Solidarity technoscience and platformization of society

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By RENATO DAGNINO*

The challenges that afflict society, whose cognitive intensity is known to be increasing, can only be faced by the current government by mobilizing our techno-scientific potential

Presentation

This text was discussed in this Free Conference, held on April 17th to place these two hitherto absent topics on the agenda of the 5th National ST&I Conference, due to their incipience in our environment and their counter-hegemonic nature, in the dozens of similar events that have been shaking and galvanizing those involved with the subject.

The Free Conference consisted of two moments. In the afternoon, people gathered interested in freely discussing this text on Solidarity Technoscience and another on Platformization of Society. To receive the texts, they signed up on the website htt//tinyurl.com/conferencia-livre-df. In the evening, people interested in talking to those who work on these two topics in universities and social movements did the same.

At both times, two professors from public universities, Renato Dagnino from Unicamp and Ricardo Neder from UnB, addressed in detail the most relevant aspects of their texts, on Solidarity Technoscience and on the Platformization of Society, previously worked on by the Conference participants.

Feedback from participants who registered, from people who were part of the event's opening panel, and from debaters invited to comment on the texts, reinforced the perception of the team that organized the event that these two themes should be discussed at the 5th National Conference on CT&I.

More than that, together with everyone who became “military” so that these themes, from June onwards, become part of the decision-making agenda of our STI policy, left hopeful. We left our event with the certainty that to fulfill its objective of helping to build “a fair, sustainable and developed Brazil”, the 5th National ST&I Conference could not fail to take into account the results of our work.

Introduction

The first part of this text refers specifically to the first of the themes of the Free Conference. There we return to the theme of Solidarity Technoscience, briefly explaining the concept and justifying the convenience of its use by the left.

The second, much shorter, but which seems to deserve justification in this Introduction, is presented on page 7. It is a proposal (For an institutional space for consultation with knowledge workers), discussed and approved by the National S&T Sector and PT IT in 2022, and forwarded to the transition team. And then, according to information from MCTI, “it is on the Minister’s desk”.

As a justification for its inclusion, it is worth highlighting that its elaboration is based on aspects that have been widely discussed among left-wing people involved with STI policy: (a) this policy, much more than in advanced capitalist countries, has been here hegemonically guided by our “scientific elite”; (b) their “antennas” were always oriented, and it is natural that this is the case, given what happens in the area, in those countries.

(c) As a result, cognitive (or techno-scientific) demands embedded in collective needs in many of the collective material needs that we have have not been explored with the necessary intensity; (d) the most convenient way to meet these cognitive demands is to incorporate into the decision-making process of preparing the PCTI an actor that has been little listened to until now, but that holds and is responsible for the operationalization of our techno-scientific potential; (e) this actor, the knowledge workers (who work in teaching, research, planning and management of STI, etc.) is, for several reasons, the one who can best identify those needs, decode them, translating them in techno-scientific demands, and “bringing” them to the public policy environment.

The inclusion of this proposal in this document sought to evaluate the opportunity to forward it as a suggestion for the 5th Conference.

About Solidarity Technoscience – theorigins of the concept

Although I refer to Solidarity Technoscience as the “cognitive platform for launching the Solidarity Economy” and an indispensable requirement to enable the social and ecological transition to which its defenders refer, I refrain from discussing it here. Nor do I comment on concepts such as “innovation” and “technology” followed by the expression “social” so that these terms denote, as do more than two dozen others, alternatives to what I call Capitalist Technoscience.

 I clarify that, although I consider it equally pertinent, given the need to avoid the perverse confluence caused by the “confusion” of signifier x signified, I will not stick to the discussion of the social term. I will also not refer to distorting appositives that appear after Economy and “instead of” Solidarity such as the terms sustainable, impact, circular, creative, popular, green.

In my speeches about Solidarity Technoscience and also in some of the texts I wrote on the subject, I begin by presenting the concept of technoscience that I formulated, since it differs from that used by other researchers in the field of Science, Technology and Society Studies. Afterwards, particularizing this generic concept for the case of capitalism, I explain why the technoscience we have today, which I characterize as capitalist, is not suitable for the public management that this work proposes. In particular, one that must promote what we call a transition from the Inherited State to the Necessary State.

Proceeding here in the same way, I think I will be able to justify, without the need to confront the myths of the neutrality of science and technological determinism (which I addressed in a book almost two decades ago), why I question the use of terms such as technology or innovation to reference alternatives to capitalist technoscience.

Why technoscience?

To answer the question, I point out four reasons that, implicitly, justify why the use of other terms seems inappropriate to me.

The first is located in the descriptive-explanatory field. It arises from empirical evidence that shows a growing relationship, which began with the advent of Big Science, between what is still commonly called scientific research and technological research.

