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Who will stand against Progress? We need reactionary radicals more than ever

In search of an older, more humane politics (Phil Hatcher-Moore/Getty)

In search of an older, more humane politics (Phil Hatcher-Moore/Getty)


February 27, 2023   9 mins

These days he would be mobbed as an “eco-fascist”, but Edward Goldsmith would probably have been better described as a traditionalist. The founder of The Ecologist magazine, where he employed me as a naive young writer in the late Nineties, Goldsmith was also a founding father of the early British green movement, though he always moved at 90 degrees to much of it. He seemed to like things that way; if he wasn’t pushing against the tide, even of his own side, he wasn’t happy.

Goldsmith founded The Ecologist in the early Seventies to challenge the myth of Progress, which was then at its bombastic and all-conquering peak. It was the age of big dams and DDT and space programmes, and Teddy was having none of it. Inspired by his studies and experience of indigenous communities, he was contemptuous of the “development” pushed by Western governments, NGOs and transnational corporations, which to his mind was colonisation disguised as charity. He believed that modernity was destroying both culture and nature, and that we should return to the models of the past, an argument which he laid out most convincingly in his magnum opus, The Way.

But Teddy was not an easy man to work with. He was chaotic and disorganised, he delighted in controversy, and he had what I regarded back then, in my youthful arrogance, as a ridiculous resistance to actually making himself understood. He would never use a simple word when he could invent a more complicated one, and if you ever dared to use the word “accessible” in his presence, he would go red in the face under his whitening beard.

These days, under my own whitening beard, I find that I’m almost entirely on his side, but back then I thought that greater accessibility was precisely what his work, and that of the wider green movement, desperately needed. This was before anyone in the media had heard of climate change or “sustainability”. Greta Thunberg was only a glint in her father’s eye. But I wanted to save the whole world all by myself, and I knew that the first step towards doing that was to tell the whole world precisely what was wrong with it, in easy language and with big pictures attached.

So when Teddy told me one day, with some relish, that he was writing a book called Against Progress, I found myself spitting nails. What was the silly old sod doing that for? Did he want to alienate everybody? Didn’t he realise that this was the equivalent of insulting somebody’s religion in public? Why couldn’t he at least try to reach the mainstream with his important arguments? People needed to hear them urgently, so that we could change course! Couldn’t he at least, if only in the cause of saving the planet, try to be more
 accessible?

Teddy never wrote that book, but I’ve purloined the title and used it here in his honour, and in acknowledgement of my wrongness. In the quarter of a century since then, the green argument has been made so “accessible” that it has been entirely absorbed and redirected by the system it set out to challenge, something that Teddy could probably see coming even if I couldn’t. Now, in the age of vat-grown eco-food, industrialised hilltops, killer robots and emerging machine intelligence, it’s become as clear as day that Teddy was right. Standing Against Progress is no fringe luxury, or eccentric tic: it is a first principle for anyone who is paying attention.

The work of what we have come to call Progress is the work of homogenising the world. I capitalise the word because Progress is an ideology — even a metaphysics — and if we want to understand it we need to grasp its foundational assumptions. We are trained from birth to see the living world and its people as a matrix of interchangeable parts, all of them potentially for sale. Our bodies, our nations, our forests, our heritage: Progress will not stop until everything is measured, commercialised, commodified, altered at the genetic level, put up for sale, forced into “equitable” relationships with everything else, or otherwise flattened and sold.

The religion of Progress is leading us into the flames, as Teddy saw so many decades back. Those of us who feel this way need to have the confidence to say to: to denounce the religion of the age, to dissect it, to make claims against it. Those of us who seek to resist the emerging Total System, or simply to give it the slip, need an alternative worldview: something to stand for, and stand upon. Not an ideology, mind, and certainly not a blueprint for utopia. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place. No, what we need is something more old-fashioned: a stance. Even a politics. But what should it look like?

In a way, it seems like a superfluous question. After all, modernity has been the age of revolutions, and we have ideologies coming out of our ears. The last century has been an inferno of competing ideals on Left and Right and elsewhere, all offering a better world. But none of them, in my opinion, has challenged what Mary Harrington has usefully called “Progress Theology” at its root. They have just taken different paths towards it.

Various strands of socialism and communism, for example, have been pursued for nearly two centuries in the cause of abolishing or taming the monster of global capitalism. Some were beneficent, some were tyrannical, but none challenged the core values of Progress: all were centralised, statist, in love with technology’s promise and had their own idealist, rationalised notions of how humanity should remake Eden. Anarchism has lurked perpetually on the sidelines, but it’s barely been able to organise a meeting, let alone a revolution. The greens have been absorbed by the technosphere. Meanwhile fascism, National Socialism and their various cousins on the hard Right are infested with power-worship, a love of straight lines and marching columns, and an explicit call to impose the will of the strong on the unwilling bodies of the weak.

Perhaps conservatism, then, could fit the bill? In theory, at least, it is the tradition which comes closest to offering a politics rooted in human reality. It promotes the value of tradition, centres home and family, values religious faith and refuses both the centralised state and abstract ideals of utopian justice. It embraces a society based on a notion of virtue, which itself is drawn from the cosmic realm.

But conservatism has failed as well. This is partly because it was always only, in Roger Scruton’s words, “a hesitation within liberalism”. Conservatism is a modern confection, a product of the post-1789 shift in Western consciousness (the “ism” is the giveaway). It evolved to slow the revolution, rather than turn it around — for how could it be turned around? Conservatism’s failure, in that sense, was baked in from the start, and by now, across most of the modern world, there is simply nothing left to conserve.

This in turn is partly due to conservatism’s other flaw: its love affair with private property and the sovereign individual. Both of these things can be necessary bulwarks against the top-down collectivism of the Left, but taken to extremes they lead to a top-down collectivism of another kind: oligarchic capitalism. That “conservatives” have been the foremost defenders of this monstrosity, as it strips the world of all the things which they claim to hold dear, is the greatest hole beneath their waterline. It is the reason why the political factions which bear the name are now little more than business cabals, throwing out anti-woke red meat to the proles here and there to disguise the fact that all they really want to conserve is their money.

Yet if we look back further in history, there is a political descriptor that might, just might, apply to what I have been trying to write about here; something that we could perhaps pin to our lapels as we resist Progress Theology. I came across it in an obscure, 40-year-old history book, and a lightbulb went off somewhere in my skull. This, I thought, despite my instinctive loathing of labels and categories, might just be one that I could see myself claiming. Allow me to introduce you to the reactionary radicals.

Craig Calhoun’s drily-titled book, The Origins of Class Struggle, was published in 1982, and despite the title it is not a Marxist tome. In fact, it was written specifically to take aim at the popularity of Marx-inflected history, of the kind exemplified in E. P. Thompson’s famous work The Making of the English Working Class. Calhoun was politely critical of Thompson for imposing an anachronistic Marxist framework on the historical “struggles” of workers in the early stages of the industrial revolution, and particularly for labelling as “working class” people who did not fit into that category. For Calhoun, Marx’s binary portrait of a “proletariat” set against a “bourgeoisie” may have had some utility when studying the factory system of the late nineteenth century, but it didn’t apply to those artisans, farmers, small businessmen and families who resisted the rise of that system in the first place.

Those people — most famously the machine-breaking Luddites — were in Calhoun’s telling more radical than the later “proletariat” would turn out to be (despite Marx’s urging). While the industrial working class were fighting for their rights within the established factory system, the earlier rebels were striving to prevent that system’s arrival. Calhoun had a name for these people: “reactionary radicals”.

In my work over the years, I have told the stories of some of their contemporary equivalents: Brazil’s landless worker’s movement, Mexico’s Zapatistas, West Papua’s tribal freedom movement, England’s anti-privatisation campaigners. But it was only when I read Calhoun’s book that I realised what I had been doing: tracing the thread of reactionary radicalism as it continued to resist the spread of Progress around the world. Calhoun’s framing explained my own work — and my own politics — to me in two simple words, and at the same time gave me an explanation as to why that work had sometimes been mischaracterised or misunderstood. Reactionary radicalism does not fit easily into any Left-Right paradigm. It is a politics from an older world.

Calhoun’s book is the story of the doomed resistance of the pre-industrial people of England to the destruction of their economies and associated ways of life. Accustomed as we are now to “work” and “home” and “consumption” and “production”, it can be hard for us to understand that for most people in pre-modern times, these amounted to the same thing. For an artisan weaver in early modern England, for example, home was where the family lived and worked, where children were born and reared and trained, where trade was carried out, where food was grown and eaten. Today all of this has been broken apart into small segments — turning the home into a dormitory, its adult inhabitants into both “workers” and “consumers” elsewhere, its children into pupils at a distant school, its parlour into a show-room for TV, tablet and gaming console, its kitchen into a store-room for shop-bought, processed “food”. What brought this about? The industrial revolution and the rise of the factory system. In a word: capitalism.

But those who resisted this process, emphasises Calhoun, did not do so for the kind of ideologically-driven reasons that a class-conscious Marxist might. What the reactionary radicals were defending above all, says Calhoun, was the “moral economy” — the polar opposite of the “free market” that was being built on the bones of old England. The free market commodified everything, from products to people, and sought to make that commodification global. The booming British empire was a scaling-up of what was already happening in England. Empire, in this sense, was never a story of “the British” imposing their ways onto “the colonies”. It was a story of factory lords, big landowners and a newly-empowered capitalist class destroying the moral economies of communities from Lancashire to the Punjab, and forcing all of their peoples into the new capitalist “workplace” — where most of us remain to this day.

Reactionary radicalism, then as now, is a defence of a pre-industrial, human-scale system, built around community bonds, empowered people, local economics. The attack on that system may come via gunboats or trade agreements, redcoats or giant superstores, enclosure acts or digital currencies, but it will always suck wealth out of place-based communities and funnel it to distant stockholders, just as it will suck the power away from local people and funnel it to national or international bodies. It will always replace people with technology, and it will always make consumers of us all.

The way that reactionary radicals, in the early years of the industrial revolution, attempted to defend the moral economy was not with the thoughtless thuggery that the propaganda of the victors would later suggest, but by a reasoned series of demands. The Luddites, for example, opposed new machinery in a way that was “thoughtful, not absolute”. They also, Calhoun, points out, “campaigned for the right of craft control over trade, the right to a decent livelihood, for local autonomy
 Machinery was at issue because it specifically interfered with these values.” Technology, thought the Luddites, should be applied in a way which reinforced the moral economy rather than destroyed it.

Is it possible to cleave to a reactionary radicalism today? Or is it too late? For the reality is that the reactionary radicals of pre-industrial England comprehensively lost. The moral economy was destroyed, and we live in its commercialised ruins. Not only did they lose, but the ideologies of the modern age, both Right and Left, have an interest in burying their memories. The Marx-inflected Left wants no truck with workers who resisted capitalism in order to defend traditional ways of life, because those traditional ways stink of “reaction” and what Marx himself called “the idiocy of rural life”. Meanwhile, because modern conservatism has attached itself limpet-like to capitalism, its advocates today can often be found defending the very matrix of global trade, empire and unaccountable corporate power that laid waste to the last remaining “conservative” cultures in England.

As ever, the modern ideologies fail us. And yet, reactionary radicalism is still to be found, if we look in the right places. It is especially prevalent outside the West, in places where traditional moral economies are still at least partially intact. Every time you hear of a village in China or India resisting a giant dam, or tribal people fighting eviction from their ancestral lands, or communities resisting vast mines, you are hearing from reactionary radicals.

