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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
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


A great cultural result of our time is the basic perception that the social functions of science and technology have been mystified, refracted through the prism of the ruling ideologies and stated in a fetishized form of productivism, economic growth, promotion of civilization, technological solution of social contradictions, unified technical culture that pretends to be universal, general human culture, and so forth. This basic knowledge results from a collective experience in the economic, broader, crisis and from radicalized social struggles and movements. These began, first of all, with anticolonial movements, or movements for the emancipation of dependent and super exploited countries, and were followed by the radicalized currents of industrial and intellectual workers in the developed countries. Included are radical movements of scientific workers, technicians, agronomists, doctors, architects and urbanists, university students, and so on. We now must give concrete form to this basic perception, to operatively testify to it in relation to all segments of the scientific and technological complex.

Such a testimony is given, first of all, in this paper with respect to the technology of repression, that is, armament and its scientific research and technological potential, as well as parliamentary sectors (nuclear energy, outer-space research, and so forth) and the "reserve potential" of totalitarian control over man and society (big-genetic, psychological, meteorological, with respect to food sources and so on). In this, without a doubt, is the paradigm of the entire repressive tendency of science and technology. I intend to show the following:

a. All of the major aspects of the repressive function of science and technology in our era tend to be directed analogously or substantially close to the functions of the technology of repression in the narrow sense. Together with militarized science and technology in the service of force and violence, science and technology which are geared toward greater exploitation of natural sources and economic, socio-political, and cultural hegemony in international relations comprise a unified, organically linked structure of repressive functions. Within this structure, other sectors of repressive technology may partially substitute for the technology of force in the narrow sense but, in any case, functionally combine with it.

b. The main machinery of exploitation and rule within individual societies and in international relations decisively moves toward combining the monopoly of the technology of repression in the narrow sense with other forms of scientific and technical monopoly geared toward repressive functions. As a socio-political expression of this movement, the ruling social forces - classes, their hegemonistic fractions and socio-political blocks - regroup themselves in a way that expresses and allows for the combination of both forms of repressive technology. Social groups that are the protagonists of the technology of death and violent exploitation - the military hierarchy, the military-industrial technocracy, the managerial nucleus of the transnational corporations, the corresponding political and banking oligarchies - take on increasingly greater importance within the ruling socio-political blocks. There is a strong tendency for these groups to become the hegemonistic nucleus of the ruling classes in metropolitan societies.

c. The bearers of such a type of social hegemony, in which a scientific-technological monopoly and its repressive use is essential, will continue to guide the development of science and its technological application, material resources (the utilization of natural sources and accumulation), and human potential toward the expanded reproduction of the total conditions and factors of such hegemony. The expansion of repressive technology then exerts an ever more intensive effect on the total structure, that is, on the social character of the productive forces of labour. The repressive functions absorb a predominant part of the total material, intellectual, and socio-organizational potential of the existing scientific and technological complexes. These functions leave a decided socio-economic, political, and cultural mark on the majority of scientific work and the technological application of its results.

d. The above-mentioned socio-political restructuring globally conditions decision-making in the direction of scientific and technological development, so that the effectiveness of repression becomes a top priority. The repressive functions, that is, the scientific-technological complexes in industry, agriculture, communications, medicine, urbanism, and so forth, determined by them, thwart the investigation and realization of alternatives urgently needed for the material progress of the conditions of life, the rational regulation and cultivation of natural conditions, the abolition of socio-economic, regional, cultural, and national discrimination and segregation, the autonomous development of individual societies, regions, nations, and cultures in accordance with positive historical premises and primary actual needs, and the international co-operation of autonomous actors. Grandiose, diabolical scientific and technological selection is carried out systematically at the expense of the primary needs and historically formed progressive values of humanity.

e. For such a negative scientific and technological selection, a monopoly of political decision-making in the hands of those interested in repressive technology is alone not enough; a specific socio-cultural articulation of such technology is necessary as well. Under the influence of hegemonistic groups that aspire to the repressive use of a socio-technological monopoly, a specific socio-cultural macrocosm is formed in metropolitan societies: this is the structuring of interests and the articulation of the values and motives of "organized knowledge" in industrial corporations, scientific foundations and universities, scientific and technological intelligentsia, and so on. The immediate social and cultural environment of the bearers of fundamental and developmental research - the selection and formation of scientific "elites" and technical cadres, their social hierarchy, ideology, and mentality; their scale of values and goals; their position and prestige in society; the legitimacy of their motives; and the evaluation of their results - is established in the function of the scientific and technological advancement of effective repression. Parallel with this, ideological, political, and scientific-theoretical forms of the mystification of the repressive functions of science and technology have been worked out. This refers, of course, to the development of economic, demographic, sociological, political, socio-anthropological, and other social theories that would be able to legitimize scientific and technological monopolies and their repressive aims - for example, the functional-structural systems theory of society found in contemporary German sociology; neo-Malthusian crisis theories, "socio-biology" as defined by Wilson and Trivers, and so on.

f. In "developing countries," in as much as the process of their emancipation has not prevailed, technology placed under the guidance of metropolitan monopolies takes on multiple and potent repressive functions; it becomes an essential, and may become a decisive, factor in conditioning their structural dependency. "The transfer of technology" is transformed into the implantation of military-technical, techno-economic, and socio-political and cultural instruments for extending and continuing dependency and underdevelopment. With the help of these instruments, a fundamental technological inhibition is established in the development of those countries: a fundamental and radical frustration of scientific research and technological advancements that would be oriented toward primary needs and development possibilities. The repressive scientific-technological monopoly is constructed in a dependent society as an armature of international and, consequently, internal relations of exploitation - an armature able to overcome strivings and efforts toward economic and political emancipation. This armature, a lever for ensuring continued dependency, is built not only into the material-technical structure of production but also into the class structure in dependent societies. Local oligarchies and ''elites" regroup and form in the function of the military-political and techno-economic transmission, with the tendency to impregnate the "cultural assimilation" of the authorized parts of the dependent society with the mystification of the scientific monopoly and repressive technology.

g. In uncovering and abolishing the repressive functions of science and technology, there indisputably exists a common denominator among the efforts for their progressive transformation in otherwise differing societies and regions with materially unequal and culturally specific possibilities, priorities, and choices. This common denominator is the global, international premise for the emancipated and autonomous, progressive and creative contribution of all parts of the world to their own and general scientific and technological progress.

My argument should indicate that from analytically based, socially motivated, and culturally articulated criticism of the repressive functions of science and technology it is possible to derive a far-reaching strategy for their progressive transformation and development. Such a strategy, that would initiate and enable over a long period of time successive and continually linked research and the embodiment of socio-cultural alternatives that would, at last, give the totality of scientific and technological development a significantly different quality, is necessary. It is superfluous to insist on proof that such a strategy of scientific and technological development is but one of the aspects of the historical projects of emancipated and emancipating social practice, and that such possibilities exist only within specific constellations and orientations of social forces.