Posts Tagged ‘ the way things are ’

Totalitarian Capitalism

Capitalism has always wanted to be totalitarian; it always wanted to be in control of everything; but there were always strong forces that opposed it – such as the unions and the many small independent businessmen. But now nothing opposes it – the corporations, the military, the media, the government, the schools, and even our penal institutions, have all become part of the power complex – appropriately referred to as Globalism. Capitalism has morphed int Globalism.

At the conscious level, this is felt by to be a perfect world, the nearest we will ever be to heaven, and opposing it is a heresy. But beneath this, at the unconscious level, people are seething with resentment. Because it has destroyed them, they are determined to destroy it – and they (and their power complex) are succeeding admirably.

How did all of this happen? What holds all of it together? The latest technologies, mainly the computer and the Internet. But really a whole ensemble of technologies, beginning with the steam engine, that gradually built on each other. The big breakthrough was electricity – which abruptly jerked us out of the mechanical age where we had always lived, and propelled us into the electronic age – and eventually into outer space – with millions of couch-potatoes watching on their TV screens.

At the highest level of abstraction, as elucidated by Jacques Ellul in his book The Technological Society – which I highly recommend if you want to get your teeth into some real meat – we are dealing with what he calls technique – which is the list of instructions (to use computer language) that people have developed to do almost anything – a kind of universal cookbook. You want to hunt a mastodon? Here are the things you have to do.

This was all well and good – it was the thing that set us apart from the other animals – but as humans, we knew we were more than just a list of instructions. What we were was a mystery, as life itself was a mystery, but we were comfortable just being just whatever we were.

But gradually we lost sight of this basic insight, as we became infatuated by our new technologies – and became anesthetized, unable to see what was going on. People for whom this anesthesia did not work very well became horrified by what they saw -but they were thought of as mentally disturbed – which they certainly were.

Ellul elucidates of the metaphysics of technique that drive our post-modern world – and he has been completely ignored.