The Great Transformation and the Techno-Axial Age: Politics, Labour and Learning.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:10
Oral Presentation
Judith BESSANT, RMIT University, Australia
The Great Transformation and the Techno-Axial Age:

Politics, Labour and learning.

This paper draws on a five-year research project into the radical transformation arising from new technologies. This transformation is producing socio-cultural and economic changes (eg reduced demand for human labour), how we represent and experience reality and indeed the human condition. I draw parallels with the first Axial age (800 BCE-200 BC) that bought forth our modern (theoretic) consciousness (Jaspers 1954, Eisenstadt 1984, Bellah and Wittrock 2008). Evidence indicates we are encountering a new axial age, what I call a Techno-Axial age that is changing human consciousness.

Critical of determinist and social determinist accounts of technology, I draw on two non-reductionist theoretical traditions: the tradition of historical sociological theories of continuity-change (Comte, Marx, and Weber through Wallerstein, Eisenstadt, Collins and Arnason). It’s a historical sociology that engages different orders of time including structural or long time (longue duree) (Braudel 1984), the medium time of conjunctures and the short time of events.

The second theoretical frame informing this project is co-evolutionary cognitive science (Donald 1998, Corballis 2015) that focuses on historical and co-evolutionary change over very long time spans, using relational or ecological accounts of the human mind, body, consciousness and culture. For Donald (1998) Corballis (2015) and Tallis (2010), human cognition and consciousness is a consequence of an interactive and evolutionary relationships involving human biology, social arrangements and sites of external cognition and memory (eg language, books, libraries, the internet…). Along with Midgley I argue that such complimentary explanations encourage a linking of the social with and the biological (2004).

I explain how these two traditions of historical sociological and cognitive science, which address the question of change in complementary and insightful ways helps provide an understanding of the transformation now taking place.