chapter  6
24 Pages

Paul Virilio

Overcoming inertia?

Paul Virilio has remarked that ‘we should, after two centuries of positivism, progressivism and idealism of techno-science, come to critique the negative aspect’ (Virilio in Madsen 1995: 80). Much of his work has been devoted to highlighting the negative aspects of technological development and change, writing with a certain apocalyptic sense of what an extrapolated technological future might hold. Virilio’s work has become increasingly influential, going well beyond its initially favourable reception in the avant-garde circles of art and social theory. Yet, there has been relatively little discussion as to the overall value of Virilio’s critique of technology. Certainly, there is much to be said for his sustained opposition to the increasing colonisation of life by technology. At a time when new technologies are the subject of an enormous amount of uncritical hype, when even ‘critical’ intellectuals seem content to revel in the play of technologically-mediated simulations, Virilio’s is almost a voice in the wilderness. But despite his consistent critique, and pointed observations concerning the ‘negative aspect’ of technology, I want to argue that Virilio’s work remains limited in the degree to which it can contribute to a critical or ethical engagement with technology.