15 juillet 2019

Richard Stivers, Technology as Magic (the Triumph of the Irrational) – note de lectură

2001, The Continuum Publishing Company, New York

Introduction: The Paradox of Technology and Magic
Our expectations for technology have become magical and our use of it is increasingly irrational. Magic in turn has acquired a rational facade and is used like technology for purposes of efficiency.
Magic begins historically in the attempt to influence nature, which was experienced as sacred.
Technology is perceived to be a force greater than that of nature, for it is successfully used to exploit the resources of nature and to re-create nature. If the sacred is ultimately that which is experienced as absolutely powerful, then it was inevitable that technology would replace nature as the object of tacit veneration.
In the past century magic has come to imitate technology, acting to fill the gap that technology cannot – the psychological manipulation of humans. Technology, then, extends its control over human society by the magical control of human beings.

Magic arises in the hiatus between the wish and its fulfillment.
Magic is effective only in relation to humans and only when they believe in it.
References to nature become a way of spiritualizing technology.
Technopaganism is one of a number of subcultures that have arisen around the computer.
For the pagans, the computer is a “magic machine”. It creates a universe of information and in so doing promotes a mystical identification with itself.
Proscientific types like artificial intelligence proponents, biotechnology enthusiasts, and information systems creators covertly and sometimes openly see the computer as a spiritual force and, in some instances, as a sign of transcendence.
Because we worship quantity, speed, and growth, the computer appears to be omnipotent.
Information theory is now applied to organisms and ecological systems so that they become “information systems”. The computer with its negative feedback and programs becomes the model for life processes.
Totalitarianism would flourish as mandatory health in the creation of a statistically normal human being.
“My principal argument is that today our expectations for technology are magical to the point that we have generated a multitude of imitation technologies that function as magical practices.  This is an elaboration of Jacques Ellul’s seminal idea that in a “technological civilization everything becomes an imitation of technology or a compensation for the impact of technology.” Psychological and administrative (managerial) magic’s paramount purpose is to adjust humans to a technological civilization, to bring them in line with technical progress. The myth that organizes technology and its imitations into a coherent system of belief is technological utopianism. Advertising and television programs contain the basic theme and elaborated stories of technological utopianism.” (Richard Stivers, Technology as Magic - the Triumph of the Irrational, p. 7-8)
New Age devotees, like the hippies before them, combine an interest in nature with a fascination for technology.
New Age regards change as progress and believes that the universe is in a state of flux so that objective knowledge of it is difficult to come by; consequently, truth becomes “personal and situational” and morality relative.
Magic uses information that is symbolic to influence nature or human beings.
The creators of psychological magic often advertise their methods as an objective set of procedures (technology).
The most important magic today is practiced by the mass-media.
Advertising contains the key magical rituals of a technological civilization.
We live in a world that is at once both highly rational and irrational, both extravagantly technological and magical.

1. Both Technology and Magic
Jacques Ellul’s theory of the three milieus – the most accurate and powerful description of history we possess;
A milieu has three basic characteristics: immediacy, sustenance and peril, and mediation.
The milieu is ambiguous in value and produces an ambivalent reaction on our part – attraction and revulsion, desire and fear.
A milieu is composed of two basic ingredients: meaning and power.
The dominant power of a milieu assumes one of three forms: nature, society, or technology.
The three functions which together form a system are: religious and political sovereignty, military force and material well-being.
There is no sense of good and evil in the milieu of nature. Good and evil are categories that arise out of internal social and political conflicts that go hand in hand with increased social differentiation in the milieu of society.
The characteristics of the milieu of society:
-          the increasing reliance on artificial means of action
-          the influence of one society on another
-          the social hierarchy
-          the institution of law.
There were unintended social consequences to every artificial and voluntary attempt to control nature.

