Concrete Utopias of Digitalization Compared: The Case of the Post-Work and the Maker Movements

  • Philipp FreyEmail author
  • Christoph Schneider


How do different movements enact certain visions of emancipation and technology? In this chapter, Frey and Schneider discuss Marx’s classic framework of emancipation from and emancipation within work and its relationship to technology. The chapter combines this critical tradition together with a social-constructivist framework of technology and analyzes how certain visions of emancipation and technology are enacted in different activist practices. The empirical cases of the post-work movement in the UK and the maker movement highlight how progressive actors are using imagined and actual digital technologies to construct imaginations of better futures. The authors argue that STS should turn its attention more toward such “concrete utopias” to make constructive and possible emancipatory alternatives to the status quo more visible and to help shape societal dialogues on the future.


  1. Adam, B. (2011). Towards a Twenty-First-Century Sociological Engagement with the Future. Insights, 4(11), 1–18.Google Scholar
  2. Alvial Palavicino, C. (2016). Mindful Anticipation: A Practice Approach to the Study of Expectations in Emerging Technologies. Doctoral Thesis, Universiteit Twente, Enschede. Retrieved from
  3. Aristotle. (1999). Politics. Kitchener, ON: Batoche Books. Google Scholar
  4. Bloch, E. (1986). The Principle of Hope. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Corbyn, J. (2017). Speech to Labour Party Conference. Retrieved from
  6. Dickel, S., & Schrape, J.-F. (2017). The Logic of Digital Utopianism. NanoEthics, 11(1), 47–58. Scholar
  7. Dobroć, P., Krings, B.-J., Schneider, C., & Wulf, N. (2018). Alternativen als Programm. TATuP Zeitschrift Für Technikfolgenabschätzung in Theorie Und Praxis, 27(1), 28–33.
  8. Ferrari, A., & Lösch, A. (2017). How Smart Grid Meets In Vitro Meat: On Visions as Socio-Epistemic Practices. NanoEthics, 1–17.
  9. Frey, P. (2017). Automatisierung - (Alb-)Traum der emanzipatorischen Linken? Zu den gesellschaftspolitischen Implikationen avancierter Produktivkräfte. In P. Buckermann, A. Koppenburger, & S. Schaupp (Eds.), Kybernetik, Kapitalismus, Revolutionen (pp. 109–123). Münster: UNRAST.Google Scholar
  10. Frey, P. (2018). Vom Unabgegoltenen der Automation – Einige Gedanken zur gegenwärtigen Automationsdebatte aus Sicht kritischer Technikfolgenabschätzung. In M. Hawel, L. Killius, S. Heinemann, & M. Schröder (Eds.), Work in Progress. Work on Progress. Beiträge kritischer Wissenschaft (pp. 81–94). Hamburg: VSA Verlag.Google Scholar
  11. Gauntlett, D. (2013). Making Is Connecting. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  12. Gershenfeld, N. (2012). How to Make Almost Anything: The Digital Fabrication Revolution. Foreign Affairs, 91, 43.Google Scholar
  13. Grunwald, A. (2014). The Hermeneutic Side of Responsible Research and Innovation. Journal of Responsible Innovation, 1(3), 274–291. Scholar
  14. Harari, Y. H. (2016). Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. London: Harvill and Seckler.Google Scholar
  15. Himanen, P. (2001). The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age. New York, NY: Random House.Google Scholar
  16. Jasanoff, S., & Kim, S.-H. (2009). Containing the Atom: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and Nuclear Power in the United States and South Korea. Minerva, 47(2), 119–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Konrad, K., Van Lente, H., Groves, C., & Selin, C. (2017). Performing and Governing the Future in Science and Technology. In U. Felt, R. Fouché, C. A. Miller, & L. Smith-Doerr (Eds.), The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (4th ed., pp. 465–493). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Labour. (2018). The New Economics—Previous Events. Retrieved from
  19. Lafargue, P. (1883/1907). The Right to Be Lazy. Chicago, IL: Charles H. Kerr.Google Scholar
  20. Law, J., & Urry, J. (2004). Enacting the Social. Economy and Society, 33(3), 390–410.Google Scholar
  21. Marx, K. (1867/1906). Capital, Volume I. Chicago, IL: Charles H. Kerr.Google Scholar
  22. Marx, K. (1894/1966). Capital, Volume III. Moscow: Progress Publishers.Google Scholar
  23. Mason, P. (2015). Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  24. McCray, W. P. (2012). The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  25. McDonnell, J. (2015). How Labour Will Secure the High-Wage, Hi-Tech Economy of the Future. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  26. Nachtwey, O., & Seidl, T. (2017). Die Ethik der Solution und der Geist des digitalen Kapitalismus (IfS Working Papers, Nr. 11). Frankfurt am Main: Institut für Sozialforschung. Retrieved from
  27. Noble, D. F. (1984). Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation. New York: Alfred Knopf.Google Scholar
  28. Pinch, T. J., & Bijker, W. E. (1984). The Social Construction of Facts and Artefacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other. Social Studies of Science, 14(3), 399–441. Scholar
  29. Pitts, F. H., & Dinerstein, A. C. (2017). Corbynism’s Conveyor Belt of Ideas: Postcapitalism and the Politics of Social Reproduction. Capital & Class, 41(3), 423–434. Scholar
  30. Sand, M., & Schneider, C. (2017). Visioneering Socio-Technical Innovations—A Missing Piece of the Puzzle. NanoEthics, 11(1), 19–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schneider, C. (2018). Opening Digital Fabrication: Transforming TechKnowledgies. Karlsruhe: KIT Scientific Publishing. Scholar
  32. Schneider, C., & Lösch, A. (2019). Visions in assemblages: Future-making and governance in FabLabs. Futures, 109, 203–212.
  33. Schneidewind, U., Singer-Brodowski, M., Augenstein, K., & Stelzer, F. (2016). Pledge for a Transformative Science: A Conceptual Framework (Wuppertal Papers No. 191). Retrieved from
  34. Söderberg, J. (2014). Reproducing Wealth Without Money, One 3D Printer at a Time: The Cunning of Instrumental Reason. Journal of Peer Production, 4. Retrieved from
  35. Srnicek, N., & Butler, L. (2018). Technology, Capitalism and the Future of the Left. RENEWAL, 26(1). Retrieved from
  36. Srnicek, N., & Williams, A. (2015). Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  37. Tech, R. P. G., Ferdinand, J.-P., & Dopfer, M. (2016). Open Source Hardware Startups and Their Communities. In J.-P. Ferdinand, U. Petschow, & S. Dickel (Eds.), The Decentralized and Networked Future of Value Creation (pp. 129–145). Cham: Springer.
  38. Turner, F. (2006). From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tkacz, N. (2015). Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  40. Wagner, P. (2016). Progress: A Reconstruction. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  41. Wright, E. O. (2010). Envisioning Real Utopias. London and New York: Verso.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Karlsruhe Institute of TechnologyKarlsruheGermany

Personalised recommendations