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1 Do Artifcts Hve Politics? Author(s): Lngdon Winner Source: Dedlus, Vol. 109, No. 1, Modern Technology: Problem or Opportunity? (Winter, 1980), pp Published by: The MIT Press on behlf Americn Acdemy Arts & Sciences Stble URL: Accessed: 06/10/ :50 Your use JSTOR rchive indictes your cceptnce JSTOR's Terms Conditions Use, vilble t JSTOR's Terms Conditions Use provides, in prt, tht unless you hve obtined prior permission, you my not downlod n entire issue journl or multiple copies rticles, you my use content in JSTOR rchive only for your personl, non-commercil use. Plese contct publisher regrding ny furr use this work. Publisher contct informtion my be obtined t Ech copy ny prt JSTOR trnsmission must contin sme copyright notice tht ppers on screen or printed pge such trnsmission. JSTOR is not-for-prit service tht helps scholrs, reserchers, students discover, use, build upon wide rnge content in trusted digitl rchive. We use informtion ols increse productivity fcilitte new forms scholrship. For more informtion bout JSTOR, plese contct The MIT Press Americn Acdemy Arts & Sciences re collborting with JSTOR digitize, preserve extend ccess Dedlus.

2 LANGDON WINNER Do Artifcts Hve Politics? In controversies bout society, re is no ide more pro voctive thn notion tht technicl things hve politicl qulities. At issue is clim tht mchines, structures, systems modern mteril culture cn be ccurtely judged not only for ir contributions efficiency pro ductivity, not merely for ir positive negtive environmentl side effects, but lso for wys in which cn y embody specific forms power uthority. Since ides this kind hve persistent troubling presence in discussions bout mening, y deserve explicit ttention.1 Writing in Technology Culture lmost two decdes go, Lewis Mumford gve clssic sttement one version me, tht "from lte neo rguing lithic times in Ner Est, right down our own dy, two hve recurrently existed side by side: one uthoritrin, or democrtic, first system-centered, immensely powerful, but inherently unstble, or mn-centered, reltively wek, but resourceful durble."2 This sis sts t hert Mumford's studies city, rchitecture, his ry technics, mirrors concerns voiced erlier in works Peter Kropotkin, Willim Morris, or nineteenth century critics industril ism. More recently, ntinucler movements prosolr energy in Europe Americ hve similr notion s in ir dopted centerpiece rguments. Thus environmentlist Denis Hyes concludes, "The incresed deployment nucler power fcilities must led society wrd uthoritrinism. Indeed, sfe relince upon nucler power s principl source energy my be possible only in tlitrin stte." Echoing views mny proponents ppropri te st energy pth, Hyes contends tht "dispersed solr sources re more comptible thn centrlized with socil equity, freedom culturl plurlism."3 An egerness interpret technicl rtifcts in politicl lnguge is by no mens exclusive property critics lrge-scle high- systems. A long linege boosters hve insisted tht "biggest best" tht science industry mde vilble were best gurntees democrcy, freedom, socil justice. The fcry system, umobile, telephone, rdio, television, spce progrm, course nucler power itself hve ll t one time or nor been described s democrtizing, liberting forces. Dvid Lilienthl, in T.V.A.: Democrcy on Mrch, for exmple, found this promise in phos 121

3 122 LANGDON WINNER phte fertilizers electricity tht technicl progress ws bringing rurl Americns during 1940s.4 In recent essy, The Republic Technology, Dniel Boorstin exlled television for "its power disb rmies, cshier crete whole new democrtic world?democrtic in never presidents, wys before even imgined, in Americ."5 Scrcely new invention comes long tht someone does not proclim it slvtion free society. It is no surprise lern tht technicl systems vrious kinds re deeply interwoven in conditions modern politics. The physicl rrngements industril production, wrfre, communictions, like hve fundmen tlly chnged exercise power experience citizenship. But go beyond this obvious fct rgue tht certin in mselves hve politicl properties seems, t first glnce, completely mistken. We ll know tht people hve politics, not things. To discover eir virtues or evils in ggre gtes steel, plstic, trnsisrs, integrted circuits, chemicls seems just plin wrong, wy mystifying humn rtifice voiding true sources, humn sources freedom oppression, justice injustice. Blming hrdwre ppers even more foolish thn blming victims when it comes judging conditions public life. Hence, stern dvice commonly given those who flirt with notion tht technicl rtifcts hve politicl qulities: Wht mtters is not itself, but socil or economic system in which it is embedded. This mxim, which in number vritions is centrl premise ory tht cn be clled socil determintion, hs n obvious wisdom. It serves s needed corrective those who focus on uncriticlly such s things " comput er its socil impcts" but who fil look behind technicl things notice socil circumstnces ir development, deployment, use. This view provides n ntidote nive technologicl determinism? ide tht tech nology develops s sole result n internl dynmic, n, unmedited by ny or influence, molds society fit its ptterns. Those who hve not recognized wys in which re shped by socil economic forces hve not gotten very fr. But corrective hs its own shortcomings; tken literlly, it suggests tht technicl things do not mtter t ll. Once one hs done detective work necessry revel socil origins?power holders behind prticulr in stnce technologicl chnge?one will hve explined everything impor tnce. This conclusion fers comfort socil scientists: it vlidtes wht y hd lwys suspected, nmely, tht re is nothing distinctive bout study in first plce. Hence, cn y return ir strd models socil power?those interest group politics, bureucrtic politics, Mrxist models clss struggle, like? hve everything y need. The socil determintion is, in this view, no essentilly different from socil determintion, sy, welfre or txtion. policy There re, however, good resons hs lte tken on specil fscintion in its own right for hisrins, philosophers, politicl scien tists; resons good strd models socil science only go so fr in c counting for wht is most interesting troublesome bout subject. In nor plce I hve tried show why so much modern socil politicl thought contins recurring sttements wht cn be clled ory tech

