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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 pages)
close this folderSession IV: The control of space and power
close this folderThe technology of repression and repressive technology: The social bearers and cultural consequences
close this folderZoran Vidakovic
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentI. The vicious circle of repressive technology
View the documentII. The main social figures of repressive technology
View the documentIII. Militarization of the economy and science: the birthplace of the metropolitan technocracy
View the documentIV. The genesis of the ''technocratic elite'' in dependent societies

I. The vicious circle of repressive technology

One should not harbour the illusion that the radical transformation of science and technology and their complete liberation from the materially objectivized and ideologically impregnated effects of economic, social, and political antagonisms, exploitation, and alienation can be realized without long-term creative and preventive efforts. This requires an entire historical epoch: the extent of this liberating practice is difficult for us to imagine now. Today's strategy must begin with criticism and removal of those negative characteristics of scientific and technological development in which are condensed the extreme, most difficult effects of the antagonistic structures, which are, at the same time, the constitutive obstacles to the investigation and realization of socio-cultural alternatives. In this work, I have linked this condensation of negative characteristics which make up an obstacle to social progress to the notion of the repressive functions of science and technology. True, strict socio-critical analysis would indicate that socio-antagonistic and repressive characteristics are interwoven in all the historically formed features of science and technology. My approach is justified if from this whole I single out those attributes and tendencies of science and technology that are the fundamental, essential bearers and expressions of repressive functions. In this way, I put this notion into a historical relation - covering that which in our period is, in the first place, possible and necessary to subject to criticism and change.

Accordingly, I single out three focuses of the repressive function of science and technology:

1. the orientation of scientific-technological development primarily toward the current or potential goals of military force and totalitarian control of society; and functional inclusion of such development into the internationally transformed system of accumulation and distribution of surplus value;

2. establishment of a scientific-technological monopoly by metropolitan centres of accumulation, and direction of monopolistically controlled research and industrial, agricultural, and other application of results in the function of economic and total social hegemony in international and interregional relations;

3. determination of scientific priorities and technological selection in production (as in transportation, urban development, medicine, and so on) in the function of forced exploitation and repressive control of the behaviour of the labour force.

The historically regressive tendency in contemporary science and technology stems from an interaction and combination of the three above-mentioned sources. In their mutual action and interaction, overlapping and condensation, we recognize the dynamics of the expansion of the repressive, exploitative, and destructive effects of science and technology. Here in short are the main aspects of these dynamics:

a. The priority of scientific research and technical innovations within the framework of a military-scientific-industrial complex enables the super concentration of capital and monopolistic accumulation of knowledge in metropolitan financial and industrial centres that become the supports of immense systems for the international exploitation of labour and natural resources.

The linkage of military and scientific resources creates an exceptional economic advantage: the metropolitan centres that gain this advantage will continue to expand both these resources and to control an ever greater part of world accumulation. The military-repressive orientation of science and technology is transformed into an essential economic factor of hegemonistic expansion and exploitation in international relations.

b. The economic mechanism of international hegemony and exploitation - "unequal exchange," restriction of the economic development of dependent countries in conformity with the strategy of a super monopoly, control of the labour market, direct investments, and so on - is established and functions in the presence of the international machinery of non-economic compulsion that In part ensures the reproduction of the social conditions for monopolistic accumulation. With this, the economic and non-economic causes and motives for the precedence of scientific-technological development in the function of military repression are constantly being renewed.

c. Military force and threat alone are not enough to insure the international social conditions of monopolistic accumulation. Sociopolitical upheavals and movements for the economic emancipation of subordinated countries constantly disturb these conditions and endanger the totality of the relations of exploitation. Parallel to economic restrictions and political force, a specific scientific technological control apparatus becomes increasingly important for the international order of hegemonistic expansion and exploitation. The advantage gained through the aid of the military-scientific-industrial complex and monopolistic control of international accumulation constitutes a strong point for the further development and direction of a scientific-technological monopoly as a relatively independent instrument for international repressive control of agricultural, industrial, economic, and socio-political processes.

