Rewilding myself part 1

This is a short article that I wrote at the end of 2017 during a project. The project was called Uncivilization and was meant to see what we could do to become independend from civilization by rewilding ourselves. This is a short article, composing of excerpts from my dairy during my first attempt to rewild myself in 2012 and about why I hitchhiked without money and ate out of dumpsters in 2017:

It is summer 2012, I am sitting with a woman in the sand watching out over a mining zone near Weeze, Germany. I am pouring out my heart over its destruction and why I have to take on this adventure. We talk about how beautiful nature and how destructive technology is. She is listening carefully but does not want me to go. This will be our last stop before we drive to the airport where we say goodbye for an unknown period of time. We stand up for our last drive.

We say our goodbye’s at the airport. She drives away and I walk to the gate. I get on the plane two hours later, and the airplane lifts off. I now realize that I am doing it –I am flying to an unknown country, on a two-way ticket, without money. I am flying to Sweden, where the only safe-zone I have is a friend’s apartment in Nynashamn, 114 kilometers from the airport.

I lived the past ten years in a big town with more than 12.000 inhabitants. I lived a lifestyle that gave me the impression that living without money would not be possible, let alone traveling without it and never thought about hitchhiking. For the past six months I have prepared myself physically and mentally for this journey. A journey that would turn out to be completely different and last for five months, with a too heavy backpack.

I am walking down the road with the intention of reaching Nynashamn within five days, after which I want to live somewhere in a Swedish forests for the remaining time. It is 9:30 P.M. and I have only covered five kilometers when it starts to rain. I take the poncho from my backpack and immediately a van stops next to me “hey, you need a ride?” and I get in. They offer me a ride covering 70 kilometers.

Walking to the end of the parking lot to catch a ride.

After a horrible night on a wet forest floor and poor sleep I walk back to the road. A car approaches and is heading in the direction I want to go in, so I raise my thumb. The car stops. I get in and the man drives me further south where I will get two more rides. I will reach Nynashamn within two hours.

Summer, 2017. It is eight P.M., and my last snack was more than 12 hours ago. I am starting to get hungry and I am in the middle of a city where it is not allowed to fish or make a campfire and I have no money. I see a gas station with a store. I walk inside the store with a medium sized backpack and a large wool sweater hanging on my left arm as if a woman is resting her arm on mine and a smartphone in my other hand, acting busy on my touchscreen of my phone while scouting the room for staff and cameras. There are no cameras and the only available staff is standing behind the counter, helping customers. I walk straight to the shelf with sandwiches. I take a burrito roll and cover it with my large wool sweater.

I walk to the counter and I ask the guy behind it if I can use the toilet, he nods. I walk to the toilet, lock the door and hide the burrito roll in my backpack, refill the water canteens and walk out the store. I walk to the ramp of the highway, sit down and eat my burrito. Phew! That was exciting!

Unfortunately this is just a small meal and I probably cannot keep doing it over and over again. I finish my roll and raise my thumb while sitting on my backpack. A car stops and drives me to the next city. I get out and walk around the grocery store to find myself a suitable place to sleep. I am half way around the store when I see a bridge, close to the backside of the store and nothing but a hill on the other side. I decide to sleep here tonight.

I turn around and see a few dumpsters next to the backdoor of the store. I wipe away all shame and open one of the dumpsters: woha! full of unspoiled food; raisin- and chocolate bread, apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, and blueberries. I quickly, not believing what I have just found, grab a hand of bananas with five fingers, a bag of chocolate bread, two apples, a box of strawberries and two oranges, my hands are full but I want to take more. The next morning I bind a bag of raisin- and chocolate bread, a bag of apples, and two oranges inside a plastic bag onto my backpack and head towards the ramp of the highway.

Half a week later I walk into a store where a woman seems to be selling wool. I ask her if she is an expert in wool and ask her a few questions. She asks me what I am doing. “I am homeless because I need freedom,” I say  with pride. Her eyes open in full awe and shoves her hand forward “I am Anita.” Anita and her husband, Yngve, later invite me to stay in their cabin, halfway up the mountains on their land, for as long as I like.

We drive back from Sweden into Norway towards their farm. I ask them if it is possible to stop at a grocery store so I can check a few dumpsters for food. I check a few dumpsters and jump back in the car with two bags of bread, six peaches and two hands of bananas both with four or five fingers, all stuffed in a basket. We drive to their farm and they guide me to their cabin halfway up the mountain. I jump into bed as they move down the mountain back to their house.

The next morning I scout around and find myself a lake and start fishing. Not more than an hour later I catch two fish and walk back to the cabin. I prepare a coal bed in the stove and boil my fish and add a banana for its flavor and start roasting the bread on the fire. Now this is life, I tell myself…

Obviously my journey would be completely different if I had money on me. When life becomes a little tougher, we have a tendency, like squirrels, to choose the easy way out. Traveling without money forces us to improvise, to hitchhike, and puts us in a position that we have to be patient, we have to choose the right spot to raise a thumb, we cannot just chicken out and take the plane ‘home’ when it is getting colder or when we have not had a meal for 24 hours. We have to dumpster dive or to steal when necessary.

You will also get used to the outdoors, to sleep under bridges or a roof that only sticks out one feet, to take a shit wherever is possible and to wipe your ass with water, sticks, or something else, whatever you prefer. You learn how to be without all these modern technologies. You learn how to dumpster dive. You can also use public transport (if you want to risk getting caught), but most public means of transport will not take you to places remote enough.

Besides hitchhiking, because it is only temporary, one can use a mule, horse, a bike or cart. Dumpster diving for me is not just fun, it is freedom and something that resembles something that we used to do thousands of years ago –we in essence are still hunter and gatherers–, and a tool I can use to learn to be out in the wild for longer periods of time.

The first five days that I was in the cabin I still ate quite a lot of food I got from dumpsters, e.g., potatoes, bread and bananas, but the second week I ate less from my “dumpster food” because I became more sufficient in my ability to obtain food from the mountain forest –I became more sufficient in catching fish. At first I was fishing at one particular spot thinking that fish would roam around, which they do, and not much you can do about it besides luring them with food. Later I learned that if you look at the water patiently, you will see where some fish eat. Of course you can read about it in articles, but I had to learn it the hard way.

One Saturday morning I drove with Anita and her son to the city to dumpster dive, and when I got back in the forest I had been walking past week I felt familiar with its surroundings, I knew what certain trees could be used for and how long it would take for a big tree to let rain pass through, I knew the difference between an animal and a human trail, and I started to learn the origin of particular sounds. For me it became more like ‘home.’ The place you feel comfortable and familiar with, but in freedom.

I started to lay out a few more fishing lines and cleaning fish became a routine for me. Eventually, late evening, I laid out a main line with five shorter lines attached to it with a hook on each shorter line. The next morning I would have breakfast and time to scout around the area, in search of squirrels, berries and worms. Dumpster diving helped me to be out in the wild for longer periods without the use of money. I feel now comfortable knowing that I can find food for a week or two, out of dumpsters, and go into the wilderness to start learning plant identification, trapping, fishing and other necessary skills to thrive in the wild.

But since a nomadic and autonomous lifestyle is an innate need for most of us, we need a bigger area then just a small patch of green. I do not feel satisfied with just a small area of forest or tundra. I need to be able to roam around, in freedom, walk for a few days and to setup camp wherever I feel necessary. A lifestyle in utter wildness, free from artificial systems is the need.

Wildness is my need and rewilding is therefore a must. For those who are interested in rewilding keep in mind the following question: are we trying to rewild or are we trying to look interesting? I believe the two are essentially different from one another and to rewild successfully we have to focus on the increase of autonomy from artificial systems

We can still look cool on social media in one hectare forest and act like we are free from the shackles of civilization, while behind the camera we buy the food in stores and use GPS supported phones to find our way out the one hectare forest, thus in reality we are not focused on autonomy from artificial systems but how interesting we look to others, on social media.

Live wild or die,
Jeremy


Progress versus Liberty (“The 1971 Essay”)

In these pages it is argued that continued scientific and technical progress will inevitably result in the extinction of individual liberty. I use the word “inevitably” in the following sense: One might—possibly—imagine certain conditions of society in which freedom could coexist with unfettered technology, but these conditions do not actually exist, and we know of no way to bring them about, so that, in practice, scientific progress will result in the extinction of individual liberty. Toward the end of this essay we propose what appears to be the only thing that bears any resemblance to a practical remedy for this situation.

I hope that the reader will bear with me when I recite arguments and facts with which he may already be familiar. I make no claim to originality. I simply think that the case for the thesis stated above is convincing, and I am attempting to set forth the arguments, new and old, in as clear a manner as possible, in the hope that the reader will be persuaded to support the solution here suggested—which certainly is a very obvious solution, but rather hard for many people to swallow.

The power of society to control the individual person has recently been expanding very rapidly, and is expected to expand even more rapidly in the near future. Let us list a few of the more ominous developments as a reminder.

  1. Propaganda and image-making techniques. In this context we must not neglect the role of movies, television, and literature, which commonly are regarded either as art or as entertainment, but which often consciously adopt certain points of view and thus serve as propaganda. Even when they do not consciously adopt an explicit point of view they still serve to indoctrinate the viewer or reader with certain values. We venerate the great writers of the past, but one who considers the matter objectively must admit that modern artistic techniques have developed to the point where the more skillfully constructed movies, novels, etc. of today are far more psychologically potent than, say, Shakespeare ever was. The best of them are capable of gripping and involving the reader very powerfully and thus are presumably quite effective in influencing his values. Also note the increasing extent to which the average person today is “living in the movies” as the saying is. People spend a large and increasing amount of time submitting to canned entertainment rather than participating in spontaneous activities. As overcrowding and rules and regulations curtail opportunities for spontaneous activity, and as the developing techniques of entertainment make the canned product ever more attractive, we can assume that people will live more and more in the world of mass entertainment.
  2. A growing emphasis among educators on “guiding” the child’s emotional development, coupled with an increasingly scientific attitude toward education. Of course, educators have always in some degree attempted to mold the attitudes of their pupils, but formerly they achieved only a limited degree of success, simply because their methods were unscientific. Educational psychology is changing this.
  3. Operant conditioning, after the manner of B.F. Skinner and friends. (Of course, this cannot be entirely separated from item (2)).
  4. Direct physical control of the emotions via electrodes and “chemitrodes” inserted in the brain. (See Jose M.R. Delgado’s book “Physical Control of the Mind.”)
  5. Biofeedback training, after the manner of Joseph Kamiya and others.
  6. Predicted “memory pills” or other drugs designed to improve memory or increase intelligence. (The reader possibly assumes that items (5) and (6) present no danger to freedom because their use is supposed to be voluntary, but I will argue that point later. See page 8.)
  7. Predicted genetic engineering, eugenics, related techniques.
  8. Marvin Minsky of MIT (one of the foremost computer experts in the country) and other computer scientists predict that within fifteen years or possibly much less there will be superhuman computers with intellectual capacities far beyond anything of which humans are capable. It is to be emphasized that these computers will not merely perform so-called “mechanical” operations; they will be capable of creative thought. Many people are incredulous at the idea of a creative computer, but let it be remembered that (unless one resorts to supernatural explanations of human thought) the human brain itself is an electro-chemical computer, operating according to the laws of physics and chemistry. Furthermore, the men who have predicted these computers are not crackpots but first-class scientists. It is difficult to say in advance just how much power these computers will put into the hands of what is vulgarly termed the establishment, but this power will probably be very great. Bear in mind that these computers will be wholly under the control of the scientific, bureaucratic, and business elite. The average person will have no access to them. Unlike the human brain, computers are more or less unrestricted as to size (and, more important, there is no restriction on the number of computers that can be linked together over a long distance to form a single brain), so that there is no restriction on their memories or on the amount of information they can assimilate and correlate. Computers are not subject to fatigue, daydreaming, or emotional problems. They work at fantastic speed. Given that a computer can duplicate the functions of the human brain, it seems clear in view of the advantages listed above that no human brain could possibly compete with such a computer in any field of endeavor.
  9. Various electronic devices for surveillance. These are being used. For example, according to newspaper reports, the police of New York City have recently instituted a system of 24-hour television surveillance over certain problem areas of the city.

These are some of the more strikingly ominous facets of scientific progress, but it is perhaps more important to look at the effect of technology as a whole on our society. Technological progress is the basic cause of the continual increase in the number of rules and regulations. This is because many of our technological devices are more powerful and therefore more potentially destructive than the more primitive devices they replace (e.g., compare autos and horses) and also because the increasing complexity of the system makes necessary a more delicate coordination of its parts. Moreover, many devices of functional importance (e.g., electronic computers, television broadcasting equipment, jet planes) cannot be owned by the average person because of their size and costliness. These devices are controlled by large organizations such as corporations and governments and are used to further the purposes of the establishment. A larger and larger proportion of the individual’s environment—not only his physical environment, but such factors as the kind of work he does, the nature of his entertainment, etc.–comes to be created and controlled by large organizations rather than by the individual himself. And this is a necessary consequence of technological progress, because to allow technology to be exploited in an unregulated, unorganized way would result in disaster.

Note that the problem here is not simply to make sure that technology is used only for good purposes. In fact, we can be reasonably certain that the powers which technology is putting into the hands of the establishment will be used to promote good and eliminate evil. These powers will be so great that within a few decades virtually all evil will have been eliminated. But, of course, “good” and “evil” here mean good and evil as interpreted by the social mainstream. In other words, technology will enable the social mainstream to impose its values universally. This will not come about through the machinations of power-hungry scoundrels, but through the efforts of socially responsible people who sincerely want to do good and who sincerely believe in freedom—but whose concept of freedom will be shaped by their own values, which will not necessarily be the same as your values or my values.

The most important aspect of this process will perhaps be the education of children, so let us use education as an example to illustrate the way the process works. Children will be taught—by methods which will become increasingly effective as educational psychology develops—to be creative, inquiring, appreciative of the arts and sciences, interested in their studies—perhaps they will even be taught nonconformity. But of course this will not be merely random nonconformity but “creative” nonconformity. Creative nonconformity simply means nonconformity that is directed toward socially desirable ends. For example, children may be taught (in the name of freedom) to liberate themselves from irrational prejudices of their elders, “irrational prejudices” being those values which are not conducive to the kind of society that most educators choose to regard as healthy. Children will be educated to be racially unbiased, to abhor violence, to fit into society without excessive conflict. By a series of small steps—each of which will be regarded not as a step toward behavioral engineering but as an improvement in educational technique—this system will become so effective that hardly any child will turn out to be other than what the educators desire. The educational system will then have become a form of psychological compulsion. The means employed in this “education” will be expanded to include methods which we currently would consider disgusting, but since these methods will be introduced in a series of small steps, most people will not object—especially since children trained to take a “scientific” or “rational” attitude toward education will be growing up to replace their elders as they die off.

For instance, chemical and electrical manipulation of the brain will at first be used only on children considered to be insane, or at least severely disturbed. As people become accustomed to such practices, they will come to be used on children who are only moderately disturbed. Now, whatever is on the furthest fringes of the abnormal generally comes to be regarded with abhorrence. As the more severe forms of disturbances are eliminated, the less severe forms will come to constitute the outer fringe; they will thus be regarded as abhorrent and hence as fair game for chemical and electrical manipulation. Eventually, all forms of disturbance will be eliminated—and anything that brings an individual into conflict with his society will make him unhappy and therefore will be a disturbance. Note that this whole process does not presuppose any antilibertarian philosophy on the part of educators or psychologists, but only a desire to do their jobs more effectively.

Consider: Today, how can one argue against sex education? Sex education is designed not simply to present children with the bald facts of sex; it is designed to guide children to a healthy attitude toward sex. And who can argue against that? Think of all the misery suffered as a result of Victorian repressions, sexual perversions, frigidity, unwanted pregnancies, and venerial [sic.] disease. If much of this can be eliminated by instilling “healthy” (as the social mainstream interprets that word) sexual attitudes in children, who can deny it to them? But it will be equally impossible to argue against any of the other steps that will eventually lead to the complete engineering of the human personality. Each step will be equally humanitarian in its goals.

There is no distinct line between “guidance” or “influence” and manipulation. When a technique of influence becomes so effective that it achieves its desired effect in nearly every case, then it is no longer influence but compulsion. Thus influence evolves into compulsion as science improves technique.

Research has shown that exposure to television violence makes the viewer more prone to violence himself. The very existence of this knowledge makes it a foregone conclusion that restrictions will eventually be placed on televized violence, either by the government or by the TV industry itself, in order to make children less prone to develop violent personalities. This is an element of manipulation. It may be that you feel an end to television violence is desirable and that the degree of manipulation involved is insignificant. But science will reveal, one at a time, a hundred other factors in entertainment that have a “desirable” or “undesirable” effect on personality. In the case of each one of these factors, knowledge will make manipulation inevitable. When the whole array of factors has become known, we will have drifted into large-scale manipulation. In this way, research leads automatically to calculated indoctrination.

By way of a further example, let us consider genetic engineering. This will not come into use as a result of a conscious decision by the majority of people to introduce genetic engineering. It will begin with certain “progressive” parents who will voluntarily avail themselves of genetic engineering opportunities in order to eliminate the risk of certain gross physical defects in their offspring. Later, this engineering will be extended to include elimination of mental defects and treatment which will predispose the child to somewhat higher intelligence. (Note that the question of what constitutes a mental “defect” is a value-judgement. Is homosexuality, for example, a defect? Some homosexuals would say “no.” But there is no objectively true or false answer to such a question.) As methods are improved to the point where the minority of parents who use genetic engineering are producing noticeably healthier, smarter offspring, more and more parents will want genetic engineering. When the majority of children are genetically engineered, even those parents who might otherwise be antagonistic toward genetic engineering will feel obliged to use it so that their children will be able to compete in a world of superior people—superior, at least relative to the social milieu in which they live. In the end, genetic engineering will be made compulsory because it will be regarded as cruel and irresponsible for a few eccentric parents to produce inferior offspring by refusing to use it. Bear in mind that this engineering will involve mental as well as physical characteristics; indeed, as scientists explain mental traits on the basis of physiology, neurology, and biochemistry, it will become more and more difficult to distinguish between “mental” and “physical” traits.

Observe that once a society based on psychological, genetic, and other forms of human engineering has come into being, it will presumably last forever, because people will all be engineered to favor human engineering and the totally collective society, so that they will never become dissatisfied with this kind of society. Furthermore, once human engineering, the linking of human minds with computers, and other things of that nature have come into extensive use, people will probably be altered so much that it will no longer be possible for them to exist as independent beings, either physically or psychologically. Indeed, technology has already made it impossible for us to live as physically independent beings, for the skills which enabled primitive man to live off the country have been lost. We can survive only by acting as components of a huge machine which provides for our physical needs; and as technology invades the domain of mind, it is safe to assume that human beings will become as dependent psychologically on technology as they now are physically. We can see the beginning of this already in the inability of some people to avoid boredom without television and in the need of others to use tranquilizers in order to cope with the tensions of modern society.

The foregoing predictions are supported by the opinions of at least some responsible writers. See especially Jacques Ellul’s “The Technological Society” and the section titled “Social Controls” in Kahn and Wiener’s “The Year 2,000.”

Now we come to the question: What can be done to prevent all this? Let us first consider the solution sketched by Perry London in his book “Behavior Control.” This solution makes a convenient example because its defects are typical of other proposed solutions. London’s idea is, briefly, this: Let us not attempt to interfere with the development of behavioral technology, but let us all try to be as aware of and as knowledgeable about this technology as we can; let us not keep this technology in the hands of a scientific elite, but disseminate it among the population at large; people can then use this technology to manipulate themselves and protect themselves from manipulation by others. However, on the grounds that “there must be some limits” London advocates that behavior control should be imposed by society in certain areas. For example, he suggests that people should be made to abhor violence and that psychological means should be used to make businessmen stop destroying the forests. (NOTE: I do not currently have access to a copy of London’s book, and so I have had to rely on memory in describing his views. My memory is probably correct here, but in order to be honest I should admit the possibility of error.)

My first objection to London’s scheme is a personal one. I simply find the sphere of freedom that he favors too narrow for me to accept. But his solution suffers from other flaws.

He proposes to use psychological controls where they are not necessary, and more for the purpose of gratifying the liberal intellectual’s esthetic sensibilities than because of a practical need. It is true that “there must be some limits”–on violence, for example—but the threat of imprisonment seems to be an adequate limitation. To read about violence is frightening, but violent crime is not a significant cause of mortality in comparison to other causes. Far more people are killed in automobile accidents than through violent crime. Would London also advocate psychological elimination of those personalities that are inclined to careless driving? The fact that liberal intellectuals and many others get far more excited over violence than they do over careless driving would seem to indicate that their antagonism toward violence arises not primarily from a concern for human life but from a strong emotional antipathy toward violence itself. Thus it appears that London’s proposal to eliminate violence through psychological control results not from practical necessity but from a desire on London’s part to engineer some of his own values into the public at large.

This becomes even clearer when we consider London’s willingness to use psychological engineering to stop businessmen from destroying forests. Obviously, psychological engineering cannot accomplish this until the establishment can be persuaded to carry out the appropriate program of engineering. But if the establishment can be persuaded to do this, then they can equally well be persuaded to pass conservation laws strict enough to accomplish the same purpose. And if such laws are passed, the psychological engineering is superfluous. It seems clear that here, again, London is attracted to psychological engineering simply because he would like to see the general public share certain of his values.

When London proposes to us systematic psychological controls over certain aspects of the personality, with the intention that these controls shall not be extended to others areas, he is assuming that the generation following his own will agree with his judgment as to how far the psychological controls should reach. This assumption is almost certainly false. The introduction of psychological controls in some areas (which London approves) will set the stage for the later introduction of controls in other areas (which London would not approve), because it will change the culture in such a way as to make people more receptive to the concept of psychological controls. As long as any behavior is permitted which is not in the best interests of the collective social organization, there will always be the temptation to eliminate the worst of this behavior through human engineering. People will introduce new controls to eliminate only the worst of this behavior, without intending that any further extension of the controls should take place afterward; but in fact they will be indirectly causing further extensions of the controls because whenever new controls are introduced, the public, as it becomes used to the controls, will change its conception of what constitutes an appropriate degree of control. In other words, whatever the amount of control to which people have become accustomed, they will regard that amount as right and good and they will regard a little further extension of control as negligible price to pay for the elimination of some form of behavior that they find shocking.

London regards the wide dissemination of behavioral technology among the public as a means by which the people can protect themselves against psychological manipulation by the established powers. But if it is really true that people can use this knowledge to avoid manipulation in most areas, why won’t they also be able to use it to avoid being made to abhor violence, or to avoid control in other areas where London thinks they should be controlled? London seems to assume that people will be unable to avoid control in just those areas where he thinks they should be controlled, but that they will be able to avoid control in just those areas where he thinks they should not be controlled.

London refers to “awareness” (of sciences relating to the mind) as the individual’s “sword and buckler” against manipulation by the establishment. In Roman times a man might have a real sword and buckler just as good as those of the emperor’s legionaries, but that did not enable him to escape oppression. Similarly, if a man of the future has a complete knowledge of behavioral psychology it will not enable him to escape psychological control any more than the possession of a machine-gun or a tank would enable him to escape physical control. The resources of an organized society are just too great for any individual to resist no matter how much he knows.

With the vast expansion of knowledge in the behavioral sciences, biochemistry, cybernetics, physiology, genetics, and other disciplines which have the potential to affect human behavior, it is probably already impossible (and, if not, it will soon become impossible) for any individual to keep abreast of it all. In any case, we would all have to become, to some degree, specialists in behavior control in order to maintain London’s “awareness.” What about those people who just don’t happen to be attracted to that kind of science, or to any science? It would be agony for them to have to spend long hours studying behavioral technology in order to maintain their freedom.

Even if London’s scheme of freedom through “awareness” were feasible, it could, or at least would, be carried out only by an elite of intellectuals, businessmen, etc. Can you imagine the members of uneducated minority groups, or, for that matter, the average middle-class person, having the will and the ability to learn enough to compete in a world of psychological manipulation? It will be a case of the smart and the powerful getting more powerful while the stupid and the weak get (relatively) stupider and weaker; for it is the smart and the powerful who will have the readiest access to behavioral technology and the greatest ability to use it effectively.

This is one reason why devices for improving one’s mental or psychological capabilities (e.g., biofeedback training, memory pills, linking of human minds with computers) are dangerous to freedom even though their use is voluntary. For example, it will not be physically possible for everyone to have his own full-scale computer in his basement to which he can link his brain. The best computer facilities will be reserved for those whom society judges most worthy: government officials, scientists, etc. Thus the already powerful will be made more powerful.

Also, the use of such mind-augmentation devices will not remain voluntary. All our modern conveniences were originally introduced as optional benefits which one could take or leave as one chose. However, as a result of the introduction of these benefits, society changed its structure in such a way that the use of modern conveniences is now compulsory: for it would be physically impossible to live in modern society without extensively using devices provided by technology. Similarly, the use of mind-augmenting devices, though nominally voluntary, will become in practice compulsory. When these devices have reached a high development and have come into wide use, a person refusing to use them would be putting himself in the position of a dumb animal in a world of supermen. He would simply be unable to function in a society structured around the assumption that most people have vastly augmented mental abilities.

By virtue of their very power, the devices for augmenting or modifying the human mind and personality will have to be governed by extensive rules and regulations. As the human mind comes to be more and more an artifact created by means of such devices, these rules and regulations will come to be rules and regulations governing the structure of the human mind.

An important point: London does not even consider the question of human engineering in infancy (let alone genetic engineering before conception). A two-year-old obviously would not be able to apply London’s philosophy of “awareness”; yet it will be possible in the future to engineer a young child so that he will grow up to have the type of personality that is desired by whoever has charge of him. What is the meaning of freedom for a person whose entire personality has been planned and created by someone else?

London’s solution suffers from another flaw that is of particular importance because it is shared by all libertarian solutions to the technology problem that have ever come to my attention. The problem is supposed to be solved by propounding and popularizing a certain libertarian philosophy. This approach is unlikely to achieve anything. Our liberty is not deteriorating as a result of any antilibertarian philosophy. Most people in this country profess to believe in freedom. Our liberty is deteriorating as a result of the way people do their jobs and behave in relation to technology on a day-to-day basis. The system has come to be set up in such a way that it is usually comfortable to do that which strengthens the organization. When a person in a position of responsibility sets to eliminate that which is contrary to established values, he is rewarded with the esteem of his fellows and in other ways. Police officials who introduce new surveillance devices, educators who introduce more advanced techniques for molding children, do not do so through disrespect for freedom; they do so because they are rewarded with the approval of other police officials or educators and also because they get an inward satisfaction from having accomplished their assigned tasks not only competently, but creatively. A hands-off approach toward the child’s personality would be best from the point of view of freedom, but this approach will not be taken because the most intelligent and capable educators crave the satisfaction of doing their work creatively. They want to do more with the child, not less. The greatest reward that a person gets from furthering the ends of the organization may well be simply the opportunity for purposeful, challenging, important activity—an opportunity that is otherwise hard to come by in society. For example, Marvin Minsky does not work on computers because he is antagonistic to freedom, but because he loves the intellectual challenge. Probably he believes in freedom, but since he is a computer specialist he manages to persuade himself that computers will tend to liberate man.

The main point here is that the danger to freedom is caused by the way people work and behave on a day-to-day basis in relation to technology; and the way people behave in relation to technology is determined by powerful social and psychological forces. To oppose these forces a comparatively weak force like a body of philosophy is simply hopeless. You may persuade the public to accept your philosophy, but most people will not significantly change their behavior as a result. They will invent rationalizations to reconcile their behavior with the philosophy, or they will say that what they do as individuals is too insignificant to change the course of events, or they will simply confess themselves too weak to live up to the philosophy. Conceivably a school of philosophy might change a culture over a long period of time if the social forces tending in the opposite direction were weak. But the social forces guiding the present development of our society are obviously strong, and we have very little time left—another three decades likely will take us past the point of no return.

Thus a philosophy will be ineffective unless that philosophy is accompanied by a program of concrete action of a type which does not ask people to voluntarily change the way they live and work—a program which demands little effort or willpower on the part of most people. Such a program would probably have to be a political or legislative one. A philosophy is not likely to make people change their daily behavior, but it might (with luck) induce them to vote for politicians who support a certain program. Casting a vote requires only a casual commitment, not a strenuous application of willpower. So we are left with the question: What kind of legislative program would have a chance of saving freedom?

I can think of only two possibilities that are halfway plausible. The discussion of one of these I will leave until later. The other, and the one that I advocate, is this: In simple terms, stop scientific progress by withdrawing all major sources of research funds. In more detail, begin by withdrawing all or most federal aid to research. If an abrupt withdrawal would cause economic problems, then phase it out as rapidly as is practical. Next, pass legislation to limit or phase out research support by educational institutions which accept public funds. Finally, one would hope to pass legislation prohibiting all large corporations and other large organizations from supporting scientific research. Of course, it would be necessary to eventually bring about similar changes throughout the world, but, being Americans, we must start with the United States; which is just as well, since the United States is the world’s most technologically advanced country. As for economic or other disruption that might be caused by the elimination of scientific progress—this disruption is likely to be much less than that which would be caused by the extremely rapid changes brought on by science itself.

