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The postmodern analyses of the internet : an examination of their ideological new clothes.

Abstract : In many public discourses, the internet is frequently considered as a revolutionary technology, able to radically transform everyday life in western societies. Following this idea, the entrepreneurial adoption of the internet can be seen as a means to break down the pyramidal structure of firms, and to allow less hierarchical work relationships. The weblogs are shown as an opportunity for citizens to express themselves in political debates. The internet ordinary users would also be required to become anonymous reporters and to threaten the established journalistic system. In this optimistic way of thinking, the internet appears as the main and decisive tool to bring western societies in a postmodern era, which would overcome the Fordist model of industrialized production, the delegation's procedures of representative democracy, and the mass media's usual gate-keeping. Such analyses found a new source of strength during these two last years, according to the idea that the “web 2.0” would precisely constitute the transition to a new society. The empirical study of press articles, essays, and academic works, all centred on the mutations of information with the internet, published in France and in the US during this period, shows three recurrent items in these post-modern analyses : egalitarian horizontality ; active participation ; autonomous creativity. These items can be understood from the scholar field of social history of ideas, and more particularly from what is generally described as the “utopy of communication”. Some of these postmodern analyses' items own very well known ideological origins : certain items are very similar to the organicist theory of cybernetics (Wiener), and other ones draw to the older “religion of networks” (Saint-Simon). However, they also present a more global and original aspect. These recurrent items of the postmodern analyses of the internet seem to – consciously or not – rely on a recuperation of some arguments of the anticapitalist critique, such as developed by the counter-culture on the Californian campus in the 1960's and 1970's, or even within the social movement of May 1968 in Paris. The postmodern analyses of the internet can be sociologically interpreted as a manifestation of the “New spirit of capitalism” as defined by Boltanski and Chiapello (2007) when these authors attempt to renew Max Weber's founding work in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”. Network-based organization and individual autonomy, as ancient claims of the “artistic critique” of capitalism, are now taken to be reached, thanks to the internet, and are thus positively appreciated by many commentators. These ones simultaneously forget the more negative counterpart of the new forms of capitalism : maximal exploitation of people's spare time, psychological insecurity,... It is a paradox that the postmodern analyses insistence on the ability of the internet to solve the former problems caused by capitalism tends to hide – or, at least, to minimize - the bad consequences of neocapitalism. Because of this ideological veil, postmodern analyses of the internet generally fail to identify the whole aspects of the social insertion of the internet.
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Contributor : Franck Rebillard <>
Submitted on : Monday, October 8, 2007 - 2:27:21 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, November 4, 2020 - 3:37:04 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - 1:51:23 PM


  • HAL Id : sic_00177507, version 2


Franck Rebillard. The postmodern analyses of the internet : an examination of their ideological new clothes.. 2007. ⟨sic_00177507v2⟩



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