Technological force or the threat of such force is applied alternatively or cumulatively with military and financial force or repressive threats. As the military-repressive priority has led to well-known deformities with regard to the orientation of science and the programme for technical innovation, so too monopolistic scientific-technological development subordinated to the goals of repressive technological control of the international labour process, the utilization and reproduction of labour, agricultural and industrial orientation, the economic and social policy of individual countries, their internal and international socio-political orientation, and world exchange and distribution leads to profound inversion and distortion of science and technology with respect to the primary needs and developmental possibilities of societies.

d. The priority of scientific-technological development in the composition of the military-scientific-industrial complex and its effect on the influx and disposition of accumulation contributes to the division of the economy into sectors with essentially different conditions for reproduction. industrial sectors and agricultural branches that do not enjoy the advantages of militarization have economically limited possibilities for significant technical innovations and reduced and endangered accumulative capability. This forces and leads them to increase the exploitation of surplus value by forced utilization of labour and by decreasing its value and price by the massive dequalification of workers. Their structurally limited possibilities for developmental research and technological innovation are to a large extent directed toward the development of the means of labour, the technical organization of the labour process, and technological approaches that enable intensive exploitation of primarily dequalified labour. In this way, the orientation of technology as an instrument of increased exploitation of labour is strengthened. Particular attention should be paid to the practice of decreasing the necessary work time, primarily by the concentration of work efforts (labour efficiency norms, repressive technical organization of work, and so on) and reducing the qualifications of workers (parcelization and technical simplification of work) and not primarily by improving the means of labour and technological efficiency in general.

The hypothesis that, accordingly, in large sectors of production this has led to a change in the main tendencies of technological development is not without its place. Backward and repressive technology in the production of goods (directed toward intensive exploitation of labour and its dequalification) is the other face of the system of production and accumulation that favours rising scientific and technological development in the production of arms and other means of repression.

e. In a uniform chain of regressive tendencies, following the links that make up the just-mentioned repressive technology (the production of arms and the super-exploitation of labour in production outside of militarized sectors) comes a link with new repressive functions: monopolistic technological control of dependent countries in combination with other instruments of restriction and force inaugurates the development and use of science and technology within the framework and for the goal of the super-exploitation of the labour force of dependent countries.

This chain of negative factors closes up in a vicious circle. The economic function of the production of arms constantly stimulates the scientific-technological revolution in the military-industrial sectors, reduces the accumulative capability and possibility of essential technical innovation in other sectors, and orients their technology toward forced exploitation of the labour force. If the possibilities for such exploitation of labour in metropolitan societies are limited, sectors of production whose accumulation capability is endangered move to countries in which they can create the conditions for more intensive exploitation. This moves science and technology controlled by metropolitan centres toward functions of repression in "developing countries," thereby establishing in these countries massive poverty and other conditions that enable the exploitation of cheap labour. Super-exploitation and the impoverishment of dependent countries radicalizes the social resistance of the working masses and the movements for emancipation, and this again stimulates the development of the military-repressive apparatus and its combination with the entire economic and technological system of force (that is, the international division of labour, its technical and social organization, the differentiated technical characteristics of internationally divided labour, and so on), all in the function of economic and technological repression.

The contradictions of the system of accumulation in which science and technology are intertwined cannot be overcome by the division between metropolitan and dependent "developing countries," repressive control and forced exploitation of the latter; rather, their solution is sought in relationships of military, technological, and financial dependence and exploitation of the majority of industrially developed countries by the leading groups of the metropolises that hold the main levers of monopolistic control by means of the advantage of the most developed military-scientific-industrial complex and the other means of linking the scientific-technological monopoly and the international repressive machinery of production (as, for example, the agro-industrial complexes, nuclear energy plants, until recently the petroleum monopoly, control of the market of investment equipment, and so on). Along with this, in the circle of developed countries, in their mutual relations a chain of factors of the negative orientation of science and technology moves as well. In a division of labour among these countries, the leading group tends to maintain the scientific technologically propulsive sectors of production, with greater accumulation capability, while sectors with relatively backward and, with respect to labour, clearly repressive technology tend to be located in another category of industrial countries. This also leads to radicalization of social conflicts in this category of industrial countries (for example, in England, Italy, France, and several other European countries). The bearers of international hegemony react by strengthening all the repressive apparatus and, especially, the mechanisms of scientific-technological dependence that have indisputable advantages in establishing dominance over industrially developed countries.

Further analysis of these networks of factors that condition the growth of repressive functions and the exploitative and destructive effects of science and technology exceeds the framework of this paper. Attention will be further centred on the main social figures that provoked these processes, as representatives and protagonists of repressive technology and the cultural and psycho-social personification of its regressive characteristics.