Günther Anders’ Theory of Media and Communication: Developing a Conception of Technological Domination, Alienation and Ideology with Marx beyond Marx

Marino, O. 2021. Günther Anders’ Theory of Media and Communication: Developing a Conception of Technological Domination, Alienation and Ideology with Marx beyond Marx. PhD thesis University of Westminster Westminster School of Media and Communication https://doi.org/10.34737/vq22z

TitleGünther Anders’ Theory of Media and Communication: Developing a Conception of Technological Domination, Alienation and Ideology with Marx beyond Marx
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsMarino, O.
Abstract

In this thesis, I contribute to the emergent English-language scholarship on little-known 20th century German-Austrian philosopher Günther Anders (1902-1992), whose work is unique for its critical focus on technology. Anders studied under Husserl and Heidegger and was Hannah Arendt’s first husband. He also knew members of the Frankfurt School such as Marcuse and Adorno. However, he gained little notoriety during most of his life and has been described as an outsider of philosophy. In 1936, Anders fled Europe for the United States to escape Nazi persecution owing to his Jewish heritage. He returned to Vienna in the 1950s and dedicated the second half of his life to the struggle against nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War. In this thesis I argue that, despite often being associated with Heidegger, Anders’ experience of the Second World War led him to undergo an epistemological break. He turned away from Heidegger and towards Marx. Anders can therefore be viewed as a humanist-Marxist. His work updates Marx’s view of domination, alienation and ideology, applying it to the question of industrial warfare, nuclear annihilation and post-war consumer technologies. I show how aspects of contemporary digital societies illustrate Anders’ critical theory of technology. I choose two case studies: military drones and dating apps. I show that Anders’ theory can help us understand how these technologies are involved in modern forms of domination, alienation and ideology. I do this by using critical discourse analysis (CDA) to evaluate the written and spoken accounts of military drone operators. I moreover conduct 18 semi-structured interviews with dating app users, which I equally analyse using CDA. According to Anders, modern technologies allowed humans to act absent-mindedly without identifying with the consequences of these actions. This meant that terrible atrocities could be committed without the accompanying moral feelings of empathy and regret. I show how military drone operators and dating app users equally convey the sense of a conflicted identification with their own actions. However, I derive the concept of technological splitting to update Anders’ concept of Promethean shame. With technological splitting affects are not absent but expressed in a raw, overtly direct fashion. They can consequently be compartmentalised and split off from operators' and users' sense of self.

Year2021
File
PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
PublishedNov 2021
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.34737/vq22z

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