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This objection has become questionable in view of the fact that, in advanced industrial society, the technical apparatus of production and distribution functions, not as a sum total of mere instruments which can be isolated from the social and political context without losing their identity, but rather as an apparatus which determines a priori the product as well as the individual and social operations of servicing and extending it, that is to say, determines the socially needed demands, occupations, skills, attitudes – and thus the forms of social control and social cohesion.

I have tried referring to https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20priori, the closest possible definition I got is

2 b: formed or conceived beforehand

Thus, can a priori in the aforementioned text be interpreted as:

... determines beforehand the product as well as the individual...


Edit: Source of aforementioned text: Towards a Critical Theory of Society Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, specifically from the paper The Problem of Social Change in the Technological Society

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  • Please tell us the source of your quoted passage.
    – Eddie Kal
    Nov 29 '20 at 2:41
  • That is one hot mess of a sentence. Nov 29 '20 at 3:17
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I think the sentence should be taken out and shot, but I might be able to answer the question.

If I remove extraneous clauses, I get:

This objection has become questionable in view of the fact that ... the technical 
apparatus of production and distribution functions ... as an apparatus which 
determines a priori the product as well as ...

When I see 'a priori', "without prior knowledge" as you say, I think of something that someone knows without context, without background, etc. It seems that this "technical apparatus" the writer is talking about is, according to him, the thing which determines the product. I do not think it's a particularly good use of the phrase; I mean, I don't think it's a common or normal way to use it.

I think a main point of confusion in the sentence is the word "functions", which looks, on being read, like it is part of a noun phrase with "distribution", but in fact is meant here as a verb. "The technical apparatus ... functions ... as an apparatus", in other words.

Anyway. I don't think there's any larger meaning than this.

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  • Having spent some time reading Marxist dialectics, this looks to me like an elaboration of the forces of production versus the relations of production thesis-antithesis. What is technologically possible and what is socially possible interact on each other. Nov 29 '20 at 5:09

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