Technical politics

Andrew Feenberg's critical theory of technology

By Graeme Kirkpatrick

Technical politics

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0532-5
  • Pages: 176
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: May 2020
  • BIC Category: POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, SOCIAL SCIENCE / General, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies, PHILOSOPHY / Political, Society & social sciences / Social theory, Society & culture: general, Social & political philosophy, Media studies, Society & social sciences / Media studies, Society & social sciences / Cultural studies, Humanities / Social & political philosophy, Cultural studies


Technology often plays an ambiguous role in theories of social change. Viewed by Karl Marx as the driving force of historical progress, it has come to be associated with exploitation and alienation, thanks in large part to the work of Frankfurt School critical theorists such as Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer.

Andrew Feenberg is an unusual figure: a critical theorist with an essentially optimistic view of technology. His concept of 'technical politics' puts technology design at the heart of disputes over the future shape of society. This book provides the first sustained critique of Feenberg's work, describing how it has developed from the tradition of Marx and Marcuse and analysing the key ideas of formal bias, ambivalence, progressive rationalisation and primary and secondary instrumentalisation.

Identifying the limitations resulting from Feenberg's attachment to critique, the book offers a utopian corrective that can provide a fuller account of the process of willed technological transformation and of the author's own idea of a technologically authorised socialism.


Introduction: from critical theory to technical politics
1 Critical theory and technology
2 The theory of bias and the ethics of technology design
3 Technical politics
4 Aesthetic critique
5 From critique to utopia
Beyond critique: utopia



Graeme Kirkpatrick is Professor of Social and Cultural Theory at the University of Manchester

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