UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Philosophical critique of advanced industrial society. Fast, Scott Orman


The thesis is divided generally into two sections. The first delineates the virtually invisible and yet dominating ideology (ethos) which directs advanced industrial society collectively and individually. The second portion presents the meaning of this ideology (ethos) for society and its members. More specifically, the second portion asserts that the nature of advanced industrial society mediates against the possibility of our understanding it, and further militates against the application of any understanding we might have to the resolution of the historical plight of our society. The concept of "ethos" is introduced, and a number of familiar strains in the historical development of advanced industrial society are described so as to show their interrelationship in development, and as mutual supports for one another. These strains are shown to combine in historical development to have meaning over and beyond the sum of their parts; to direct the society as the dominant ethos (ideology) — the liberal technocratic ethos. The argument holds that western man, being dominated by the need to conquer scarcity, sought to organize his activity in the most rationalized way to produce more goods. Science became the method by which he could gain control over nature. Bureaucracy was the organizational method by which the principles and prerogatives of science in its applied form,technology, could be instituted in society. Liberalism is seen as the formal philosophical explanation and justification of these changes in the organization of society. Taken together, the liberal technocratic ethos is basically and fundamentally scientific and economic. And it is the adherence to the values and prerogatives of this ethos which above all directs and determines the activity of advanced industrial society. The third chapter further describes the nature of the liberal technocratic ethos and speaks to the meaning it maintains in the society. Although it can be shown to qualify as a valid ideology, the liberal technocratic ethos is not considered as such because of its utter dominance in advanced industrial society (it "transcends" all contemporary ideological disputes because they largely accept the directives of the dominant ethos as given and thus carry on conventional debates circumscribed within this larger context); or because it is considered not to be a positive force in its own right, but rather a neutral method to apply on behalf of human needs and objectives. This is shown not to be the case, for the prerogatives of the liberal technocratic ethos make transforming demands on the whole of that which it must deal within the contemporary case, virtually every facet of our lives. Lastly, the thesis argues that advanced industrial society displays as affirmative character—that is, it serves to form its members so as to affirm itself. (The formative character of any society is granted as the process of developmnnt and socialization of any member.) On a sociological level, conformity to the values and procedures of the status quo is a bureaucratic prerogative. On a philosophical level, the philosophy of science strips other epistemological and ontological views of their validity, and thus of their ability to judge the scientific project of advanced industrial society. On a political level, the society is able to absorb alternatives into its dominant whole and further serves to transform the content of viable alternatives to that of support for the given historical project. Pluralism, philosophical and political, seems apparent, but it is feigned pluralism because no force does effectively challenge the larger dominance of the liberal technocratic ethos.

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