The Ecology of Freedom : Chapter 11 - The Ambiguities of Freedom
(1921 - 2006) ~ Father of Social Ecology and Anarcho-Communalism : Growing up in the era of traditional proletarian socialism, with its working-class insurrections and struggles against classical fascism, as an adult he helped start the ecology movement, embraced the feminist movement as antihierarchical, and developed his own democratic, communalist politics. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "...Proudhon here appears as a supporter of direct democracy and assembly self- management on a clearly civic level, a form of social organization well worth fighting for in an era of centralization and oligarchy." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)
• "...anarchism is above all antihierarchical rather than simply individualistic; it seeks to remove the domination of human by human, not only the abolition of the state and exploitation by ruling economic classes." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)
• "The historic opposition of anarchists to oppression of all kinds, be it that of serfs, peasants, craftspeople, or workers, inevitably led them to oppose exploitation in the newly emerging factory system as well. Much earlier than we are often led to imagine, syndicalism- - essentially a rather inchoate but radical form of trade unionism- - became a vehicle by which many anarchists reached out to the industrial working class of the 1830s and 1840s." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)
Chapter 11 - The Ambiguities of Freedom
The technics and the technical imagination that can nourish the development of a free, ecological society are beset by ambiguities. Tools and machines can be used either to foster a totally domineering attitude toward nature or to promote natural variety and nonhierarchical social relationships. Although what is "big" in technics may be very ugly, what is "small" is not necessarily beautiful. Great despotisms have been based on a technology that is Neolithic in scale and form. The criticism of "industrial society" and "technological man" which erupted in the 1970s is testimony to popular disenchantment with the hopes of earlier generations for growing technological development and the freedom it was expected to yield — a freedom based on material plenty and the absence of debasing toil.
Perhaps less obviously, the same ambiguities also becloud our attitudes toward reason and science. To Enlightenment thinkers two centuries ago, reason and science (as embodied in mathematics and Newtonian physics) were latent with the hope of a human mind freed of superstition and of a nature freed of scholastic metaphysics. Voltaire's famous cry against the Church, "Ecrasez l'infame!," was evidence of the Enlightenment's belief in the triumph of human mind as much as it was an attack upon clerical dogmatism; Alexander Pope's luminescent panegyric to newton was as much evidence of a new belief in the intellectual clarity that science would impart to humanity's understanding of the cosmos as it was a tribute to the genius of Newton himself.
These three great pathways or "tools" (to use the language of modern instrumentalism) for achieving human freedom — reason, science, and technics — that seemed so assured merely a generation ago no longer enjoy their high status. Since the middle of the twentieth century, we have seen reason become rationalism, a cold logic for the sophisticated manipulation of human beings and nature; science become scientism, an ideology for viewing the world as an ethically neutral, essentially mechanical body to be manipulated; and technics become modern technology, an armamentarium of vastly powerful instruments for asserting the authority of a technically trained, largely bureaucratic elite. These "means" for rescuing freedom from the clutches of a clerical and mystified world have revealed a dark side that now threatens to impede freedom — indeed, to eliminate the very prospects that reason, science, and technics once advanced for a free society and for free human minds.
The ambiguity created by this Janus-faced development of reason, science, and technics leads to an all-pervasive sense that this triune is meaningless as such unless the three are reevaluated and restructured so that each one's latent liberatory side is rescued and its oppressive side clearly revealed. To return to irrationality, superstition, and material primitivism is no more desirable than to defer to the value-free and elitist rationalism, scientism, and technocratic sensibilities that prevail today. The need to rescue reason as an ethically charged logos of the world does not conflict with its use as a logic for dealing with that world. The need to rescue science as a systematic interpretation of that logos does not conflict with a recognition of the need for analytic techniques and empirical evidence. Finally, the need to rescue technics as a means of mediating our relationship with nature — including human nature — does not conflict with humanity's own right to intervene in the natural world, to do even better than "blind" nature in fostering variety and natural fecundity. All these seemingly contradictory, ambiguous pathways for attaining freedom are essential to our very definition of freedom. Our ability to resolve these ambiguities of freedom depends as much on how we define reason, science, and technics as it does on how we use them.
Ultimately, the paradoxes we encounter in defining reason, science and technics cannot be resolved by a mystical formula that merely vaporizes the issues they raise. Their resolution depends upon a supreme act of human consciousness. We need to surmount the evil that lies in every good, to redeem the gain that inheres in every loss — be it the sociality latent in the solidarity of kinship, the rationality in primal innocence, the ideals in social conflict, the willfulness in patriarchy, the personality in individualism, the sense of humanity in the parochial tribal community, the ecological sensibility in nature idolatry, or the technics in shamanistic manipulation. To redeem these desiderata without completely shedding certain features of the context that gave them viability — solidarity, innocence, tradition, community, and nature — will require all the wisdom and artfulness we possess. Nor can they be The Ambiguities of Freedom 269 adequately redeemed within the present social order. Rather, we need a new kind of imagination — a new sense of social fantasy — to transmute these often oppressive archaic contexts into emancipatory ones.
In dealing with the ambiguities of freedom, I shall begin with reason, for reason has always formed the secular hallmark of every specifically human achievement. Presumably, it is by virtue of our rationality that we are unique in the "mute" world around us and can achieve our "mastery" over it. The Enlightenment's generous commitment to reason — its vast faith in the human enterprise as the outcome of thought and education — has never been lost even on its most severe critics, nearly all of whom have deployed reason in the very act of denigrating it. William Blake's assault on the "meddling intellect" is a brilliantly conceived intellectual tour de force, as was Rousseau's a generation or so earlier. My own arguments in defense of reason's integrity are not meant to be ad hominem; like a mocking incubus, "linear thought" abides within the most mystical experiences and the most inspired forms of "illumination." The role assigned to reason and the destiny imparted to it — whether as blessing or as curse — depends crucially on how we define it in the various lives or "stages" of society. Its role also depends on what, in our sensitivity to the world that surrounds and infuses us, reason is permitted to displace.
Every serious critique of reason has focused on its historic instrumentalization into technics — its deployment as a tool or formal device for classification, analysis, and manipulation. In this sense, formal reason has never really been absent from the human enterprise. To anyone who has even an elementary familiarity with the tribal world, formal reason was simply a subdued presence in a larger sensibility justly called subjectivity. But subjectivity is not congruent with consciousness; it speaks to a wider and deeper level of interaction with the world than to the mere capacity to classify, analyze, manipulate, or even develop an awareness of self that is distinguishable from that of "otherness."