I admit that, in view of the firmly entrenched position of Big Science, it is unlikely that such a legislative program could be enacted. However, I think there is at least some chance that such a program could be put through in stages over a period of years, if one or more active organizations were formed to make the public aware of the probable consequences of continued scientific progress and to push for the appropriate legislation. Even if there is only a small chance of success, I think that chance is worth working for, since the alternative appears to be the loss of all human freedom.

This solution is bound to be attacked as “simplistic.” But this ignores the fundamental question, namely: Is there any better solution or indeed any other solution at all? My personal opinion is that there is no other solution. However, let us not be dogmatic. Maybe there is a better solution. But the point is this: If there is such a solution, no one at present seems to know just what it is. Matters have progressed to the point where we can no longer afford to sit around just waiting for something to turn up. By stopping scientific progress now, or at any rate slowing it drastically, we could at least give ourselves breathing space during which we could attempt to work out another solution, if one is possible.

There is one putative solution the discussion of which I have reserved until now. One might consider enacting some kind of bill of rights designed to protect freedom from technological encroachment. For the following reasons I do not believe that such a solution would be effective.

In the first place, a document which attempted to define our sphere of freedom in a few simple principles would either be too weak to afford real protection, or too strong to be compatible with the functioning of the present society. Thus, a suitable bill of rights would have to be excessively complex, and full of exceptions, qualifications, and delicate compromises. Such a bill would be subject to repeated amendments for the sake of social expedience; and where formal amendment is inconvenient, the document would simply be reinterpreted. Recent decisions of the Supreme Court, whether one approves of them or not, show how much the import of a document can be altered through reinterpretations. Our present Bill of Rights would have been ineffective if there had been in America strong social forces acting against freedom of speech, freedom of worship, etc. Compare what is happening to the right to bear arms, which currently runs counter to basic social trends. Whether you approve or disapprove of that “right” is beside the point—the point is that the constitutional guarantee cannot stand indefinitely against powerful social forces.

If you are an advocate of the bill-of-rights approach to the technology problem, test yourself by attempting to write a sample section on, say, genetic engineering. Just how will you define the term “genetic engineering” and how will you draw the line, in words, between that engineering which is to be permitted and that which is to be prohibited? Your law will either have to be too strong to pass; or so vague that it can be readily reinterpreted as social standards evolve; or excessively complex and detailed. In this last case, the law will not pass as a constitutional amendment, because for practical reasons a law that attempts to deal with such a problem in great detail will have to be relatively easy to change as needs and circumstances change. But then, of course, the law will be changed continually for the sake of social expedience and so will not serve as a barrier to the erosion of freedom.

And who would actually work out the details of such a bill of rights? Undoubtedly, a committee of congressmen, or a commission appointed by the president, or some other group of organization men. They would give us some fine libertarian rhetoric, but they would be unwilling to pay the price of real, substantial freedom—they would not write a bill that would sacrifice any significant amount of the organization’s power.

I have said that a bill of rights would not be able to stand for long against the pressures for science, progress, and improvement. But laws that bring a halt to scientific research would be quite different in this respect. The prestige of science would be broken. With the financial basis gone, few young people would find it practical to enter scientific careers. After, say three decades or so, our society would have ceased to be progress-oriented and the most dangerous of the pressures that currently threaten our freedom would have relaxed. A bill of rights would not bring about this relaxation.

This, by the way, is one reason why the elimination of research merely in a few sensitive areas would be inadequate. As long as science is a large and going concern, there will be the persistent temptation to apply it in new areas; but this pressure would be broken if science were reduced to a minor role.

Let us try to summarize the role of technology in relation to freedom. The principal effect of technology is to increase the power of society collectively. Now, there is a more or less unlimited number of value-judgments that lie before us: for example: whether an individual should or should not have puritanical attitudes toward sex; whether it is better to have rain fall at night or during the day. When society acquires power over such a situation, generally a preponderance of the social forces look upon one or the other of the alternatives as Right. These social forces are then able to use the machinery of society to impose their choice universally; for example, they may mold children so successfully that none ever grows up to have puritanical attitudes toward sex, or they may use weather engineering to guarantee that the rain falls only at night. In this way there is a continual narrowing of the possibilities that exist in the world. The eventual result will be a world in which there is only one system of values. The only way out seems to be to halt the ceaseless extension of society’s power.

I propose that you join me and a few other people to whom I am writing in an attempt to found an organization dedicated to stopping federal aid to scientific research. It would be a mistake, I think, to reject this suggestion out of hand on the basis of some vague dogma such as “knowledge is good” or “science is the hope of man.” Sure, knowledge is good, but how high a price, in terms of freedom, are we going to pay for knowledge? You may be understandably reluctant to join an organization about which you know nothing, but you know as much about it as I do. It hasn’t been started yet. You would be one of the founding members. I claim to have no particular qualifications for trying to start such an organization, and I have no idea how to go about it, I am only making an attempt because no better qualified person has yet done so. I am simply trying to bring together a few highly intelligent and thoughtful people who would be willing to take over the task.


Ship of Fools

Once upon a time, the captain and the mates of a ship grew so vain of their seamanship, so full of hubris and so impressed with themselves, that they went mad. They turned the ship north and sailed until they met with icebergs and dangerous floes, and they kept sailing north into more and more perilous waters, solely in order to give themselves opportunities to perform ever-more-brilliant feats of seamanship.

As the ship reached higher and higher latitudes, the passengers and crew became increasingly uncomfortable. They began quarreling among themselves and complaining of the conditions under which they lived.

“Shiver me timbers,” said an able seaman, “if this ain’t the worst voyage I’ve ever been on. The deck is slick with ice; when I’m on lookout the wind cuts through me jacket like a knife; every time I reef the foresail I blamed-near freeze me fingers; and all I get for it is a miserable five shillings a month!”

“You think you have it bad!” said a lady passenger. “I can’t sleep at night for the cold. Ladies on this ship don’t get as many blankets as the men. It isn’t fair!”

A Mexican sailor chimed in: “¡Chingado! I’m only getting half the wages of the Anglo seamen. We need plenty of food to keep us warm in this climate, and I’m not getting my share; the Anglos get more. And the worst of it is that the mates always give me orders in English instead of Spanish.”

“I have more reason to complain than anybody,” said an American Indian sailor. “If the palefaces hadn’t robbed me of my ancestral lands, I wouldn’t even be on this ship, here among the icebergs and arctic winds. I would just be paddling a canoe on a nice, placid lake. I deserve compensation. At the very least, the captain should let me run a crap game so that I can make some money.”

The bosun spoke up: “Yesterday the first mate called me a fruit just because I suck cocks. I have a right to suck cocks without being called names for it!”

It’s not only humans who are mistreated on this ship,” interjected an animal-lover among the passengers, her voice quivering with indignation. “Why, last week I saw the second mate kick the ship’s dog twice!”

One of the passengers was a college professor. Wringing his hands he exclaimed,

“All this is just awful! It’s immoral! It’s racism, sexism, speciesism, homophobia, and exploitation of the working class! It’s discrimination! We must have social justice: Equal wages for the Mexican sailor, higher wages for all sailors, compensation for the Indian, equal blankets for the ladies, a guaranteed right to suck cocks, and no more kicking the dog!”

“Yes, yes!” shouted the passengers. “Aye-aye!” shouted the crew. “It’s discrimination! We have to demand our rights!”

The cabin boy cleared his throat.

“Ahem. You all have good reasons to complain. But it seems to me that what we really have to do is get this ship turned around and headed back south, because if we keep going north we’re sure to be wrecked sooner or later, and then your wages, your blankets, and your right to suck cocks won’t do you any good, because we’ll all drown.”

But no one paid any attention to him, because he was only the cabin boy.

The captain and the mates, from their station on the poop deck, had been watching and listening. Now they smiled and winked at one another, and at a gesture from the captain the third mate came down from the poop deck, sauntered over to where the passengers and crew were gathered, and shouldered his way in amongst them. He put a very serious expression on his face and spoke thusly:

“We officers have to admit that some really inexcusable things have been happening on this ship. We hadn’t realized how bad the situation was until we heard your complaints. We are men of good will and want to do right by you. But—well—the captain is rather conservative and set in his ways, and may have to be prodded a bit before he’ll make any substantial changes. My personal opinion is that if you protest vigorously—but always peacefully and without violating any of the ship’s rules—you would shake the captain out of his inertia and force him to address the problems of which you so justly complain.”

Having said this, the third mate headed back toward the poop deck. As he went, the passengers and crew called after him, “Moderate! Reformer! Goody-liberal! Captain’s stooge!” But they nevertheless did as he said. They gathered in a body before the poop deck, shouted insults at the officers, and demanded their rights: “I want higher wages and better working conditions,” cried the able seaman. “Equal blankets for women,” cried the lady passenger. “I want to receive my orders in Spanish,” cried the Mexican sailor. “I want the right to run a crap game,” cried the Indian sailor. “I don’t want to be called a fruit,” cried the bosun. “No more kicking the dog,” cried the animal lover. “Revolution now,” cried the professor.

The captain and the mates huddled together and conferred for several minutes, winking, nodding and smiling at one another all the while. Then the captain stepped to the front of the poop deck and, with a great show of benevolence, announced that the able seaman’s wages would be raised to six shillings a month; the Mexican sailor’s wages would be raised to two-thirds the wages of an Anglo seaman, and the order to reef the foresail would be given in Spanish; lady passengers would receive one more blanket; the Indian sailor would be allowed to run a crap game on Saturday nights; the bosun wouldn’t be called a fruit as long as he kept his cocksucking strictly private; and the dog wouldn’t be kicked unless he did something really naughty, such as stealing food from the galley.

The passengers and crew celebrated these concessions as a great victory, but the next morning, they were again feeling dissatisfied.

“Six shillings a month is a pittance, and I still freeze me fingers when I reef the foresail,” grumbled the able seaman. “I’m still not getting the same wages as the Anglos, or enough food for this climate,” said the Mexican sailor. “We women still don’t have enough blankets to keep us warm,” said the lady passenger. The other crewmen and passengers voiced similar complaints, and the professor egged them on.

When they were done, the cabin boy spoke up—louder this time so that the others could not easily ignore him:

“It’s really terrible that the dog gets kicked for stealing a bit of bread from the galley, and that women don’t have equal blankets, and that the able seaman gets his fingers frozen; and I don’t see why the bosun shouldn’t suck cocks if he wants to. But look how thick the icebergs are now, and how the wind blows harder and harder! We’ve got to turn this ship back toward the south, because if we keep going north we’ll be wrecked and drowned.”

“Oh yes,” said the bosun, “It’s just so awful that we keep heading north. But why should I have to keep cocksucking in the closet? Why should I be called a fruit? Ain’t I as good as everyone else?”

“Sailing north is terrible,” said the lady passenger. “But don’t you see? That’s exactly why women need more blankets to keep them warm. I demand equal blankets for women now!”

“It’s quite true,” said the professor, “that sailing to the north imposes great hardships on all of us. But changing course toward the south would be unrealistic. You can’t turn back the clock. We must find a mature way of dealing with the situation.”

“Look,” said the cabin boy, “If we let those four madmen up on the poop deck have their way, we’ll all be drowned. If we ever get the ship out of danger, then we can worry about working conditions, blankets for women, and the right to suck cocks. But first we’ve got to get this vessel turned around. If a few of us get together, make a plan, and show some courage, we can save ourselves. It wouldn’t take many of us—six or eight would do. We could charge the poop, chuck those lunatics overboard, and turn the ship to the south.”

The professor elevated his nose and said sternly, “I don’t believe in violence. It’s immoral.”

“It’s unethical ever to use violence,” said the bosun.

“I’m terrified of violence,” said the lady passenger.

The captain and the mates had been watching and listening all the while. At a signal from the captain, the third mate stepped down to the main deck. He went about among the passengers and crew, telling them that there were still many problems on the ship.

“We have made much progress,” he said, “But much remains to be done. Working conditions for the able seaman are still hard, the Mexican still isn’t getting the same wages as the Anglos, the women still don’t have quite as many blankets as the men, the Indian’s Saturday-night crap game is a paltry compensation for his lost lands, it’s unfair to the bosun that he has to keep his cocksucking in the closet, and the dog still gets kicked at times.

“I think the captain needs to be prodded again. It would help if you all would put on another protest—as long as it remains nonviolent.”

As the third mate walked back toward the stern, the passengers and the crew shouted insults after him, but they nevertheless did what he said and gathered in front of the poop deck for another protest. They ranted and raved and brandished their fists, and they even threw a rotten egg at the captain (which he skillfully dodged).

After hearing their complaints, the captain and the mates huddled for a conference, during which they winked and grinned broadly at one another. Then the captain stepped to the front of the poop deck and announced that the able seaman would be given gloves to keep his fingers warm, the Mexican sailor would receive wages equal to three-fourths the wages of an Anglo seaman, the women would receive yet another blanket, the Indian sailor could run a crap game on Saturday and Sunday nights, the bosun would be allowed to suck cocks publicly after dark, and no one could kick the dog without special permission from the captain.

The passengers and crew were ecstatic over this great revolutionary victory, but by the next morning they were again feeling dissatisfied and began grumbling about the same old hardships.

The cabin boy this time was getting angry.

“You damn fools!” he shouted. “Don’t you see what the captain and the mates are doing? They’re keeping you occupied with your trivial grievances about blankets and wages and the dog being kicked so that you won’t think about what is really wrong with this ship—that it’s getting farther and farther to the north and we’re all going to be drowned. If just a few of you would come to your senses, get together, and charge the poop deck, we could turn this ship around and save ourselves. But all you do is whine about petty little issues like working conditions and crap games and the right to suck cocks.”

The passengers and the crew were incensed.

“Petty!!” cried the Mexican, “Do you think it’s reasonable that I get only three-fourths the wages of an Anglo sailor? Is that petty?

“How can you call my grievance trivial? shouted the bosun. “Don’t you know how humiliating it is to be called a fruit?”

“Kicking the dog is not a petty little issue!” screamed the animal-lover. “It’s heartless, cruel, and brutal!”

“Alright then,” answered the cabin boy. “These issues are not petty and trivial. Kicking the dog is cruel and brutal and it is humiliating to be called a fruit. But in comparison to our real problem—in comparison to the fact that the ship is still heading north—your grievances are petty and trivial, because if we don’t get this ship turned around soon, we’re all going to drown.

“Fascist!” said the professor.

“Counterrevolutionary!” said the lady passenger. And all of the passengers and crew chimed in one after another, calling the cabin boy a fascist and a counterrevolutionary. They pushed him away and went back to grumbling about wages, and about blankets for women, and about the right to suck cocks, and about how the dog was treated. The ship kept sailing north, and after a while it was crushed between two icebergs and everyone drowned.


When Non-Violence is Suicide

Author: Ted Kaczsynski, a.k.a., The Unabomber.

It’s the autumn of 2025 AD. The technoindustrial system fell apart a year ago, but you and your friends are doing alright. Your garden has flourished this past summer and in your cabin you have a good supply of dried vegetables, dried beans and other foodstuffs to get you through the coming winter. Just now you’re harvesting your potatoes. With your spades, you and your friends uproot one potato after another and pick the plump tubers out of the soil.

Suddenly the friend at your elbow nudges you and you look up. Uh-oh. A gang of mean-looking men is coming up your trail. They have guns. They look like trouble, but you stand firm. The leader of the gang walks up to you and says,

“Nice looking potatoes you got there.”

“Yeah,” you reply. “They’re nice-looking potatoes.”

“We’re going to take them,” says the gang leader.

“The hell you are!” you answer. “We spent a long summer of hard work growing those potatoes…”

The gang leader points his rifle at your face and says, “– you, punk.” To his men he adds, “Dick, Ziggy, check the cabin and see what kind of food they got. We might just move in and spend the winter here. Mick, grab that bitch over there before she gets away. She got a nice ass. We’ll all screw her tonight.”

You get angry and start shouting, “You bastard! You can’t…”

The rifle goes BANG. You’re dead.


Nonviolence works only when you have the police to protect you. In the absence of police protection, nonviolence is very nearly the equivalent to suicide.

Admittedly this has not been true at all times and places. Among the African Pygmies as described by Colin Turnbull, deadly violence against humans was almost unknown. In other nomadic hunting and gathering societies people sometimes kill one another in fights, but they never conquer one another’s territory or systematically slaughter other tribes. Under these conditions, nonviolence is not inconsistent with survival.

But, realistically, these are not the conditions that will prevail if and when the technoindustrial system collapses. There are a lot of mean people out there: Nazis, Hell’s Angels, Ku Klux Klanners, the Mafia…many others do not belong to recognized groups. They aren’t going to disappear into thin air when the system falls apart. They will still be around. They probably wouldn’t be successful at growing their own food even if they tried, and they won’t try, because people of that type will find it much more congenial to take someone else’s food than to grow their own. And since they are vicious, they may kill you or rape you just for the fun of it, even when they don’t need your food.

Many ordinary people, too, who under present conditions are peaceful and mild-mannered, may turn vicious when they are desperate for food or good agricultural land in which to grow it. Food shortages may not be critical in so-called “backward” areas of the world where the peasants are still relatively self-sufficient, but in the industrialized countries, where agriculture is completely dependent on pesticides, chemical fertilizers and fuel for tractors (among other things) and in which few people have the skill to grow their own food efficiently, food shortages are sure to be acute when the system collapses.

Let’s even assume for the sake of argument that industrialized countries have enough arable land so that all people will, in theory, be able to grow their own food by primitive methods. In the absence of a functioning government, there will no way of distributing the city dwellers over the countryside and systematically assigning each family its own plot of land. Consequently, there will be chaos and confusion. Some people will try to grab the most or the best land for themselves, other will oppose them and deadly fights will break out. Armed groups will organize themselves for their own protection or for aggressive purposes. If you want to survive the collapse of this system, you had better be armed yourself and prepared to use your weapon efficiently. This means being prepared psychologically as well as physically.

Being armed and prepared to fight in self defense will not only be a necessary condition for your own survival, it will be your duty. The Nazi’s, Hell’s Angels and the Ku Klux Klanners will not be the most dangerous enemies of freedom. Because these people are unruly, turbulent and lawless, they are unlikely to create large, efficient organizations. Far more dangerous will be the kind of people who form the backbone of the present system, the people who are adapted to life in disciplined organizations: the “bourgeois” types—the engineers, business executives, bureaucrats, military officers, some police and so forth. These people will be anxious to reestablish order, organization and the technological system as quickly as possible. Their methods will be less crude than those of the Nazis and Hell’s Angels but they won’t hesitate to use force and violence when these are necessary for the achievement of their objectives. You must be prepared to defend yourself physically against these people.


The System’s Neatest Trick

Author: Ted Kaczsynski, a.k.a., The Unabomber.

The supreme luxury of the society of technical necessity will be to grant the bonus of useless revolt and of an acquiescent smile.[1]

— Jacques Ellul

The System has played a trick on today’s would-be revolutionaries and rebels. The trick is so cute that if it had been consciously planned one would have to admire it for its almost mathematical elegance.

1. What the System Is Not

Let’s begin by making clear that the System is not. The System is not George W. Bush and his advisers and appointees, it is not the cops who maltreat protesters, it is not the CEOs of the multinational corporations, and it is not the Frankensteins in their laboratories who criminally tinker with the genes of living things. All of these people are servants of the System, but in themselves they do not constitute the System. In particular, the personal and individual values, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of any of these people may be significantly in conflict with the needs of the System.

To illustrate with an example, the System requires respect for property rights, yet CEOs, cops, scientists, and politicians sometimes steal. (In speaking of stealing we don’t have to confine ourselves to actual lifting of physical objects. We can include all illegal means of acquiring property, such as cheating on income tax, accepting bribes, and any other form of graft or corruption.) But the fact that CEOs, cops, scientists, and politicians sometimes steal does not mean that stealing is part of the System. On the contrary, when a cop or a politician steals something he is rebelling against the System’s requirement of respect for law and property. Yet, even when they are stealing, these people remain servants of the System as long as they publicly maintain their support for law and property.

Whatever illegal acts may be committed by politicians, cops, or CEOs as individuals, theft, bribery, and graft are not part of the System but diseases of the System. The less stealing there is, the better the System functions, and that is why the servants and boosters of the System always advocate obedience to the law in public, even if they may sometimes find it convenient to break the law in private.

Take another example. Although the police are the System’s enforcers police brutality is not part of the System. When the cops beat the crap out of a suspect they are not doing the System’s work, they are only letting out their own anger and hostility. The System’s goal is not brutality or the expression of anger. As far as police work is concerned, the System’s goal is to compel obedience to its rules and to do so with the least possible amount of disruption, violence, and bad publicity. Thus, from the System’s point of view, the ideal cop is one who never gets angry, never uses any more violence than necessary, and as far as possible relies on manipulation rather than force to keep people under control. Police brutality is only another disease of the System, not part of the System.

For proof, look at the attitude of the media. The mainstream media almost universally condemn police brutality. Of course, the attitude of the mainstream media represents, as a rule, the consensus of opinion among the powerful classes in our society as to what is good for the System.

What has just been said about theft, graft, and police brutality applies also to issues of discrimination and victimization such as racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, and sweatshops. All of these are bad for the System. For example, the more that black people feel themselves scorned or excluded, the more likely they are to turn to crime and the less likely they are to educate themselves for careers that will make them useful to the System.

Modern technology, with its rapid long-distance transportation and its disruption of traditional ways of life, has led to the mixing of populations, so that nowadays people of different races, nationalities, cultures, and religions have to live and work side by side. If people hate or reject one another on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, etc., the resulting conflicts interfere with the functioning of the System. Apart from a few old fossilized relics of the past like Jesse Helms, the leaders of the System know this very well, and that is why we are taught in school and through the media to believe that racism, sexism, homophobia, and so forth are social evils to be eliminated.

No doubt some of the leaders of the System, some of the politicians, scientists, and CEOs, privately feel that a woman’s place is in the home, or that homosexuality and interracial marriage are repugnant. But even if the majority of them felt that way it would not mean that racism, sexism, and homophobia were part of the System—any more than the existence of stealing among the leaders means that stealing is part of the System. Just as the System must promote respect for law and property for the sake of its own security, the System must also discourage racism and other forms of victimization, for the same reason. That is why the System, notwithstanding any private deviations by individual members of the elite, is basically committed to suppressing discrimination and victimization.

For proof, look again at the attitude of the mainstream media. In spite of occasional timid dissent by a few of the more daring and reactionary commentators, media propaganda overwhelmingly favors racial and gender equality and acceptance of homosexuality and interracial marriage.[2]

The System needs a population that is meek, nonviolent, domesticated, docile, and obedient. It needs to avoid any conflict or disruption that could interfere with the orderly functioning of the social machine. In addition to suppressing racial, ethnic, religious, and other group hostilities, it also has to suppress or harness for its own advantage all other tendencies that could lead to disruption or disorder, such as machismo, aggressive impulses, and any inclination to violence.

Naturally, traditional racial and ethnic antagonisms die slowly, machismo, aggressiveness, and violent impulses are not easily suppressed, and attitudes toward sex and gender identity are not transformed overnight. Therefore there are many individuals who resist these changes, and the System is faced with the problem of overcoming their resistance.[3]

2. How the System Exploits the Impulse to Rebel

All of us in modern society are hemmed in by a dense network of rules and regulations. We are at the mercy of large organizations such as corporations, governments, labor unions, universities, churches, and political parties, and consequently we are powerless. As a result of the servitude, the powerlessness, and the other indignities that the System inflicts on us, there is widespread frustration, which leads to an impulse to rebel. And this is where the System plays its neatest trick: Through a brilliant sleight of hand, it turns rebellion to its own advantage.

Many people do not understand the roots of their own frustration, hence their rebellion is directionless. They know that they want to rebel, but they don’t know what they want to rebel against. Luckily, the System is able to fill their need by providing them with a list of standard and stereotyped grievances in the name of which to rebel: racism, homophobia, women’s issues, poverty, sweatshops…the whole laundry-bag of “activist” issues.

Huge numbers of would-be rebels take the bait. In fighting racism, sexism, etc., etc., they are only doing the System’s work for it. In spite of this, they imagine that they are rebelling against the System. How is this possible?

First, 50 years ago the System was not yet committed to equality for black people, women and homosexuals, so that action in favor of these causes really was a form of rebellion. Consequently these causes came to be conventionally regarded as rebel causes. They have retained that status today simply as a matter of tradition; that is, because each rebel generation imitates the preceding generations.

Second, there are still significant numbers of people, as I pointed out earlier, who resist the social changes that the System requires, and some of these people even are authority figures such as cops, judges, or politicians. These resisters provide a target for the would-be rebels, someone for them to rebel against. Commentators like Rush Limbaugh help the process by ranting against the activists: Seeing that they have made someone angry fosters the activists’ illusion that they are rebelling.

Third, in order to bring themselves into conflict even with that majority of the System’s leaders who fully accept the social changes that the System demands, the would-be rebels insist on solutions that go farther than what the System’s leaders consider prudent, and they show exaggerated anger over trivial matters. For example, they demand payment of reparations to black people, and they often become enraged at any criticism of a minority group, no matter how cautious and reasonable.

In this way the activists are able to maintain the illusion that they are rebelling against the System. But the illusion is absurd. Agitation against racism, sexism, homophobia and the like no more constitutes rebellion against the System than does agitation against political graft and corruption. Those who work against graft and corruption are not rebelling but acting as the System’s enforcers: They are helping to keep the politicians obedient to the rules of the System. Those who work against racism, sexism, and homophobia similarly are acting as the Systems’ enforcers: They help the System to suppress the deviant racist, sexist, and homophobic attitudes that cause problems for the System.

But the activists don’t act only as the System’s enforcers. They also serve as a kind of lightning rod that protects the System by drawing public resentment away from the System and its institutions. For example, there were several reasons why it was to the System’s advantage to get women out of the home and into the workplace. Fifty years ago, if the System, as represented by the government or the media, had begun out of the blue a propaganda campaign designed to make it socially acceptable for women to center their lives on careers rather than on the home, the natural human resistance to change would have caused widespread public resentment. What actually happened was that the changes were spearheaded by radical feminists, behind whom the System’s institutions trailed at a safe distance. The resentment of the more conservative members of society was directed primarily against the radical feminists rather than against the System and its institutions, because the changes sponsored by the System seemed slow and moderate in comparison with the more radical solutions advocated by feminists, and even these relatively slow changes were seen as having been forced on the System by pressure from the radicals.

3. The System’s Neatest Trick

So, in a nutshell, the System’s neatest trick is this:

  1. For the sake of its own efficiency and security, the System needs to bring about deep and radical social changes to match the changed conditions resulting from technological progress.
  2. The frustration of life under the circumstances imposed by the System leads to rebellious impulses.
  3. Rebellious impulses are co-opted by the System in the service of the social changes it requires; activists “rebel” against the old and outmoded values that are no longer of use to the System and in favor of the new values that the System needs us to accept.
  4. In this way rebellious impulses, which otherwise might have been dangerous to the System, are given an outlet that is not only harmless to the System, but useful to it.
  5. Much of the public resentment resulting from the imposition of social changes is drawn away from the System and its institutions and is directed instead at the radicals who spearhead the social changes.

Of course, this trick was not planned in advance by the System’s leaders, who are not conscious of having played a trick at all. The way it works is something like this:

In deciding what position to take on any issue, the editors, publishers, and owners of the media must consciously or unconsciously balance several factors. They must consider how their readers or viewers will react to what they print or broadcast about the issue, they must consider how their advertisers, their peers in the media, and other powerful persons will react, and they must consider the effect on the security of the System of what they print or broadcast.

These practical considerations will usually outweigh whatever personal feelings they may have about the issue. The personal feelings of the media leaders, their advertisers, and other powerful persons are varied. They may be liberal or conservative, religious or atheistic. The only universal common ground among the leaders is their commitment to the System, its security, and its power. Therefore, within the limits imposed by what the public is willing to accept, the principal factor determining the attitudes propagated by the media is a rough consensus of opinion among the media leaders and other powerful people as to what is good for the System.

Thus, when an editor or other media leader sets out to decide what attitude to take toward a movement or a cause, his first thought is whether the movement includes anything that is good or bad for the System. Maybe he tells himself that his decision is based on moral, philosophical, or religious grounds, but it is an observable fact that in practice the security of the System takes precedence over all other factors in determining the attitude of the media.