But what of those of us in the “developed” world, where Progress has triumphed? Well, if the moral economy has been destroyed where we live, we are just going to have to start rebuilding it. I spent years of my life investigating experiments in doing so; my ageing but perhaps-still-useful book Real England contains plenty of examples. Perhaps we live in the place our ancestors lived, or perhaps we moved to our place from another last month: either way, we are part of the place’s life now. We can help turn it into a moral economy — a foundation from which to resist the values of Progress — or we can capitulate to those values. We start small: everything starts small, and the best things remain that way. All we have is our limited power; still, it has its own impact.

Reactionary radicalism operates at the human scale, and not at the scale on which ideology operates. Ideology is the enemy of particularity, which is why every modern revolution has ended up turning on its own people. From the mass murder of peasants in the Vendee by French revolutionaries to the Bolshevik slaughter of workers in Kronstadt, ideology is always the enemy of genuine, rooted communities. Real culture — human-scale culture — is messy. It cannot be labelled. The moral economy rarely makes rational sense. But it makes human sense. And that is what matters.


Paul Kingsnorth is a novelist and essayist. His latest novel Alexandria is published by Faber. He also has a Substack: The Abbey of Misrule.


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sal b dyer
sal b dyer
1 year ago

I live and work in a remote indigenous community in Australia and I’ve just about had it with people who romanticize pre-modern societies. Paul Kingsnorth quotes approvingly “places where traditional moral economies are still at least partially intact… villages in China or India resisting a giant dam,… tribal people fighting eviction from their ancestral lands, or communities resisting vast mines” but I’ll bet he’s never lived in one.
I’ve spoken to old people who remember life before European colonization and it was harsh. Freezing nights in the desert were passed by digging holes and covering yourself with sand heated by fires. Try that one yourself if “resisting modernisation” is your thing. Life was short and brutal. Famines were common and “traditional moral economies” often promoted authoritarian hierarchies and cruel exploitation, predominantly of young teenage girls. People still hunt today- with guns rather than hand made spears, and fish- with nets and spear guns [that have endangered many dugong colonies for instance]- but mostly they hunt the shelves of the local shop, and why would you not? Once I asked an old man what he ate, he looked me straight in the eye and said “I eat from the shop like you”. Expecting people to cling to traditional modes is patronising and demeaning. It might vicariously satisfy the mostly well off city dwellers who dream about the simple life, but never seem to actually make the move.But for people stuck in “ancestral lands” shopping trips to the big centres are a longed for treat, with armfuls of shiny plastic children’s toys, cartons of cigarettes and binges of alcohol the highlight. Resisting dams and mines last only as long as it takes to realise that the royalties from the companies involved will enrich community leaders and traditional elders, and they make sure no one else gets a look in.
Whenever I quote any of these facts back in our “immoral economy” people look uncomfortable and mutter about racism and intergenerational trauma and such like. But it’s so much more complicated. Kingsnorth and his ilk are able to live the good life because of a long history of scientific achievements, social revolutions, and most probably income generated by capitalist economies. And more to the point it’s a lifestyle most of us will never be able to afford or achieve.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Bravo!

Mark Duffett
Mark Duffett
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

I was simply going to comment “I could not disagree more with this essay”, but you’ve articulated it so much better. Thank you.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Well said. Living in rural Canada I knowi that life in the bush can actually be short, nasty and brutal. At best its precarious. I roll my eyes when the city dwellers wax romantically about pre-industrial life. (Especially at minus 40c)Would add that I’m a capitalist. Because trade is the basis of human society. But I’m no corporatist. The two are quite distinct.

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Gatt

Nice and important distinction.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Gatt

Not everyone needs to work in a corporation but we’d be in a sorry state if individual entrepreneurs and inventors were responsible for the food supply, the provision of energy, cars, telephones, computers, a highway and airline system… the list goes on and on.

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Gatt

Nice and important distinction.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  M. Gatt

Not everyone needs to work in a corporation but we’d be in a sorry state if individual entrepreneurs and inventors were responsible for the food supply, the provision of energy, cars, telephones, computers, a highway and airline system… the list goes on and on.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

No one is talking about reverting to pre-modern conditions !! Rather the goal is to STOP feeding the Capitalist machine so that it will be forced to function in a more humane manner – and if every person plays their part this would follow ie cut all spending on rubbish – no more new cars every 4 years, no more 400 mtr square houses, no more property speculating /gambling, no more supporting rubbish social -media- gaming etc, IE cut out all the crap that feeds ‘inhumaneness’ ! Quite easy really except most people are driven by anxious greed – or just plain greed ! – and mostly spend their lives chasing that – and wasting their lives as a result. I work as little as possible, and have maximum freedom – WHICH IS PRICELESS. People look at me sideways at my old car and old boat and modest house, and modest expenditure – as they rush frantically worshipping mammon with little peace or spare time . It really is not that complicated !!!!!!!!!!

sal b dyer
sal b dyer
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Yes they are. That’s the central thrust of the argument for indigenous rights in Australia today. That European colonisation is the cause of ALL the problems these people face. If given legal title to their own lands, a voice from their own people to parliament directly, and welfare money for basic provisions then their own cultural superiority will kick in and all will be right. Instead they are stuck in remote ghettos with young people forever scrolling their phones in envious search for the modern social trends they are missing out on. The “voices” are not at all representative [that’s a can of worms I couldn’t even begin to address], and welfare money is forcibly co-opted by greedy cultural leaders for gambling, cars [which don’t even last the 4 year mark], drugs and alcohol. Maximal profit for the few with minimal freedom for most.

Mash Mallow
Mash Mallow
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

And to the multiple millions around the world burning dung, daily for the family meal in a single mudhut. What does it mean to you that you are fighting, “The Man”; owning an “old” car, boat and, I presume; secure, weatherproof, heated and cooled home? What the flying heck is the, “Moral” in that?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Mash Mallow

what is your better doable plan then ??

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Mash Mallow

what is your better doable plan then ??

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

You go do you. I’ll go do me. Perhaps we’ll get along but your comment makes me think not.

It is reminiscent of a five year old arguing with her friend: “Don’t do it your way. Do it my way. My way’s better.”

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

No one forces you to buy a new car every 4 years or a 400 m2 house. I drive a beautiful 14 year old car and live in a 160 m2 house built in 1893 and I am lacking for nothing in a material sense.

sal b dyer
sal b dyer
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Yes they are. That’s the central thrust of the argument for indigenous rights in Australia today. That European colonisation is the cause of ALL the problems these people face. If given legal title to their own lands, a voice from their own people to parliament directly, and welfare money for basic provisions then their own cultural superiority will kick in and all will be right. Instead they are stuck in remote ghettos with young people forever scrolling their phones in envious search for the modern social trends they are missing out on. The “voices” are not at all representative [that’s a can of worms I couldn’t even begin to address], and welfare money is forcibly co-opted by greedy cultural leaders for gambling, cars [which don’t even last the 4 year mark], drugs and alcohol. Maximal profit for the few with minimal freedom for most.

Mash Mallow
Mash Mallow
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

And to the multiple millions around the world burning dung, daily for the family meal in a single mudhut. What does it mean to you that you are fighting, “The Man”; owning an “old” car, boat and, I presume; secure, weatherproof, heated and cooled home? What the flying heck is the, “Moral” in that?

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

You go do you. I’ll go do me. Perhaps we’ll get along but your comment makes me think not.

It is reminiscent of a five year old arguing with her friend: “Don’t do it your way. Do it my way. My way’s better.”

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

No one forces you to buy a new car every 4 years or a 400 m2 house. I drive a beautiful 14 year old car and live in a 160 m2 house built in 1893 and I am lacking for nothing in a material sense.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Right on. I am sick of them too. If you dig into what’s usually motivating them, its a kind of weird elitism. They want there to be these storybook tribes and villages they can maybe go visit like Disneyland sometime. Playgrounds for elitists. They would never in a million years live that way themselves. Like Thoreau living “On Walden Pond”, except that he had outside family money supporting him, it was a private reserve of a wealthy benefactor, and he went into town frequently when he needed to and didn’t mention it in his book.
The thing about romanticizing the Luddites was ludicrous. People were flocking from the rural areas to the cities to work in those factories because even as awful as those conditions were, they were better off and they knew it. You couldn’t keep those people down on the squalar and misery of those farms. The Luddites were fascists trying to protect the the high price of hand work. They were losers. Romanticizing them? It’s just absurd.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Cunningham
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Brilliant comment, and similar to what I was going to write, so I’ll just add this. Romanticizing the past, or anything else, is useless at best and often actively destructive. I struggle to think of any intellectual who has done more damage to rational thought and reasonable human governance than Rousseau and his philosophy of cherry picking and deifying certain aspects of the the past in order to reconcile one’s personal dissatisfaction with the present. In the real world, there are concrete reasons why people stopped doing things the old way and started doing things differently, reasons like ‘not being hungry all the time’, ‘not having to labor 15 hours a day’, ‘not freezing in the winter or baking in the summer’. I enjoy a lot of Kingsnorth’s articles, so I suspect like most Romantics, he is at his best when he keeps his personal feelings on the sidelines.

Karl Bucus
Karl Bucus
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Your words are well-taken, but they aren’t responsive in any way to what Kingsnorth actually wrote.

Technology, thought the Luddites, should be applied in a way which reinforced the moral economy rather than destroyed it.

This is not an unreasonable request. Permitting the natural order to be dictated by machines rather than people is the problem. Imagining techne liberates people from that natural order is the problem.
The Amish, for example, do not reject certain technologies out of ignorance, or on an ideological basis. Instead, they reject some technologies as they feel the externalities associated with them will undermine their moral economy in specific ways.
This is not to say we all should be Amish. It’s merely a cry in the wilderness that we simply include the moral economy in our ROI projections on adopting particular technologies.
See, I am sick of the ‘noble savage’ myth, as well. But those ‘savages’ also, sometimes, knew things we don’t. And valued things, maybe, we sometimes should. So another thing I’m sick of is this: Every time I make those observations I’m met with tired variations of “Oh, you wanna’ give up antibiotics and dentistry, huh?” No. I did not say that.

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago
Reply to  Karl Bucus

But he cites no evidence that the Luddites actually thought that. He is just using them as a channel for his proselytizing.

Brian
Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  nigel roberts

He doesn’t need to cite evidence for such a basic historical claim. The Luddites weren’t shy about their intentions, this is a well-documented and clear history.

Brian
Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  nigel roberts

He doesn’t need to cite evidence for such a basic historical claim. The Luddites weren’t shy about their intentions, this is a well-documented and clear history.

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago
Reply to  Karl Bucus

But he cites no evidence that the Luddites actually thought that. He is just using them as a channel for his proselytizing.

M H
M H
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

The problem is at least in part agreeing on what is “rubbish” and what is “moral”. I suppose the idea is that some liberal, educated elites will have our best interests at heart and decide for us. Whatever is morally sustainable from their point of view – a view informed by books by Skinner, Thoreau, Callenbach and the like and not much based on practical experience with “roughing it” – would pass muster.
I think I get the main thrust here – the creative destruction of capitalism destroys its own moral and to some extent material foundations. It has losers as well as winners. It comes at an enormous price. I simply remain distrustful that someone can 1) come up with something better and 2) impliment it against the massive resistance it will encounter 3) without war and dictatorship being the result. The ideas needed to make some dents here and there in the system are probably found across the political spectrum including in my current political home, conservatism, despite its flaws.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Thank you for talking sense in a nonsense world. I’ve been hearing this crap from Diogenes to Edward Abbey and all of it comes from people who have a warm bed and a full refrigerator.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Bravo!

