Science as Power

Science as Power: Discourse and Ideology in Modern Society

Stanley Aronowitz
Copyright Date: 1988
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Science as Power
    Book Description:

    “Sets the stage for a new social theory of science. Aronowitz does not merely envision a new account of science; he argues for a critical, reflexive alternative to modern science, one that is not based on the domination of humans and nature.” --Contemporary Sociology

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8277-5
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Part I
      (pp. 3-34)

      When my daughter Nona was two years old, she frequently exclaimed, after a fall, “the chair did it,” or, as she bumped into the wall, “the wall did it.” On September 11, 1986, the New York stock market plunged eighty-six points. The next day, after a drop of thirty four points, aNew York Timesstory read, “wide use of computers contributed to slide.” According to the writer, trading on the stock market is often detonated by signals supplied by a computer program. It’s a “split second” automatic process; in appearance, at least, large institutional traders such as pension plans...

    • CHAPTER 2 MARX 1: Science as Social Relations
      (pp. 35-59)

      Orthodox Marxism has often portrayed all ideas within the bourgeois epoch as nothing more than reflexes of the dominant material relationships, that is, all ideas except those embodied in science and technology. To a large extent, Marxism has shared the capitalists’ worship of scientific understanding and industrial technique as reified, eternal truths. Whereas ruling ideas are clearly grasped as reflexes of material relationships and have not been accorded independent existence by Marxism after Marx, the “forces of production” have been almost universally regarded as relatively autonomous from the social relations of production. Moreover, much of the Marxist tradition has come...

    • CHAPTER 3 MARX 2: The Scientific Theory of Society
      (pp. 60-88)

      The consensus of those who have studied the Industrial Revolution — the period of the transformation of the labor process from manufacture to machine production on a wide scale within the capitalist mode of production — has been to attribute this development to the imperatives of the capitalist marketplace, particularly competition. David Landes has paid particular attention to the ability of capital to successfully incorporate science and invention into the production process.¹ Landes shows that the concentration of scientific discoveries in Europe after the sixteenth century represents a historical reversal of the relationship between East and West. Previously, he argues, Islamic science...

  5. Part II
      (pp. 91-120)

      For many who want to protect Marxism from a linkage with mechanistic thought, the slogan “back to Marx” intends to show the discontinuity between his thought and those of his immediate followers. The title of one writer’s effort in this direction isEngels Contra Marx.Indeed, the project is already present as early as Lukács’sHistory and Class Consciousness:

      To be clear about the function of theory is also to understand its own basis, i.e., the dialectical method. This point is absolutely crucial, and because it has been overlooked, much confusion has been introduced into the discussion of dialectics. Engels’argument...

    • CHAPTER 5 THE FRANKFURT SCHOOL: Science and Technology as Ideology
      (pp. 121-145)

      Despite the political gulf that separated socialists after the Bolshevik Revolution, the leading tendency within Marxism concerning science and technology was deeply influenced by the position of Engels as articulated by Plekhanov and Lenin. Even those anti-Leninists like Kautsky adhered to a relatively uncritical view of science and technology, critical only of the uses to which they were put by capital. However, the preponderance of Marxist theorists greeted the “age of science” with virtual silence, which signified that they accepted the scientific and technological “revolution” as a progressive aspect of industrialization. Science and technology became part of the “givens” of...

    • CHAPTER 6 HABERMAS: The Retreat from the Critique
      (pp. 146-168)

      The distinction between science and ideology, indeed, the concept of ideology as such, depends on a conception of science as a self-critical, self-correcting inquiry. The received wisdom of Western thought is that science is constituted by value-free knowledge of the external world. In this conception, the scientist, in Max Weber’s invocation, understands that he/she approaches nature and society as objects of investigation unburdened by personal or political interests. For Weber, the task of the investigator is to purge him/herself of such interests both before and in the course of the research.¹

      Although there have been many versions of the concept...

      (pp. 169-200)

      The virtue of Habermas’s work is to remind us of the indissolubility of the Marxist framework. It is not possible to dissociate the theory of ideology from classes and class struggle, any more than science and technology can be regarded as either historically or logically independent of social relations. But that is exactly what Louis Althusser and his school have attempted to do.¹ Their assertion that Marxism is a science is specifically linked to the concept that in order to become a science, its theoretical system or discourse must separate itself from ideology. Althusser regards the critique of ideology as...

    • CHAPTER 8 SOVIET SCIENCE: The Scientific and Technological Revolution
      (pp. 201-236)

      From its inception, the Soviet Union has harbored an enormous conflict that refuses to disappear. Even in the time of Lenin (1917-24), a period of incessant debate and plurality of ideologies and policies, not only between the Bolsheviks and their critics, but also within their own ranks, the social structure was rent. Lenin and his colleagues insisted that the transition from a “backward, semi-feudal” capitalism, enclosed in a decrepit monarchy unable to adequately promote the development of the productive forces, required a unique form of state power. Broadly interpreting Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Program” (1875), Lenin argued that the...

  6. Part III
    • CHAPTER 9 THE BREAKUP OF CERTAINTY: History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
      (pp. 239-271)

      In this chapter, I wish to examine Anglo-American theories of science, in their philosophical and historical modes. Contrary to some interpretations, I claim that while they hold tenaciously to a logical empiricist and positivistideology(in which science is defined as the concatenation of empirical and a priori mathematical knowledge whose determining moment is independent experience), the developments in modern physics, generally privileged by philosophers and historians as models of all knowledge, have forced a serious crisis among both philosophers and physicists. The crisis appears to have shaken both the rationalist and the empiricist sides of the equation.

      Since Kant,...

      (pp. 272-300)

      Earlier in this book, I introduced a concept of epistēmē as a way of seeing that is specific to a historical period but that is, at the same time, discontinuous in time and space. When explicating the intellectual and cultural influences in the development of quantum mechanics in the 1920s, we saw that what might be called a modernist discourse permeates parts of western and central Europe from the middle of the nineteenth century into our own time. The crucial features of this discourse are: the renunciation of foundationalism in ethics and epistemology; skepticism regarding the unified field in “nature”...

      (pp. 301-316)

      The effort to construct a unified field theory among the sciences ultimately rests on the validity of the reduction of “life itself” and its forms to physical and chemical categories. This effort has remained a cultural ideal, not only for the physical sciences but also for biology and the social sciences. As we saw in the preceding chapter, social sciences have adopted at least three major stances with respect to reductionism. One powerful tendency in social theory wishes only to emulate the methods of the physical sciences while holding to Durkheim’s position that society, or, to be more exact, human...

      (pp. 317-352)

      It remains for me to showhowscience is social relations. For even if Marcuse has already argued for the ineluctability of the relation between science, technology, and social domination, he has not provided a systematic, detailed explanation of the way in which, by virtue of its own concepts and methods, scientific practice promotes a universe in which domination of nature is linked to the domination of humans, or thewayin which science is a form of power. The fundamental argument advanced by Horkheimer and Adorno concerning the presumptions of science and technology refers to the Enlightenment’s transformation of...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 355-374)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 377-384)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 385-385)