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close this bookThe Impact of Technology on Human Rights: Global Case-studies (UNU, 1993, 322 pages)
close this folder1. Technological impacts on human rights: Models of development, science and technology, and human rights
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe definition of the concept of technology
View the documentThe origins of the western technological culture
View the documentEnlightenment, the open industrial society, and human rights
View the documentThe enlightenment model of industrial development
View the documentA critical analysis of the enlightenment model of industrial development (technological imperialism)
View the documentModels of development and the technological factor
View the documentDevelopment, choice, and human rights
View the documentThe ''deconstruction'' of deterministic models of development
View the documentNotes

Models of development and the technological factor

Until now we have described the Enlightenment model of development (industrialism) and discussed the consequences of the technological deterministic view of development that this powerful model still implies. We now turn to:

(1) some other theoretical models of development which have been presented largely in opposition to the Enlightenment model of industrialism; and

(2) contemporary efforts to understand the societal changes of the post-industrial stage.

Looking at the major models of development that were formulated at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, models that still have an impact on present-day thinking, we discern some models which resemble the industrial convergence model that has already been presented.

In the first place we refer to the Marxist model of development, which views capitalist society as a class society that will in due time be replaced by a socialist one. This model is rather similar to the industrial convergence model and in fact it is based on the same assumption concerning the basic deterministic role in the development of science and technology (productive forces). But instead of adopting a gradualist view of societal development, the model postulates the importance of revolutionary change and the pivotal role of class struggle, rooted in the conflict between productive forces such as technology and the existing relationships of production. In this model societal changes are regarded primarily as effects of changes of technology and the concomitant reorganizations of the economy. Marx himself rejected at least part of the human rights laid down in the Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen, which he regarded as liberal rights based on a false concept of the nature of man. Marx stressed the importance of the social nature of man and of the priority of socio-economic rights in a world in which sharp socio-economic inequalities prevail. Marxism neglected to develop its own theoretical basis of this concept of human rights.38

Our third model of societal change is the reformist one, which contests the interpretations of the above-mentioned models. In the reformist model the disruptive consequences of industrial development are regarded as a major ailment of industrial development. At the same time class struggle is seen as an abnor mal phenomenon, resulting from the lack of social integration, not as the crux of the process of change. This model represents Durkheim's view on industrial society. In Durkheim's conception of social life, individuals can realize themselves thanks to the increasing division of labour that allows them to develop their individual talents. But individualism and individual freedom are, in Durkheim's view, always connected with his conception of society as a moral order. The individual is "free" in some respects because he is part of that moral order.39 So Durkheim's individualism is diametrically opposed to the liberal conception that states that individuals are primarily motivated by self-interest to establish contractual relationships and that social life emerges from individual interactions. In contradistinction to this conception, Durkheim pointed out that human beings participate in a collective conscience, which embraces concepts about the nature of the social order and of the relationships between men, a conscience that is the product of a long historical process.40

The industrial development of society, especially when the pace of change is high, produces, as Durkheim observed, disruptive consequences for society, because the processes of differentiation within the social order, brought about by this industrial development, destroy the basis of society's solidarity. Uncontrolled industrial development gives rise to an anomie division of labour, a pathological condition of society that arises when the processes of differentiation are not sufficiently counteracted by forces in society that coordinate or integrate social processes in a well-balanced order. However, this pathological condition of society, caused by industrial development, may be remedied or prevented by a better organization of societal relationships, a goal to which both professional organizations and the state -as society's main coordinating agency - would have to contribute in concerted action. In this context, the educational system has to contribute to a population's consciousness of the moral nature of society by giving its members a deeper insight into the nature of society as a phenomenon sui generis and of the dependency on this order of every individual.

In Western industrial countries this model of development has been - and still is -quite influential (e.g. in Parsonian functionalism). The model is attractive because it not only offers an analysis of processes of change, but also opens the road to interventions by the state to redress non-desirable effects of industrial development. This was in fact the case during the Great Depression, when functionalism played an important role in the New Deal programme in the USA. This model also contributed to the development of the Western welfare states.

This reformist model of development, like the other two models presented so far, concentrates on the impact of industrial (technological) development on society. However, it does not lead to an analysis of the technological factor as such. The objects of analysis are the processes of adaptation of society and culture to the exigencies of industrial development or the opportunities that may facilitate this adaptation. None of the three models leads to an analysis of the impact of technology as such on human rights. In fact, this holds true not only for human rights. All of the models of development presented thus far have their roots in the Enlightenment. The emphasis on the of the scientific-technological processes within our technological culture has produced a division of labour in which the social and human sciences restrict themselves in great measure, as we argued before, to the consequences of technological change and to the ways in which societies adjust themselves to such technological impacts.

Moreover, the three models have in common an evolutionary view of society's development and all of them place a strong emphasis on development from within. "Societies," "class systems," "techno-structures," and "states" are considered primarily as closed systems which develop as a consequence of internal mechanisms and their dynamics (e.g. technological development and class struggle) or as a consequence of external influences impinging on a system and forcing it to mobilize its resources in order to establish a new equilibrium. The models tend to pay attention neither to changing interrelationships between societies, or, more generally, between systems, nor to treat them adequately as relatively open systems with changing boundaries.

We pass over a fourth model, Pareto's model of societal change as a cyclical process, a model that leads neither to the analysis of technology nor to an examination of its impact on human rights (human rights are treated in a cynical way as being ideological veils of interest groups).41

We turn next to the most important non-industrial approach of this period, the still very influential approach of Weber. Weber did not start with the analysis of the consequences of industrialism, but highlights more remote origins of modern social transformations by going back to the historical conditions within Europe that were conducive to the rise of a bureaucratic or rational way of controlling human interactions. These specific historical conditions, related to the separation of secular and spiritual powers and the ongoing rivalry between them, contributed to the development by trained lawyers of a formal and rational juridical system. They introduced the authority of secular juridical norms binding on all subjects. With the victory of formal juridical rationalism, legal authority came into existence in Western societies, alongside the older types of authorities, such as traditional and charismatic types. The most important variant of legal authority was (and still is) the bureaucratic one.

The development of this model of legal authority was a necessary condition in the West for the later development of an economic order based on rational management of private enterprises and on accurate calculations. Only the West had at its disposal such a complete, formal juridical system as a model of administration that could be used in economic development.42

This development has been of paramount importance to the specific relationships between science, technology, and economy in the West. Science and technology have strongly determined economic development. The sciences - especially the exact and empirical sciences - did not have their origin in capitalist market conditions, though the technological applications of scientific knowledge have been strongly influenced by economic stimuli. In this process formal law too played an important role, according to Weber, and so did the rise of a practical-rational way of life and of a new Wirtschaftgesinnung or economic thinking. Weber's great contribution was to make explicit the importance of the affinity between economic ethics and the rational ethics of ascetic Protestantism in the development of Western capitalism.

These brief references to Weber's approach show some essential differences between this approach and those of the industrialists. While the later (the first three models) and their followers like Veblen, Ogburn, Bell, and Kerr43 tended to accentuate the consequences of technological change, Weber's approach attracted little attention in the field of research on technology and society. There arc, however, some important contributions, such as Merton's,44 involving an approach which leads logically to the systematic analysis of the impact of society and culture on scientific and technological developments.