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CAT 2022 Reading Comprehension Solution 03


The passage below is accompanied by a set of questions. Choose the best answer to each question.

Critical theory of technology is a political theory of modernity with a normative dimension. It belongs to a tradition extending from Marx to Foucault and Habermas according to which advances in the formal claims of human rights take center stage while in the background centralization of ever more powerful public institutions and private organizations imposes an authoritarian social order.

Marx attributed this trajectory to the capitalist rationalization of production. Today it marks many institutions besides the factory and every modern political system, including so-called socialist systems. This trajectory arose from the problems of command over a disempowered and deskilled labor force; but everywhere [that] masses are organized – whether it be Foucault’s prisons or Habermas’s public sphere – the same pattern prevails. Technological design and development is shaped by this pattern as the material base of a distinctive social order. Marcuse would later point to a “project” as the basis of what he called rather confusingly “technological rationality.” Releasing technology from this project is a democratic political task.

In accordance with this general line of thought, critical theory of technology regards technologies as an environment rather than as a collection of tools. We live today with and even within technologies that determine our way of life. Along with the constant pressures to build centers of power, many other social values and meanings are inscribed in technological design. A hermeneutics of technology must make explicit the meanings implicit in the devices we use and the rituals they script. Social histories of technologies such as the bicycle, artificial lighting or firearms have made important contributions to this type of analysis. Critical theory of technology attempts to build a methodological approach on the lessons of these histories.

As an environment, technologies shape their inhabitants. In this respect, they are comparable to laws and customs. Each of these institutions can be said to represent those who live under their sway through privileging certain dimensions of their human nature. Laws of property represent the interest in ownership and control. Customs such as parental authority represent the interest of childhood in safety and growth. Similarly, the automobile represents its users in so far as they are interested in mobility. Interests such as these constitute the version of human nature sanctioned by society.

This notion of representation does not imply an eternal human nature. The concept of nature as non-identity in the Frankfurt School suggests an alternative. On these terms, nature is what lies at the limit of history, at the point at which society loses the capacity to imprint its meanings on things and control them effectively. The reference here is, of course, not to the nature of natural science, but to the lived nature in which we find ourselves and which we are. This nature reveals itself as that which cannot be totally encompassed by the machinery of society. For the Frankfurt School, human nature, in all its transcending force, emerges out of a historical context as that context is [depicted] in illicit joys, struggles and pathologies. We can perhaps admit a less romantic . . . conception in which those dimensions of human nature recognized by society are also granted theoretical legitimacy.

Question: 1

Which one of the following statements contradicts the arguments of the passage?

  1. The problems of command over a disempowered and deskilled labour force gave rise to similar patterns of the capitalist rationalisation of production wherever masses were organised.

  2. Marx's understanding of the capitalist rationalisation of production and Marcuse's understanding of a " project" of " technological rationality" share theoretical inclinations.

  3. Paradoxically, the capitalist rationalisation of production is a mark of so-called socialist systems as well.

  4. Masses are organised in patterns set by Foucault's prisons and Habermas' public sphere.

Option: 4
This is a difficult question to answer because we have to pick the option that contradicts the arguments of the passage. We can either go by selection or by elimination. The process of elimination should be followed only when we have time and the question is difficult. The process of selection helps us arrive at the answer confidently and in less time. The first two sentences of second paragraph suggests that option 1 is in sync with the passage. From those two sentences, we can say that even option 3 is in sync with the passage. Option 4 is weird; it makes no sense in the way it is worded: masses are organized in patterns set by Foucault’s prisons and Habermas’ public sphere. One wonders whether any pattern was set by Foucault and Habermas. The passage says a certain pattern prevails everywhere, whether it is Foucault’s prisons or Habermas’ public sphere. We realize that there was no pattern set by either of the two. Option 4 is wrongly worded and this can be verified from the passage. Thus option 4 can be selected as the right answer because there is evidence contrary to what is given in option 4. Many might mark option 2 but it is difficult for us to prove whether or not it is contradicting the arguments of the passage.

Question: 2

Which one of the following statements could be inferred as supporting the arguments of the passage?

  1. Technologies form the environmental context and shape the contours of human society.

  2. Nature decides the point at which society loses its capacity to control history.

  3. The romantic conception of nature referred to by the passage is the one that requires theoretical legitimacy.

  4. It is not human nature, but human culture that is represented by institutions such as law and custom.

Option: 1
Though an inference, this is a simple question to answer. Right from the start, option 1 is a recurring theme of the passage. There is no need to look beyond option 1. ‘Controlling history’, as stated in option 2, is nowhere mentioned or implied in the passage. When there is an easy and direct answer given in the choices, one should not make the mistake of disproving or eliminating the other options.

Question: 3

Which one of the following statements best reflects the main argument of the fourth paragraph of the passage?

  1. Technology, laws, and customs are not unlike each other if considered as institutions.

  2. Technology, laws, and customs are comparable, but dissimilar phenomena.

  3. Automobiles represent the interest in mobility present in human nature.

  4. Technological environments privilege certain dimensions of human nature as effectively as laws and customs.

Option: 1
To answer this question correctly we have to read the fourth paragraph of the passage. Fundamentally, the fourth paragraph compares laws and customs with technology, stating that they have comparable influence. Option 1 is the right answer because not unlike each other means like each other.

Question: 4

All of the following claims can be inferred from the passage, EXCEPT:

  1. analyses of technologies must engage with their social histories to be able to reveal their implicit and explicit meanings for us.

  2. the significance of parental authority to children's safety does not therefore imply that parental authority is a permanent aspect of human nature.

  3. the critical theory of technology argues that, as issues of human rights become more prominent, we lose sight of the ways in which the social order becomes more authoritarian.

  4. technologies seek to privilege certain dimensions of human nature at a high cost to lived nature.

Option: 4
It is very difficult to justify option 4 because in the passage there is not ‘cost factor’ discussed anywhere. In the first paragraph we have evidence for option 3. Thus, option 3 can be inferred. The passage (second last paragraph) says ‘parental authority represents the interest of childhood’, suggesting that it does not go beyond childhood, and is not a permanent aspect of human nature. Towards the end of the third paragraph, we have evidence for option 1. Thus, 4 is the best choice as there is no evidence for it anywhere in the passage.

CAT 2022 RC passage with solution

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