For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry

by Borgmann, Albert (1987)


Blending social analysis and philosophy, Albert Borgmann maintains that technology creates a controlling pattern in our lives. This pattern, discernible even in such an inconspicuous action as switching on a stereo, has global effects: it sharply divides life into labor and leisure, it sustains the industrial democracies, and it fosters the view that the earth itself is a technological device. He argues that technology has served us as well in conquering hunger and disease, but that when we turn to it for richer experiences, it leads instead to a life dominated by effortless and thoughtless consumption. Borgmann does not reject technology but calls for public conversation about the nature of the good life. He counsels us to make room in a technological age for matters of ultimate concern—things and practices that engage us in their own right.

Key Passage

The advanced technological way of life is usually seen as rich in styles and opportunities, pregnant with radical innovations, and open to a  promising future. The problems that beset technological societies are thought to be extrinsic to technology; they stem, supposedly, from political indecision, social injustice, or environmental constraints. I consider this a  serious mis-reading of our situation. I propose to show that there is a  characteristic and constraining pattern to the entire fabric of our lives. This pattern is visible first and most of all in the countless inconspicuous objects and procedures of daily life in a technological society. It is concrete in its manifestations, closest to our existence, and pervasive in its extent. The rise and the rule of this pattern I consider the most consequential event of the modem period. Once the pattern is  explicated and seen, it sheds light on the hopes that have shaped our times, on the confusions and frustrations that we have suffered in our attempts to realize those hopes, and on the possibilities of clarifying our deepest aspirations and of acting constructively on our best insights. (p.3)


Heidegger, Technology, Globalisation, Good Life, Contemporary Life


Technology, On Heidegger

Links to Reference



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