Critics of "irrationality" do not clarify these distinctions by wantonly banishing every subjective experience other than "linear thought" to the realm of the "irrational" or "antirational." Fantasy, art, imagination, illumination, intuition, and inspiration — all are realities in their own right that may well involve bodily responses at levels that have been meticulously closed off to human sensibility by formal canons of thought. This blindness to large areas of experience is not merely the product of formal education; it is the result of an unrelenting training that begins at infancy and carries through the entire length of a lifetime. To polarize one area of sensibility against another may well be evidence of a repressive "irrationality" that is masked by reason, just as "linear thought" appears in the mystical literature under the mask of "irrationality." Freud, in his ineptness in dealing with these issues from his bastion of Victorian biases, is perhaps the most obvious example of a long line of self-appointed inquisitors whose rigid notions of subjectivity reveal a hatred of sensibility as such. This has long ceased to be a light matter. If the Freuds of the late nineteenth century threatened to destroy our dreams, the Kahns, Tofflers, and similar corporate "rationalists" threaten to destroy our futures.
The most incisive critiques of reason — I think particularly of Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment and Horkheimer's Eclipse of Reason — may well have foundered on their failure to keep such distinctions in mind. Both thinkers clearly recognized a crucial ambiguity in reason, and they were unerring in their interpretation of the problems it raised. To speak of reason today is to address a process that has two entirely different orientations. One involves high ideals, binding values, and lofty goals for humanity as a whole that derive from supraindividual, almost transcendental, canons of right and wrong, of virtue and evil. Reason, in this sense, is not a matter of personal opinion or taste. It seems to inhere in objective reality itself — in a sturdy belief in a rational and meaningful universe that is independent of our needs and proclivities as individuals. This mode of reason — which Horkheimer called "objective reason" — expresses the logos of the world and retains its integrity and validity apart from the interplay of human volition and interests.
By contrast, what we commonly regard as reason — more properly, as "reasonable" — is a strictly functional mentality guided by operational standards of logical consistency and pragmatic success. We formulate "reasonable" strategies for enhancing our well-being and chances of survival. Reason, in this sense, is merely a technique for advancing our personal opinions and interests. It is an instrument to efficiently achieve our individual ends, not to define them in the broader light of ethics and the social good. This instrumental reason — or, to use Horkheimer's terms, "subjective reason" (in my view, a very unhappy selection of words) — is validated exclusively by its effectiveness in satisfying the ego's pursuits and responsibilities. It makes no appeal to values, ideals, and goals that are larger than the requirements for effective adaptation to conditions as they exist. Carried beyond the individual to the social realm, instrumental reason "Serves any particular endeavor, good or bad," Horkheimer observes. "It is the tool of all actions of society, but it must not try to set the patterns of social and individual life," which are really established or discarded by the mere preferences of society and the individual. In short, instrumental reason pays tribute not to the speculative mind but merely to pragmatic technique.
If reason is now faced with a crisis that challenges its credibility and validity, this challenge no longer stems from the traditional assaults of irrationality and mysticism from which the Enlightenment tried to defend it. That battleground has been dissolved by history. Indeed, what today passes for irrationality and mysticism has become a fragile refuge from the assaults of instrumentalism and the crisis it has produced in reason. The contradictions besetting reason have their origins in the historic reduction of objective reason to instrumental reason — in the disquieting devolution of rationality as an inherent feature of reality to a "reasonableness" that is merely an unthinking efficient technique. If we mistrust reason today, it is because reason has enhanced our technical powers to alter the world drastically without providing us with the goals and values that give these powers direction and meaning. Like Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick, we can cry out forlornly: "All my means are sane; my motives and objects mad."
To the most astute critics of instrumental reason, this devolution of objective reason into a logic of manipulation is viewed as a dialectic of rationality itself, an inversion of ends into means. According to these critics, the high ideals formulated by objective reason that were meant to sophisticate rationality as a technique have betrayed themselves to the very instrumentalism that was meant to be in their service. Thus the ethical goals of the "good," viewed existentially as social freedom and individual autonomy, are presumed to have presuppositions of their own. Freedom entails not only the social structure of freedom, we are told, but also a sufficiency in the means of life to practice freedom. Individual autonomy, in turn, entails not only the untrammeled opportunity for self-expression, but also the self-discipline to restrain the unruly commands of the ego. Freedom and individual autonomy, according to this critique, exact a historic toll: the historic deployment of instrumental reason to fulfill the goals reared by objective reason. Accordingly, to achieve these goals, humanity must attain sufficient control over nature (both external and internal nature) to transmute an ideal into a material and psychological reality. The precondition for freedom is domination — specifically, the domination of the external natural world by man; the precondition for personal autonomy is also domination — the domination of internal psychic nature by a rational apparatus of repression.
This critique of instrumental reason and the crisis of reason thickens further when we are asked to bear in mind that freedom and individual autonomy presuppose not only the rational control of nature but also the reduction of humanity to a well-regulated, efficient means of production. Class society and the State have always been validated — even in certain radical theories — by the role they play in rationalizing labor to a point where material production can ultimately be brought into the service of liberation. The toil of class society in extricating humanity from the domination of nature and myth is inextricably entangled with the toil of humanity in extricating itself from the domination of class society and instrumental reason. Indeed, the instrumentalization of nature as raw materials is thoroughly wedded to the instrumentalization of human beings as means of production. The devolution of reason from an inherent feature of reality into an efficient technique of control yields the dissolution of objective reason itself. The very source of objective reason, notably objective reality itself, is degraded into the mere materials upon which instrumental reason exercises its powers. Science, cojoined with technics, renders the entire cosmos into a devitalized arena for technical colonization and control. In objectifying humanity and nature alike, instrumental reason becomes the object of its own triumph over a reality that was once laden with meaning. Not only do means become ends, but the ends themselves are reduced to machines. Domination and freedom become interchangeable terms in a common project of subjugating nature and humanity — each of which is used as the excuse to validate the control of one by the other. The reasoning involved is strictly circular. The machine has not only run away without the driver, but the driver has become a mere part of the machine.