4 DO ARTIFACTS HAVE POLITICS? 123 n nologicl politics, odd mongrel notions ten crossbred with orthodox liberl, conservtive, socilist philosophies.6 The ory technologicl politics drws ttention momentum lrge-scle sociotechnicl systems, response modern societies certin technologicl impertives, ll o common signs dpttion humn ends technicl mens. In so doing it fers novel frmework interprettion explntion for some more puzzling ptterns tht hve tken shpe in round growth modern mteril culture. One strength this point view is tht it tkes technicl rtifcts seriously. Rr thn insist tht we immeditely reduce everything interply socil forces, it suggests tht we py ttention chrcteristics technicl objects mening those chrcteristics. A necessry complement, rr thn replcement for, ories socil determintion, this perspective identifies certin s politicl phenomen in ir own right. It points us bck, borrow Edmund Husserl's philosophicl injunction, things mselves. In wht follows I shll fer outlines illustrtions two wys in which rtifcts cn contin politicl properties. First re instnces in which inven tion, or design, rrngement specific technicl device or system becomes wy n settling issue in prticulr community. Seen in proper light, exmples this kind re firly strightforwrd esily undersod. Second re cses wht cn be clled inherently politicl, mn-mde sys tems tht pper, or be strongly comptible with, prticulr kinds politicl reltionships. Arguments bout cses this kind re much more troublesome closer hert mtter. By "politics," I men rrnge ments power uthority in humn ssocitions s well s ctivities tht tke plce within those rrngements. For my purposes, "" here is undersod men ll modern prcticl rtifice,7 but void confusion I prefer spek, smller or lrger pieces or systems hrdwre specific kind. My intention is not settle ny issues here once for ll, but indicte ir generl dimensions significnce. Technicl Arrngements s Forms Order Anyone who hs trveled highwys Americ hs become used norml height overpsses my well find something little odd bout some bridges over prkwys on Long Isl, New York. Mny overpsses re extrordinrily low, s hving little s nine feet clernce t curb. Even those who hppened notice this structurl peculirity would not be inclined ttch ny specil mening it. In our ccusmed wy look ing t things like rods bridges we see detils form s innocuous, seldom give m second thought. It turns out, however, tht two hundred or so low-hnging overpsses on Long Isl were delibertely designed chieve prticulr socil effect. Robert Moses, mster builder rods, prks, bridges, or public works from 1920s 1970s in New York, hd se overpsses built specifictions tht would discourge presence buses on his prkwys. According evidence provided by Robert A. Cro in his biogrphy Moses, resons reflect Moses's socil-clss bis rcil prejudice. Aumobile

5 124 LANGDON WINNER owning whites "upper" "comfortble middle" clsses, s he clled m, would be free use prkwys for recretion commuting. Poor people blcks, who normlly used public trnsit, were kept f rods becuse twelve-foot tll buses could not get through overpsses. One con sequence ws limit ccess rcil minorities low-income groups Jones Bech, Moses's widely cclimed public prk. Moses mde doubly sure this result by veing proposed extension Long Isl Rilrod Jones Bech.8 As sry in recent Americn politicl hisry, Robert Moses's life is fsci nting. His delings with myors, governors, presidents, his creful mnipultion legisltures, bnks, lbor unions, press, public opinion re ll mtters tht politicl scientists could study for yers. But most impor tnt enduring results his work re his, vst engineering projects tht give New York much its present form. For genertions fter Moses hs gone llinces he forged hve fllen prt, his public works, especilly highwys bridges he built fvor use umobile over development mss trnsit, will continue shpe tht city. Mny his monumentl structures concrete steel embody systemtic socil inequlity, wy engineering reltionships mong people tht, fter time, becomes just nor prt lscpe. As plnner Lee Kopplemn ld Cro bout low bridges on Wntgh Prkwy, "The old son---gun hd mde sure tht buses would never be ble use his goddmned prkwys."9 Hisries rchitecture, city plnning, public works contin mny ex mples physicl rrngements tht contin explicit or implicit politicl pur poses. One cn point Bron Hussmnn's brod Prisin thoroughfres, engineered t Louis Npoleon's direction prevent ny recurrence street fighting kind tht ok plce during revolution Or one cn visit ny number grotesque concrete buildings huge plzs constructed on Americn university cmpuses during lte 1960s erly 1970s de fuse student demonstrtions. Studies industril mchines instruments lso turn up interesting politicl sries, including some tht violte our norml expecttions bout why technologicl innovtions re mde in first plce. If we suppose tht new re introduced chieve incresed efficien cy, hisry shows tht we will sometimes be disppointed. Technologicl chnge expresses pnoply humn motives, not lest which is desire some hve dominion over ors, even though it my n occsionl scrifice cost-cutting some violence norm getting more from less. One poignnt illustrtion cn be found in hisry nineteenth century industril mechniztion. At Cyrus McCormick's reper mnufcturing plnt in Chicgo in middle 1880s, pneumtic molding mchines, new lrgely untested innovtion, were dded foundry t n estimted cost $500,000. In strd economic interprettion such things, we would expect tht this step ws tken modernize plnt chieve kind efficiencies tht mechniztion brings. But hisrin Robert Oznne hs shown why development must be seen in broder context. At time, Cyrus McCormick II ws engged in bttle with Ntionl Union Iron Mold ers. He sw ddition new mchines s wy "weed out bd

