Cover Image
close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession V: From intellectual dependence to creativity
close this folderOn the edge of a razor blade: the new historical blocs and socio-cultural alternatives in Europe
close this folderMiroslav Pecuilic and Zoran Vidakovic
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentI. The new janus - Two faces of science and technology
View the documentII. The pathology of power and science
View the documentIII. The new protagonist - social movements and organic intelligentsia
View the documentIV. Dramatic birth of alternatives
View the documentV. Self-reliance and solidarity (autonomy and new universality)
View the documentNotes

I. The new janus - Two faces of science and technology

Man has conquered new, gigantic powers of production which bring us to the threshold of a new world. Scientific and technical forces that no epoch of previous history could have envisaged have come into life.

During the past 50,000 years of man's existence there have been about 800 generations with an average life span of about 60 years each. Out of these Boo, 650 generations spent their lives in caves; only the past 70 have been able to have a significant inter-generation communication; only the past four have known of the printed word; the electric motor has been in use only during the past two generations and a vast majority of material goods that we are familiar with nowadays have been developed during the lifetime of the last generation only.

Atomic energy, automation, and the revolution in cybernetics provide the opportunities for a change which could completely transform the traditional basis of life and work. The mighty systems of automatic machines have the wonderful power of shortening human labour and making it more fruitful, liberated, and worthier of man. They enable an attack on the fateful division of labour into mental and physical, management and simple execution. Routine tasks can be performed by machines, and man's activities are transferred to the field of research, designing, control, and management - to the field of creativity. Instead of an attachment to a partial function there is a rotation of functions; a collective performance of tasks by an entire group is introduced as team work which supervises the entire automated process. The complexity of new technology makes the old hierarchical order inadequate to move the new productive forces. It is very unbearable for creative work, which engages all of one's intellectual potentials, to endure coercion; its inner characteristic is personal autonomy. Society has come to a turning point when the laws of the growth of productive forces appear in a new light. The classic industrial revolution has created as its basis of education a type of elementary school which satisfies the need for a plain labour force. Society has been developing through the intellectual potentials of a relatively small number of people. The technical transformations coming into existence now are connected with a cultural revolution of unseen proportions, with an education explosion, and with a change in the subject-object relationship. In the first industrial revolution the progress in production did not start from man, but from machines to which man was only attached as a cog. Nowadays progress is becoming increasingly dependent on the active development of man's capabilities, initiatives, motivation, and creative work. A new human subjectivity is being developed.

If industry develops, the creation of true wealth becomes less and less dependent on working hours and the amount of spent labour, and much more on the general state of science and technological progress.... It is not direct work performed by man himself (and in which he has more of a supervisory and regulating relationship towards production), nor the time he spends working the basic pillar of production and wealth. The understanding of nature, the development of human capabilities becomes the real pillar. The theft of the working time of others on which present-day wealth rests appears as a poor foundation compared with this newly developed one.. The free development of individuality and bringing necessary labour down to a minimum suits this development - not in order to exploit the surplus of labour (for another) but because of the scientific and artistic education of man, which becomes possible due to free time and the resources which have been made. [Karl Marx]

It is the first time that people have been enabled to make an ancient dream come true - to liberate man from the yoke of poverty and to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. At the time of the first industrial revolution the annual gross world income was about four billion dollars, at the beginning of the twentieth century it was about 380 billion, and nowadays it amounts to over 6,000 billion dollars.

However, as if by some fateful magic spell, the new sources of productive power - as opposed to their great liberational potentials are becoming destructive both for nature and for man. Like the ancient god Janus, the development of civilization is showing its other face. Almost 20 per cent of scientists are working on the discovery and application of means of world destruction. Peace is maintained in the world under the constant threat of war. Hunger, that old tormentor of people, is going around the world again and is taking a toll of 20 million human lives each year. In its war against nature exploitative industrialism has robbed a great part of the earth's resources; it made rivers and lakes die, and air turn into a murderer.