The entire critique of reason, at least in the form I have elaborated it so far, is itself actually laden with biases that it unknowingly transmutes into a dialectic of rationality. In fact, the Dialectic of Enlightenment is actually no dialectic at all — at least not in its attempt to explain the negation of reason through its own self-development. The entire work assumes that we hold a body of Victorian prejudices — many of them specifically Marxian and Freudian — that identify "progress" with increasing control of external and internal nature. Historical development is cast within an image of an increasingly disciplined humanity that is extricating itself from a brutish, unruly, mute natural history. The image of a humanity that has achieved the degree of productivity and administration that enables it to be free is modeled strictly on an industrial "paradigm" of mastery and discipline. But looking back from our own time, the critique dissolves into despair. Far from extricating itself from a seemingly brutish natural history, humanity has enmeshed itself in a ubiquitous system of domination that has no parallel in nature. Nowhere has history redeemed its promise of freedom and autonomy. To the contrary, it almost seems that history must begin anew — not as a split between humanity and its natural matrix, but rather as an elaboration of ecological ties by an instrumentalism that remains in the service of objective reason.
Here is the nub of the problem: the Victorian veil (to which Marx and Freud gave a radical dimension) that obscures the function of ecology) as a source of values and ideals. If objective reason has increasingly dissolved into instrumentalism, we must recover the rational dimension of reality that always validated reason itself as an interpretation of the world. As long as the world is conceived scientistically, the preeminence of instrumentalism remains ideologically secure. As a "value-free," presumably ethically "neutral" methodology, science not only fosters instrumentalism but also makes of instrumental reason an ideology whose claims of comprehending reality are as universal as those of science itself. Here, social ecology opens a breach in these claims that potentially, at least, may redeem the function of objective reason to once again define our goals and values.
Neither Horkheimer nor Adorno were prepared to invoke the claims of nature against the failures of society. Like the Victorians of the century before, their attitude toward nature was ambiguous. The story of "civilization" in their eyes, had never ceased to be a struggle by reason and freedom to transcend the trammels of unthinking myth and blind natural law. In the post-revolutionary world of the 1920s and 1930s, myth had atavistically raised its head in the fascist appeal to "blood and soil" — the "naturalism" of the modern despotic State. "Objective reason" rooted in a lawful natural world, had atavistically raised its head in the Stalinist appeal for a dialectics of nature. In both cases, nature had served as the ideological vehicle for regression: the one to place humanity under the tyranny of race and irrationality; the other to place the free play and spontaneity of an emancipated society under the tyranny of "inexorable" natural laws. Not that the latent antinaturalism of Marxism had not cast a dark shadow over nature's role in humanity's project of emancipation. Horner's island of the Lotus-eaters is a denial of memory, history, culture, and "progress" that forever haunts Europe's emphasis on human activity with the image of an atavistically immobilized and pacified dream world. But even as their Marxism subsided, Horkheimer and Adorno revealed an unforgiving hatred of the warped history that fascism and Stalinism had inflicted on the human enterprise.
The current ecological crisis, however, reminds us that the preemptive claims of instrumental reason are failures on their own terms. Instrumentalism, particularly in its scientific form, has not only failed to live up to its historic claim of emancipating humanity, but it has even failed to approximate its more traditional claim of illuminating mind. Science, immersed in its impersonal gadgetry and its imperious quest for innovation, has lost all contact with the culture of its time. Worse yet, its quest for innovation threatens to tear down the planet itself. Far more than any moral or ideological verdict, these failures are tangible features of everyday life. They are verified by the foul air and water, the rising cancer rates, the automotive accidents, and the chemical wastelands that assault the entire world of a scientistic "civilization." By reducing ethics to little more than matters of opinion and taste, instrumentalism has dissolved every moral and ethical constraint over the impending catastrophe that seems to await humanity. Judgments no longer are formed in terms of their intrinsic merits; they are merely matters of public consensus that fluctuate with changing particularistic interests and needs. Having divested the world of its ethical objectivity and reduced reality to an inventory of industrial objects, instrumentalism threatens to keep us from formulating a critical stance toward its own role in the problems it has created. If Odin paid for wisdom with the loss of one eye, we have paid for our powers of control with the loss of both eyes.
But we can no more divest ourselves of instrumental reason than we can divest ourselves of technics. Both are indispensable to expanded notions of freedom; indeed, their emancipatory role long antedates the emergence of capitalism with its images of a "stingy" nature and "unlimited" needs. Humanity does not live by ethics alone; herein lies one of freedom's most crucial ambiguities. In the face of an increasingly technocratic society and sensibility, on what grounds can we speak of an objective world that provides the needed constraints to instrumentalism? From what source can we derive the values and goals that will subserve instrumentalism to an objective ethics?
To evoke nature as the source for an objectively grounded ethics, as I propose to do, requires careful qualification. A nature conceived as the matrix of "blood and soil," or as the domain of a blind "dialectical" lawfulness that imbues tyranny with the suprahuman qualities of inexorable destiny, would justly be regarded as atavistic. The racial ethos of fascism and the scientistic "dialectics" of Stalinism, both based on very particularistic images of nature, have claimed a toll in life and suffering that beggars the most barbarous eras of human history. We no longer need a "nature" (that is, an authoritarian sociobiology) that advances an ideological rationale for ethnic arrogance and concentration camps under the egis of "inevitability" or "blind law." But nature is not a homogeneous fabric that is woven from a single thread. The nature to which we can now address ourselves is neither bloody nor blind; it provides no ideological refuge for a mythos of irrationality, race, or, like Marxism, a contrived mechanism that passes itself off as a "social science" concealed under the shroud of Hegel.
The matrix from which objective reason may yet derive its ethics for a balanced and harmonized world is the nature conceived by a radical social ecology — a nature that is interpreted nonhierarchically, in terms of unity in diversity and spontaneity. Here, nature is conceived not merely as a constellation of ecosystems but also as a meaningful natural history, a developing, creative, and fecund nature that yields an increasing complexity of forms and interrelationships. And what makes this complexity so significant is not just the stability it fosters (an obvious desideratum in its own right, needed for both the biotic and social worlds). Nature's evolution toward ever more complex forms is uniquely important in that it enters into the history of subjectivity itself. From the transition of the inorganic to the organic and through the various phases of evolution that crystallized into human forms of rationality, we witness an increasingly expansive history of molecular interactivity — not only of neurological responses but of an ineffable sensibilité that is a function of increasingly complex patterns of integration. Subjectivity expresses itself in various gradations, not only as the mentalism of reason but also as the interactivity, reactivity, and the growing purposive activity of forms. Hence, subjectivity emphatically does not exclude reason; in part, it is the history of reason — or, more precisely, of a slowly forming mentality that exists on a wider terrain of reality than human cerebral activity. The term subjectivity expresses the fact that substance — at each level of its organization and in all its concrete forms — actively functions to maintain its identity, equilibrium, fecundity, and place in a given constellation of phenomena.