6 DO ARTIFACTS HAVE POLITICS? 125 element mong men," nmely, skilled workers who hd orgnized union locl in Chicgo.10 The new mchines, mnned by unskilled lbor, c tully produced inferior cstings t higher cost thn erlier process. After three yers use mchines were, in fct, boned, but by tht time y hd served ir purpose? destruction union. Thus, sry se technicl developments t McCormick fcry cnnot be undersod de qutely outside record workers' ttempts orgnize, police repression lbor movement in Chicgo during tht period, events surrounding bombing t Hy mrket Squre. Technologicl hisry Americn politi cl hisry were t tht moment deeply intertwined. In cses like those Moses's low bridges McCormick's m molding chines, one sees importnce technicl rrngements tht precede use things in question. It is obvious tht cn be used in wys tht enhnce power, uthority, privilege some over ors, for exmple, use television sell cidte. To our ccusmed wy thinking, re seen s neutrl ols tht cn be used well or poorly, for good, evil, or something in between. But we usully do not sp inquire wher given device might hve been designed built in such wy tht it produces set consequences logiclly temporlly prior ny its pressed uses. Robert Moses's bridges, fter ll, were used crry umobiles from one point nor; McCormick's mchines were used mke metl cstings; both tech nologies, however, encompssed purposes fr beyond ir immedite use. If our morl politicl lnguge for evluting includes only cte gories hving do with ols uses, if it does not include ttention mening designs rrngements our rtifcts, n we will be blinded much tht is intellectully prcticlly crucil. Becuse point is most esily undersod in light prticulr in tentions embodied in physicl form, I hve so fr fered illustrtions tht seem lmost conspirril. But recognize politicl dimensions in shpes does not tht we look for conscious conspircies or mlicious intentions. The orgnized movement hicpped people in United Sttes during 1970s pointed out countless wys in which mchines, instruments, structures common use?buses, buildings, sidewlks, plumbing fixtures, so forth?mde it impossible for mny hicpped per sons move bout freely, condition tht systemticlly excluded m from public life. It is sfe sy tht designs unsuited for rose hicpped more from thn long-sting from neglect nyone's ctive intention. But now tht issue hs been rised for public ttention, it is evident tht justice s remedy. A whole rnge rtifcts re now being redesigned rebuilt ccommodte this minority. Indeed, mny most importnt exmples tht hve politicl consequences re those tht trnscend simple ctegories "in tended" "unintended" lger. These re instnces in which very process technicl development is so thoroughly bised in prticulr direc tion tht it regulrly produces results counted s wonderful brekthroughs by some socil interests crushing setbcks by ors. In such cses it is neir correct nor insightful sy, "Someone intended do somebody else hrm." Rr, one must sy tht technologicl deck hs been stcked long in d

7 126 LANGDON WINNER vnee fvor certin socil interests, tht some receive better h thn ors. people were bound The mechnicl m hrvester, remrkble device re perfected by serchers t University Cliforni from lte 1940s present, fers n illustrtive tle. The mchine is ble hrvest mes in single pss through row, cutting plnts from ground, shking fruit loose, in newest models sorting mes electroniclly in lrge plstic gondols tht hold up twenty-five ns produce heded for cnning. To ccommodte rough motion se "fcries in field," griculturl reserchers hve bred new vrieties mes tht re hrdier, sturdier, less tsty. The hrvesters replce system hpicking, in which crews frmworkers would pss through fields three or four times putting ripe mes in lug boxes sving immture fruit for lter hrvest.11 Studies in Cliforni indicte tht mchine reduces costs by pproximtely five sev en dollrs per n s compred h-hrvesting.12 But benefits re by no mens eqully divided in griculturl economy. In fct, mchine in grden hs in this instnce been occsion for thorough reshping socil reltionships m production in rurl Cliforni. By ir very size cost, more thn $50,000 ech purchse, m chines re comptible only with highly concentrted form m growing. With introduction this new method hrvesting, number m growers declined from pproximtely four thous in erly 1960s bout six hundred in 1973, yet with substntil increse in ns mes pro duced. By lte 1970s n estimted thirty-two thous jobs in m industry hd been eliminted s direct consequence mechniztion.13 Thus, jump in productivity benefit very lrge growers hs occurred t scrifice or rurl griculturl communities. The Cliforni's reserch on m University development griculturl chines like m hrvester is t this time subject lw suit filed by trneys for Cliforni Rurl Legl Assistnce, n orgniztion representing group frmworkers or interested prties. The suit chrges tht University ficils re spending tx monies on projects tht benefit h ful interests detriment privte frmworkers, smll frmers, con sumers, rurl Cliforni generlly, sks for court injunction sp prctice. The University hs denied se chrges, rguing tht ccept m "would elimintion ll reserch with ny potentil prcticl ppliction."14 As fr s I know, no one hs rgued tht development m hrvester ws result plot. Two students controversy, Willim Friedl Amy Brn, specificlly exonerte both originl developers mchine hrd m from ny desire fcilitte economic con centrtion in tht industry.15 Wht we see here insted is n ongoing socil process in which scientific knowledge, technologicl invention, corporte prit reinforce ech or in deeply entrenched ptterns tht ber unmistk ble stmp politicl economic power. Over mny decdes griculturl reserch development in Americn l-grnt colleges universities hs tended fvor interests lrge gribusiness concerns.16 It is in fce such subtly ingrined ptterns tht opponents innovtions like m

