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CAPITOL LETTERS (Ep. ∞): The Industrial Revolutionizing of the Social Contract: 4.0 Generation Updates

CAPITOL LETTERS (Ep. ∞): The Industrial Revolutionizing of the Social Contract: 4.0 Generation Updates Read more on that in the VISIO JOURNAL latest issue

The “egg-and-chicken” problem when, for instance, reasoning on and ruminating about the history-long and worldwide plethora of technological shifts/rifts/drifts and social/political/economic realities is secondary to a principal obviousness: these two dimensions of the human(e) existence are involved in a co-evolutionary relationship, implying mutual and bi-directional causes and effects. Hence, defining (or decreeing) the “technological” as the independent variable and the “socio-” as the dependent one, or maybe vice versa, solely provides the scholar with insights onto limited segments from what it is, yet, a continuum; but, for the scientist, understanding each and every modest and simple link gets him/her closer to the underpinnings of the mega-complex chains of events. Studying Industrial Revolutions’ (IR) imprint on the functioning of polities is such a link, a compound of the chain of capturing the practical means which get us closer to our principled ends.

Problem statement. Our species’ sociality comprises a mixture (and sometimes a messing-up) of political and economic considerations, among other issues. Themselves results of more or less fertile political and economic societal circumstances, the technological (r)evolutions strike back in political and economic matters. If the second imputation is much more common, as dealing with new productive (technological, organizational) methods prompts industry ahead of agriculture in jobs and fortunes creation, the first one is significant too. The very act of governing changed, with the extent of state involvement in economic policy ranging from the more classical-liberal, capitalistically-entrepreneurial takes in the Anglo-Saxon world to the proto-welfare-states springing in the continental Europe. Notably, each wave of Industrial Revolution got state agencies and public policies in even more direct contact with ordinary people. Yet the trend is far from being exhausted.

Research questions. This essay briefly surveys the accumulations in terms of major impacts coming from technological breakthroughs – embodied in the four (and counting?!) waves of Industrial Revolutions – on the broad soci(et)al fabric, with an explicit focus on the political scene, as well as with the use of economic lenses. Although it draws upon popular historical retrospectives, and occasionally playing with prospective tools, the exposé is intendedly theoretical. It aims as sketching answers to questions such as: What can be noticed in the interplay between technology - politics - economics across epochs?; How much contractual any “social contract” really is and how technologies might improve this?; Why the “representative” type of democracy is not necessarily superior to the “participative” one?; Does Industrial Revolution 4.0’s society have the means (or will?) to restore/install social contract’s legitimacy by more participative democracy?

Research methods. Short of entering the debates pertaining to the philosophy of science, the authors are aware of (grosso modo) Methodological disparity of social vs. natural sciences and adopted, for this exploratory topic, a rather austere, qualitative, deductive route, than a luxurious, data-based, quantitative and empirical one. There has been found as an adequate (stricto sensu) methodological toolkit the one containing: a brief (praxeo)logical/deductive investigation of the coherence and consistence of the state-of-the-art explanatory, as well as predictive lines of argumentation within the extant literature; a short scrutiny of both qualitative and quantitative historical records involving processes at the confluence of industrial revolutions with social phenomena, merely related to government; a terse attempt to demonstrate that, theoretically and practically, the state and trend in IT&C affairs can create more ethical and efficient social contracts.

Expected findings. An in-the-making research route as this one has as much novelty as enduring common-sense. Amid narratives that tend to associate technological accelerating progress with the risk of dystopian abyss, this study is not intended to be a “manifesto” for re-reading and re-writing the more often than not unread and… unwritten social contracts, but it may well join one endeavour of such genre. After centuries (if not millennia) of attempting to demonstrate (bloodily a posteriori than peacefully a priori) that strong dictatorships and despotisms are worse than the most fragile democracy because of the degenerative/corruptive nature of (absolute!) power, it may be the ripe time for giving back the power to the people, though not in a socialist-revolutionary, but in a liberal-evolutionary way. The incoming “4.0 citizenry” has the wherewithal to be more participative (cutting down political middlemen) and genuinely contractual (cutting down political mythologies). 

Read more on that in the VISIO JOURNAL: volume 7

(September 26, 2022 – Washington, D.C. & Bucharest) 





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