Normally, we think of substance in its various forms as passive objects, as yielding phenomena that are "molded" or "selected" by their "environments." External "forces" seem to determine the "traits" that enable material forms (particularly life-forms) to retain their integrity and "survive." Science's passion for reducing all changes within these forms to mere products of accident — the capacity of these forms to "mutate" by mere chance — fatally denies the high degree of nisus, of self-organization and self-creation, inherent in nonhuman phenomena. Science comes perilously close to the very metaphysics and mysticism it has opposed so militantly since the Enlightenment when it ignores the extent to which phenomena play an active role in their own evolutionary processes. The traditional image of biological evolution as a series of random point mutations that are "selected" in the interests of survival essentially lies in debris. It would be difficult to explain the elegant organization of living beings — indeed of organs like the eye or ear — without viewing their developmental traits as immanently and creatively constituted, as organized ensembles that emerge together in the organism's interaction with the world around it. The jig-saw puzzle's fit, so to speak, involves the parts as well as the whole — not just the player who is the mechanical deus ex machina that seems to be the exclusive "intelligible" factor in the entire puzzle. It is arguable whether the "preference" of carbon atoms to be linked with four other atoms is related by a long evolution of subjectivity to a chimpanzee's use of sticks to probe anthills. But the very strong possibility of such a continuum, gradually mediated by increasingly complex forms of material organization, can no longer be dismissed as mystical. Almost every contemporary vision of nature (apart from the most entrenched bunkers of Victorian science) has increasingly assigned to substance itself more a creative role in the evolution of subjectivity than at any time since the demise of classical philosophy.
Accordingly, whether or not we decide to select reason as the most complex expression of subjectivity, the graded emergence of mind in the natural history of life is part of the larger landscape of subjectivity itself. From the biochemical responses of a plant to its environment to the most willful actions of a scientist in the laboratory, a common bond of primal subjectivity inheres in the very organization of "matter" itself. In this sense, the human mind has never been alone, even in the most inorganic of surroundings. Art has expressed this message more poignantly than science, particularly in those abstract paintings evacuated of virtually all sensory experience beyond color and form; for here we recognize the primal affinity of mind with form itself. Even those pirates of space travel, the astronauts, are awed by the activity of astral masses, of the cosmic dust and objects swirling around them in a world that seems devoid of matter — in a space that generations of scientists once regarded as a virtual vacuum. "Mind" reaches beyond our cerebral mentalism to a concept of subjectivity in these very broad terms, and ceases to be trapped exclusively within the human brain. Instead, it seems to inhere in the human body as a whole and the natural history it embodies.
Which specific ethical imperatives we draw from an ecological interpretation of nature (as distinguished from the abstract, meaningless, de-subjectivized nature that chilled the Victorian mind by its "stinginess" and "brutality") depend ultimately on our exploration of a future ecological society. Here is a problematic whose answers can be supplied only by a society capable of rendering them into a living praxis. An ecological nature — and the objective ethics following from it — can spring to life, as it were, only in a society whose sensibilities and interrelationships have become ecological to their very core. The nature we normally "create" today is highly conditioned by the social imperatives of our time. This nature may be science's highly quantified nature; the Marxian "abstract matter" that is formed by "abstract labor"; the mystic's cosmos dissolved into an unrelieved, universal "Oneness"; sociobiology's hierarchical nature organized around primal instincts and drives; the Hobbesian-Freudian nature, impudently unruly and invasive; or the vulgarized Darwinian nature, governed by "fang and claw." I have not even alluded to the animistic, Hellenic, Judea-Christian, medieval, and Renaissance images of nature that still ideologically marble those which I have cited above.
None of the modern images of nature offers a compelling vision of a wholeness that is permeated — as a result of its wholeness — by a larger sense of subjectivity, which we normally identify with human rationality. Each illustrates not so much the need to "resurrect" nature as the need to "resurrect" human subjectivity itself. The flaw in Horkheimer and Adorno's works on reason stems from their failure to integrate rationality with subjectivity in order to bring nature within the compass of sensibilité. To do so, they would have had to understand the message of social ecology, a realm that was completely outside their intellectual tradition.
Here, their subdued adherence to Marxism became a major obstacle to what otherwise could have been a superbly comprehensive critique of instrumental reason. They were too afraid to cement their view of nature to subjectivity — a commitment they identified with mythic and classical archaisms. Hence they never provided a meaningful objective matrix for reason. The wish to make this commitment haunts their entire work on reason and enlightenment, but it is a wish they were too prudent to satisfy.
But how can we, who are more familiar with the possibilities of ecology, avoid the invasion of instrumentalism into an ecological approach to ethics? How can we prevent it from turning nature into a mere object for manipulation in the very name of respecting its subjectivity? None of these questions can be answered satisfactorily without recreating our existing sensibilities, technics, and communities along ecological lines. Once this occurred, then an ecological community might well recover its sense of place in its specific ecosystem by allying itself with its natural environment in a creatively reproductive form — a form that spawns a human symbiotic sensibility, a human technics that enriches nature's complexity, and a human rationality that enlarges nature's subjectivity. Here, humanity would neither give nor take; it would actually participate with nature in creating the new levels of diversity and form that are part of a more heightened sense of humanness and naturalness. Our ethical claim to rationality would derive from the participation of human mind in the larger subjectivity of nature, a subjectivity that is a function of form, integration, and complexity. The use of nature as "natural resources" — a usage that seems unavoidable to the "purposive-rational mind" (to use Jürgen Habermas' jargon) would be diminished, indeed eliminated, by an ecological technics that would not only enrich the flow between nature and humanity, but also sensitize humanity to the creativity of nature.