8 DO ARTIFACTS HAVE POLITICS? 127 hrvester re mde seem or For hrves "nti" "ntiprogress." ter is not merely symbol socil order tht rewrds some while punishing ors; it is in true sense n embodiment tht order. Within given ctegory technologicl chnge re re, roughly speking, two kinds choices tht cn ffect reltive distribution power, uthority, privilege in community. Often crucil decision is simple "yes or no" choice?re we going develop dopt or thing not? In recent yers mny locl, ntionl, interntionl disputes bout hve centered on "yes or no" judgments bout such s things food dditives, pesticides, building highwys, nucler recrs, dm projects. The fundmentl choice bout n ABM or n SST is wher or not thing is going join society s piece its operting equipment. Resons for ginst re fre s quently importnt s those concerning doption n importnt new lw. A second rnge choices, eqully criticl in mny instnces, hs do with specific fetures in or design rrngement technicl system fter decision go hed with it hs lredy been mde. Even fter utility compny wins permission build lrge electric power line, importnt controversies cn remin with respect plcement its route design its wers; even fter n orgniztion hs decided institute system computers, con troversies cn still rise with regrd kinds components, progrms, modes ccess, or specific fetures system will include. Once mechnicl m hrvester hd been developed in its bsic form, design lter tion criticl socil significnce? ddition electronic sorters, for ex mple?chnged chrcter mchine's effects on blnce welth power in Cliforni griculture. Some most interesting reserch on politics t present focuses on ttempt demonstrte in detiled, concrete fshion how seemingly innocuous design fetures in mss trnsit systems, wter projects, industril mchinery, or ctully msk socil choices pround significnce. Hisrin Dvid Noble is now studying two kinds umted mchine ol systems tht hve different implictions for reltive power mngement lbor in industries tht might employ m. He is ble show tht, lthough bsic electronic mechnicl components record/plybck numericl control sys tems re similr, choice one over nor hs crucil design consequences for socil on struggles shop floor. To see mtter solely in terms cost cutting, efficiency, or moderniztion equipment is miss decisive element in sry.17 From such exmples I would fer following generl conclusions. The things we cll re "" wys building order in our world. Mny technicl devices systems importnt in everydy life contin possibilities for mny different wys ordering humn or ctivity. Consciously not, deliber tely or indvertently, societies choose structures for tht influence how re people going work, communicte, trvel, consume, so forth over very long time. In processes by which structuring decisions re mde, different people re differently situted possess unequl degrees power s well s unequl levels wreness. By fr gretest ltitude choice exists very first time prticulr instrument, system, or technique is introduced. Becuse choices tend become strongly fixed in mteril equipment, economic

9 128 LANGDON WINNER investment, socil hbit, originl flexibility vnishes for ll prcticl purposes once initil commitments re mde. In tht sense technologicl innovtions re similr legisltive cts or politicl foundings tht estblish frmework for public order tht will endure over mny genertions. For tht reson, sme creful ttention one would give rules, roles, rel tionships must politics lso be given such s things building high wys, cretion television networks, tiloring seemingly insignificnt fetures on new mchines. The issues tht divide or unite people in society re settled not only in institutions prctices politics proper, but lso, less obviously, in tngible rrngements steel concrete, wires trnsisrs, nuts bolts. Inherently Politicl Technologies None rguments exmples considered thus fr ddress stronger, more troubling clim ten mde in writings bout society? belief tht some re by ir very nture politicl in specific wy. According this view, doption given technicl system unvoidbly brings with it conditions for humn reltionships tht hve distinctive politicl cst?for centrlized or exmple, decentrlized, or re eglitrin ineglitrin, pressive or liberting. This is ultimtely wht is t stke in ssertions like those Lewis Mumford tht two trditions one, uthoritrin, or democrtic, exist side by side in Western hisry. In ll cses I cited bove re reltively flexible in design rrngement, vrible in ir effects. one cn Although recognize prticulr result produced in one cn prticulr setting, lso esily imgine how roughly similr device or system might hve been built or situted with very much different politicl consequences. The ide we must now exmine evlute is tht certin kinds do not llow such flexibility, tht choose m is choose prticulr form politicl life. A remrkbly forceful sttement one version this rgument ppers in Friedrich Engels's little essy "On Authority" written in nr Answering chists who believed tht uthority is n evil tht ought be bolished lgeth er, Engels lunches in pnegyric for uthoritrinism, mintining, mong or things, tht strong uthority is necessry condition in modern industry. To dvnce his cse in strongest possible wy, he sks his reders imgine tht revolution hs lredy occurred. "Supposing socil revolution de throned cpitlists, who now exercise ir uthority over production circultion welth. Supposing, dopt entirely point view nti-uthoritrins, tht l instruments lbour hd become collective property workers who use m. Will uthority hve dis ppered or will it hve only chnged its form?"18 His nswer drws upon lessons from three sociotechnicl systems his dy, cotn-spinning mills, t se. He observes rilwys, ships tht, on its wy becoming finished thred, cotn moves through number different oper tions t different loctions in fcry. The workers perform wide vriety tsks, from stem from one room running engine crrying products nor. Becuse se tsks must be coordinted, becuse timing work is "fixed by uthority stem," lborers must lern ccept