For example, if a news-magazine editor looks at the militia movement, he may or may not sympathize personally with some of its grievances and goals, but he also sees that there will be a strong consensus among his advertisers and his peers in the media that the militia movement is potentially dangerous to the System and therefore should be discouraged. Under these circumstances he knows that his magazine had better take a negative attitude toward the militia movement. The negative attitude of the media presumably is part of the reason why the militia movement has died down.

When the same editor looks at radical feminism he sees that some of its more extreme solutions would be dangerous to the System, but he also sees that feminism holds much that is useful to the System. Women’s participation in the business and technical world integrates them and their families better into the System. Their talents are of service to the System in business and technical matters. Feminist emphasis on ending domestic abuse and rape also serves the System’s needs, since rape and abuse, like other forms of violence, are dangerous to the System. Perhaps most important, the editor recognizes that the pettiness and meaninglessness of modern housework and the social isolation of the modern housewife can lead to serious frustration for many women; frustration that will cause problems for the System unless women are allowed an outlet through careers in the business and technical world.

Even if this editor is a macho type who personally feels more comfortable with women in a subordinate position, he knows that feminism, at least in a relatively moderate form, is good for the System. He knows that his editorial posture must be favorable toward moderate feminism, otherwise he will face the disapproval of his advertisers and other powerful people. This is why the mainstream media’s attitude has been generally supportive of moderate feminism, mixed toward radical feminism, and consistently hostile only toward the most extreme feminist positions.

Through this type of process, rebel movements that are dangerous to the System are subjected to negative propaganda, while rebel movements that are believed to be useful to the System are given cautious encouragement in the media. Unconscious absorption of media propaganda influences would-be rebels to “rebel” in ways that serve the interests of the System.

The university intellectuals also play an important role in carrying out the System’s trick. Though they like to fancy themselves independent thinkers, the intellectuals are (allowing for individual exceptions) the most oversocialized, the most conformist, the tamest and most domesticated, the most pampered, dependent, and spineless group in America today. As a result, their impulse to rebel is particularly strong. But, because they are incapable of independent thought, real rebellion is impossible for them. Consequently they are suckers for the System’s trick, which allows them to irritate people and enjoy the illusion of rebelling without ever having to challenge the System’s basic values.

Because they are the teachers of young people, the university intellectuals are in a position to help the System play its trick on the young, which they do by steering young people’s rebellious impulses toward the standard, stereotyped targets: racism, colonialism, women’s issues, etc. Young people who are not college students learn through the media, or through personal contact, of the “social justice” issues for which students rebel, and they imitate the students. Thus a youth culture develops in which there is a stereotyped mode of rebellion that spreads through imitation of peer—just as hairstyles, clothing styles, and other fads spread through imitation.

4. The Trick Is Not Perfect

Naturally, the System’s trick does not work perfectly. Not all of the positions adopted by the “activist” community are consistent with the needs of the System. In this connection, some of the most important difficulties that confront the System are related to the conflict between the two different types of propaganda that the System has to use, integration propaganda and agitation propaganda.[4]

Integration propaganda is the principal mechanism of socialization in modern society. It is propaganda that is designed to instill in people the attitudes, beliefs, values, and habits that they need to have in order to be safe and useful tools of the System. It teaches people to permanently repress or sublimate those emotional impulses that are dangerous to the System. Its focus is on long-term attitudes and deep-seated values of broad applicability, rather than on attitudes toward specific, current issues.

Agitation propaganda plays on people’s emotions so as to bring out certain attitudes or behaviors in specific, current situations. Instead of teaching people to suppress dangerous emotional impulses, it seeks to stimulate certain emotions for well-defined purposes localized in time.

The System needs an orderly, docile, cooperative, passive, dependent population. Above all it requires a nonviolent population, since it needs the government to have a monopoly on the use of physical force. For this reason, integration propaganda has to teach us to be horrified, frightened, and appalled by violence, so that we will not be tempted to use it even when we are very angry. (By “violence” I mean physical attacks on human beings.) More generally, integration propaganda has to teach us soft, cuddly values that emphasize nonaggressiveness, interdependence, and cooperation.

On the other hand, in certain contexts the System itself finds it useful or necessary to resort to brutal, aggressive methods to achieve its own objectives. The most obvious example of such methods is warfare. In wartime the System relies on agitation propaganda: In order to win public approval of military action, it plays on people’s emotions to make them feel frightened and angry at their real or supposed enemy.

In this situation there is a conflict between integration propaganda and agitation propaganda. Those people in whom the cuddly values and the aversion to violence have been most deeply planted can’t easily be persuaded to approve a bloody military operation.

Here the System’s trick backfires to some extent. The activists, who have been “rebelling” all along in favor of the values of integration propaganda, continue to do so during wartime. They oppose the war effort not only because it is violent but because it is “racist,” “colonialist,” “imperialist,” etc., all of which are contrary to the soft, cuddly values taught by integration propaganda.

The System’s trick also backfires where the treatment of animals is concerned. Inevitably, many people extend to animals the soft values and the aversion to violence that they are taught with respect to humans. They are horrified by the slaughter of animals for meat and by other practices harmful to animals, such as the reduction of chickens to egg-laying machines kept in tiny cages or the use of animals in scientific experiments. Up to a point, the resulting opposition to mistreatment of animals may be useful to the System: Because a vegan diet is more efficient in terms of resource-utilization than a carnivorous one is, veganism, if widely adopted, will help to ease the burden placed on the Earth’s limited resources by the growth of the human population. But activists’ insistence on ending the use of animals in scientific experiments is squarely in conflict with the System’s needs, since for the foreseeable future there is not likely to be any workable substitute for living animals as research subjects.

All the same, the fact that the System’s trick does backfire here and there does not prevent it from being on the whole a remarkably effective device for turning rebellious impulses to the System’s advantage.

It has to be conceded that the trick described here is not the only factor determining the direction that rebellious impulses take in our society. Many people today feel weak and powerless (for the very good reason that the System really does make us weak and powerless), and therefore identify obsessively with victims, with the weak and the oppressed. That’s part of the reason why victimization issues, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and neocolonialism have become standard activist issues.

5. An Example

I have with me an anthropology textbook[5] in which I’ve noticed several nice examples of the way in which university intellectuals help the System with its trick by disguising conformity as criticism of modern society. The cutest of these examples is found on pages 132—36, where the author quotes, in “adapted” form, an article by one Rhonda Kay Williamson, an intersexed person (that is, a person born with both male and female physical characteristics).

Williamson states that the American Indians not only accepted intersexed persons but especially valued them.[6] She contrasts this attitude with the Euro-American attitude, which she equates with the attitude that her own parents adopted toward her.

Williamson’s parents mistreated her cruelly. They held her in contempt for her intersexed condition. They told her she was “cursed and given over to the devil,” and they took her to charismatic churches to have the “demon” cast out of her. She was even given napkins into which she was supposed to “cough out the demon.”

But it is obviously ridiculous to equate this with the modern Euro-American attitude. It may approximate the Euro-American attitude of 150 years ago, but nowadays almost any American educator psychologist, or mainstream clergyman would be horrified at that kind of treatment of an intersexed person. The media would never dream of portraying such treatment in a favorable light. Average middle-class Americans today may not be as accepting of the intersexed condition as the Indians were, but few would fail to recognize the cruelty of the way in which Williamson was treated.

Williamson’s parents obviously were deviants, religious kooks whose attitudes and beliefs were way out of line with the values of the System. Thus, while putting on a show of criticizing modern Euro-American society, Williamson really is attacking only deviant minorities and cultural laggards who have not yet adapted to the dominant values of present-day America.

Haviland, the author of the book, on page 12 portrays cultural anthropology as iconoclastic, as challenging the assumptions of modern Western society. This is so far contrary to the truth that it would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. The mainstream of modern American anthropology is abjectly subservient to the values and assumptions of the System. When today’s anthropologists pretend to challenge the values of their society, typically they challenge only the values of the past—obsolete and outmoded values now held by no one but deviants and laggards who have not kept up with the cultural changes that the System requires of us.

Haviland’s use of Williamson’s article illustrates this very well, and it represents the general slant of Haviland’s book. Haviland plays up ethnographic facts that teach his readers politically correct lessons, but he understates or omits altogether ethnographic facts that are politically incorrect. Thus, while he quotes Williamson’s account to emphasize the Indians’ acceptance of intersexed persons, he does not mention, for example, that among many of the Indian tribes women who committed adultery had their noses cut off,[7] whereas no such punishment was inflicted on male adulterers; or that among the Crow Indians a warrior who was struck by a stranger had to kill the offender immediately, else he was irretrievably disgraced in the eyes of his tribe;[8] nor does Haviland discuss the habitual use of torture by the Indians of the eastern United States.[9] Of course, facts of that kind represent violence, machismo, and gender-discrimination, hence they are inconsistent with the present-day values of the System and tend to get censored out as politically incorrect.

Yet I don’t doubt that Haviland is perfectly sincere in his belief that anthropologists challenge the assumptions of Western society. The capacity for self-deception of our university intellectuals will easily stretch that far.

To conclude, I want to make clear that I’m not suggesting that it is good to cut off noses for adultery, or that any other abuse of women should be tolerated, nor would I want to see anybody scorned or rejected because they are intersexed or because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., etc., etc. But in our society today these matters are, at most, issues of reform. The System’s neatest trick consists in having turned powerful rebellious impulses, which otherwise might have taken a revolutionary direction, to the service of these modest reforms.

Notes

[1] Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society, translated by John Wilkinson, published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1964, page 427.

[2] Even the most superficial review of the mass media in modern industrialized countries, or even in countries that merely aspire to modernity, will confirm that the System is committed to eliminating discrimination in regard to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc., etc., etc. It would be easy to find thousands of examples that illustrate this, but here we cite only three, from three disparate countries.

United States: “Public Displays of Affection,” U.S. News & World Report, September 9, 2002, pages 42-43. This article provides a nice example of the way propaganda functions. It takes an ostensibly objective or neutral position on homosexual partnerships, giving some space to the views of those who oppose public acceptance of homosexuality. But anyone reading the article, with its distinctly sympathetic treatment of a homosexual couple, will be left with the impression that acceptance of homosexuality is desirable and, in the long run, inevitable. Particularly important is the photograph of the homosexual couple in question: A physically attractive pair has been selected and has been photographed attractively. No one with the slightest understanding of propaganda can fail to see that the article constitutes propaganda in favor of acceptance of homosexuality. And bear in mind that U.S. News & World Report is a right-of-center magazine.

Russia: “Putin Denounces Intolerance,” The Denver Post, July 26, 2002, page 16A. “MOSCOW—President Vladimir Putin strongly denounced racial and religious prejudice on Thursday…If we let this chauvinistic bacteria of either national or religious intolerance develop, we will ruin the country, Putin said in remarks prominently replayed on Russian television on Thursday night.” Etc., etc.

Mexico: “Persiste racismo contra indígenas” (“Racism against indigenous people persists”), El Sol de México, January 11, 2002, page 1/B. Photo caption: “In spite of efforts to give dignity to the indigenous people of our country, they continue to suffer discrimination….” The article reports on the efforts of the bishops of Mexico to combat discrimination, but says that the bishops want to “purity” indigenous customs in order to liberate the women from their traditionally inferior status. El Sol de México is reputed to be a right-of-center newspaper.

Anyone who wanted to take the trouble could multiply these examples a thousand times over. The evidence that the System itself is set on eliminating discrimination and victimization is so obvious and so massive that one boggles at the radicals’ belief that fighting these evils is a form of rebellion. One can only attribute it to a phenomenon well known to professional propagandists: People tend to block out, to fail to perceive or to remember, information that conflicts with their ideology. See the interesting article, “Propaganda,” in The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 26, Macropaedia, 15th Edition, 1997, pages 171—79, specifically page 176.

[3] In this section I’ve said something about what the System is not, but I haven’t said what the System is. A friend of mine has pointed out that this may leave the reader nonplussed, so I’d better explain that for the purposes of this article it isn’t necessary to have a precise definition of what the System is. I couldn’t think of any way of defining the System in a single, well-rounded sentence and I didn’t want to break the continuity of the article with a long, awkward, and unnecessary digression addressing the ques[ion of what the System is, so I left that question unanswered. I don’t think my failure to answer it will seriously impair the reader’s understanding of the point that I want to make in this article.

[4] The concepts of “integration propaganda” and “agitation propaganda” are discussed by Jacques Ellul in his book Propaganda, published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1965.

[5] William A. Haviland, Cultural Anthropology, Ninth Edition, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1999.

[6] I assume that this statement is accurate. It certainly reflects the Navaho attitude. See Gladys A. Reichard, Navaho Religion: A Study of Symbolism, Princeton University Press, 1990, page 141. This book was originally copyrighted in 1950, well before American anthropology became heavily politicized, so I see no reason to suppose that its information is slanted.

[7] This is well known. See, e.g., Angie Debo, Geronimo: The Man, His Time, His Place, University of Oklahoma Press, 1976, page 225; Thomas B. Marquis (interpreter), Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer, Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press, 1967, page 97; Stanley Vestal, Sitting Bull, Champion of the Sioux: A Biography, University of Oklahoma Press, 1989, page 6; The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 13, Macropaedia, 15th Edition, 1997, article “American Peoples, Native,” page 380.

[8] Osborne Russell, Journal of a Trapper, Bison Books edition, page 147.

[9] Use of torture by the Indians of the eastern U.S. is well known. See, e.g., Clark Wissler, Indians of the United States, Revised Edition, Anchor Books, Random House, New York, 1989, pages 131, 140, 145, 165, 282; Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, Anchor Books, Random House, New York, 1988, page 135; The New Encydopaedia Britannica, Vol. 13, Macropaedia, 15th Edition, 1997, article “American Peoples, Native,” page 385; James Axtell, The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America, Oxford University Press, 1985, page citation not available.

Hit Where It Hurts

Author: Ted Kaczsynski, a.k.a., The Unabomber.

1. The Purpose Of This Article.

The purpose of this article is to point out a very simple principle of human conflict, a principle that opponents of the techno-industrial system seem to be overlooking. The principle is that in any form of conflict, if you want to win, you must hit your adversary where it hurts.

I have to explain that when I talk about “hitting where it hurts” I am not necessarily referring to physical blows or to any other form of physical violence. For example, in oral debate, “hitting where it hurts” would mean making the arguments to which your opponents position is most vulnerable. In a presidential election, “hitting where it hurts” would mean winning from your opponent the states that have the most electoral votes. Still, in discussing this principle I will use the analogy of physical combat, because it is vivid and clear.

If a man punches you, you can’t defend yourself by hitting back at his fist, because you can’t hurt the man that way. In order to win the fight, you have to hit him where it hurts. That means you have to go behind the fist and hit the sensitive and vulnerable parts of the man’s body.

Suppose a bulldozer belonging to a logging company has been tearing up the woods near your home and you want to stop it. It is the blade of the bulldozer that rips the earth and knocks trees over, but it would be a waste of time to take a sledgehammer to the blade. if you spent a long, hard day working on the blade with the sledge, you might succeed in damaging it enough so that it became useless. But, in comparison with the rest of the bulldozer, the blade is relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. The blade is only the “fist” with which the bulldozer hits the earth. To defeat the machine you must go behind the “fist” and attack the bulldozer’s vital parts. The engine, for example, can be ruined with very little expenditure of time and effort by means well known to many radicals.

At this point I must make clear that I am not recommending that anyone should damage a bulldozer (unless it is his own property). Nor should anything in this article be interpreted as recommending illegal activity of any kind. I am a prisoner, and if I were to encourage illegal activity this article would not even be allowed to leave the prison. I use the bulldozer analogy only because it it clear and vivid and will be appreciated by radicals.

2. Technology Is The Target.

It is widely recognized that “the basic variable which determines the contemporary historic process is provided by technological development” (Celso Furtado[1]). Technology, above all else, is responsible for the current condition of the world and will control its future development. Thus, the “bulldozer” that we have to destroy is modern technology itself. Many radicals are aware of this, and therefore realize that there task is to eliminate the entire techno-industrial system. But unfortunately they have paid little attention to the need to hit the system where it hurts.

Smashing up McDonald’s or Starbuck’s is pointless. Not that I give a damn about McDonald’s or Starbuck’s. I don’t care whether anyone smashes them up or not. But that is not a revolutionary activity. Even if every fast-food chain in the world were wiped out the techno-industrial system would suffer only minimal harm as a result, since it could easily survive without fast-food chains. When you attack McDonald’s or Starbuck’s, you are not hitting where it hurts.

Some months ago I received a letter from a young man in Denmark who believed that the techno-industrial system had to be eliminated because, as he put it, “What will happen if we go on this way?” Apparently, however, his form of “revolutionary” activity was raiding fur farms. As a means of weakening the techno-industrial system this activity is utterly useless. Even if animal liberationists succeed in eliminating the fur industry completely they would do no harm at all to the system, because the system can get along perfectly well without furs.

I agree that keeping wild animals in cages is intolerable, and that putting an end to such practices is a noble cause. But there are many other noble causes, such as preventing traffic accidents, providing shelter for the homeless, recycling, or helping old people cross the street. Yet no one if foolish enough to mistake these for revolutionary activities, or to imagine that they do anything to weaken the system.

3. The Timber Industry Is A Side Issue.

To take another example, no one in his right mind believes that anything like real wilderness can survive very long if the techno-industrial system continues to exist. Many environmental radicals agree that this is the case and hope for the collapse of the system. But in practice all they do is attack the timber industry.

I certainly have no objection to their attack on the timber industry. In fact, it’s an issue that is close to my heart and I’m delighted by any successes that radicals may have against the timber industry. In addition, for reasons that I need to explain here, I think that opposition to the timber industry should be one component of the efforts to overthrow the system.

But, by itself, attacking the timber industry is not an effective way of working against the system, for even in the unlikely event that radicals succeeded in stopping all logging everywhere in the world, that would not bring down the system. And it would not permanently save wilderness. Sooner or later the political climate would change and logging would resume. Even if logging never resumed, there would be other venues through which wilderness would be destroyed, or if not destroyed then tamed and domesticated. Mining and mineral exploration, acid rain, climate change, and species extinction destroy wilderness; wilderness is tamed and domesticated through recreation, scientific study, and resource management, including among other things electronic tracking of animals, stocking of streams with hatchery-bred fish, and planting of genetically-engineered trees.

Wilderness can be saved permanently only by eliminating the techno-industrial system, and you cannot eliminate the system by attacking the timber industry. The system would easily survive the death of the timber industry because wood products, though very useful to the system, can if necessary be replaced with other materials.

Consequently, when you attack the timber industry, you are not hitting the system where it hurts. The timber industry is only the “fist” (or one of the fists) with which the system destroys wilderness, and, just as in a fist-fight, you can’t win by hitting at the fist. You have to go behind the fist and strike at the most sensitive and vital organs of the system. By legal means, of course, such as peaceful protests.

4. Why The System Is Tough.

The techno-industrial system is exceptionally tough due to its so-called “democratic” structure and its resulting flexibility. Because dictatorial systems tend to be rigid, social tensions and resistance can be built up in them to the point where they damage and weaken the system and may lead to revolution. But in a “democratic” system, when social tension and resistance build up dangerously the system backs off enough, it compromises enough, to bring the tensions down to a safe level.

During the 1960s people first became aware that environmental pollution was a serious problem, the more so because the visible and smellable filth in the air over our major cities was beginning to make people physically uncomfortable. Enough protest arose so that an Environmental Protection Agency was established and other measures were taken to alleviate the problem. Of course, we all know that our pollution problems are a long, long way from being solved. But enough was done so that public complaints subsided and the pressure on the system was reduced for a number of years.

Thus, attacking the system is like hitting a piece of rubber. A blow with a hammer can shatter cast iron, because cast iron is rigid and brittle. But you can pound a piece of rubber without hurting it because it is flexible: It gives way before protest, just enough so that the protest loses its force and momentum. Then the system bounces back.

So, in order to hit the system where it hurts, you need to select issues on which the system will not back off, in which it will fight to the finish. For what you need is not compromise with the system but a life-and-death struggle.

5. It Is Useless To Attack The System In Terms Of Its Own Values.

It is absolutely essential to attack the system not in terms of its own technologically-oriented values, but in terms of values that are inconsistent with the values of the system. As long as you attack the system in terms of its own values, you do not hit the system where it hurts, and you allow the system to deflate protest by giving way, by backing off.

For example, if you attack the timber industry primarily on the basis that forests are needed to preserve water resources and recreational opportunities, then the system can give ground to defuse protest without compromising its own values: Water resources and recreation are fully consistent with the values of the system, and if the system backs off, if it restricts logging in the name of water resources and recreation, then it only makes a tactical retreat and does not suffer a strategic defeat for its code of values.

If you push victimization issues (such as racism, sexism, homophobia, or poverty) you are not challenging the system’s values and you are not even forcing the system to back off or compromise. You are directly helping the system. All of the wisest proponents of the system recognize that racism, sexism, homophobia, and poverty are harmful to the system, and this is why the system itself works to combat these and similar forms of victimization.

“Sweatshops,” with their low pay and wretched working conditions, may bring profit to certain corporations, but wise proponents of the system know very well that the system as a whole functions better when workers are treated decently. In making an issue of sweatshops, you are helping the system, not weakening it.

Many radicals fall into the temptation of focusing on non-essential issues like racism, sexism and sweatshops because it is easy. They pick an issue on which the system can afford a compromise and on which they will get support from people like Ralph Nader, Winona La Duke, the labor unions, and all the other pink reformers. Perhaps the system, under pressure, will back off a bit, the activists will see some visible result from their efforts, and they will have the satisfying illusion that they have accomplished something. But in reality they have accomplished nothing at all toward eliminating the techno-industrial system.

The globalization issue is not completely irrelevant to the technology problem. The package of economic and political measures termed “globalization” does promote economic growth and, consequently, technological progress. Still, globalization is an issue of marginal importance and not a well-chosen target of revolutionaries. The system can afford to give ground on the globalization issue. Without giving up globalization as such, the system can take steps to mitigate the negative environmental and economic consequences of globalization so as to defuse protest. At a pinch, the system could even afford to give up globalization altogether. Growth and progress would still continue, only at a slightly lower rate. And when you fight globalization you are not attacking the system’s fundamental values. Opposition to globalization is motivated in terms of securing decent wages for workers and protecting the environment, both of which are completely consistent with the values of the system. (The system, for its own survival, can’t afford to let environmental degradation go too far.) Consequently, in fighting globalization you do not hit the system where it really hurts. Your efforts may promote reform, but they are useless for the purpose of overthrowing the techno-industrial system.

6. Radicals Must Attack The System At The Decisive Points.

To work effectively toward the elimination of the techno-industrial system, revolutionaries must attack the system at points at which it cannot afford to give ground. They must attack the vital organs of the system. Of course, when I use the word “attack,” I am not referring to physical attack but only to legal forms of protest and resistance.

Some examples of vital organs of the system are:

  1. The electric-power industry. The system is utterly dependent on its electric-power grid.
  2. The communications industry. Without rapid communications, as by telephone, radio, television, e-mail, and so forth, the system could not survive.
  3. The computer industry. We all know that without computers the system would promptly collapse.
  4. The propaganda industry. The propaganda industry includes the entertainment industry, the educational system, journalism, advertising, public relations, and much of politics and of the mental-health industry. The system can’t function unless people are sufficiently docile and conforming and have the attitudes that the system needs them to have. It is the function of the propaganda industry to teach people that kind of thought and behavior.
  5. The biotechnology industry. The system is not yet (as far as I know) physically dependent on advanced biotechnology. Nevertheless, the system cannot afford to give way on the biotechnology issue, which is a critically important issue for the system, as I will argue in a moment.

Again: When you attack these vital organs of the system, it is essential not to attack them in terms of the system’s own values but in terms of values inconsistent with those of the system. For example, if you attack the electric-power industry on the basis that it pollutes the environment, the system can defuse protest by developing cleaner methods of generating electricity. If worse came to worse, the system could even switch entirely to wind and solar power. This might do a great deal to reduce environmental damage, but it would not put an end to the techno-industrial system. Nor would it represent a defeat for the system’s fundamental values. To accomplish anything against the system you have to attack all electric-power generation as a matter of principle, on the ground that dependence on electricity makes people dependent on the system. This is a ground incompatible with the system’s values.

7. Biotechnology May Be The Best Target For Political Attack.

Probably the most promising target for political attack is the biotechnology industry. Though revolutions are generally carried out by minorities, it is very useful to have some degree of support, sympathy, or at least acquiescence from the general population. To get that kind of support or acquiescence is one of the goals of political action. If you concentrated your political attack on, for example, the electric-power industry, it would be extremely difficult to get any support outside of a radical minority, because most people resist change to their way of living, especially any change that inconveniences them. For this reason, few would be willing to give up electricity.

But people do not yet feel themselves dependent on advanced biotechnology as they do on electricity. Eliminating biotechnology will not radically change their lives. On the contrary, it would be possible to show people that the continued development of biotechnology will transform their way of life and wipe out age-old human values. Thus, in challenging biotechnology, radicals should be able to mobilize in their own favor the natural human resistance to change.

And biotechnology is an issue on which the system cannot afford to lose. It is an issue on which the system will have to fight to the finish, which is exactly what we need. But—to repeat once more—it is essential to attack biotechnology not in terms of the system’s own values but in terms of values inconsistent with those of the system. For example, if you attack biotechnology, primarily on the basis that it may damage the environment, or that genetically-modified foods may be harmful to health, then the system can and will cushion your attack by giving ground or compromising—for instance, by introducing increased supervision of genetic research and more rigorous testing and regulation of genetically-modified crops. People’s anxiety will then subside and protest will wither.

8. All Biotechnology Must Be Attacked As A Matter Of Principle.

So, instead of protesting one or another negative consequence of biotechnology, you have to attack all modern biotechnology on principle, on grounds such as (a) that it is an insult to all living things; (b) that it puts too much power in the hands of the system; (c) that it will radically transform fundamental human values that have existed for thousands of years; and similar grounds that are inconsistent with the values of the system.

In response to this kind of attack the system will have to stand and fight. It cannot afford to cushion your attack by backing off to any great extent, because biotechnology is too central to the whole enterprise of technological progress, and because in backing off the system would not be making only a tactical retreat, but would be taking a major strategic defeat to its code of values. Those values would be undermined and the door would be opened to further political attacks that would hack away at the foundations of the system.

Now it’s true that the U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to ban cloning of human beings, and at least some congressmen even gave the right kinds of reasons for doing so. The reasons I read about were framed in religious terms, but whatever you may think of the religious terms involved, these reasons were not technologically acceptable reasons. And that is what counts.

Thus, the congressmen’s vote on human cloning was a genuine defeat for the system. But it was only a very, very small defeat, because of the narrow scope of the ban—only one tiny part of biotechnology was affected—and because for the near future cloning of human beings would be of little practical use to the system anyway. But the House of Representatives’ action does suggest that this may be a point at which the system is vulnerable, and that a broader attack on all of biotechnology might inflict severe damage on the system and its values.

9. Radicals Are Not Yet Attacking Biotech Effectively.

Some radicals do attack the biotechnology, whether politically or physically, but as far as I know they explain their opposition to biotech in terms of the system’s own values. That is, their main complaints are the risks of environmental damage and of harm to health.

And they are not hitting the biotech industry where it hurts. To use an analogy of physical combat once again, suppose you had to defend yourself against a giant octopus. You would not be able to fight back effectively by hacking at the tips of its tentacles. You have to strike at its head. From what I’ve read of their activities, radicals who work against biotechnology still do no more than hack at the tips of the octopus’s tentacles. They try to persuade ordinary farmers, individually, to refrain from planting genetically-engineered seed. But there are many thousands of farms in America, so that persuading farmers individually is an extremely inefficient way to combat genetic engineering. It would be much more effective to persuade research scientists engaged in biotechnological work, or executives of companies like Monsanto, to leave the biotech industry. Good research scientists are people who have special talents and extensive training, so they are difficult to replace. The same is true of top corporate executives. Persuading just a few of these people to get out of biotech would do more damage to the biotechnology industry than persuading a thousand farmers not to plant genetically-engineered seed.

10. Hit Where It Hurts.

It is open to argument whether I am right in thinking that biotechnology is the best issue on which to attack the system politically. But it is beyond argument that radicals today are wasting much of their energy on issues that have little or no relevance to the survival of the technological system. And even when they do address the right issues, radicals do not hit where it hurts. So instead of trotting off to the next world trade summit to have temper tantrums over globalization, radicals ought to put in some time thinking how to hit the system where it really hurts. By legal means, of course.

Notes

[1] In Latin American Radicalism, edited by Irving Louis Horowitz, Josué de Castro, and Jon Gerassi, Vintage Books, 1969, page 64.