In fact, many renowned authors use the term technoscience to refer to the result of what they understand to be a contemporary fusion between science and technology. There would no longer be scientific research on the one hand, which would seek to know reality, produce pure knowledge – science. And, on the other, technological research, which would apply it generating applied knowledge – technology – to produce goods and services; useful things. Today, the activity that would best describe the production of knowledge is technoscientific research.

Whether it is carried out, at one extreme, in transnational companies (where more than half of all the resources spent on research in the world are used), or at the other, in universities and public organizations (where 30% of this total is used, basically to train people to carry out research in companies), the result of this research is called technoscience by these authors.

But there is enough empirical evidence to show that global techno-scientific dynamics are not controlled by these companies only quantitatively. Its power with those teaching and research institutions is exercised in two ways that are similar to two parts of an iceberg.

There is a very visible one: project financing, joint ventures, etc. It would be enough to show that this dynamic is also qualitatively controlled by them. Another, much more significant, derived from the subtle power they exercise via the job market, is revealed when it is discovered that the majority of postgraduates in advanced countries are hired by them to carry out the research that guarantees their profit. The profile of these professionals, so that they can meet the cognitive demands of the company, is the result of the “natural” and therefore little considered induction that companies have in defining the research and teaching agendas of those institutions.

There is a second reason: there are authors who claim that what the first observe is not a simple contemporary merger. For them, the term brings with it and is adopted due to an explanation that this alleged apartment is only discursive. There would never have actually been universities that produced science apart from the “business world”, nor companies that were successful in it just by applying it to generate technology.

According to them, knowledge for the production of goods and services, which was generated each time that human beings “since the beginning of time” intervened in work processes with the aim of appropriating the material result of this action, was a complex and systemic cognitive mix. And it was only after three hundred years that the disintegration of European feudalism lasted, when signifiers that intentionally denoted new meanings began to appear, that the constituents of this mixture began to be called science, religion, crafts, empirical knowledge (popular, ancestral , non-scientific, tacit, etc.), witchcraft, art, technology and, in contemporary times, innovation.

From this mixture of knowledge for the production of goods and services, so different to apprehensive capitalist eyes, but so “cohesive” by construction that pre-capitalist societies never bothered to create terms to designate what in reality did not even exist, capital, for convenience, he absolutized two of them: what he called science and technology. There are even researchers who consider this apartment to be a reassuring ideological manipulation of capital. By stating that there is an intrinsically true, good and neutral science and that it is only up to society to ensure that the technology resulting from its application is carried out ethically.

Indeed, it was important for its project of domination to identify a subset of this cognitive spectrum that capital could control and monopolize. Including the way it was materialized in socio-technical artifacts whose form, scale and acquisition cost were impediments for the working class. To this subset, claiming their interpretation of a “science” that would have emerged in Antiquity in the northwest of the world (as if the people of Africa, Asia and America did not exist) with the objective of “satiating the human appetite for knowing the truth”, capital began to call science and technology.

This was how the tacit part of knowledge for the production of goods and services, which remained the property of the direct producer (who began to be exploited as a seller of labor power), was relegated as empirical, non-scientific know-how. Their “erasure” contributed to subjecting the worker to the “qualification” imposed by capital.

If its systematization and apartmentization of the direct worker's cognitive repertoire, as codified technology, facilitated its expropriation and monopolization, its categorization as an alleged a posteriori application of a science expressing an elitist and almost sacred language, legitimized the meritocratic form of capitalist exploitation.

This does not mean that throughout history, due to the high cost of experimentation operations and scaling up of production processes, the training of workers who operated increasingly larger, complex and expensive units, and their desire to transform their children into good entrepreneurs, the capitalist class has not created, outside the companies, but in contact with them, teaching and research organizations financed by the State. With its cultural idiosyncrasies, territorial particularities and productive specializations, this process encompassed practically all European countries and engendered its functional and fertile repository, the capitalist university.

Supported by considerations of this type and discarding the ideas of flatness and neutrality, I formulated the generic concept of Technoscience as being the cognitive result of the action of a social actor on a work process that he controls and which, depending on the characteristics of the socioeconomic context , the social agreement, and the productive environment in which he operates, causes a modification in the process or product generated whose material gain can be appropriated by him according to his interest.

A third reason for using the term technoscience refers to the fact that those supposedly separated two types of knowledge, when causally connected, provide support and make acceptable another fallacious chain, well known and frequently criticized, which legitimizes capitalism.

The increase in worker productivity provided by the knowledge that originated from the action of the capitalist who controlled the work process, and whose appropriation as relative surplus value was legitimized by the State, began to be “sold” as the “economic development” of countries .