Mark Duffett
Mark Duffett
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

I was simply going to comment “I could not disagree more with this essay”, but you’ve articulated it so much better. Thank you.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Well said. Living in rural Canada I knowi that life in the bush can actually be short, nasty and brutal. At best its precarious. I roll my eyes when the city dwellers wax romantically about pre-industrial life. (Especially at minus 40c)Would add that I’m a capitalist. Because trade is the basis of human society. But I’m no corporatist. The two are quite distinct.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

No one is talking about reverting to pre-modern conditions !! Rather the goal is to STOP feeding the Capitalist machine so that it will be forced to function in a more humane manner – and if every person plays their part this would follow ie cut all spending on rubbish – no more new cars every 4 years, no more 400 mtr square houses, no more property speculating /gambling, no more supporting rubbish social -media- gaming etc, IE cut out all the crap that feeds ‘inhumaneness’ ! Quite easy really except most people are driven by anxious greed – or just plain greed ! – and mostly spend their lives chasing that – and wasting their lives as a result. I work as little as possible, and have maximum freedom – WHICH IS PRICELESS. People look at me sideways at my old car and old boat and modest house, and modest expenditure – as they rush frantically worshipping mammon with little peace or spare time . It really is not that complicated !!!!!!!!!!

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Right on. I am sick of them too. If you dig into what’s usually motivating them, its a kind of weird elitism. They want there to be these storybook tribes and villages they can maybe go visit like Disneyland sometime. Playgrounds for elitists. They would never in a million years live that way themselves. Like Thoreau living “On Walden Pond”, except that he had outside family money supporting him, it was a private reserve of a wealthy benefactor, and he went into town frequently when he needed to and didn’t mention it in his book.
The thing about romanticizing the Luddites was ludicrous. People were flocking from the rural areas to the cities to work in those factories because even as awful as those conditions were, they were better off and they knew it. You couldn’t keep those people down on the squalar and misery of those farms. The Luddites were fascists trying to protect the the high price of hand work. They were losers. Romanticizing them? It’s just absurd.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Cunningham
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Brilliant comment, and similar to what I was going to write, so I’ll just add this. Romanticizing the past, or anything else, is useless at best and often actively destructive. I struggle to think of any intellectual who has done more damage to rational thought and reasonable human governance than Rousseau and his philosophy of cherry picking and deifying certain aspects of the the past in order to reconcile one’s personal dissatisfaction with the present. In the real world, there are concrete reasons why people stopped doing things the old way and started doing things differently, reasons like ‘not being hungry all the time’, ‘not having to labor 15 hours a day’, ‘not freezing in the winter or baking in the summer’. I enjoy a lot of Kingsnorth’s articles, so I suspect like most Romantics, he is at his best when he keeps his personal feelings on the sidelines.

Karl Bucus
Karl Bucus
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Your words are well-taken, but they aren’t responsive in any way to what Kingsnorth actually wrote.

Technology, thought the Luddites, should be applied in a way which reinforced the moral economy rather than destroyed it.

This is not an unreasonable request. Permitting the natural order to be dictated by machines rather than people is the problem. Imagining techne liberates people from that natural order is the problem.
The Amish, for example, do not reject certain technologies out of ignorance, or on an ideological basis. Instead, they reject some technologies as they feel the externalities associated with them will undermine their moral economy in specific ways.
This is not to say we all should be Amish. It’s merely a cry in the wilderness that we simply include the moral economy in our ROI projections on adopting particular technologies.
See, I am sick of the ‘noble savage’ myth, as well. But those ‘savages’ also, sometimes, knew things we don’t. And valued things, maybe, we sometimes should. So another thing I’m sick of is this: Every time I make those observations I’m met with tired variations of “Oh, you wanna’ give up antibiotics and dentistry, huh?” No. I did not say that.

M H
M H
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

The problem is at least in part agreeing on what is “rubbish” and what is “moral”. I suppose the idea is that some liberal, educated elites will have our best interests at heart and decide for us. Whatever is morally sustainable from their point of view – a view informed by books by Skinner, Thoreau, Callenbach and the like and not much based on practical experience with “roughing it” – would pass muster.
I think I get the main thrust here – the creative destruction of capitalism destroys its own moral and to some extent material foundations. It has losers as well as winners. It comes at an enormous price. I simply remain distrustful that someone can 1) come up with something better and 2) impliment it against the massive resistance it will encounter 3) without war and dictatorship being the result. The ideas needed to make some dents here and there in the system are probably found across the political spectrum including in my current political home, conservatism, despite its flaws.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  sal b dyer

Thank you for talking sense in a nonsense world. I’ve been hearing this crap from Diogenes to Edward Abbey and all of it comes from people who have a warm bed and a full refrigerator.

sal b dyer
sal b dyer
1 year ago

I live and work in a remote indigenous community in Australia and I’ve just about had it with people who romanticize pre-modern societies. Paul Kingsnorth quotes approvingly “places where traditional moral economies are still at least partially intact… villages in China or India resisting a giant dam,… tribal people fighting eviction from their ancestral lands, or communities resisting vast mines” but I’ll bet he’s never lived in one.
I’ve spoken to old people who remember life before European colonization and it was harsh. Freezing nights in the desert were passed by digging holes and covering yourself with sand heated by fires. Try that one yourself if “resisting modernisation” is your thing. Life was short and brutal. Famines were common and “traditional moral economies” often promoted authoritarian hierarchies and cruel exploitation, predominantly of young teenage girls. People still hunt today- with guns rather than hand made spears, and fish- with nets and spear guns [that have endangered many dugong colonies for instance]- but mostly they hunt the shelves of the local shop, and why would you not? Once I asked an old man what he ate, he looked me straight in the eye and said “I eat from the shop like you”. Expecting people to cling to traditional modes is patronising and demeaning. It might vicariously satisfy the mostly well off city dwellers who dream about the simple life, but never seem to actually make the move.But for people stuck in “ancestral lands” shopping trips to the big centres are a longed for treat, with armfuls of shiny plastic children’s toys, cartons of cigarettes and binges of alcohol the highlight. Resisting dams and mines last only as long as it takes to realise that the royalties from the companies involved will enrich community leaders and traditional elders, and they make sure no one else gets a look in.
Whenever I quote any of these facts back in our “immoral economy” people look uncomfortable and mutter about racism and intergenerational trauma and such like. But it’s so much more complicated. Kingsnorth and his ilk are able to live the good life because of a long history of scientific achievements, social revolutions, and most probably income generated by capitalist economies. And more to the point it’s a lifestyle most of us will never be able to afford or achieve.

John Ellis
John Ellis
1 year ago

An interesting and thoughtful piece. As I get older, I get more inclined to agree with it….

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ellis

It was word salad with Liberal Agenda sprinkled on as a dressing….

”The greens have been absorbed by the technosphere. Meanwhile fascism, National Socialism and their various cousins on the hard Right are infested with power-worship, a love of straight lines and marching columns, and an explicit call to impose the will of the strong on the unwilling bodies of the weak.”

It is not worth bothering to show what a silly bit of writing this above quoted bit is…..because it would be like picking out one seed in a watermelon to attack……

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

”It was a word salad with Liberal Agenda sprinkled on as a dressing
”
Is that you or is it a quote? Very clever.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

As is the picking out of one seed in a watermelon.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

It’s clever but an odd use of the word ‘liberal.’

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

As is the picking out of one seed in a watermelon.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

It’s clever but an odd use of the word ‘liberal.’

Rob C
Rob C
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

What’s wrong with liking straight lines, anyway?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

”It was a word salad with Liberal Agenda sprinkled on as a dressing
”
Is that you or is it a quote? Very clever.

Rob C
Rob C
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

What’s wrong with liking straight lines, anyway?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ellis

I respect the intellect and writing abilities of Mr. Kingsnorth immensely, but shutter at anyone who would say this…..But I wanted to save the whole world all by myself, and I knew that the first step towards doing that was to tell the whole world precisely what was wrong with it,…”

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I agree, seems like mostly caring pretentious BS.
The quote you referenced;
The greens have been absorbed by the technosphere. Meanwhile fascism, National Socialism and their various cousins on the hard Right are infested with power-worship, a love of straight lines and marching columns, and an explicit call to impose the will of the strong on the unwilling bodies of the weak.”
Seems to me, the author was referencing the Progressive leftists who shut down the world during Covid and caused needless deaths, loss of businesses, draconian and nonsensical rules and left our children, especially the underserved, farther behind an almost hopeless future.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

You didn’t read this article properly. That passage is gently mocking his earlier self.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Lale

With the emphasis on “gently.” One is reminded of Chernyshevsky’s young leftist revolutionary, who said: “I will never sacrifice anything, not even a whim, for the sake of some thing I do not desire. What I want, with all my heart, is to make people happy. In this lies my happiness. Mine! Can you hear that, you, in your underground hole?” This young leftist embodies what the Russians call “bezdarnost” or giftlessness. As Peavar said: “Giftlessness, as Dostoevsky feared, became the dominant style in Russia; it eventually seized power, and in the process of “making people happy“ destroyed them by the millions.”

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Lale

With the emphasis on “gently.” One is reminded of Chernyshevsky’s young leftist revolutionary, who said: “I will never sacrifice anything, not even a whim, for the sake of some thing I do not desire. What I want, with all my heart, is to make people happy. In this lies my happiness. Mine! Can you hear that, you, in your underground hole?” This young leftist embodies what the Russians call “bezdarnost” or giftlessness. As Peavar said: “Giftlessness, as Dostoevsky feared, became the dominant style in Russia; it eventually seized power, and in the process of “making people happy“ destroyed them by the millions.”

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Yes. Sounds like his politics haven’t changed much since he was a teenager. Rarely a good sign.

Probably wears his hair the same way too and still listens to King Crimson.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I agree, seems like mostly caring pretentious BS.
The quote you referenced;
The greens have been absorbed by the technosphere. Meanwhile fascism, National Socialism and their various cousins on the hard Right are infested with power-worship, a love of straight lines and marching columns, and an explicit call to impose the will of the strong on the unwilling bodies of the weak.”
Seems to me, the author was referencing the Progressive leftists who shut down the world during Covid and caused needless deaths, loss of businesses, draconian and nonsensical rules and left our children, especially the underserved, farther behind an almost hopeless future.

Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

You didn’t read this article properly. That passage is gently mocking his earlier self.

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Yes. Sounds like his politics haven’t changed much since he was a teenager. Rarely a good sign.

Probably wears his hair the same way too and still listens to King Crimson.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ellis

It was word salad with Liberal Agenda sprinkled on as a dressing….

”The greens have been absorbed by the technosphere. Meanwhile fascism, National Socialism and their various cousins on the hard Right are infested with power-worship, a love of straight lines and marching columns, and an explicit call to impose the will of the strong on the unwilling bodies of the weak.”

It is not worth bothering to show what a silly bit of writing this above quoted bit is…..because it would be like picking out one seed in a watermelon to attack……

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  John Ellis

I respect the intellect and writing abilities of Mr. Kingsnorth immensely, but shutter at anyone who would say this…..But I wanted to save the whole world all by myself, and I knew that the first step towards doing that was to tell the whole world precisely what was wrong with it,…”

John Ellis
John Ellis
1 year ago

An interesting and thoughtful piece. As I get older, I get more inclined to agree with it….

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

“we are part of the place’s life now. We can help turn it into a moral economy — a foundation from which to resist the values of Progress — or we can capitulate to those values”

I always agree with a lot of Paul’s ideas, but then he seems to go to an extreme. Most of us haven’t entirely capitulated to the progress ideology, but neither have we rejected all of it. I have loved being able to fly all around the world and see things. I love watching the interviews I see on Youtube … progress has brought me many worthwhile things.

