Postmodernism 101, Part 2: Objectivity is Dead

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the book, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks,  Professor of Philosophy, at Rockford College.  His excellent book goes into great detail, exploring postmodernism and its origins.

Previous posts include:


Reason, truth, and knowledge are meaningless, argue the postmodernists, they are only political oppression.  In Marxist tradition, postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism and its progeny – truth, reason, knowledge, science, individualism, free markets, and liberal democracy.

The Age of Enlightenment’s modern philosophy overthrew the Medieval philosophy of faith.  Modernism replaced faith with reason.  Individuals could use perception and reason to know reality.  Reason produced individualism and science.  Individualism produced liberal democracy and free markets.  Science produced technology and medicine.

Counter-Enlightenment Strikes Back
immanuel-kantImmanuel Kant

Postmodernism’s seeds were sown during the Age of Enlightenment.  There was a Counter-Enlightenment, a reaction to modernism – both to defend faith and to criticize modernism’s logical flaws.  The Counter-Enlightenment planted the seeds of postmodernism.

Enlightenment thought helped make England into a powerhouse.  Continental Europe took notice.  The French followed, for a time.  Many Germans were troubled. The Enlightenment threatened politics, religion, community, and morality.

Enlightenment reason and individualism threatened to replace religion with a godless, soulless, amoral machine.

  • Gone was a personal God, replaced by a distant, disconnected abstraction.
  • Gone were faith, religious answers, and the human spirit, replaced by logic, causation and mechanical necessity.
  • Gone was morality and community, replaced by the selfish pursuit of happiness.

The German Counter-Enlightenment gathered its forces.  Its progeny would include existentialism, nihilism, Marxism, Nazism, communism, and postmodernism.

Objectivity is Dead

German philosopher Immanuel Kant was a defender of the faith.  He attacked Enlightenment reason in order to defend religion.  “I here therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith,” Kant wrote.  In defense of faith, he struck reason a crippling blow.

Reason is clueless about objective reality, Kant argued.  Our reason is limited by our subjective perceptions and understanding. Our perceptions are subjective.  Our understanding is subjective.  Therefore, we cannot know objective reality.

Our perceptions are subjective, said Kant.  Our sense perceptions are not reality.  They are only internal representations of reality.  Our sense organs veil reality.

Our understandings are subjective, Kant contended.  Our understandings are even further removed from reality than our perceptions.  We construct our understandings from artificial concepts.  “We always remain involved in conditions” that make our experiences, he said.

Kant rejected knowledge to protect faith.  We cannot know objective reality, he concluded.  Reason and science are cut off from reality.  Truth exists only inside our brains.  Thus, science cannot disprove God.


Kant struck a blow against reason, in a major break from Enlightenment thought.  The results might be:

  • Reality.  We know objective subjective reality because reason and perception are subjective.  Our organs of consciousness are obstacles to consciousness.
  • Human Nature.  We have the autonomous limited capacity or the illusion of capacity to form our own character.
  • Values. The individual is might be the unit of value.  Universal principles are subjective.

Kant made powerful, logical arguments against reason.  He separated object from subject, and reason from reality. Modern ideas about reason, truth, and knowledge are called into question.


Kant turned reason (logic) against itself.  Objectivity had stood on shaky legs.  Kant took logic’s razor and cut objectivity’s legs from under it.  The fight left reason wobbling – and blind in one eye.  Science could see only part of the truth.


The German Counter-Enlightenment launches a counter-revolution.  Next: Part 3, Hegel’s Dialectic.

Postmodernism 101, Part 1: Truth is Dead

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  Prof. Jordan B. Peterson sees postmodernism as an existential threat.  Prof. John Vervaeke suggests that the plague of postmodernism has brought a zombie apocalypse upon us.

What is postmodernism?  The following is the first in a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the book, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks,  Professor of Philosophy, at Rockford College.  His excellent book goes into great detail, exploring postmodernism and its origins.

Previous posts:

Intro: The Trouble with Zombies

Truth is Dead
jacques-derridaJacques Derrida

Reason, truth, and knowledge are meaningless, argued French philosopher Michel Foucault.  Reason, he claimed, is the ultimate language of madness.

Postmodernism offers no truth or knowledge, said American philosopher Richard Rorty, because there is no truth.  Postmodernism cannot claim to be “right” or correspond with reality, he said, because there are no such things.  The postmodernist has no obligation to be “right”, agreed American legal scholar Stanley Fish, only to be “interesting”.

Reason, truth, and reality are just power and oppression, wrote French philosopher Francois Lyotard, the same as prisons and prohibitions. Postmodernism is a strategy against reason, power, and oppression.

andrea-dworkinAndrea Dworkin

Reason oppresses women, argued feminist legal critics Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin.  Sex between man and woman is a predatory “act of invasion and ownership”, argued Dworkin, “He owns you inside and out”.  Pornography is not free speech, MacKinnon and Dworkin agreed, but political oppression.

karl-marxKarl Marx

The West disguises political oppression, claimed Foucault.  Oppression is naked only in its prisons, he said, “brutal tyranny”, in the guise of “serene domination of Good over Evil, of order over disorder”.

Postmodernism is Marxist, admitted French postmodernist Jacques Derrida.  It is a tool for “radicalization … within the tradition of a certain Marxism in a certain spirit of Marxism,” he said.

Postmodern Philosophy

Postmodernism is a philosophy that denies being one.  Philosophies rest on assumptions:

  • Reality.  How do we define reality?  What is knowledge?
  • Human nature.  What is it to be human?
  • Values.  What are our values (ethics)?

