Friday, August 31, 2007

In Doubt to Act or Rest..

Graded Blog Entry due 8/30

2) Analyze or respond to some aspect of "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" using Marcuse’s quote about advanced industrial society

As a short preface to this entry, I would like to define narrative and technology and their respective relationship. Technology is the creation of tools which ease a certain procedure in human life; that said, all significant technology is created by a society with the aims of simplifying and advancing the life of a society in a strictly technical and physical sense. Narrative, the act of storytelling, reflects the human emotional response to technology and technology manipulates the way the narrative's author perceives humanity's progress.

While Marcuse and Joy stand in staunch agreement that there is something terribly wrong with the progressive relationship of technology and society, they fear two different outcomes. Marcuse believes “advanced industrial society’s” destiny is a mental hell, while Joy’s vision of the future is one of physical destruction in which society’s technological advancements have led to the extinction of the human race. The societal rules that Marcuse claims are killing humanity’s liberty are the same types of regulations that Joy believes will eventually save humanity.

In the excerpt from One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse never explicitly details “those needs which demand liberation” which “advanced industrial society” has canned. There are plenty of details though as to the consequences of society’s industrialization, such as “stupefying work where it is no longer a real necessity.” This first idea of redundant work comments on the top down ruling so common of industrial societies. So often, when an industrial society is created, a bureaucratic system is put into effect. The simplicity and ease of such a system often dumbs down the objective of the industry. Instead of one man trying to create iron on his own, he is directing many different men to do small, “stupefying work” in order to obtain the goal.

Marcuse also objects that in an industrial society, the people have “a free press which censors itself.” This is not bureaucracy that Marcuse is opposing here, but rather societal rules. No matter how free the press, there will always be authors who will be held accountable for every story. It is not only in an advanced industrial society that the press exerts its own censor over itself, but in every society because every society has its own strict societal rules, which often mix with political and economic concerns. Marcuse is not particularly objecting to “advanced industrial” society, but rather to all society and the bureaucratic and social means it uses to accomplish its goals.

It is these very bureaucratic and social means that Joy believes will save humanity from extinction. Joy remarks that “certain knowledge is too dangerous and is best forgone.” Preventing the discovery of this knowledge will be difficult and Joy acknowledges that “enforcing relinquishment will require a regime similar to that for biological weapons.” This proposition suggests that the creation of an advanced bureaucratic, societal system is the only way to save humanity, not from Marcuse’s mental doom, but rather from Darwin’s rules.

What Joy is suggesting here is something trite and contrived: that society will save itself by having meetings with all the world leaders and everyone agreeing upon some magical ethical code (Cue NBC The More You Know Music). The problem with Joy’s idea is simple: he wants society to stand in clear opposition to its logical purpose. Society is supposed to use all the technology at its disposal to make its members lives better. Joy cannot predict the outcome of nanotechnology, nor should he try (I’m still waiting for my hoverboard…)

While Marcuse holds that the destruction of society will finally grant us mental bliss, Joy believes the solidification of society’s bureaucracy will help to slow the grinding wheel of technology before it crushes our skulls. I believe that they both have glorified the negative side of society, the side which slows human development. In reality, society is the reason we live in civilized cities where our goal is never to murder each other with work or with nanotechnology, but rather to live without fear under a general social code.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

This is a good example (for everyone) of the benefits to paying ongoing close attention to a piece of text.

The way you put Marcuse and Joy into contrast is not by any means obvious, since Joy only shifts (awkwardly, I might add - you could have done more with Joy's text at the transitional moment, incidentally) to what seems to be his faith in bureacracy close to the end.

You're also doing a good job analyzing Marcuse through a short excerpt: his skepticism of all form of control relates to the fact that his book isn't merely an attack upon the U.S. or the West; it is aimed equally at "advanced industrial society" on the other of the iron curtain.

Rather than nitpicking the details of your reading of Joy & Marcuse, let me focus on what I think is the most interesting moment in this post, near the end.

"The problem with Joy’s idea is simple: he wants society to stand in clear opposition to its logical purpose."

Your idea of what a society is and is for is interesting, but _far_ from obvious: both Joy and Marcuse would obviously disagree (Marcuse would probably say something like "the purpose of a society is the domination of its members").

If this post, hypothetically, were to become a project, you'd need to think in much more detail about why you understand "society" the way you do, and you'd need to defend it in all its optimism (utopianism, perhaps).