"Progress" is Insanity
April 25, 2009 9:12 AM   Subscribe

"Progress" is Insanity
"What it boils down to is this; that nobody alive in any culture of "progress" today knows anything other than bigger. Alternatively, if you like, all participants in democratic free markets have the shared expectation that they will have more tomorrow than they did today. In fact, we can go further and say that anything other than more, bigger, or better represents a failure of our governance that we all battle with equal fear, and vigor." - Economic Democracy Demands One World Balance
posted by Aetius Romulous (6 comments total)

I'm sorry, but your opening sentence is such a sweeping generalization that you're going to have a hard time convincing anyone who doesn't already have this sort of myopic and reactionary stance. Who is going to break down all the "progress" (scare quotes for your sake) and bring us back to enlightened times? This kind of talk is indeed as crazy as Salafi jihadists talking of restoring the Islamic caliphate by killing people and tearing down governments.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:07 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

No need to apologize, it was meant to be sweeping.

I suggest progress is a subjective term, a moving target. It need not be measured by GDP, but rather by sustainability. The point being that we may have been chasing the wrong score card.

Rather than "break down" progress, we should simply redefine it, and carry on.

Of course, I suppose doing nothing is an option - it's worked before. Should work every time, right? Almost every time anyway.
posted by Aetius Romulous at 3:05 PM on April 25, 2009

I read a couple of your articles and found the analyses to be a bit barren. Can you really blame the "boomers" for all that? Don't forget, as the boomer bulge went through the snake, many in the previous generation made out like bandits. I'm referring especially to the professional classes like doctors and lawyers. I guess what I'm saying is that the boomers filled the bus seats and paid a lot of the fares and made the bus company rich, but didn't invent the bus or design the route as much as just ride along. In fact, when many in the boomer generation attempted to get off the merry go-round by "dropping out", the law was used to round them up and get them back into the "growth" rat race.

Full disclosure: I am right on the cusp of the boomers and gen X, so I get some of both perspective.

Ok, I had to go read another one to confirm my critique. I read Freud's Bastards. I find your idea that Freud laid the groundwork for propaganda, again, a bit thin. Propaganda flourished long before that, in the arena of religion. For thousands of years, no less.

I once though like you did. It's All Modern Man's Fault. It Was All Better Before Modern Times. It was when I persued this idea by studying the past that I had so glorified, that I learned that I could not have been more wrong.
posted by telstar at 4:44 PM on April 25, 2009

All men stand on the shoulders of others I suppose. This is true of Freud, as you point out. I guess it's just a condition of man, that in a series of endless links, he must always have a predictable series of demarcation points.

So for my purposes, we should call Freud perhaps the father of "industrial" psychology perhaps. he wrote, noted, codified, and generally accounted for a range of stuff that to be sure, existed through behavior that was until Freud nameless, or misidentified.

It also worked in his favor that he was from a prodigious, extended family of intellectuals that gave him an immediate base from which to build. Anna Freud and Bernays being only two, prominent examples. This Freudean nexus occurred at the birth of mass communication, and dominating western capitalism as well, allowing it speed, depth, and range that simply did not exist before.

All these things make Freud an integral figure to understanding the nuts and bolts of our world today.

Of course, the changes that Freud's influence had on consumer society were fully installed by the end of WWII, and so the "Baby Boomers" were the first, full generation to live entirely within that system. They embraced the ethos entirely, and built our world upon it. Again, by fortune, this fully formed ethos had the good fortune of enveloping the the largest demographic in recorded history, giving it incredible power in a democratic world.

I have a number of articles that tackle bits and pieces of a much larger canvass. These are just two. Eventually I'll stitch them all together into a coherent thought LOL.

Thanks for the well considered feedback. Appreciate it.
posted by Aetius Romulous at 12:01 PM on April 26, 2009

Yes, I think I see what you're getting at with the idea of industialization of psychology. I would probably be open to the idea that the baby boom was the first generation in history to be practically universally subject to the broad application of non-religious psychological techniques from birth. I suppose I would probably see them in more of a passive than active role, however, as it was their parents in the 1950's who embraced Freudianism wholeheartedly as an integral part of child-rearing. Interesting, isn't it, that those who bask in glorious reflection of a lost time of innocence in the 50's conveniently forget how influential the ideas of a European intellectual psychologist were at the time.

I encourage you to continue writing essays. If you don't mind a suggestion, I think you might profit intellectually from reading (if you haven't already) two books which greatly enlightened me in thinking about these kinds of matters.

The two books are
The Technological Society

Jacques Ellul is touted as a "theologian" and I know nothing of his numerous works on religion and society, but took away a prodigious amount of learning from those two books listed above, which, as far as I recall, had little or nothing theological within them. I, personally, did not find these rather dense texts the usual tough slog at all, instead, I was hooked after the first few pages and couldn't put them down until I had finished reading them.
posted by telstar at 6:39 PM on April 27, 2009

Wow. That was a great tip. I have encountered Ellul in the "google' sort of way in research, but never read his work.

I will certainly take your advice. Thanks.
posted by Aetius Romulous at 8:38 AM on April 28, 2009

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