On the other hand, I love growing some food in my backyard, as my grandfather did, (figs and strawberries, lettuce and lemons producing at the moment.) I like picking my way through new pieces of piano music (Scarlatti and Einaudi at the moment); other people like fishing, playing chess, restoring old cars or kayaking down rivers … we all have a foot in both worlds – one that is going faster than we can comprehend, and one that is still human paced.

So I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: if it’s better to resist some aspects of progress, we should be able to demonstrate that in our own lives … then perhaps others will be persuaded to try it too. Paul would love the book I’m reading at the moment, The Book of Trespass, by Nick Hayes.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russell Hamilton
Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
1 year ago

I think that sometimes when you are exploring a new idea you tend to push it to its limits, so that its shape or outline can be more easily deciphered. Mary Harrington has the tendency to do this too – go a little extreme and sometimes hits the wrong note in doing so. But her writing is always interesting and thought provoking for that very reason.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jane Anderson
edward coyle
edward coyle
1 year ago

I found Paul Kingsnorth article stimulating. The notion of the ‘moral economy’ reminded me that before Adam Smith had written the free market founding text, ‘ The wealth of nations’ his earlier work ‘ The theory of moral sentiments’ set out the importance of a balance in exchange between participants. The right has promoted Smith as the father of laissez- faire capitalism, whereas this earlier work promotes many of the practices and values mentioned in Kingsnorth’s pre-capitalist communities.

Bruce Luffman
Bruce Luffman
1 year ago
Reply to  edward coyle

I too found this article stimulating and to me, morality in the mix has been lost by an increasing secular society which has demeaned the meaningful progress that has been made in society.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  edward coyle

Those two works are not at all incompatible.

Bruce Luffman
Bruce Luffman
1 year ago
Reply to  edward coyle

I too found this article stimulating and to me, morality in the mix has been lost by an increasing secular society which has demeaned the meaningful progress that has been made in society.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  edward coyle

Those two works are not at all incompatible.

rodney foy
rodney foy
1 year ago

Yes, Paul is against ideologies yet seems to be looking for one to subscribe to.

You would like to choose where progress ought to happen, and what you would like to conserve – which is surely better than following an ideology

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  rodney foy

He seems to consistently say something bad about capitalism, which everyone knows is the worst system except for all the other ones that have been tried.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  rodney foy

He seems to consistently say something bad about capitalism, which everyone knows is the worst system except for all the other ones that have been tried.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
1 year ago

I think that sometimes when you are exploring a new idea you tend to push it to its limits, so that its shape or outline can be more easily deciphered. Mary Harrington has the tendency to do this too – go a little extreme and sometimes hits the wrong note in doing so. But her writing is always interesting and thought provoking for that very reason.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jane Anderson
edward coyle
edward coyle
1 year ago

I found Paul Kingsnorth article stimulating. The notion of the ‘moral economy’ reminded me that before Adam Smith had written the free market founding text, ‘ The wealth of nations’ his earlier work ‘ The theory of moral sentiments’ set out the importance of a balance in exchange between participants. The right has promoted Smith as the father of laissez- faire capitalism, whereas this earlier work promotes many of the practices and values mentioned in Kingsnorth’s pre-capitalist communities.

rodney foy
rodney foy
1 year ago

Yes, Paul is against ideologies yet seems to be looking for one to subscribe to.

You would like to choose where progress ought to happen, and what you would like to conserve – which is surely better than following an ideology

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

“we are part of the place’s life now. We can help turn it into a moral economy — a foundation from which to resist the values of Progress — or we can capitulate to those values”

I always agree with a lot of Paul’s ideas, but then he seems to go to an extreme. Most of us haven’t entirely capitulated to the progress ideology, but neither have we rejected all of it. I have loved being able to fly all around the world and see things. I love watching the interviews I see on Youtube … progress has brought me many worthwhile things.

On the other hand, I love growing some food in my backyard, as my grandfather did, (figs and strawberries, lettuce and lemons producing at the moment.) I like picking my way through new pieces of piano music (Scarlatti and Einaudi at the moment); other people like fishing, playing chess, restoring old cars or kayaking down rivers … we all have a foot in both worlds – one that is going faster than we can comprehend, and one that is still human paced.

So I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: if it’s better to resist some aspects of progress, we should be able to demonstrate that in our own lives … then perhaps others will be persuaded to try it too. Paul would love the book I’m reading at the moment, The Book of Trespass, by Nick Hayes.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russell Hamilton
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

“Ideology is the enemy of particularity.”

Very true and the ideology being espoused here ignores particularities like anaesthetic, antibiotics, central heating, washing machines and and and.

I enjoyed the essay but if you want the above things your localism has to stay plugged into Progress.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I may want a huge range of things but does that make them good either for me or society?

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

And how will that be decided? Are we talking about our middle class society on UnHerd?

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

Perhaps consider whether anaesthetic is good for society the next time you need a filling.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Or a dentist. Or a doctor.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Or open heart surgery.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Or a dentist. Or a doctor.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Or open heart surgery.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

And how will that be decided? Are we talking about our middle class society on UnHerd?

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

Perhaps consider whether anaesthetic is good for society the next time you need a filling.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

You’re confusing technological advancement with the worldview of Progress, i.e. the opposite of Tradition. Do not get your terns confused. The author is not talking about the loom or the internet, but the worldview that underpins it that arose alongside liberalism in the 18th century and has been attacked by malcontents from Guenon to Kazcynski.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

This is a comment of the elite. You have to relate to ordinary people.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Why, because of someone else’s “proletarianism”? Even a middling reader from circumstances that are modest by the standards of the “developed world” belongs to a sort of global elite.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

What do you mean ‘of the elite’ in this instance? Once upon ordinary people in these isles read books. They had little else to do. It isn’t ‘elite’ to engage in pretty straightforward political thought. You’re underselling the British people.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Why, because of someone else’s “proletarianism”? Even a middling reader from circumstances that are modest by the standards of the “developed world” belongs to a sort of global elite.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

What do you mean ‘of the elite’ in this instance? Once upon ordinary people in these isles read books. They had little else to do. It isn’t ‘elite’ to engage in pretty straightforward political thought. You’re underselling the British people.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Can they be so easily delinked?

I’m saying Paul espouses radical reaction because it pushes back against progress. Neither are well defined with respect to their particularities. His argument is in the realm of ideas not the reality of life.

The bit I quoted hoists him by his own petard.

Karl Bucus
Karl Bucus
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Taxonomically detailing the particularities is building an ideology.

Karl Bucus
Karl Bucus
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Taxonomically detailing the particularities is building an ideology.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

This is a comment of the elite. You have to relate to ordinary people.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Can they be so easily delinked?

I’m saying Paul espouses radical reaction because it pushes back against progress. Neither are well defined with respect to their particularities. His argument is in the realm of ideas not the reality of life.

The bit I quoted hoists him by his own petard.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Exactly. Just what is the point of advocating for an anti-technology stance, without also acknowledging that such a stance, taken at face value, means your wife is a hundred times more likely to die during childbirth, or three out of your seven children won’t reach the age of ten because they die of measles and smallpox and deptheria?

Because technological advance doesn’t offer you a pick-and-mix stall, you get a black box with a dispenser, and you don’t know if the next candy put forth is one you love, or one which is bitter and makes you extremely unwell. No one looking to find out about the nature of matter and the structure of the atom, knew it would lead to the A-bomb is short order.

Kingsnorth says “Ideology is the enemy of particularity” but from my perspective, generalisation is also the enemy particularity, when a generalised dissatisfaction with the state of society doesn’t then also want to spell out, in stark concrete terms, where exactly the demarcations are, of how much technology you are willing to adopt, and no further – and also put forward a defence if such a half-way house stance is even remotely realistic. For myself, I don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘appropriate technology’, there is only technology, and you either embrace the ride, even if much of it absolutely terrifies you, or you don’t embark at all, claiming motion sicknesses. Either stance is fine; what is not in all honesty feasible is to scream, half way down the first dipper, that you want to get off, because you are now squeamish and queasy and about to chuck up in your cabin. Perhaps best to stick to the baby ride in those circumstances.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Fair points, but I wonder if you are right that there can be no such thing as ‘appropriate’ technology, and that we just have to accept whatever some evil nutter with a 3D printer comes up with? I can’t see why we can’t go on trying, as we always have done, to put boundaries around invention and adoption of new and undesirable ways and means – tho I accept that the current madness (inspired by the availability of everything everywhere anywhen on the very machine I am typing this sentence on) makes it a tough challenge at the moment. But rather than going on to slaughter the last few field animals and woodland birds we have left, maybe we should – er – outlaw new technologies that would threaten them, to take a simple example? Or is that the sort of thing you would call ‘sticking to the baby ride’? Your choice of phrase is a bit of a giveaway, tbh.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

My point is, how would you implement what you are suggesting, short of a unitary world government with coercive powers? As things stand, each individual nation will do as they see fit, or as the pressures of their local populaces dictate. I mean by that, if for example even China, if they tried to slow down the ‘growth’ train, and it resulted in their population being plunged into poverty, I bet even the CCP would be turfed out (no doubt resulting in much bloodshed) in that situation. I don’t see how or which poorer countries, currently attempting to get richer, are actually going to be able to do such a thing successfully without it resulting in mass revolt.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

But there is such a thing as self-restraint among inventors or developers. And even an entirely market driven society can reject (refuse to buy) needless or harmful innovations, claims of helpless consumer vulnerability notwithstanding.
You are correct to call Kingsnorth on his own convenient generalizations but your asserted either/or of “wild west” technological permissiveness, or complete top-down anti-technological constraint–and nothing in between–is false. Without government prevention of research or innovation, individuals and meaningful segments (even majorities) of societies can opt out of or unplug from certain aspects of technological overreach or hyper-innovation. That can provide a moderating effect without prior restraint or sweeping prohibitions.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

From my perspective, the idea of self-restraint among inventors and developers and researchers, is pretty much a non-starter : once we are outside the patronage driven systems of older times, I cannot think of a single example of a technology where *all actors* at individual and group and national level, have all backed off from further developments.

But ok, let us explore this a bit further with technologies that are or aren’t vs. should or shouldn’t be adopted and developed further – essentially a ‘devil’s in the details’ stance. So my posts here are asking: bring forth the details (and the devil) into the light, so we can critique the proposals – i.e. please make explicit the demarcations being proposed. And, I bet you (because this is my experience) the minute writers likes Kingsnorth (or anyone else) puts forward actual details, as in, actual technologies which should be eschewed, and why and how, people like me and many others will be able to pick holes in any concrete suggestions from multiple different angles.

For example, let us take the nuclear technologies, and as a starter for ten I will make just a couple of points. With WWII already in full swing, there was a race between Germany, the US, the UK and the USSR to get to nukes first. This historical example illustrates multiple things.
Firstly, a technology development slowdown *is sometimes* possible, for a short period, if the technologies involved are very very complex and a sufficiently larger power (the US) who emerges on top is willing to operate a carrot-and-stick model to police and enforce the slowdown – but only for a bit, because the technologies are guaranteed to eventually proliferate, viz, China, and eventually India, and Israel etc (and even perhaps all the way to South Africa). But other technologies which may have consequences as or even more profound, but are nowhere near as complex to manage, like building AI neural nets (which is the basis of ChatGPT) are pretty much unstoppable and unregulatable – a team of smart programmers (or even an individual programmer could do it), or another example, CRISPR type gene editing is within the grasp of any medium-prestige University with a good quality Biomedical department, to tackle and mess around with. A second point to make is that the fact that the US got to nukes first, as opposed to the Nazis or the Bolsheviks, was pure luck. Because imagine the Nazis had got to nukes first, then a very different world would have emerged, at least for a few decades. The point I’m trying to make is, at the level of national security apparatus, every nation is going to go hell for leather with certain game changing technologies because no one can afford others who are potentially hostile to get a technological jump on them. History shows, nations who self-supress technological development to preserve their culture, can only do so until the gunboats show up, for example Japan, at which point they learn some pretty harsh lessons pretty quickly.

