Science & Technology policy in Brazil – III

Image: Marcio Costa


Education, work and technologies in informational capitalism

The first part of this chapter presents an overview of trends on the conversion of science and technology into a source of productivity at the turn of the XNUMXth century. XX to the XXI. This conversion provoked intense ideological debate about the knowledge society as an elaborate idealization to make the notion of information something universal equivalent of a medium of exchange as one of the main elements in the accumulation of wealth and power in society. The second part examines the alternatives for the university in Brazil and Latin America to overcome the technological determinism of these approaches, through others that emphasize the role of politics and philosophy of education, opening other cognitive horizons.


Castells, in the late 1990s, introduced the analysis of the sociotechnical transformations of intellectual and academic work environments, under the then computer revolution before the advent of the internet(1).

He commented that contemporary social theories have postulated, in general, a common diagnosis: we live in a process that is based on a new sociotechnical paradigm whose central elements are the production of knowledge and the information process.

Just as in the past the revolution of industrial society was oriented based on Capital's incessant search for the generation and use of energy, now we are facing a new society that we call informational. Here we are not just facing the material dimension of S&T.

There is also a managerial dimension of control and supervision that casts its waves and signals, like nets to fish in society information.

Is it simply the old private bureaucracy that is now being modernized through the control of data and information flows, in such a way that it provokes new dynamics of power and conflicts of interests and power? Exactly, but it goes way beyond that.

In the terminology of Daniel Bell (1973) this social theory was elaborated as a preface to the advent of post-industrial society(2). In this sense, Castells raised two hypotheses

(i) whoever controls knowledge and information has power in society; It is

(ii) the media is a crucial instance that plays in the field of socio-cultural and material (economic-productive) dimensions as key to defining behavioral guidelines for society as a whole (which includes the foundations of education and health).

On the other hand, Lyotard(3) argues that the pandora's box of a vast market of operational skills has opened, from which all kinds of expertises fragmented by holders of knowledge, which become the object of offers and even a reason for dispute through seduction policies.

“From this point of view, it is not the end of knowledge that is announced, but the opposite. Tomorrow's encyclopedia is databases. They exceed the capacity of each user. They are “nature” for “postmodern” man. (ditto, 93).

Thus, access to information will be up to the specialists; expert exchanges in the field of expert assessments made by experts on a given subject. It is the result of expertise or skill, as the solution of a crime depends on the expertise of the investigator.

The ruling class is and will be under the purview of decision-makers who are advised by experts, and a part of them becomes leaders. As a social layer of leaders, it is no longer constituted by the traditional political class, but by a network formed by company directors, senior officials, directors of large professional bodies, trade unions, politicians, confessional bodies.

Under informational capitalism “the business model of the software industry is the paradigm of this new stage”(4) at the same time that the basic commodity of this moment in history is information. Hence for the qualifier that refers to Capital: instead of information society, he proposes the term informational capitalism.

This dimension had already been highlighted by physicists when faced with the phenomenon of life on a nanometric scale. (5). For Dantas, the concept of information comes from Physics and Biology as an essential component of energy work and communication. In the industrial revolution, the capitalist bought knowledge as an element regulated by the use value of the worker's labor power, but only paid him the minimum necessary for its negentropic replacement or replacement as exchange value. Dantas resumes the formula of the cycle of accumulation of industrial capital (Book 2 of Capital):

D — M —P…—M'— D'

[Where D = money, M = inputs and labor force for the process P from which the Commodities M'>M come out, which, when sold, are transmuted into money D'>D].

Updating this formula to the new reality of capitalism, he presents his general formula for the information cycle: D — M — I—M'— D'

[Where I expresses the live activities of perceiving, processing, registering and communicating information, with the support of inputs M, hence obtaining D'>D. The value of an informational product – be it a software package, a music CD, or a designer sneaker – is found in the action that this product provides to interacting agents]

In advanced capitalism, it is appropriate to include as a supplier of productive work, therefore, a worker, from the scientist to the worker, passing through the teacher, the journalist, the engineer, the publicist, the manager and other paid professionals involved in informational activities.(6).

A notorious example is the sociotechnical process of software and hardware production. It was separated into microcomputers during the 90s of the last century. With this, an open door is left for free reproduction, which companies accused as piracy (but who is the pirate?).

One solution found by the Mandrake (the magic detective) of informational capitalism, Bill Gates – was to put the software embedded in the hardware. Today, we have generic drugs as an example of breaking patents or knowledge (guided by the economic power of the pharmaceutical complex), just as in informational capitalism there is a permanent economic struggle to steal, copy or invent new patents. But whatever the case, to be able to handle the information, it is necessary to qualify; from there we move on to the issue of Education and Work.