The milieu of technology
The definition of the milieu (by Jacques Ellul): “that which is concurrently the means of life and the greatest threat to life, that which is most immediate to us, and that which mediates all our relationships.”
Until the nineteenth century technology developed at a pace that allowed it to be integrated into culture. Now technology came to dominate culture.
Modern social classes are not bearers of cultural meaning.
In an age of equality obligatory norms of reciprocity wither away.
The modern political state (like the public opinion) is largely technical, i.e., bureaucratic.
The most problematic aspect of the milieu of technology is the erosion of the symbol as an active force in human evolution.
The visual images of the media decontextualize reality by removing it from its existential, cultural, and historical contexts.
Symbols have lost their practical purpose in a technological civilization.
It is only within a vigorously symbolic language that humans imagine real alternatives and exercise moral freedom.

Magic in the Three Milieus
Magic changes according to what is perceived to be sacred. The sacred is, in the most general sense, the life-milieu. If the sacred is defined as ultimate power and reality, what better fits this than the milieu?
Each milieu is organized around a different set of polarities: life and death in the milieu of nature, good and evil in the milieu of society, and efficiency and inefficiency in the milieu of technology.
What is tacitly experienced as sacred is expressed in symbol, song, and story and lived out through ritual.
The sacred, symbol, myth, and ritual comprise a cultural configuration that represents the deepest and most profound structure of any culture; it exists at a tacit or metaconscious level.

Magic in the milieu of nature
Magic filled in the gap where technology was absent. Magic was a kind of performance that involved magical words.
Magic in the milieu of nature was based on the principle of persuasion in which humans participated in creating that for which they wished.

Magic in the milieu of nature
In the milieu of society, the principle by which magic operates is that of retribution: every evil deed is punished and every good deed is rewarded.
Order depends upon having an enemy to blame – a scapegoat.
Society, based on the polarities of good and evil, is renewed by the expulsion of evil, just as nature, based on the polarities of life and death, is renewed by eating (the feast).
Witchcraft and sorcery are cultural forms of scapegoating.
Magic acquires an individual component.
As far as religion is concerned, magic is now exclusively a practical enterprise. Concurrently, to the extent that magic is demoted to a practical activity by religion, it becomes more like technology.
Magic insofar as it operates within religion’s orbit, works according to the principle of retribution.

Magic in the milieu of technology
The transition from the milieu of society to that of technology begins in the West in the late eighteenth century and continues until after WW II when the milieu of technology takes hold.
In the milieu of technology, magic acts according to principle of efficient causality.
Magic now imitates technology.
In the posthistoric period both society and technology are experienced as sacred, but now society is read through technology.
Desire today can only be satisfied by technology, and technology can only advance by the constant stimulation of appetite.
The cumulative impact of technology acts as a repressive force; the more technology demands of us in terms of regulations, schedules, and coordination, the more we apparently need to escape this kind of rationality by plunging into the irrational, into random sensations. The result is a society that is at once both extraordinarily rational and irrational.
The consumer goods are hierophanies of consumption.
Technology, while manifestly opposed to instinct, is perfectly suited to it at a deeper level because both represent the will to power.
In consuming the technological object we are indirectly consuming the instinctual power of sex and violence.
Technological utopianism, which is our major myth today, is not about the past nor the future, is with the myth of progress, but about an eternal and perfect present that we can construct.
Our expectations for technology, our chief sacred, are magical. We tacitly believe that technology is omnipotent.
The decline in the quality of life actually reinforces our magical relationship to technology: we desire even more to harness its saving powers.
Magic = a set of words and practices that are believed to influence or effect a desired outcome.
The principle by which magic is believed to act is an imitation of the principle by which one’s life-milieu operates.
Historically humans once lived in a symbolic reality, a world of shared experiences that came to possess symbolic meaning. If we live decreasingly in a shared symbolic reality, where is reality? Reality today is on television and in the computer.
Dramatized information is the basis of psychological magic; statistical information, the basis of administrative magic.

2. Dramatized Information: The Basis of Psychological Magic
The nonmaterial technologies for the control of humans – psychological techniques.
Today, much of the information is transmitted in the form of visual images and statistics => the gradual dissolution of language.

The Disintegration of Discourse
Just as important as the amount that is read, listened to, and watched is its quality.
Most damaging for the long-term reading habits of young people is the state of textbooks be written at a level of comprehension well below that of its intended use.
Conversation was once considered an art; today it is the release of a psychological pressure to talk. A lack of intellectual and passion in conversation prevents one from conveying strong convictions and the rationale behind them to others.
There is almost a conspiracy to prevent us from having the silence to think and that growing numbers of us do not wish to do so anyway.
A considerable number of students diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder do not suffer from a medical disorder, but rather a deficiency in the ability to use and understand language.
Language is moving in opposite directions: the first is the increasing number of scientific and technical terms with precise, operationalized definitions; the second is the proliferation of terms that have become vague to the point that they convey emotion but little thought.
The decline of referential contexts (myths and religious narratives, art, literature, music, political ideology, moral philosophy, legal theory) upon which discourse is dependent.
Technology is supplanting shared symbolic experiences as the basis of order.
Today we look to technology to eliminate suffering, perhaps even overcome death, create an earthly utopia, and eliminate moral and political problems.
The meaning of words that are not strictly scientific or technical tends to be vague.
The sterilization of common discourse means that words become abstract.
“Plastic words” – a category of words that aspire to be scientific or technical but end up being amorphous. (ex: basic need, care, center, communication, consumption, contact, decision, development, education, energy, exchange, factor, function, future, growth, identity, information, living standard, management, model, modernization, partner, planning, problem, process, production, progress, project, raw material, relationship, resource, role, service, sexuality, solution, strategy, structure, substance, system, trend, value, welfare, work).
Jargon is only a ghostly facsimile of technical or professional terms. It is for the most part devoid of meaning. Jargon is neutral; it contains a tacit worldview, the same as that of plastic words.
Institutionalized meanings become superfluous in a technological civilization; consequently, their  common meaning disintegrates to the point that it becomes subjective.
“Let us take love as an example. Parents retain a certain sense of love as affection and duty, but over time love has come to mean giving children certain technological objects such as toys, the best clothes, the best athletic equipment, the best computers, the best of everything that technology provides. Simultaneously parents sentimentalize their children and live vicariously through them to the point of turning them into consumable personalities.  In the absence of cultural authority, parents increasingly use psychological techniques of childrearing to manipulate children into conformity. Both through technological  objects and technical processes parents create dependent children. At one time the end of love was to create free and independent children. Most parents, however, do not recognize the change in the meaning of love from ethical to sentimental and manipulative. And yet with an appreciation and critical knowledge of past meaning of love, parents can make a heroic effort to live out some earlier meaning of love, but they do so at the risk of isolation.” (Richard Stivers, Technology as Magic)

Commonplace Expressions, Slogans, and Cliches
Commonplace expressions suggest a course of action.
Slogans are a call to action.
Commonplaces and slogans are expressed in political propaganda, advertising, and public relations.
“Advertising is our folk culture” – Daniel Boorstin.
Commonplaces provide us indirectly with a worldview, an interpretation of the past and a sense of the future.
Jacques Ellul noted that beneath the conflict of communist, socialist and capitalist ideology, lies a mythological unity – a belief in technological  progress.
Commonplace: “One must take a positive attitude.”
Commonplaces are incantations.

