PETER C. REYNOLDS Techno-Mythology

In a technocratic society, technology is an  ideology. Ideologies are systems of thought and practice that rationalize and express the system of social power: they operate on the symbolic level, while techniques affect the physical.

Modern technocracy is the symbolic process of purifying nature by fire and replacing it with prosthesetic devices—for example, internal combustion engines take the place of legs. The transformed product is believed to be a disembodied machine equated with starlight. Since nature and the human body (as opposed to the human mind) are synonymous in this system of thought, the stages of purification can be represented as a series of symbolic operations on the body (= nature) as illustrated at the right.

The technical processes that get institutionalized by modern society are those that best exemplify this technocratic imagery, not necessarily those that are the most efficient or efficacious. This theory also explains why an "earth-friendly technocracy" is a contradiction in terms.

Peter C. Reynolds has argued this thesis in the books and articles listed below. Two of these publications are available free as downloads. See the complementation page for more on the difference between technocracy (the use of technology as a symbol of power) and technology (cooperative action instrumental to a shared goal).

Diagram of tech cycle of purified body 48 KB

The following articles explore the relationship between technocratic mythology and contemporary religion:

"Abandoned Bodies" shows how the suicidal deaths of the Heaven's Gate cult exemplify in grim detail the process shown in the illustration, even though these events took place seven years after the diagram was drawn. 

    Download as pdf "Abandoned Bodies" *.

"The Priests of Cyborg"
shows how Judeo-Christian imagery is often replicated in the high technology sphere.

     download as pdf "The Priests of Cyborg" *.

Be sure to buy Stealing Fire too!
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Techno-Mythology Publications by Peter C. Reynolds, Ph.D.

Reynolds, P.C. (1986). Corporate culture on the rocks, Across the Board pp. 51-56.

Reynolds, P.C. (1987). Imposing corporate culture, Psychology Today.

Reynolds, P.C. (1991). Stealing Fire:  The Atomic Bomb as Symbolic Body. Palo Alto, CA: Iconic  Anthropology Press.

Reynolds, P.C. (1993). Technology—not tool use: cognitive representation of cooperative construction, Abstracts, American Anthropological Association 92nd Annual Meeting (p. 486). Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association.

Reynolds, P.C. (1993). The priests of cyborg. The Month (July), 257-266.

Reynolds, P.C. (1994). Culture on the Rocks. In T. Hamada, & W.E. Sibley (Eds.), Anthropological Perspectives on Organizational Culture. (pp. 301-310). Lanham, MD: University Presses of America.

Reynolds, P.C. (1997). Abandoned Bodies. The Month (November), 421-426.