Hirata, in his look at production in the Fordist accumulation regime, describes its foundation based on the mass manufacture of standardized goods through the use of non-flexible specialized machines and with semi-skilled workers.

For the qualification of these workers, strict compliance with operating standards is required, according to a “best way”, with prescription of tasks. Discipline in compliance is based on non-communication such as isolation, prohibition of dialogues while working online, among others.(7).

The flexible organization model is the result of technological innovations such as decentralization and openness to the international market in the context of globalization. This same flexibility would lead to the return of a type of skilled craftsmanship and in cooperation between management and cross-functional employees, according to Hirata.

Called the model of competence – as opposed to that of qualification – it implies a post-Taylorist commitment to a pact whereby workers are led to adhere to this mode of work organization.

Its characteristic: participation in production management, adherence to teamwork, greater involvement in the company's competitiveness strategies. All this without necessarily obtaining compensation in terms of salary. Qualification, on the other hand, would be directly related to the Fordist moment, where a specialization is required for each task.

The author then places the axis of the issue of competence centered on the categories of work and language. She argues, with Zarifan, that it is necessary to make a new synthesis between these two concepts, such as communicational work, (apropos the assertion of Habermas and Claus Off that work would no longer have centrality in this phase of capitalism).

For Frigotto, both Habermas and Offe disregard the ontological dimension of work that, in Marx, constitutes the human essence, since it is through work, through the production of material life, that man constitutes himself as a historical subject.(8). For Marx, the mode of production of material life conditions the process of social, political and intellectual life; we are dealing not with the conscience of men which determines their being; it is his social being that determines his consciousness.”(9)

Furthermore, Frigotto emphasizes the fragility of Offe's empirical argument, as Europe, at the end of the century, was far from giving up the centrality of work and structured “a veritable iron curtain to protect jobs” (idem, p. 114). against the unemployed of the Third World.

For Antunes, toyotism is characterized by cooperative, team work, where the lack of demarcation of tasks demands a polyvalent and multifunctional qualification(10).

However, the flexible production, typical of the neoliberal State, requires knowledge and attitudes different from the qualifications required by Fordist (American) and Toyotist (Japanese) organizations, as these are still fragmented and controlled.

Thus, the post-Fordist worker, according to this analysis, is still alienated. With the crisis of Fordism in the central capitalist countries and the production process in countries that did not know well/warfarestate, new processes of industrial production emerge (post-Fordism and Toyotism), which begin to influence both the conception and management of work and all the social dimensions related to it.

Linked to the “postmodern” and post-Fordist logic, these new processes, in general, emphasize lifelong learning, education for thinking and networking, as opposed to the Taylorist/Fordist logic of mass production the assembly line, where there was a clear and sharp division of labor. Thinkers and doers correspond to intellectual workers and manual workers respectively.

For Saviani, the “pedagogy of learning to learn” has the “objective of providing individuals with flexible behaviors that allow them to adjust to the conditions of a society in which their own survival needs are not guaranteed”.(11)

With the responsibility for jobs transferred by the welfare state to individuals themselves under the minimal state, Saviani concludes that these transfers make them subjugated to the invisible hand of the market. Companies change qualification for competence and, in schools, an attempt is made to move from knowledge of knowledge subjects to the teaching of competences related to specific situations (Saviani), taking into account that, at least since Marx, it has been theorized that being productive does not it just means producing more goods but creating exchange value, that is, surplus value.

Since the 1990s, we have been unable to escape neotechnicism, which is present, fueling the search for total quality in education and the penetration of corporate pedagogy.

On the issue of Education and Work, the analysis by Lacerda and Moraes on different studies on this subject suggests that regardless of the future configuration of society, the intervention of the individual as a participatory and decisive citizen in his social environment will continue to depend on his position in the productive system . For them, there is no indication that the emerging technological society will be fairer, more pleasant, more democratic, more egalitarian.(12)

Technological advances and their implications for the way the labor market works would be leading society to an intensification of worker exploitation, favoring the proliferation of outsourced, partial and precarious work, without rights and under-paid, strengthening the dual labor market. work(13).

For critical theorists, the discourse that advocates a growing qualification of the workforce is a myth that is part of and supports the maintenance of a production model that preserves, in its entirety, the commodity fetishism and alienation.

Saviani points out that alienation persists in material work since the product of work is separated from the worker. Regarding non-material work, we would be facing the existence of two types, the first is that the product is separated from the producer, giving the example of book production. In the second, in which the product is not separated from the worker, and gives the teacher as an example(14).

Barreto questions this link between new technologies and their counterpart information and communication technologies/ICT and demands for education. He argues that there is a double movement: structure and scale. In the structure there is a conceptual shift from the original social field (company) to education in the sense of its commodification. In scale, this displacement follows the guidelines of international organizations in the neoliberal context(15).