This increase in productivity, within countries whose owning classes competed fiercely in search of the surplus value generated by the worker, also came to be disguised as an increase in competitiveness that benefited the innovative country. By being assimilated, in a consequential way – via “overflow” – to the well-being of workers (through employment and salary and access to “better and cheaper” goods and services) and “social development”, it completed the fallacy on which a large part of the capitalist ideological superstructure is based.

The artificial disregard of other knowledge necessary for the production of goods and services that were difficult to codify or expropriate and the sequential separation of the most easily elite and controllable knowledge in science and technology was consolidated as an element, at the same time central and preventive, of ideological manipulation of capital.

To better explain this argument that legitimizes capitalism, it is worth highlighting that for it to work, workers and society have to believe in the separation between science and technology. This is already “half the battle”. The other half comes from another ancient belief engendered by the Enlightenment in its fight against “obscurantist religiosity”. That there is a non-dogmatic science, intrinsically true and universal because it revealed, through the scientific method, uncontaminated by values ​​or interests, the secrets of the planet for all its inhabitants. And, therefore, it had two politically important characteristics to de-ideologize and justify its support by the State. It was neutral – capable of making any political projects viable – and when its application led to “bad” technologies, this result should be considered atypical; an aethical “accident along the way”.

Supported by this legitimizing argumentative chain, the capitalist structure was unharmed by the criticisms that supporters of socialism, by the way, due to a mistaken reading of Marx, did not go so far as to criticize the neutrality and determinism of technology. The perception that responsibility for the “misuse” of science lies with a lack of ethics – sick and limited to those who apply it to develop technology – and never with the characteristic way in which that structure operates, including the way in which it generates its technoscience , Capitalist Technoscience, continues to cross ideological boundaries between the right and the left.

It is important to highlight, in this sense, that the empirical evidence that reality is very different from the idealized model. Its attempt to implement and emulate that global techno-scientific dynamic that materializes the values ​​and interests of capital through means-policies (cognitive politics) and end-policies (economic-productive, geostrategic, etc.) is not leading to the promised result.

I tend to caricature the technoscience produced by and for companies as carrying seven deadly sins: planned deterioration, planned obsolescence, illusory performance, exacerbated consumerism, environmental degradation, systemic illness and psychological suffering. And leading to trends in jobless growth economy (when the economy grows, jobs are not created) and jobloss growth economy (When the economy grows, jobs disappear) that are increasingly socially and economically unsustainable.

Based on arguments of this nature, it is possible to particularize that generic concept of technoscience for the case of capitalism. Capitalist Technoscience is the cognitive result of the capitalist's action on a work process that he controls and which, as a function of a socioeconomic context (which engenders private ownership of the means of production) and a social agreement (which legitimizes an intermediated coercion by the labor market and the political-ideological superstructure maintained by the State) which give rise, in the productive environment, to control (imposed and asymmetrical) and cooperation (of a Taylorist or Toyotist type), allowing for a change in the exchange value of the commodity produced subject to to be appropriated by him (in the form of relative surplus value).

A fourth reason for using the term technoscience, which crosses the border between the descriptive-explanatory and normative terrains, refers to its qualification of solidarity, which, as I wrote at the beginning, I refrain from going into depth. It derives from the verification that the technoscience of capital is not useful for building the society that conscious and responsible segments of the international community have been demanding.

To avoid what they interpret as a systemic crisis of capitalism associated with the depletion of the capitalocene, they point to the fact that at the strict individual level, of their business, the company, even if it were willing to do so, is not capable of internalizing the externalities negative effects that have been causing it. Regarding the climate crisis, for example, the company that does so, contrary to the atomized and intrinsically selfish logic that governs it, will be excluded from the market because it is unable to transfer its higher production costs to the price.

Rescuing historical counter-hegemonic experiences of organizing the production and consumption of goods and services based on collective ownership of the means of production and self-management, these segments have been gaining prominence in the international environment of politics and what we call Solidarity Economy here.

Why Solidarity Technoscience?

It is in this context that the particularization of that generic concept acquires increasing relevance. Solidarity Technoscience: cognitive result of the action of a collective of producers on a work process that, due to a socioeconomic context (which engenders collective ownership of the means of production) and a social agreement (which legitimizes associations), which In the productive environment, they give rise to control (self-managed) and cooperation (of a voluntary and participatory nature), causing a modification in the product or process generated, the material gain of which can be appropriated according to the decision of the collective.

As is clear, it radically contrasts with concepts such as Social Technology (“any technique, method or product arising from the interaction between popular and scientific knowledge that meets the requirements of simplicity, low cost, easy applicability (and reapplication) and social impact proven”) which, based on the myths of the apartment and neutrality, suggest that to boost the Solidarity Economy it would be enough to use scientific knowledge in another way. Which, combined with the popular, will solve “social” problems that, for some discriminatory reason, must have a low cost of resolution.