Postmodernism rests on philosophical assumptions:

  • Reality.  We cannot use reason to know objective reality.  Reality is subjective (artificial).  Society uses language to “construct” reality.  Knowledge is meaningless because we lack truth and reality.
  • Human nature.  Society uses language to construct our group identities (gender, ethnicity, class).  Society is conflict.  Society’s powerful (oppressors) use force against the weak (oppressed).
  • Values.  We value fighting against oppressors on behalf of the oppressed.

Postmodern philosophy rejects modern philosophy.


Modernism arose during the Age of Enlightenment (the Age of Reason).  It gave birth to liberal government, capitalism, science, technology, and modern medicine.

Before this, Medieval Europe was dominated by the philosophy of faith:

  • Reality.  We know reality based on tradition, faith, and mysticism.
  • Human nature.  We are defined by original sin and are subjects of God’s will.
  • Values.  Individuals are subordinate to divinely ordained political, social, and religious hierarchies. We value altruistic service to others.

Modernism replaced the philosophy of faith, which had been succumbing to Renaissance and Reform thought.  Modern philosophy arose:

  • Reality.  We know objective reality by using reason and perception of nature.
  • Human nature.  Individuals are a unit of reality.  Our minds are sovereign.  We have the autonomous capacity to form our own character (free will).
  • Values.  The individual is the unit of value.
isaac-newtonIsaac Newton

Modernism emphasized reason.  John Locke made reason the key to individualism – individual ethics, individual rights, political equality, and justice.  Enlightenment thinkers, like Isaac Newton, made reason the key to science.  Science produced technology and medicine.

Modernism emphasized individualism.  Individualism in politics produced liberal democracy and ultimately led to the demise of slavery.  Individualism in economics produced free markets and capitalism.

Modernism’s views grew and dominated: nature, reason, science, individualism, and liberalism.  People became more free, lived longer, and suffered less.

Death to Modernism

Postmodernism attacks the philosophical foundations of modern Western society, and all that flows from it.  It attacks the foundation of truth, reason, and knowledge.  It attacks the edifices of individualism, science, markets, and liberal politics.

richard-rortyRichard Rorty

Postmodernism seeks to throw down Western society and replace it.  The question for postmodernists is how to proceed, now that “The Age of Faith and the Enlightenment seem beyond recovery,” Rorty stated.

Postmodernist philosophy had little influence in philosophy.  It has had greater influence in education.

  • Literary criticism.  Literary texts have no objective meaning.  They have subjective meaning to the reader.  We can deconstruct them to reveal the author’s biases – racism, misogyny, patriarchy.
  • Legal theory.  Legal Pragmatists argue against universal theories of law or legal principles are illusory.  Critical Legal Theorists reject objective or neutral readings of laws or precedent as fraudulent.  The law, they argue, is a weapon of coercion that serves white males.
  • Education.  The purpose of education is not to develop cognitive reasoning ability.  Its purpose is to mold social identities that are sensitive on issues of race, gender, and class; and to overthrow the powerful and the privileged.

Postmodernism attacks Western culture.  Some complaints have seeds of truth.  Others seem absurd, even comical, but are no laughing matter.

  • The US is not based on liberty, equality, and opportunity, but on sexism, racism, and class oppression.
  • We should not be judged by the content of our character, but affirmed based on our race or gender.
  • The West is not leading the world to freedom, but to oppression and exploitation.
  • Science does not work to make us better off.  Instead, it is elitist and sexist, and represents rape culture (full of phallic symbols, conquering and penetrating nature).  It privileges the speed of light over other speeds.
Totalitarian Power

Postmodernism’s Marxist assault on the modern West has been ongoing for decades.  Postmodernism pervades education and the humanities.  It claims no reason, no truth, no morality.  It is unprincipled, uncompromising, and promotes unthinking hate and division.  Postmodernism seeks one thing: totalitarian power.


Postmodernism underlies Prof. Vervaeke’s zombie apocalypse metaphor.  Zombie mythology resonates with us, he says, because it expresses a collective unconscious idea that something has gone very wrong.  Zombies have lost thought and meaning, identity and community.  They wander aimlessly, attacking and destroying meaning.  This zombie apocalypse looks quite postmodern.

Postmodernism is also central to Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto.  Kaczynski attacked Industrial Society as a threat to man and nature.  He more harshly attacked postmodern Leftism.  They oppose science and technology only until they gain power, he warned.  Then, these become tools for totalitarianism.  Otherwise, postmodernism resembles Kaczynski’s strategy for toppling Industrial Society.


How did this come about?  Next: Part 2, Objectivity is Dead

The Unabomber Manifesto, Part 7: Revolution and Leftism

Industrial Society and its Future, Cont’d

The following continues a condensed summary of the Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and its Future.  The ideas, below, are Kaczynski’s.  The headings and numbers are his.   This is no endorsement of violence or anarchy. The document is presented in parts.  Previous parts include:

