The passage below is accompanied by a set of questions. Choose the best answer to each question.


Critical theory of technology is a political theory of modernity with a normative dimension. It belongs to a tradition extending from Marx to Foucault and Habermas according to which advances in the formal claims of human rights take center stage while in the background centralization of ever more powerful public institutions and private organizations imposes an authoritarian social order.

Marx attributed this trajectory to the capitalist rationalization of production. Today it marks many institutions besides the factory and every modern political system, including so-called socialist systems. This trajectory arose from the problems of command over a disempowered and deskilled labor force; but everywhere [that] masses are organized - whether it be Foucault’s prisons or Habermas’s public sphere - the same pattern prevails. Technological design and development is shaped by this pattern as the material base of a distinctive social order. Marcuse would later point to a “project” as the basis of what he called rather confusingly “technological rationality.” Releasing technology from this project is a democratic political task.

In accordance with this general line of thought, critical theory of technology regards technologies as an environment rather than as a collection of tools. We live today with and even within technologies that determine our way of life. Along with the constant pressures to build centers of power, many other social values and meanings are inscribed in technological design. A hermeneutics of technology must make explicit the meanings implicit in the devices we use and the rituals they script. Social histories of technologies such as the bicycle, artificial lighting or firearms have made important contributions to this type of analysis. Critical theory of technology attempts to build a methodological approach on the lessons of these histories.

As an environment, technologies shape their inhabitants. In this respect, they are comparable to laws and customs. Each of these institutions can be said to represent those who live under their sway through privileging certain dimensions of their human nature. Laws of property represent the interest in ownership and control. Customs such as parental authority represent the interest of childhood in safety and growth. Similarly, the automobile represents its users in so far as they are interested in mobility. Interests such as these constitute the version of human nature sanctioned by society.

This notion of representation does not imply an eternal human nature. The concept of nature as non-identity in the Frankfurt School suggests an alternative. On these terms, nature is what lies at the limit of history, at the point at which society loses the capacity to imprint its meanings on things and control them effectively. The reference here is, of course, not to the nature of natural science, but to the lived nature in which we find ourselves and which we are. This nature reveals itself as that which cannot be totally encompassed by the machinery of society. For the Frankfurt School, human nature, in all its transcending force, emerges out of a historical context as that context is [depicted] in illicit joys, struggles and pathologies. We can perhaps admit a less romantic . . . conception in which those dimensions of human nature recognized by society are also granted theoretical legitimacy.

Question 15

Which one of the following statements contradicts the arguments of the passage?


Option A: This statement is consistent with the arguments of the passage, which claim that the pattern of the capitalist rationalization of production arises from the problems of command over a disempowered and deskilled labor force and is present in many different contexts, including the factory and socialist systems.

Option B: This statement is consistent with the passage, which claims that Marx and Marcuse both contribute to the tradition of critical theory of technology, which seeks to understand the ways in which technological systems are shaped by and contribute to the reproduction of social and political hierarchies.

Option C: This statement contradicts an element discussed in the passage. The passage states that the pattern of the capitalist rationalization of production, which is marked by the centralization of power in institutions and organizations and the deskilling of the labor force, arises in many different contexts, including the factory, prisons, and the public sphere. It does not claim that the patterns in these different contexts are set by Foucault's prisons and Habermas' public sphere.

Option D: This statement is consistent with the passage, which claims that the pattern of the capitalist rationalization of production is present in many different contexts, including socialist systems.

Hence, Option C is the correct choice. 

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