Forgetting the Social in the Age of Social Media?

Craig Calhoun

Craig Calhoun is President of the Berggruen Institute and Centennial Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics.

Technology so dominates our sensibilities today that we want technological solutions to the problems of technology. There may even be some: what about an app to tell us how much social media junk food we consume — and by comparison how modest our intake of informative vegetables may be? But overall, we are at risk of forgetting how many of our troubles — and how much of what we really value — comes from the social organization of our lives.

Technological change is one source of today’s deep challenges to democracy. But it does not simply determine outcomes, and the problems we face are not narrowly technological. Take transformations of work and employment. They are shaped not only by technology but by basic social conditions like inequality, the power of corporations and the erosion of unions, and habits of seeking perennially new consumer gratifications. Or take the weaponizing of technology and the consequent arms races. These are made possible by specific characteristics of technologies, but they’re also driven by deteriorating international institutions, escalations of international conflict, and the impacts of global economic rivalries on politics.

Read more at the Los Angeles Review of Books.