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By classifying electric technology as a prosthetic extension of the central nervous system, Mc Luhan combines Marxist theories of industrial alienation with Freudian theories of subconscious extensions.

In his theory of the commodity as fetish, Karl Marx’s description of the connection between material things and social relations lays the foundation for twentieth century theories of prosthesis: “There is a physical relation between things.

But it is different with commodities…There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things” (Marx 77).

The blurred line between men and the materialism of the commodity sets up a prosthetic system in which social relations are determined by the material relations between commodities, ultimately alienating men from one another and from themselves.

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Part A or Part B covers surgically implanted prosthetic devices depending on whether the surgery takes place in an inpatient or outpatient setting.[Of these] 670 could be filled by legless men, 2,637 by one-legged men, two by armless men, 715 by one-armed men and ten by blind men” (qtd. Ford explicitly relates machinery to prosthetics, drawing a connection between an assumed deficiency within the amputated human body, and the compensation supplied by man-made machinery.From a psychological perspective, Freud saw prosthetics as the mediator of several binary relationships including mind/body, internal/external, and conscious/subconscious.Thus Mc Luhan asserts that a process he terms “autoamputation” accompanies any extension of media.The concept of amputation has long been associated with theories of prosthesis.This article will examine prosthetics in reference to both the actual extension of the body by artificial means, and the virtual extension of the body by various forms of media.Media theory examines the double meaning of prosthetics, as simultaneously supplementing a deficiency and signaling deficiency in the object to which it is supplied.Marx’s theory of material social systems was later echoed by Henry Ford, who compared assembly line production to a prosthetic extension of the worker’s body.Yet Ford takes a positivist stance, stressing the ability of prosthetics to extend human capabilities.In Marshall Mc Luhan’s seminal text, , he uses the concept of prosthesis to explain media’s function as “any extension of ourselves” (7).Stressing the physicality of media extensions, Mc Luhan describes the wheel as an extension of the foot, clothing as an extension of the skin, and electric technology as an extension of the central nervous system. Although electric technology extends the central nervous system, “such amplification is bearable by the nervous system only through numbness or blocking of perception” (Mc Luhan 43).


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