Concealed violence

Concerning Educational Technology FAQ's

To look at education and technology thus is, in Heidegger’s words, to look into the danger, and see the potential growth of the saving power (p.33), but to glimpse the possibilities of a technology which is relocated in ‘human activity’ is not in itself to overcome the dangers. Rather it is to start on a question of why technology has come to be seen as politically neutral, and to ask what unneutral positions are thereby concealed.

To do this, one can start with Foucault, (Two Lectures), who examines von Clausewitz’ aphorism that ‘war is diplomacy by other means’. Foucault argues that the aphorism can usefully be reversed: diplomacy, the civil relations between states, is war by other means, since it is always supported by the knowledge of both parties that one has the dominant position, or the means to defeat the other and therefore, in diplomatic engagement, that knowledge will always cast one in a position of greater power than the other.

Foucault argues further, that civil relations within states are similarly constructed: Laws represent the victory of one group of people over another, and are meant to sustain the relative advantage of those who have ‘power’. Laws are sustained, legitimated violence (Foucault, Two Lectures, P/K p 90). The ‘pax Romana’, like the later ‘pax Britannica’ was achieved only by subordinating the values, traditions and legal systems of defeated peoples to those of the conquerors. That the conquered came to like them and insist on the ‘universal’ or ‘logical’ nature of the principles of Roman law does not alter the case.

I wish to argue that, in exactly the same way, technological constructs are sustained, legitimated violence. As in the case of law, the violence is subsumed in custom and practices: it is naturalized, accepted, part of day to day life, taken for granted, regarded as the essential environment in which normal relations exist, essential to the continued practice of good order, or in the case of technology, essential to the continued existence of civilized life, or essential to the continued health of ‘the economy’.