  1. Technology is recklessly driving us into the unknown. Many understand this, but think it’s inevitable.  It can be stopped, says Kaczynski.
  2. Our two tasks, he says, are to heighten social stress and to propagate an ideology opposed to industrial society.  This will further destabilize a distressed system, he argues, making revolution possible.  This follows the same pattern as the French and Russian Revolutions, he says.
  3. The French and Russian Revolutions failed at their utopian goals, but succeeded at destroying the old societies.  The idea of creating an ideal society, Kaczynski says, is an illusion.
  4. Human psychology requires that our ideology have a positive goal, Kaczynski says.  Our goal, he proposes, should be Nature – Earth and mankind in its natural state, free from organized society.  Opposing technology (a negative goal) is less motivating.
  5. Nature is the opposite of technology.  Nature is beautiful.  It requires no utopian ideal.  We came from it.  We can coexist with it.  Industrial society attacks nature.  If industrial society fails, nature’s scars can heal.  Then, we will live with nature and close to nature.
  6. We will suffer negative consequences, but everything comes at a price, says Kaczynski.
  7. We must develop ideology on two levels, he says, because most people hate psychological conflict.
  8. Ideology should have one level that is rational, intelligent, and thoughtful.  This attracts an influential, capable, and intelligent core of people who fully understand the ambiguities and the costs.  We must be truthful.  Deception will undermine and destroy the ideology.
  9. Ideology should have a second level that is simpler.  This attracts the majority who see things in unambiguous terms.  We must be careful of irrational, incendiary language because mob tactics might alienate the rational core.  Mob tactics, he says, help only when the end is near.
  10. History is made by active, determined minorities, not the majority.  Revolutionaries win with a small, deeply committed core, not shallow majority support.  Revolutionaries shouldn’t ignore the majority.  They shouldn’t seek majority support at the expense of the seriously committed core.
  11. The general strategy should avoid blaming the public.  The strategy should blame the powerful elite (oppressor).  The public are victims (oppressed).
  12. The general strategy should target the powerful elite (oppressor).  Other social conflicts distract from the main conflict (powerful versus weak, technology versus nature).  Other conflicts (ethnic, ideological, regional) undermine the main conflict.  The system only responds with more technology.
  13. Ethnic conflicts are unimportant, Kaczynski argues.  Minorities may be disadvantaged, he says, but the real enemy is the industrial-technological system.
  14. This revolution focuses on technology and economics, not politics, he says.  This is not necessarily violence or an armed uprising.
  15. The goal is not political power.  Political power is self-defeating.  The majority of voters would force elected officials to betray the cause or be voted out of office.  This revolution must come from outside.
  16. This revolution must be international, worldwide, and simultaneous.  An attempt to overthrow the system may end in dictatorship.  That risk is worth taking, Kaczynski argues.  Dictator-controlled systems are prone to break down.
  17. One strategy, he says, is to support international trade agreements that bind the world economy in interdependence.  This makes the world economy more susceptible to breakdown.  The breakdown of one industrialized nation may spread contagion that destroys others.
  18. Our problem is not that modern man enjoys too much power and control over nature.  The problem is that industrial society is too powerful and controlling.  Our personal power is slight.
  19. The collective power of industrial society is the problem.  The collective power of primitive society was negligible .
  20. Our goal isn’t to make modern man powerless, argues Kaczynski, we must break the power of the industrial system and return power to individuals and small groups.
  21. Our only goal, he argues, is to destroy the industrial system. Other goals are costly and dangerous distractions.  They tempt us to use technology and fall back into the technological trap.
  22. “Social justice” only reinforces the system.  To achieve its goals, it depends upon the technological system.
  23. Revolution is hopeless without some modern technology. It should be used only to attack the technological system, he says, because technology is too tempting.
  24. The human race is tempted by technology like an alcoholic is tempted by a barrel of wine.
  25. Revolutionaries should have many children, he suggests.  Science indicates that social attitudes are partly inherited.  Social attitudes tend to correlate with personality traits.  Personality traits are partly inherited.  In addition, children tend to share their parents’ social attitudes.
  26. Unfortunately, revolutionaries are less likely to have children because they are more concerned about population.  This works against them.
  27. Our single overriding goal must be to eliminate modern technology, says Kaczynski, with no competing goals.  Revolutionaries must be empirical, he says, find what works, and do only that.
Two Kinds of Technology
  1. It can’t be argued that the proposed revolution is bound to fail based on the claim that technology has never regressed.
  2. Technology has regressed in the past.  There are two kinds of technology.  Small-scale technology can be used independently by small communities.  Organization-dependent technology depends upon larger social organization.  Small-scale technology has never significantly regressed.  Organization-dependent technology has regressed, when social organization broke down.  When the Roman Empire fell, small-scale technology survived (e.g., water wheels).  Organization-dependent technology regressed (aqueducts, road construction, urban sanitation).
