For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Critical theory of technology: An overview"

by Feenberg, Andrew (2008)


What makes technical action different from other relations to reality? This question is often answered in terms of notions such as efficiency or control, which are themselves internal to a technical approach to the world. To judge an action as more or less efficient is already to have determined it to be technical and therefore an appropriate object of such a judgment. Similarly, the concept of control implied in technique is “technical” and so not a distinguishing criterion. There is tradition in philosophy of technology that resolves this problem by invoking the concept of “impersonal domination” first found in Marx’s description of capitalism. This tradition, associated with Heidegger and the Frankfurt School, remains too abstract to satisfy us today but it does identify an extraordinary feature of technical action.

Key Passage

Building an integrated and unified picture of our world has become far more difficult as technical advances break down the barriers between spheres of activity to which the division between disciplines corresponds. I believe that critical theory of technology offers a platform for reconciling many apparently conflicting strands of reflection on technology. Only through an approach that is both critical and empirically oriented is it possible to make sense of what is going on around us now. The first generation of Critical Theorists called for just such a synthesis of theoretical and empirical approaches. (p.44)


Feenberg, Heidegger, Marx, Frankfurt School, Technology, Critical Theory, Technical Action


Technology, On Heidegger

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