Lest these good intentions seem like just another case of the simplistic sentimentality so characteristic of nature philosophies as a whole, let me emphasize that an ecological ethics is not patterned on a naive vision of the natural world — either as it exists today or as it might exist in a "pacified" social future. A wolf has no business lying down with a lamb. The imagery is trite and in its own way repellent. The "pacification" of nature does not consist in its domestication. Very much is lost when "wildness" (a stupid word if there ever was one) is removed so completely from nature that it ceases to be a "token of scarcity, suffering, and want," to use Herbert Marcuse's absurd notion of a nature that has not been "recreated by the power of Reason." Marcuse's language, here, is anthropomorphic in its myopia, Marxist in its intent, and preposterous in its claim that "pacification presupposes the mastery of Nature, which is and remains the object opposed to the developing subject." If there are "two kinds of mastery, a repressive and a liberatory one," one might also claim with equal absurdity that there are two kinds of nature: an "evil" one and a "virtuous" one.
Leaving this muddled logic aside, there is no "cruelty" in nature, only the predation (and mutualism) around which natural history has evolved its structures for sustaining life and ecological balance. There is no "suffering" in nature, only the unavoidable physical pain that comes with injury. There is no "scarcity" and "want" in nature, only needs that must be satisfied if life itself is to be maintained. Indeed, the material fecundity of nature, prior to history's "negation of Nature" (to use Marcuse's language again), might have completely stunned its earliest hominid offspring, had they even been mindful of "scarcity" as a social category. I cannot emphasize too strongly that nature itself is not an ethics; it is the matrix for an ethics, the source of ethical meaning that can be rooted in objective reality. Hence nature, even as the matrix and source of ethical meaning, does not have to assume such delightfully human attributes as kindness, virtue, goodness and gentleness; nature need merely be fecund and creative — a source rather than a "paradigm."
The function of an ethical philosophy does not entail a mimetic reduction of ethics to its source. Rather, it requires a ground from which to creatively develop ethical ideals. The child is not the parent, but both are united by the objective continuity of genetic ancestry, gestation, birth, and socialization. The two never completely separate; they coexist, and their lives overlap under normal conditions until the child grows to adulthood and becomes a parent. The two may retain a loving relationship or become antagonists, and the child may become more human, or possibly less human, than the parent. In either case, we are obliged to understand why one course of development unfolded, not merely how it occurred — and to give it meaning, coherence, and ethical interpretation. In any case the development is real and we cannot suppress our responsibility to interpret it in ethical terms by claiming that it is merely a series of random events.
To transmute "pacification" into "domestication" is to deal with nature as a model of ethical behavior rather than to accept it for what it really is — a source of ethical meaning that reestablishes our sense of ecological wholeness, the underlying dialectic of unity in diversity. It is this lack of wholeness in our relationship with nature that really explains the unfinished social cosmos in which we live, the sense of incompleteness that exists around us. Not only does a truly "pacified" and domesticated natural world arrogantly model nature on society (rational or not) but it also fails to recognize that human rationality is a phase or aspect of natural subjectivity. It is no accident that Marcuse's "pacified" nature is in fact a "rational" nature. Paul Shepard, in a superb refutation of the self-styled "peacemakers" of nature, observes that:
Each gene in an individual organism acts in the context of many other genes. Hence the genetic changes resulting from domestication may affect the whole creature, its appearance, behavior, and physiology. The temperament and personality of domestic animals are not only more placid than their wild counterparts, but also more flaccid — that is, there is somehow less definition. Of course there is nothing placid about an angry bull or a mean watchdog, but their mothers were tractable, and once an organism has been stripped of its wildness it can be freaked in any direction the breeder wishes. It may be made fierce without being truly wild. The latter implies an ecological niche from which the domesticated animal has been removed. Niches are hard taskmasters. Escape from them is not freedom but loss of direction. Man substitutes controlled breeding for natural selection; animals are selected for special traits like milk production or passivity, at the expense of over-all fitness and naturewide relationships.
There is an important moral to be drawn from these remarks that applies not just to animals but human beings as well. The freedom of all organisms is a function of direction — of meaningful "niches" in nature and meaningful communities in society. To be sure, the two are not completely congruent, but there is every reason to regard them as derivative: community from "niche," human being from wild animal. In its own way, our loss of community has been a form of domestication — a condition that lacks meaning and direction — as surely as is the wild animal's loss of its niche. Like our cattle, poultry, pets, and even crops, we too have lost our wildness in a "pacified" world that is overly administered and highly rationalized. The private world we created in our prepolitical communities, the "niches" we occupied in the hidden spaces of social life, are quickly disappearing. Like the genetic structure of domesticated animals, the psychic structures of domesticated humans are undergoing perilous degradation. More than ever we must recover the continuum between our "first nature" and our "second nature," our natural world and our social world, our biological being and our rationality. Latent within us are ancestral memories that only an ecological society and sensibility can "resurrect." The history of human reason has not yet reached its culmination, much less its end. Once we can "resurrect" our subjectivity and restore it to its heights of sensibility, then in all likelihood that history will have just begun.
In summary, human rationality must be seen as a form and a derivative of a broader "mentality," or subjectivity, that inheres in nature as a whole — specifically, in the long development of increasingly complex forms of substance over the course of natural history. We must be very clear about what this means. Natural history includes a history of mind as well as of physical structures — a history of mind that develops from the seemingly "passive" interactivity of the inorganic to the highly active cerebral processes of human intellect and volition. This history of what we call "mind" is cumulatively present not only in the human mind but also in our bodies as a whole, which largely recapitulate the expansive development of life-forms at various neurophysical levels of evolution. What we tragically lack today — primarily because instrumentalism tyrannizes our bodily apparatus — is the ability to sense the wealth of subjectivity inherent in ourselves and in the nonhuman world around us. To some extent, this wealth reaches us through art, fantasy, play, intuition, creativity, sexuality and, early in our lives, in those sensibilities of childhood and youth from which adulthood and the norms of "maturity" wean us in the years that follow.
The landscape of nature — its formal organization, from the astral level of our universe to the least noticeable ecosystems around us — has messages of its own to impart. It too has a voice to which Bruno and Kepler in the Renaissance and a growing number of life scientists today have tried to respond. Indeed, from the time of Pythagoras onward, the classical tradition in philosophy found subjectivity in the evolution of form as such, not only in the morphology of individual beings. Conceived as an active process of ever-growing, interrelated complexity, the "balance of nature" can be viewed as more than just a formal ensemble that life presupposes for its own stability and survival. It can also be viewed as a formal ensemble whose very organization into integrated wholes exhibits varying levels of "mentalism," a subjectivity to which we will respond only if we free our sensorium from its instrumentalist inhibitions and conventions.