10 DO ARTIFACTS HAVE POLITICS? 129 rigid discipline. They must, ccording Engels, work t regulr hours gree subordinte ir individul wills persons in chrge fcry opertions. If y fil do so, y risk horrifying possibility tht produc tion will come grinding hlt. Engels pulls no punches. "The umtic mchinery big fcry," he writes, "is much more despotic thn smll who workers ever hve been."19 cpitlists employ Similr lessons re dduced in Engels's nlysis necessry operting conditions for rilwys ships t se. Both subordintion workers n "imperious uthority" tht sees it tht run things ccording pln. Engels finds tht, fr from n being idiosyncrcy cpitlist socil orgn iztion, reltionships uthority subordintion rise "independently ll socil orgniztion, [] re imposed upon us ger with mteril condi tions under which we produce mke products circulte." Agin, he intends this be stern dvice nrchists who, ccording Engels, thought it possible simply erdicte subordintion t superordintion single stroke. All such schemes re nonsense. The roots unvoidble uthor itrinism re, he rgues, deeply implnted in humn involvement with science. "If mn, by dint his knowledge inventive genius, hs subdued forces nture, ltter venge mselves upon him by subjecting him, insr s he employs m, veritble despotism independ ent ll socil orgniztion."20 Attempts justify strong on uthority bsis supposedly necessry conditions technicl prctice hve n ncient hisry. A pivotl me in Republic is Pl's quest borrow uthority techn? employ it by nlo gy buttress his rgument in fvor uthority in stte. Among illus trtions he chooses, like Engels, is tht ship on ses. high Becuse lrge siling vessels by ir very nture need be steered with firm h, silors must yield ir cptin's comms; no resonble person believes tht ships cn be run democrticlly. Pl goes on suggest tht stte governing is rr like being cptin ship or like prcticing medicine s physicin. Much sme conditions tht centrl rule decisive ction in org nized technicl lso crete this need in ctivity government. In Engels's rgument, rguments like it, justifiction for uthority is no longer mde by Pl's clssic nlogy, but rr directly with reference itself. If bsic cse is s s compelling Engels believed it be, one would expect tht, s society dopted incresingly complicted technicl systems s its mteril bsis, prospects for uthoritrin wys life would be gretly enhnced. Centrl control by knowledgeble people cting t p rigid socil hierrchy would seem incresingly prudent. In this respect, his st in "On Authority" ppers be t vrince with Krl Mrx's position in Volume One Cpitl. Mrx tries show tht incresing mechniztion will render obsolete hierrchicl division lbor reltionships subor dintion tht, in his view, were necessry during erly stges modern The "Modern he mnufcturing. Industry," writes, "... sweeps wy by technicl mens mnufcturing division lbor, under which ech mn is bound h foot for life single detil opertion. At sme time, cpitlistic form tht industry reproduces this sme division lbour in still more monstrous shpe; in fcry proper, by converting workmn in mchine...."21 In Mrx's living ppendge view, conditions

11 130 LANGDON WINNER tht will eventully dissolve cpitlist division lbor fcilitte prole trin revolution re conditions ltent in industril itself. The dif ferences between Mrx's position in Cpitl Engels's in his essy rise n importnt question for socilism: Wht, fter ll, does modern mke possible or necessry in politicl life? The oreticl tension we see here mir rors mny troubles in prctice freedom uthority tht hve muddied trcks socilist revolution. Arguments effect tht re in some sense inherently politi cl hve been dvnced in wide vriety contexts, fr o mny summrize here. In my such reding notions, however, re re two bsic wys stting cse. One version clims tht doption given technicl sys tem ctully s cretion mintennce prticulr set socil conditions s operting environment tht system. Engels's position is this kind. A similr view is fered by contemporry writer who holds tht "if you ccept nucler power plnts, you lso ccept techno-scientific-industril militry elite. Without se people in chrge, you could not hve nucler power."29 In this conception, some kinds ir socil en vironments be structured in prticulr wy in much sme sense tht n umobile s wheels in order run. The thing could not exist s n effective operting entity unless certin socil s well s mteril conditions were met. The mening "d" here is tht prcticl (rr thn logi cl) necessity. Thus, Pl thought it prcticl necessity tht ship t se hve one cptin n unquestioningly obedient crew. A second, somewht weker, version rgument holds tht given kind is strongly comptible with, but does not strictly, socil politicl reltionships prticulr stripe. Mny dvoctes solr energy now hold tht tht vriety re more comptible with democrtic, thn eglitrin society energy systems bsed on col, oil, nu cler t power; sme time do not mintin tht bout solr y nything energy Their cse s democrcy. is, tht solr briefly, energy is decentrl izing in both technicl politicl sense: techniclly speking, it is vstly more resonble build solr systems in disggregted, widely distributed mnner thn in lrge-scle centrlized plnts; politiclly speking, solr energy ccommodtes ttempts individuls locl communities mnge ir ffirs effectively becuse y re deling with systems tht re more ccessible, comprehensible, controllble thn huge centrlized sources. In this view, solr energy is desirble not only for its economic environmentl benefits, but lso for slutry institutions it is likely permit in or res public life.23 Within both versions rgument re is furr distinction be mde between conditions tht re internl workings given technicl system those tht re externl it. Engels's sis concerns internl socil reltions sid be d within cotn fcries rilwys, for exmple; wht such reltionships men for condition society t lrge is for him In seprte question. contrst, solr dvocte's belief tht solr re comptible with democrcy pertins wy y complement spects removed from those s such. society orgniztion There re, n, severl different directions tht rguments this kind cn follow. Are socil conditions predicted sid be d by, or strongly