Industrial Society and Its Future, a.k.a., “The Unabomber Manifesto”

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Psychology of Modern Leftism
  • Feelings of Inferiority
  • Oversocialization
  • The Power Process
  • Surrogate Activities
  • Autonomy
  • Sources of Social Problems
  • Disruption of the Power Process in Modern Society
  • How Some People Adjust
  • The Motives of Scientists
  • The Nature of Freedom
  • Some Principles of History
  • Industrial-Technological Society Cannot Be Reformed
  • Restriction of Freedom is Unavoidable in Industrial Society
  • The “Bad” Parts of Technology Cannot Be Separated from the “Good” Parts
  • Technology is a More Powerful Social Force than the Aspiration for Freedom
  • Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable
  • Revolution is Easier than Reform
  • Control of Human Behavior
  • Human Race at a Crossroads
  • Human Suffering
  • The Future
  • Strategy
  • Two Kinds of Technology
  • The Danger of Leftism
  • Final Note
  • Postscript to the Manifesto (2010)

Introduction

1. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “advanced” countries.

2. The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If it survives, it may eventually achieve a low level of physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine. Furthermore, if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: There is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.

3. If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.

4. We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system. This revolution may or may not make use of violence; it may be sudden or it may be a relatively gradual process spanning a few decades. We can’t predict any of that. But we do outline in a very general way the measures that those who hate the industrial system should take in order to prepare the way for a revolution against that form of society. This is not to be a political revolution. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society.

5. In this article we give attention to only some of the negative developments that have grown out of the industrial-technological system. Other such developments we mention only briefly or ignore altogether. This does not mean that we regard these other developments as unimportant. For practical reasons we have to confine our discussion to areas that have received insufficient public attention or in which we have something new to say. For example, since there are well-developed environmental and wilderness movements, we have written very little about environmental degradation or the destruction of wild nature, even though we consider these to be highly important.

The Psychology of Modern Leftism

6. Almost everyone will agree that we live in a deeply troubled society. One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism, so a discussion of the psychology of leftism can serve as an introduction to the discussion of the problems of modern society in general.

7. But what is leftism? During the first half of the 20th century leftism could have been practically identified with socialism. Today the movement is fragmented and it is not clear who can properly be called a leftist. When we speak of leftists in this article we have in mind mainly socialists, collectivists, “politically correct” types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists and the like. But not everyone who is associated with one of these movements is a leftist. What we are trying to get at in discussing leftism is not so much a movement or an ideology as a psychological type, or rather a collection of related types. Thus, what we mean by “leftism” will emerge more clearly in the course of our discussion of leftist psychology. (Also, see paragraphs 227-230.)

8. Even so, our conception of leftism will remain a good deal less clear than we would wish, but there doesn’t seem to be any remedy for this. All we are trying to do here is indicate in a rough and approximate way the two psychological tendencies that we believe are the main driving force of modern leftism. We by no means claim to be telling the whole truth about leftist psychology. Also, our discussion is meant to apply to modern leftism only. We leave open the question of the extent to which our discussion could be applied to the leftists of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

9. The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism we call feelings of inferiority and oversocialization. Feelings of inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while oversocialization is characteristic only of a certain segment of modern leftism; but this segment is highly influential

Feelings of Inferiority

10. By “feelings of inferiority” we mean not only inferiority feelings in the strict sense but a whole spectrum of related traits: low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies, defeatism, guilt, self-hatred, etc. We argue that modern leftists tend to have some such feelings (possibly more or less repressed), and that these feelings are decisive in determining the direction of modern leftism.

11. When someone interprets as derogatory almost anything that is said about him (or about groups with whom he identifies), we conclude that he has inferiority feelings or low self-esteem. This tendency is pronounced among minority-rights activists, whether or not they belong to the minority groups whose rights they defend. They are hypersensitive about the words used to designate minorities and about anything that is said concerning minorities. The terms “Negro,” “oriental,” “handicapped,” or “chick” for an African, an Asian, a disabled person or a woman originally had no derogatory connotation. “Broad” and “chick” were merely the feminine equivalents of “guy,” “dude” or “fellow.” The negative connotations have been attached to these terms by the activists themselves. Some animal rights activists have gone so far as to reject the word “pet” and insist on its replacement by “animal companion.” Leftish anthropologists go to great lengths to avoid saying anything about primitive peoples that could conceivably be interpreted as negative. They want to replace the word “primitive” by “nonliterate.” They seem almost paranoid about anything that might suggest that any primitive culture is inferior to our own. (We do not mean to imply that primitive cultures are inferior to ours. We merely point out the hypersensitivity of leftish anthropologists.)

12. Those who are most sensitive about “politically incorrect” terminology are not the average black ghetto-dweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled person, but a minority of activists, many of whom do not even belong to any “oppressed” group but come from privileged strata of society. Political correctness has its stronghold among university professors, who have secure employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual white males from middle to upper-class families.

13. Many leftists have an intense identification with the problems of groups that have an image of being weak (women), defeated (American Indians), repellent (homosexuals), or otherwise inferior. The leftists themselves feel that these groups are inferior. They would never admit to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with their problems. (We do not mean to suggest that women, Indians, etc., are inferior; we are only making a point about leftist psychology.)

14. Feminists are desperately anxious to prove that women are as strong and as capable as men. Clearly they are nagged by a fear that women may not be as strong and as capable as men.

15. Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc., clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They say they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he grudgingly admits that they exist; whereas he enthusiastically points out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they are strong and successful.

16. Words like “self-confidence,” “self-reliance,” “initiative,” “enterprise,” “optimism,” etc., play little role in the liberal and leftist vocabulary. The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve everyone’s problems for them, satisfy everyone’s needs for them, take care of them. He is not the sort of person who has an inner sense of confidence in his ability to solve his own problems and satisfy his own needs. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of competition because, deep inside, he feels like a loser.

17. Art forms that appeal to modern leftish intellectuals tend to focus on sordidness, defeat and despair, or else they take an orgiastic tone, throwing off rational control as if there were no hope of accomplishing anything through rational calculation and all that was left was to immerse oneself in the sensations of the moment.

18. Modern leftish philosophers tend to dismiss reason, science, objective reality and to insist that everything is culturally relative. It is true that one can ask serious questions about the foundations of scientific knowledge and about how, if at all, the concept of objective reality can be defined. But it is obvious that modern leftish philosophers are not simply cool-headed logicians systematically analyzing the foundations of knowledge. They are deeply involved emotionally in their attack on truth and reality. They attack these concepts because of their own psychological needs. For one thing, their attack is an outlet for hostility, and, to the extent that it is successful, it satisfies the drive for power. More importantly, the leftist hates science and rationality because they classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and other beliefs as false (i.e., failed, inferior). The leftist’s feelings of inferiority run so deep that he cannot tolerate any classification of some things as successful or superior and other things as failed or inferior. This also underlies the rejection by many leftists of the concept of mental illness and of the utility of IQ tests. Leftists are antagonistic to genetic explanations of human abilities or behavior because such explanations tend to make some persons appear superior or inferior to others. Leftists prefer to give society the credit or blame for an individual’s ability or lack of it. Thus if a person is “inferior” it is not his fault, but society’s, because he has not been brought up properly.

19. The leftist is not typically the kind of person whose feelings of inferiority make him a braggart, an egotist, a bully, a self-promoter, a ruthless competitor. This kind of person has not wholly lost faith in himself. He has a deficit in his sense of power and self-worth, but he can still conceive of himself as having the capacity to be strong, and his efforts to make himself strong produce his unpleasant behavior.[1] But the leftist is too far gone for that. His feelings of inferiority are so ingrained that he cannot conceive of himself as individually strong and valuable. Hence the collectivism of the leftist. He can feel strong only as a member of a large organization or a mass movement with which he identifies himself.

20. Notice the masochistic tendency of leftist tactics. Leftists protest by lying down in front of vehicles, they intentionally provoke police or racists to abuse them, etc. These tactics may often be effective, but many leftists use them not as a means to an end but because they prefer masochistic tactics. Self-hatred is a leftist trait.

21. Leftists may claim that their activism is motivated by compassion or by moral principles, and moral principle does play a role for the leftist of the oversocialized type. But compassion and moral principle cannot be the main motives for leftist activism. Hostility is too prominent a component of leftist behavior; so is the drive for power. Moreover, much leftist behavior is not rationally calculated to be of benefit to the people whom the leftists claim to be trying to help. For example, if one believes that affirmative action is good for black people, does it make sense to demand affirmative action in hostile or dogmatic terms? Obviously it would be more productive to take a diplomatic and conciliatory approach that would make at least verbal and symbolic concessions to white people who think that affirmative action discriminates against them. But leftist activists do not take such an approach because it would not satisfy their emotional needs. Helping black people is not their real goal. Instead, race problems serve as an excuse for them to express their own hostility and frustrated need for power. In doing so they actually harm black people, because the activists’ hostile attitude toward the white majority tends to intensify race hatred.

22. If our society had no social problems at all, the leftists would have to invent problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.

23. We emphasize that the foregoing does not pretend to be an accurate description of everyone who might be considered a leftist. It is only a rough indication of a general tendency of leftism.

Oversocialization

24. Psychologists use the term “socialization” to designate the process by which children are trained to think and act as society demands. A person is said to be well socialized if he believes in and obeys the moral code of his society and fits in well as a functioning part of that society. It may seem senseless to say that many leftists are oversocialized, since the leftist is perceived as a rebel. Nevertheless, the position can be defended. Many leftists are not such rebels as they seem.

25. The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way. For example, we are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. We use the term “oversocialized” to describe such people.[2]

26. Oversocialization can lead to low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, defeatism, guilt, etc. One of the most important means by which our society socializes children is by making them feel ashamed of behavior or speech that is contrary to society’s expectations. If this is overdone, or if a particular child is especially susceptible to such feelings, he ends by feeling ashamed of himself. Moreover the thought and the behavior of the over-socialized person are more restricted by society’s expectations than are those of the lightly socialized person. The majority of people engage in a significant amount of naughty behavior. They lie, they commit petty thefts, they break traffic laws, they goof off at work, they hate someone, they say spiteful things or they use some underhanded trick to get ahead of the other guy. The oversocialized person cannot do these things, or if he does do them he generates in himself a sense of shame and self-hatred. The oversocialized person cannot even experience, without guilt, thoughts or feelings that are contrary to the accepted morality; he cannot think “unclean” thoughts. And socialization is not just a matter of morality; we are socialized to conform to many norms of behavior that do not fall under the heading of morality. Thus the oversocialized person is kept on a psychological leash and spends his life running on rails that society has laid down for him. In many oversocialized people this results in a sense of constraint and powerlessness that can be a severe hardship. We suggest that oversocialization is among the more serious cruelties that human beings inflict on one another.

27. We argue that a very important and influential segment of the modern left is oversocialized and that their oversocialization is of great importance in determining the direction of modern leftism. Leftists of the oversocialized type tend to be intellectuals or members of the upper middle class. Notice that university intellectuals[3] constitute the most highly socialized segment of our society and also the most left-wing segment.

28. The leftist of the oversocialized type tries to get off his psychological leash and assert his autonomy by rebelling. But usually he is not strong enough to rebel against the most basic values of society. Generally speaking, the goals of today’s leftists are not in conflict with the accepted morality. On the contrary, the left takes an accepted moral principle, adopts it as its own, and then accuses mainstream society of violating that principle. Examples: racial equality, equality of the sexes, helping poor people, peace as opposed to war, nonviolence generally, freedom of expression, kindness to animals. More fundamentally, the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. All these have been deeply rooted values of our society (or at least of its middle and upper classes[4]) for a long time. These values are explicitly or implicitly expressed or presupposed in most of the material presented to us by the mainstream communications media and the educational system. Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, usually do not rebel against these principles but justify their hostility to society by claiming (with some degree of truth) that society is not living up to these principles.

29. Here is an illustration of the way in which the oversocialized leftist shows his real attachment to the conventional attitudes of our society while pretending to be in rebellion against it. Many leftists push for affirmative action, for moving black people into high-prestige jobs, for improved education in black schools and more money for such schools; the way of life of the black “underclass” they regard as a social disgrace. They want to integrate the black man into the system, make him a business executive, a lawyer, a scientist just like upper middle-class white people. The leftists will reply that the last thing they want is to make the black man into a copy of the white man; instead, they want to preserve African-American culture. But in what does this preservation of African-American culture consist? It can hardly consist in anything more than eating black-style food, listening to black-style music, wearing black-style clothing and going to a black-style church or mosque. In other words, it can express itself only in superficial matters. In all essential respects most leftists of the oversocialized type want to make the black man conform to white middle-class ideals. They want to make him study technical subjects, become an executive or a scientist, spend his life climbing the status ladder to prove that black people are as good as white. They want to make black fathers “responsible,” they want black gangs to become nonviolent, etc. But these are exactly the values of the industrial-technological system. The system couldn’t care less what kind of music a man listens to, what kind of clothes he wears or what religion he believes in as long as he studies in school, holds a respectable job, climbs the status ladder, is a “responsible” parent, is nonviolent and so forth. In effect, however much he may deny it, the oversocialized leftist wants to integrate the black man into the system and make him adopt its values.

30. We certainly do not claim that leftists, even of the over-socialized type, never rebel against the fundamental values of our society. Clearly they sometimes do. Some oversocialized leftists have gone so far as to rebel against one of modern society’s most important principles by engaging in physical violence. By their own account, violence is for them a form of “liberation.” In other words, by committing violence they break through the psychological restraints that have been trained into them. Because they are oversocialized these restraints have been more confining for them than for others; hence their need to break free of them. But they usually justify their rebellion in terms of mainstream values. If they engage in violence they claim to be fighting against racism or the like.

31. We realize that many objections could be raised to the foregoing thumbnail sketch of leftist psychology. The real situation is complex, and anything like a complete description of it would take several volumes even if the necessary data were available. We claim only to have indicated very roughly the two most important tendencies in the psychology of modern leftism.

32. The problems of the leftist are indicative of the problems of our society as a whole. Low self-esteem, depressive tendencies and defeatism are not restricted to the left. Though they are especially noticeable in the left, they are widespread in our society. And today’s society tries to socialize us to a greater extent than any previous society. We are even told by experts how to eat, how to exercise, how to make love, how to raise our kids and so forth.

The Power Process

33. Human beings have a need (probably based in biology) for something that we will call the power process. This is closely related to the need for power (which is widely recognized) but is not quite the same thing. The power process has four elements. The three most clear-cut of these we call goal, effort and attainment of goal. (Everyone needs to have goals whose attainment requires effort, and needs to succeed in attaining at least some of his goals.) The fourth element is more difficult to define and may not be necessary for everyone. We call it autonomy and will discuss it later (paragraphs 42-44).

34. Consider the hypothetical case of a man who can have anything he wants just by wishing for it. Such a man has power, but he will develop serious psychological problems. At first he will have a lot of fun, but by and by he will become acutely bored and demoralized. Eventually he may become clinically depressed. History shows that leisured aristocracies tend to become decadent. This is not true of fighting aristocracies that have to struggle to maintain their power. But leisured, secure aristocracies that have no need to exert themselves usually become bored, hedonistic and demoralized, even though they have power. This shows that power is not enough. One must have goals toward which to exercise one’s power.

35. Everyone has goals; if nothing else, to obtain the physical necessities of life: food, water and whatever clothing and shelter are made necessary by the climate. But the leisured aristocrat obtains these things without effort. Hence his boredom and demoralization.

36. Non-attainment of important goals results in death if the goals are physical necessities, and in frustration if non-attainment of the goals is compatible with survival. Consistent failure to attain goals throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem or depression.

37. Thus, in order to avoid serious psychological problems, a human being needs goals whose attainment requires effort, and he must have a reasonable rate of success in attaining his goals.

Surrogate Activities

38. But not every leisured aristocrat becomes bored and demoralized. For example, the emperor Hirohito, instead of sinking into decadent hedonism, devoted himself to marine biology, a field in which he became distinguished. When people do not have to exert themselves to satisfy their physical needs they often set up artificial goals for themselves. In many cases they then pursue these goals with the same energy and emotional involvement that they otherwise would have put into the search for physical necessities. Thus the aristocrats of the Roman Empire had their literary pretensions; many European aristocrats a few centuries ago invested tremendous time and energy in hunting, though they certainly didn’t need the meat; other aristocracies have competed for status through elaborate displays of wealth; and a few aristocrats, like Hirohito, have turned to science.

39. We use the term “surrogate activity” to designate an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or, let us say, merely for the sake of the “fulfillment” that they get from pursuing the goal. Here is a rule of thumb for the identification of surrogate activities. Given a person who devotes much time and energy to the pursuit of goal X, ask yourself this: If he had to devote most of his time and energy to satisfying his biological needs, and if that effort required him to use his physical and mental faculties in a varied and interesting way, would he feel seriously deprived because he did not attain goal X? If the answer is no, then the person’s pursuit of a goal X is a surrogate activity. Hirohito’s studies in marine biology clearly constituted a surrogate activity, since it is pretty certain that if Hirohito had had to spend his time working at interesting non-scientific tasks in order to obtain the necessities of life, he would not have felt deprived because he didn’t know all about the anatomy and life-cycles of marine animals. On the other hand the pursuit of sex and love (for example) is not a surrogate activity, because most people, even if their existence were otherwise satisfactory, would feel deprived if they passed their lives without ever having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. (But pursuit of an excessive amount of sex, more than one really needs, can be a surrogate activity.)

40. In modern industrial society only minimal effort is necessary to satisfy one’s physical needs. It is enough to go through a training program to acquire some petty technical skill, then come to work on time and exert the very modest effort needed to hold a job. The only requirements are a moderate amount of intelligence and, most of all, simple obedience. If one has those, society takes care of one from cradle to grave. (Yes, there is an underclass that cannot take the physical necessities for granted, but we are speaking here of mainstream society.) Thus it is not surprising that modern society is full of surrogate activities. These include scientific work, athletic achievement, humanitarian work, artistic and literary creation, climbing the corporate ladder, acquisition of money and material goods far beyond the point at which they cease to give any additional physical satisfaction, and social activism when it addresses issues that are not important for the activist personally, as in the case of white activists who work for the rights of nonwhite minorities. These are not always pure surrogate activities, since for many people they may be motivated in part by needs other than the need to have some goal to pursue. Scientific work may be motivated in part by a drive for prestige, artistic creation by a need to express feelings, militant social activism by hostility. But for most people who pursue them, these activities are in large part surrogate activities. For example, the majority of scientists will probably agree that the “fulfillment” they get from their work is more important than the money and prestige they earn.

41. For many if not most people, surrogate activities are less satisfying than the pursuit of real goals (that is, goals that people would want to attain even if their need for the power process were already fulfilled). One indication of this is the fact that, in many or most cases, people who are deeply involved in surrogate activities are never satisfied, never at rest. Thus the money-maker constantly strives for more and more wealth. The scientist no sooner solves one problem than he moves on to the next. The long-distance runner drives himself to run always farther and faster. Many people who pursue surrogate activities will say that they get far more fulfillment from these activities than they do from the “mundane” business of satisfying their biological needs, but that is because in our society the effort required to satisfy the biological needs has been reduced to triviality. More importantly, in our society people do not satisfy their biological needs autonomously but by functioning as parts of an immense social machine. In contrast, people generally have a great deal of autonomy in pursuing their surrogate activities.

Autonomy

42. Autonomy as a part of the power process may not be necessary for every individual. But most people need a greater or lesser degree of autonomy in working toward their goals. Their efforts must be undertaken on their own initiative and must be under their own direction and control. Yet most people do not have to exert this initiative, direction and control as single individuals. It is usually enough to act as a member of a small group. Thus if half a dozen people discuss a goal among themselves and make a successful joint effort to attain that goal, their need for the power process will be served. But if they work under rigid orders handed down from above that leave them no room for autonomous decision and initiative, then their need for the power process will not be served. The same is true when decisions are made on a collective basis if the group making the collective decision is so large that the role of each individual is insignificant.[5]

43. It is true that some individuals seem to have little need for autonomy. Either their drive for power is weak or they satisfy it by identifying themselves with some powerful organization to which they belong. And then there are unthinking, animal types who seem to be satisfied with a purely physical sense of power (the good combat soldier, who gets his sense of power by developing fighting skills that he is quite content to use in blind obedience to his superiors).

44. But for most people it is through the power process—having a goal, making an autonomous effort and attaining the goal—that self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of power are acquired. When one does not have adequate opportunity to go through the power process the consequences are (depending on the individual and on the way the power process is disrupted) boredom, demoralization, low self-esteem, inferiority feelings, defeatism, depression, anxiety, guilt, frustration, hostility, spouse or child abuse, insatiable hedonism, abnormal sexual behavior, sleep disorders, eating disorders, etc.[6]

Sources of Social Problems

45. Any of the foregoing symptoms can occur in any society, but in modern industrial society they are present on a massive scale. We aren’t the first to mention that the world today seems to be going crazy. This sort of thing is not normal for human societies. There is good reason to believe that primitive man suffered from less stress and frustration and was better satisfied with his way of life than modern man is. It is true that not all was sweetness and light in primitive societies. Abuse of women was common among the Australian aborigines, transsexuality was fairly common among some of the American Indian tribes. But it does appear that generally speaking the kinds of problems that we have listed in the preceding paragraph were far less common among primitive peoples than they are in modern society.

46. We attribute the social and psychological problems of modern society to the fact that that society requires people to live under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved and to behave in ways that conflict with the patterns of behavior that the human race developed while living under the earlier conditions. It is clear from what we have already written that we consider lack of opportunity to properly experience the power process as the most important of the abnormal conditions to which modern society subjects people. But it is not the only one. Before dealing with disruption of the power process as a source of social problems we will discuss some of the other sources.

47. Among the abnormal conditions present in modern industrial society are excessive density of population, isolation of man from nature, excessive rapidity of social change and the breakdown of natural small-scale communities such as the extended family, the village or the tribe.

48. It is well known that crowding increases stress and aggression. The degree of crowding that exists today and the isolation of man from nature are consequences of technological progress. All preindustrial societies were predominantly rural. The Industrial Revolution vastly increased the size of cities and the proportion of the population that lives in them, and modern agricultural technology has made it possible for the Earth to support a far denser population than it ever did before. (Also, technology exacerbates the effects of crowding because it puts increased disruptive powers in people’s hands. For example, a variety of noise-making devices: power mowers, radios, motorcycles, etc. If the use of these devices is unrestricted, people who want peace and quiet are frustrated by the noise. If their use is restricted, people who use the devices are frustrated by the regulations. But if these machines had never been invented there would have been no conflict and no frustration generated by them.)

49. For primitive societies the natural world (which usually changes only slowly) provided a stable framework and therefore a sense of security. In the modern world it is human society that dominates nature rather than the other way around, and modern society changes very rapidly owing to technological change. Thus there is no stable framework.

50. The conservatives are fools: They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.

51. The breakdown of traditional values to some extent implies the breakdown of the bonds that hold together traditional small-scale social groups. The disintegration of small-scale social groups is also promoted by the fact that modern conditions often require or tempt individuals to move to new locations, separating themselves from their communities. Beyond that, a technological society has to weaken family ties and local communities if it is to function efficiently. In modern society an individual’s loyalty must be first to the system and only secondarily to a small-scale community, because if the internal loyalties of small-scale communities were stronger than loyalty to the system, such communities would pursue their own advantage at the expense of the system.

52. Suppose that a public official or a corporation executive appoints his cousin, his friend or his coreligionist to a position rather than appointing the person best qualified for the job. He has permitted personal loyalty to supersede his loyalty to the system, and that is “nepotism” or “discrimination,” both of which are terrible sins in modern society. Would-be industrial societies that have done a poor job of subordinating personal or local loyalties to loyalty to the system are usually very inefficient. (Look at Latin America.) Thus an advanced industrial society can tolerate only those small-scale communities that are emasculated, tamed and made into tools of the system.[7]

53. Crowding, rapid change and the breakdown of communities have been widely recognized as sources of social problems. But we do not believe they are enough to account for the extent of the problems that are seen today.

54. A few preindustrial cities were very large and crowded, yet their inhabitants do not seem to have suffered from psychological problems to the same extent as modern man. In America today there still are uncrowded rural areas, and we find there the same problems as in urban areas, though the problems tend to be less acute in the rural areas. Thus crowding does not seem to be the decisive factor.

55. On the growing edge of the American frontier during the 19th century, the mobility of the population probably broke down extended families and small-scale social groups to at least the same extent as these are broken down today. In fact, many nuclear families lived by choice in such isolation, having no neighbors within several miles, that they belonged to no community at all, yet they do not seem to have developed problems as a result.

56. Furthermore, change in American frontier society was very rapid and deep. A man might be born and raised in a log cabin, outside the reach of law and order and fed largely on wild meat; and by the time he arrived at old age he might be working at a regular job and living in an ordered community with effective law enforcement. This was a deeper change than that which typically occurs in the life of a modern individual, yet it does not seem to have led to psychological problems. In fact, 19th century American society had an optimistic and self-confident tone, quite unlike that of today’s society.[8]

57. The difference, we argue, is that modern man has the sense (largely justified) that change is imposed on him, whereas the 19th century frontiersman had the sense (also largely justified) that he created change himself, by his own choice. Thus a pioneer settled on a piece of land of his own choosing and made it into a farm through his own effort. In those days an entire country might have only a couple of hundred inhabitants and was a far more isolated and autonomous entity than a modern county is. Hence the pioneer farmer participated as a member of a relatively small group in the creation of a new, ordered community. One may well question whether the creation of this community was an improvement, but at any rate it satisfied the pioneer’s need for the power process.

58. It would be possible to give other examples of societies in which there has been rapid change and/or lack of close community ties without the kind of massive behavioral aberration that is seen in today’s industrial society. We contend that the most important cause of social and psychological problems in modern society is the fact that people have insufficient opportunity to go through the power process in a normal way. We don’t mean to say that modern society is the only one in which the power process has been disrupted. Probably most if not all civilized societies have interfered with the power process to a greater or lesser extent. But in modern industrial society the problem has become particularly acute. Leftism, at least in its recent (mid- to late-20th century) form, is in part a symptom of deprivation with respect to the power process.

Disruption of the Power Process in Modern Society

59. We divide human drives into three groups: (1) those drives that can be satisfied with minimal effort; (2) those that can be satisfied but only at the cost of serious effort; (3) those that cannot be adequately satisfied no matter how much effort one makes. The power process is the process of satisfying the drives of the second group. The more drives there are in the third group, the more there is frustration, anger, eventually defeatism, depression, etc.

60. In modern industrial society natural human drives tend to be pushed into the first and third groups, and the second group tends to consist increasingly of artificially created drives.

61. In primitive societies, physical necessities generally fall into group 2: They can be obtained, but only at the cost of serious effort. But modern society tends to guarantee the physical necessities to everyone[9] in exchange for only minimal effort, hence physical needs are pushed into group 1. (There may be disagreement about whether the effort needed to hold a job is “minimal”; but usually, in lower- to middle-level jobs, whatever effort is required is merely that of obedience. You sit or stand where you are told to sit or stand and do what you are told to do in the way you are told to do it. Seldom do you have to exert yourself seriously, and in any case you have hardly any autonomy in work, so that the need for the power process is not well served.)

62. Social needs, such as sex, love and status, often remain in group 2 in modern society, depending on the situation of the individual.[10] But, except for people who have a particularly strong drive for status, the effort required to fulfill the social drives is insufficient to satisfy adequately the need for the power process.

63. So certain artificial needs have been created that fall into group 2, hence serve the need for the power process. Advertising and marketing techniques have been developed that make many people feel they need things that their grandparents never desired or even dreamed of. It requires serious effort to earn enough money to satisfy these artificial needs, hence they fall into group 2. (But see paragraphs 80-82.) Modern man must satisfy his need for the power process largely through pursuit of the artificial needs created by the advertising and marketing industry,[11] and through surrogate activities.

64. It seems that for many people, maybe the majority, these artificial forms of the power process are insufficient. A theme that appears repeatedly in the writings of the social critics of the second half of the 20th century is the sense of purposelessness that afflicts many people in modern society. (This purposelessness is often called by other names such as “anomie” or “middle-class vacuity.”) We suggest that the so-called “identity crisis” is actually a search for a sense of purpose, often for commitment to a suitable surrogate activity. It may be that existentialism is in large part a response to the purposelessness of modern life.[12] Very widespread in modern society is the search for “fulfillment.” But we think that for the majority of people an activity whose main goal is fulfillment (that is, a surrogate activity) does not bring completely satisfactory fulfillment. In other words, it does not fully satisfy the need for the power process. (See paragraph 41.) That need can be fully satisfied only through activities that have some external goal, such as physical necessities, sex, love, status, revenge, etc.

