23 February 2012

This enormous 'flexibility' of industrial society, the ability to integrate or mitigate all serious opposition, and this scientific 'treatment' of symptoms of a profound malaise which is conveniently ignored - in short, the rapid acceleration of a way of life that can deliver joy to only a fraction of its members - has its origins in the blind scientism of the nineteenth century.

...'Whatever else ideologies may be,' writes Clifford Geertz, 'they are, most distinctively, maps of problematic social reality and matrices for the creation of collective conscience'...

The perception of reality in scientific terms is not the result of the successful, inevitable progress of the history of ideas. It is, rather, rooted in class society, and in this sense it was the Industrial Revolution that put the Scientific Revolution on the map. Defined as a commodity or as the crux of professional expertise, science was, in the nineteenth century, recreated in capitalism's image. The very success of the latter obscured the ideological roots of science, as might be expected; and the rather obvious decay in industrial society (whether socialist or capitalist) has led us, just as inevitably, to seek to uncover them. This may, indeed, strike at the very foundations of rational knowledge, but if so, I would pose the distinction made in the Introduction: rational or zweckrational? The former we cannot live without; the latter is crushing us beneath the weight of its instrumentality.

Morris Berman, Social Change and Scientific Organization: The Royal Institution, 1799-1844, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978.

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