Towards a critical theory of information

  • Christian Fuchs ICT&S Center, University of Salzburg
Keywords: critical theory, Marx, Marxism, information, information science, information theory, information technology, media, communication, critique of the political economy of information, technology, culture, Karl Marx


Critical information theory is an endeavour that focuses ontologically on the analysis of information in the context of domination, asymmetrical power relations, exploitation, oppression, and control by employing epistemologically all theoretical and/or empirical means necessary for doing so in order to contribute at the praxeological level to the establishment of a participatory, co-operative society. Three foundational aspects of a critical theory of information are discussed in this paper: the relation of immanence and transcendence, the relation of base and superstructure, and ideology critique.
The logical figure of immanent transcendence is based on the dialectic of essence and existence and poses a viable counterpart to positivistic and postmodern definitions of critique. As an example for the logic of immanent transcendence to critical information theory, a contradiction of the Internet economy is discussed.
The debate on redistribution and recognition between critical theorists Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth gives the opportunity to renew the discussion of the relationship of base and superstructure in critical social theory. Critical information theory needs to be aware of economic, political, and cultural demands that it needs to make in struggles for ending domination and oppression, and of the unifying role that the economy and class play in these demands and struggles. Objective and subjective information concepts are based on the underlying worldview of reification. Reification endangers human existence. Information as process and relation enables political and ethical alternatives that have radical implications for society.

Author Biography

Christian Fuchs, ICT&S Center, University of Salzburg
Christian Fuchs is associate professor at the ICT&S Center, University of Salzburg. His research interests are: critical theory, social theory, media theory, ICTs and society, critique of the political economy of media and communication. He is author of the book: Internet and Society: Social Theory in the Information Age (Routledge 2008), in which he works out a social theory critique of contemporary society. The latter is characterized as transnational informational capitalism.
Special Issue: What is Really Information? An Interdisciplinary Approach.