Technological rationality dehumanizes people through capitalist systems

Overview Capitalism has been the dominant economic system in the West since the nineteenth century and has increasingly spread across the globe. Characterized by unfettered markets in labor and natural resources, commodity production, and the reinvestment of profit, capitalism must be distinguished from other forms of commercial society that existed in early times or outside of the West, in which market-oriented activity remained ultimately subservient to political or moral goals. Examples of such non-capitalist market society include the so-called mercantilism that preceded full-fledged capitalism in Europe and the city-state empires of the ancient Mediterranean world, which actively engaged in commerce yet did not generate capitalist socioeconomic relations.

Technological rationality dehumanizes people through capitalist systems


Technology has an obvious effect on individual freedom, in some ways increasing it, in others restricting it. However, since capitalism is a social system based on inequalities of power, it is a truism that technology will reflect those inequalities, as it does not develop in a social vacuum.

No technology evolves and spreads unless there are people who benefit from it and have sufficient means to disseminate it.

Early Advocates

In a capitalist society, technologies useful to the rich and powerful are generally the ones that spread. This can be seen from capitalist industry, where technology has been implemented specifically to deskill the worker, so replacing the skilled, valued craftperson with the easily trained and eliminated!

In Proudhon's words, the "machine, or the workshop, after having degraded the labourer by giving him a master, completes his degeneracy by reducing him from the rank of artisan to that of common workman. Thus, while it is often claimed that technology is "neutral" this is not and can never be the case.

Simply put, "progress" within a hierarchical system will reflect the power structures of that system. As George Reitzer notes, technological innovation under a hierarchical system soon results in "increased control and the replacement of human with non-human technology.

In fact, the replacement of human with non-human technology is very often motivated by a desire for greater control, which of course is motivated by the need for profit-maximisation. The great sources of uncertainty and unpredictability in any rationalising system are people.

McDonaldisation involves the search for the means to exert increasing control over both employees and customers" [George Reitzer, The McDonaldisation of Society, p.

Capitalism: Overview |

For Reitzer, capitalism is marked by the "irrationality of rationality," in which this process of control results in a system based on crushing the individuality and humanity of those who live within it. In this process of controlling employees for the purpose of maximising profit, deskilling comes about because skilled labour is more expensive than unskilled or semi-skilled and skilled workers have more power over their working conditions and work due to the difficulty in replacing them.

In addition it is easier to "rationalise" the production process with methods like Taylorism, a system of strict production schedules and activities based on the amount of time as determined by management that workers "need" to perform various operations in the workplace, thus requiring simple, easily analysed and timed movements.

And as companies are in competition, each has to copy the most "efficient" i. Thus the evil effects of the division of labour and deskilling becoming widespread.

Instead of managing their own work, workers are turned into human machines in a labour process they do not control, instead being controlled by those who own the machines they use see also Harry Braverman, Labour and Monopoly Capital: As Max Stirner noted echoing Adam Smiththis process of deskilling and controlling work means that "When everyone is to cultivate himself into man, condemning a man to machine-like labour amounts to the same thing as slavery.

Every labour is to have the intent that the man be satisfied. Therefore he must become a master in it too, be able to perform it as a totality. He who in a pin-factory only puts on heads, only draws the wire, works, as it were mechanically, like a machine; he remains half-trained, does not become a master: His labour is nothing by itself, has no object in itself, is nothing complete in itself; he labours only into another's hands, and is used.

Modern industry is set up to ensure that workers do not become "masters" of their work but instead follow the orders of management. The evolution of technology lies in the relations of power within a society. This is because "the viability of a design is not simply a technical or even economic evaluation but rather a political one.

A technology is deemed viable if it conforms to the existing relations of power. Work that is skilled and controlled by workers in empowering to them in two ways. Firstly it gives them pride in their work and themselves.

Secondly, it makes it harder to replace them or suck profits out of them. Therefore, in order to remove the "subjective" factor i.

This need to control workers can be seen from the type of machinery introduced during the Industrial Revolution. According to Andrew Ure, a consultant for the factory owners, "[i]n the factories for spinning coarse yarn.people with consequences for the design of technologies and technical systems.

A new understanding of rationality is needed to respond to the questions raised by this new technical politics. My starting point in approaching these daunting issues is the critique of rationality in the Frankfurt School. A system that cannot provide a future to young people is a system that has outlived itself; a system that needs to be overthrown.

Ebbs and flows Innovation and technological progress are not a linear march onwards and upwards. Technology may be defined as the application of organized knowledge to practical tasks by ordered systems of people and machines. 5 There are several advantages to such.

a broad definition.

D How does capitalism affect technology?

“Organized knowledge” allows us to include technologies based on practical experience and invention as well as those based on scientific theories.

spheres of monopoly capitalism have become embodied with formal rationality, value efficiency, and the rational organization of both commodities and people (Hearn , ). One outcome of this new rationality is a further alteration to the status given to the natural world.

People came together for the exchange of ideas, with the knowledge that decisions could be made and carried out. In modern society, technological rationality has caused alienation between people and promotes an inhuman identification with machines. In sociology, rationalization (or rationalisation) is the replacement of traditions, values, and emotions as motivators for behavior in society with concepts based on rationality and reason.

Technological rationality dehumanizes people through capitalist systems

For example, the implementation of bureaucracies in government is a kind of rationalization, as is the construction of high-efficiency living spaces in architecture and urban planning.

Technology, innovation, growth, and capitalism