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Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

4.2 13
by Neil Postman

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In this witty, often terrifying work of cultural criticism, the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death chronicles our transformation into a Technopoly: a society that no longer merely uses technology as a support system but instead is shaped by it--with radical consequences for the meanings of politics, art, education, intelligence, and truth.


In this witty, often terrifying work of cultural criticism, the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death chronicles our transformation into a Technopoly: a society that no longer merely uses technology as a support system but instead is shaped by it--with radical consequences for the meanings of politics, art, education, intelligence, and truth.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mixing provocative insights and cliched criticisms, Postman defines the U.S. as a society in which technology is deified to a near-totalitarian degree. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Postman continues his plea to analyze physical culture in our society which he discussed in earlier books such as Amusing Ourselves to Death (Viking, 1985). He claims that our social institutions have, in effect, become dominated by the technologies that permeate our society. People, including researchers in science and social science, have allowed the use of technology to substitute for their own thinking. Earlier societies in history were tool-using but retained a sense of wholeness and a center of morality that is missing from our society. Postman asserts that there is a technological determinism pervading America that can be restrained, for example, by giving courses in the history and philosophy of technology and in comparative religion. However, his evidence for this critique is narrowly selected, and his discussion is often anecdotal. An optional purchase.-- Christopher R. Jocius, Illinois Mathematics & Science Acad., Aurora
Kirkus Reviews
Postman (Conscientious Objections, 1988, etc.) once more cuts across the grain as an important critic of our national culture, this time arguing that America has become the world's first "totalitarian technocracy"—otherwise known as a "Technopoly." Postman starts out from the long view, showing that while every human culture becomes "tool-using," the use of those tools doesn't necessarily change that culture's beliefs, ideology, or world view. In "technocracy," however (for us, this stage began to burgeon in the industrial 19th century), there's a change: tools (they're now called "technology") begin to alter the culture instead of just being used by it: "tools...attack the culture. They bid to become the culture." And technocracy becomes Technopoly when tools win the battle for dominance and become the sole determiners of a culture's purpose and meaning, and in fact of its very way of knowing and thinking—or of not thinking. The tools, in other words, come not only to use us but to define what we are—which is "why in a Technopoly there can be no transcendent sense of purpose of meaning, no cultural coherence." So desolate a view of generalized inversion and ideological collapse fails to subdue either Postman's humane and faithful energy or his unflagging quickness of mind as he travels from Copernicus, Descartes, and Francis Bacon on through discussions of modern bureaucracy, concepts of worker "management," the intellectual hollowness of social "science" and its monster-children of poll- taking and IQ testing—these and others (schools, TV, the computer "culture") all being "technologies" that in fact are "without a moral center," yet ones that weinsistently revere and haplessly measure ourselves by, because "we have become blind to the ideological meaning of our technologies." Amusing, learned, and prickling with intelligence, Postman easily outclasses the Allan Bloomians in the grave work of showing how it is that we've now stumbled our way into 1984—and offers, at end, some modest suggestions as to what to do about it.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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1st ed
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5.18(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.63(d)

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Meet the Author

Neil Postman was University Professor, Paulette Goddard Chair of Media Ecology, and Chair of the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University. Among his twenty books are studies of childhood (The Disappearance of Childhood), public discourse (Amusing Ourselves to Death), education (Teaching as a Subversive Activity and The End of Education), and the impact of technology (Technopoly). His interest in education was long-standing, beginning with his experience as an elementary and secondary school teacher. He died in 2003.

