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Langdon Winner. 'Do Artifacts Have Politics?'

Published onFeb 15, 2023
Langdon Winner. 'Do Artifacts Have Politics?'

“The things we call “technologies” are ways of building order in our world.” is one of the general conclusions that political theorist Langdon Winner (b. 1944) draws in his paper “Do Artifacts Have Politics” (1980: 127). This article outlines his claims that artifacts, intended as technical objects, have specific forms of power and authority to influence and change our lives and society. In this article, he provides examples of technologies that – on first glance – may not explicitly express any form of political intent, but in reality, produce very concrete power relations and social consequences. As discussed in our chapter, the Long Island Overpasses ensured that only (rich and predominantly white) people with cars could reach the beaches. But there are plenty of other examples. For instance, the Mechanical Tomato Harvester that was introduced in the 1940s to increase productivity and lower farming costs in California led to tomato farming becoming concentrated around larger farms, and changing the lives of many tomato workers profoundly. Winner argues that we should “achieve a clearer view” of technological innovation and consider its many consequences, a claim we wholeheartedly agree with.

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