The Marriage of Science, Imperialism, and Capitalism

The Scientific Revolution differed from all previous traditions of knowledge because of people’s “…willingness to admit ignorance… the centrality of observations and mathematics… [and] the acquisition of new powers” (Harari, p. 250-1). As a result, people were willing to admit ignorance. Unlike the imagined orders that followed the Cognitive Revolution, imagined orders began to be supported by imperialism and capitalism. With the admission of ignorance, science became wedded to imperialism (Harari, p. 284) because it provided new knowledge to empires and “…gave the empires ideological justification;” providing people with ideas of progress and knowledge that shaped the imperial age (Harari, p. 301). An example of a European ideology that arose is “White Man’s Burden” (Harari, p. 301), and an example of science spurring imperial expansion are new technologies that allowed for imperialism. Modern science became wedded in capitalism because science depends on economic backing, but “[c]apitalism’s belief in perpetual economic growth [is also dependent on]… the fact that scientists come up with a new discovery or gadget…” (Harari, p. 315). An example of this is Monsanto’s transition to biotechnology. Supply issues with oil (pricing and shortages) were one of the reasons Monsanto began a transition into biotechnology (Elmore, p. 174).

Modern science, empires, and capitalism are all connected because you cannot have one without the other. Political and economic backing are needed for scientific projects to be funded, and politics and economics are dependent upon scientific discoveries and inventions for society to continue “improving.” Whether or not science always improves society is up for debate, but, economically, science helps to spur growth in our society, as you can see with Monsanto’s “…‘no-till farming’… [which] helping farmers to ‘reduce fuel use…’” (Elmore, p. 172).

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