The deepest contradictions have come up on the human side of production as well. The manifold development of civilization endows the producer with new capabilities and aspirations. Human creative powers are flourishing. However, this new human and productive power is turned into an instrument for creating and preserving the wealth and power of others. New mechanisms for attachment to the dehumanized society are being built. An enormous apparatus for manipulating, for industrializing the human soul is being created. The masters of the market are making series of artificial needs, while nihilism, violence, and neuroses are taking a toll in human happiness which is almost as large as is physical deprivation in the Third World.

The gap between the rich and the poor, which is a volcanic contradiction in the contemporary world, has been increased from 1:3 to 1:70. It has become as large as the 400 vertical kilometres separating the peasant on the paddy fields from the astronaut orbiting the planet. The greatest absurdity of our age is coming into existence: the development of underdevelopment. In order to preserve its cruel abundance the developed centre tends to dictate the productive, economic, and social structure of the periphery. But it is done in a new way today: the new phase of dependent development is coming into existence. From an external dependence, maintained by political force, it is transformed into an internal, organic dependence. This subordination within is performed by the international production apparatus, the great mechanical Leviathan - the multinational companies - through technological conquest, management patterns, and consumption, which are imposed upon the periphery. The large profits of the companies and the low standard of living of the masses, abundance and poverty, are going together hand in hand, like a cruel couple. The unity of the world is based on a relationship of fundamental inequality, while underdevelopment is the other pole of development. The "centre" is super-developed exactly to the extent to which the "periphery" is underdeveloped. Great material progress has encompassed only the part of the western world which has found its place under the sun. The vast spaces of Asia, Africa, and Latin America have remained in a deep shadow, in stagnation and misery. The world is being divided into zones represented by a few centres developing intellectual creativity on the one hand, and those at the bottom of the pyramid of victims who have to be engaged only in routine work.

In order to understand the roots of this situation we must get rid of one of the oldest prejudices. It is the false picture according to which the stubborn adherence to the archaic, pre-capitalist structure is the main cause due to which underdevelopment is still present. The true relationship is actually the reverse: the same historical process, i.e., the development of capitalism itself, has given birth to underdevelopment in the past just as it does today.

If we go on in the same manner in which we have been going on so far, we know that our world will come to an end. Seas and rivers will become sterile, the soil will lose its natural fertility, and life will become the privilege only of those individuals who will be selected to represent the new human race - adapted, through chemical processes and genetic programming, to a new ecological environment which engineer biologists will synthesize for them.... Therefore, the crisis is gaining new dimensions which, apart from a few exceptions, the Marxists have not foreseen. What came under the meaning of socialism so far did not include answers to these new dimensions. We are speaking of a crisis in the relationship between individuals and the economy itself, the crisis of labour, the crisis in our relationship to nature, our relationship to our bodies, towards persons of the opposite sex, towards society, towards posterity and our ancestry, towards history. We are speaking of a crisis in urban life, in housing, in medicine, in schools.... There is a decline in faith in life. Physical crops and economic viability are decreasing; the quality of life is declining although the level of consumption is growing. [A. Gorz]

The two faces of science and technology are becoming a realistic ground on which there is a change between two visions of the world. The vision of the apocalypse is taking the place of technological utopia. Social progress was equated, identified with technological growth which automatically, by its very nature, resolves all of man's existential problems. The only and most important thing was to give the decision making powers to the technocratic masters of machines, to the headquarters that is able only to arrange society in a rational way on the basis of the technical rules of optimality. They will peacefully and without upheavals lead people to the "state of abundance," the "welfare state," the "post-industrial society of unlimited growth " The horizon of civilization seemed bright and clear, without any clouds in sight. However, the other face of technological growth came as a shock. An eclipse has covered modern society; its horizon is darkened, and its shadows are more visible than its light. Thought had come to another extreme: to the shock of an uncertain future, to the abstract and illusory criticism of technology, to the vision of the apocalypse. It came with the slogans: "Technology inevitably dehumanizes and enslaves man," "Protect us from technology," "Stop the growth." The fear of the future and nostalgia for the past caused us to repeat what Voltaire said of Rousseau: that he would want mankind to walk on its hands and feet again in order to be happy. The alienation of man was depicted as fate, as an unavoidable destiny which is born out of the very nature of modern technology. It was said that technology in itself inevitably destroys all individuality, turning people into modern technological serfs.