Visual Images in the Media
We are enmeshed in and enthralled by the universe of visual images.
Whereas language exists in time, visual images exist in space.
The meaning of visual images is ambiguous. The cultural and linguistic context within which symbolic art is created provides the meaning the audience attempts to uncover through interpretation. The common meaning that resides in institutionalized discourse and in words is disappearing. We are left with visual images that are autonomous and atomistic.
Where once visual images were subject to language, now language is becoming subordinate to visual images.
Today people live in and through the dramatized information of the mass media.
Complementary ideas: television is about reality, and reality is on television.
Reality as we live it still retains, no matter how small, some meaning, but television expunges this meaning and recomposes reality as a logical sequence of image fragments.
At an emotional level, all images are real. Television provides a more emotionally-satisfying reality.
A society of the spectacle turns life into a visual drama, a show. And the most real show, the most “objective” show, is that on television.
Television is the home of our shared experience.
The difference between human beings and products disappears: human beings are constantly being interrupted on television by advertised products and, more importantly, gain prestige by their association with these products.
A world devoid of symbolic meaning as ethical truth is a world of raw power.
Visual images hit us at an emotional level.
The more subtle forms of human interaction – compassion, ethical love, trust, and patience – cannot be transmitted through autonomous visual images.
In an existence increasingly made abstract, impersonal, and meaningless by technology, unusual, spectacular, and frightening images allow us vicariously to experience a crisis, a turning-point in our lives.

Symbolism in the Milieu of Technology
The farther back we go in time, the more metaphorical was human thinking.
Symbolism depends upon the tacit perception that the world is an organic totality. Symbols express a sense of unity by perceiving relations of similarity between apparently divergent phenomena.
Insofar as values are a consequence of symbolizing a power beyond ourselves, they are superfuous in a technological civilization. For there is no power mightier than that of technology.
For the milieus of nature and society, symbolic thought is the primary mode of expression (rational thought rests upon it); for the milieu of technology, technical thought is triumphant.
There is an inverse relationship between the power of technology and the power of symbolization.
Computers now possess brains, memories and have languages – a pattern of externalizing human qualities onto machines, but the human has already been rendered technological.
Visual images are the language of technology.
Technology exists as information, means, and object. The first aspect of technology is its abstractness, the second dimension concerns its power, the third characteristic is its singularity as product.
Technology and violence are expressions of ultimate power.
A lie is only a lie if there exists a standard that I should tell the truth. Language is the only medium through which questions about truth and the ethical standard it leans upon can be raised.
With the decline of symbolic meaning, there is no effective way of raising ethical questions about the exercise of power.
When language loses meaning, we live in a completely material world of instinct, sensations, and power. And this is a frightening world of raw power, wherein one must be suspicious and distrustful of others. It is a world that always appears on the verge of apocalypse.

3. Statistical Information: The Basis of Administrative Magic
Statistical information relies on the visualization of existence as much as dramatized information does.
Autonomous dramatized and numerical information chain us to empirical reality.
The medieval fascination with logic finally broke the nexus between visual images and symbolic meaning.
The symbolic reality has a sense of the heterogeneous nature of reality. The new model of reality, from the thirteenth century on, has the assumption that underlying the rich panorama of nature is a uniformity of space and time.

Statistics Everywhere
The quantification of nature eventually led to the quantification of human existence. The result is the proliferation of statistics.
Statistics = the scientific information of the state.
The growth of statistics is commensurate with the growth of and centralization of power in the political state and with the advance of industrialized capitalism. Behind both of these stands technology.
The mercantilist and cameralist governments of Europe desired economic growth and increased revenues to facilitate their increased activities; consequently they promoted censuses as a way of ascertaining their tax base.
A census can provide government with crucial information that enhances control over its citizens.
Insurance was a variation of gambling insofar as it involved an exchange of risk.
If the mass media allow for the expression of public opinion, they concurrently provide the means for its control.
Public opinion saves the individual the trouble of making up his own mind.
Studying for tests rather than to learn was an unintended consequence of the proliferation of exams.

Statistics: Moral and Normal
The coming together of statistics and mathematical probability created an entirely different conception of human society and the individual. The new conception of normal people that replaced Enlightenment and Christian views of human nature is based on the assumption of statistical equality.
Patterns of society: statistical regularities, statistical laws.
Comte anticipated that industrial administrators and sociologists as “engineers of the soul” would set the technical norms for the perfect society of the future.
Modern medicine has increasingly adopted a systems approach in which human culture is a subsystem within the hierarchy of living systems (the biosphere is the largest subsystem). From this perspective the individual is a “unique collection of statistical errors” who needs to be reconstructed according to “optimal trajectories” of living.

