The challenge to change

Concerning Educational Technology FAQ's

If this objection to technological ‘development’ is sustained, then it constitutes a challenge to all change, including legal and political change. At best it could constitute the conservatism of Dr Johnson who would change the spelling of a word only reluctantly,

‘All change is of itself an evil, which ought not to be hazarded but for evident advantage’ (Johnson, 1950, p.126).

This conservative position then would tend to enshrine old power relations as surely as the change enshrines new power relations. Consider the response of ‘Finau ‘Ulukalala’, the Tu’i tonga or king of Tonga, to the explorer, de Surville, who tried to persuade him, as the ruler, to adopt a currency as a more convenient method of exchange and storage of value than feasting. ‘Finau ‘Ulukalala’ foresaw that a currency would alter the relations between nobles and commoners: if the people could store their wealth in coins rather than in pigs or plants or social obligations, then the political and social relationships of Tonga would be fundamentally undermined. Nobles would lose their raison d’etre as the means of redistribution of wealth.

Was the Tu’i Tonga’s decision good? The answer to this question depends on the standpoint of the reader, who may prefer traditional social organization or may prefer ‘modern’ social organization. It was a refusal of new power relations and a preservation of old ones. How does this relate to Foucault’s notion of law as enshrined violence? Only that the previous laws were also previous violence enshrined. There is no clear place to stand, no innocent position, in which technology is merely a means to an end.