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

II. The pathology of power and science

However, it is of decisive importance to realize that science and technology are not negative powers in themselves - like a genie released out of a lamp, whom people can no longer handle. They turn into that when becoming part of a "vicious circle," an antagonistic social arrangement. It is of vital significance to recognize the main causes of this process: what the structures of social power and the types of social organization are, on which depends whether science and technology will play a humanistic role or whether they will turn into instruments of exploitation and domination. Also, what are the social forces, the great social agents that can be the protagonists of one tendency or the other? Therefore, the point of departure cannot be the criticism of technology in itself, because "know-how" is nothing by itself - it is a means without an end, a mere potentiality, an "unfinished sentence." "Know-how" is culture no more than a piano is music. What we need most of all is to understand why things are as they are and what we are to do with our lives - how to turn this enormous potentiality into a new reality, to the benefit of people. What we are seeking is not a new type of car, but a new type of society, a civilization which is to be a more favourable framework for the development of the authentic potentials of science and for a different mode of production. The points of departure are: what are we producing and how are we doing it - for what human needs, values, and purposes.

The very appearance of this idea is an intellectual coup. It shows that we are breaking out of the encirclement of technological determinism which strips the world of everything that suggests the capacities and actions of men; endows history with stages and laws independent of human desires and intentions. We are challenging the tradition which is the continuation of the great religious and philosophical systems of thought on the predestination of human life. Man's fate does not depend on his own work and his own practice; it has been pre-destined by heaven, by the absolute spirit (Hegel), or by the independent trends in the forces of production (reduced Marxism). People are only puppets on the strings of an anonymous, superhuman director of history - technology, the new deity that has been brought down to Earth. The very criticism of these views signifies a great humanization and desacralization of science: the world has been made by people and they can change it as well. Theory should express these new epochal possibilities and their preconditions - what we are not as yet but what we can become through knowledge and struggle.

Science and technology do not appear in a vacuum but in a social space. The civilization whose godparents are profit-making and bureau cracyrule permeates them deeply. This social milieu brings the productive and destructive side of technology together into a symbiosis. Its humane, potentially liberating powers remain in captivity, whereas the pathological form of development - for which an ever-growing human and material price is being paid - afflicts the entire social body, like cancerous tissue. The double function of production - one which is expressed in the creation of goods, and the other whose sole aim is the reproduction of capital and bureaucratic power - fundamentally deforms the productive forces and scientific research. Out of a wide selection of possibilities and capital and power choose those technologies and put forth those requirements and orientations that are functional from the point of view of the existing system and its reproduction. Such a deformed technology is no longer neutral - it becomes an active factor which determines the attitude of a producer towards his product, of a worker towards his labour, of an individual towards society, of man towards his environment. It becomes one of the foundations of the relationship of power, of the hierarchical division of society, and a tool of domination over people and entire communities.

These growth patterns reappear in a specific manner in the period of early, difficult socialism, in societies where productive forces were not developed. In their breakthrough into the modern world they take over many patterns which were made in developed bourgeois societies, although it only brings about once again the social division between those who are in commanding positions and those who are there merely to execute.

The spirit of the age, the principles of a civilization based on profit, power, and prestige, and the ruling cultural patterns permeate positivistic science, its canons, paradigms, professional mentality, and the mode of expert training - in a word, the scientific subculture.

First of all, there are also the criteria as to what is considered to be scientific knowledge, and what is not. Then there is also the mode of formation of experts of the most specialized kind ("Fachidioten") as "one-dimensional man" ignoring social values and purposes as something alien to their concern. For example, research workers in modern agronomy institutes do not consider what will happen to the land, whether it will lose its fertility; what will happen to food, whether it will lose essential nutritive, qualities; what people's bodies will be like and what kind of social consequences will be brought about.

The ruling culture has separated practice and theory, manual and intellectual work; has created an insurmountable gap between professional knowledge and popular culture, experience, and wisdom. It is believed that modern science, by its very definition, must be "deaf" and "indifferent" to human concerns, needs, and preoccupation's. The ethics and ideology of the puritan ruling class have tried to form a science as insensitive as a capitalist undertaker or powerful bureaucrat. Due to a secrecy which makes it difficult for a layman to understand, this knowledge is not connected to "general culture" and the language of the people. This fragmentation of scientific and technical "sub-cultures" is a consequence of the class division of labour; but it is also, at the same time, the condition for its perennial life. It reduces the knowledge and power of scientific and technical cadres to a strictly limited field, and prevents them from situating their knowledge into broader prospects of the whole. Those who possess such narrowly specialized qualifications are professionally just as helpless and dependent as the workers are (A. Gorz). Established science has become a church with its dogma, hierarchy, and heresies. It has its popes and cardinals, as well as its power of excommunication. Scientists have felt this power, and when they have dared question the ruling scientific orthodoxy, were lashed to the pillar of shame (Toffler).

The technicistic wave of our time has cut like a knife and created a deep rift between the sciences and the human purposes for which science is engaged. This gap brings about an enormous loss of scientific knowledge, personal dramas, and resignation, whose very incarnations are, as in ancient tragedies, the giants of atomic physics when they disowned their own works in resignation. It brings about an enormous loss of powers and talent, impoverishes ideals and motivations which inspire people and give them the strength to persevere on the steep path of the science.

This picture of science shows the ruling pattern of positivist science, but it is incomplete. Although science bears the stamp of the ruling civilization in which it was born, it is never fully integrated into a system. Scientific work which produces knowledge possesses, like every other work, part of its own inalienable autonomy. Science can serve predetermined goals; it can develop in a certain direction to the detriment of other directions. It can be guided towards answering the questions put by the mainstays of power, even to the detriment of other questions. However, it is impossible to prevent scientists from asking themselves certain questions that are different from the ones they are allowed to resolve. They are always able to tackle and resolve the same problems that the authorities present them, even in a different way. However, they encounter these possibilities as things that have been denied. Thereby they also meet an ideological and cultural arbiter. Thus they become aware of the fact that the direction and contents of scientific work could be different, but that one would need a different technology and society in order to make it come true. They realize that, at the same time, they do and do not belong to the forces of social change.