To my eyes, technology advance has the flavour of ‘The prisoner’s Dilemma’ and no systematic slowdown is at all possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Mr. Kotak, I’m in strong disagreement your claims when made in such absolute terms, including the suggestion that no meaningful restraint has ever occurred because you can’t think of an example. Why would there be a known example of someone who kept a secret or declined to go down a certain dark pathway of inquiry? Are you reading everyone’s research logs or private journals?
Though someone, somewhere will (in theory, if given enough time) eventually discover everything anyway, that does does not render delay and resistance to certain forms of destruction and disruption meaningless. Less of something destructive at a slower pace is better than an unstemmed tidal wave, with no time to adjust.
In your own absolutist vein, I consider this to be a fair analogy: Murders have existed “forever” and will always occur, but we do not therefore stop trying to prevent them in single cases and minimize their spread.
People will develop still more efficient and inhumane or secretive ways to kill, but chemical warfare is more-or-less universally condemned as inhumane, and therefore less common than it would be if there were no sense of collective disgust and attempt to prevent it.
And development of the most perverse things is slowed because of necessary secrecy or lack of funding/support and the (temporary and incomplete, but significant) restraint of individual actors. I’m glad everyone is not a pure rationalizing nihilist: “Someone will eventually develop a way to remotely sterilize a whole population, so it might as well be me, right now”.
While attempting to sideline any consideration of ethics and utility/improvement in the present day, you make a comparative judgment (elsewhere on this board) about the distant past of about one 1,000 years ago. Do you believe that material conditions will certainly improve in the next 100 or 1,000 years? And is material or technological advancement the entire measure of human wellbeing?
I acknowledge that your idea of a technological Pandora’s box that has been opened and cannot be shut again has mythical resonance and significant real-world truth. But we don’t therefore need to throw up our hands, blaming (or praising) Pandora as though we are predestined to open every hitherto locked passageway, and can make no effort to slow the currents of evils that will escape, or already have done.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Mr. Kotak, I’m in strong disagreement your claims when made in such absolute terms, including the suggestion that no meaningful restraint has ever occurred because you can’t think of an example. Why would there be a known example of someone who kept a secret or declined to go down a certain dark pathway of inquiry? Are you reading everyone’s research logs or private journals?
Though someone, somewhere will (in theory, if given enough time) eventually discover everything anyway, that does does not render delay and resistance to certain forms of destruction and disruption meaningless. Less of something destructive at a slower pace is better than an unstemmed tidal wave, with no time to adjust.
In your own absolutist vein, I consider this to be a fair analogy: Murders have existed “forever” and will always occur, but we do not therefore stop trying to prevent them in single cases and minimize their spread.
People will develop still more efficient and inhumane or secretive ways to kill, but chemical warfare is more-or-less universally condemned as inhumane, and therefore less common than it would be if there were no sense of collective disgust and attempt to prevent it.
And development of the most perverse things is slowed because of necessary secrecy or lack of funding/support and the (temporary and incomplete, but significant) restraint of individual actors. I’m glad everyone is not a pure rationalizing nihilist: “Someone will eventually develop a way to remotely sterilize a whole population, so it might as well be me, right now”.
While attempting to sideline any consideration of ethics and utility/improvement in the present day, you make a comparative judgment (elsewhere on this board) about the distant past of about one 1,000 years ago. Do you believe that material conditions will certainly improve in the next 100 or 1,000 years? And is material or technological advancement the entire measure of human wellbeing?
I acknowledge that your idea of a technological Pandora’s box that has been opened and cannot be shut again has mythical resonance and significant real-world truth. But we don’t therefore need to throw up our hands, blaming (or praising) Pandora as though we are predestined to open every hitherto locked passageway, and can make no effort to slow the currents of evils that will escape, or already have done.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

If there was such constraint we wouldn’t have had people doing gain-of-function research which, of course, is sooner or later going to lead to accidents. Lets build viruses that are designed to infect humans that couldn’t before. What could possibly go wrong?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

I agree there often isn’t enough restraint exercised, your example included. Still, I reject the notion that any restraint is either non-existent, impossible, or tantamount to medievalism (“discouraging unfettered tecno-futurism is like going back to the 10th century!”–I know that exaggerates the actual claim).
Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to urge greater restraint, like the 1945 use of nukes or a (likely) bioengineered virus.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

I agree there often isn’t enough restraint exercised, your example included. Still, I reject the notion that any restraint is either non-existent, impossible, or tantamount to medievalism (“discouraging unfettered tecno-futurism is like going back to the 10th century!”–I know that exaggerates the actual claim).
Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to urge greater restraint, like the 1945 use of nukes or a (likely) bioengineered virus.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

From my perspective, the idea of self-restraint among inventors and developers and researchers, is pretty much a non-starter : once we are outside the patronage driven systems of older times, I cannot think of a single example of a technology where *all actors* at individual and group and national level, have all backed off from further developments.

But ok, let us explore this a bit further with technologies that are or aren’t vs. should or shouldn’t be adopted and developed further – essentially a ‘devil’s in the details’ stance. So my posts here are asking: bring forth the details (and the devil) into the light, so we can critique the proposals – i.e. please make explicit the demarcations being proposed. And, I bet you (because this is my experience) the minute writers likes Kingsnorth (or anyone else) puts forward actual details, as in, actual technologies which should be eschewed, and why and how, people like me and many others will be able to pick holes in any concrete suggestions from multiple different angles.

For example, let us take the nuclear technologies, and as a starter for ten I will make just a couple of points. With WWII already in full swing, there was a race between Germany, the US, the UK and the USSR to get to nukes first. This historical example illustrates multiple things.
Firstly, a technology development slowdown *is sometimes* possible, for a short period, if the technologies involved are very very complex and a sufficiently larger power (the US) who emerges on top is willing to operate a carrot-and-stick model to police and enforce the slowdown – but only for a bit, because the technologies are guaranteed to eventually proliferate, viz, China, and eventually India, and Israel etc (and even perhaps all the way to South Africa). But other technologies which may have consequences as or even more profound, but are nowhere near as complex to manage, like building AI neural nets (which is the basis of ChatGPT) are pretty much unstoppable and unregulatable – a team of smart programmers (or even an individual programmer could do it), or another example, CRISPR type gene editing is within the grasp of any medium-prestige University with a good quality Biomedical department, to tackle and mess around with. A second point to make is that the fact that the US got to nukes first, as opposed to the Nazis or the Bolsheviks, was pure luck. Because imagine the Nazis had got to nukes first, then a very different world would have emerged, at least for a few decades. The point I’m trying to make is, at the level of national security apparatus, every nation is going to go hell for leather with certain game changing technologies because no one can afford others who are potentially hostile to get a technological jump on them. History shows, nations who self-supress technological development to preserve their culture, can only do so until the gunboats show up, for example Japan, at which point they learn some pretty harsh lessons pretty quickly.

To my eyes, technology advance has the flavour of ‘The prisoner’s Dilemma’ and no systematic slowdown is at all possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

If there was such constraint we wouldn’t have had people doing gain-of-function research which, of course, is sooner or later going to lead to accidents. Lets build viruses that are designed to infect humans that couldn’t before. What could possibly go wrong?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I tend to agree with you, but what about the potential for using gene therapy in a business of producing super humans with greater intellect, physical prowess and only brown skin? Does anyone think that would be good for the planet?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

The demarcation of “humans’ vs “super humans” is a misnomer. Absolutely nothing indicates we won’t use technologies to alter ourselves once they become available. As in, someone somewhere will eventually try out pretty much all that becomes possible, and some of that will end up having widespread adoption.

In this context, good or bad is an irrelevance. It is pointless to wish for all humans to have a uniform stance on this, when this is not who we are as a species. And in the case of the bioedit technologies now rapidly advancing, even if a majority of humanity wishes to enforce a ban on various types of editing (and this is by no means a given), the reality is this pretty much not regulatable – for a start bioedit technologies are nowhere near as complex as nuclear technologies, and already look cheap enough, that proliferation and widespread use regardless of laws being passed, is inevitable.

What is unknown at this point are the risks and unguessable effects on both the individuals who try the technologies on themselves and on others around them. This can be used right now, for a period, to slow down experimentation via a push for legislative frameworks which minimises harm especially to those not in a position to make choices for themselves eg children.

Other than that we can hope for the best.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

What is the value of that hope if we disavow all agency, let alone moral responsibility to one another and the planet?
You suggest a near helpless enslavement to hyper-innovation. I don’t see how that is inevitable or forced in the way you claim.
Slowing down and minimizing harm is not trivial! I can see how the question of good vs. bad is not the main one in the context you’ve established, but it should not, in fairness, be called irrelevant.
Thank you for your challenging and provocative remarks.

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Loving the appetite for good faith argument!

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Loving the appetite for good faith argument!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

What is the value of that hope if we disavow all agency, let alone moral responsibility to one another and the planet?
You suggest a near helpless enslavement to hyper-innovation. I don’t see how that is inevitable or forced in the way you claim.
Slowing down and minimizing harm is not trivial! I can see how the question of good vs. bad is not the main one in the context you’ve established, but it should not, in fairness, be called irrelevant.
Thank you for your challenging and provocative remarks.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

The demarcation of “humans’ vs “super humans” is a misnomer. Absolutely nothing indicates we won’t use technologies to alter ourselves once they become available. As in, someone somewhere will eventually try out pretty much all that becomes possible, and some of that will end up having widespread adoption.

In this context, good or bad is an irrelevance. It is pointless to wish for all humans to have a uniform stance on this, when this is not who we are as a species. And in the case of the bioedit technologies now rapidly advancing, even if a majority of humanity wishes to enforce a ban on various types of editing (and this is by no means a given), the reality is this pretty much not regulatable – for a start bioedit technologies are nowhere near as complex as nuclear technologies, and already look cheap enough, that proliferation and widespread use regardless of laws being passed, is inevitable.

What is unknown at this point are the risks and unguessable effects on both the individuals who try the technologies on themselves and on others around them. This can be used right now, for a period, to slow down experimentation via a push for legislative frameworks which minimises harm especially to those not in a position to make choices for themselves eg children.

Other than that we can hope for the best.

Karl Bucus
Karl Bucus
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The ‘plain’ people of central Pennsylvania seem to get by without a unitary world government.
For now. Until the Federal government finally has had its fill of them.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

But there is such a thing as self-restraint among inventors or developers. And even an entirely market driven society can reject (refuse to buy) needless or harmful innovations, claims of helpless consumer vulnerability notwithstanding.
You are correct to call Kingsnorth on his own convenient generalizations but your asserted either/or of “wild west” technological permissiveness, or complete top-down anti-technological constraint–and nothing in between–is false. Without government prevention of research or innovation, individuals and meaningful segments (even majorities) of societies can opt out of or unplug from certain aspects of technological overreach or hyper-innovation. That can provide a moderating effect without prior restraint or sweeping prohibitions.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I tend to agree with you, but what about the potential for using gene therapy in a business of producing super humans with greater intellect, physical prowess and only brown skin? Does anyone think that would be good for the planet?