And also with that of social innovation, an oxymoron that contrasts, by substitution, the social with the technological, attached to the original meaning of innovation (of an invention that generates profit for the company) as if satisfying the material needs of the poor did not require complex and original technoscientific knowledge.

Furthermore, by using a diffuse qualification (social), resulting from the consideration of aspects that would transcend the economic – a euphemistic form that is often used to avoid the term profit – they imply that solidarity enterprises do not need to be competitive in relation to companies.

When trying to build hegemony by including economic-productive arrangements based on private property and heteromanagement that come to “fit” these terms, a situation is created that makes unfeasible, even in strictly cognitive terms, the actions that we would have, with intellectuals , we must boost.

This ambitious undertaking, which ranges from an unprecedented convergence between “inhuman” and “inaccurate” sciences around the explanation and processing of cognitive demands embedded in collective material needs, to a new policy of alliances with social actors, would not make sense without was the objective of conceiving a new way of producing knowledge more suited to the lives of human beings and the planet they inhabit.

It involves, on the one hand, the seduction of our peers in teaching and research institutions, still abducted by a cognitive policy that, covered by the cloak of neutral science, emulates capitalist techno-scientific dynamics. And, on the other, the exposure of our colleagues and students to a critique of peripheral Teaching, Research and Extension agendas that goes beyond the mere denunciation of their imitative nature in relation to advanced capitalist countries. A critique that, based on the reconfiguration of technoscience teaching, is capable of guiding them in a more accurate and effective way “beyond capital”.

I conclude by presenting the way in which Solidarity Technoscience is understood in certain areas of the Solidarity Economy movement: the way in which knowledge must be shared with a view to the production and consumption of goods and services aimed at satisfying collective needs in solidarity economy networks.

Clarifying: mode (original, open, mutant and adaptive)… as knowledge (of any nature – “inhuman” or “inaccurate” scientific, religious, empirical, ancestral technological and origin – academia, companies, original peoples, popular movements, excluded) … they must be managed (used, prospected, resurrected, combined, redesigned via socio-technical adaptation based on capitalist technoscience, designed)… aiming at the production and consumption of goods and services oriented (primarily) towards the satisfaction of collective needs (the fulfillment of purchases and industrial reconversion)... in solidarity economy networks (respecting their values ​​and interests – collective ownership of the means of production and self-management and promoting their densification, extension, sustainability, autonomy and competitiveness).

For an institutional space for consultation with knowledge workers

The challenges that afflict our society, whose cognitive intensity is known to be increasing, can only be faced by the current government by mobilizing our techno-scientific potential.

The government's political goals, in different areas (economic, social, etc.) and with different deadlines, must be “reflected” in the research, teaching and extension activities of the institutions dedicated to them in order to ensure their fulfillment.

The adequate specification of these activities (their content and form of execution, the way in which they should relate to the target policy areas to which they are tributary, etc.) and their breakdown into plans, programs, projects, etc. It is a condition for the functionality of our CTI system.

The methodology adopted for this specification, which is at the heart of the elaboration of STI policies, must be updated in line with the characteristics of those challenges and goals and with the style – democratic and participatory – of our government.

The methodology proposed here has as its premise the incorporation of this style to “reflect” the challenges that afflict our society (and government goals) in terms of the activities of teaching, research and extension institutions.

It differs (evidently without intending to exclude) from what decades ago, based on consultation with the most prominent members of the scientific community, and the consequent chain of formulation, implementation and evaluation actions, guides our STI system.

Its premise is that we need to improve the process of decoding the challenges that afflict our society into teaching, research and extension agendas to be made possible and explored by the components of our STI system. And that is why it is imperative and urgent to mobilize it to primarily satisfy the techno-scientific demand embedded in the needs for collective goods and services.

The historic ability to mobilize the chronically underutilized public techno-scientific potential to, through the State, achieve the rare successes that we know of, attests to the cognitive competence of the knowledge workers of our teaching and research institutions and the management bodies that make them viable.

Your majority support for our government and your inclusion in popular movements is a condition for effectively meeting needs whose satisfaction is a guarantee of justice and governability. The relevance of your incipient participation in the renewal of our teaching, research and extension agendas is an endorsement of the effectiveness of what is proposed here.

The discussion of a document expanding, substantiating and detailing the above within the scope of these institutions and bodies of the CTI system is the first movement to be implemented through assistance to the minister of CTI. It will define the next steps that will be designed with the participation of people interested in making the preparation (formulation, implementation and evaluation) of the PCTI more coherent with the values, interests and needs of the nation as a whole.

This institutional space for permanent and systematic consultation and participation of knowledge workers is a condition for building the future we want.

* Renato Dagnino He is a professor at the Department of Scientific and Technological Policy at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of Solidarity Technoscience, a strategic manual (anti-capital fights).


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