Equality: Statistical and Social
The concept of normal people (statistical concept) has replaced that of human nature (moral concept).
Equality is a metaconcept.
Industrialization gave rise to the equality of standardized, mass-produced consumer goods, but it was accompanied by bureaucracy, which made humans equals in applying the same procedural rules to customers and to coworkers.
Because of their great achievements science and technology become identified with objectivity and truth. Religion and moral values in turn are gradually perceived to be subjective, a matter between the individual and God. Consequently, moral values become so ambiguous that they lose their unifying force. Moral ambiguity threatens the tacit trust that makes any group of people a community; human relationships as a result become vague, competitive, and dangerous.
Technology is the great equalizer, for it reduces both user and recipient to identical abstractions.
With the triumph of statistics, the individual vahishes. Psychologists and sociologists have come up with scales to measure just about everything: intelligence, aptitude, love, charisma, and religiosity. Individuality is reduced to quantity.
The normal is now an epiphenomenon of statistics, which when applied to human culture and the individual turns quality into quantity and imperialistically imposes the equality of standardization upon the individual and society. Behind this is technology, which demands a statistical equality for everything it encompasses.
Statistics applied to human qualities are always wrong.

Magical Numbers, Magical Words, Magical Images
Numbers provide the rhetoric of our age.
All attempts to measure goals and performance, all attempts to objectify decision-making and to predict the future are magical, imitation technologies applied to humans. We have no choice in the absence of shared symbolic meaning and common sense. There is nothing left but technique.

4. The Mass Media as Magic
Advertising and public relations are intimately related, and both are heavily dependent upon the mass media for their effectiveness.
The mass media are a hybrid of technology and magic whose chief purpose is to control public opinion.

The Fabrication of Images
The visual cliché is a set of visual images that form a familiar scene at once both idealized and desirable.
Advertising is so pervasive today that it is the background for everything we do.

The Culture of Advertising
The most characteristic and the most remunerative form of American literature.
This folk culture is the only living culture today, because high culture survives only as nostalgia for the few remaining serious readers.
Our skills are increasingly objectified in technology, at the same time our experiences are objectified in the mass media.
Technological societies are best characterized as mass societies, societies that concomitantly promote collectivism (bureaucracy and public opinion) and a pseudo-individualism (the shallow, aesthetical freedom of consumerism).
The culture of advertising can best be understood in relation to public opinion, the spectacle, and the celebrity.
Public opinion is a necessary component of a mass society; it is a substitute for interpersonal knowledge that arises from practical, everyday life in the context of intense familial and friendship relations.
Infatuated with the new and the sensational, the media unintentionally destroy the memory of the past.
Public opinion is based on simplified issues. It is based upon desire, envy, and fear.
Human beings become objectified as commodities, and as such are equal to their image.
The celebrity is the spectacular representation of a living human being.
Truth in technological civilization becomes equivalent to success or power.