Karl Bucus
Karl Bucus
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The ‘plain’ people of central Pennsylvania seem to get by without a unitary world government.
For now. Until the Federal government finally has had its fill of them.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago

I didn’t notice him arguing against evil nutters, he seemed to be largely arguing against consumerism. Which leads inexorably to other people getting to decide what we can and can’t consume and always in such a way that the deciders manage to be exempt from such proscriptions.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Cunningham
Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
1 year ago

Haven’t we seen knowledge (that is in essence technology) limited by “benevolent” bureaucracies to narrow Covid options? It didn’t work well.

I prefer a world wherein technologies expand and we do our best to limit bad consequences. Any advance in knowledge can be used in multifarious ways. For example, there is no nuclear medicine without nuclear bombs. There is no path out of the carbon crisis without nuclear power.

A pope decreed that crossbows could be used only against infidels. He correctly saw the threat to the moral economy of feudalism. We will be as successful as he should we try to close the door to change.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Holmes

I don’t think knowledge and technology are the same thing ‘in essence’, but I agree that it’s hard to keep the lid on the genie’s bottle. What Kingsnorth is saying (I think) is that you have to build a society that has inherent restraints derived from some sort of communal spirituality, but good luck with that
.Wendell Berry’s essay on the Rational Mind vs the Sympathetic Mind (Two Minds) makes the idea clearer.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Holmes

I don’t think knowledge and technology are the same thing ‘in essence’, but I agree that it’s hard to keep the lid on the genie’s bottle. What Kingsnorth is saying (I think) is that you have to build a society that has inherent restraints derived from some sort of communal spirituality, but good luck with that
.Wendell Berry’s essay on the Rational Mind vs the Sympathetic Mind (Two Minds) makes the idea clearer.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

My point is, how would you implement what you are suggesting, short of a unitary world government with coercive powers? As things stand, each individual nation will do as they see fit, or as the pressures of their local populaces dictate. I mean by that, if for example even China, if they tried to slow down the ‘growth’ train, and it resulted in their population being plunged into poverty, I bet even the CCP would be turfed out (no doubt resulting in much bloodshed) in that situation. I don’t see how or which poorer countries, currently attempting to get richer, are actually going to be able to do such a thing successfully without it resulting in mass revolt.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago

I didn’t notice him arguing against evil nutters, he seemed to be largely arguing against consumerism. Which leads inexorably to other people getting to decide what we can and can’t consume and always in such a way that the deciders manage to be exempt from such proscriptions.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Cunningham
Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
1 year ago

Haven’t we seen knowledge (that is in essence technology) limited by “benevolent” bureaucracies to narrow Covid options? It didn’t work well.

I prefer a world wherein technologies expand and we do our best to limit bad consequences. Any advance in knowledge can be used in multifarious ways. For example, there is no nuclear medicine without nuclear bombs. There is no path out of the carbon crisis without nuclear power.

A pope decreed that crossbows could be used only against infidels. He correctly saw the threat to the moral economy of feudalism. We will be as successful as he should we try to close the door to change.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Fair points, but I wonder if you are right that there can be no such thing as ‘appropriate’ technology, and that we just have to accept whatever some evil nutter with a 3D printer comes up with? I can’t see why we can’t go on trying, as we always have done, to put boundaries around invention and adoption of new and undesirable ways and means – tho I accept that the current madness (inspired by the availability of everything everywhere anywhen on the very machine I am typing this sentence on) makes it a tough challenge at the moment. But rather than going on to slaughter the last few field animals and woodland birds we have left, maybe we should – er – outlaw new technologies that would threaten them, to take a simple example? Or is that the sort of thing you would call ‘sticking to the baby ride’? Your choice of phrase is a bit of a giveaway, tbh.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

“Ideology does not know the miracle of being.” H. Arendt.

Karl Bucus
Karl Bucus
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Read the essay again. He definitely doesn’t do this.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I may want a huge range of things but does that make them good either for me or society?

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

You’re confusing technological advancement with the worldview of Progress, i.e. the opposite of Tradition. Do not get your terns confused. The author is not talking about the loom or the internet, but the worldview that underpins it that arose alongside liberalism in the 18th century and has been attacked by malcontents from Guenon to Kazcynski.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Exactly. Just what is the point of advocating for an anti-technology stance, without also acknowledging that such a stance, taken at face value, means your wife is a hundred times more likely to die during childbirth, or three out of your seven children won’t reach the age of ten because they die of measles and smallpox and deptheria?

Because technological advance doesn’t offer you a pick-and-mix stall, you get a black box with a dispenser, and you don’t know if the next candy put forth is one you love, or one which is bitter and makes you extremely unwell. No one looking to find out about the nature of matter and the structure of the atom, knew it would lead to the A-bomb is short order.

Kingsnorth says “Ideology is the enemy of particularity” but from my perspective, generalisation is also the enemy particularity, when a generalised dissatisfaction with the state of society doesn’t then also want to spell out, in stark concrete terms, where exactly the demarcations are, of how much technology you are willing to adopt, and no further – and also put forward a defence if such a half-way house stance is even remotely realistic. For myself, I don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘appropriate technology’, there is only technology, and you either embrace the ride, even if much of it absolutely terrifies you, or you don’t embark at all, claiming motion sicknesses. Either stance is fine; what is not in all honesty feasible is to scream, half way down the first dipper, that you want to get off, because you are now squeamish and queasy and about to chuck up in your cabin. Perhaps best to stick to the baby ride in those circumstances.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

“Ideology does not know the miracle of being.” H. Arendt.

Karl Bucus
Karl Bucus
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Read the essay again. He definitely doesn’t do this.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

“Ideology is the enemy of particularity.”

Very true and the ideology being espoused here ignores particularities like anaesthetic, antibiotics, central heating, washing machines and and and.

I enjoyed the essay but if you want the above things your localism has to stay plugged into Progress.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

The author writes:
“…my instinctive loathing of labels and categories…”
Are you sure Paul? Are you really sure? Because this essay is littered with labels and categories.
It’s one of those essays where – due to the fine reputation of its author – you’re expecting something weighty and perhaps even edifying. It proved to be a real disappointment, as if something has gone amiss in Kingsnorth’s transmitter and he’s suddenly just producing huge doses of static instead of intelligent exposition. There are a few sections where you think something’s going to start to cohere, but then it just falls apart again.
I suspect he’s just trying too hard. There’s the glimmer of something meaningful in there, but it needs rewriting. Only a schoolboy starting to read more widely about the world might take something useful from it – pointers towards all the different conceptual frameworks that’ve been mish-mashed together.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

remember the ‘brown acid’ Wavy-Gravy (Woodstock guy making a famous announcement) spoke of?

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Funny! (Yes indo remember )

james goater
james goater
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Pedant alert (with apologies): Actually, it wasn’t Wavy-Gravy (Hugh Romney) warning against the “brown acid” circulating among that enormous crowd. It was the stage announcer, Chip Monck. Great days.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Funny! (Yes indo remember )

james goater
james goater
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Pedant alert (with apologies): Actually, it wasn’t Wavy-Gravy (Hugh Romney) warning against the “brown acid” circulating among that enormous crowd. It was the stage announcer, Chip Monck. Great days.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I agree with you. There are many words, many thoughts but no aim. It meanders about all over the place.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

For me it’s less to do with aim than fatigue; of having talked oneself into a corner with nowhere else to go. Many related comments here reflect this yes…but position: as in it’s a nice-to-have, but actually. Or maybe it’s despair. I sensed much the same in one of Harrington’s earlier posts (Why we need the apocalypse | ‘Progress has given way to bubbling madness’), namely, a loss of direction. Not her most recent about caravans that ‘rages against the dying of the light’. Lessons? Mine is to become human; before it’s too late. Eliot’s East Coker comes to mind.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

For me it’s less to do with aim than fatigue; of having talked oneself into a corner with nowhere else to go. Many related comments here reflect this yes…but position: as in it’s a nice-to-have, but actually. Or maybe it’s despair. I sensed much the same in one of Harrington’s earlier posts (Why we need the apocalypse | ‘Progress has given way to bubbling madness’), namely, a loss of direction. Not her most recent about caravans that ‘rages against the dying of the light’. Lessons? Mine is to become human; before it’s too late. Eliot’s East Coker comes to mind.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Courageous comment, which I sense – if he’s worth his salt – Kingsnorth will appreciate.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

Thankyou. I also suspect there’s an element (as occasionally occurs with other usually excellent contributors to Unherd, which you refer to in your earlier comment) of having to meet a deadline.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

Thankyou. I also suspect there’s an element (as occasionally occurs with other usually excellent contributors to Unherd, which you refer to in your earlier comment) of having to meet a deadline.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

remember the ‘brown acid’ Wavy-Gravy (Woodstock guy making a famous announcement) spoke of?

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I agree with you. There are many words, many thoughts but no aim. It meanders about all over the place.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Courageous comment, which I sense – if he’s worth his salt – Kingsnorth will appreciate.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

The author writes:
“…my instinctive loathing of labels and categories…”
Are you sure Paul? Are you really sure? Because this essay is littered with labels and categories.
It’s one of those essays where – due to the fine reputation of its author – you’re expecting something weighty and perhaps even edifying. It proved to be a real disappointment, as if something has gone amiss in Kingsnorth’s transmitter and he’s suddenly just producing huge doses of static instead of intelligent exposition. There are a few sections where you think something’s going to start to cohere, but then it just falls apart again.
I suspect he’s just trying too hard. There’s the glimmer of something meaningful in there, but it needs rewriting. Only a schoolboy starting to read more widely about the world might take something useful from it – pointers towards all the different conceptual frameworks that’ve been mish-mashed together.

Olivier Clarinval
Olivier Clarinval
1 year ago

I loved the essay, and then I read the comments… It seems that most people reacting to this article defensively go to the position of opposing the current enlightened modern world to a past savage world where life was short and brutal. However true or wrong this picture of the pre-modern past is (it seems mostly wrong to me, heavily influenced by the myth of progress…), that is not the point of the essay, in my understanding. What to me was so inspiring in this piece was the search for a way to make sense of our lives in the modern world. If you agree with PK that for most of us modern life is empty, bereft of human and community bounds, commodified to the point of not having any soul left, how do you make sense of it all, how do you find a way to cope and move forward. His description of the current “ideologies” or political sides available to us as innefectual and corrupt speaks volumes to me. If it does to you too, if you feel politically homeless, the notion of reactionary radicalism is appealing and gives us a way forward, outside or on the margins of the great commodification machine that rules our lives. It allows us to feel good about resisting the relentless march of “progress” in small and not so small acts of connection to the land or the people who share it close to us.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
Olivier Clarinval
Olivier Clarinval
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Not sure what you read in my comment but there was nothing about going anywhere to “go back to nature” and certainly no indication of religion as I have never been religious and would not know how to start being part of one.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Sorry.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Sorry.

Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Your whole comment is a strawman wrapped in a bad-faith argument. Why are you even wasting the electricity to deliver these few KBs of data across the internet?

Olivier Clarinval
Olivier Clarinval
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Not sure what you read in my comment but there was nothing about going anywhere to “go back to nature” and certainly no indication of religion as I have never been religious and would not know how to start being part of one.

Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Your whole comment is a strawman wrapped in a bad-faith argument. Why are you even wasting the electricity to deliver these few KBs of data across the internet?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
Olivier Clarinval
Olivier Clarinval
1 year ago

I loved the essay, and then I read the comments… It seems that most people reacting to this article defensively go to the position of opposing the current enlightened modern world to a past savage world where life was short and brutal. However true or wrong this picture of the pre-modern past is (it seems mostly wrong to me, heavily influenced by the myth of progress…), that is not the point of the essay, in my understanding. What to me was so inspiring in this piece was the search for a way to make sense of our lives in the modern world. If you agree with PK that for most of us modern life is empty, bereft of human and community bounds, commodified to the point of not having any soul left, how do you make sense of it all, how do you find a way to cope and move forward. His description of the current “ideologies” or political sides available to us as innefectual and corrupt speaks volumes to me. If it does to you too, if you feel politically homeless, the notion of reactionary radicalism is appealing and gives us a way forward, outside or on the margins of the great commodification machine that rules our lives. It allows us to feel good about resisting the relentless march of “progress” in small and not so small acts of connection to the land or the people who share it close to us.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

“Accustomed as we are now to “work” and “home” and “consumption” and “production”, it can be hard for us to understand that for most people in pre-modern times, these amounted to the same thing. For an artisan weaver in early modern England, for example, home was where the family lived and worked, where children were born and reared and trained, where trade was carried out, where food was grown and eaten. Today all of this has been broken apart into small segments — turning the home into a dormitory, its adult inhabitants into both “workers” and “consumers” elsewhere, its children into pupils at a distant school, its parlour into a show-room for TV, tablet and gaming console, its kitchen into a store-room for shop-bought, processed “food”. ”

I have a pretty big problem with this article and it’s simply that it appears to me to be dishonest – by omission, admittedly – about the huge costs of recreating some of the virtues of the past described above.

The paragraph I’ve quoted is one example: yes it is true that prior to the modern age most people had to produce themselves what they consumed – not just food, but almost everything. The household had to have generalised skills in manufacture as well as food production, and this means, in short, that they lived in poverty.

The wealth of the modern age depends more than anything else upon one principle: that each of us specialises in producing one thing – or more likely we specialise in one tiny part of a process that leads to the production of one thing – but that we have diversified our consumption to the point that we consume the output of almost everyone else, on one level or another.

To give a somewhat trivial example, I do not consume the artistic output of Sam Smith (who I had not heard of until he recently made a fool of himself photographed the silliest clothes I’ve ever seen a human being wear in apparent seriousness but doubtless got himself talked about, which was the point). But it is 100% certain that I have consumed the economic output of people who do like to listen to Sam Smith (at work or at home, it makes no difference), and this is an example of the global network of extended and extrapolated cooperation that the industrial system relies upon. The point is that it does not matter to anyone in this web of cooperation that we all have varying cultural tastes: we are ourselves commoditised as productive units that absolves us of the need to be culturally and morally aligned in order for cooperation to exist. (This is of course a very brief rehearsal of the argument in the book I, Pencil, but adapted for relevance to the cultural/moral issues mentioned in the context of the article).

This is what makes us all – even the poorest among us – rich in comparison to every human prior to the modern age that this article appears to want to put into reverse. Does the author have an answer as to how to preserve the exorbitant wealth to which we’re accustomed? Because if not, the concerns illustrated here are really not to be taken seriously. What is the proposal that stems from these concerns?

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I think your comment speaks to your value system only. You seem to equate money and ability to buy largely meaningless things with *real* wealth (the type that Paul talks about in the article).

tug ordie
tug ordie
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

The division of labor is the single most important invention in terms of human prosperity. But it has the side effect of increasing inequality, and the “machine” that Kingsnorth refers to is fueled by it voraciously.

Even putting aside the physics and engineering, the climate change issue is so laughable because a vanishing minority is going to choose to voluntarily make their lives “worse”, namely, less convenient and comfortable, unless they have no choice (and no matter the efforts of the greens, this will be running up against a physical barrier, not a legal one)

There is conflict and contradiction all over spurred by progress and technology. Our triage medicine will save people who had no chance fifty years ago much less five hundred, and some preventative medicine has done the same, while it has irreparably harmed others. We’ve connected ourselves closer and closer but become massively more atomized at the same time. The loss of a moral and cultural ethic has cause nihilistic outbursts and misanthropy to enter the zeitgeist.

It seems in many ways like there is actually no way out but forward, but with no real sense of what forward means now. See the essay “American Futura” by Mike Solana over at Pirate Wires. Technology used to very clearly make our lives immediately and appreciably better. Now, not so much. It isn’t surprising that this aimless progress is resisted by some. Especially when you look around and see your land polluted, your air full of smog, your daily life bereft of value. The guide rails that kept humans aligned with a sense of participation and membership in something bigger than themselves (one of main purposes of myth, as Campbell points out) have been continually dissolved and resulted in the fracturing of our social landscape.

Maybe this is the great filter, after all?

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  tug ordie

“The division of labor is the single most important invention in terms of human prosperity. But it has the side effect of increasing inequality, and the “machine” that Kingsnorth refers to is fueled by it voraciously.”

I am not sure this is correct. The first social consequence of the industrial revolution was to reduce the colossal inequalities of class that had always existed prior to it, which were so pronounced that the nobility actually imagined itself of superior stock to the masses. Such archaic attitudes have been wiped out of existence by the march of progress. The economic question is a little different because there have been cycles within the industrial period where inequality has both risen and fallen, but either way the point must surely be admitted that whether inequality has falled or risen, surely the enormous improvement in absolute living standards is far more important?

I also must dispute the assumption that material progress is bought at the expense of the natural world. This is not necessarily true, and it does appear now that in very advanced economies, we are repairing the damage done in the rush to industrialise last century, and further progress is achieved at far lower environmental costs. And this is not new either, nor is it the result of activist action: the first steam trains were 2% efficient and belched out sulphur, soot and heavy metals in addition to CO2: now all forms of motorised transport are dozens of times more efficient and thousands of times cleaner, to the point where in many developing nation cities, a modern car exhausts used air that’s cleaner than the car that goes into its intake (electric vehicles have reversed this trend temporarily, but progress will solve that, too).

In short, I don’t buy into the notion that we can blame technology or free market capitalism for our social malaise. That malaise exists, yes, but the dominant narrative identifies the wrong culprit for it.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  tug ordie

“The division of labor is the single most important invention in terms of human prosperity. But it has the side effect of increasing inequality, and the “machine” that Kingsnorth refers to is fueled by it voraciously.”

I am not sure this is correct. The first social consequence of the industrial revolution was to reduce the colossal inequalities of class that had always existed prior to it, which were so pronounced that the nobility actually imagined itself of superior stock to the masses. Such archaic attitudes have been wiped out of existence by the march of progress. The economic question is a little different because there have been cycles within the industrial period where inequality has both risen and fallen, but either way the point must surely be admitted that whether inequality has falled or risen, surely the enormous improvement in absolute living standards is far more important?

I also must dispute the assumption that material progress is bought at the expense of the natural world. This is not necessarily true, and it does appear now that in very advanced economies, we are repairing the damage done in the rush to industrialise last century, and further progress is achieved at far lower environmental costs. And this is not new either, nor is it the result of activist action: the first steam trains were 2% efficient and belched out sulphur, soot and heavy metals in addition to CO2: now all forms of motorised transport are dozens of times more efficient and thousands of times cleaner, to the point where in many developing nation cities, a modern car exhausts used air that’s cleaner than the car that goes into its intake (electric vehicles have reversed this trend temporarily, but progress will solve that, too).

In short, I don’t buy into the notion that we can blame technology or free market capitalism for our social malaise. That malaise exists, yes, but the dominant narrative identifies the wrong culprit for it.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I think your comment speaks to your value system only. You seem to equate money and ability to buy largely meaningless things with *real* wealth (the type that Paul talks about in the article).

tug ordie
tug ordie
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

The division of labor is the single most important invention in terms of human prosperity. But it has the side effect of increasing inequality, and the “machine” that Kingsnorth refers to is fueled by it voraciously.

Even putting aside the physics and engineering, the climate change issue is so laughable because a vanishing minority is going to choose to voluntarily make their lives “worse”, namely, less convenient and comfortable, unless they have no choice (and no matter the efforts of the greens, this will be running up against a physical barrier, not a legal one)

There is conflict and contradiction all over spurred by progress and technology. Our triage medicine will save people who had no chance fifty years ago much less five hundred, and some preventative medicine has done the same, while it has irreparably harmed others. We’ve connected ourselves closer and closer but become massively more atomized at the same time. The loss of a moral and cultural ethic has cause nihilistic outbursts and misanthropy to enter the zeitgeist.

It seems in many ways like there is actually no way out but forward, but with no real sense of what forward means now. See the essay “American Futura” by Mike Solana over at Pirate Wires. Technology used to very clearly make our lives immediately and appreciably better. Now, not so much. It isn’t surprising that this aimless progress is resisted by some. Especially when you look around and see your land polluted, your air full of smog, your daily life bereft of value. The guide rails that kept humans aligned with a sense of participation and membership in something bigger than themselves (one of main purposes of myth, as Campbell points out) have been continually dissolved and resulted in the fracturing of our social landscape.

Maybe this is the great filter, after all?

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

“Accustomed as we are now to “work” and “home” and “consumption” and “production”, it can be hard for us to understand that for most people in pre-modern times, these amounted to the same thing. For an artisan weaver in early modern England, for example, home was where the family lived and worked, where children were born and reared and trained, where trade was carried out, where food was grown and eaten. Today all of this has been broken apart into small segments — turning the home into a dormitory, its adult inhabitants into both “workers” and “consumers” elsewhere, its children into pupils at a distant school, its parlour into a show-room for TV, tablet and gaming console, its kitchen into a store-room for shop-bought, processed “food”. ”

I have a pretty big problem with this article and it’s simply that it appears to me to be dishonest – by omission, admittedly – about the huge costs of recreating some of the virtues of the past described above.

The paragraph I’ve quoted is one example: yes it is true that prior to the modern age most people had to produce themselves what they consumed – not just food, but almost everything. The household had to have generalised skills in manufacture as well as food production, and this means, in short, that they lived in poverty.

The wealth of the modern age depends more than anything else upon one principle: that each of us specialises in producing one thing – or more likely we specialise in one tiny part of a process that leads to the production of one thing – but that we have diversified our consumption to the point that we consume the output of almost everyone else, on one level or another.

To give a somewhat trivial example, I do not consume the artistic output of Sam Smith (who I had not heard of until he recently made a fool of himself photographed the silliest clothes I’ve ever seen a human being wear in apparent seriousness but doubtless got himself talked about, which was the point). But it is 100% certain that I have consumed the economic output of people who do like to listen to Sam Smith (at work or at home, it makes no difference), and this is an example of the global network of extended and extrapolated cooperation that the industrial system relies upon. The point is that it does not matter to anyone in this web of cooperation that we all have varying cultural tastes: we are ourselves commoditised as productive units that absolves us of the need to be culturally and morally aligned in order for cooperation to exist. (This is of course a very brief rehearsal of the argument in the book I, Pencil, but adapted for relevance to the cultural/moral issues mentioned in the context of the article).

This is what makes us all – even the poorest among us – rich in comparison to every human prior to the modern age that this article appears to want to put into reverse. Does the author have an answer as to how to preserve the exorbitant wealth to which we’re accustomed? Because if not, the concerns illustrated here are really not to be taken seriously. What is the proposal that stems from these concerns?

