I've added another link to this blog under the 'Other Interesting Links' section. This is the UrbanRail.Net site mentioned in the previous post. The obligatory explanation follows.
There is little doubt that "technology" has its own dynamic, forcing society to follow certain paths even as the form of society determines what technologies will be developed and which neglected. A pretentious Marxist would style this sort of interplay of causation as "dialectical" so as to a)appear very smart and b)to obscure some other rather less savoury point that the Marxist wants to make. Both this sort of mutual determination, usually referred to in non-ideological circles as complexity and more formal "circular causation" are part of normal intellectual discourse and hardly need a buzzword such as dialectical to obscure their meaning.
The sociology ! of both Marxism in power and as an academic assembly line, as well as how "dialectic" became the butt of popular jokes in Eastern Europe under Stalinism gives more than a slight hint of how this obfuscation is much more a matter of a weapon of class rule or the aspirations of a would-be ruling class than clear thinking. It's always far better to say what you mean than to hide behind a pseudo intellectual phrase.
Be that as it may there are people in this world who are even fuzzier in their thinking than Marxists. I'll leave aside the neo-cons whose rule of the American Empire seems to be coming to an end and how they were captives of their own abstractions. That is an entirely different post (or 50). I speak, unfortunately, of some of my own "comrades" . There's a trend in modern North American anarchism popularly called "primitivism" that imagines that it has uncovered a much more basic form of "oppression/misery/hierarchy/etc..etc.,etc" than any classical anarchists have.
Some of these people(but unfortunately too few) have read their antecedents such as Shumacher, Illich and Ellul, but they haven't taken the lesson of the first two. They tend to follow in a debased form the manner of the latter. The first two always criticized "particular technologies" and often advocated alternatives. The latter usually based his writings on such a high plane of abstraction that he basically "meant nothing" in most of what he said. The saddest part of this trend is that some of them claim the "individualist anarchist" mantle via a presumed interpretation of Stirner. Now, I've read 'The Ego and His Own' more than once, and I can say two things. One is that Stirner should have been given an award for being an even poorer writer than Marx. It takes some doing. The second is that his book could have easily been boiled down to a few pages that basically stated that people are captives of their abstractions. Stirner called them "spooks".
A lot of modern day primitivism has a genealogy that traces back to an ill digested version of situationism, and, like the sits, they move in a world of thought where the real world rarely intrudes. At its best situationism is good poetry. At its worst it is word spinning in a self referential world that means nothing except the attempt of a self defined "elite" to "prove" how superior it is.
How this relates to "technology" is pretty obvious to be. There is no such thing as the "technology" in the abstract that primmies like to demonize while advocating other technologies and techniques. This is a "spook" in the full Stirnerite meaning of the word. The anti-technology rhetoric becomes a badge of distinction-and that is ALL that it is. When they lower their exalted selves to actually propose something they end up tailing ! so many of the people that they like to feel superior to. Growing a garden is great. This is despite the fact that the average primmie has far less experience and knowledge about same than a vast number of the normal people that they despise. Practically everything they propose is little more than a signpost for someone outside of their cult to notice their inferiority in practical knowledge.
That's all "individualist" stuff, and it certainly makes me hold my nose when reading their nonsense. What may be more important is that they have little-and usually nothing- to propose about how their dreams may become a social reality. Beyond joining their cult, of course. The whole matter reeks of religious proselytism rather than politics.
Which finally brings me to my point. The crowd cheers-the speech will finally be over. I have listed many scientific references in this blog for the simple reason that science is nothing more than amplified common sense. There's little doubt that there is a "sociology of science" that describes how theories come and go, but science has a little ace up its sleeve. It is one of the few-perhaps the only- human enterprise that has worked out a method of collegial self-correction. This method certainly contrasts with the methods of political theory, radical or otherwise where mistakes are usually not corrected but only explained away- at best.
Science's daughter "technology" certainly is so important that it has to be both noticed and commented upon -notice I don't use the buzzword "critiqued"; I have nothing to prove. But to be useful, or even interesting at all to people outside of a cult, the matter has to be specific. "Which" technology in which social setting ? I find the idea of urban rapid transit fascinating because I assume that people will continue to exist in their present numbers in the foreseeable future and I have no genocidal fantasies of reducing their numbers. I also assume that, while I might favour a population balance more screwed towards a rural dispersion that people have good reasons for choosing an urban living space- as almost ALL primmies do even while they spout their rhetoric. To me that's a given. retirement is when I move back to the country. Hence my liking for more rational-in many ways- methods of moving about a city. Urban rapid transit!
To my mind such a technology is libertarian in a much more fundamental way than jeremiads about the evils of our modern society. It CAN be accomplished. In the future I hope to find more such examples and highlight them here. "Technology" is neither good nor bad. it simply doesn't exist outside of the minds of ideologues. Certain techniques CAN be either good or bad. That is what anarchists should turn their attention to.
The crowd cheers and puts down its rotten fruit. The speech is over, and it lasted less than 1 50th of a Castro speech. Everybody files out, hopefully having learnt something. The speaker packs up and returns to the night, pleased with a attempt at style variation.