Book Talk: Dan Greene: The Promise of Access
Why do we keep trying to solve poverty with technology? What makes us feel that we need to learn to code—or else? This common sense has ruled our economic imaginary for at least 30 years. Those who cannot log on or train up are condemned to the margins of the information economy, and contained by the carceral state.
In The Promise of Access, Daniel Greene argues that the problem of poverty became a problem of technology in order to manage the contradictions of a changing economy. We cannot debunk or banish the idea—what Greene calls the access doctrine—that the problem of poverty can be solved with the right tools and the right skills because the idea helps those public institutions that face poverty to save themselves. Technological solutions help public institutions simplify their complex missions and win legitimacy and funding, but at the cost of alienating the populations they serve.
Blending political-economic theory with years of ethnographic fieldwork, Greene explores how this plays out in Washington, DC, examining organizational change in technology startups, public libraries, and charter schools. Tracing the changes to the spirit and structure of these public institutions changes reveals a fight to define the good life under contemporary capitalism–and the alliances that could win that fight.