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Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Postman reveals the readers how inventions of technology has changed in the way it affects our society. Society has changed from tool- using culture, technocracy, and finally technopoly. Tool-using society used technology only as tools, and the belief system was not intruded by the use of technology, in fact the central force of the belief system lied in religion and tradition. In the technocracy society, the technology has now become a major role in the function of the society. And lastly, we have reached the stage of technopoly, in which the society is now run by technology. Postman has brought a completely different view in how technology has changed the meanings of words and purpose of life. How the invention of writing has changed the meaning of memory and intelligence entirely, and how now we have turned into a culture where we are given numbers and letters to be rated for school. As students, we work so hard to receive an A or a 100 on an assignment to be rated. The domination of technology and the scientific way of thinking has turned us away from the beauty, the art, and traditional aspects of life, or perhaps the importance or the initial purpose in different things. As an education major, I must not ignore the mentions of how education comes into this issue, or perhaps, it is the solution posted by Postman in not being completely overrun by technology. As I live in the generation of this technopoly, I cannot deny that our lives are not centered by the existence of technology. People buy smart phones so that they can be constantly informed, or be informing others of their small incidents. We are in a constant need of being informed and informing others of things that are not so important. But the existence of technology has given us a value to the small incidents that are not important. There was no value to this 30 years ago. A scenario Postman mentioned that I¿d like to mention is the art of war. There were traditions, religion, and art that designed the tools used to fight and the way people fought. Today, it¿s about who has the better technology and how many people we can kill. It reminded me of the movie, The Last Samurai, which always gives me the sense of guilt and nostalgia. After reading this book, now I realize that it was perhaps because I had been admitting that I have been living in a world of technopoly. So we return to the solution. Postman declares that we must use history to teach the meaning of tradition and culture so that the citizens of the future are aware of the dangers of technology, how it can construct our society, and how we must not let the technology overrun the society. Postman models this solution by providing us with historical events to open our eyes to these changes technology has made to our society. Now it is my turn.
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BryanQuillen More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this book for class because, to put it bluntly, it sounded like the most interesting choice. I am very aware that in recent history, technology has completely altered our way of living all across the globe. School systems have invested in mass amounts of technology, cars can find their way to any destination and tell you how to parallel park when you arrive, and it is almost every person's desire to have the next best phone, tv, or computer. However, Postman's concern is: Is technology really leading us in the right direction? Our culture is focused so intently on relying on what technology can do for us, and I, for one, am definitely one of the culprits behind this way of thinking. What happens when a culture has no fear of what technology can do to us? Have you thought about it? Because I know I haven't. Postman outlines three separate stages of how culture uses technology. The first of these stages is tool-using, or creating technical modifications based on the limitations to the uses at hand. The second stage is technocracy, or a culture in which technological tools play a vital role in the way in which the culture functions. The third term, the one his book is named after, technopoly, is described as tools becoming the future. Postman worries that technopoly is what our culture is moving towards and if we don't address that issue, it will be the cause of our demise. We are told of the history of technology in our culture and how we have went through or are currently approaching the three stages he defined. The medical profession is discussed, but his focus moves more towards the impact computers have had on our culture. My personal opinion, as a college student and a complete technology nerd, is that computers are the best thing invented since telephones, which are now computers themselves. But, I'm assuming, this is the bulk of the problem. Technology is a tool, not a way of life, and it is very apparent after reading Postman's book that this distinction is becoming more and more blurred. This is where Postman not only explains the problem, but offers a solution. His proposal is that we look at how education is being given to students in our school systems. As of now the main goal of becoming educated is to get a career that pays well, but we need to focus more on creating a world we want to live in and in order to do that we need to go back to the basics. We need to know what got us to where we are now and realize that we have a past and not simply a future. Postman's book isn't the easiest or most enthralling read, but it does make you question the ways in which you consider technology. Do I love technology? Yes. Will I completely discredit its benefits or possibilities? Not at all. However, what I will do is respect the fact that as a future educator I need to instill a purpose in my students. I can't simply prepare them for life after high school and allow technology to be the only thing in the world that matters. Technology is a tool, not our lives. I realize that I have ignored that fact, but now I am aware of what I can to do not let technopoly take control.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had no idea the effects technology had on our culture and all the cultures that have disappeared under the foot of technology. This book will open your eyes and free your mind. My only complaint would be that the intellectual stimulation is sometimes so heady, it would take me all evening to get through a paragraph.
LeslieWalker More than 1 year ago
I feel like Postman made some very good points in this book, but it was sometimes so much that it would take every bit of motivation I had to just finish a page. This is definitely a book that you have to really want to read in order to thouroughly understand and enjoy it. Postman seems to know a lot of information about this topic, and I feel like he is definitely a good person to be writing a book like this. I do agree with him when he says that technology can change everything in a culture, because we do see this everyday. There is a major difference between the United States now and the United States twenty years ago. Back then, cell phones were a luxury that not very many people have, but now it's a big surprise if someone does not have a cell phone. Technology has definitely changed this country drastically over this not so large amount of time, but I'm not so sure that this technology is all for the worst, like Postman seems to believe. One thing that I do not agree with that Postman is that computers are a completely bad thing. Computers can be disadvantageous. However, I feel that they have more advantages to them than disadvantages. For instance, there are many computers that save us lots of valuable time by doing computations for us. This allows us to get more things done in a day and be more efficient. Also, a lot of computer technology has helped save many lives in the medical field. So, not all computers or technology is bad. I think that Postman definitley made some great points in his book. However, I feel like there are just too many advantages to technology that he has ignored. This could possibly be because the book was written so long ago, but i think that these things should be considered when reading this book.