Decadence of Industrial Democracies
September 2011, Polity
Bernard Stiegler is one of the most original philosophers writing today about new technologies and their implications for social, political and personal life. Drawing on sources ranging from Plato and Marx to Freud, Heidegger and Derrida, he develops a highly original account of technology as grammatology, as a technics of writing that constitutes our experience of time, memory and desire, even of life itself. Society and our place within it are shaped by technical reproduction which can both expand and restrict the horizons and possibilities of human agency and experience.
In the three volumes of Disbelief and Discredit Stiegler argues that this process of technical reproduction has become dangerously divorced from its role in the constitution of human experience. Radically challenging the optimistic view of new technologies as facilitators of learning and progress, he argues new marketing techniques shortcircuit thought and disenfranchise consumers, programming them to seek short-term gratification. These practices of ‘libidinal economics’ have profound consequences for nature of human desire and they underpin the social and psychological malaise of contemporaty industrial society.
In this opening volume Stiegler argues that the industrial model implemented since the beginning of the twentieth century has become obsolete, leading capitalist democracies to an impasse. A sign of this impasse and of the decadence to which it leads is the banalization of consumers who become ensnared in a perpetual cycle of consumption. This is the new proletarianization of the technologically infused, hyper-industrial capitalism of today. It produces a society cut off from its past and its future, stultifying human development and turning democracy into a farce in which disbelief and discredit inevitably arise.
II. Belief and politics
III. The otium of the people
IV. Wanting to believe
- Stiegler is one of the most original and important philosophers and cultural theorists in France today.
- His work is at the interface of philosophy and technology, so would appeal not only to those studying Philosophy, but media and cultural studies, and literary studies.
- He argues here that the industrial model implemented since the beginning of the twentieth century, a model based on the separation of production and consumption, has become totally obsolete, leading capitalism and the democracies where it has developed into an impasse.
- Polity has made a substantial commitment to the translation of Stiegler's work. This book is the first volume of a trilogy and the remaining volumes will be published in the course of the following year.
Scott Lash, Goldsmiths College
"The Decadence of Industrial Democracies extends Bernard Stieglers relentless remapping of hyperindustrial modernity. It is a key text for anyone who wishes to understand the link between today's telecratic politics of memory and whatever transformations stand beyond it. It demonstrates that Stiegler is not just the radical thinker of technics but also the genealogist of cognitive morals."
Tom Cohen, State University of New York at Albany