  3. Technology seems to have never regressed because most pre-industrial technology was small-scale.  Today, most technology is organization-dependent.  Simple items like refrigerators depend on large scale industrial organization: factories, power generation, power transmission, parts and service that depend on more industrial organization.
  4. Organization-dependent technology regresses when social organization breaks down.  Once lost, industrial society might take centuries to rebuild.
  5. Industrial society might not rebuild, at all.  Maybe it only develops under special conditions.  It developed rapidly only in Europe, not other civilizations (Islam, India, Asia).  Historians speculate why.
  6. Might industrial society be reborn?  Maybe, Kaczynski concludes, but it is not our worry.
The Danger of Leftism
  1. Leftists transform non-leftist movements into leftist movements.  Movements attract leftists because leftists need to rebel or identify with mass movements.  Large numbers of leftists, then, replace the original goals with leftist goals.
  2. A movement that exalts nature and opposes technology must oppose leftism.  It must not collaborate with leftists.  Leftism seeks only power – to control industrial society in the name of the collective.  It is the enemy of human freedom and nature.
  3. The anarchist seeks power, also – only for individuals and small groups to control their own lives.  The anarchist opposes technology because it forces dependence on large organizations.
  4. History shows that leftists might oppose technology, only until they gain power.  Once in control, they’d use technology for oppression.  The Bolsheviks opposed censorship and secret police, until they gained power.  Once in control, they imposed tighter censorship and more ruthless secret police.  University leftists supported academic freedom, until they gained power.  Once in control, they stifled others’ academic freedom.
  5. History shows that non-leftist revolutionaries are fools if they collaborate with leftists.  History shows that leftists betray their collaborators, and seize power.  Robespierre, the Bolsheviks, Spanish communists, and Castro all betrayed their revolutionary compatriots.
  6. Leftism is a kind of secular religion.  It is empty of spirituality, but is irrational and based on faith, not reason or facts.  It seeks to impose a morality on others.  It meets a deep human need for religion.  Leftism, refers to a spectrum of beliefs, aligned with the old left – feminism, gay rights, political correctness, etc.
  7. Leftism is totalitarian.  When leftists gain power, they forcibly invade every corner of life and seek to mold every thought.  In the leftist religion, all else is sin.  More importantly, they have a never ending drive for power, that is insatiable.  When they meet one goal, they must move on to another cause, and so on.
  8. Leftism is not motivated by distress at society’s ills.  It is motivated by the drive for power, to impose their solutions on society.
  9. For the oversocialized left, the struggle to impose their morality on everyone is their only means to pursue power.
  10. Oversocialized leftists are True Believers, single-mindedly devoted to their cause.  True Believers may be necessary for revolution, but also threaten to undermine it, if also committed to other ideals.
  11. This generally describes leftist movements.  This may not describe particular individuals or even a majority of leftists, who might be more tolerant or less totalitarian.
  12. Power hungry leftists rise to power in leftist movements.  They strive hardest for power because they are power hungry.  They hold onto power because the faithful don’t oppose them.  They crush any opposition because they are ruthless and organized.
  13. This is the historical pattern.  Western leftists excused the evils of the Soviet Union and communist countries.  They blamed the West, and excused communist aggression.  They excused the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but blamed the US in Vietnam.  Their leftist faith stopped them from opposing communist evil.  In universities today, they excuse suppression of academic freedom.
  14. Leftism has totalitarian tendencies, however mild and tolerant individuals might be.
  15. Still, the word “leftist” remains poorly defined.  There is a whole spectrum of activist movements.  Some are leftist, some partly so.  We must use our own judgment.
  16. We can list some criteria to identify leftism.  It isn’t clear cut.
  17. Leftists favor collectivism.  They emphasize our duty to serve society, and society’s duty to care for us. They frown on individualism.  They moralize.  They support gun control, sex education, social planning,  affirmative action, and multiculturalism.  They identify with victims.  They oppose competition and violence (but excuse leftist violence).  They spout phrases, like “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “capitalism,” “imperialism,” “neocolonialism,” “genocide,” “social change,” “social justice,” “social responsibility.”  They support feminism, gay rights, ethnic rights, disability rights, animal rights, political correctness.  Strong support of all of this is almost certainly leftist.
  18. Power-hungry leftists are often arrogant and dogmatic.  The most dangerous are passive-aggressive “crypto-leftists”.  They mask their leftism and quietly work to promote collectivist values in education and to foster dependency.  Crypto-leftists don’t seem radical, but are highly motivated True Believers, driven by deep psychological needs.
Final Note
  1. These arguments are a crude approximation of the truth.  Many are imprecise and qualified.  Some may be wrong.  We can only generalize, based on imperfect information and intuition.
  2. These general outlines seem roughly correct.  Perhaps, leftism is not peculiar to modern times nor the result of power process disruption.  The oversocialized and power driven have long imposed their morality on others.  Their motivation still seems to be feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, and powerlessness.  Modern leftism seems peculiar in its low self-esteem and identification with victims.  This is different from early Christian and early leftist sympathy for victims.  The truth of that question is left to historians.