Technological Utopianism: Myth and Ritual of an Advertising Culture
“Every culture is anchored by a sense of the sacred (the life-milieu) that is expressed in a narrative or myth about the origin of the world and its future; moreover, these mythological beliefs must be put into practice or ritualized. This complex of myth and ritual help to unify a society and to control both individual and social diversity.” (p. 125)
Technological utopianism is the myth of a technological civilization, and it resides in advertising and the programs of the mass media.
Advertising sells well-being and happiness.
Happiness is portrayed in advertising as pleasure, increased consumption.
The ideas of well-being are health, beauty and youth.
The two dimensions of the myth of technological utopianism: the objective power of technique and its subjective impact upon the consumer. The two logics are: problem to solution and discontent to content.
“This utopian ‘narrative’ is straightforward. Science and especially technology are leading us to a utopia of maximum production and consumption. Technology insures our collective survival and success in allowing us more efficient control of life and providing solutions to all our problems. This promised land is likewise a world of total consumption. In it people have perfect health, are beautiful, eternally youthful, free to do whatever is pleasurable, and thus completely happy. The myth of technological utopianism is promulgated through the liturgy of advertising. This myth (in the strong sense of the term) is as much a myth as that of any archaic people.” (Richard Stivers, Technology as Magic)
The mythological world of advertising exists outside of the dialectic of truth and falsehood.
Success (as technological growth) stands in a contradictory relationship to survival (as technological repair).
A consumption-oriented lifestyle is a major part of adjustment to the technological system.
If technology because of its interconnections has become a system and thus autonomous, it is not directed toward individual happiness but only its own continued growth and survival.
Television programs and television advertisements form a complex because both express the muth of technological utopianism.
There is no difference except length between commercial and program, for the myth of technological utopianism is a spatial myth.
There are four mythological symbols of technological utopianism: success, happiness-consumption, survival, health-adjustment.
Largely because of television, sports has become spectacle.
Sports is no longer a game; it has been transformed into a technique of winning.
Children’s shows are about happiness in the form of toys.
News programs are about survival. Survival is a kind of minimum success. The significance of the news is that it indirectly and sometimes directly points to the need for technology to repair the damage in nature or society.
Soap operas are about personal relationships and “life-adjustment problems”.
Talk shows and situation comedies illustrate the symbols of health and happiness.
Dramas range from those that emphasize the power of technology to those that emphasize interpersonal conflicts.
Sex without ethical commitment and affection is a form of violence.
Each milieu is organized around polarities: life and death in the milieu of nature, good and evil in the milieu of society, efficiency and inefficiency in the milieu of technology.
Technology represents the principle of efficiency; violence and sex, the principle of inefficiency.
The violent images of the media are a ritual for the regeneration of the technological milieu.
In summary, television programs are elaborations of one or more of the symbols of technological utopianism that are enacted in advertising.

Magic in the Media
Magic involves a belief that a set of practices produces a desired outcome. The practices are believed to embody the principle of transformation according to milieu: creative persuasion, retribution, or causality.
Psychological magic – the media and therapy – works as placebo to produce happiness and health, whereas administrative magic acts as self-fulfilling prophecy  to produce success and survival.
“Magic, moreover, may refer to the means or the ends of an action. Technology objectively produces certain results; it is not magical in respect to means. But because we expect utopian results from it, technology is magical in respect to the ends. Psychological and administrative magic are magical in respect to both means and ends. They do not work objectively, but subjectively as placebo and self-fulfilling prophecy, and are magical in respect to their utopian ends. The psychological magic of the media is crucial to every other magical practice and utopian end. As a surrogate language and culture, the visual images of the mass media give “meaning” to everything that is done in a technological civilization; they provide utopian ends for technology and transform its imitations into technology. In this way, and this way only, does everything in a technological civilization become “an imitation of technology or a compensation for its impact.” The magical rituals of the media express the deepest religious beliefs of this civilization – in the sacred power of technology.” (Richard Stivers, Technology as Magic)
Symbolism in the milieu of technology becomes sterilized and meaning, because it is operationalized in visual images, turns materialistic.
Technological utopianism does not provide symbolic and moral unity; technology can only organize a society at the level of logic and power.

5. Therapy, Self-Help, and Positive Thinking as Magic
The psychotherapy and the positive thinking are largely if not exclusively magical practices whose chief purpose is to bring about a quasi-mystical transformation of the self.

Psychiatry, Clinical Psychology, and Clinical Social Work
The concept of mental illness arose coterminous with a scientific view of emotional problems: psychological anomalies were a consequence of a biological defect or disorder.

Self-Help and Positive Thinking
The Americans first associated success with moral character later linked it to the power of mind to motivate the self to assume a successful attitude (self manipulation), and the power of personality to control others. Success was eventually seen to be a consequence of a psychological technique.
The association of success with moral character is most exemplified in the myth of the self-made man, who through sheer force of will and strength of character manages to rise from poverty to become rich and famous.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, a rival to the character success ethic emerged: psychological techniques of self-manipulation, which went by the names of “mind cure”, “mind power” and “new thought”.
From the same self-help movement sprang popular psychologies, often referred to as mind-power or positive thinking, which promised personal success in life.
By the 1930s the self-help movement, both religious and secular, had turned to happiness as its chief interest, but happiness defined as adjustment.
The common approach to positive thinking: the “outer” verbalization of a feeling can create the inner feeling.
The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), by the Protestant minister Norman Vincent Peale
In the early twentieth century success was increasingly defined in organizational terms.
Increasingly positive thinking was a form of “adjustment therapy” that helped citizens accept the stress and conflicts of a technological civilization with a minimum of self-awareness.
Self-help and positive thinking are as strong as ever, but are less tied to organized religion than they were earlier in the XXth century. To a great extent they have merged with New Age thought and practices and humanistic therapy.
Democratic social engineering was doubly technological – in its reliance on group technique and upon technical advice outside the group.
Child abuse has almost become tantamount to child discipline.
Therapy, both professional and self-help, is an expression of the American belief that technology can solve all natural and human problems.
Psychotherapy, self-help, and New Age thought converge about several themes: self-esteem, happiness, and mental health.
Therapy in the broadest sense of the term is preoccupied with the mystical self-transformation of the individual.

The Effectiveness of Therapy
The research indicates that in general the effectiveness of therapy is unrelated to the experience and education of the therapist, the type of therapy employed, and the length of therapy.

Therapy as Magic
Ritual healing can be either secular or religious, and directed toward the individual or the group (ritual of scapegoating).
Traditional healing like modern therapy provides the patient with something to believe in, hope for the future, self-mastery (involvement in the ritual), and community.
Traditional magic and modern magic, however, operate according to markedly different principles: persuasion and retribution in the case of the former, and causality in the instance of the latter. Therapy, it is tacitly believed, embodies the sacred power of one’s life-milieu. The modern therapist is a technical expert.
Language in a technological civilization has lost its ability to express meaning.
Mental illness is a symbol of maladjustment to a technological civilization. Mental health is a symbol of happiness as adjustment.
Mental health, self-esteem, and adjustment refer to the inner state of the individual; the concepts are so abstract and vague that they have become reified and meaningless.
In traditional societies human relationships involved those one knew personally or those one knew through tradition and myth. Today most of us know more people in the media than in real life, and know them more intimately. The media provide us with a fictive community of people who confess their lives to us.

Why the Individual and Society Need Therapy
The individual needs therapy today for three main reasons: the interiorization of life, fear of others and loneliness, and the stress induced by a technological civilization.
The triumph of a scientific worldview, a view that only facts could be known objectively, eventually led to the subjectivization of ethical and aesthetical meaning. Common meaning becomes personal meaning: each individual has to discover meaning for herself.
Competition is inevitable to the extent the moral basis for cooperation begins to decline.
The technological civilization increases the tempo of life: we have more to do in less time.
Technology objectifies human needs in advertising and human ability in the techniques we use in work and in leisure.
The meaninglessness that a technological civilization engenders is itself a cause of anxiety. It leaves one without hope to confront the sufferings and stress of everyday life.

6. Management as Magic
Three major types of psychological technique or magic:
a) sales;
b) therapy;
c) management.

A Brief History of the Management
Frederick Taylor sought to minimize the characteristics of workers that most significantly differentiate them from machines.
The human relations approach contains two denominations: the leadership branch and the group relations branch.
Scientific management and standard costs and budgets were part of a national efficiency movement that fostered health, eugenics and efficiency in the work place.
Fundamentally, the concept of the efficient society was a nationalistic dream.
There are three main ways that internal activity is coordinated: mutual adjustment, supervision, and standardization.

