Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It Turns On Power: A Schematic Distinguishing the Politics of Technodevelopmental Social Struggle from Futurological Anti-Politics

The Politics of Technodevelopmental Social Struggle, Peer to Peer

A. Power Construed As Experience of Possibility

B. Political Rationality --> Yields emphasis on Open Futurity ineradicably inhering in present/presence, peer to peer --> history as ongoing, interminable social struggle

(prone to emphasize political dimensions of scientific research and technological application and to embed developmental claims in social and historical specificities)

C. Characterized by Dissensus, Dependent on Consent

(collaboration and contestation are matters of improvisation within enabling constraints)


The Anti-Politics of Futurological "Enhancement" and Post-Human Ascension

A. Power Construed As Amplification of Capacities

B. Instrumental Rationality --> Yields emphasis on "The Future" as destination/destiny --> history as causal playing out of material forces, usually superhuman ones

(prone to technological determinisms and "natural progressivisms" recasting difference from parochial norms as atavisms)

C. Characterized by Consensus, Dependent on Dissent

(prediction and control enabled by warranted scientific beliefs which attract consensus after being put to test)

This is a schema and not an essay, so I'll keep the comments brief. You'll notice that the error of the futurological vantage in my view is its misapplication to political and historical domains of technoscientific assumptions and aspirations that are perfectly valid, indeed indispensable, in their proper domain. I daresay the futurologists will dismiss this schema as a hatchet job since I am the one coming up with it, but I really am striving to be fair here, to get at key differences between my perspective and theirs to help account for the many other points of contention that play out in my critiques and lampoons. After all, I would expect many of the futurologists I endlessly decry and critique here would actually dismiss my affirmed position as "postmodern relativism" outright and decry what they see as my own misapplication to history of what I am calling a Political Rationality while they would affirm precisely the sorts of structural/material accounts I am attributing to them. No doubt they would be less cheerful about the distinction of (my) open futurity from (their) "The Future." But this would mostly be because "openness" is a buzzword signaling subcultural membership for many of them (this buzzword has an interesting history, by the way, originating in especially Hayek's refiguration of market processes as "natural," whatever their enabling legal ritual artifice, "nonviolent," whatever the misinformation, exploitation, duress that characterize them, and "open," however constrained and constraining they are in fact, a rhetorical program that has been an incredible success to the distress of the world, and ramified into endless futurological discourses of "spontaneous order" and of disastrously deranging misapplications of evolutionary processes to every imaginable historical and cultural phenomenon). However, I honestly do not agree that many of these "advocates of openness" take on board the radical contingency, uncertainty, situatedness implied by my understanding of open futurity, while they almost inevitably do identify themselves with manifest destinies sweeping and transforming the world that assume anything but openness. Although, I suppose, from a tropological if not a logical standpoint perhaps even absolute predestination can come to seem open to its advocates once it gets big and sweeping enough in the imagination, one of the ways in which the Sublime functions is as a collapse of absolute openness with absolute closure after all. Theoryheads among my readership will notice how well the discussion of political power comports with Foucauldian accounts, they will recognize the phrase "improvisation within constraints" from Judith Butler, and they may even grasp that the provocative relations of consensus/dissent//dissensus/consent posited here are indebted to Hannah Arendt.

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