Technopoly, Tradition, and Symbols

Somewhere near the core of Technopoly is a vast industry with license to use all available symbols to further the interests of commerce, by devouring the psyches of consumers… We may call this a form of cultural rape, sanctioned by an ideology that gives boundless supremacy to technological progress and is indifferent to the unraveling of tradition.

Neil Postman, Technopoly, 170

And later:

The Technopoly story is without a moral center. It puts in its place efficiency, interest, and economic advance. It promises heaven on earth through the conveniences of technological progress It casts aside all traditional narratives and symbols that suggest stability and orderliness, and tells, instead, of a life of skills, technical expertise, and the ecstasy of consumption.


I wonder how many of us (myself included) have embraced the narrative that it is technical prowess/skills/expertise which provide our lives with meaning. If we buy this story — I’m guessing many of us do — it would mean that we have fully embraced the story that American capitalism is telling us. Our purpose is to build a life of economic success and productivity.

That would also entail other corollaries: that institutions which provide existential meaning (but offer little “practical” value) are useless and unnecessary. Educational institutions would be transformed, from places of learning critical thinking and reason and the history of human thought, to practical-skills training centers. Religious institutions would shift to become centers of political power and persuasion.

Finding ultimate meaning in life is replaced with productivity.

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