The Unabomber Manifesto, Part 6: Crossroads

Industrial Society and its Future, Cont’d

The following continues a condensed summary of the Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and its Future.  The ideas, below, are Kaczynski’s.  The headings and numbers are his.   This is no endorsement of violence or anarchy. The document is presented in parts.  Previous parts include:

Revolution is Easier Than Reform
  1. The only way forward is to reinvent the system, says Kaczynski, because reform can’t protect freedom. This means revolution – radical and fundamental change.
  2. Revolution may be easier than reform because revolution offers greater goals and inspires greater commitment.  Reform offers lesser goals and inspires less commitment.  Psychology favors revolution over reform because revolution offers rewards, while reform avoids punishment (negative outcomes).
  3. Revolution is unrestrained by the fear that cripples reform. Revolution’s fever makes hardships endurable.  The French and Russian Revolutions show how committed minorities can dominate society.
Control of Human Behavior
  1. When society pushes us too far, we reinvent society.  Societies have always pressured us to serve.  It pressures us physically and mentally.  We have limits.  When pushed too far, we break down and society breaks down.  Then, we reinvent society.
  2. In the past, human limits were society’s limits. Now, industrial society may be ready to reinvent us.
  3. Society is already remaking our minds.  It medicates us to alleviate the suffering it inflicts on us.  Clinical depression is soaring.  It gives us drugs, so we can tolerate the intolerable.
  4. Drugs are just one example of how society controls our behavior.  There is more.
  5. Society uses technology and the surveillance state to better control us, gathering vast amounts of information about us.  Mass media propagandizes us: shaping our opinions, manipulating elections, selling us things.  Mass entertainment occupies us, distracts us, so we can escape reality.
  6. Industrial society strikes deeper, still.  Education moves from teaching to indoctrination.  “Parenting” becomes training our children to be worker bees. “Mental health” becomes enforcing conformity.
  7. Psychological control is effective but may not be enough.  Industrial society may resort to biological means.  Maybe, we’ll move from drugs to modifying the human mind.  Genetic engineering may turn to neural engineering more suitable brains.
  8. The system is under stress and must defend itself from human threats.  It must control human behavior against human threats: extremism, terrorism, ideological conflict, ethnic conflict, crime, psychological problems, social disruption, corruption, and more.  It must use any practical means to control us.
  9. Our society may survive by surpassing human limits.  This is a watershed moment in our history.  In the past, we reinvented society when pushed past our limits.  Future society may reinvent us.
  10. Society’s control over human behavior won’t appear in totalitarian garb, with totalitarian intent.  It appears in humanitarian garb, with beneficial intent.  Each step appears a rational response to a social ill.  Each justification appears beneficial, rarely counting the costs.
  11. This is not calculated authoritarianism, but rapid social evolution.  It is irresistible.  Each advance appears beneficial or the lesser of evils.  Propaganda is turned to “good” ends.
  12. Genetic engineering of mankind will not be due to our faults, but due to technological society’s demands.  We are not faulty if unnatural demands exceed our natural limits.  We are not faulty if an unnatural system makes us suffer.  We did not evolve from the natural world for this.
  13. Our society twists the meaning of “sickness”.  It defines “sickness” as thoughts or behavior that poorly serve its ends.  Those who fit poorly are surely suffering and problematic.  So, it is good that we “cure” their “sickness”.
  14. The technology of human behavior changes society.  What is optional, today, is necessary, tomorrow.  We need ever more education and tutoring to compete; ever more drugs to manage stress; ever more entertainment to escape.  This fuels a vicious cycle that demands ever more of us.
  15. The technology of human behavior may acquire near total control.  Our thoughts and behavior have biological bases.  Science can turn feelings on and off, manipulate memory, induce hallucinations, and alter moods.  These are the tools of control.
  16. Controlling human behavior is largely a technical problem.  Science excels at solving technical problems.  Advances in controlling human behavior are highly probable.
  17. Public resistance won’t prevent these advances.  There will be no effective public resistance because technology will creep up on us, advancing a bit at a time.
  18. This is not science fiction.  Yesterday’s science fiction is today’s fact.  This scientific research is ongoing.
Human Race at a Crossroads
  1. Advances in human behavior technology will work unpredictably in the real world.  Human society is not a laboratory.  Educational psychology that works well in the laboratory usually has poor outcomes in the classroom.  Planned society rarely works, as planned.
  2. The system’s fate should play out in the coming decades.  The system desperately struggles to survive against threats that include human behavior.  It may survive if it gains control over us, in time.  Otherwise, it will break down.
  3. If the system survives, it will likely advance to its logical conclusion, total control over the Earth.  It will neutralize the human threat.  It will meet human needs to the extent that it needs humans.  We will be rendered docile, servile, and powerless.
  4. If the system survives, science will continue to advance human behavior technology to satisfy scientists’ psychological needs.  This is not for the “good of humanity”.  It is because solving technical problems is a surrogate activity that meets scientists’ psychological needs.
  5. If the system breaks down, humanity gets a second chance, says Kaczynski.  We can’t predict the outcome.  There will be chaos and trouble.  The greatest danger, he says, is that industrial society rebuilds itself and relights the factory fires.
  6. We have two tasks, says Kaczynski: 1) to heighten social stress and further weaken a stressed system, and 2) to propagate an ideology opposed to technological society.  This, he argues, will help bring down the system and help ensure that is smashed beyond repair after it fails.
Human Suffering
  1. Revolutionaries only hasten the breakdown, Kaczynski contends, which means less suffering.  We can only bring down a doomed system, he argues, delaying the breakdown only makes it more disastrous.  By hastening the breakdown, he says, we reduce the extent of the disaster.
  2. Our choice is not between life and death, Kaczynski argues, because death is not a choice.  The real choice, he says, is how we live: fighting for survival or suffering long but empty and purposeless lives.
  3. The system doesn’t ensure less suffering.  It inflicts suffering, worldwide: destroying cultures, degrading the environment, fueling population explosion, exploiting the developing world, triggering wars and crises.  It threatens our health and environment.  In malevolent hands, technology might destroy all life.
  4. Industrial society will never be scientific utopia.  The promises of scientific utopia repeatedly fail.  Society breaks down and we suffer more. The Brave New World never materializes because technical progress cannot predict its societal impacts.  We are trapped, with no easy escape.
The Future
  1. If industrial society does survive the next several decades, what might it look like?
  2. Science may use artificial intelligence and robotics to replace most human labor.  In that case, who is in control?  Humans or machines?
  3. If machines are in control, we are at their mercy.  Machines might seize control.  We might give them control because only machines can manage our complex system.  At that point, turning the machines off is suicide.
  4. If elite humans are in control, we face extermination or domestication.  People will be a growing burden, as machines replace us.  A ruthless elite might simply exterminate us.  This might be done humanely, using population control.  A benevolent elite might reduce us to domestic animals.  This elite might shepherd their docile flock, tending to our pointless lives.
  5. Technology will continue to replace human labor.  More people will be without work.  The workforce will face increasing demands: training, conformity, and specialization.  Fewer opportunities means more ruthless competition for status, the game more zero sum .
  6. It is hard to foresee a possible future that offers us opportunities for fulfilling lives.  If so, we either face social breakdown or less freedom.
  7. These are just likely futures.  It is hard to foresee better futures.  Technological society will likely continue long-term trends, more: dependency on technology, socialization, demands, stress, and human behavior technology.  Technology and genetic engineering know no bounds.  Humanity and other life may become unrecognizable.
  8. Humans evolved for the natural world, not technological society.  We are unlikely to adapt to this environment through natural selection.  Technology seems the likely route.
  9. It would be better to dump the whole stinking system, says Kaczynski,  and take the consequences.

