Technology Fetishism

“..,we therefore take leave for a time of this noisy sphere, where everything takes place on the surface and in view of all men, and follow them both into the hidden abode of production, on whose threshold there stares us in the face “No admittance except on business.” Here we shall see, not only how capital produces, but how capital is produced.”


The best critique I have ever heard from an anarcho primitivist was on mines, going something like this, “If  the workers in mines had the choice of doing a different kind of work, would we have all of the ‘benefits’ of modern civilization?”

It is easy to rehearse all of the arguments for the democratizing nature of spreading technology and participatory media. It is harder to accept technology in your life while acknowledging that all electronic technology has its roots in various types of mining, coal being the tip of the iceberg.

Someone has to almost literally tear minerals from the earth in order for us to have our Blackberries, iPhones, cell phones, and blogs.

The history of modern mining has deep roots, in colonialism, and struggles around land and work take on an understandably self-determinate streak, from decolonization to indigenous autonomy (see the amazing book Resource Rebels for a history of recent movements).

I’m not advocating total collapse, but the question must be dealt with, How do we deal with the fact that the technology and modern comforts that we have here in the first world, are founded on almost necessarily undemocratic, unsustainable and often violent practices?

3 responses to “Technology Fetishism

  1. Brilliant post. I think I’m expanding your questions when I ask–given that these practices are inegalitarian, which technologies, if any, can originate democratically? Although reducing consumption and waste are clearly the biggest questions for environmentalism, environmentally friendly products clearly reduce questions both of exploited workers (aka exposed to life-threatening conditions) and exploited communities (with environmental racism and dumping).

    And also, given that these technologies are currently inegalitarian, how should we live? Thrift technology stores?

    The irony is we’re both talking about this through computers, on the internet, getting much of this sort of information through internet periodicals. What to do?

  2. Pingback: “Contradictions” « Politics as Puppetry

  3. for me the question of “which technologies?” or more radically, “technology?” boils down to this:

    We should work to make self determination available to those who produce these goods. If they don’t want to make them or mine them or live next to their waste then we should figure out how to support them.

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