12 DO ARTIFACTS HAVE POLITICS? 131 comptible with, workings given technicl system? Are those conditions internl tht system or externl it (or both)? Although writings tht ddress such questions re ten uncler bout wht is being sserted, rguments in this generl ctegory do hve n importnt presence in modern politicl discourse. They enter in mny ttempts explin how chnges in socil life tke plce in wke technologicl innovtion. More importntly, y re ten used buttress ttempts or justify criticize proposed courses ction involving new. By fering distinctly politicl resons for or ginst dop tion prticulr, rguments this kind st prt from more commonly employed, more esily quntifible clims bout economic costs benefits, environmentl impcts, possible risks public helth sfety tht technicl systems my involve. The issue here does not concern how mny jobs will be creted, how much income generted, how mny pollutnts dded, or how mny cncers produced. Rr, issue hs do with wys in which choices bout hve importnt consequences for form qulity humn ssocitions. If we exmine socil ptterns tht comprise environments technicl systems, we find certin devices systems lmost invribly linked specific wys orgnizing power uthority. The importnt question is: Does this stte ffirs derive from n unvoidble socil response intrctble proper ties in things mselves, or is it insted pttern imposed independently by governing body, ruling clss, or some or socil or culturl institution furr its own purposes? Tking most obvious exmple, m bomb is n inherently politicl rtifct. As long s it exists t ll, its lethl properties dem tht it be con trolled by centrlized, rigidly hierrchicl chin comm closed ll influences tht might mke its workings unpredictble. The internl socil sys tem bomb must be uthoritrin; re is no or wy. The stte ffirs sts s prcticl necessity independent ny lrger politicl system in which bomb is embedded, independent kind or regime chrcter its rulers. Indeed, democrtic sttes must try find wys ensure tht socil structures tht chrcterize mentlity mngement nucler wepons do not "spin f' or "spill over" in polity s whole. The bomb is, course, specil cse. The resons very rigid reltionships re uthority necessry in its immedite presence should be cler nyone. If, however, we look for or instnces in which prticulr vrieties tech nology re widely perceived need mintennce specil pttern power uthority, modern technicl hisry contins welth exmples. Alfred D. Chler in The Visible H, monumentl study modern business enterprise, presents impressive documenttion defend hypo sis tht construction dy--dy opertion mny systems produc tion, trnsporttion, communiction in nineteenth twentieth centuries trlized, Typicl hierrchicl Chler's development orgniztion resoning prticulr socil form? is his dministered nlysis by highly growth cen lrge-scle skilled mngers. rilrods. Technology mde possible fst, ll-wer trnsporttion; but sfe, re regulr, lible movement s goods pssengers, well s mintennce continuing repir locomotives, rolling sck, trck, rodbed, sttions, round

13 132 LANGDON WINNER houses, or equipment, d cretion sizble dministrtive It ment set orgniztion. employment mngers supervise se functionl ctivities over n extensive geogrphicl re; ppointment n dministrtive comm middle p executives monir, evlute, coordinte work mngers responsible for dy--dy opertions. Throughout his book Chler points wys in which used in production distribution electricity, chemicls, wide rnge indus tril goods "demed" or "d" this form humn ssocition. "Hence, opertionl ments rilrods demed cretion first dministrtive hierrchies in Americn business."25 Were re or conceivble wys orgnizing se ggregtes people pprtus? Chler shows tht previously dominnt socil form, smll trditionl fmily firm, simply could not hle tsk in most cses. Although he does not speculte furr, it is cler tht he believes re is, be relistic, very little ltitude in forms power uthority pproprite within modern sociotechnicl systems. The properties mny modern tech nologies?oil pipelines refineries, for exmple?re such tht over whelmingly impressive economies scle speed re possible. If such systems re work effectively, efficiently, quickly, sfely, certin ments internl socil orgniztion hve be fulfilled; mteril possi bilities tht modern mke vilble could not be exploited orwise. Chler cknowledges tht s one compres sociotechnicl institu tions different ntions, one sees "wys in which culturl ttitudes, vlues, ideologies, politicl systems, socil structure ffect se impertives."26 But weight rgument empiricl evidence in The Visible H suggests tht ny significnt deprture from bsic pttern would be, t best, highly unlikely. It my be tht or conceivble rrngements power uthority, for exmple, those decentrlized, democrtic worker self-mngement, could prove cpble dministering fcries, refineries, communictions systems, rilrods s well s or better thn orgniztions Chler describes. Evidence from umobile ssembly tems in Sweden worker-mnged plnts in Yugoslvi or countries is ten presented slvge se pos sibilities. I shll not be ble settle controversies over this mtter here, but merely point wht I consider be ir bone contention. The vilble evidence tends show tht mny lrge, sophisticted technologicl systems re in fct highly comptible with centrlized, hierrchicl mngeril control. The interesting question, however, hs do with wher or not this pttern is in sense ny such ment systems, tht is not n question solely empiri cl one. The mtter ultimtely rests on our judgments bout wht steps, if ny, re prcticlly necessry in workings prticulr kinds wht, if such mesures structure humn ssocitions. nything, Ws Pl right in sying tht ship t se needs steering by decisive h tht this could only be ccomplished by single cptin n obedient crew? Is Chler correct in sying tht properties lrge-scle systems centrlized, hierrchicl mngeril control? To nswer such we w7ould hve exmine in some detil questions, morl clims prcticl necessity (including those dvocted in doctrines

