Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational

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A&C Black, Aug 1, 2001 - Social Science - 256 pages
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What gives the mass media, particularly advertising and television, their extraordinary power over our lives, so that even the most jaded and sophisticated among us are troubled and fascinated by their allure? The secret, according to Richard Stivers, in this brilliant new book, lies in the curious relationship between technology and magic. Stivers argues the two are now related to one another in such a way that each has taken on important characteristics of the other. His contention is that our expectations for technology have become magical to the point that they have generated a multitude of imitation technologies that function as magical practices. These imitation technologies flourish in the fields of psychology, management administration, and the mass media, and their paramount purpose in human adjustment and control. Advertising and television programs, in particular, contain the key magical rituals of our civilization.In a fascinating analysis of television programming, Stivers shows how various genres--news, sports, game shows, soap operas, sitcoms, etc.--have their distinct mythological symbols. Through dramatized information, they symbolically connect consumer goods and services to desired outcomes--the utopian goals of success, happiness, and health--thus enveloping technology, both real and imitation, in a magical cocoon.
 

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Technology as magic: the triumph of the irrational

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In this convincing and lucid study, Stivers (sociology, Illinois State) warns against our current veneration of technology. Too many of us, he argues, believe that technology can rationally control ... Read full review

Contents

Both Technology and Magic
14
The Basis
43
Commonplace Expressions Slogans
59
Symbolism in the Milieu of Technology
68
The Basis
79
Statistical and Social
100
Magical Numbers Magical Words Magical
107
Therapy SelfHelp and Positive Thinking
140
The Effectiveness of Therapy
155
Why the Individual and Society Need
166
The Relation between Managerial Technique
191
Why Society and the Individual Need
199
Irrationality and Freedom
209
Index
237
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About the author (2001)

Peter Stirk is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Durham. His previous books include Max Horkheimer: A New Interpretation (1992) and, as co-editor, An Introduction to Political Ideas (Pinter, 1995).

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