Our interpretation of science is not far removed from our interpretation of reason. Viewed as the methodical application of reason to the concrete world, science has acquired the bad name that instrumentalism and technics have earned over the past few decades. Its overstated claims as a strategy for observation, experimentation, and the generalization of data into "inexorable" natural laws — and its highly vaunted assertions of "objectivity" and intellectual universality — have exposed it to charges of an unfeeling arrogance toward sentiment, ethics, and the growing crisis in the human condition. Once regarded as the herald of enlightenment in all spheres of knowledge, science is now increasingly seen as a strictly instrumental system of control. Its use as a means of social manipulation and its role in restricting human freedom now parallel in every detail its use as a means of natural manipulation. Most of its discoveries in physics, chemistry, and biology are justly viewed with suspicion by its once most fervent adepts, as the controversies over nuclear power and recombinant DNA so vividly reveal. Accordingly, science no longer enjoys a reputation as a means of "knowing," of Wissenschaft (to use the language of the German Enlightenment), but as a means of domination — or what Max Scheler, in a later, more disenchanted time, called Herrschaftswissen. It has become, in effect, a cold, unfeeling, metaphysically grounded technics that has imperialistically expanded beyond its limited realm as a form of "knowing" to claim the entire realm of knowledge as such.
We are thus confronted with the paradox that science, an indispensable tool for human well-being, is now a means for subverting its traditional humanistic function. The ethical neutrality of the nuclear physicist, the food chemist, and the bacteriologist involved in developing lethal pathogens for military purposes is numbing symbol of a "science-run-wild" that compares in even more frightening detail to the image of a "technics-run-wild." The heated controversies over the hazards of nuclear power and recombinant DNA are evidence that science is thoroughly entangled in debates that deal with its claims not just to technical competence but to moral maturity as well.
Like reason and technics, science too has a history and, broadly conceived beyond its instrumentalist definition, it can also be regarded as that history. What we so glibly call "Greek science" was largely a nature philosophy that imparted to speculative reason the capacity to comprehend the natural world. To understand and impart coherence to nature was an activity of the contemplative mind, not merely of experimental technique. Viewed from the standpoint of this rational framework, Plato and Aristotle's considerable corpus of writings on nature were not "wrong" in their accounts of the natural world. Within this large body of nature philosophy, we find insights and a breadth of grasp and scope that the physical and life sciences are now trying to recover. Their varying emphases on substance, form, and development — what normally are depicted as a "qualitative" orientation, as distinguished from modern science's "quantitative" orientation — exhibit a range of thought that may well be regarded as broader, or at least more organic, than science's traditional emphases on matter and motion. The classical tradition stressed activity, organization, and process; the Enlightenment tradition stressed matter's passivity, random features, and mechanical movement. That the Enlightenment tradition has yielded slowly to the classical — a development forced upon it by a growing sense of nature's historicity, contextual qualities, and the importance of form — has not led to a clear understanding of the differences separating them and the way in which they share a historical continuity that could yield their integration without any loss of their specific identities.
To call classical, mechanistic, evolutionary, and relativistic forms of science "complementary" may very well miss a crucial point. They do not simply supplement one another nor are they "stages" in humanity's increasing knowledge of nature, a knowledge that presumably "culminates" in modern science. This kind of thinking about the history of science is still very popular and often highly presumptuous in its elevation of all things modern and presumably free of speculation and "theology." Actually, these different forms of science encompass different levels of natural development and differ in their avowed scope. They are not simply different "paradigms," as Thomas Kuhn has argued, that radically replace one another. To assume that there is a "science" as such in which the classical tradition is largely "erroneous," in which the Renaissance tradition is partly "correct," and in which the modern tradition is more "true" in its understanding of nature than any of its predecessors is to assume that nature is cut from a single cloth and differs only in its forms of tailoring. Ironically, Kuhn's views have been attacked most harshly not so much by critics who reject the history of science as a displacement of one prevailing scientific "paradigm" by a different one. Rather, he has been most sharply criticized for his tendency to view the logic of "scientific revolutions" as being guided by "techniques of persuasion" rather than by proof, by psychological and social factors rather than by the test of objective studies of reality.
Ignoring Kuhn's later attempt to backtrack upon his more challenging conclusions about the structure of the scientific community itself, what is most striking about his views of the "paradigmatic" revolutions in science is the way in which they have been contrasted with one another. I speak less of Kuhn, here, than of the conventional wisdom of scientism, which tends to focus on the methodological differences between classical nature philosophy and modern science. The common notion that modern science really embarked upon its unique voyage when it consciously adopted Francis Bacon's program of controlled empirical observation and experimental verification is a trite myth that more accurately reflects the intellectual conflicts in Bacon's time than it does the authentic differences between classical and Renaissance notions of nature. Without necessarily articulating it, classical nature philosophers had been working with Bacon's program of observation and experimentation for centuries. Perhaps more appropriately, Bacon, with his "Great Instauration," gave science a function that classical theory had never fully accepted: "man's" recovery of his mastery over the natural world, a view that was pitted against the medieval Schoolman's (actually, Christianity's) contemplative orientation toward nature.
Yet, even here, it is still misleading to assume that the classical tradition, like the medieval, was strictly contemplative and that the modern was overwhelmingly pragmatic. The idea of domination had been an on-going practice in the form of human domination — of a humanity conceived by its rulers as "natural resources" or "means of production" — from the inception of "civilization" itself. Bacon's Great Instauration had been a functioning reality for thousands of years, not merely in class society's attempts to subjugate nature for the purposes of control, but to subjugate humanity itself. Its temple was not Bacon's utopian laboratory, the House of Salomon, but the State, with its bureaucracies, armies, and the knouts of its foremen. We do a grave injustice to the authentic history of "scientific method" when we forget that before science established its laboratory to control nature, the State had established its palaces and barracks to control humanity. The Great Instauration drew its inspiration from the domination of human by human before it made the domination of nature central to its ideals and functions.
The most fundamental difference between classical nature philosophy and modern science lies in their radically different concepts of causality. Here is the real ontological issue — not the turgid chatter about "methodology" — that separates knowledge itself from mere matters of technique, that clarifies the all-important problem of the relationship of means to ends, which is so vital to any critique of instrumental reason and an authoritarian technics. To Aristotle, who never ceased to be a keen observer, a sophisticated generalizer, and committed experimenter (like Archimedes after him), natural causality was not exhausted by mechanical motion. Causation involved the very material, the potentiality for form, the formative agent, and the most advanced form toward which a phenomenon could develop. His concept of causality, in effect, was entelechial. It assumed that a phenomenon was "drawn" to actualize its full potentiality for achieving the highest form specific to it — to develop intrinsically and extrinsically toward the formal self-realization of its potentialities.