65. Moreover, where goals are pursued through earning money, climbing the status ladder or functioning as part of the system in some other way, most people are not in a position to pursue their goalsautonomously. Most workers are someone else’s employee and, as we pointed out in paragraph 61, must spend their days doing what they are told to do in the way they are told to do it. Even most people who are in business for themselves have only limited autonomy. It is a chronic complaint of small-business persons and entrepreneurs that their hands are tied by excessive government regulation. Some of these regulations are doubtless unnecessary, but for the most part government regulations are essential and inevitable parts of our extremely complex society. A large portion of small business today operates on the franchise system. It was reported in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago that many of the franchise-granting companies require applicants for franchises to take a personality test that is designed toexclude those who have creativity and initiative, because such persons are not sufficiently docile to go along obediently with the franchise system. This excludes from small business many of the people who most need autonomy.

66. Today people live more by virtue of what the system does for them or to them than by virtue of what they do for themselves. And what they do for themselves is done more and more along channels laid down by the system. Opportunities tend to be those that the system provides, the opportunities must be exploited in accord with the rules and regulations[13] and techniques prescribed by experts must be followed if there is to be a chance of success.

67. Thus the power process is disrupted in our society through a deficiency of real goals and a deficiency of autonomy in the pursuit of goals. But it is also disrupted because of those human drives that fall into group 3: the drives that one cannot adequately satisfy no matter how much effort one makes. One of these drives is the need for security. Our lives depend on decisions made by other people; we have no control over these decisions and usually we do not even know the people who make them. (“We live in a world in which relatively few people—maybe 500 or 1,000—make the important decisions,” Philip B. Heymann of Harvard Law School, quoted by Anthony Lewis, New York Times, April 21, 1995.) Our lives depend on whether safety standards at a nuclear power plant are properly maintained; on how much pesticide is allowed to get into our food or how much pollution into our air; on how skillful (or incompetent) our doctor is; whether we lose or get a job may depend on decisions made by government economists or corporation executives; and so forth. Most individuals are not in a position to secure themselves against these threats to more than a very limited extent. The individual’s search for security is therefore frustrated, which leads to a sense of powerlessness.

68. It may be objected that primitive man is physically less secure than modern man, as is shown by his shorter life expectancy; hence modern man suffers from less, not more than the amount of insecurity that is normal for human beings. But psychological security does not closely correspond with physical security. What makes us feel secure is not so much objective security as a sense of confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves. Primitive man, threatened by a fierce animal or by hunger, can fight in self-defense or travel in search of food. He has no certainty of success in these efforts, but he is by no means helpless against the things that threaten him. The modern individual on the other hand is threatened by many things against which he is helpless; nuclear accidents, carcinogens in food, environmental pollution, war, increasing taxes, invasion of his privacy by large organizations, nationwide social or economic phenomena that may disrupt his way of life.

69. It is true that primitive man is powerless against some of the things that threaten him; disease for example. But he can accept the risk of disease stoically. It is part of the nature of things, it is no one’s fault, unless it is the fault of some imaginary, impersonal demon. But threats to the modern individual tend to be man-made. They are not the results of chance but are imposed on him by other persons whose decisions he, as an individual, is unable to influence. Consequently he feels frustrated, humiliated and angry.

70. Thus primitive man for the most part has his security in his own hands (either as an individual or as a member of a small group), whereas the security of modern man is in the hands of persons or organizations that are too remote or too large for him to be able personally to influence them. So modern man’s drive for security tends to fall into groups 1 and 3; in some areas (food, shelter, etc.) his security is assured at the cost of only trivial effort, whereas in other areas he cannot attain security. (The foregoing greatly simplifies the real situation, but it does indicate in a rough, general way how the condition of modern man differs from that of primitive man.)

71. People have many transitory drives or impulses that are necessarily frustrated in modern life, hence fall into group 3. One may become angry, but modern society cannot permit fighting. In many situations it does not even permit verbal aggression. When going somewhere one may be in a hurry, or one may be in a mood to travel slowly, but one generally has no choice but to move with the flow of traffic and obey the traffic signals. One may want to do one’s work in a different way, but usually one can work only according to the rules laid down by one’s employer. In many other ways as well, modern man is strapped down by a network of rules and regulations (explicit or implicit) that frustrate many of his impulses and thus interfere with the power process. Most of these regulations cannot be dispensed with, because they are necessary for the functioning of industrial society.

72. Modern society is in certain respects extremely permissive. In matters that are irrelevant to the functioning of the system we can generally do what we please. We can believe in any religion we like (as long as it does not encourage behavior that is dangerous to the system). We can go to bed with anyone we like (as long as we practice “safe sex”). We can do anything we like as long as it is unimportant. But in all important matters the system tends increasingly to regulate our behavior.

73. Behavior is regulated not only through explicit rules and not only by the government. Control is often exercised through indirect coercion or through psychological pressure or manipulation, and by organizations other than the government, or by the system as a whole. Most large organizations use some form of propaganda[14] to manipulate public attitudes or behavior. Propaganda is not limited to “commercials” and advertisements, and sometimes it is not even consciously intended as propaganda by the people who make it. For instance, the content of entertainment programming is a powerful form of propaganda. An example of indirect coercion: There is no law that says we have to go to work every day and follow our employer’s orders. Legally there is nothing to prevent us from going to live in the wild like primitive people or from going into business for ourselves. But in practice there is very little wild country left, and there is room in the economy for only a limited number of small business owners. Hence most of us can survive only as someone else’s employee.

74. We suggest that modern man’s obsession with longevity, and with maintaining physical vigor and sexual attractiveness to an advanced age, is a symptom of unfulfillment resulting from deprivation with respect to the power process. The “mid-life crisis” also is such a symptom. So is the lack of interest in having children that is fairly common in modern society but almost unheard-of in primitive societies.

75. In primitive societies life is a succession of stages. The needs and purposes of one stage having been fulfilled, there is no particular reluctance about passing on to the next stage. A young man goes through the power process by becoming a hunter, hunting not for sport or for fulfillment but to get meat that is necessary for food. (In young women the process is more complex, with greater emphasis on social power; we won’t discuss that here.) This phase having been successfully passed through, the young man has no reluctance about settling down to the responsibilities of raising a family. (In contrast, some modern people indefinitely postpone having children because they are too busy seeking some kind of “fulfillment.” We suggest that the fulfillment they need is adequate experience of the power process—with real goals instead of the artificial goals of surrogate activities.) Again, having successfully raised his children, going through the power process by providing them with the physical necessities, the primitive man feels that his work is done and he is prepared to accept old age (if he survives that long) and death. Many modern people, on the other hand, are disturbed by the prospect of physical deterioration and death, as is shown by the amount of effort they expend trying to maintain their physical condition, appearance and health. We argue that this is due to unfulfillment resulting from the fact that they have never put their physical powers to any practical use, have never gone through the power process using their bodies in a serious way. It is not the primitive man, who has used his body daily for practical purposes, who fears the deterioration of age, but the modern man, who has never had a practical use for his body beyond walking from his car to his house. It is the man whose need for the power process has been satisfied during his life who is best prepared to accept the end of that life.

76. In response to the arguments of this section someone will say, “Society must find a way to give people the opportunity to go through the power process.” This won’t work for those who need autonomy in the power process. For such people the value of the opportunity is destroyed by the very fact that society gives it to them. What they need is to find or make their own opportunities. As long as the systemgives them their opportunities it still has them on a leash. To attain autonomy they must get off that leash.

How Some People Adjust

77. Not everyone in industrial-technological society suffers from psychological problems. Some people even profess to be quite satisfied with society as it is. We now discuss some of the reasons why people differ so greatly in their response to modern society.

78. First, there doubtless are innate differences in the strength of the drive for power. Individuals with a weak drive for power may have relatively little need to go through the power process, or at least relatively little need for autonomy in the power process. These are docile types who would have been happy as plantation darkies in the Old South. (We don’t mean to sneer at the “plantation darkies” of the Old South. To their credit, most of the slaves were not content with their servitude. We do sneer at people who are content with servitude.)

79. Some people may have some exceptional drive, in pursuing which they satisfy their need for the power process. For example, those who have an unusually strong drive for social status may spend their whole lives climbing the status ladder without ever getting bored with that game.

80. People vary in their susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques. Some people are so susceptible that, even if they make a great deal of money, they cannot satisfy their constant craving for the shiny new toys that the marketing industry dangles before their eyes. So they always feel hard-pressed financially even if their income is large, and their cravings are frustrated.

81. Some people have low susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques. These are the people who aren’t interested in money. Material acquisition does not serve their need for the power process.

82. People who have medium susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques are able to earn enough money to satisfy their craving for goods and services, but only at the cost of serious effort (putting in overtime, taking a second job, earning promotions, etc.). Thus material acquisition serves their need for the power process. But it does not necessarily follow that their need is fully satisfied. They may have insufficient autonomy in the power process (their work may consist of following orders) and some of their drives may be frustrated (e.g., security, aggression). (We are guilty of oversimplification in paragraphs 80-82 because we have assumed that the desire for material acquisition is entirely a creation of the advertising and marketing industry. Of course it’s not that simple.)[11]

83. Some people partly satisfy their need for power by identifying themselves with a powerful organization or mass movement. An individual lacking goals or power joins a movement or an organization, adopts its goals as his own, then works toward these goals. When some of the goals are attained, the individual, even though his personal efforts have played only an insignificant part in the attainment of the goals, feels (through his identification with the movement or organization) as if he had gone through the power process. This phenomenon was exploited by the Fascists, Nazis and Communists. Our society uses it too, though less crudely. Example: Manuel Noriega was an irritant to the U.S. (goal: punish Noriega). The U.S. invaded Panama (effort) and punished Noriega (attainment of goal). The U.S. went through the power process and many Americans, because of their identification with the U.S., experienced the power process vicariously. Hence the widespread public approval of the Panama invasion; it gave people a sense of power.[15] We see the same phenomenon in armies, corporations, political parties, humanitarian organizations, religious or ideological movements. In particular, leftist movements tend to attract people who are seeking to satisfy their need for power. But for most people identification with a large organization or a mass movement does not fully satisfy the need for power.

84. Another way in which people satisfy their need for the power process is through surrogate activities. As we explained in paragraphs 38-40, a surrogate activity is an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that the individual pursues for the sake of the “fulfillment” that he gets from pursuing the goal, not because he needs to attain the goal itself. For instance, there is no practical motive for building enormous muscles, hitting a little white ball into a hole or acquiring a complete series of postage stamps. Yet many people in our society devote themselves with passion to bodybuilding, golf or stamp-collecting. Some people are more “other-directed” than others, and therefore will more readily attach importance to a surrogate activity simply because the people around them treat it as important or because society tells them it is important. That is why some people get very serious about essentially trivial activities such as sports, or bridge, or chess, or arcane scholarly pursuits, whereas others who are more clear-sighted never see these things as anything but the surrogate activities that they are, and consequently never attach enough importance to them to satisfy their need for the power process in that way. It only remains to point out that in many cases a person’s way of earning a living is also a surrogate activity. Not a pure surrogate activity, since part of the motive for the activity is to gain the physical necessities and (for some people) social status and the luxuries that advertising makes them want. But many people put into their work far more effort than is necessary to earn whatever money and status they require,

85. In this section we have explained how many people in modern society do satisfy their need for the power process to a greater or lesser extent. But we think that for the majority of people the need for the power process is not fully satisfied. In the first place, those who have an insatiable drive for status, or who get firmly “hooked” on a surrogate activity, or who identify strongly enough with a movement or organization to satisfy their need for power in that way, are exceptional personalities. Others are not fully satisfied with surrogate activities or by identification with an organization. (See paragraphs 41, 64.) In the second place, too much control is imposed by the system through explicit regulation or through socialization, which results in a deficiency of autonomy, and in frustration due to the impossibility of attaining certain goals and the necessity of restraining too many impulses.

86. But even if most people in industrial-technological society were well satisfied, we (FC) would still be opposed to that form of society, because (among other reasons) we consider it demeaning to fulfill one’s need for the power process through surrogate activities or through identification with an organization, rather than through pursuit of real goals.

The Motives of Scientists

87. Science and technology provide the most important examples of surrogate activities. Some scientists claim that they are motivated by “curiosity” or by a desire to “benefit humanity.” But it is easy to see that neither of these can be the principal motive of most scientists. As for “curiosity,” that notion is simply absurd. Most scientists work on highly specialized problems that are not the object of any normal curiosity. For example, is an astronomer, a mathematician or an entomologist curious about the properties of isopropyltrimethylmethane? Of course not. Only a chemist is curious about such a thing, and he is curious about it only because chemistry is his surrogate activity. Is the chemist curious about the appropriate classification of a new species of beetle? No. That question is of interest only to the entomologist, and he is interested in it only because entomology is his surrogate activity. If the chemist and the entomologist had to exert themselves seriously to obtain the physical necessities, and if that effort exercised their abilities in an interesting way but in some nonscientific pursuit, then they wouldn’t give a damn about isopropyltrimethylmethane or the classification of beetles. Suppose that lack of funds for postgraduate education had led the chemist to become an insurance broker instead of a chemist. In that case he would have been very interested in insurance matters but would have cared nothing about isopropyltrimethylmethane. In any case it is not normal to put into the satisfaction of mere curiosity the amount of time and effort that scientists put into their work. The “curiosity” explanation for the scientists’ motive just doesn’t stand up.

88. The “benefit of humanity” explanation doesn’t work any better. Some scientific work has no conceivable relation to the welfare of the human race—most of archaeology or comparative linguistics for example. Some other areas of science present obviously dangerous possibilities. Yet scientists in these areas are just as enthusiastic about their work as those who develop vaccines or study air pollution. Consider the case of Dr. Edward Teller, who had an obvious emotional involvement in promoting nuclear power plants. Did this involvement stem from a desire to benefit humanity? If so, then why didn’t Dr. Teller get emotional about other “humanitarian” causes? If he was such a humanitarian then why did he help to develop the H-bomb? As with many other scientific achievements, it is very much open to question whether nuclear power plants actually do benefit humanity. Does the cheap electricity outweigh the accumulating waste and the risk of accidents? Dr. Teller saw only one side of the question. Clearly his emotional involvement with nuclear power arose not from a desire to “benefit humanity” but from the personal fulfillment he got from his work and from seeing it put to practical use.

89. The same is true of scientists generally. With possible rare exceptions, their motive is neither curiosity nor a desire to benefit humanity but the need to go through the power process: to have a goal (a scientific problem to solve), to make an effort (research) and to attain the goal (solution of the problem). Science is a surrogate activity because scientists work mainly for the fulfillment they get out of the work itself.

90. Of course, it’s not that simple. Other motives do play a role for many scientists. Money and status for example. Some scientists may be persons of the type who have an insatiable drive for status (see paragraph 79) and this may provide much of the motivation for their work. No doubt the majority of scientists, like the majority of the general population, are more or less susceptible to advertising and marketing techniques and need money to satisfy their craving for goods and services. Thus science is not a pure surrogate activity. But it is in large part a surrogate activity.

91. Also, science and technology constitute a powerful mass movement, and many scientists gratify their need for power through identification with this mass movement. (See paragraph 83.)

92. Thus science marches on blindly, without regard to the real welfare of the human race or to any other standard, obedient only to the psychological needs of the scientists and of the government officials and corporation executives who provide the funds for research.

The Nature of Freedom

93. We are going to argue that industrial-technological society cannot be reformed in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing the sphere of human freedom. But because “freedom” is a word that can be interpreted in many ways, we must first make clear what kind of freedom we are concerned with.

94. By “freedom” we mean the opportunity to go through the power process, with real goals not the artificial goals of surrogate activities, and without interference, manipulation or supervision from anyone, especially from any large organization. Freedom means being in control (either as an individual or as a member of a small group) of the life-and-death issues of one’s existence: food, clothing, shelter and defense against whatever threats there may be in one’s environment. Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life. One does not have freedom if anyone else (especially a large organization) has power over one, no matter how benevolently, tolerantly and permissively that power may be exercised. It is important not to confuse freedom with mere permissiveness (see paragraph 72).

95. It is said that we live in a free society because we have a certain number of constitutionally guaranteed rights. But these are not as important as they seem. The degree of personal freedom that exists in a society is determined more by the economic and technological structure of the society than by its laws or its form of government.[16] Most of the Indian nations of New England were monarchies, and many of the cities of the Italian Renaissance were controlled by dictators. But in reading about these societies one gets the impression that they allowed far more personal freedom than our society does. In part this was because they lacked efficient mechanisms for enforcing the ruler’s will: There were no modern, well-organized police forces, no rapid long-distance communications, no surveillance cameras, no dossiers of information about the lives of average citizens. Hence it was relatively easy to evade control.

96. As for our constitutional rights, consider for example that of freedom of the press. We certainly don’t mean to knock that right; it is a very important tool for limiting concentration of political power and for keeping those who do have political power in line by publicly exposing any misbehavior on their part. But freedom of the press is of very little use to the average citizen as an individual. The mass media are mostly under the control of large organizations that are integrated into the system. Anyone who has a little money can have something printed, or can distribute it on the Internet or in some such way, but what he has to say will be swamped by the vast volume of material put out by the media, hence it will have no practical effect. To make an impression on society with words is therefore almost impossible for most individuals and small groups. Take us (FC) for example. If we had never done anything violent and had submitted the present writings to a publisher, they probably would not have been accepted. If they had been accepted and published, they probably would not have attracted many readers, because it’s more fun to watch the entertainment put out by the media than to read a sober essay. Even if these writings had had many readers, most of these readers would soon have forgotten what they had read as their minds were flooded by the mass of material to which the media expose them. In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people.

97. Constitutional rights are useful up to a point, but they do not serve to guarantee much more than what might be called the bourgeois conception of freedom. According to the bourgeois conception, a “free” man is essentially an element of a social machine and has only a certain set of prescribed and delimited freedoms; freedoms that are designed to serve the needs of the social machine more than those of the individual. Thus the bourgeois’s “free” man has economic freedom because that promotes growth and progress; he has freedom of the press because public criticism restrains misbehavior by political leaders; he has a right to a fair trial because imprisonment at the whim of the powerful would be bad for the system. This was clearly the attitude of Simón Bolívar. To him, people deserved liberty only if they used it to promote progress (progress as conceived by the bourgeois). Other bourgeois thinkers have taken a similar view of freedom as a mere means to collective ends. Chester C. Tan, Chinese Political Thought in the Twentieth Century, page 202, explains the philosophy of the Kuomintang leader Hu Han-Min: “An individual is granted rights because he is a member of society and his community life requires such rights. By community Hu meant the whole society or the nation.” And on page 259 Tan states that according to Cursing Chang (Chang Chun-Mai, head of the State Socialist Party in China) freedom had to be used in the interest of the state and of the people as a whole. But what kind of freedom does one have if one can use it only as someone else prescribes? FC’s conception of freedom is not that of Bolivar, Hu, Chang or other bourgeois theorists. The trouble with such theorists is that they have made the development and application of social theories their surrogate activity. Consequently the theories are designed to serve the needs of the theorists more than the needs of any people who may be unlucky enough to live in a society on which the theories are imposed.

98. One more point to be made in this section: It should not be assumed that a person has enough freedom just because he says he has enough. Freedom is restricted in part by psychological controls of which people are unconscious, and moreover many people’s ideas of what constitutes freedom are governed more by social convention than by their real needs. For example, it’s likely that many leftists of the oversocialized type would say that most people, including themselves, are socialized too little rather than too much, yet the oversocialized leftist pays a heavy psychological price for his high level of socialization.

Some Principles of History

99. Think of history as being the sum of two components: an erratic component that consists of unpredictable events that follow no discernible pattern, and a regular component that consists of long-term historical trends. Here we are concerned with the long-term trends.

100. First principle. If a small change is made that affects a long-term historical trend, then the effect of that change will almost always be transitory—the trend will soon revert to its original state. (Example: A reform movement designed to clean up political corruption in a society rarely has more than a short-term effect; sooner or later the reformers relax and corruption creeps back in. The level of political corruption in a given society tends to remain constant, or to change only slowly with the evolution of the society. Normally, a political cleanup will be permanent only if accompanied by widespread social changes; a small change in the society won’t be enough.) If a small change in a long-term historical trend appears to be permanent, it is only because the change acts in the direction in which the trend is already moving, so that the trend is not altered but only pushed a step ahead.

101. The first principle is almost a tautology. If a trend were not stable with respect to small changes, it would wander at random rather than following a definite direction; in other words it would not be a long-term trend at all.

102. Second principle. If a change is made that is sufficiently large to alter permanently a long-term historical trend, then it will alter the society as a whole. In other words, a society is a system in which all parts are interrelated, and you can’t permanently change any important part without changing all other parts as well.

103. Third principle. If a change is made that is large enough to alter permanently a long-term trend, then the consequences for the society as a whole cannot be predicted in advance. (Unless various other societies have passed through the same change and have all experienced the same consequences, in which case one can predict on empirical grounds that another society that passes through the same change will be likely to experience similar consequences.)

104. Fourth principle. A new kind of society cannot be designed on paper. That is, you cannot plan out a new form of society in advance, then set it up and expect it to function as it was designed to do.

105. The third and fourth principles result from the complexity of human societies. A change in human behavior will affect the economy of a society and its physical environment; the economy will affect the environment and vice versa, and the changes in the economy and the environment will affect human behavior in complex, unpredictable ways; and so forth. The network of causes and effects is far too complex to be untangled and understood.

106. Fifth principle. People do not consciously and rationally choose the form of their society. Societies develop through processes of social evolution that are not under rational human control.

107. The fifth principle is a consequence of the other four.

108. To illustrate: By the first principle, generally speaking an attempt at social reform either acts in the direction in which the society is developing anyway (so that it merely accelerates a change that would have occurred in any case) or else it has only a transitory effect, so that the society soon slips back into its old groove. To make a lasting change in the direction of development of any important aspect of a society, reform is insufficient and revolution is required. (A revolution does not necessarily involve an armed uprising or the overthrow of a government.) By the second principle, a revolution never changes only one aspect of a society, it changes the whole society; and by the third principle changes occur that were never expected or desired by the revolutionaries. By the fourth principle, when revolutionaries or utopians set up a new kind of society, it never works out as planned.

109. The American Revolution does not provide a counterexample. The American “Revolution” was not a revolution in our sense of the word, but a war of independence followed by a rather far-reaching political reform. The Founding Fathers did not change the direction of development of American society, nor did they aspire to do so. They only freed the development of American society from the retarding effect of British rule. Their political reform did not change any basic trend, but only pushed American political culture along its natural direction of development. British society, of which American society was an offshoot, had been moving for a long time in the direction of representative democracy. And prior to the War of Independence the Americans were already practicing a significant degree of representative democracy in the colonial assemblies. The political system established by the Constitution was modeled on the British system and on the colonial assemblies. With major alterations, to be sure—there is no doubt that the Founding Fathers took a very important step. But it was a step along the road that the English-speaking world was already traveling. The proof is that Britain and all of its colonies that were populated predominantly by people of British descent ended up with systems of representative democracy essentially similar to that of the United States. If the Founding Fathers had lost their nerve and declined to sign the Declaration of Independence, our way of life today would not have been significantly different. Maybe we would have had somewhat closer ties to Britain, and would have had a Parliament and Prime Minister instead of a Congress and President. No big deal. Thus the American Revolution provides not a counterexample to our principles but a good illustration of them.

110. Still, one has to use common sense in applying the principles. They are expressed in imprecise language that allows latitude for interpretation, and exceptions to them can be found. So we present these principles not as inviolable laws but as rules of thumb, or guides to thinking, that may provide a partial antidote to naive ideas about the future of society. The principles should be borne constantly in mind, and whenever one reaches a conclusion that conflicts with them one should carefully reexamine one’s thinking and retain the conclusion only if one has good, solid reasons for doing so.

Industrial-Technological Society Cannot Be Reformed

111. The foregoing principles help to show how hopelessly difficult it would be to reform the industrial system in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing our sphere of freedom. There has been a consistent tendency, going back at least to the Industrial Revolution, for technology to strengthen the system at a high cost in individual freedom and local autonomy. Hence any change designed to protect freedom from technology would be contrary to a fundamental trend in the development of our society. Consequently, such a change either would be a transitory one—soon swamped by the tide of history—or, if large enough to be permanent, would alter the nature of our whole society. This by the first and second principles. Moreover, since society would be altered in a way that could not be predicted in advance (third principle) there would be great risk. Changes large enough to make a lasting difference in favor of freedom would not be initiated because it would be realized that they would gravely disrupt the system. So any attempts at reform would be too timid to be effective. Even if changes large enough to make a lasting difference were initiated, they would be retracted when their disruptive effects became apparent. Thus, permanent changes in favor of freedom could be brought about only by persons prepared to accept radical, dangerous and unpredictable alteration of the entire system. In other words by revolutionaries, not reformers.

112. People anxious to rescue freedom without sacrificing the supposed benefits of technology will suggest naive schemes for some new form of society that would reconcile freedom with technology. Apart from the fact that people who make such suggestions seldom propose any practical means by which the new form of society could be set up in the first place, it follows from the fourth principle that even if the new form of society could be once established, it either would collapse or would give results very different from those expected.

113. So even on very general grounds it seems highly improbable that any way of changing society could be found that would reconcile freedom with modern technology. In the next few sections we will give more specific reasons for concluding that freedom and technological progress are incompatible.

Restriction of Freedom is Unavoidable in Industrial Society

114. As explained in paragraphs 65-67, 70-73, modern man is strapped down by a network of rules and regulations, and his fate depends on the actions of persons remote from him whose decisions he cannot influence. This is not accidental or a result of the arbitrariness of arrogant bureaucrats. It is necessary and inevitable in any technologically advanced society. The system has to regulate human behavior closely in order to function. At work, people have to do what they are told to do, when they are told to do it and in the way they are told to do it, otherwise production would be thrown into chaos. Bureaucracies have to be run according to rigid rules. To allow any substantial personal discretion to lower-level bureaucrats would disrupt the system and lead to charges of unfairness due to differences in the way individual bureaucrats exercised their discretion. It is true that some restrictions on our freedom could be eliminated, but generally speaking the regulation of our lives by large organizations is necessary for the functioning of industrial-technological society. The result is a sense of powerlessness on the part of the average person. It may be, however, that formal regulations will tend increasingly to be replaced by psychological tools that make us want to do what the system requires of us. (Propaganda,[14] educational techniques, “mental health” programs, etc.)

115. The system has to force people to behave in ways that are increasingly remote from the natural pattern of human behavior. For example, the system needs scientists, mathematicians and engineers. It can’t function without them. So heavy pressure is put on children to excel in these fields. It isn’t natural for an adolescent human being to spend the bulk of his time sitting at a desk absorbed in study. A normal adolescent wants to spend his time in active contact with the real world. Among primitive peoples the things that children are trained to do tend to be in reasonable harmony with natural human impulses. Among the American Indians, for example, boys were trained in active outdoor pursuits—just the sort of things that boys like. But in our society children are pushed into studying technical subjects, which most do grudgingly.

116. Because of the constant pressure that the system exerts to modify human behavior, there is a gradual increase in the number of people who cannot or will not adjust to society’s requirements: welfare leeches, youth-gang members, cultists, anti-government rebels, radical environmentalist saboteurs, dropouts and resisters of various kinds.

117. In any technologically advanced society the individual’s fate must depend on decisions that he personally cannot influence to any great extent. A technological society cannot be broken down into small, autonomous communities, because production depends on the cooperation of very large numbers of people and machines. Such a society must be highly organized and decisions have to be made that affect very large numbers of people. When a decision affects, say, a million people, then each of the affected individuals has, on the average, only a one-millionth share in making the decision. What usually happens in practice is that decisions are made by public officials or corporation executives, or by technical specialists, but even when the public votes on a decision the number of voters ordinarily is too large for the vote of anyone individual to be significant.[17] Thus most individuals are unable to influence measurably the major decisions that affect their lives. There is no conceivable way to remedy this in a technologically advanced society. The system tries to “solve” this problem by using propaganda to make people want the decisions that have been made for them, but even if this “solution” were completely successful in making people feel better, it would be demeaning.

118. Conservatives and some others advocate more “local autonomy.” Local communities once did have autonomy, but such autonomy becomes less and less possible as local communities become more enmeshed with and dependent on large-scale systems like public utilities, computer networks, highway systems, the mass communications media and the modern health-care system. Also operating against autonomy is the fact that technology applied in one location often affects people at other locations far away. Thus pesticide or chemical use near a creek may contaminate the water supply hundreds of miles downstream, and the greenhouse effect affects the whole world.

119. The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is not the fault of capitalism and it is not the fault of socialism. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity.[18] Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extent that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. It is the needs of the system that are paramount, not those of the human being. For example, the system provides people with food because the system couldn’t function if everyone starved; it attends to people’s psychological needs whenever it can conveniently do so, because it couldn’t function if too many people became depressed or rebellious. But the system, for good, solid, practical reasons, must exert constant pressure on people to mold their behavior to the needs of the system. Too much waste accumulating? The government, the media, the educational system, environmentalists, everyone inundates us with a mass of propaganda about recycling. Need more technical personnel? A chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their time studying subjects that most of them hate. When skilled workers are put out of a job by technical advances and have to undergo “retraining,” no one asks whether it is humiliating for them to be pushed around in this way. It is simply taken for granted that everyone must bow to technical necessity. And for good reason: If human needs were put before technical necessity there would be economic problems, unemployment, shortages or worse. The concept of “mental health” in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.

