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Industrial Society and Its Future
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 suffe- ring (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 si- tuation. It will certainly subject human being to greater in- dignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psy- chological 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 redu- cing 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 in- dustrial 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 revo- lution. 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 unim- portant. For practical reasons we have to confine our dis- cussion to areas that have received insufficient public at- tention 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 manifesta- tions of the craziness of our world is leftism, so a discus- sion of the psychology of leftism can serve as an introduc- tion 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 move- ments is a leftist. What we are trying to get at in discus- sing leftism is not so much 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 psycho- logical tendencies that we believe are the main driving force of modern leftism. We by no means claim to be tel- ling 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 discus- sion could be applied to the leftists of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
9. The two psychological tendencies that underlie mo- dern leftism we call “feelings of inferiority” and “over- socialization”. Feelings of inferiority are characteristic of modern leftism as a whole, while oversocialization is cha- racteristic 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 infe- riority feelings in the strict sense but a whole spectrum of related traits; low self-esteem, feelings of powerless- ness, depressive tendencies, defeatism, guilt, self-hatred, 1 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 mo- dern leftism.
11. When someone interprets as derogatory almost any- thing 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 hy- persensitive 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 origi- nally 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 compa- nion”. Leftish anthropologists go to great lengths to avoid saying anything about primitive peoples that could concei- vably be interpreted as negative. They want to replace the word “primitive” by “nonliterate”. They seem almost para- noid 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 hyper sensitivity of leftish anthropologists.)
12. Those who are most sensitive about “politically in- correct” terminology are not the average black ghetto- dweller, Asian immigrant, abused woman or disabled per- son, 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-middle-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 (homo- sexuals) 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 preci- sely 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 ma- king a point about leftist psychology.)
14. Feminists are desperately anxious to prove that wo- men 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.