Hence, causation to Aristotle is not merely motion that involves change of place — like the change of place produced by one billiard ball striking another. While it may certainly be mechanical, causation is more meaningfully and significantly developmental. It should be seen more as a graded process, as an emerging process of self-realization, than as a series of physical displacements. Accordingly, matter, which always has varying degrees of form, is latent with potentiality — indeed, it is imbued by a nisus to elaborate its potentiality for greater form. Hence it enters into Aristotle's notion of causation as a "material cause." The form that is latent in matter and strives toward its full actualization is a "formal cause." The intrinsic and the extrinsic forces that sculpt the development — here, in the latter case, Aristotle refers to external agents, like the sculptor who fashions a bronze horse — are the "efficient cause." And lastly, the form that all these aspects of causality are meant to actualize represents the "final cause."
Aristotelian causality, in effect, is not only developmental but also directive and purposive. It has also been called "teleological" because the final form toward which substance strives is latent in the beginning of the development. The term, however, is redolent with notions of a predetermined, inexorable end — a notion that Aristotle takes great pains to eschew. In On Interpretation, he is careful to point out that
it cannot be said without qualification that all existence and nonexistence is the outcome of necessity. For there is a difference between saying that that which is, when it is, must needs be, and simply saying that all that is must needs be, and similarly in the case of that which is not. In the case, also, of two contradictory propositions this holds good. Everything must either be or not be, whether in the present or in the future, but it is not always possible to distinguish and state determinately which of these alternatives must necessarily come about.
What characterizes the "teleological dimension" of Aristotelian causality is that it has meaning, not predetermination; causality is oriented toward achieving wholeness, the fulfillment and completeness of all the potentialities for form latent in substance at different levels of its development. This sense of meaning is permeated by ethics: "For in all things, as we affirm, nature always strives after 'the better.'" Here, the word strive requires emphasis, for Aristotle rarely imputes thought, in our cerebral meaning of the term, to nature; rather, nature is an organized oikos, a good household, and "like every good householder, is not in the habit of throwing away anything from which it is possible to make anything useful." The extent to which this brilliant insight, so integral to Aristotle's overall philosophy, has been confirmed by ecology and paleontology can hardly be emphasized too much.
Within the framework of Aristotelian causality, Hegel's concept of dialectic (a grossly abused term, these days) is virtually congruent with Aristotle's causal orientation. Like Aristotle, Hegel's entire goal is to comprehend the notion of wholeness, not a specious "synthesis" that is formed. from the transformation of a thesis into its antithesis. Such a methodological formula for dialectic not only divests it of all organic content but reduces dialectic to a method — an instrumental technique in the high tradition of Marxian orthodoxy, rather than an ontological causality. As Hegel observes in one of his most trenchant accounts of the dialectic,
Because that which is implicit comes into existence, it certainly passes into change, yet it remains one and the same, for the whole process is dominated by it. The plant, for example, does not lose itself in mere indefinite change. From the germ much is produced when at first nothing was to be seen; but the whole of what is brought forth, if not developed, is yet hidden and ideally contained within itself. The principle of this projection into existence is that the germ cannot remain merely implicit, but it is impelled toward development, since it presents the contradiction of being only implicit and yet not desiring so to be. But this coming without itself has an end in view; its completion is fully reached, and its previously determined end is the fruit or produce of the germ, which causes a return to the first condition.
Mind carries this movement further, for Hegel, and rather than "doubling" back to its germinal form goes forth to the full realization of "coming to itself."
What is crucial for both Hegel and Aristotle is their common notion of "final cause," their commitment to wholeness and meaning in phenomena. More than any aspect of Aristotle's ideas, this one was to become a veritable battleground between science and Schoolman theology; indeed, to the extent that mechanism became the prevalent "paradigm" of Renaissance and Enlightenment science, the notion of "final cause" became the gristmill on which science sharpened its scalpel of "objectivity," scientistic "disinterestedness," and the total rejection of values in the scientific organon. To imply a sense of direction in causality — a "why" rather than merely a "how" in nature — was redolent of theology. Medieval scholasticism had so thoroughly Christianized Aristotelian nature philosophy and causality that the Renaissance mechanicians viewed them as little more than a system of Catholic apolegetics; even Hobbes's vision of a "social mechanics" veered sharply into a critique of Aristotle's final cause. To be sure, this conflict was unavoidable and even freed Aristotle's own thought from the inquisitorial grip of the Church. But opposition and persecution (Bruno and Servetus were to go to the stake and Galileo to confinement as science's principal martyrs in this conflict) led to an exaggerated rejection of all organicism — indeed, to an astringent Cartesian dualism between a "soulful" subjectivity exclusively confined to "man" and a strictly mechanical, quantitative view of physical nature.
But this battle was not won without a severe penalty. To free the human mind from the trammels of religion, humanity itself was enslaved to the powers of science. A new organon replaced the old. The Baconian ideal of humanity's recovery of its mastery over nature did not cleanse it of the taint of "original sin" and restore it to the plentitude of the Garden of Eden. Science joined hands with technics to reinforce the mastery of human over human by enslaving humanity to the same dark, mythic world of domination that it once had ideologically opposed. Science itself had now become a theology. Beginning with the nineteenth century, humanity has become increasingly instrumentalized, objectivized, and economized — even more than the very controlled nature that Bacon's Great Instauration was intended to create. Rationalization has combined with science to produce a technocracy that now threatens to divest humanity itself — and its natural environment — of the subjectivity by which the Enlightenment had intended to illuminate the world.
Philosophical orientations that replace one "paradigm" by another in the course of intellectual "revolutions" produce a serious breakdown of continuity, integration, and wholeness in the realm of knowledge. They disrupt the ecology and history of knowledge itself — in social theory as much as in scientific theory. We have lost a tremendous wealth of exciting traditions by substituting a Hobbesian project of "social science" for an Aristotelian project of social ethics (not that the Aristotelian provides the "highest" point we could hope to attain in social theory). The all-pervasive sweep of Christianity over the European world, followed more recently by Marxism, has interred an invaluable body of social ideals and insights. In our own time, one is reminded of the loss of the intensely libertarian hopes fostered by radical groups in the English, American, and French revolutions, all of which have been blanketed by the Leninist "revolutions" of the present century or consigned (to use Trotsky's noxious phrase) to the "dust-bin of history." One is also reminded of the wealth of utopian ideas from which Marx pilferred before replacing them with the myth of a "scientific socialism." Like Christianity before it, socialism has fostered a dogmatic fanaticism that closed off countless new possibilities — not only to human action but also to human thought and imagination. Science, while less demanding in its attacks upon its own heretics, exhibits an equal degree of fanaticism in its intellectual claims. To defy science's metaphysical, often mystical, presuppositions that are rooted in an eerily passive "matter" and a physical concept of motion is to expose oneself to accusations of metaphysics and mysticism, and to an intellectual persecution that science itself once suffered at the hands of its theological inquisitors.
