Politics and Technology by John Street (auth.)

By John Street (auth.)

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Political will on its own is not sufficient. States vary in their capacity to organise weapons production and to establish an efficient military structure. Describing political decisions in Britain in the early twentieth century, McNeill analyses a trend towards ever-increasing naval expenditure. It was, he says, 42 Politics and Technology fuelled by a runaway technological revolution as well as by international rivalries and the changed structure of Great Britain's domestic politics. A powerful feedback loop established itself, for technological transformations could not have proceeded nearly so rapidly if economic interest groups favouring enlarged public expenditure had not come into existence to facilitate the passage of bigger and bigger naval bills.

Bell summarises his main argument as follows: The rise of the new elites based on skill derived from the simple fact that knowledge and planning - military planning, economic planning, social planning - have become the basic requisites for all organised action in a modern society. The members of this new technocratic elite, with their new techniques of decisionmaking (systems analysis, linear programming, and program budgeting), have now become essential to the formation and analysis of decisions on which political judgements have to be made if not to the wielding of power (Bell, 1973, p.

It does little justice to the genuine choices that arise, in both principle and practice, in the course of technical and social transformation'. Winner focuses this confusion by drawing attention to two ways in which determinism might work. He begins with the simple observation that, almost by definition, changes of technology entail changes in the social world. Technology always changes what people can do and therefore how their lives are organised. The point is to establish the character of the change involved.

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