What is it that shapes the direction of technological progress in advanced industrial societies? Is it science? Technology itself? Or is it something even more powerful and all-encompassing, like power or money or politics? John Kurt Jacobsen addresses this topic by investigating how contemporary democratic capitalist states govern the development and deployment of their scientific and technological resources. He examines the interaction of ideology, profits, and power, and their combined effect upon technology policy in democracies.The ?social function of science? has been a contentious area of scholarly study throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Although the book focuses mainly on the United States, for the sake of instructive comparison, it also studies technological development of other societies, including the former Soviet Union and China. Some competing accounts of technical change across the borders include laissez faire, cultural, and neo-Marxist markets. In fact, with regard to laissez faire markets, even to inquire if science has a social function is to deviate from the appropriate images of economic development. What is always politically at stake is who will rule the next stage in production due to each swing in technology, which will, in turn, be associated with a new structure of control. Most recently, the microchip revolution and cyberspace are the most highly publicized candidates for the next upswing in technology?and thus the next new structure of control.The explanatory focus of the book is on ideology, or on ideas about how technology works and should work, and the three key areas of policy contention discussed are industrial development, military uses, and the environment. Students and scholars of science, technology, and sociology should find this book useful in coming to terms with the fundamental questions underlying the development of technology today.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Technology as a Cultural System -- The Specter of Automation -- Aimless Accuracy -- Weeding Them Out -- Emancipating Nature -- Epilogue