Next: Part 7, Revolution and Leftism

The Unabomber Manifesto, Part 5: Reform

Industrial Society and its Future, Cont’d

The following continues a condensed summary of the Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and its Future.  The ideas, below, are Kaczynski’s.  The headings and numbers are his.   This is no endorsement of violence or anarchy. The document is presented in parts.  Previous parts include:

Industrial-Technological Society Cannot be Reformed
  1. Only revolution can protect freedom over time. History shows the futility of reform.  Long-term, the industrial system grows at the expense of freedom.  Reform would be timid and ineffective. Large change is threatening, risky, and unpredictable. Only revolutionaries would risk radical change, and accept dangerous, unpredictable results.
  2. It is naive to believe we can reconcile freedom with technology.  That is not reform of industrial society, but reinventing society.  We can’t plan utopian society and expect it to function as planned. So, any new society will give unpredictable results and might collapse.
  3. In general, it seems highly unlikely we can reconcile freedom with technology. More specific reasons follow.
Restriction of Freedom is Unavoidable in Industrial Society
  1. Industrial society must control us in order to function.  We depend on the system for survival and basic security needs.  To meet those needs, the system must control our behavior with rules, regulations, and bureaucracies.  Increasingly, it must control us by shaping our minds, using manipulation and the education system.
  2. The system forces us ever further from natural human behavior. It forces children ever further from natural outdoor play, into unnatural classroom study and academic pressure.  The system pushes grudging boys into what it needs – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
  3. The relentless pressure to control us causes a growing backlash.  Growing numbers of people can’t or won’t conform: the dependent, gangs, rebels, radicals, saboteurs, dropouts and assorted resisters.
  4. Industrial society must manipulate and demean us, or it can’t function.  Our votes are insignificant.  Our decisions matter little.  Each day, we lose more control.  Propaganda peddles the illusion of control.
  5. Conservatives call for “local autonomy” that no longer exists.  Local communities completely depend on the larger system and are vulnerable to it, even to distant environmental threats.
  6. We serve industrial society, not the reverse.  This is not political ideology.  It is technical necessity.  The system meets basic human needs because it needs humans.  It meets some psychological needs for the same reason.  “Mental health” means not showing stress in a stressful system.
  7. Technical necessity limits autonomy.  Workers must sacrifice personal goals for enterprise goals, for the sake of the enterprise.  Industrial society requires most of us to lack autonomy.  Small businesses enjoy limited autonomy.  Nobody can escape technological change and remain competitive.
The ‘Bad’ Parts of Technology Cannot be Separated from the ‘Good’ Parts
  1. Industrial society cannot be reformed because its parts are interdependent.  The “good” can’t be separated from the “bad”.  We can’t have modern medicine without industrial society because modern medicine depends upon industrial society.
  2. Modern medicine brings good and bad.  Some people are genetically predisposed to disease.  The population becomes more vulnerable if modern medicine makes genetic susceptibility more widespread.  There are two solutions: eugenics or human genetic engineering.  Eugenics is unthinkable.  Human genetic engineering makes us a manufactured product.
  3. Human genetic engineering may be the ultimate threat to freedom.  Government regulation of human genetic engineering is needed or disaster beckons.  Government will first regulate human genetic engineering, then will regulate our children’s genetics.
  4. Extensive human genetic engineering is inevitable.  Its benefits are irresistible.  Protecting freedom requires banning human genetic engineering – which won’t happen.  Industrial society seems certain to make us a government regulated, manufactured product.
Technology is a More Powerful Social Force Than the Aspiration for Freedom
  1. Freedom loses when it compromises with technology.  Technology is more powerful and repeatedly forces us to compromise our freedom, bit by bit.  In the end, freedom vanishes.
  2. Technology is a far more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom.
  3. Today’s innovations may threaten freedom, tomorrow.  Today’s optional technology may be required, tomorrow.  Automobiles were optional, once.  Transportation is required, today.  Our survival depends on the transportation system.  The price we pay includes transportation costs, licensing, insurance, regulation, and freedom from that system.
  4. Technology is a powerful social force because of our desires.  We desire small technical advances that accumulate to erode our freedom.  Few complain about electricity, indoor plumbing, or phones.  Technological society demands a price – that we surrender control and freedom.  We may yet become genetically engineered products at the price of our humanity.
  5. Technology is a powerful social force because it moves only forward.  We and the system depend on technology advancement.  As technology marches forward, it forces freedom to retreat.
  6. Industrial society rapidly advances, endlessly launching simultaneous attacks on our our freedom.  It invades our privacy, spies on us, spewing rules and regulations, and propagandizing us.  Resistance is futile.  No reform can stem technology’s overwhelming tide.
  7. Our governments, schools, institutions, and corporations manipulate us and trample our freedom and privacy.  Government, law enforcement, and corporations are inconvenienced by our freedom, privacy, and rights.  They believe their goals are more important.
  8. Psychology favors industrial society, not its opponents.  People work harder for rewards than to avoid punishment (negative outcome).  Industrial society rewards scientists and technicians, not its opponents.  Opponents are less motivated because they strive to avoid negative outcomes.  This weighs against reform efforts.
  9. Social arrangements are weak defenses against technological advance.  Laws, institutions, customs, and ethical codes change over time.  Technological advances are more lasting.  Social arrangements may pause technological advances, before breaking down, but lasting protection is an illusion.
  10. For these reasons, technology is a more powerful social force than freedom.  However, industrial society is under stress – economic, environmental, and social.  This may cause it to break down.  This may weaken it, such that revolution succeeds and freedom proves more powerful.
  11. If stress weakens the industrial system, Kaczynski argues, then we must destroy it.  We cannot compromise and let it recover, he says.  If it recovers, it will wipe out all of our freedom.
Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable
  1. We can reform industrial society no better than we can deal with less complex social problems.  Society struggles with environmental protection, political corruption, domestic abuse, and drug trafficking.
  2. It is doubtful that we can ever succeed at rational, long-term social planning.  We leave the hard decisions and consequences to future generations.  We solve major social problems, rarely, if ever.  Problems are dealt with politically and not with rational planning.
  3. If we lack the capacity to solve less complex social problems, we can’t solve more complex social problems.  The problem of reconciling freedom with technology is far too complex for us to solve.
  4. Perhaps, we may solve our environmental problems.  If we do, that will require even more control, more effective “socialization”, less freedom, and less autonomy.

