#3593 Created 04/15/2014 Updated 02/08/2016
Marxism and Literature, Raymond Williams
The root sense of 'determine' is 'setting bounds' or 'setting limits'. In its extraordinarily varied development, in application to many specific processes, it is the sense of putting a limit and therefore an end to some action that is most problematical The determination of a calculation, a core of study, or a lease is, as an idea, relatively simple. Determination by an authority is at first simple, but is the source of most of the special difficulties in its implication of something beyond and even external to the specific action which nevertheless decides or settle it. The sense of externality is decisive in the development of the concept of 'determinism', in which some power (God or Nature or History) controls or decides the outcome of an action or process, beyond or irrespective of the wills or desire of its agents. this is abstract determinism, to be distinguished from an often apparently similar inherent determinism, in which the essential character of a process or the properties of its components are held to determine (control) its outcome: the character and properties are then 'determinants'. What had been (abstractly) the 'determinant Counsell and foreknowledge of God' (Tyndale) became especially in the physical sciences, 'determinate conditions' or 'determined laws', based on precise knowledge of the inherent characteristics of a process and its components. The 'scientific' idea presupposed unalterable or relatively fixed characteristics; change is then a matte of altered (but discoverable and n that sense predictable) conditions and combinations. It seems clear that Marxist version of determinism, at least in its first stage, corresponds to this 'scientific' idea.
"In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will...a definite stage of development....(SW,i. 362)
It is reasonable...to stress the predominance of objective conditions at any particular moment in the process. This turns out, in practice, to be a quite different claim. It is what Engles' wrote, defensively, in his letter to Bloch: 'We make our history ourselves, but, in the first place, under very definite assumptions and conditions.' What this restores, as against the alternative development, is the idea of direct agency: 'we make our history ourselves'. The 'definite' or 'objective' assumptions and conditions are then the qualifying terms of this agency: in fact, 'determination' as 'the setting of limits'. 85
This is where the full concept of determination is crucial. for in practice determination is never only the setting of limits; it is also the exertion of pressures. (williams marxism and literature)
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2417/2240 Hacking and power: Social and technological determinism in the digital age, by Tim Jordan
"Hacking shows us that determinism or affordance is present and productive. Hacking also shows that it is not one form of determinism covering all forms of technological and social relationism, rather there is a constant interweaving of affordance,s of both restrains and productions of possible actions in socio-technological contexts. Hacking embodies a politics in its constant renegotiation of technological and social affordances. It is for this reasons that I think the term "determinism" remains useful because it does not entirely lose the idea of compulsion. by paying attention to the combined negative and productive aspects of determinations or affordances and by looking at the range of potential actions that are disabled and enabled by particular moments of technological or social determination, we can identify and explore the politics of socio-technological moments. For example, we should see in the attempts of hacktivists to construct secure, private online communications an attempt to instantiate the technological determinism that the Internet by definition enables secure communications. p. 7