120. Efforts to make room for a sense of purpose and for autonomy within the system are no better than a joke. For example, one company, instead of having each of its employees assemble only one section of a catalogue, had each assemble a whole catalogue, and this was supposed to give them a sense of purpose and achievement. Some companies have tried to give their employees more autonomy in their work, but for practical reasons this usually can be done only to a very limited extent, and in any case employees are never given autonomy as to ultimate goals—their “autonomous” efforts can never be directed toward goals that they select personally, but only toward their employer’s goals, such as the survival and growth of the company. Any company would soon go out of business if it permitted its employees to act otherwise. Similarly, in any enterprise within a socialist system, workers must direct their efforts toward the goals of the enterprise, otherwise the enterprise will not serve its purpose as part of the system. Once again, for purely technical reasons it is not possible for most individuals or small groups to have much autonomy in industrial society. Even the small-business owner commonly has only limited autonomy. Apart from the necessity of government regulation, he is restricted by the fact that he must fit into the economic system and conform to its requirements. For instance, when someone develops a new technology, the small-business person often has to use that technology whether he wants to or not, in order to remain competitive.

The “Bad” Parts of Technology Cannot Be Separated from the “Good” Parts

121. A further reason why industrial society cannot be reformed in favor of freedom is that modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can’t get rid of the “bad” parts of technology and retain only the “good” parts. Take modern medicine, for example. Progress in medical science depends on progress in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and other fields. Advanced medical treatments require expensive, high-tech equipment that can be made available only by a technologically progressive, economically rich society. Clearly you can’t have much progress in medicine without the whole technological system and everything that goes with it.

122. Even if medical progress could be maintained without the rest of the technological system, it would by itself bring certain evils. Suppose for example that a cure for diabetes is discovered. People with a genetic tendency to diabetes will then be able to survive and reproduce as well as anyone else. Natural selection against genes for diabetes will cease and such genes will spread throughout the population. (This may be occurring to some extent already, since diabetes, while not curable, can be controlled through the use of insulin.) The same thing will happen with many other diseases susceptibility to which is affected by genetic factors (e.g., childhood cancer), resulting in massive genetic degradation of the population. The only solution will be some sort of eugenics program or extensive genetic engineering of human beings, so that man in the future will no longer be a creation of nature, or of chance, or of God (depending on your religious or philosophical opinions), but a manufactured product.

123. If you think that big government interferes in your life too much now, just wait till the government starts regulating the genetic constitution of your children. Such regulation will inevitably follow the introduction of genetic engineering of human beings, because the consequences of unregulated genetic engineering would be disastrous.[19]

124. The usual response to such concerns is to talk about “medical ethics.” But a code of ethics would not serve to protect freedom in the face of medical progress; it would only make matters worse. A code of ethics applicable to genetic engineering would be in effect a means of regulating the genetic constitution of human beings. Somebody (probably the upper middle class, mostly) would decide that such and such applications of genetic engineering were “ethical” and others were not, so that in effect they would be imposing their own values on the genetic constitution of the population at large. Even if a code of ethics were chosen on a completely democratic basis, the majority would be imposing their own values on any minorities who might have a different idea of what constituted an “ethical” use of genetic engineering. The only code of ethics that would truly protect freedom would be one that prohibited any genetic engineering of human beings, and you can be sure that no such code will ever be applied in a technological society. No code that reduced genetic engineering to a minor role could stand up for long, because the temptation presented by the immense power of biotechnology would be irresistible, especially since to the majority of people many of its applications will seem obviously and unequivocally good (eliminating physical and mental diseases, giving people the abilities they need to get along in today’s world). Inevitably, genetic engineering will be used extensively, but only in ways consistent with the needs of the industrial-technological system.[20]

Technology is a More Powerful Social Force than the Aspiration for Freedom

125. It is not possible to make a lasting compromise between technology and freedom, because technology is by far the more powerful social force and continually encroaches on freedom through repeatedcompromises. Imagine the case of two neighbors, each of whom at the outset owns the same amount of land, but one of whom is more powerful than the other. The powerful one demands a piece of the other’s land. The weak one refuses. The powerful one says, “Okay, let’s compromise. Give me half of what I asked.” The weak one has little choice but to give in. Some time later the powerful neighbor demands another piece of land, again there is a compromise, and so forth. By forcing a long series of compromises on the weaker man, the powerful one eventually gets all of his land. So it goes in the conflict between technology and freedom.

126. Let us explain why technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom.

127. A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it very seriously later on. For example, consider motorized transport. A walking man formerly could go where he pleased, go at his own pace without observing any traffic regulations, and was independent of technological support systems. When motor vehicles were introduced they appeared to increase man’s freedom. They took no freedom away from the walking man, no one had to have an automobile if he didn’t want one, and anyone who did choose to buy an automobile could travel much faster and farther than a walking man. But the introduction of motorized transport soon changed society in such a way as to restrict greatly man’s freedom of locomotion. When automobiles became numerous, it became necessary to regulate their use extensively. In a car, especially in densely populated areas, one cannot just go where one likes at one’s own pace; one’s movement is governed by the flow of traffic and by various traffic laws. One is tied down by various obligations: license requirements, driver test, renewing registration, insurance, maintenance required for safety, monthly payments on purchase price. Moreover, the use of motorized transport is no longer optional. Since the introduction of motorized transport the arrangement of our cities has changed in such a way that the majority of people no longer live within walking distance of their place of employment, shopping areas and recreational opportunities, so that they have to depend on the automobile for transportation. Or else they must use public transportation, in which case they have even less control over their own movement than when driving a car. Even the walker’s freedom is now greatly restricted. In the city he continually has to stop to wait for traffic lights that are designed mainly to serve auto traffic. In the country, motor traffic makes it dangerous and unpleasant to walk along the highway. (Note this important point that we have just illustrated with the case of motorized transport: When a new item of technology is introduced as an option that an individual can accept or not as he chooses, it does not necessarily remain optional. In many cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people eventually find themselves forced to use it.)

128. While technological progress as a whole continually narrows our sphere of freedom, each new technical advance considered by itself appears to be desirable. Electricity, indoor plumbing, rapid long- distance communications…how could one argue against any of these things, or against any other of the innumerable technical advances that have made modern society? It would have been absurd to resist the introduction of the telephone, for example. It offered many advantages and no disadvantages. Yet, as we explained in paragraphs 59-76, all these technical advances taken together have created a world in which the average man’s fate is no longer in his own hands or in the hands of his neighbors and friends, but in those of politicians, corporation executives and remote, anonymous technicians and bureaucrats whom he as an individual has no power to influence.[21] The same process will continue in the future. Take genetic engineering, for example. Few people will resist the introduction of a genetic technique that eliminates a hereditary disease. It does no apparent harm and prevents much suffering. Yet a large number of genetic improvements taken together will make the human being into an engineered product rather than a free creation of chance (or of God, or whatever, depending on your religious beliefs).

129. Another reason why technology is such a powerful social force is that, within the context of a given society, technological progress marches in only one direction; it can never be reversed. Once a technical innovation has been introduced, people usually become dependent on it, so that they can never again do without it, unless it is replaced by some still more advanced innovation. Not only do people become dependent as individuals on a new item of technology, but, even more, the system as a whole becomes dependent on it. (Imagine what would happen to the system today if computers, for example, were eliminated.) Thus the system can move in only one direction, toward greater technologization. Technology repeatedly forces freedom to take a step back but technology can never take a step back—short of the overthrow of the whole technological system.

130. Technology advances with great rapidity and threatens freedom at many different points at the same time (crowding, rules and regulations, increasing dependence of individuals on large organizations, propaganda and other psychological techniques, genetic engineering, invasion of privacy through surveillance devices and computers, etc.). To hold back any one of the threats to freedom would require a long and difficult social struggle. Those who want to protect freedom are overwhelmed by the sheer number of new attacks and the rapidity with which they develop, hence they become apathetic and no longer resist. To fight each of the threats separately would be futile. Success can be hoped for only by fighting the technological system as a whole; but that is revolution, not reform.

131. Technicians (we use this term in its broad sense to describe all those who perform a specialized task that requires training) tend to be so involved in their work (their surrogate activity) that when a conflict arises between their technical work and freedom, they almost always decide in favor of their technical work. This is obvious in the case of scientists, but it also appears elsewhere: Educators, humanitarian groups, conservation organizations do not hesitate to use propaganda[14] or other psychological techniques to help them achieve their laudable ends. Corporations and government agencies, when they find it useful, do not hesitate to collect information about individuals without regard to their privacy. Law enforcement agencies are frequently inconvenienced by the constitutional rights of suspects and often of completely innocent persons, and they do whatever they can do legally (or sometimes illegally) to restrict or circumvent those rights. Most of these educators, government officials and law officers believe in freedom, privacy and constitutional rights, but when these conflict with their work, they usually feel that their work is more important.

132. It is well known that people generally work better and more persistently when striving for a reward than when attempting to avoid a punishment or negative outcome. Scientists and other technicians are motivated mainly by the rewards they get through their work. But those who oppose technological invasions of freedom are working to avoid a negative outcome, consequently there are few who work persistently and well at this discouraging task. If reformers ever achieved a signal victory that seemed to set up a solid barrier against further erosion of freedom through technical progress, most would tend to relax and turn their attention to more agreeable pursuits. But the scientists would remain busy in their laboratories, and technology as it progressed would find ways, in spite of any barriers, to exert more and more control over individuals and make them always more dependent on the system.

133. No social arrangements, whether laws, institutions, customs or ethical codes, can provide permanent protection against technology. History shows that all social arrangements are transitory; they all change or break down eventually. But technological advances are permanent within the context of a given civilization. Suppose for example that it were possible to arrive at some social arrangement that would prevent genetic engineering from being applied to human beings, or prevent it from being applied in such a way as to threaten freedom and dignity. Still, the technology would remain, waiting. Sooner or later the social arrangement would break down. Probably sooner, given the pace of change in our society. Then genetic engineering would begin to invade our sphere of freedom, and this invasion would be irreversible (short of a breakdown of technological civilization itself). Any illusions about achieving anything permanent through social arrangements should be dispelled by what is currently happening with environmental legislation. A few years ago it seemed that there were secure legal barriers preventing at least some of the worst forms of environmental degradation. A change in the political wind, and those barriers begin to crumble.

134. For all of the foregoing reasons, technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom. But this statement requires an important qualification. It appears that during the next several decades the industrial-technological system will be undergoing severe stresses due to economic and environmental problems, and especially due to problems of human behavior (alienation, rebellion, hostility, a variety of social and psychological difficulties). We hope that the stresses through which the system is likely to pass will cause it to break down, or at least will weaken it sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. If such a revolution occurs and is successful, then at that particular moment the aspiration for freedom will have proved more powerful than technology.

135. In paragraph 125 we used an analogy of a weak neighbor who is left destitute by a strong neighbor who takes all his land by forcing on him a series of compromises. But suppose now that the strong neighbor gets sick, so that he is unable to defend himself. The weak neighbor can force the strong one to give him his land back, or he can kill him. If he lets the strong man survive and only forces him to give the land back, he is a fool, because when the strong man gets well he will again take all the land for himself. The only sensible alternative for the weaker man is to kill the strong one while he has the chance. In the same way, while the industrial system is sick we must destroy it. If we compromise with it and let it recover from its sickness, it will eventually wipe out all of our freedom.

Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable

136. If anyone still imagines that it would be possible to reform the system in such a way as to protect freedom from technology, let him consider how clumsily and for the most part unsuccessfully our society has dealt with other social problems that are far more simple and straightforward. Among other things, the system has failed to stop environmental degradation, political corruption, drug trafficking or domestic abuse.

137. Take our environmental problems, for example. Here the conflict of values is straightforward: economic expedience now versus saving some of our natural resources for our grandchildren.[22] But on this subject we get only a lot of blather and obfuscation from the people who have power, and nothing like a clear, consistent line of action, and we keep on piling up environmental problems that our grandchildren will have to live with. Attempts to resolve the environmental issue consist of struggles and compromises between different factions, some of which are ascendant at one moment, others at another moment. The line of struggle changes with the shifting currents of public opinion. This is not a rational process, nor is it one that is likely to lead to a timely and successful solution to the problem. Major social problems, if they get “solved” at all, are rarely or never solved through any rational, comprehensive plan. They just work themselves out through a process in which various competing groups pursuing their own (usually short-term) self-interest[23] arrive (mainly by luck) at some more or less stable modus vivendi. In fact, the principles we formulated in paragraphs 100-106 make it seem doubtful that rational, long-term social planning can ever be successful.

138. Thus it is clear that the human race has at best a very limited capacity for solving even relatively straightforward social problems. How then is it going to solve the far more difficult and subtle problem of reconciling freedom with technology? Technology presents clear-cut material advantages, whereas freedom is an abstraction that means different things to different people, and its loss is easily obscured by propaganda and fancy talk.

139. And note this important difference: It is conceivable that our environmental problems (for example) may some day be settled through a rational, comprehensive plan, but if this happens it will be only because it is in the long-term interest of the system to solve these problems. But it is not in the interest of the system to preserve freedom or small-group autonomy. On the contrary, it is in the interest of the system to bring human behavior under control to the greatest possible extent.[24] Thus, while practical considerations may eventually force the system to take a rational, prudent approach to environmental problems, equally practical considerations will force the system to regulate human behavior ever more closely (preferably by indirect means that will disguise the encroachment on freedom). This isn’t just our opinion. Eminent social scientists (e.g., James Q. Wilson) have stressed the importance of “socializing” people more effectively.

Revolution is Easier than Reform

140. We hope we have convinced the reader that the system cannot be reformed in such a way as to reconcile freedom with technology. The only way out is to dispense with the industrial-technological system altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature of society.

141. People tend to assume that because a revolution involves a much greater change than reform does, it is more difficult to bring about than reform is. Actually, under certain circumstances revolution is much easier than reform. The reason is that a revolutionary movement can inspire an intensity of commitment that a reform movement cannot inspire. A reform movement merely offers to solve a particular social problem. A revolutionary movement offers to solve all problems at one stroke and create a whole new world; it provides the kind of ideal for which people will take great risks and make great sacrifices. For this reason it would be much easier to overthrow the whole technological system than to put effective, permanent restraints on the development or application of anyone segment of technology, such as genetic engineering, for example. Not many people will devote themselves with single-minded passion to imposing and maintaining restraints on genetic engineering, but under suitable conditions large numbers of people may devote themselves passionately to a revolution against the industrial-technological system. As we noted in paragraph 132, reformers seeking to limit certain aspects of technology would be working to avoid a negative outcome. But revolutionaries work to gain a powerful reward—fulfillment of their revolutionary vision—and therefore work harder and more persistently than reformers do.

142. Reform is always restrained by the fear of painful consequences if changes go too far. But once a revolutionary fever has taken hold of a society, people are willing to undergo unlimited hardships for the sake of their revolution. This was clearly shown in the French and Russian Revolutions. It may be that in such cases only a minority of the population is really committed to the revolution, but this minority is sufficiently large and active so that it becomes the dominant force in society. We will have more to say about revolution in paragraphs 180-205.

Control of Human Behavior

143. Since the beginning of civilization, organized societies have had to put pressures on human beings for the sake of the functioning of the social organism. The kinds of pressures vary greatly from one society to another. Some of the pressures are physical (poor diet, excessive labor, environmental pollution), some are psychological (noise, crowding, forcing human behavior into the mold that society requires). In the past, human nature has been approximately constant, or at any rate has varied only within certain bounds. Consequently, societies have been able to push people only up to certain limits. When the limit of human endurance has been passed, things start going wrong: rebellion, or crime, or corruption, or evasion of work, or depression and other mental problems, or an elevated death rate, or a declining birth rate or something else, so that either the society breaks down, or its functioning becomes too inefficient and it is (quickly or gradually, through conquest, attrition or evolution) replaced by some more efficient form of society.[25]

144. Thus human nature has in the past put certain limits on the development of societies. People could be pushed only so far and no farther. But today this may be changing, because modern technology is developing ways of modifying human beings.

145. Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy, then gives them drugs to take away their unhappiness. Science fiction? It is already happening to some extent in our own society. It is well known that the rate of clinical depression has been greatly increasing in recent decades. We believe that this is due to disruption of the power process, as explained in paragraphs 59-76. But even if we are wrong, the increasing rate of depression is certainly the result of some conditions that exist in today’s society. Instead of removing the conditions that make people depressed, modern society gives them antidepressant drugs. In effect, antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable. (Yes, we know that depression is often of purely genetic origin. We are referring here to those cases in which environment plays the predominant role.)

146. Drugs that affect the mind are only one example of the methods of controlling human behavior that modern society is developing. Let us look at some of the other methods.

147. To start with, there are the techniques of surveillance. Hidden video cameras are now used in most stores and in many other places, computers are used to collect and process vast amounts of information about individuals. Information so obtained greatly increases the effectiveness of physical coercion (i.e., law enforcement).[26] Then there are the methods of propaganda, for which the mass communications media provide effective vehicles. Efficient techniques have been developed for winning elections, selling products, influencing public opinion. The entertainment industry serves as an important psychological tool of the system, possibly even when it is dishing out large amounts of sex and violence. Entertainment provides modern man with an essential means of escape. While absorbed in television, videos, etc., he can forget stress, anxiety, frustration, dissatisfaction. Many primitive peoples, when they don’t have any work to do, are quite content to sit for hours at a time doing nothing at all, because they are at peace with themselves and their world. But most modern people must be constantly occupied or entertained, otherwise they get “bored,” i.e., they get fidgety, uneasy, irritable.

148. Other techniques strike deeper that the foregoing. Education is no longer a simple affair of paddling a kid’s behind when he doesn’t know his lessons and patting him on the head when he does know them. It is becoming a scientific technique for controlling the child’s development. Sylvan Learning Centers, for example, have had great success in motivating children to study, and psychological techniques are also used with more or less success in many conventional schools. “Parenting” techniques that are taught to parents are designed to make children accept the fundamental values of the system and behave in ways that the system finds desirable. “Mental health” programs, “intervention” techniques, psychotherapy and so forth are ostensibly designed to benefit individuals, but in practice they usually serve as methods for inducing individuals to think and behave as the system requires. (There is no contradiction here; an individual whose attitudes or behavior bring him into conflict with the system is up against a force that is too powerful for him to conquer or escape from, hence he is likely to suffer from stress, frustration, defeat. His path will be much easier if he thinks and behaves as the system requires. In that sense the system is acting for the benefit of the individual when it brainwashes him into conformity.) Child abuse in its gross and obvious forms is disapproved in most if not all cultures. Tormenting a child for a trivial reason or no reason at all is something that appalls almost everyone. But many psychologists interpret the concept of abuse much more broadly. Is spanking, when used as part of a rational and consistent system of discipline, a form of abuse? The question will ultimately be decided by whether or not spanking tends to produce behavior that makes a person fit in well with the existing system of society. In practice, the word “abuse” tends to be interpreted to include any method of child-rearing that produces behavior inconvenient for the system. Thus, when they go beyond the prevention of obvious, senseless cruelty, programs for preventing “child abuse” are directed toward the control of human behavior on behalf of the system.

149. Presumably, research will continue to increase the effectiveness of psychological techniques for controlling human behavior. But we think it is unlikely that psychological techniques alone will be sufficient to adjust human beings to the kind of society that technology is creating. Biological methods probably will have to be used. We have already mentioned the use of drugs in this connection. Neurology may provide other avenues for modifying the human mind. Genetic engineering of human beings is already beginning to occur in the form of “gene therapy,” and there is no reason to assume that such methods will not eventually be used to modify those aspects of the body that affect mental functioning,

150. As we mentioned in paragraph 134, industrial society seems likely to be entering a period of severe stress, due in part to problems of human behavior and in part to economic and environmental problems. And a considerable proportion of the system’s economic and environmental problems result from the way human beings behave. Alienation, low self-esteem, depression, hostility, rebellion; children who won’t study, youth gangs, illegal drug use, rape, child abuse, other crimes, unsafe sex, teen pregnancy, population growth, political corruption, race hatred, ethnic rivalry, bitter ideological conflict (e.g., pro-choice vs. pro-life), political extremism, terrorism, sabotage, anti-government groups, hate groups. All these threaten the very survival of the system. The system will therefore be forced to use every practical means of controlling human behavior.

151. The social disruption that we see today is certainly not the result of mere chance. It can only be a result of the conditions of life that the system imposes on people. (We have argued that the most important of these conditions is disruption of the power process.) If the systems succeeds in imposing sufficient control over human behavior to assure its own survival, a new watershed in human history will have been passed. Whereas formerly the limits of human endurance have imposed limits on the development of societies (as we explained in paragraphs 143, 144), industrial-technological society will be able to pass those limits by modifying human beings, whether by psychological methods or biological methods or both. In the future, social systems will not be adjusted to suit the needs of human beings. Instead, human beings will be adjusted to suit the needs of the system.[27]

152. Generally speaking, technological control over human behavior will probably not be introduced with a totalitarian intention or even through a conscious desire to restrict human freedom.[28] Each new step in the assertion of control over the human mind will be taken as a rational response to a problem that faces society, such as curing alcoholism, reducing the crime rate or inducing young people to study science and engineering. In many cases, there will be a humanitarian justification. For example, when a psychiatrist prescribes an antidepressant for a depressed patient, he is clearly doing that individual a favor. It would be inhumane to withhold the drug from someone who needs it. When parents send their children to Sylvan Learning Centers to have them manipulated into becoming enthusiastic about their studies, they do so from concern for their children’s welfare. It may be that some of these parents wish that one didn’t have to have specialized training to get a job and that their kid didn’t have to be brainwashed into becoming a computer nerd. But what can they do? They can’t change society, and their child may be unemployable if he doesn’t have certain skills. So they send him to Sylvan.

153. Thus control over human behavior will be introduced not by a calculated decision of the authorities but through a process of social evolution (rapid evolution, however). The process will be impossible to resist, because each advance, considered by itself, will appear to be beneficial, or at least the evil involved in making the advance will seem to be less than that which would result from not making it. (See paragraph 127.) Propaganda for example is used for many good purposes, such as discouraging child abuse or race hatred.[14] Sex education is obviously useful, yet the effect of sex education (to the extent that it is successful) is to take the shaping of sexual attitudes away from the family and put it into the hands of the state as represented by the public school system.

154. Suppose a biological trait is discovered that increases the likelihood that a child will grow up to be a criminal, and suppose some sort of gene therapy can remove this trait.[29] Of course most parents whose children possess the trait will have them undergo the therapy. It would be inhumane to do otherwise, since the child would probably have a miserable life if he grew up to be a criminal. But many or most primitive societies have a low crime rate in comparison with that of our society, even though they have neither high-tech methods of child-rearing nor harsh systems of punishment. Since there is no reason to suppose that more modern men than primitive men have innate predatory tendencies, the high crime rate of our society must be due to the pressures that modern conditions put on people, to which many cannot or will not adjust. Thus a treatment designed to remove potential criminal tendencies is at least in part a way of re-engineering people so that they suit the requirements of the system.

155. Our society tends to regard as a “sickness” any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible, because when an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a “cure” for a “sickness” and therefore as good.

156. In paragraph 127 we pointed out that if the use of a new item of technology is initially optional, it does not necessarily remain optional, because the new technology tends to change society in such a way that it becomes difficult or impossible for an individual to function without using that technology. This applies also to the technology of human behavior. In a world in which most children are put through a program to make them enthusiastic about studying, a parent will almost be forced to put his kid through such a program, because if he does not, then the kid will grow up to be, comparatively speaking, an ignoramus and therefore unemployable. Or suppose a biological treatment is discovered that, without undesirable side-effects, will greatly reduce the psychological stress from which so many people suffer in our society. If large numbers of people choose to undergo the treatment, then the general level of stress in society will be reduced, so that it will be possible for the system to increase the stress-producing pressures. This will lead more people to undergo the treatment; and so forth, so that eventually the pressures may become so heavy that few people will be able to survive without undergoing the stress-reducing treatment. In fact, something like this seems to have happened already with one of our society’s most important psychological tools for enabling people to reduce (or at least temporarily escape from) stress, namely, mass entertainment (see paragraph 147). Our use of mass entertainment is “optional”: No law requires us to watch television, listen to the radio, read magazines. Yet mass entertainment is a means of escape and stress-reduction on which most of us have become dependent. Everyone complains about the trashiness of television, but almost everyone watches it. A few have kicked the TV habit, but it would be a rare person who could get along today without using any form of mass entertainment. (Yet until quite recently in human history most people got along very nicely with no other entertainment than that which each local community created for itself.) Without the entertainment industry the system probably would not have been able to get away with putting as much stress-producing pressure on us as it does.

157. Assuming that industrial society survives, it is likely that technology will eventually acquire something approaching complete control over human behavior. It has been established beyond any rational doubt that human thought and behavior have a largely biological basis. As experimenters have demonstrated, feelings such as hunger, pleasure, anger and fear can be turned on and off by electrical stimulation of appropriate parts of the brain. Memories can be destroyed by damaging parts of the brain or they can be brought to the surface by electrical stimulation. Hallucinations can be induced or moods changed by drugs. There may or may not be an immaterial human soul, but if there is one it clearly is less powerful than the biological mechanisms of human behavior. For if that were not the case then researchers would not be able so easily to manipulate human feelings and behavior with drugs and electrical currents.

158. It presumably would be impractical for all people to have electrodes inserted in their heads so that they could be controlled by the authorities. But the fact that human thoughts and feelings are so open to biological intervention shows that the problem of controlling human behavior is mainly a technical problem; a problem of neurons, hormones and complex molecules; the kind of problem that is accessible to scientific attack. Given the outstanding record of our society in solving technical problems, it is overwhelmingly probable that great advances will be made in the control of human behavior.

159. Will public resistance prevent the introduction of technological control of human behavior? It certainly would if an attempt were made to introduce such control all at once. But since technological control will be introduced through a long sequence of small advances, there will be no rational and effective public resistance. (See paragraphs 127, 132, 153.)

160. To those who think that all this sounds like science fiction, we point out that yesterday’s science fiction is today’s fact. The Industrial Revolution has radically altered man’s environment and way of life, and it is only to be expected that as technology is increasingly applied to the human body and mind, man himself will be altered as radically as his environment and way of life have been.

Human Race at a Crossroads

161. But we have gotten ahead of our story. It is one thing to develop in the laboratory a series of psychological or biological techniques for manipulating human behavior and quite another to integrate these techniques into a functioning social system. The latter problem is the more difficult of the two. For example, while the techniques of educational psychology doubtless work quite well in the “lab schools” where they are developed, it is not necessarily easy to apply them effectively throughout our educational system. We all know what many of our schools are like. The teachers are too busy taking knives and guns away from the kids to subject them to the latest techniques for making them into computer nerds. Thus, in spite of all its technical advances relating to human behavior, the system to date has not been impressively successful in controlling human beings. The people whose behavior is fairly well under the control of the system are those of the type that might be called “bourgeois.” But there are growing numbers of people who in one way or another are rebels against the system: welfare leeches, youth gangs, cultists, satanists, Nazis, radical environmentalists, militia-men, etc.

162. The system is currently engaged in a desperate struggle to overcome certain problems that threaten its survival, among which the problems of human behavior are the most important. If the system succeeds in acquiring sufficient control over human behavior quickly enough, it will probably survive. Otherwise it will break down. We think the issue will most likely be resolved within the next several decades, say 40 to 100 years.

163. Suppose the system survives the crisis of the next several decades. By that time it will have to have solved, or at least brought under control, the principal problems that confront it, in particular that of “socializing” human beings; that is, making people sufficiently docile so that their behavior no longer threatens the system. That being accomplished, it does not appear that there would be any further obstacle to the development of technology, and it would presumably advance toward its logical conclusion, which is complete control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other important organisms. The system may become a unitary, monolithic organization, or it may be more or less fragmented and consist of a number of organizations coexisting in a relationship that includes elements of both cooperation and competition, just as today the government, the corporations and other large organizations both cooperate and compete with one another. Human freedom mostly will have vanished, because individuals and small groups will be impotent vis-à-vis large organizations armed with supertechnology and an arsenal of advanced psychological and biological tools for manipulating human beings, besides instruments of surveillance and physical coercion. Only a small number of people will have any real power, and even these probably will have only very limited freedom, because their behavior too will be regulated; just as today our politicians and corporation executives can retain their positions of power only as long as their behavior remains within certain fairly narrow limits.

