Davis, James, Thomas A. Hirschl and Michael Stack (eds.)
Technology, Information Capitalism and Social Revolution
How is one to make sense of the world today? Contemporary political and economic events as
well as recent technological developments defy conventional analysis. The general breakdown of
the post-World War II social order is well underway, visibly evident in the dramatic dissolution
of the Eastern European and Soviet socialist economies. The dramatic polarization of wealth and
poverty -- not just between the technologized and under-technologized nations, or north and
south, but also within the technologized center -- exposes the "capitalism has won" and "history
is over" pronouncements as rather premature. The socioeconomic polarization matures as the
powers of science and technology leap ahead at breakneck speed.
While the traditional Left has lost much of its appeal, and the world's labor unions are on the
defensive, new forces have stepped onto the world stage. Scenes from this drama are as diverse
as the Los Angeles rebellion in 1992, the Chiapas uprising beginning in 1994, the regular
eruptions in the industrial heart of the U.S., the tent cities and marches of the welfare recipients
and the homeless in Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, Oakland and other U.S. cities, the labor strikes
in France, Korea, Canada, Germany, Russia, and the new student movement emerging in the
U.S. and elsewhere. The world has entered a period of upheaval.
This collection of essays attempts to make sense of trends and developments as the 20th century
draws to a close. From the outset, we should note that the authors in this collection do not all
share the same assumptions, nor do they come to the same conclusions. Rather, they are part of
an important struggle to understand the processes at work in order to reach a clearer and deeper
understanding. The pieces share an attempt to confront the contradictions of society today, and
put the analysis of them on a firm material footing. Despite the many gloomy signals as this is
written, they betray a spirit of optimism about the future.
Our starting point for this collection is the observation that we are in the midst of a profound
technology revolution. For lack of a better phrase, we call this the "electronics revolution."
Although that phrase would seem to exclude important new developments in bio-engineering and
materials science, those new developments themselves would not have been possible without
breakthroughs in electronics, especially in the field of microprocessors. Even though we are
about 50 years into this technology revolution (the term cybernetics first appeared in 1947,
shortly after the first computers), it is becoming clear that we are still only at the beginning of the
process. Research into organic-based processes, for instance, may render "electronics" a