Landscapes of Global Capital
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Critical theory recognizes that a self-contradictory relationship has developed historically between rationality and progress. For Herbert Marcuse(1964), writing in the 1960s, the techno apparatus of advanced industrial society closed off the political debate necessary to assess historical alternatives; measurable indices of quantitative progress replaced the linguistic power of metaphysical concepts of Truth, Reason, Freedom, and Beauty; and positivistic orientations disguised the deeper disharmony between Reason and Progress.

Likewise, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno in their book, Dialectic of Enlightenment(1972), watched the Enlightenment project dissipate into formulas for technical rationality, the domination of nature and infantile mass cultural forms. Moreover, the link between applied reason and progress seemed uncomfortably dependent on the chaotic and volatile nature of capitalist economic formations (as had been suspected by Marx and Schumpeter). Add to this critique those of postmodernity and postcolonialism and the once sacrosanct correlation between, Reason, Progress and Capital has been made problematic.

Nevertheless, corporate advertising wholeheartedly and unabashedly ties these thematic ideologies together. This advertising often features supposedly historical narratives that trace technology through stages of development. Such commercials often begin or culminate with a rocket launching into space to signify progress as another step towards a Star Trekian future. Corporate advertising also presents motivation narratives that celebrate hard working, risk-taking corporate technicians and scientists who believe in their work and the better future that it will bring. These uplifting stories are told by way of 30-second montages composed of stereotypical signifiers of spectacular achievement framed by a vibrant music score and a voice-over spouting aphorisms. One goal of this advertising is legitimation --to create a positive political, economic, and social climate to support the expansion of corporate enterprises. Toward that end Capital continues to reproduce the myth of progress as a steady upward trajectory.


Contradictions of Development
Stories of Science & Technology
Reason and Progress

Mythologizing science < Previous

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© Copyright 1998-2003
Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey