Andrew Feenberg

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Andrew Feenberg
Andrew Feenberg by Beatrice Murch.jpg
Feenberg in Vancouver, Canada, 2010
Born 1943 (age 70–71)
Occupation Philosopher
Spouse(s) Anne-Marie Feenberg

Andrew Feenberg (born 1943) holds the Canada Research Chair in the Philosophy of Technology in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. His main interests are philosophy of technology, continental philosophy, critique of technology and science and technology studies. His work has been translated into Japanese, Italian, French, Norwegian, Turkish, Portuguese and Spanish.


Feenberg studied philosophy under Herbert Marcuse at the University of California San Diego and was awarded his PhD in 1972. During this time Feenberg was active in the New Left, founding a journal entitled Alternatives and participating in the May ’68 events in Paris.

Feenberg's philosophy of technology[edit]

Feenberg’s primary contribution to the philosophy of technology is his argument for the democratic transformation of technology. From his book Transforming Technology,

"What human beings are and will become is decided in the shape of our tools no less than in the action of statesmen and political movements. The design of technology is thus an ontological decision fraught with political consequences. The exclusion of the vast majority from participation in this decision is profoundly undemocratic" (p.3).

Feenberg provides the theoretical foundation for this idea through the Critical Theory of Technology which he develops over three books: The Critical Theory of Technology (1991) (re-published as Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited [2002]), Alternative Modernity: The Technical Turn in Philosophy and Social Theory (1995), and Questioning Technology (1999). The basis of Feenberg’s critical theory of technology is a concept of dialectical technological rationality he terms instrumentalization theory. Instrumentalization theory combines the social critique of technology familiar from the philosophy of technology (Karl Marx, Herbert Marcuse, Martin Heidegger, Jacques Ellul) with insights taken from the empirical case studies of science and technology studies. Applications of his theory include studies of online education, the Minitel, the Internet, and digital games.

Feenberg has also published books and articles on the philosophy of Herbert Marcuse, Martin Heidegger, Jürgen Habermas, Karl Marx, Georg Lukacs, and Kitarō Nishida.

Selected works[edit]



  • Lukacs, Marx and the Sources of Critical Theory (Rowman and Littlefield, 1981; Oxford University Press, 1986)
  • Critical Theory of Technology (Oxford University Press, 1991), later republished as Transforming Technology (Oxford University Press, 2002), see below.
  • Alternative Modernity (University of California Press, 1995)
  • Questioning Technology (Routledge, 1999).
  • Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited (Oxford University Press, 2002).
  • Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History (Routledge 2005).
  • Between Reason and Experience: Essays in Technology and Modernity (MIT Press, 2010).
  • The Philosophy of Praxis: Marx, Lukács and the Frankfurt School (Verso Press, 2014).


  • w/ R. Pippen & C.Webel, Marcuse: Critical Theory and the Promise of Utopia (Bergin and Garvey Press, 1988)
  • w/ A. Hannay, Technology and the Politics of Knowledge (Indiana University Press, 1995)
  • w/ T. Misa & P. Brey, Modernity and Technology (MIT Press, 2003)
  • w/ D. Barney, Community in the Digital Age (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004).
  • w/ W. Leiss, The Essential Marcuse: Selected Writings of Philosopher and Social Critic Herbert Marcuse (Beacon Press, 2007).

Selected articles[edit]

  • "Technocracy & Rebellion". TELOS 08 (Summer 1971). New York: Telos Press
  • "Reification and the Antinomies of Socialist Thought," Telos, Winter 1971, pp. 93–118.
  • "Lukacs and the Critique of 'Orthodox' Marxism." The Philosophical Forum. Volume III, Nos.3-4 (Spring/Summer 1972)
  • "Introduction to the Kosik-Satre Exchange." Telos 25 (Fall 1975).
  • "Transition or Convergence: Communism and the Paradox of Development." in Technology & Communist Culture: The Socio-Cultural Impact of Technology under Socialism, Frederick J. Fleron Jr. (ed.). Praeger Publishers, New York. (1977)
  • "Technology Transfer and Cultural Change in Communist Societies." Technology and Culture, April 1979, pp. 348–354.
  • "The Bias of Technology" in Marcuse: Critical Theory and the Promise of Utopia, Bergin & Garvey Press, 1987, pp. 225–254.
  • "A User's Guide to the Pragmatics of Computer Mediated Communication," Semiotica, July 1989, pp. 257–278.
  • "The Ambivalence of Technology," Sociological Perspectives, Spring 1990, pp. 35–50
  • "Experiential Ontology: The Origins of the Nishida Philosophy in the Doctrine of Pure Experience," with Yoko Arisaka, International Philosophical Quarterly, June 1990, pp. 173–204.
  • "From Information to Communication: the French Experience with Videotex," in M. Lea, ed., Contexts of Computer-Mediated Communication, Harvester-Wheatsheaf, 1992, pp. 168–187. html
  • "Marcuse or Habermas: Two Critiques of Technology," Inquiry, 39, 1996, pp. 45–70.
  • "Reflections on the Distance Learning Controversy," The Canadian Journal of Communication, vol. 24 (3) 1999, 337-348.
  • "From Essentialism to Constructivism: Philosophy of Technology at the Crossroads," in E. Higgs, D.Strong, and A. Light, eds., Technology and the Good Life. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2000. pp. 294–315.
  • “The Online Community Debate: Citizens or Consumers?” with Maria Bakardjieva, in Community in the Digital Age: Philosophy and Practice, Feenberg and Barney eds., Rowman and Littlefield, 2004, pp. 1–28.
  • “Modernity Theory and Technology Studies: Reflections on Bridging the Gap,” in Modernity and Technology, MIT Press, 2003, pp. 73–104.
  • “The Technical Codes of Online Education,” with Edward Hamilton, Technē, Journal of the Society for Philosophy and Technology, Fall 2005, 9:1, pp. 94–123.
  • “From the Critical Theory of Technology to the Rational Critique of Rationality,” Social Epistemology, Vol. 22, No. 1, January–March 2008, pp. 5–28
  • "Rationalizing Play: A Critical Theory of Digital Gaming" with Sara M. Grimes, Information Society Journal, vol. 25, no. 2, March–April 2009, pp. 105–118.
  • “Radical Philosophy of Technology: From Marx to Marcuse and Beyond,” Radical Philosophy Review, no. 1/2, vol. 12, pp. 199–217, 2009


  • Zachry, Mark (2007). "An Interview with Andrew Feenberg", Technical Communication Quarterly, 16(4).

External links[edit]