14 DO ARTIFACTS HAVE POLITICS? 133 economics) weigh m ginst morl clims or sorts, for exmple, notion tht it is good for silors prticipte in comm or ship tht workers hve right be involved in mking dministering decisions in fcry. It is chrcteristic societies bsed on lrge, complex technologicl systems, however, tht morl resons or thn those prcticl necessity pper incresingly obsolete, "idelistic," irrelevnt. Whtever clims one my wish mke on behlf liberty, justice, or cn equlity be immeditely neutrlized when confronted with rguments effect: "Fine, but tht's no wy run rilrod" (or steel mill, or irline, or communictions system, so on). Here we encounter n importnt qulity in modern politicl discourse in wy people commonly think bout wht mesures re justified in response possibilities mke vilble. In mny instnces, sy tht some re inherently politicl is sy tht certin widely ccepted resons prcticl necessity?especilly need mintin crucil technologicl systems s smoothly working entities?hve tended eclipse or sorts morl politicl resoning. One ttempt slvge unomy politics from bind prcticl necessity involves notion tht conditions humn ssocition found in internl workings technologicl systems cn esily be kept seprte from polity s whole. Americns hve long rested content in belief tht rrnge ments power uthority inside industril corportions, public utilities, like hve little on bering public institutions, prctices, ides t lrge. Tht "democrcy sps t ws fcry gtes" tken s fct life tht hd nothing do with prctice politicl freedom. But cn internl politics politics whole community be so esily seprted? A recent study Americn business leders, contemporry ex emplrs Chler's "visible h mngement," found m remrkbly with such democrtic s "one imptient scruples mn, one vote." If democrcy doesn't work for firm, most criticl institution in ll society, Americn executives sk, how well cn it be expected work for government when tht ntion?prticulrly government ttempts interfere with chievements firm? The uthors report observe tht ptterns uthority tht work effectively in corportion become for businessmen " desirble model ginst which compre politicl economic reltionships in rest society."27 While such findings re fr from conclusive, y do reflect sentiment common incresingly in l: wht dilemms like energy crisis is not redistribution welth or broder public prtici ption but, rr, stronger, centrlized public Crter's mngement?president proposl for n Energy Mobiliztion Bord like. An especilly vivid cse in which opertionl ments technicl system might influence qulity public life is now t issue in debtes bout risks nucler power. As supply urnium for nucler recrs runs out, proposed lterntive fuel is plunium s generted by-product in recr cores. Well-known objections plunium focus on its unc recycling ceptble economic costs, its risks environmentl contmintion, its dn gers in regrd interntionl prolifertion nucler wepons. Beyond se concerns, however, sts nor less set hz widely pprecited rds?those tht involve scrifice civil liberties. The widespred use

15 134 LANGDON WINNER s plunium fuel increses chnce tht this xic substnce might be s len by terrorists, orgnized crime, or or persons. This rises prospect, not trivil one, tht extrordinry mesures would hve be tken sfegurd plunium from ft recover it if ever substnce were slen. Workers in nucler industry s well s ordinry citizens outside could well become subject bckground security checks, covert surveillnce, wiretpping, informers, even mesures emergency under mrtil lw?ll justified by need sfegurd plunium. Russell W. Ayres's study legl rmifictions plunium recycling concludes: "With pssge time increse in quntity plu nium in existence will come pressure eliminte trditionl checks courts on legisltures plce ctivities executive develop powerful centrl uthority better ble enforce strict sfegurds." He vers tht "once quntity plunium hd been slen, cse for literlly turning country upside down get it bck would be overwhelming."31 Ayres ntic iptes worries bout kinds thinking tht, I hve rgued, chrcterize inherently politicl. It is still true tht, in world in which humn beings mke mintin rtificil systems, nothing is "d" in n bsolute sense. Neverless, once course ction is once rtifcts like underwy, nucler power plnts hve been built put in opertion, kinds reson ing tht justify dpttion socil life technicl ments pop up s s spontneously flowers in spring. In Ayres's words, "Once recycling be gins risks plunium ft become rel rr thn hypoticl, cse for governmentl infringement protected rights will seem compelling."28 After certin point, those who cnnot ccept hrd ments im pertives will be dismissed s dremers fools. * * * The two vrieties interprettion I hve outlined indicte how rtifcts cn hve politicl qulities. In first instnce we noticed wys in which specific fetures in or design rrngement device or system could provide convenient mens estblishing ptterns power uthority in given setting. Technologies this kind hve rnge flexibility in dimensions ir mteril form. It is precisely becuse re y flexible tht ir con sequences for society must be undersod with reference socil crs ble influence which designs rrngements re chosen. In second instnce we exmined wys in which intrctble properties certin kinds tech re nology strongly, perhps unvoidbly, linked prticulr institutionlized ptterns power uthority. Here, initil choice bout wher or not dopt something is decisive in regrd its consequences. There re no lter ntive physicl or designs rrngements tht would mke significnt dif ference; re re, furrmore, no genuine possibilities for cretive intervention by different socil or systems?cpitlist socilist?tht could chnge intrc tbility or entity significntly lter qulity its politicl effects. To know which vriety interprettion is pplicble in given cse is ten wht is t stke in disputes, some m pssionte ones, bout mening for how we live. I hve rgued "both/" position here, for it

