A Genealogy of Convenience: A Critical Interpretation of Technical Culture

Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst (1990)

Thomas Tierney
College of Wooster
This dissertation presents a critique of modern, technical culture. It focuses on the value of convenience, and argues that this value underlies, to a great extent, modern attitudes toward technology, especially attitudes toward the consumption of technology. In a sense, the dissertation is meant to be a complement to that line of thought which identified the domination of nature as the value which guided the development of science and technology. While the domination of nature may be the value which underlies the activity of those who develop and produce technology, the value of convenience is the value which guides those who consume the various technological apparatuses which are produced by the modern economy. ;Ultimately, the claim of the dissertation is that the modern prominence of the value of convenience reveals something not only about modern attitudes toward technology, but more importantly, it reveals something about current attitudes toward the human body, mortality, and necessity. The pursuit of the value of convenience is interpreted as an attempt to overcome the body and the various limits which are imposed by man's embodiment. ;The evidence which is used to support this claim covers a wide range. Shifts in religious ideas and doctrines are examined, and the decline of Christianity in modernity is presented as one factor which has helped to establish the prominence of the value of convenience. Material conditions in the United States are also accorded an important role in the emergence of this value as a dominating force in modernity. Along the way, several competing perspectives on the consumption of technology are criticized. Among these perspectives are those of several contemporary Marxists, as well that of Hannah Arendt. ;The objective of the dissertation is to foster a critical revaluation of modernity's attitudes toward technology, in the hope that such a revaluation may help to prepare the way for the emergence of a new attitude toward the body and the earth
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