Technological Determinism

What It Means

According to Wikipedia, "technological determinism is a reductionist theory that presumes that a society's technology drives the development of its social structure and cultural values". This phrase was invented by Thorstein Veblem (1857-1929), who was an American sociologist and economist.


1. The progression of technology follows an expected course and it not necessarily based on outside influences, such as culture or politics.
2. Technology has essential effects on society that are natural.
3. This theory views "technology as the basis for all human activity"
4. Technology is the "key governing force in society..." (Merritt Roe Smith).
5. Progression in technology decides "social change".

Hard and Soft Determinism

Hard determinists: They believe that technology is not related at all to "social concerns". Technology in itself has the capacity to govern how we, as citizens, act as a society.
Soft determinism: This outlook of the technology-social connection is more "passive". These theorists believe and agree that technology plays a big role in how we develop as a society, but also accept that individuals have the ability to make independent decisions.


Karl Marx expanded on this concept, noting that changes in technology, especially "productive" technology play a pivotal role in the social ideas, economic values, and views of humans.

Charles A. Beard, provided this apt determinist image, Here is an excellent quote from Charles A. Beard that paints a clear picture of what exactly Technological determinism is:
"Technology marches in seven-league boots from one ruthless, revolutionary conquest to another, tearing down old factories and industries, flinging up new processes with terrifying rapidity."

It turns out the question of how society and technology impact each other is quite a common one. looks at modern changes in agricultural, transportation, communication, and education. Then it looks at the negative impacts of resource depletion, increasing population, and pollution. But it doesn't address the underlying question.

Barbra Bray takes a much longer view of technology and society going back to the invention of language and up through our interstate system and into today's cell and internet technologies and ultimately discusses our connections to people. Of course with every major technological leap, the question is always, what do we do now?

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