Technology, War and Fascism Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, the paper Some Social Implications of Modern Technology starts as follows:

In this article, technology is taken as a social process in which technics proper (that is, the technical apparatus of industry, transportation, communication) is but a partial factor.

What does proper and the associated phrase mean (technics here mean devices or instruments to transform nature)? Is there a general meaning for the structure "noun + proper" ?

1 Answer 1


The word "proper" is used to qualify the meaning of the noun as being specific to it and not general. For example:

"The growth of the city proper has far exceeded the estimates of the planners."

This limits the scope of what has grown to just the city itself (i.e. proper) vs. any surrounding areas. If you leave "proper" out:

"The growth of the city has far exceeded the estimates of the planners."

Now the growth may have happened in the "city proper" but also in surrounding suburbs.

In the case of your example, "technics proper" (you can leave out the parenthesized list) is being described as a "partial factor". There are other unlisted factors which are not considered "technics proper" that also affect the outcome.

  • What do you mean by "(you can leave out the parenthesized list)"? Is it simply not crucial to this discussion?
    – Cheng
    Nov 29, 2020 at 12:01
  • Something in parenthesis is supposed to be an explanation of something that may not be clear to the reader. But it should be able to be left out without changing the meaning of the sentence.
    – jwh20
    Nov 29, 2020 at 12:17

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