Next: Part 6, Crossroads

The Unabomber Manifesto, Part 4: Science, Freedom, History

Industrial Society and its Future, Cont’d

The following continues a condensed summary of the Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and its Future.  The ideas, below, are Kaczynski’s.  The headings and numbers are his.   This is no endorsement of violence or anarchy. The document is presented in parts.  Previous parts include:

The Motives of Scientists
  1. The principal motive for science isn’t “curiosity”.  Most science is beyond normal curiosity because it is so specialized.  Science is a surrogate activity.
  2. The principal motive for science isn’t the “benefit of humanity”.  Some science is clearly dangerous. Much is unrelated to human welfare.
  3. The principle motive for science is psychological.  It satisfies the power process need.  Scientific problems, research, and solutions are power process goals, effort, and attainment.
  4. Science is not purely a surrogate activity. Scientists have other motives, the same psychological needs as non-scientists.
  5. Science and technology is a powerful mass movement. Like other mass movements, it may help satisfy the power process need.
  6. Science blindly marches on – not to serve human welfare.  It serves the psychological needs of scientists, government officials, and corporate executives.
The Nature of Freedom
  1. Industrial society cannot be reformed to stop the erosion of human freedom. What do we mean by freedom?
  2. Freedom is the power to control our lives, have real goals, and autonomy.  Industrial society denies us this.  It controls, manipulates, and constrains us, even when benevolent.  It sticks us with artificial goals.
  3. Technology and economy determine freedom more than laws or government.  The Constitution is flimsy protection against our powerful technological surveillance state.
  4. Freedom of the press is a weak check on the system.  Mass media serves the system because the system controls it.  Mass media drowns out our voices.  Kaczynski killed, he said, so he’d be heard.
  5. Constitutional freedoms serve the state and the collective, not the individual.
  6. Society unconsciously controls our subjective need for freedom.  Oversocialization unconsciously controls some leftists. In turn, they seek to impose socialization on others.
Some Principles of History
  1. History is the sum of two parts: one erratic, the other regular.  The erratic part is unpredictable events.  The regular part is long-term trends.
  2. First Principle. Small changes have short-term effects on long-term trends.  Political reforms only work short-term. Small changes have long-term effects only if they advance the trend.
  3. Long-term trends are stable against small changes or they wouldn’t be long-term trends.
  4. Second Principle. A large change, with long-term effects on long-term trends, alters society as a whole.  This is because society’s parts are interrelated.
  5. Third Principle.  A large change, with long-term effects on long-term trends, alters society in unpredictable ways.
  6. Fourth Principle.  We can’t plan a new society and expect it to function as planned.
  7. Human societies, economies, and behavior are complex and unpredictable.
  8. Fifth Principle.  People do not  form society consciously and rationally.  Societies evolve outside of rational human control.
  9. The fifth principle follows from the other four.
  10. Reforms don’t make lasting change.  Revolution does. It changes society unpredictably.  Utopian revolutions never work as planned.
  11. The American Revolution was less a revolution than a war for independence.  It was political reform that changed society little.  It advanced America’s long-term political and societal trends.
  12. These are rules of thumb for thinking about the future. They must be considered and not easily disregarded.

Next: Part 5, Reform

The Unabomber Manifesto, Part 3: Social Problems

Industrial Society and its Future, Cont’d

The following continues a condensed summary of the Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and its Future.  The ideas, below, are Kaczynski’s.  The headings and numbers are his.   This is no endorsement of violence or anarchy. The document is presented in parts.  Previous parts include:

