New Challenges to the Enlightenment: How Twenty-First-Century Sociotechnological Systems Facilitate Organized Immaturity and How to Counteract It

Andreas Georg Scherer*, Cristina Neesham, Dennis Schoeneborn, Markus Scholz

*Corresponding author for this work

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Organized immaturity, the reduction of individual capacities for public use of reason constrained by sociotechnological systems, constitutes a significant pushback against the project of Enlightenment. Forms of immaturity have long been a concern for philosophers and social theorists, such as Kant, Arendt, Fromm, Marcuse, and Foucault. Recently, Zuboff’s concept of “surveillance capitalism” describes how advancements in digital technologies lead to new, increasingly sophisticated forms of organized immaturity in democratic societies. We discuss how sociotechnological systems initially designed to meet human needs can inhibit the multidimensional development of individuals as mature citizens. To counteract these trends, we suggest two mechanisms: disorganizing immaturity as a way to safeguard individuals’ and collectives’ negative freedoms (freedoms from), and organizing maturity as a way to strengthen positive freedoms (freedoms to). Finally, we provide an outlook on the five further articles that constitute the Business Ethics Quarterly Special Issue “Sociotechnological Conditions of Organized Immaturity in the Twenty-First Century.”
Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness Ethics Quarterly
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)409-439
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Organized immaturity
  • Technology
  • Control
  • Surveillance
  • Freedom
  • Enlightenment

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