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Martin Akiyama
Martin Akiyama
1 year ago

Mr. Kingsnorth, I’ve read a few of your essays, here and on your Substack, and you are very good at articulating the aspects of the modern world that you dislike, but I’m unclear on whether there is any sort of future that you would consider good for humanity, that anyone would actually want to live in. I don’t want to live in a 17th Century world of horse-drawn ploughs and high infant mortality!
It would be interesting if you could write a detailed description of what the world would look like in the near future (say, 2040 or 2050) if it was heading in the direction you wanted us to go in. What would be some concrete differences between that world and the present day? Or have you already written something like this?
Also, I’d like to recommend this free online book – Better Without AI by David Chapman – to anyone concerned about AI, or wondering whether they should be concerned about AI, or whether there is anything they can do about it:
https://betterwithout.ai/
https://betterwithout.ai/about-me

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Akiyama

“It would be interesting if you could write a detailed description of what the world would look like in the near future…”
Yes, that’s one good question for Kingsnorth and many commenters. Here’s another one, a more practical one: If the ideal future were to be agrarian or pastoral, let alone hunting-and-gathering, how could we actually get there? There are way too many people now and therefore too little land to revive those ancient economies. And that won’t change enough in the foreseeable future even in view of currently declining birth rates–not unless the population declines catastrophically through plagues or nuclear wars. No matter how idyllic those scenarios might or might not seem, in short, they’re no longer possible.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Perhaps the dinosaurs thought the same way? Considering how many years our planet has been in existence, and how much has changed on earth during that time, it is likely that a natural event will, once again, destroy most living things and it will start all over again.

Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

No, look at our current health levels in the West, we are definitely declining in health and longevity. Look at the spread of auto-immune disease, resistant strains of fungal and bacterial infections (courtosy of Progress), obesity rising, intellect crumbling. We’ve literally got millions of people per year either eating or drinking themselves to death, and that’s not even counting the drug overdoses. And yes, *of course* we’re due for a massive plague or other natural catastrophe (something like a comet strike and resultant massive flooding) that is sure to severely trim back most of the population. This has happened several times before, and it will continue to do so. We don’t exist in a vacuum.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Perhaps the dinosaurs thought the same way? Considering how many years our planet has been in existence, and how much has changed on earth during that time, it is likely that a natural event will, once again, destroy most living things and it will start all over again.

Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

No, look at our current health levels in the West, we are definitely declining in health and longevity. Look at the spread of auto-immune disease, resistant strains of fungal and bacterial infections (courtosy of Progress), obesity rising, intellect crumbling. We’ve literally got millions of people per year either eating or drinking themselves to death, and that’s not even counting the drug overdoses. And yes, *of course* we’re due for a massive plague or other natural catastrophe (something like a comet strike and resultant massive flooding) that is sure to severely trim back most of the population. This has happened several times before, and it will continue to do so. We don’t exist in a vacuum.

Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Akiyama

Problem is, there is no going forward without continual stripping of the ecology and our personal health and freedom. The only way is to severely de-industrialize and go back to being nomadic folk, travelling to keep pace with animals and the good weather. You can certainly rail against this, but one way or another, this past is our inescapable future.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Akiyama

“It would be interesting if you could write a detailed description of what the world would look like in the near future…”
Yes, that’s one good question for Kingsnorth and many commenters. Here’s another one, a more practical one: If the ideal future were to be agrarian or pastoral, let alone hunting-and-gathering, how could we actually get there? There are way too many people now and therefore too little land to revive those ancient economies. And that won’t change enough in the foreseeable future even in view of currently declining birth rates–not unless the population declines catastrophically through plagues or nuclear wars. No matter how idyllic those scenarios might or might not seem, in short, they’re no longer possible.

Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Akiyama

Problem is, there is no going forward without continual stripping of the ecology and our personal health and freedom. The only way is to severely de-industrialize and go back to being nomadic folk, travelling to keep pace with animals and the good weather. You can certainly rail against this, but one way or another, this past is our inescapable future.

Martin Akiyama
Martin Akiyama
1 year ago

Mr. Kingsnorth, I’ve read a few of your essays, here and on your Substack, and you are very good at articulating the aspects of the modern world that you dislike, but I’m unclear on whether there is any sort of future that you would consider good for humanity, that anyone would actually want to live in. I don’t want to live in a 17th Century world of horse-drawn ploughs and high infant mortality!
It would be interesting if you could write a detailed description of what the world would look like in the near future (say, 2040 or 2050) if it was heading in the direction you wanted us to go in. What would be some concrete differences between that world and the present day? Or have you already written something like this?
Also, I’d like to recommend this free online book – Better Without AI by David Chapman – to anyone concerned about AI, or wondering whether they should be concerned about AI, or whether there is anything they can do about it:
https://betterwithout.ai/
https://betterwithout.ai/about-me

Toby Green
Toby Green
1 year ago

This is such an interesting essay – clearly as the comments show it leaves open many questions, but I think that the drift of it – to challenge the notion that what is new will always be better and to stand up for the local and particular is a great start. Thanks.
Emily Fowke

Last edited 1 year ago by Toby Green
Toby Green
Toby Green
1 year ago

This is such an interesting essay – clearly as the comments show it leaves open many questions, but I think that the drift of it – to challenge the notion that what is new will always be better and to stand up for the local and particular is a great start. Thanks.
Emily Fowke

Last edited 1 year ago by Toby Green
Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

What is missing in this (badly missing) is the factor of population. Everybody can’t be an artisan, nor indeed an internet influencer. People have to have an aim, something to drive them through the day.
By definition, work is boring and forced on the working class – not my thinking here but what I hear around me. So that leaves entertainment and buying things and eating out as our main drivers in the world. These drivers are provided by the oligarchs, the super rich.
So everybody gets fat, talks about celebs and buys the latest smartphone to take thousands of useless pics. Seems like we are in a neverending vicious circle, fed by the oligarchs.
Conservatism (capital ‘c’) isn’t going to help and conservatism (small ‘c’)seems a bit old- fashioned, judging by this article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris W
Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago

What is missing in this (badly missing) is the factor of population. Everybody can’t be an artisan, nor indeed an internet influencer. People have to have an aim, something to drive them through the day.
By definition, work is boring and forced on the working class – not my thinking here but what I hear around me. So that leaves entertainment and buying things and eating out as our main drivers in the world. These drivers are provided by the oligarchs, the super rich.
So everybody gets fat, talks about celebs and buys the latest smartphone to take thousands of useless pics. Seems like we are in a neverending vicious circle, fed by the oligarchs.
Conservatism (capital ‘c’) isn’t going to help and conservatism (small ‘c’)seems a bit old- fashioned, judging by this article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris W
Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago

If you reject progress, ask yourself whether you would prefer to live in this century or the tenth century. Framed this simply, it bypasses discussions of what you mean by ‘progress’.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

Not sure that is the question. If it is then just as valid a question would be ‘would a 10thC person prefer to live then or now?’. They might well prefer the 10thC; after all it is what they are used to.

The real question is really 2 questions: in which century was a person happier and which century was more sustainable. Our present system is clearly collapsing in a range of ways and looks like ending with catastrophe so….

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

Have you given much thought to what life was like for the ordinary person in the tenth century? Cut your finger in the field and you are dead in a month. Mortality rate in childbirth. Death by disease. A rather different conception of law and order. No Human Rights! But, nice ecology.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

The average person in the high middle ages worked only a few hours a day. He didn’t pay any income tax, which wouldn’t be invented for another millenia.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

No think of the first century*,and ask yourself that famous question “ What did the Romans ever do for us?”.

Think then of Claudia Severa writing form her underfloor heated study to her dear friend Sulpicia Lepidina, and both close to what would soon become Hadrian’s Wall.

(* Of the Christian Era.)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=djZkTnJnLR0

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

Yes, I have. Whatever it was it was and people accepted it like we, mostly, accept what our lives are like. In another millenia people, if we still exist, will look back at this time and marvel at how we lived ; maybe envious, maybe pitying. As long as people have food, shelter and reasonably clean water they need companionship and freedom. Sure they had problems but are you saying we don’t now.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

One might then ask why immigration flows today seem to be one-way, ie. from poor countries to us. Take a trip to Calais and discuss ‘progress’ with the non natives on the beach.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

Since almost nobody actually had freedom at the time you describe, your claim here is self-contradictory. And as for “accepting” one’s situation that may well be what people tend to do, yes, but it doesn’t mean they liked it. The idea that you can simply dismiss such a vast objective difference in living standards as irrelevant in this way is hopelessly absurd and I am surprised you’re willing to keep defending it.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

One might then ask why immigration flows today seem to be one-way, ie. from poor countries to us. Take a trip to Calais and discuss ‘progress’ with the non natives on the beach.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

Since almost nobody actually had freedom at the time you describe, your claim here is self-contradictory. And as for “accepting” one’s situation that may well be what people tend to do, yes, but it doesn’t mean they liked it. The idea that you can simply dismiss such a vast objective difference in living standards as irrelevant in this way is hopelessly absurd and I am surprised you’re willing to keep defending it.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago

Kathleen – I think the point of the article had to do with loss of a shared “moral compass”, not whether we’d prefer to live without surgery (but, lobotomies?)

Rob C
Rob C
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

How would people living in a pre-industrial world of small groups have a shared moral compass? Morality is instill by culture.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob C

Why do you think England has 9,000 odd Medieval Parish Churches? And formerly had some (circa850) Monastic establishments?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob C

Why do you think England has 9,000 odd Medieval Parish Churches? And formerly had some (circa850) Monastic establishments?

Rob C
Rob C
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

How would people living in a pre-industrial world of small groups have a shared moral compass? Morality is instill by culture.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago

Even the ecology was often awful. The Mediterranean region was once forested but firewood needs and overgrazing by sheep and goats wiped all those forests out. Even in modern times, there is far more forest as percentage of land mass in the west now than a hundred years ago – and that’s not counting the additional increase over all due to increased CO2 which plants love.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

The average person in the high middle ages worked only a few hours a day. He didn’t pay any income tax, which wouldn’t be invented for another millenia.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

No think of the first century*,and ask yourself that famous question “ What did the Romans ever do for us?”.

Think then of Claudia Severa writing form her underfloor heated study to her dear friend Sulpicia Lepidina, and both close to what would soon become Hadrian’s Wall.

(* Of the Christian Era.)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=djZkTnJnLR0

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

Yes, I have. Whatever it was it was and people accepted it like we, mostly, accept what our lives are like. In another millenia people, if we still exist, will look back at this time and marvel at how we lived ; maybe envious, maybe pitying. As long as people have food, shelter and reasonably clean water they need companionship and freedom. Sure they had problems but are you saying we don’t now.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago

Kathleen – I think the point of the article had to do with loss of a shared “moral compass”, not whether we’d prefer to live without surgery (but, lobotomies?)

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago

Even the ecology was often awful. The Mediterranean region was once forested but firewood needs and overgrazing by sheep and goats wiped all those forests out. Even in modern times, there is far more forest as percentage of land mass in the west now than a hundred years ago – and that’s not counting the additional increase over all due to increased CO2 which plants love.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Withdrawn.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Withdrawn.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

The answer to your first question is this century, not the 10th century. The second question is based on a fallacy: our systems may not be presently sustainable but the point is that we are innovating our way around the problems that emerge from constrained resources all the time. In short, the longer we keep doing what we’re doing, the closer we get to permanent sustainability and it is not, as many would have us believe, required that we reverse mass prosperity and liberty as a condition of success.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

Have you given much thought to what life was like for the ordinary person in the tenth century? Cut your finger in the field and you are dead in a month. Mortality rate in childbirth. Death by disease. A rather different conception of law and order. No Human Rights! But, nice ecology.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

The answer to your first question is this century, not the 10th century. The second question is based on a fallacy: our systems may not be presently sustainable but the point is that we are innovating our way around the problems that emerge from constrained resources all the time. In short, the longer we keep doing what we’re doing, the closer we get to permanent sustainability and it is not, as many would have