Contemporary Management Theories and Practices
Management gurus: Peter Drucker and Tom Peters
 The ideology of human relations and the promotion of the computer as a technology that gives employees more power have created the illusion of decentralization; yet bureaucracy thrives and the computer has only reinforced hierarchical control.

The Relation between Managerial Technique and Success
Management technique is as unsuccessful as therapy is successful.
There is no proof that computers are helping managers make better decisions.
A technological civilization has made reality increasingly more unpredictable.
Technological growth has created intense competition for resources, capital, and information; consequently, political and religious tensions have become magnified.

Management as Magic
The human relations approach to management operates according to the placebo effect, whereas the rational management approach functions according to the principle of the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Psychological magic, it is believed, embodies the sacred power of the life-milieu – technical causality.
Human relations management shares with therapy a penchant for vague words that refer to the individual’s inner state.
Of special note are the sports and military metaphors that abound in the management literature.
Business metaphors were widely used in biology, as with Darwin’s “struggle for existence”.
The mass media provide a dramatization of the mythological universe of technological utopianism. As such the visual images of the media are the central symbols of the technology.
“The television programs that most symbolize success are sports programs. We can now understand why sports metaphors are dominant in business and politics today. Sports has become extremely popular because of television coverage. The mass media present us with a technological utopia against which everything else must be compared. Sports success is ritualistically enacted in the media, thereby providing a model for business and political organizations to emulate.” (p. 199)

Why Society and Individual Need Management
In creating a closed system if statistical information, procedures, and decision rules, rational management magically assures us that we can control economic markets and employees, despite the fact that a technological civilization is the most unpredictable of civilizations.

7. The Triumph of the Irrational
Every advance in technical rationality today is surpassed by a decline in common sense and a growing irrationality.
To exercise common sense, to learn by experience, to reflect on that experience, and to make moral judgments, the individual must be in immediate contact with reality. But technology causes us to lose contact with reality. Technology makes our knowledge, opinions, and even our emotions secondhand, for it mediates reality. In other words, it makes reality abstract.
Technology not only encourages us to lose touch with reality, it makes us attempt to escape it as well.
The growing power of technology over the past two centuries militates against any attempt to develop a common morality. For there is an inverse relationship between power and values: when power becomes too great it destroys morality, which to be effective has to place some limitations on the exercise of power.
Technological utopianism contradicts the tragic view of life in substituting happiness as the permanent condition of human society. Inadvertently it makes compassion and love superfluous. For these acts only realize their potential in relation to human suffering.
Apart from promoting the need to escape, technology enlarges the power of human instincts by liberating them from moral control. Every conventional morality places limitations on aggression, sexuality, and the like.
The sentimentalized child is our idealized irrationality: the spontaneous, impulsive, emotional child who turns to reason only as a last resort. Children, we believe, perfectly embody the ultimate mythological symbol of technological utopianism – happiness.
The paramount characteristic of puerilism is the inversion of work (and everything serious) and play. We regard the serious activities of life as a game; at the same time we treat entertainment with a deadly seriousness.
“Magic, however, is the most dangerous form of irrationality today, for it masquerades as technical reason, as a form of technology. Moreover, its exclusive purpose is to help  us adjust to the technological system by compensating for its lack of meaning and the excessive stress it produces.

The Failure of Education
Today, knowledge of art, literature, history, philosophy, and language can only function as nostalgia or as ideological compensation for the imperialism of technical knowledge.

Irrationality and Freedom
With the sterilization of language and its subordination to the images of the media, we have abandoned freedom.
In a technological civilization all ideas that are not technical are reduced to the level of play.
To become a radical today one must contest the power of the state, total administration, science in the service of technology, the mass media, and all forms of psychological technique. The global economy must be opposed, but behind it is the technological system.

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