Relationship Between Economy, Technology and Society
Definition of Economy
Economy is a system which is used to fulfil the biological and of the person biological wants means food, water, clothes and house to keep the body warm.
Definition of Technology
Technology can be simply defined as the tasks or ways of doing useful and valuable things.
Economy and Society
Society is not only affected by the economy but also by the technology by which the economy is maintained. It is easily visible in the modern societies where the way of living is formulated by the technology persons are now using mobile phones which has considerably changed the way of mode of communication. This fast mode of communication had made the person to live away from their families but yet connected with them indirectly.
Development of Technology in Pre-modern Societies
In simple societies the people relied on hunting and gathering for their fulfilment of basic needs there fore no stability nomadic culture and mostly man dominant.
These discoveries were,(a) the domestication of animals, such as cattle, and (b) agriculture. With these discoveries of agriculture and. domestication of animals came other discoveries and mechanical inventions. Agriculture led to the private ownership of land. However, there are many agricultural
people whose land is owned by the clan. This is evident when we study the hunting cultures of the tribals who have plots assigned to each family from this communally owned land. The crops belong to the individual families working on the same plot. In such cultures, generally plough was not used. lnstead a digging stick called the hoe was used. Therefore, this culture is also called hoe-culture.
In lndia we see tribal people practicing 'jhum' cultivation. Each season new plots were cultivated and the old one left fallow. This was possible when population was less and forest lands were more.
Domestication of large animals assured a permanent supply of food as compared to the life in the wild state of nature as well as to the capricious nature of agricultural crops. Thus, we find several pastoral tribes in India, Africa and some other places.
Herds of cattle symbolise not only food but wealth as well, which can be exchanged and traded. However, this task was purely a male task and therefore, men assumed dominant position among pastoral peoples as compared to the hoe-cultures. Use of such animals as elephants, horses and camels led to the development of military techniques. They were used for swift transportation as well.
Agriculture, on a large scale brought stability which led to the building of permanent houses. I Handicrafts like pottery-making are correlated with stable agriculture. The weaving of hair, or wool, or cotton developed. With cloth, pottery, baskets and crops, property began to accumulate and became very significant. The advanced skills required for these crafts led to further specialisation. The foundation for exchange was thus laid from this early / period of agriculture.
Rise of Agricultural Surplus
With settled agriculture, plough was added to the domestication of animals and hoe. With the improvement of tools and techniques more land came under cultivation and the yield of crops increased. Individual ownership became the rule. This means that a family owns a plot of land and a family in this context could mean a large group of kins as well.
Emergence of New Social Institution
Land became the major basis of wealth in society. Since men desire wealth, there developed large landholdings by the process of purchase, by marriage alliances, and by force in places where surplus labour was available. This labour was in some places kinsmen, in others slaves or serfs, and in still others sharecroppers. This led to the development of social classes, like peasantry and landed aristocracy. The big landholders fought amongst themselves for wealth and power and the most wealthy and powerful among them assumed government functions, including the judicial and military.
The wealthy families sometimes sponsored art, architecture, and religious undertakings. The inception of feudalism took place at this time. Gradually and sometimes by revolution, family control was wrested away from these authoritarian single family dominations. This I resulted in the birth of states. Villages developed into towns, and towns into cities and cities into metropolitan centres, etc. with the growth of trade and commerce.
Division of Labour
Development of handicrafts led to the growth of property, as well as increasing demand for labour. Discovery of metals like copper, tin, gold, sliver and iron led to the development of tools, weapons, valuable ornaments, etc. Since these metals were relatively rare, only some people could master the art of making them. Thus specialisation developed. Agriculture on a mass scale also led to the division of labour in society. In some societies like the Indian, it took the form of caste which had an elaborate division of people, according to birth into different occupational groups which were ranked.
Growth of Cities
With the increase of food surplus, handicrafts, etc. trade and commerce developed. Use of swift transportation led to the development of cities, or metropolitan centres, which gave rise to industrial urban cultures. In cities people do not grow food for themselves but buy it from the market. Thus, expansion of market economy occurred and trade and commerce thrived. Feudalism in Europe gradually gave way to capitalism which we borrowed from the Britishers during the long period of their rule in India. The great impetus of the process of development of capitalism in Europe and America has its origin in the Industrial Revolution in Britain.
Development of Technology in Modem Societies
James Hargreaves who invented the Spinning Jenny in 1764 and Richard Arkwright who invented the Spinning Frame in 1768 improved the methods of spinning yarn. James Watt who developed the steam engine in the 1780's showed the way to the use of steam power in the coal mines and textile mills and made it possible for England to increase her industrial production.
The Industrial Revolution
when technological developments of great importance occurred in the U.S.A. during the nineteenth century they could be traced to social and economic conditions prevailing then in that country. There, the availability of vast agricultural lands and the shortage of people to work on it led tothe discovery and use of machinery in agricultural universities and engineering colleges. Apart from these circumstances, the freedom, and encouragement that the American culture gave to entrepreneurship is regarded by some persons as the single most important factor responsible for the technological development in that country. The operation of a free market in America encouraged individual mobility. People starting from small beginnings could make huge fortunes if they worked hard enough and had a good idea to sell. Anybody who was inventive enough could experiment with his ideas and reap the advantages of his
inventions by acquiring a legal right over the use of his or her invention through the law of patents.