Frigotto analyzes that we are experiencing neoliberalism and its postmodern version, where difference, otherness, subjectivity, particularity and localism, begin to regulate social relations, reinforcing fragmentation and atomizing the market. In this condition, postmodernity becomes the last systemic version of capitalism itself.

On the ethical level, neoliberalism situates the market as the fundamental definer of human relations, under the thesis, defended by one of the formulators of the contemporary neoliberal doctrine F. Hayek (1899-1992), that equality and democracy are harmful elements to the economic efficiency.

For Frigotto, under the Theory of Human Capital (THC) both Fordist and post-Fordist capitalism requires skilled workers. While in Fordism the required work was abundant, in informational capitalism the work is flexible, and the work relations are precarious, with the worker at the mercy of competitive individualism in the search to acquire more skills in the fight for employability.

This generates at the university a frantic search for greater productivity to achieve the performance idealized by International Organizations, especially the World Bank.

KAM is the Knowledge Assessment Methodology – through which the Knowledge Economy Indexes (KEI) are prepared.

The KAM consists of 81 quantitative and qualitative structural variables for 132 countries, which serve to evaluate their performance in the 4 pillars of the Information Economy: 1) economic incentives and institutional regime; 2) education; 3) innovation; and 4) information and communication technologies. Variables are normalized on a scale of 0 to 10 relative to the countries in the comparison group.


Figure 01 – Information economy variables for the knowledge economy world map.

Source: WORD BANK, 2011(16)

The statistics assembled to measure (and value as an indicator of supposed primacy) the performance of universities show the University of California, with 251 patents granted to companies in 2010. MIT obtained 134 patents. Soon after came Stanford University with 110 patents, and the California Institute of Technology with 93.(17).

To situate how certain dynamism of the American academic system is oriented towards and by business objectives, it is enough to see that the number of patents granted to MIT was just a little behind that of innovative companies such as Google, Pioneer Corporation, the oil company Shell and Sony Ericsson Mobile, the arm that takes care of the mobility technologies of the Japanese company. Thus, in the new logic of world power “the fundamental strategic component is the control of technology (…)”(18)

The vision of the university as a producer of commercial science has operated in what we can call one of the “postmodern discourses”, which rejects grand explanations as metanarratives. However, contradictorily, they use theories that have metanarrative force, as is the case of the ideology of trademarks, patents, intellectual and industrial property rights.

For Dupas, industrial property, regulated through strict control over the use of trademarks and patents, is one of the pillars of the global capitalist accumulation system.

This rigid IP control is heavily used by international institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF); but, paradoxically, the questioning begins about the weight of the costs involved in defensive actions of these large corporations.


This set of trends presented above and its particularities lead to unequal access to scientific and technological knowledge. For Annan “The unequal distribution of scientific activity generates serious problems not only for the scientific community in developing countries, but for development itself.(19).

In contrast, there is the construction process of another society, where work is conceived as an educational principle. About new technologies, Saviani argues that what we are experiencing today is the transfer of intellectual functions to machines (automata), posing as a challenge the need for greater qualification of the working class given that their intellectual functions are being absorbed by automata.

Frigotto points out that polytechnics, in the opposite direction to the transfer above, implies overcoming fragmentation, utilitarianism and uniting theory and practice, which requires a new social function of the school.

Polytechnic knowledge is part of another perspective, that of the development of all human qualities in the process of overcoming social relations of alienation and exclusion. The alternative of education in a democratic socialist perspective cannot invent a supra-historical reality. It is gestated in the counter-hegemonic struggle from within this materiality(20).

The qualification demanded in this new stage requires “the universalization of the unitary school that develops the individual's potential to the maximum (omnilateral training), leading them to the full blossoming of their spiritual-intellectual faculties”, in opposition to the global capitalist market.

Saviani understands that a non-alienating, non-alienating polytechnic type of technological training is necessary, which makes explicit the non-human nature of technologies, emphasizing the need to explain the scientific and technological principles that originate them. In his view, technologies are means and cannot be fetishized under the risk that the teacher's work, which is not material, is alienated, as occurs in distance courses as practiced today. (21).

In this context, every citizen needs to communicate properly, produce something for himself and others (...) the school cannot renounce the discipline of study and scientific and cultural precision, but it also needs to provide young people with” (...) “a space in which each one freely forms himself in what he likes”(22) .

Feenberg interprets that “technologies are not just means leading to ends; they also shape worlds”. And he asks: “What kind of world is the internet instituted?” In doing so, he criticizes the model he called the factory, which consists of automated teaching machines or poor copies of face-to-face classrooms, as opposed to the model of the City, which has the challenge of using electronic networks so that they are appropriate. by educational institutions in a dialogic way(23) .