Sources of Social Problems
  1. All societies suffer social and psychological problems.  Modern society suffers more than primitive societies did.
  2. We suffer more because modern society is radically different from our evolutionary conditions.  Modern society denies us autonomy and empowerment.  There are other reasons, too.
  3. Humanity evolved in small communities (family, tribe, village) unlike modern society.  We live in dense populations, apart from nature.  We suffer more rapid social change.
  4. Crowding increases stress and aggression.  Industrial society enabled population growth.  Densely populated urban centers replaced rural societies.  Disruptive technologies destroyed peace and quiet.
  5. Industrial society robbed us of the security of a relatively stable natural world.  It gave us insecurity and a rapidly changing technological world.
  6. Conservatives are fools.  They want the benefits of rapidly changing technology and economies without the costs (societal impacts and inevitable breakdown in traditional values).
  7. Industrial society erodes traditional values.  It undermines family and community bonds (small groups).  It demands our highest loyalty, at the expense of small groups.
  8. Industrial society tolerates only small groups that serve its ends.  Personal loyalties (family, community) are inefficient (nepotism, favoritism).
  9. Crowding, rapid change, and community breakdown cause social problems but don’t explain the extent of our problems.
  10. Crowding doesn’t seem the decisive factor.  Uncrowded rural areas suffer similar problems to urban areas, just less so.
  11. American frontier expansion also broke down families and small groups.  Many families lived in isolation, with little or no community.  They seemed to suffer fewer psychological problems.
  12. American frontier society changed rapidly and deeply.  People went from lawlessness and a rugged struggle for survival to lawful, orderly communities and regular jobs. Change was deeper, then.  But they enjoyed more optimism and self-confidence and seemed to suffer fewer psychological problems.
  13. The difference is autonomy.  The pioneers chose their land and made farms through their effort.  Small groups built communities (of dubious value).  They satisfied the power process.
  14. Disruption of the power process is the most important cause of modern problems. Other societies had fewer problems, while rapidly changing or lacking community.  All societies disrupt the power process to some extent. Our problem is worse.  Modern leftism is part of this problem.
Disruption of the Power Process in Modern Society
  1. Human drives fall into three groups, those that require: (1) minimal effort, (2) serious effort, or (3) unlimited effort (are out of our control). The power process satisfies the second group (serious effort). The third group (out of our control) feeds frustration, anger, defeatism, and depression.
  2. Modern society pushes most natural human drives into group one (minimal effort) and three (out of our control).  Group two (serious effort) is mostly artificial drives.
  3. Primitive societies push survival into group two (serious effort).  Modern society pushes survival into group one (minimal effort) – requiring mere obedience. This poorly serves our power process need.
  4. Modern society mostly pushes social needs (sex, love, status) into group two (serious effort).  For most of us, this doesn’t satisfy the power process need.
  5. Modern society pushes artificial needs into group two (serious effort), using advertising and marketing.  Most of us must satisfy the power process need through artificial needs and surrogate activities.
  6. Most of us suffer a lack of purpose and “fulfillment” because artificial goals and surrogate activities cannot satisfy the power process need.  This must be satisfied through external goals (survival, sex, love, status, revenge, etc.)
  7. Most of us cannot pursue our goals autonomously.  We have no autonomy or limited autonomy, constrained by a complex, regulated system.
  8. Many expect the system to do for them.  They don’t expect to do for themselves. The system defines available opportunities.  The system defines the expertise needed to achieve them.
  9. We feel powerless because we have little control over basic security needs.  Basic security gets pushed into group three (out of our control).  Others are in control (businesses, doctors, regulators).  They decide on jobs, health, safety, and environment.  They act, not us.
  10. We feel less secure than primitive man.  We enjoy more objective security but we are helpless against unknown technological threats (health and environmental hazards, war, economic disruption).
  11. Our threats are man-made, based on by others’ decisions.  Primitive man faced natural threats.  This frustrates, humiliates, and angers us.
  12. Modern security needs fall mostly into group one (minimal effort for food and shelter) and group three (out of our control).
  13. Modern society frustrates most of our natural impulses (anger, aggression).  It limits our activities because functioning industrial society requires rules and regulations.
  14. Modern society regulates those behaviors that are important to it.  It is permissive in matters less important to it (religion, sex).
  15. Industrial society manipulates our behavior.  It uses psychological pressure, including advertising, propaganda, and media manipulation.
  16. We obsess with longevity and youthfulness because our power process need is unfulfilled. “Mid-life crisis” and falling birth rates are part of this.
  17. We are unwilling and unprepared to accept life’s stages because our power process need is unfulfilled.
  18. Some people need opportunities outside of the system.  They could never be satisfied even if it provided adequate opportunities.
How Some People Adjust
  1. Not everybody suffers psychological problems in modern society.
  2. Some have less drive for power.  Some have less power process need.  Some need little autonomy.  Some are content with servitude.
  3. Some have stronger drives for power.  Some never get bored playing the game or climbing the ladder.
  4. Some are the most susceptible to advertising and marketing.  They end up frustrated from chasing after money but never satisfying their craving for new toys.
  5. Some are the least susceptible to advertising and marketing.  They are less interested in money.  For them, material things cannot satisfy the power process need.
  6. Some are in the middle.  They spend serious effort earning money for goods and services.  This serves the power process need but may not satisfy it.  They may lack autonomy or feel frustrated.  (This is oversimplification.  Advertising and marketing do not entirely drive material wants.)
  7. Some satisfy their need for power by identifying with a powerful organization or mass movement.  They adopt its goals and work towards those goals.  Many leftists find this attractive.  It doesn’t satisfy most people.
  8. Work as a surrogate activity threatens individual freedom.  When highly driven people work more than needed to meet their goals, work becomes a surrogate activity.  When scientists and engineers do this, they threaten  our freedom by expanding and perfecting a destructive system.
  9. For most of us, the power process need is unsatisfied.  Most of us are not highly driven, happy with surrogate activities, or strongly identify with movements or groups.  We feel frustrated by lack of autonomy, restricted by rules, or constrained by the system.
  10. Industrial society is demeaning because it denies us real goals and provides only surrogate activities.

Next: Part 4: Science, Freedom, History