164. Don’t imagine that the system will stop developing further techniques for controlling human beings and nature once the crisis of the next few decades is over and increasing control is no longer necessary for the system’s survival. On the contrary, once the hard times are over the system will increase its control over people and nature more rapidly, because it will no longer be hampered by difficulties of the kind that it is currently experiencing. Survival is not the principal motive for extending control. As we explained in paragraphs 87-90], technicians and scientists carry on their work largely as a surrogate activity; that is, they satisfy their need for power by solving technical problems. They will continue to do this with unabated enthusiasm, and among the most interesting and challenging problems for them to solve will be those of understanding the human body and mind and intervening in their development. For the “good of humanity,” of course.

165. But suppose on the other hand that the stresses of the coming decades prove to be too much for the system. If the system breaks down there may be a period of chaos, a “time of troubles” such as those that history has recorded at various epochs in the past. It is impossible to predict what would emerge from such a time of troubles, but at any rate the human race would be given a new chance. The greatest danger is that industrial society may begin to reconstitute itself within the first few years after the breakdown. Certainly there will be many people (power-hungry types especially) who will be anxious to get the factories running again.

166. Therefore two tasks confront those who hate the servitude to which the industrial system is reducing the human race. First, we must work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. Second, it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial system. Such an ideology can become the basis for a revolution against industrial society if and when the system becomes sufficiently weakened. And such an ideology will help to assure that, if and when industrial society breaks down, its remnants will be smashed beyond repair, so that the system cannot be reconstituted. The factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc.

Human Suffering

167. The industrial system will not break down purely as a result of revolutionary action. It will not be vulnerable to revolutionary attack unless its own internal problems of development lead it into very serious difficulties. So if the system breaks down it will do so either spontaneously, or through a process that is in part spontaneous but helped along by revolutionaries. If the breakdown is sudden, many people will die, since the world’s population has become so overblown that it cannot even feed itself any longer without advanced technology. Even if the breakdown is gradual enough so that reduction of the population can occur more through lowering of the birth rate than through elevation of the death rate, the process of de-industrialization probably will be very chaotic and involve much suffering. It is naive to think it likely that technology can be phased out in a smoothly managed, orderly way, especially since the technophiles will fight stubbornly at every step. Is it therefore cruel to work for the breakdown of the system? Maybe, but maybe not. In the first place, revolutionaries will not be able to break the system down unless it is already in enough trouble so that there would be a good chance of its eventually breaking down by itself anyway; and the bigger the system grows, the more disastrous the consequences of its breakdown will be; so it may be that revolutionaries, by hastening the onset of the breakdown, will be reducing the extent of the disaster.

168. In the second place, one has to balance struggle and death against the loss of freedom and dignity. To many of us, freedom and dignity are more important than a long life or avoidance of physical pain. Besides, we all have to die sometime, and it may be better to die fighting for survival, or for a cause, than to live a long but empty and purposeless life.

169. In the third place, it is not at all certain that survival of the system will lead to less suffering than the breakdown of the system would. The system has already caused, and is continuing to cause, immense suffering all over the world. Ancient cultures, that for hundreds or thousands of years gave people a satisfactory relationship with each other and with their environment, have been shattered by contact with industrial society, and the result has been a whole catalog of economic, environmental, social and psychological problems. One of the effects of the intrusion of industrial society has been that over much of the world traditional controls on population have been thrown out of balance. Hence the population explosion, with all that that implies. Then there is the psychological suffering that is widespread throughout the supposedly fortunate countries of the West (see paragraphs 44, 45). No one knows what will happen as a result of ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect and other environmental problems that cannot yet be foreseen. And, as nuclear proliferation has shown, new technology cannot be kept out of the hands of dictators and irresponsible Third World nations. Would you like to speculate about what Iraq or North Korea will do with genetic engineering?

170. “Oh!” say the technophiles, “Science is going to fix all that! We will conquer famine, eliminate psychological suffering, make everybody healthy and happy!” Yeah, sure. That’s what they said 200 years ago. The Industrial Revolution was supposed to eliminate poverty, make everybody happy, etc. The actual result has been quite different. The technophiles are hopelessly naive (or self-deceiving) in their understanding of social problems. They are unaware of (or choose to ignore) the fact that when large changes, even seemingly beneficial ones, are introduced into a society, they lead to a long sequence of other changes, most of which are impossible to predict (paragraph 103). The result is disruption of the society. So it is very probable that in their attempts to end poverty and disease, engineer docile, happy personalities and so forth, the technophiles will create social systems that are terribly troubled, even more so than the present one. For example, the scientists boast that they will end famine by creating new, genetically engineered food plants. But this will allow the human population to keep expanding indefinitely, and it is well known that crowding leads to increased stress and aggression. This is merely one example of the predictable problems that will arise. We emphasize that, as past experience has shown, technical progress will lead to other new problems that cannot be predicted in advance (paragraph 103). In fact, ever since the Industrial Revolution technology has been creating new problems for society far more rapidly that it has been solving old ones. Thus it will take a long and difficult period of trial and error for the technophiles to work the bugs out of their Brave New World (if they ever do). In the mean time there will be great suffering. So it is not at all clear that the survival of industrial society would involve less suffering than the breakdown of that society would. Technology has gotten the human race into a fix from which there is not likely to be any easy escape.

The Future

171. But suppose now that industrial society does survive the next several decades and that the bugs do eventually get worked out of the system, so that it functions smoothly. What kind of system will it be? We will consider several possibilities.

172. First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

173. If the machines are permitted to make all their own decisions we can’t make any conjecture as to the results, because it is impossible to guess how such machines might behave. We only point out that the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines. It might be argued that the human race would never be foolish enough to hand over all power to the machines. But we are suggesting neither that the human race would voluntarily turn power over to the machines nor that the machines would willfully seize power. What we do suggest is that the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines’ decisions. As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and as machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more and more of their decisions for them, simply because machine-made decisions will bring better results than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won’t be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.

174. On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car or his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will be in the hands of a tiny elite-just as it is today, but with two differences. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consist of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure his “problem.” Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove their need for the power process or to make them “sublimate” their drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human beings may be happy in such a society, but they most certainly will not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic animals.

175. But suppose now that the computer scientists do not succeed in developing artificial intelligence, so that human work remains necessary. Even so, machines will take care of more and more of the simpler tasks so that there will be an increasing surplus of human workers at the lower levels of ability. (We see this happening already. There are many people who find it difficult or impossible to get work, because for intellectual or psychological reasons they cannot acquire the level of training necessary to make themselves useful in the present system.) On those who are employed, ever-increasing demands will be placed: They will need more and more training, more and more ability, and will have to be ever more reliable, conforming and docile, because they will be more and more like cells of a giant organism. Their tasks will be increasingly specialized so that their work will be, in a sense, out of touch with the real world, being concentrated on one tiny slice of reality. The system will have to use any means that it can, whether psychological or biological, to engineer people to be docile, to have the abilities that the system requires and to “sublimate” their drive for power into some specialized task. But the statement that the people of such a society will have to be docile may require qualification. The society may find competitiveness useful, provided that ways are found of directing competitiveness into channels that serve the needs of the system. We can imagine a future society in which there is endless competition for positions of prestige and power. But no more than a very few people will ever reach the top, where the only real power is (see end of paragraph 163). Very repellent is a society in which a person can satisfy his need for power only by pushing large numbers of other people out of the way and depriving them of their opportunity for power.

176. One can envision scenarios that incorporate aspects of more than one of the possibilities that we have just discussed. For instance, it may be that machines will take over most of the work that is of real, practical importance, but that human beings will be kept busy by being given relatively unimportant work. It has been suggested, for example, that a great development of the service industries might provide work for human beings. Thus people would spend their time shining each other’s shoes, driving each other around in taxicabs, making handicrafts for one another, waiting on each other’s tables, etc. This seems to us a thoroughly contemptible way for the human race to end up, and we doubt that many people would find fulfilling lives in such pointless busy-work. They would seek other, dangerous outlets (drugs, crime, “cults,” hate groups) unless they were biologically or psychologically engineered to adapt them to such a way of life.

177. Needless to say, the scenarios outlined above do not exhaust all the possibilities. They only indicate the kinds of outcomes that seem to us most likely. But we can envision no plausible scenarios that are any more palatable than the ones we’ve just described. It is overwhelmingly probable that if the industrial-technological system survives the next 40 to 100 years, it will by that time have developed certain general characteristics: Individuals (at least those of the “bourgeois” type, who are integrated into the system and make it run, and who therefore have all the power) will be more dependent than ever on large organizations; they will be more “socialized” than ever and their physical and mental qualities to a significant extent (possibly to a very great extent ) will be those that are engineered into them rather than being the results of chance (or of God’s will, or whatever); and whatever may be left of wild nature will be reduced to remnants preserved for scientific study and kept under the supervision and management of scientists (hence it will no longer be truly wild). In the long run (say a few centuries from now) it is likely that neither the human race nor any other important organisms will exist as we know them today, because once you start modifying organisms through genetic engineering there is no reason to stop at any particular point, so that the modifications will probably continue until man and other organisms have been utterly transformed.

178. Whatever else may be the case, it is certain that technology is creating for human beings a new physical and social environment radically different from the spectrum of environments to which natural selection has adapted the human race physically and psychologically. If man is not adjusted to this new environment by being artificially re-engineered, then he will be adapted to it through a long and painful process of natural selection. The former is far more likely than the latter.

179. It would be better to dump the whole stinking system and take the consequences.

Strategy

180. The technophiles are taking us all on an utterly reckless ride into the unknown. Many people understand something of what technological progress is doing to us, yet take a passive attitude toward it because they think it is inevitable. But we (FC) don’t think it is inevitable. We think it can be stopped, and we will give here some indications of how to go about stopping it.

181. As we stated in paragraph 166, the two main tasks for the present are to promote social stress and instability in industrial society and to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial system. When the system becomes sufficiently stressed and unstable, a revolution against technology may be possible. The pattern would be similar to that of the French and Russian Revolutions. French society and Russian society, for several decades prior to their respective revolutions, showed increasing signs of stress and weakness. Meanwhile, ideologies were being developed that offered a new world-view that was quite different from the old one. In the Russian case revolutionaries were actively working to undermine the old order. Then, when the old system was put under sufficient additional stress (by financial crisis in France, by military defeat in Russia) it was swept away by revolution. What we propose is something along the same lines.

182. It will be objected that the French and Russian Revolutions were failures. But most revolutions have two goals. One is to destroy an old form of society and the other is to set up the new form of society envisioned by the revolutionaries. The French and Russian revolutionaries failed (fortunately!) to create the new kind of society of which they dreamed, but they were quite successful in destroying the old society. We have no illusions about the feasibility of creating a new, ideal form of society. Our goal is only to destroy the existing form of society.

183. But an ideology, in order to gain enthusiastic support, must have a positive ideal as well as a negative one; it must be for something as well as against something. The positive ideal that we propose is Nature. That is, wild nature: Those aspects of the functioning of the Earth and its living things that are independent of human management and free of human interference and control. And with wild nature we include human nature, by which we mean those aspects of the functioning of the human individual that are not subject to regulation by organized society but are products of chance, or free will, or God (depending on your religious or philosophical opinions).

184. Nature makes a perfect counter-ideal to technology for several reasons. Nature (that which is outside the power of the system) is the opposite of technology (which seeks to expand indefinitely the power of the system). Most people will agree that nature is beautiful; certainly it has tremendous popular appeal. The radical environmentalists already hold an ideology that exalts nature and opposes technology.[30] It is not necessary for the sake of nature to set up some chimerical utopia or any new kind of social order. Nature takes care of itself: It was a spontaneous creation that existed long before any human society, and for countless centuries many different kinds of human societies coexisted with nature without doing it an excessive amount of damage. Only with the Industrial Revolution did the effect of human society on nature become really devastating. To relieve the pressure on nature it is not necessary to create a special kind of social system, it is only necessary to get rid of industrial society. Granted, this will not solve all problems. Industrial society has already done tremendous damage to nature and it will take a very long time for the scars to heal. Besides, even preindustrial societies can do significant damage to nature. Nevertheless, getting rid of industrial society will accomplish a great deal. It will relieve the worst of the pressure on nature so that the scars can begin to heal. It will remove the capacity of organized society to keep increasing its control over nature (including human nature). Whatever kind of society may exist after the demise of the industrial system, it is certain that most people will live close to nature, because in the absence of advanced technology there is no other way that people can live. To feed themselves they must be peasants, or herdsmen, or fishermen, or hunters, etc. And, generally speaking, local autonomy should tend to increase, because lack of advanced technology and rapid communications will limit the capacity of governments or other large organizations to control local communities.

185. As for the negative consequences of eliminating industrial society—well, you can’t eat your cake and have it too. To gain one thing you have to sacrifice another.

186. Most people hate psychological conflict. For this reason they avoid doing any serious thinking about difficult social issues, and they like to have such issues presented to them in simple, black-and-white terms: this is all good and that is all bad. The revolutionary ideology should therefore be developed on two levels.

187. On the more sophisticated level the ideology should address itself to people who are intelligent, thoughtful and rational. The object should be to create a core of people who will be opposed to the industrial system on a rational, thought-out basis, with full appreciation of the problems and ambiguities involved, and of the price that has to be paid for getting rid of the system. It is particularly important to attract people of this type, as they are capable people and will be instrumental in influencing others. These people should be addressed on as rational a level as possible. Facts should never intentionally be distorted and intemperate language should be avoided. This does not mean that no appeal can be made to the emotions, but in making such appeal, care should be taken to avoid misrepresenting the truth or doing anything else that would destroy the intellectual respectability of the ideology.

188. On a second level, the ideology should be propagated in a simplified form that will enable the unthinking majority to see the conflict of technology vs. nature in unambiguous terms. But even on this second level the ideology should not be expressed in language that is so cheap, intemperate or irrational that it alienates people of the thoughtful and rational type. Cheap, intemperate propaganda sometimes achieves impressive short-term gains, but it will be more advantageous in the long run to keep the loyalty of a small number of intelligently committed people than to arouse the passions of an unthinking, fickle mob who will change their attitude as soon as someone comes along with a better propaganda gimmick. However, propaganda of the rabble-rousing type may be necessary when the system is nearing the point of collapse and there is a final struggle between rival ideologies to determine which will become dominant when the old world-view goes under.

189. Prior to that final struggle, the revolutionaries should not expect to have a majority of people on their side. History is made by active, determined minorities, not by the majority, which seldom has a clear and consistent idea of what it really wants. Until the time comes for the final push toward revolution,[31] the task of revolutionaries will be less to win the shallow support of the majority than to build a small core of deeply committed people. As for the majority, it will be enough to make them aware of the existence of the new ideology and remind them of it frequently; though of course it will be desirable to get majority support to the extent that this can be done without weakening the core of seriously committed people.

190. Any kind of social conflict helps to destabilize the system, but one should be careful about what kind of conflict one encourages. The line of conflict should be drawn between the mass of the people and the power-holding elite of industrial society (politicians, scientists, upper-level business executives, government officials, etc.). It should not be drawn between the revolutionaries and the mass of the people. For example, it would be bad strategy for the revolutionaries to condemn Americans for their habits of consumption. Instead, the average American should be portrayed as a victim of the advertising and marketing industry, which has suckered him into buying a lot of junk that he doesn’t need and that is very poor compensation for his lost freedom. Either approach is consistent with the facts. It is merely a matter of attitude whether you blame the advertising industry for manipulating the public or blame the public for allowing itself to be manipulated. As a matter of strategy one should generally avoid blaming the public.

191. One should think twice before encouraging any other social conflict than that between the power-holding elite (which wields technology) and the general public (over which technology exerts its power). For one thing, other conflicts tend to distract attention from the important conflicts (between power-elite and ordinary people, between technology and nature); for another thing, other conflicts may actually tend to encourage technologization, because each side in such a conflict wants to use technological power to gain advantages over its adversary. This is clearly seen in rivalries between nations. It also appears in ethnic conflicts within nations. For example, in America many black leaders are anxious to gain power for African-Americans by placing black individuals in the technological power-elite. They want there to be many black government officials, scientists, corporation executives and so forth. In this way they are helping to absorb the African-American subculture into the technological system. Generally speaking, one should encourage only those social conflicts that can be fitted into the framework of the conflicts of power-elite vs. ordinary people, technology vs. nature.

192. But the way to discourage ethnic conflict is not through militant advocacy of minority rights (see paragraphs 21, 29). Instead, the revolutionaries should emphasize that although minorities do suffer more or less disadvantage, this disadvantage is of peripheral significance. Our real enemy is the industrial-technological system, and in the struggle against the system, ethnic distinctions are of no importance.

193. The kind of revolution we have in mind will not necessarily involve an armed uprising against any government. It may or may not involve physical violence, but it will not be a political revolution. Its focus will be on technology and economics, not politics.[32]

194. Probably the revolutionaries should even avoid assuming political power, whether by legal or illegal means, until the industrial system is stressed to the danger point and has proved itself to be a failure in the eyes of most people. Suppose for example that some “green” party should win control of the United States Congress in an election. In order to avoid betraying or watering down their own ideology they would have to take vigorous measures to turn economic growth into economic shrinkage. To the average man the results would appear disastrous: There would be massive unemployment, shortages of commodities, etc. Even if the grosser ill effects could be avoided through superhumanly skillful management, still people would have to begin giving up the luxuries to which they have become addicted. Dissatisfaction would grow, the “green” party would be voted out of office and the revolutionaries would have suffered a severe setback. For this reason the revolutionaries should not try to acquire political power until the system has gotten itself into such a mess that any hardships will be seen as resulting from the failures of the industrial system itself and not from the policies of the revolutionaries. The revolution against technology will probably have to be a revolution by outsiders, a revolution from below and not from above.

195. The revolution must be international and worldwide. It cannot be carried out on a nation-by-nation basis. Whenever it is suggested that the United States, for example, should cut back on technological progress or economic growth, people get hysterical and start screaming that if we fall behind in technology the Japanese will get ahead of us. Holy robots! The world will fly off its orbit if the Japanese ever sell more cars than we do! (Nationalism is a great promoter of technology.) More reasonably, it is argued that if the relatively democratic nations of the world fall behind in technology while nasty, dictatorial nations like China, Vietnam and North Korea continue to progress, eventually the dictators may come to dominate the world. That is why the industrial system should be attacked in all nations simultaneously, to the extent that this may be possible. True, there is no assurance that the industrial system can be destroyed at approximately the same time all over the world, and it is even conceivable that the attempt to overthrow the system could lead instead to the domination of the system by dictators. That is a risk that has to be taken. And it is worth taking, since the difference between a “democratic” industrial system and one controlled by dictators is small compared with the difference between an industrial system and a non-industrial one.[33] It might even be argued that an industrial system controlled by dictators would be preferable, because dictator-controlled systems usually have proved inefficient, hence they are presumably more likely to break down. Look at Cuba.

196. Revolutionaries might consider favoring measures that tend to bind the world economy into a unified whole. Free trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT are probably harmful to the environment in the short run, but in the long run they may perhaps be advantageous because they foster economic interdependence between nations. It will be easier to destroy the industrial system on a worldwide basis if the world economy is so unified that its breakdown in any one major nation will lead to its breakdown in all industrialized nations.

197. Some people take the line that modern man has too much power, too much control over nature; they argue for a more passive attitude on the part of the human race. At best these people are expressing themselves unclearly, because they fail to distinguish between power for large organizations and power for individuals and small groups. It is a mistake to argue for powerlessness and passivity, because people need power. Modern man as a collective entity—that is, the industrial system—has immense power over nature, and we (FC) regard this as evil. But modern individuals and small groups of individuals have far less power than primitive man ever did. Generally speaking, the vast power of “modern man” over nature is exercised not by individuals or small groups but by large organizations. To the extent that the average modern individual can wield the power of technology, he is permitted to do so only within narrow limits and only under the supervision and control of the system. (You need a license for everything and with the license come rules and regulations.) The individual has only those technological powers with which the system chooses to provide him. His personal power over nature is slight.

198. Primitive individuals and small groups actually had considerable power over nature; or maybe it would be better to say power within nature. When primitive man needed food he knew how to find and prepare edible roots, how to track game and take it with homemade weapons. He knew how to protect himself from heat, cold, rain, dangerous animals, etc. But primitive man did relatively little damage to nature because the collective power of primitive society was negligible compared to the collective power of industrial society.

199. Instead of arguing for powerlessness and passivity, one should argue that the power of the industrial system should be broken, and that this will greatly increase the power and freedom of individualsand small groups.

200 Until the industrial system has been thoroughly wrecked, the destruction of that system must be the revolutionaries’ only goal. Other goals would distract attention and energy from the main goal. More importantly, if the revolutionaries permit themselves to have any other goal than the destruction of technology, they will be tempted to use technology as a tool for reaching that other goal. If they give in to that temptation, they will fall right back into the technological trap, because modern technology is a unified, tightly organized system, so that, in order to retain some technology, one finds oneself obliged to retain most technology, hence one ends up sacrificing only token amounts of technology.

201. Suppose for example that the revolutionaries took “social justice” as a goal. Human nature being what it is, social justice would not come about spontaneously; it would have to be enforced. In order to enforce it the revolutionaries would have to retain central organization and control. For that they would need rapid long-distance transportation and communication, and therefore all the technology needed to support the transportation and communication systems. To feed and clothe poor people they would have to use agricultural and manufacturing technology. And so forth. So that the attempt to ensure social justice would force them to retain most parts of the technological system. Not that we have anything against social justice, but it must not be allowed to interfere with the effort to get rid of the technological system.

202. It would be hopeless for revolutionaries to try to attack the system without using some modern technology. If nothing else they must use the communications media to spread their message. But they should use modern technology for only one purpose: to attack the technological system.

203. Imagine an alcoholic sitting with a barrel of wine in front of him. Suppose he starts saying to himself, “Wine isn’t bad for you if used in moderation. Why, they say small amounts of wine, are even good for you! It won’t do me any harm if I take just one little drink…” Well, you know what is going to happen. Never forget that the human race with technology is just like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine.

204. Revolutionaries should have as many children as they can. There is strong scientific evidence that social attitudes are to a significant extent inherited. No one suggests that a social attitude is a direct outcome of a person’s genetic constitution, but it appears that personality traits are partly inherited and that certain personality traits tend, within the context of our society, to make a person more likely to hold this or that social attitude. Objections to these findings have been raised, but the objections are feeble and seem to be ideologically motivated. In any event, no one denies that children tend on the average to hold social attitudes similar to those of their parents. From our point of view it doesn’t matter all that much whether the attitudes are passed on genetically or through childhood training. In either case they are passed on.

205. The trouble is that many of the people who are inclined to rebel against the industrial system are also concerned about the population problem, hence they are apt to have few or no children. In this way they may be handing the world over to the sort of people who support or at least accept the industrial system. To ensure the strength of the next generation of revolutionaries the present generation should reproduce itself abundantly. In doing so they will be worsening the population problem only slightly. And the most important problem is to get rid of the industrial system, because once the industrial system is gone the world’s population necessarily will decrease (see paragraph 167); whereas, if the industrial system survives, it will continue developing new techniques of food production that may enable the world’s population to keep increasing almost indefinitely.

206. With regard to revolutionary strategy, the only points on which we absolutely insist are that the single, overriding goal must be the elimination of modern technology, and that no other goal can be allowed to compete with this one. For the rest, revolutionaries should take an empirical approach. If experience indicates that some of the recommendations made in the foregoing paragraphs are not going to give good results, then those recommendations should be discarded.

Two Kinds of Technology

207. An argument likely to be raised against our proposed revolution is that it is bound to fail, because (it is claimed) throughout history technology has always progressed, never regressed, hence technological regression is impossible. But this claim is false.

208. We distinguish between two kinds of technology, which we will call small-scale technology and organization-dependent technology. Small-scale technology is technology that can be used by small-scale communities without outside assistance. Organization-dependent technology is technology that depends on large-scale social organization. We are aware of no significant cases of regression in small-scale technology. But organization-dependent technology does regress when the social organization on which it depends breaks down. Example: When the Roman Empire fell apart the Romans’ small-scale technology survived because any clever village craftsman could build, for instance, a water wheel, any skilled smith could make steel by Roman methods, and so forth. But the Romans’ organization-dependent technology did regress. Their aqueducts fell into disrepair and were never rebuilt. Their techniques of road construction were lost. The Roman system of urban sanitation was forgotten, so that not until rather recent times did the sanitation of European cities equal that of ancient Rome.

209. The reason why technology has seemed always to progress is that, until perhaps a century or two before the Industrial Revolution, most technology was small-scale technology. But most of the technology developed since the Industrial Revolution is organization-dependent technology. Take the refrigerator for example. Without factory-made parts or the facilities of a post-industrial machine shop it would be virtually impossible for a handful of local craftsmen to build a refrigerator. If by some miracle they did succeed in building one it would be useless to them without a reliable source of electric power. So they would have to dam a stream and build a generator. Generators require large amounts of copper wire. Imagine trying to make that wire without modern machinery. And where would they get a gas suitable for refrigeration? It would be much easier to build an icehouse or preserve food by drying or pickling, as was done before the invention of the refrigerator.

200. So it is clear that if the industrial system were once thoroughly broken down, refrigeration technology would quickly be lost. The same is true of other organization-dependent technology. And once this technology had been lost for a generation or so it would take centuries to rebuild it, just as it took centuries to build it the first time around. Surviving technical books would be few and scattered. An industrial society, if built from scratch without outside help, can only be built in a series of stages: You need tools to make tools to make tools to make tools…A long process of economic development and progress in social organization is required. And, even in the absence of an ideology opposed to technology, there is no reason to believe that anyone would be interested in rebuilding industrial society. The enthusiasm for “progress” is a phenomenon peculiar to the modern form of society, and it seems not to have existed prior to the 17th century or thereabouts.

211. In the late Middle Ages there were four main civilizations that were about equally “advanced”: Europe, the Islamic world, India, and the Far East (China, Japan, Korea). Three of these civilizations remained more or less stable, and only Europe became dynamic. No one knows why Europe became dynamic at that time; historians have their theories but these are only speculation. At any rate it is clear that rapid development toward a technological form of society occurs only under special conditions. So there is no reason to assume that a long-lasting technological regression cannot be brought about.

212. Would society eventually develop again toward an industrial-technological form? Maybe, but there is no use in worrying about it, since we can’t predict or control events 500 or 1,000 years in the future. Those problems must be dealt with by the people who will live at that time.

The Danger of Leftism

213. Because of their need for rebellion and for membership in a movement, leftists or persons of similar psychological type often are attracted to a rebellious or activist movement whose goals and membership are not initially leftist. The resulting influx of leftish types can easily turn a non-leftist movement into a leftist one, so that leftist goals replace or distort the original goals of the movement.

214. To avoid this, a movement that exalts nature and opposes technology must take a resolutely anti-leftist stance and must avoid all collaboration with leftists. Leftism is in the long run inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the elimination of modern technology. Leftism is collectivist; it seeks to bind together the entire world (both nature and the human race) into a unified whole. But this implies management of nature and of human life by organized society, and it requires advanced technology. You can’t have a united world without rapid long-distance transportation and communication, you can’t make all people love one another without sophisticated psychological techniques, you can’t have a “planned society” without the necessary technological base. Above all, leftism is driven by the need for power, and the leftist seeks power on a collective basis, through identification with a mass movement or an organization. Leftism is unlikely ever to give up technology, because technology is too valuable a source of collective power.

215. The anarchist[34] too seeks power, but he seeks it on an individual or small-group basis; he wants individuals and small groups to be able to control the circumstances of their own lives. He opposes technology because it makes small groups dependent on large organizations.

216. Some leftists may seem to oppose technology, but they will oppose it only so long as they are outsiders and the technological system is controlled by non-leftists. If leftism ever becomes dominant in society, so that the technological system becomes a tool in the hands of leftists, they will enthusiastically use it and promote its growth. In doing this they will be repeating a pattern that leftism has shown again and again in the past. When the Bolsheviks in Russia were outsiders, they vigorously opposed censorship and the secret police, they advocated self-determination for ethnic minorities, and so forth; but as soon as they came into power themselves, they imposed a tighter censorship and created a more ruthless secret police than any that had existed under the tsars, and they oppressed ethnic minorities at least as much as the tsars had done. In the United States, a couple of decades ago when leftists were a minority in our universities, leftist professors were vigorous proponents of academic freedom, but today, in those of our universities where leftists have become dominant, they have shown themselves ready to take away everyone else’s academic freedom. (This is “political correctness.”) The same will happen with leftists and technology: They will use it to oppress everyone else if they ever get it under their own control.

217. In earlier revolutions, leftists of the most power-hungry type, repeatedly, have first cooperated with non-leftist revolutionaries, as well as with leftists of a more libertarian inclination, and later have double-crossed them to seize power for themselves. Robespierre did this in the French Revolution, the Bolsheviks did it in the Russian Revolution, the communists did it in Spain in 1938 and Castro and his followers did it in Cuba. Given the past history of leftism, it would be utterly foolish for non-leftist revolutionaries today to collaborate with leftists.

