Chapter 3: Environmentalism and the Politics of Technology

Feenberg draws his philosophy out of the late 60s-early 70s social movements. A couple years ago this documentary about Bruce Haack made evident the culture of experiment that existed in those far gone days. A real possibility of something new was just beyond the veil if only we could do something magic to lift it. “Thank you America for raping the only dream we had left.” I’m quoting from (often faulty) memory there, Burroughs’ Thanksgiving Day Prayer. When the pointlessness of the moon landing (or any other product of that culture of experiment) slowly revealed itself, “you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

The May Events of 1968 “enlarged the field of the possible.” Three years later Barry Commoner “proposed transforming modern technology “to meet the inescapable demands of the ecosystem.” (“Be realistic. Demand the impossible.” Who said that? Now when I said in my notes on chapter two I was going to finish reading the book before I continued to review it chapter for chapter because there was something I didn’t understand it was this.) How could a free thinker not see in technology a legislative possibility? Isn’t that what Nader’s Raiders were doing? Am I misunderstanding the philosophy in this book if I see that organization as getting democratic on the technocracy? Is Feenberg drawing the philosophy out of this political action as well? Theory goes both ways, right? You can put theory into practice, apply theory (are they synonyms?), but what do you call it the other way? You can extract philosophical concepts out of political action?(I’ve read something like that somewhere before) Is that what’s happening here?

And some notes:

“Commoner’s contrary view depends on a nondeterminist philosophy of technology which admits the possibility of radical technical transformation”(p.47)

“Keep America Beautiful, Inc. proclaimed: “People start pollution. People can stop it.” Hundreds of millions of dollars of free advertising space were devoted to diverting environmental pressures away from business and toward individual action.” (p.61)
“The business men who sponsored this campaign… hoped that the political energy mobilized by the increasingly articulate critics of capitalist environmental practice could be focused on private options, leaving basic economic institutions unchanged.”(p.62)

“the environmental movement must choose between repressive policy of increasing control over the individual, or a democratic policy of control over the social processes of production (and, I would add, culture.)” (p.69)

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