] This is what is wrong with the many polemics against information age hype. When philosophers believe they need not discuss the reality of the technologies they study, but merely respond to the silliest prophecies of enthusiasts, they fail us. As the straw men hit the ground bleeding, we are left wondering what, after all, is actually happening. For a more measured approach, see Bakardjieva and Feenberg (2002).

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