Raymod Williams theorizes that media are means of production and are directly subordinated to the historical development from the simplest physical forms of language to the most advanced forms of communication technology, are always socially and materially produced and obviously reproduced.

From a socialist perspective, from the democratic communitarian use, it would be possible to reach “in a reasonable and practical way, the meaning given by Marx to communism as the production of the very form of communication” in which, with the end of the division of labor within the own means of production and communication, individuals would speak “as individuals”, as integral human beings(24).

Given this, we think that the ideal pursued since the Enlightenment of emancipation requires more than conscious and autonomous citizens. We are facing the collective task of rebuilding education, from a historical-critical perspective, which aims to stimulate this formation. And for that, it is necessary to transform risk into a challenge, poison into a vaccine, domination into dialogue at the confluence between education and work in informational capitalism.

* Richard Neder He is a sociologist and political economist, professor at UnB and editor-in-chief of the Revista Ciência e Tecnologia Social.

*Raquel Moraes is a professor of education and technology at UnB.


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To read the second part go to



[1]    Manuel Castells, Paulo Freire; Henry Giroux; Donaldo Macedo; Paul Wills.(1999) CRITICAL EDUCATION IN THE NEW INFORMATION SOCIETY. London, Boulder, New York, Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.


[3]    Jean-Francois Lyotard (2000) THE POST MODERN CONDITION. Sao Paulo: Loyola,

[4]   Marcos Dantas (2011), Information and capitalism: a Marxian approach. In: Luciana Aliaga; Henrique Amorim; Paula Marcelino. (Org.). MARXISM: THEORY, HISTORY AND POLITICS. 1st edition. São Paulo: Alameda Casa Editorial, , p. 277-290.

[5]    Inwin Schrodinger (1977) WHAT IS LIFE? Sao Paulo: UNESP,

[6]    Marcos Dantas (op.cit)

[7]    Helena Hirata (1994) Polarization of qualifications to the competence model. Celso Ferretti et al. al. (Org.) NEW TECHNOLOGIES, WORK AND EDUCATION. Petropolis: Voices, p. 128-137

[8]     Gaudencio Frigotto (1995) EDUCATION AND THE REAL CAPITALISM CRISIS. Sao Paulo: Cortez.

[9]    Karls Marx (2008) Zur Kritik der Politischen Oekonomie von Karl Marx. Erstes Heft, Berlin 1859. SELECTED WORKS (three volumes). Lisbon/Moscow, Editorial Avante! Translated by José Barata-Moura.       


[11]   Dermeval Saviani (2008) PEDAGOGY IN BRAZIL. HISTORY AND THEORY. Campinas: Associated Authors.

[12]    Raquel de A. Moraes and Gilberto Lacerda Santos. Education in the technological society. In: Gilberto Lacerda Santos (Org.). TECHNOLOGIES IN TEACHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING. 1st edition. Brasilia: Editora Plano, 2003, v. 1, p. 11-30.

[13]     Ricardo Antunes (1995) op. cit.

[14]    Demerval Saviani (2008) op. cit.

[15]    Raquel Goulart Barreto (2010). Configuration of the National Policy for the Training of Distance Teachers. OPENED, Brasília, v. 23, no. 84, p. 33-45, Nov.


[17]    UNICAMP (2010), INOVA BULLETIN Available in:> Accessed on 25/5/15.

[18]    Gilberto Dupas (2007) Intellectual Property: tensions between the logic of capital and social interests. In: F. VILLARES (Org.). INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY: TENSIONS BETWEEN CAPITAL AND SOCIETY. São Paulo: Paz e Terra, p.15-24.

[19]     Cited by Charles Tilly (2006) Unequal access to scientific knowledge. Translation by Alexandre Massella. SOCIAL TIME. v. 18, no. 2, p. 47-63, November.

[20]    Gaudencio Frigotto (1995) op. cit. 

[21]    Dermeval Saviani (1994) Work as an educational principle in the face of new technologies. In: FERRETI, C. et al. (Org.). NEW TECHNOLOGIES, WORK AND EDUCATION. Petrópolis: Voices,

[22]     Paolo Nosella (2007) Work and workers' training perspectives: beyond polytechnic training. BRAZILIAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATION, v. 12, p. 137-151

[23]     Andrew Feenberg. (2013) The factory or the city: which model of Distance Education via the web? In: Ricardo T. Neder (Org.). ANDREW FEENBERG'S CRITICAL THEORY: DEMOCRATIC RATIONALIZATION, POWER AND TECHNOLOGY. Brasília: OBMTS/ Escola Altos Estudos CAPES, UnB Social Construction of Technology Collection no. 3. (pp. 153-176).

[24]     Raymond Williams (2011) CULTURE AND MATERIALISM. São Paulo: Editora Unesp.

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