16 DO ARTIFACTS HAVE POLITICS? 135 seems me tht both kinds understing re pplicble in different circum stnces. Indeed, it cn hppen tht within prticulr complex? system communiction or trnsporttion, for exmple?some spects my be flexible in ir possibilities for society, while or spects my be (for better or worse) completely intrctble. The two vrieties interprettion I hve exmined here cn overlp intersect t mny points. These re, course, issues on which people cn disgree. Thus, some proponents energy from renewble resources now believe y hve t lst discovered set intrinsiclly democrtic, eglitrin, communitrin tech nologies. In my best estimtion, however, socil consequences build ing renewble energy systems will surely depend on specific configurtions both hrdwre socil institutions creted bring tht energy us. It my be tht we will find wys turn this silk purse in sow's er. com By prison, dvoctes furr development nucler power seem believe tht y re working on rr flexible whose dverse socil ef fects cn be fixed by chnging design prmeters recrs nucler wste disposl systems. For resons indicted bove, I believe m be ded wrong in tht fith. Yes, we my be ble mnge some "risks" public helth sfety tht nucler power brings. But s society dpts more dngerous pprently indelible fetures nucler power, wht will be long-rnge ll in humn freedom? My belief tht we ought ttend more closely technicl objects m selves is not sy tht we cn ignore contexts in which those objects re situted. A ship t se my well, s Pl Engels insisted, single cptin obedient crew. But ship out service, prked t dock, needs only cretker. To underst which which contexts re importnt us, why, is n enterprise tht must involve both study specific technicl systems ir hisry s well s thorough grsp concepts controversies politicl ory. In our times people re ten willing mke drstic chnges in wy y live ccord with technologicl innovtion t sme time y would resist similr kinds chnges justified on politicl grounds. If for no or reson thn tht, it is importnt for us chieve clerer view se mtters thn hs been our hbit so fr. References ll would like thnk Merritt Roe Smith, Leo Mrx, Jmes Miller, Dvid Noble, Chrles Weiner, Sherry Turkle, Loren Grhm, Gil Sturt, Dick Sclove, Stephen Grubrd for ir comments criticisms on erlier drfts this essy. My thnks lso Doris Morrison Agriculture Librry University Cliforni, Berkeley, for her bibliogrphicl help. 2Lewis Mumford, "Authoritrin Democrtic Technics," Technology Culture, 5 (1964): Denis Hyes, Rys Hope: The Trnsition Post-Petroleum World (New York: W. W. Norn, 1977), pp. 71, Dvid Lilienthl, T. V.A.: Democrcy on Mrch (New York: Hrper Brors, 1944), pp Dniel J. Boorstin, The Republic Technology (New York: Hrper & Row, 1978), p. 7. 6Lngdon Winner, Aunomous Technology: Technics-out--Control s Theme in Politicl Thought (Cmbridge, Mss.: M.I.T. Press, 1977). 7The mening "" I employ in this essy does not encompss some broder definitions tht concept found in contemporry literture, for exmple, notion "technique"

17 136 LANGDON WINNER in writings Jcques Ellul. My purposes here re more limited. For discussion diffi culties tht rise in ttempts define "," see Ref. 6, pp Robert A. Cro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses Fll New York (New York: Rom House, 1974), pp. 318, 481, 514, 546, Ibid., p Robert Oznne, A Century Lbor-Mngement Reltions t McCormick Interntionl Hrvest er (Mdison, Wis.: University Wisconsin Press, 1967), p The erly hisry m hrvester is ld in Wyne D. Rsmussen, "Advnces in Americn Agriculture: The Mechnicl Tom Hrvester s Cse Study," Technology Culture, 9(1968): Andrew Schmitz Dvid Seckler, "Mechnized Agriculture Socil Welfre: The Cse Tom Hrvester," Americn Journl Agriculturl Economics, 52 (1970): Willim H. Friedl Amy Brn, "Tom Technology," Society, 13:6 (September/Oc ber 1976). See lso Willim H. Friedl, Socil Sleepwlkers: Scientific Technologicl Reserch in Cliforni Agriculture, University Cliforni, Dvis, Deprtment Applied Behviorl Sciences, Reserch Monogrph No. 13, University Cliforni Clip Sheet, 54:36, My 1, Friedl Brn, "Tom Technology." 16A hisry criticl nlysis griculturl reserch in l-grnt colleges is given in Jmes Highwer, Hrd Tomes, Hrd Times (Cmbridge, Mss.: Schenkmn, 1978). 17Dvid Noble, "Socil Choice in Mchine Design: The Cse Aumticlly Controlled M chine Tools," in Cse Studies in Lbor Process (New York: Monthly Review Press, forthcoming). 18Friedrich Engels, "On Authority" in The Mrx-Engels Reder, 2nd ed., Robert Tucker (ed.) (New York: W. W. Norn, 1978), p "Ibid. 20Ibid., pp. 732, Krl Mrx, Cpitl, vol. 1, 3rd ed., Smuel Moore Edwrd Aveling (trns.) (New York: The Modern Librry, 1906), p Jerry Mer, Four Arguments for Elimintion Television (New York: Willim Morrow, 1978), p See, for exmple, Robert Argue, Brbr Emnuel, Stephen Grhm, The Sun Builders: A People's Guide Solr, Wind Wood Energy in Cnd (Toron: Renewble Energy in Cnd, 1978). "We think decentrliztion is n implicit component renewble energy; this implies decentrliztion energy systems, communities power. Renewble energy doesn't mmmoth genertion sources disruptive trnsmission corridors. Our cities wns, which hve been dependent on centrlized energy supplies, my be ble chieve some degree un omy, reby controlling dministering ir own energy needs" (p. 16). 24Alfred D. Chler, Jr., The Visible H: The Mngeril Revolution in Americn Business (Cm bridge, Mss.: Belknp, Hrvrd University Press, 1977), p sIbid. 26Ibid., p Leonrd Silk Dvid Vogel, Ethics Prits: The Crisis Confidence in Americn Business (New York: Simon Schuster, 1976), p Russel W. Ayres, "Policing Plunium: The Civil Liberties Fllout," Hrvrd Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Lw Review, 10 (1975):443, 413-4, 374.

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