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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


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.


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 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.


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 world “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-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 (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


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.


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

oversocialized 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


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 oversocialized 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.


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. Nonattainment of important goals results in death if the goals are physical

necessities, and in frustration if nonattainment 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.


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 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 needed 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.


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]


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, transexuality 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 pre-industrial 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 co- religionist 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 pre-industrial 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 county 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.


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 guaranty 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


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 “anomic” 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 goals AUTONOMOUSLY. 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 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 to EXCLUDE 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 rules and regulations [13], and techniques

prescribed by experts must be followed if there is to be a chance of


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


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.”

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 system GIVES them their opportunities it still

has them on a leash. To attain autonomy they must get off that leash.


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 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 are so susceptible that, even if they make a great deal of money, they

cannot satisfy their constant craving for the 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 those 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). Thus 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 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, and this extra effort

constitutes a surrogate activity. This extra effort, together with the

emotional investment that accompanies it, is one of the most potent forces

acting toward the continual development and perfecting of the system, with

negative consequences for individual freedom (see paragraph 131).

Especially, for the most creative scientists and engineers, work tends to be

largely a surrogate activity. This point is so important that it deserves

a separate discussion, which we shall give in a moment (paragraphs 87-92).

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.


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

a 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 power 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.


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 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 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 Simon Bolivar. 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 of the nation.” And on page 259 Tan states that according to Carsum

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.


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 by 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


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 like 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 alteration, 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 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


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.


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.


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, 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 thing 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 any one 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, 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 way. 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 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 extend 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. To 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 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.


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 use of insulin.) The same thing will happen with many other

diseases susceptibility to which is affected by 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]


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 REPEATED compromises. 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, “OK, 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


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 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 progresses 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 arrangements 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 its 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



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



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 reasons it would

be much easier to overthrow the whole technological system than to put

effective, permanent restraints on the development or application of any

one 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.


143. Since the beginning of civilization, organized societies have had to put

pressures on human beings of 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 new 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 communication 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 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 than 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 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


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 being 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 anti-depressant 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 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


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. 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 that 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.


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 leaches, youth gangs, cultists, satanists, nazis, radical

environmentalists, militiamen, 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 heir

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-a-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 systems 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 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.


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 some time, 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 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 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 catalogue 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

once. 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 than 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 every

do). In the meantime 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.


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 conjectures 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 consists 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


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 spent 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



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


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


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 pre-industrial

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


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 back 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 INDIVIDUALS and 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 insure 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 problems,

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 insure 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 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.


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 picking, as was done before the

invention of the refrigerator.

210. 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 those 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.


213. Because of their need for rebellion and for membership in a movement,

leftists or persons of similar psychological type often are unattracted 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 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 from 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 words 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 a 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-educated

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 thoughts and behavior by their

high level of socialization, many leftists of the over-socialized 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 220, 221).

223. Some readers may say, “This stuff 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 form 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 catch- phrases 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.


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.


1. (Paragraph 19) We are asserting that ALL, or even most, bullies and ruthless

competitors suffer from feelings of inferiority.

2. (Paragraph 25) 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. (Paragraph 27) Not necessarily including specialists in engineering or the

“hard” sciences.

4. (Paragraph 28) 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 better 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 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. (Paragraph 42) 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

upon 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. (Paragraph 44) 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 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. See accompanying


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. (Paragraph 52) 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 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. (Paragraph 56) 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. (Paragraph 61) We leave aside the “underclass.” We are speaking of the


10. (Paragraph 62) 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 satisfactory social


11. (Paragraphs 63, 82) 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 pre-industrial 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. (Paragraph 64) The problem of purposelessness seems to have become less

serious during the last 15 years or so, 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. (Paragraph 66) 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. (Paragraph 73) 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. (Paragraph 83) We are not expressing approval or disapproval of the Panama

invasion. We only use it to illustrate a point.

16. (Paragraph 95) 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 pre-industrial 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 widespread 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. It’s 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 anther’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. (Paragraph 117) 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. (Paragraph 119) “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 of 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. (Paragraph 123) Just think an irresponsible genetic engineer might create

a lot of terrorists.

20. (Paragraph 124) 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


21. (Paragraph 128) 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 not 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. (Paragraph 137) 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. (Paragraph 137) 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. (Paragraph 139) 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,


25. (Paragraph 143) 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. (Paragraph 147) 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. (Paragraph 151) 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. (Paragraph 152) 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


29. (Paragraph 154) 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 OK 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 peel who spank their children,

then to environmentalists who sabotage logging equipment, eventually to

anyone whose behavior is inconvenient for the system.

30. (Paragraph 184) 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, main-line 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. (Paragraph 189) 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 4).

32. (Paragraph 193) 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 probably that the

transition to a nontechnological society will be very difficult and full of

conflicts and disasters.

33. (Paragraph 195) 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. (Paragraph 215) 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. (Paragraph 219) Many leftists are motivated also by hostility, but the

hostility probably results in part from a frustrated need for power.

36. (Paragraph 229) 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

necessary 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.

If copyright problems make it impossible for this long quotation to be printed,

then please change Note 16 to read as follows:

16. (Paragraph 95) 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 pre-industrial America, both before and after the War of

Independence, than there was after the Industrial Revolution took hold in

this country. In “Violence in America: Historical and Comparative

Perspectives,” edited by Hugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr, Chapter 12

by Roger Lane, it is explained how in pre-industrial America the average

person had greater independence and autonomy than he does today, and how the

process of industrialization necessarily led to the restriction of personal