218. Various thinkers have pointed out that leftism is a kind of religion. Leftism is not a religion in the strict sense because leftist doctrine does not postulate the existence of any supernatural being. But for the leftist, leftism plays a psychological role much like that which religion plays for some people. The leftist needs to believe in leftism; it plays a vital role in his psychological economy. His beliefs are not easily modified by logic or facts. He has a deep conviction that leftism is morally Right with a capital R, and that he has not only a right but a duty to impose leftist morality on everyone. (However, many of the people we are referring to as “leftists” do not think of themselves as leftists and would not describe their system of beliefs as leftism. We use the term “leftism” because we don’t know of any better word to designate the spectrum of related creeds that includes the feminist, gay rights, political correctness, etc., movements, and because these movements have a strong affinity with the old left. See paragraphs 227-230.)

219. Leftism is totalitarian force. Wherever leftism is in a position of power it tends to invade every private corner and force every thought into a leftist mold. In part this is because of the quasi-religious character of leftism: Everything contrary to leftist beliefs represents Sin. More importantly, leftism is a totalitarian force because of the leftists’ drive for power. The leftist seeks to satisfy his need for power through identification with a social movement, and he tries to go through the power process by helping to pursue and attain the goals of the movement (see paragraph 83). But no matter how far the movement has gone in attaining its goals the leftist is never satisfied, because his activism is a surrogate activity (see paragraph 41). That is, the leftist’s real motive is not to attain the ostensible goals of leftism; in reality he is motivated by the sense of power he gets from struggling for and then reaching a social goal.[35] Consequently the leftist is never satisfied with the goals he has already attained; his need for the power process leads him always to pursue some new goal. The leftist wants equal opportunities for minorities. When that is attained he insists on statistical equality of achievement by minorities. And as long as anyone harbors in some corner of his mind a negative attitude toward some minority, the leftist has to re-educate him. And ethnic minorities are not enough; no one can be allowed to have a negative attitude toward homosexuals, disabled people, fat people, old people, ugly people, and on and on and on. It’s not enough that the public should be informed about the hazards of smoking; a warning has to be stamped on every package of cigarettes. Then cigarette advertising has to be restricted if not banned. The activists will never be satisfied until tobacco is outlawed, and after that it will be alcohol, then junk food, etc. Activists have fought gross child abuse, which is reasonable. But now they want to stop all spanking. When they have done that they will want to ban something else they consider unwholesome, then another thing and then another. They will never be satisfied until they have complete control over all child-rearing practices. And then they will move on to another cause.

220. Suppose you asked leftists to make a list of all the things that were wrong with society, and then suppose you instituted every social change that they demanded. It is safe to say that within a couple of years the majority of leftists would find something new to complain about, some new social “evil” to correct; because, once again, the leftist is motivated less by distress at society’s ills than by the need to satisfy his drive for power by imposing his solutions on society.

221. Because of the restrictions placed on their thought and behavior by their high level of socialization, many leftists of the oversocialized type cannot pursue power in the ways that other people do. For them the drive for power has only one morally acceptable outlet, and that is in the struggle to impose their morality on everyone.

222. Leftists, especially those of the oversocialized type, are True Believers in the sense of Eric Hoffer’s book, The True Believer. But not all True Believers are of the same psychological type as leftists. Presumably a true-believing Nazi, for instance, is very different psychologically from a true-believing leftist. Because of their capacity for single-minded devotion to a cause, True Believers are a useful, perhaps a necessary, ingredient of any revolutionary movement. This presents a problem with which we must admit we don’t know how to deal. We aren’t sure how to harness the energies of the True Believer to a revolution against technology. At present all we can say is that no True Believer will make a safe recruit to the revolution unless his commitment is exclusively to the destruction of technology. If he is committed also to another ideal, he may want to use technology as a tool for pursuing that other ideal. (See paragraphs 200, 201.)

223. Some readers may say, “This shit about leftism is a lot of crap. I know John and Jane who are leftish types and they don’t have all these totalitarian tendencies.” It’s quite true that many leftists, possibly even a numerical majority, are decent people who sincerely believe in tolerating others’ values (up to a point) and wouldn’t want to use high-handed methods to reach their social goals. Our remarks about leftism are not meant to apply to every individual leftist but to describe the general character of leftism as a movement. And the general character of a movement is not necessarily determined by the numerical proportions of the various kinds of people involved in the movement.

224. The people who rise to positions of power in leftist movements tend to be leftists of the most power-hungry type, because power-hungry people are those who strive hardest to get into positions of power. Once the power-hungry types have captured control of the movement, there are many leftists of a gentler breed who inwardly disapprove of many of the actions of the leaders, but cannot bring themselves to oppose them. They need their faith in the movement, and because they cannot give up this faith they go along with the leaders. True, some leftists do have the guts to oppose the totalitarian tendencies that emerge, but they generally lose, because the power-hungry types are better organized, are more ruthless and Machiavellian and have taken care to build themselves a strong power-base.

225. These phenomena appeared clearly in Russia and other countries that were taken over by leftists. Similarly, before the breakdown of communism in the USSR, leftish types in the West would seldom criticize that country. If prodded they would admit that the USSR did many wrong things, but then they would try to find excuses for the communists and begin talking about the faults of the West. They always opposed Western military resistance to communist aggression. Leftish types all over the world vigorously protested the U.S. military action in Vietnam, but when the USSR invaded Afghanistan they did nothing. Not that they approved of the Soviet actions; but, because of their leftist faith, they just couldn’t bear to put themselves in opposition to communism. Today, in those of our universities where “political correctness” has become dominant, there are probably many leftish types who privately disapprove of the suppression of academic freedom, but they go along with it anyway.

226. Thus the fact that many individual leftists are personally mild and fairly tolerant people by no means prevents leftism as a whole from having a totalitarian tendency.

227. Our discussion of leftism has a serious weakness. It is still far from clear what we mean by the word “leftist.” There doesn’t seem to be much we can do about this. Today leftism is fragmented into a whole spectrum of activist movements. Yet not all activist movements are leftist, and some activist movements (e.g., radical environmentalism) seem to include both personalities of the leftist type and personalities of thoroughly un-leftist types who ought to know better than to collaborate with leftists. Varieties of leftists fade out gradually into varieties of non-leftists and we ourselves would often be hard-pressed to decide whether a given individual is or is not a leftist. To the extent that it is defined at all, our conception of leftism is defined by the discussion of it that we have given in this article, and we can only advise the reader to use his own judgment in deciding who is a leftist.

228. But it will be helpful to list some criteria for diagnosing leftism. These criteria cannot be applied in a cut and dried manner. Some individuals may meet some of the criteria without being leftists, some leftists may not meet any of the criteria. Again, you just have to use your judgment.

229. The leftist is oriented toward large-scale collectivism. He emphasizes the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. He has a negative attitude toward individualism. He often takes a moralistic tone. He tends to be for gun control, for sex education and other psychologically “enlightened” educational methods, for social planning, for affirmative action, for multiculturalism. He tends to identify with victims. He tends to be against competition and against violence, but he often finds excuses for those leftists who do commit violence. He is fond of using the common catchphrases of the left, like “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “capitalism,” “imperialism,” “neocolonialism,” “genocide,” “social change,” “social justice,” “social responsibility.” Maybe the best diagnostic trait of the leftist is his tendency to sympathize with the following movements: feminism, gay rights, ethnic rights, disability rights, animal rights political correctness. Anyone who strongly sympathizes with all of these movements is almost certainly a leftist.[36]

230. The more dangerous leftists, that is, those who are most power-hungry, are often characterized by arrogance or by a dogmatic approach to ideology. However, the most dangerous leftists of all may be certain oversocialized types who avoid irritating displays of aggressiveness and refrain from advertising their leftism, but work quietly and unobtrusively to promote collectivist values, “enlightened” psychological techniques for socializing children, dependence of the individual on the system, and so forth. These crypto-leftists (as we may call them) approximate certain bourgeois types as far as practical action is concerned, but differ from them in psychology, ideology and motivation. The ordinary bourgeois tries to bring people under control of the system in order to protect his way of life, or he does so simply because his attitudes are conventional. The crypto-leftist tries to bring people under control of the system because he is a True Believer in a collectivistic ideology. The crypto-leftist is differentiated from the average leftist of the oversocialized type by the fact that his rebellious impulse is weaker and he is more securely socialized. He is differentiated from the ordinary well-socialized bourgeois by the fact that there is some deep lack within him that makes it necessary for him to devote himself to a cause and immerse himself in a collectivity. And maybe his (well-sublimated) drive for power is stronger than that of the average bourgeois.

Final Note

231. Throughout this article we’ve made imprecise statements and statements that ought to have had all sorts of qualifications and reservations attached to them; and some of our statements may be flatly false. Lack of sufficient information and the need for brevity made it impossible for us to formulate our assertions more precisely or add all the necessary qualifications. And of course in a discussion of this kind one must rely heavily on intuitive judgment, and that can sometimes be wrong. So we don’t claim that this article expresses more than a crude approximation to the truth.

232. All the same, we are reasonably confident that the general outlines of the picture we have painted here are roughly correct. Just one possible weak point needs to be mentioned. We have portrayed leftism in its modern form as a phenomenon peculiar to our time and as a symptom of the disruption of the power process. But we might possibly be wrong about this. Oversocialized types who try to satisfy their drive for power by imposing their morality on everyone have certainly been around for a long time. But we think that the decisive role played by feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, powerlessness, identification with victims by people who are not themselves victims, is a peculiarity of modern leftism. Identification with victims by people not themselves victims can be seen to some extent in 19th-century leftism and early Christianity, but as far as we can make out, symptoms of low self-esteem, etc., were not nearly so evident in these movements, or in any other movements, as they are in modern leftism. But we are not in a position to assert confidently that no such movements have existed prior to modern leftism. This is a significant question to which historians ought to give their attention.

Postscript to the Manifesto (2010)

The Manifesto, Industrial Society and its Future, has been criticized as “unoriginal,” but this misses the point. The Manifesto was never intended to be original. Its purpose was to set forth certain points about modern technology in clear and relatively brief form, so that those points could be read and understood by people who would never work their way through a difficult text such as Jacques Ellul’sTechnological Society.

The accusation of unoriginality is in any case irrelevant. Is it important for the future of the world to know whether Ted Kaczynski is original or unoriginal? Obviously not! But it is indeed important for the future of the world to know whether modern technology has us on the road to disaster, whether anything short of revolution can avert that disaster, and whether the political left is an obstacle to revolution. So why have critics, for the most part, ignored the substance of the arguments raised in the Manifesto and wasted words on matters of negligible importance, such as the author’s putative lack of originality and the defects of his style? Clearly, the critics can’t answer the substance of the Manifesto’s reasoning, so they try to divert their own and others’ attention from its arguments by attacking irrelevant aspects of the Manifesto.

One doesn’t need to be original to recognize that technological progress is taking us down the road to disaster, and that nothing short of the overthrow of the entire technological system will get us off that road. In other words, only by accepting a massive disaster now can we avoid a far worse disaster later. But most of our intellectuals—and here I use that term in a broad sense—prefer not to face up to this frightening dilemma because, after all, they are not very brave, and they find it more comfortable to spend their time perfecting society’s solutions to problems left over from the 19th century, such as those of social inequality, colonialism, cruelty to animals, and the like.

I haven’t read everything that’s been written on the technology problem, and it’s possible that the Manifesto may have been preceded by some other text that expounded the problem in equally brief and accessible form. But even so it would not follow that the Manifesto was superfluous. However familiar its points may be to social scientists, those points still have not come to the attention of many other people who ought to be aware of them. More importantly, the available knowledge on this subject is not being applied. I don’t think many of our intellectuals nowadays would deny that there is a technology problem, but nearly all of them decline to address it. At best they discuss particular problems created by technological progress, such as global warming or the spread of nuclear weapons. The technology problem as a whole is simply ignored.

It follows that the facts about technological progress and its consequences for society cannot be repeated too often. Even the most intelligent people may refuse to face up to a painful truth until it has been drummed into their heads again and again.

I should add that, as with the Manifesto, no claim of originality is made for this book [Technological Slavery] as a whole. The fact that I’ve cited authority for many of the ideas about human society that are presented here shows that those ideas are not new, and probably most of the other ideas too have previously appeared somewhere in print.

If there is anything new in my approach, it is that I’ve taken revolution seriously as a practical proposition. Many radical environmentalists and “green” anarchists talk of revolution, but as far as I am aware none of them have shown any understanding of how real revolutions come about, nor do they seem to grasp the fact that the exclusive target of revolution must be technology itself, not racism, sexism, or homophobia. A very few serious thinkers have suggested revolution against the technological system; for example, Ellul, in his Autopsy of Revolution. But Ellul only dreams of a revolution that would result from a vaguely defined, spontaneous spiritual transformation of society, and he comes very close to admitting that the proposed spiritual transformation is impossible. I on the other hand think it plausible that the preconditions for revolution may be developing in modern society, and I mean a real revolution, not fundamentally different in character from other revolutions that have occurred in the past. But this revolution will not become a reality without a well-defined revolutionary movement guided by suitable leaders—leaders who have a rational understanding of what they are doing, not enraged adolescents acting solely on the basis of emotion.

Notes

[1] We are not asserting that all, or even most, bullies and ruthless competitors suffer from feelings of inferiority.

[2] During the Victorian period many oversocialized people suffered from serious psychological problems as a result of repressing or trying to repress their sexual feelings. Freud apparently based his theories on people of this type. Today the focus of socialization has shifted from sex to aggression.

[3] Not necessarily including specialists in engineering or the “hard” sciences.

[4] There are many individuals of the middle and upper classes who resist some of these values, but usually their resistance is more or less covert. Such resistance appears in the mass media only to a very limited extent. The main thrust of propaganda in our society is in favor of the stated values. The main reason why these values have become, so to speak, the official values of our society is that they are useful to the industrial system. Violence is discouraged because it disrupts the functioning of the system. Racism is discouraged because ethnic conflicts also disrupt the system, and discrimination wastes the talents of minority-group members who could be useful to the system. Poverty must be “cured” because the underclass causes problems for the system and contact with the underclass lowers the morale of the other classes. Women are encouraged to have careers because their talents are useful to the system and, more importantly, because by having regular jobs women become integrated into the system and tied directly to it rather than to their families. This helps to weaken family solidarity. (The leaders of the system say they want to strengthen the family, but what they really mean is that they want the family to serve as an effective tool for socializing children in accord with the needs of the system. We argue in paragraphs 51-52 that the system cannot afford to let the family or other small-scale social groups be strong or autonomous.)

[5] It may be argued that the majority of people don’t want to make their own decisions but want leaders to do their thinking for them. There is an element of truth in this. People like to make their own decisions in small matters, but making decisions on difficult, fundamental questions requires facing up to psychological conflict, and most people hate psychological conflict. Hence they tend to lean on others in making difficult decisions. But it does not follow that they like to have decisions imposed on them without having any opportunity to influence those decisions. The majority of people are natural followers, not leaders, but they like to have direct personal access to their leaders, they want to be able to influence the leaders and participate to some extent in making even the difficult decisions. At least to that degree they need autonomy.

[6] Some of the symptoms listed are similar to those shown by caged animals. To explain how these symptoms arise from deprivation with respect to the power process: common-sense understanding of human nature tells one that lack of goals whose attainment requires effort leads to boredom and that boredom, long continued, often leads eventually to depression. Failure to attain goals leads to frustration and lowering of self-esteem. Frustration leads to anger, anger to aggression, often in the form of spouse or child abuse. It has been shown that long-continued frustration commonly leads to depression and that depression tends to cause anxiety, guilt, sleep disorders, eating disorders and bad feelings about oneself. Those who are tending toward depression seek pleasure as an antidote; hence insatiable hedonism and excessive sex, with perversions as a means of getting new kicks. Boredom too tends to cause excessive pleasure-seeking since, lacking other goals, people often use pleasure as a goal. The foregoing is a simplification. Reality is more complex, and of course deprivation with respect to the power process is not the only cause of the symptoms described. By the way, when we mention depression we do not necessarily mean depression that is severe enough to be treated by a psychiatrist. Often only mild forms of depression are involved. And when we speak of goals we do not necessarily mean long-term, thought-out goals. For many or most people through much of human history, the goals of a hand-to-mouth existence (merely providing oneself and one’s family with food from day to day) have been quite sufficient.

[7] A partial exception may be made for a few passive, inward-looking groups, such as the Amish, which have little effect on the wider society. Apart from these, some genuine small-scale communities do exist in America today. For instance, youth gangs and “cults.” Everyone regards them as dangerous, and so they are, because the members of these groups are loyal primarily to one another rather than to the system, hence the system cannot control them. Or take the gypsies. The gypsies commonly get away with theft and fraud because their loyalties are such that they can always get other gypsies to give testimony that “proves” their innocence. Obviously the system would be in serious trouble if too many people belonged to such groups. Some of the early-20th-century Chinese thinkers who were concerned with modernizing China recognized the necessity of breaking down small-scale social groups such as the family: “[According to Sun Yat-Sen] the Chinese people needed a new surge of patriotism, which would lead to a transfer of loyalty from the family to the state…. [according to Li Huang] traditional attachments, particularly to the family, had to be abandoned if nationalism were to develop in China” (Chester C. Tan, Chinese Political Thought in the Twentieth century, page 125, page 297).

[8] Yes, we know that 19th-century America had its problems, and serious ones, but for the sake of brevity we have to express ourselves in simplified terms.

[9] We leave aside the “underclass.” We are speaking of the mainstream.

[10] Some social scientists, educators, “mental health” professionals and the like are doing their best to push the social drives into group 1 by trying to see to it that everyone has a eatisfactory social life.

[11] Is the drive for endless material acquisition really an artificial creation of the advertising and marketing industry? Certainly there is no innate human drive for material acquisition. There have been many cultures in which people have desired little material wealth beyond what was necessary to satisfy their basic physical needs (Australian aborigines, traditional Mexican peasant culture, some African cultures). On the other hand there have also been many preindustrial cultures in which material acquisition has played an important role. So we can’t claim that today’s acquisition-oriented culture is exclusively a creation of the advertising and marketing industry. But it is clear that the advertising and marketing industry has had an important part in creating that culture. The big corporations that spend millions on advertising wouldn’t be spending that kind of money without solid proof that they were getting it back in increased sales. One member of FC met a sales manager a couple of years ago who was frank enough to tell him, “Our job is to make people buy things they don’t want and don’t need.” He then described how an untrained novice could present people with the facts about a product and make no sales at all, while a trained and experienced professional salesman would make lots of sales to the same people. This shows that people are manipulated into buying things they don’t really want.

[12] The problem of purposelessness seems to have become less serious during the last 15 years or so [this refers to the 15 years preceding 1995], because people now feel less secure physically and economically than they did earlier, and the need for security provides them with a goal. But purposelessness has been replaced by frustration over the difficulty of attaining security. We emphasize the problem of purposelessness because the liberals and leftists would wish to solve our social problems by having society guarantee everyone’s security; but if that could be done it would only bring back the problem of purposelessness. The real issue is not whether society provides well or poorly for people’s security; the trouble is that people are dependent on the system for their security rather than having it in their own hands. This, by the way, is part of the reason why some people get worked up about the right to bear arms; possession of a gun puts that aspect of their security in their own hands.

[13] Conservatives’ efforts to decrease the amount of government regulation are of little benefit to the average man. For one thing, only a fraction of the regulations can be eliminated because most regulations are necessary. For another thing, most of the deregulation affects business rather than the average individual, so that its main effect is to take power from the government and give it to private corporations. What this means for the average man is that government interference in his life is replaced by interference from big corporations, which may be permitted, for example, to dump more chemicals that get into his water supply and give him cancer. The conservatives are just taking the average man for a sucker, exploiting his resentment of Big Government to promote the power of Big Business.

[14] When someone approves of the purpose for which propaganda is being used in a given case, he generally calls it “education” or applies to it some similar euphemism. But propaganda is propaganda regardless of the purpose for which it is used.

[15] We are not expressing approval or disapproval of the Panama invasion. We only use it to illustrate a point.

[16] When the American colonies were under British rule there were fewer and less effective legal guarantees of freedom than there were after the American Constitution went into effect, yet there was more personal freedom in preindustrial America, both before and after the War of Independence, than there was after the Industrial Revolution took hold in this country. We quote from Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, edited by Hugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr, chapter 12 by Roger Lane, pages 476-478: “The progressive heightening of standards of propriety, and with it the increasing reliance on official law enforcement [in 19th-century America]…were common to the whole society… [T]he change in social behavior is so long term and so wide-spread as to suggest a connection with the most fundamental of contemporary social processes; that of industrial urbanization itself. …Massachusetts in 1835 had a population of some 660,940,81 percent rural, overwhelmingly preindustrial and native born. Its citizens were used to considerable personal freedom. Whether teamsters, farmers or artisans, they were all accustomed to setting their own schedules, and the nature of their work made them physically independent of each other. …Individual problems, sins or even crimes, were not generally cause for wider social concern. …But the impact of the twin movements to the city and to the factory, both just gathering force in 1835, had a progressive effect on personal behavior throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. The factory demanded regularity of behavior, a life governed by obedience to the rhythms of clock and calendar, the demands of foreman and supervisor. In the city or town, the needs of living in closely packed neighborhoods inhibited many actions previously unobjectionable. Both blue- and white-collar employees in larger establishments were mutually dependent on their fellows; as one man’s work fit into another’s, so one man’s business was no longer his own. The results of the new organization of life and work were apparent by 1900, when some 76 percent of the 2,805,346 inhabitants of Massachusetts were classified as urbanites. Much violent or irregular behavior which had been tolerable in a casual, independent society was no longer acceptable in the more formalized, cooperative atmosphere of the later period. …The move to the cities had, in short, produced a more tractable, more socialized, more civilized generation than its predecessors.”

[17] Apologists for the system are fond of citing cases in which elections have been decided by one or two votes, but such cases are rare.

[18] “Today, in technologically advanced lands, men live very similar lives in spite of geographical, religious, and political differences. The daily lives of a Christian bank clerk in Chicago, a Buddhist bank clerk in Tokyo, and a Communist bank clerk in Moscow are far more alike than the life any one of them is like that of any single man who lived a thousand years ago. These similarities are the result of a common technology….” L. Sprague de Camp, The Ancient Engineers, Ballantine edition, page 17. The lives of the three bank clerks are not identical. Ideology does have some effect. But all technological societies, in order to survive, must evolve along approximately the same trajectory.

[19] Just think, an irresponsible genetic engineer might create a lot of terrorists.

[20] For a further example of undesirable consequences of medical progress, suppose a reliable cure for cancer is discovered. Even if the treatment is too expensive to be available to any but the elite, it will greatly reduce their incentive to stop the escape of carcinogens into the environment.

[21] Since many people may find paradoxical the notion that a large number of good things can add up to a bad thing, we illustrate with an analogy. Suppose Mr. A is playing chess with Mr. B. Mr. C, a grand master, is looking over Mr. A’s shoulder. Mr. A of course wants to win his game, so if Mr. C points out a good move for him to make, he is doing Mr. A a favor. But suppose now that Mr. C tells Mr. A how to make all of his moves. In each particular instance he does Mr. A a favor by showing him his best move, but by making all of his moves for him he spoils his game, since there is no point in Mr. A’s playing the game at all if someone else makes all his moves. The situation of modern man is analogous to that of Mr. A. The system makes an individual’s life easier for him in innumerable ways, but in doing so it deprives him of control over his own fate.

[22] Here we are considering only the conflict of values within the mainstream. For the sake of simplicity we leave out of the picture “outsider” values like the idea that wild nature is more important than human economic welfare.

[23] Self-interest is not necessarily material self-interest. It can consist in fulfillment of some psychological need, for example, by promoting one’s own ideology or religion.

[24] A qualification: It is in the interest of the system to permit a certain prescribed degree of freedom in some areas. For example, economic freedom (with suitable limitations and restraints) has proved effective in promoting economic growth. but only planned, circumscribed, limited freedom is in the interest of the system. The individual must always be kept on a leash, even if the leash is sometimes long. (See paragraphs 94, 97.)

[25] We don’t mean to suggest that the efficiency or the potential for survival of a society has always been inversely proportional to the amount of pressure or discomfort to which the society subjects people. That certainly is not the case. There is good reason to believe that many primitive societies subjected people to less pressure than European society did, but European society proved far more efficient than any primitive society and always won out in conflicts with such societies because of the advantages conferred by technology.

[26] If you think that more effective law enforcement is unequivocally good because it suppresses crime, then remember that crime as defined by the system is not necessarily what you would call crime. Today, smoking marijuana is a “crime,” and, in some places in the U.S., so is possession of an unregistered handgun. Tomorrow, possession of any firearm, registered or not, may be made a crime, and the same thing may happen with disapproved methods of child-rearing, such as spanking. In some countries, expression of dissident political opinions is a crime, and there is no certainty that this will never happen in the U.S., since no constitution or political system lasts forever. If a society needs a large, powerful law enforcement establishment, then there is something gravely wrong with that society; it must be subjecting people to severe pressures if so many refuse to follow the rules, or follow them only because forced. Many societies in the past have gotten by with little or no formal law-enforcement.

[27] To be sure past societies have had means of influencing human behavior, but these have been primitive and of low effectiveness compared with the technological means that are now being developed.

[28] However, some psychologists have publicly expressed opinions indicating their contempt for human freedom. And the mathematician Claude Shannon was quoted in Omni (August 1987) as saying, “I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I’m rooting for the machines.”

[29] This is no science fiction! After writing paragraph 154 we came across an article in Scientific American according to which scientists are actively developing techniques for identifying possible future criminals and for treating them by a combination of biological and psychological means. Some scientists advocate compulsory application of the treatment, which may be available in the near future. (See “Seeking the Criminal Element,” by W. Wayt Gibbs, Scientific American, March 1995.) Maybe you think this is okay because the treatment would be applied to those who might become violent criminals. But of course it won’t stop there. Next, a treatment will be applied to those who might become drunk drivers (they endanger human life too), then perhaps to people who spank their children, then to environmentalists who sabotage logging equipment, eventually to anyone whose behavior is inconvenient for the system.

[30] A further advantage of nature as a counter-ideal to technology is that, in many people, nature inspires the kind of reverence that is associated with religion, so that nature could perhaps be idealized on a religious basis. It is true that in many societies religion has served as a support and justification for the established order, but it is also true that religion has often provided a basis for rebellion. Thus it may be useful to introduce a religious element into the rebellion against technology, the more so because Western society today has no strong religious foundation. Religion nowadays either is used as cheap and transparent support for narrow, short-sighted selfishness (some conservatives use it this way), or even is cynically exploited to make easy money (by many evangelists), or has degenerated into crude irrationalism (fundamentalist protestant sects, “cults”), or is simply stagnant (Catholicism, mainline Protestantism). The nearest thing to a strong, widespread, dynamic religion that the West has seen in recent times has been the quasi-religion of leftism, but leftism today is fragmented and has no clear, unified, inspiring goal. Thus there is a religious vacuum in our society that could perhaps be filled by a religion focused on nature in opposition to technology. But it would be a mistake to try to concoct artificially a religion to fill this role. Such an invented religion would probably be a failure. Take the “Gaia” religion for example. Do its adherents really believe in it or are they just play-acting? If they are just play-acting their religion will be a flop in the end. It is probably best not to try to introduce religion into the conflict of nature vs. technology unless you really believe in that religion yourself and find that it arouses a deep, strong, genuine response in many other people.

[31] Assuming that such a final push occurs. Conceivably the industrial system might be eliminated in a somewhat gradual or piecemeal fashion. (See paragraphs 4, 167 and Note 32.)

[32] It is even conceivable (remotely) that the revolution might consist only of a massive change of attitudes toward technology resulting in a relatively gradual and painless disintegration of the industrial system. But if this happens we’ll be very lucky. It’s far more probable that the transition to a non-technological society will be very difficult and full of conflicts and disasters.

[33] The economic and technological structure of a society are far more important than its political structure in determining the way the average man lives. (See paragraphs 95, 119 and Notes 16, 18.)

[34] This statement refers to our particular brand of anarchism. A wide variety of social attitudes have been called “anarchist,” and it may be that many who consider themselves anarchists would not accept our statement of paragraph 215. It should be noted, by the way, that there is a nonviolent anarchist movement whose members probably would not accept FC as anarchist and certainly would not approve of FC’s violent methods.

[35] Many leftists are motivated also by hostility, but the hostility probably results in part from a frustrated need for power.

[36] It is important to understand that we mean someone who sympathizes with these movements as they exist today in our society. One who believes that women, homosexuals, etc., should have equal rights is not necessarily a leftist. The feminist, gay rights, etc., movements that exist in our society have the particular ideological tone that characterizes leftism, and if one believes, for example, that women should have equal rights it does not necessarily follow that one must sympathize with the feminist movement as it exists today.