Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational / Edition 1

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What gives the mass media, particularly advertising and television, their extraordinary power over our lives, so that even the most jaded and sophisticated among us are troubled and fascinated by their allure? The secret, according to Richard Stivers, in this brilliant new book, lies in the curious relationship between technology and magic. Stivers argues the two are now related to one another in such a way that each has taken on important characteristics of the other. His contention is that our expectations for technology have become magical to the point that they have generated a multitude of imitation technologies that function as magical practices. These imitation technologies flourish in the fields of psychology, management administration, and the mass media, and their paramount purpose in human adjustment and control. Advertising and television programs, in particular, contain the key magical rituals of our civilization.In a fascinating analysis of television programming, Stivers shows how various genres—news, sports, game shows, soap operas, sitcoms, etc.—have their distinct mythological symbols. Through dramatized information, they symbolically connect consumer goods and services to desired outcomes—the utopian goals of success, happiness, and health—thus enveloping technology, both real and imitation, in a magical cocoon.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this convincing and lucid study, Stivers (sociology, Illinois State) warns against our current veneration of technology. Too many of us, he argues, believe that technology can rationally control nature and alleviate boredom and unhappiness. In reality, he suggests, technology has a lot in common with the irrational and ineffective methods of magic. Likewise, Stivers mourns the increasing reliance on quantitative, statistics-based information instead of meaningful qualitative evaluation and fears that individual creativity, compassion, and freedom are being sacrificed: "Advertising ritualizes happiness (as consumption); therapy ritualizes health (as adjustment)." Persuasive and erudite, this work is recommended for larger public and academic libraries.--Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Alfred Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826413673
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 8/1/2001
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Stirk is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Durham. His previous books include Max Horkheimer: A New Interpretation (1992) and, as co-editor, An Introduction to Political Ideas (Pinter, 1995).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: The Paradox of Technology and Magic 1
Chapter 1 Both Technology and Magic 14
Ellul's Theory of the Three Milieus 16
Magic in the Three Milieus 28
Chapter 2 Dramatized Information: The Basis of Psychological Magic 43
The Disintegration of Discourse 44
Atomistic Words and Phrases 52
Commonplace Expressions, Slogans, and Cliches 59
Visual Images in the Media 63
Symbolism in the Milieu of Technology 68
Chapter 3 Statistical Information: The Basis of Administrative Magic 79
Statistics Everywhere 82
Statistics: Moral and Normal 92
Equality: Statistical and Social 100
Magical Numbers, Magical Words, Magical Images 107
Chapter 4 The Mass Media as Magic 109
The Fabrication of Images 110
The Culture of Advertising 118
Technological Utopianism: Myth and Ritual of an Advertising Culture 125
Magic in the Media 136
Chapter 5 Therapy, Self-Help, and Positive Thinking as Magic 140
Psychiatry, Clinical Psychology, and Clinical Social Work 141
Self-Help and Positive Thinking 143
The Effectiveness of Therapy 155
Therapy as Magic 158
Why the Individual and Society Need Therapy 166
Chapter 6 Management as Magic 169
A Brief History of Management 170
Contemporary Management Theories and Practices 180
The Relation between Managerial Technique and Success 191
Management as Magic 195
Why Society and the Individual Need Management 199
Chapter 7 The Triumph of the Irrational 201
The Failure of Education 207
Irrationality and Freedom 209
Notes 213
Index 237
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