Social Aspects of Technological Development
In the western civilisation the individual is given importance and the values and norms of the society uphold the individual's rights, but in Japan, the 'individual' is subordinated to the society. The Japanese industrial corporation works like big communities. A corporation is a big business house which provides employment to a large number of people. It also has a large production capacity. Once a person joins a corporation he spends the rest of his working life serving that corporation. Wages and salaries are paid according to the seniority of the worker concerned and not so much by his qualifications. The production plans of the corporation are discussed by the workers in advance and approved. Once the plans are approved, it becomes the duty of everyone in the corporation to do his utmost to attain the
production targets. A strong sense ofcorporate solidarity binds the workers and the managers into a well knit and efficient productive unit.
In comparison with Japan, the U.S.A. in recent years has not shown its industrial dynamism. It is argued that the very individualistic orientations of U.S.A. now come in the way of gaining an edge in industrial competition. Investment in research and development, especially in the areas of advanced technology is a highly risky proposition. Such investment becomes worthwhile if everyone accepts the unspoken understanding that they will all continue to work together for a long period even if it means that some have to forego attractive opportunities to make profit.
Thus the workers developing a new product or design may gain very valuable experience and may learn new ways of doing a job. For instance they may, in the course of their work, learn how to lower the percentage of defective casting made of some rare alloys. When they gain this experience, they are likely to be waived by other industrial corporations who will be willing to compensate them substantially for changing jobs. If the workers accept such tempting offers the entire investment made in developing the new technology may become wasteful. It is argued that the fierce individualism of the American society protects those who leave the corporation rather than those who remain with it. As a result, corporations and individuals are supposed to be hesitant to take up research and development efforts
requiring heavy initial investments.
The comparison of Japan and the U.S.A. shows that in the U.S.A. the very institutions which promoted individualism there and in turn contributed to that country's technological and industrial growth in an earlier period are nowadays, perhaps, preventing it from acquiring industrial leadership in many spheres. This is all the more interesting because the U.S.A. continues to be the leading country in the world in terms of basic research in science and teahnology. This shows that it is not only important to create conditions for the promotion of modem science and technology but it is also equally important to ensure that these researches are translated into profitable production ventures.
Emergence of Affluent Workers
One general remark made by many critics of Marx is that Marx's predictions have not come true. Instead of capitalism being overthrown, it flourishes with seemingly greater strength in the industrially advanced countries of the world including the U.S.A. Japan, U.K. and other West European countries. Instead of bringing about a revolution the working class seems to have accepted the capitalist system of production. This is attributed to the steady rise in the standard of living of the industrial workers in these countries. And because they are getting a better deal, the workers are said to be less interested in joining trade unions to fight for their interests. One of the more influential research efforts supporting this thesis is reported in the study on The Affluent Workers in The Class Structure, conducted in England
in 1970's by Goldthorpe, Lockwood and others, to examine the embourgeoisement hypothesis. This study, has pictured the affluent worker as someone who regards his factory as only a source of his livelihood. He does not have any sense of pride in belonging to his factory. He does not develop a sense of friendship or comradery with his fellow workers. Work does not anymore give him a sense of identity or meaning in life. He seeks his identity in his leisure time activities. He looks forward to going home and spending time with his family and a small circle of intimate friends. He leads a very private life and zealously guards his privacy. He continues to be a member of the trade union but he is not an active participant in the Union's affairs. He looks upon the union as a mere instrument in his getting higher wages. Thus instead of becoming an active agent of social transformations the worker is becoming
a passive acceptor of the system and is interested only in getting a better deal for himself from the system. All this evidence seems to specifically contradict Marx's comments on the role of the working class in capitalist societies.
Alienation of Modem Workers
In fact, even before hard evidence was brought up by the affluent workers study, some leading Marxist thinkers had pointed to such a change in the workers attitudes. Marcuse, a highly influential Marxist theoretician, had commented in the 1960's that in the modem society, even the workers have become profoundly estranged and alienated. Industrialisation has robbed them of their individuality and has deadened their sensibilities. The worker has become a human extension of the machine. Just as a slave who has tasted no freedom cannot imagine what freedom is, the modern worker leads such a mechanical existence that he or she does not even want freedom from this slavery. That is why Marcuse considered that university students who are not yet spoilt by the modem society could be the people who could bring about the revolution.
Modem Technology and Work Relationships
Distinction between using a machine and using a hand tool. When a worker uses a hand tool he is controlling the pace of work himself. In a machine, even the simplest of them, this tool is taken away from the worker's hands and fixed. It can be only moved in a particular direction in contrast to the tool in the human hand which can be moved in many directions, Once the tool is fixed in this manner, the worker has to adjust his speed of work to the machine rather than the other way round. But the advantage is that the machine can ID more work and turn out more items than the human being because the machine does not get tired from repeated movements while the human hand does