There is a strong tendency within new scientific "paradigms" to view various forms of different "natures" — inorganic and organic, kinetic and developmental, random and meaningful — as inherently antagonistic to one another rather than as different in scope, as levels of development, and as components of a larger whole. Only recently have we begun to escape from a mechanistic reductionism of all natural phenomena to a "paradigm" based on mathematical physics. The widely touted "unity of science" which theorists of the last century advanced during the triumphant heights of the Newtonian cosmic image, was often little more than an intellectual nightmare — a "Oneness," rather than a "unity of science," which theorists of the last century advanced during the most unreconstructed mysticism that western thought had ever achieved. Nothing could be more riddled by metaphysical and mystical notions than a causality reduced almost entirely to a universe based on a kinetics of interacting forces at a distance and of motion that (to explain chemical bonding) yielded mere interlocking arrangements between atoms.
By Laplace's time, nature was seen as a kinetic agglomeration of irreducible "atoms" from which the cosmos was constructed, like a solid Victorian bank. The conception of atoms as the "building blocks" of the universe was taken literally, and even the Deity was seen less as a "Creator" or parent of the world than as an architect. This image designated a passive nature sculpted by intrinsic, often random, forces — which qualified ruling elites could manipulate according to their interests once science had "unlocked" the "secrets" of an enchanted and cryptic nature. Efficient cause, removed from the larger ethical matrix of Aristotelian causality, was now conceived as the sole description for natural phenomena in kinetic interaction. The image of nature as a "construction-site," which even Bloch borrowed, produced its own technological cant. Terms like "building blocks," "mortar," and "cement" that are still commonplace in works on physics replaced classical philosophy's images of "love" and "hate," "justice" and "injustice," "entelechy" and "kinesis" that, for all their anthropomorphic qualities, implied not only an enchanted nature or even an ethical nature but a passionate nature. What remained from the past to "explain" the ultimate Newtonian mystery of action at a distance and the troubling facts of gravitation were the terms "attraction" and "repulsion," terms that still survive in electromagnetism.
It is difficult to explain how much this technological cant and the imagery it reflected served the interests of domination in an industrial market society. For this cant was not merely philosophical but eminently social in its character, just as the language of present-day systems theory — with its extension of terms like "input," "output," and "feedback" into everyday discourse — reflects the corporatization of daily life, its reduction to a "flow diagram." To conceive of all phenomena as constructed from a homogeneous, lifeless, passive, and malleable "matter" was to place humanity itself within the orbit of all these attributes. Flesh, no less than stone and steel, was merely matter that had been accidentally structured into a more elaborate agglomeration of the same irreducible material. Even thought had lost its high estate, and was instead conceived as a "fluid" that formed an exudate of the brain and the nervous system. Labor, as mere energy, was considered to be rooted not merely in political economy but also in the "economy of nature." This opened a direct tie between the radical critique developed by Marx and accommodative strategies formulated in a later period by Social Darwinism. The Enlightenment ideal of human reeducation according to the canons of reason was interpreted to mean training according to canons of efficient performance.
Science, seen in terms of a history that wantonly discarded its past by a radical succession of "paradigms," stands alone in the world because it has marched through this succession apart from nature. Having divested itself of antecedents that once addressed themselves to the different emerging levels of natural history, science now lacks the continuity that relates these levels intelligibly. It lacks a sense of limit that confirms what is or is not valid in various ways of knowing reality; it lacks an awareness of new forms of reality that linger on the boundaries of "established data." In short, modern science has not developed in relation to nature but in relation to its own "paradigms." The pursuit of the "unity of science" should in no sense be understood as a pursuit of the unity of nature. The former is an intellectual enterprise between scientific contestants and collaborators, not an enterprise that authentically involves the natural world.
The rediscovery of nature is more important at this point in the development of human knowledge than are such trite enterprises as the "reenchantment of the world" (a phrase that tends to dissolve into mere metaphor when it lacks the flesh of social insight and a naturalistic elaboration). If science is to resolve the dilemma of its rationalization in the social world, it must learn to balance the need for self-interpretation with the insights furnished by different levels of natural development. Science must turn to nature itself for nutriment. It must be thoroughly mindful of the presuppositions — the biases — that continually enter into its epistemological structures. The debates between supporters of one "paradigm" and another must be infused with a sense of history — both natural and intellectual — rather than to rest on dynastic ideological successions and exclusions. Science must candidly ask itself questions shaped by natural reality, not by a self-enclosed intellectualism that separates its ideological history from the history of the natural world. Hence science must overcome its ambiguities by recognizing that it is both its own history as a whole — not one or another phase of that history — and natural history as well. In this sense, neither Aristotle nor Galileo were wrong per se, however much the latter detested the former; they observed different aspects of realities imparted to them by nature and by different levels of natural development.
Underlying any project for rediscovering nature is a body of key questions. If there is any unity of nature to be discovered, what message does it have to offer? What is its essential meaning? And if we are to talk of meaning in nature — of the "why" as well as the "how" of natural phenomena — how are we to develop graded forms of causality (whether they are Hellenic or modern, for example, or the phasing of one into the other) so that we do not completely exclude one or the other? And if we grant that meaning does exist, how are we to interpret its direction, its teleology? Must we foreclose the possibility that ends may be latent in beginnings by speaking of "teleology" as if the end must necessarily follow from its beginning as a totally preordained "final cause"? Can we loosen up our current narrow, ironclad notions of teleology to see it more as a graded, emergent, and creative development rather than an overly deterministic form of causality?
These questions, so crucial for developing an ecological ethics and an ecologically oriented science, cannot stay frozen in the forms used by crude scientistic ideologues for centuries. If nothing else, we must reclaim the right to think freely about ideas and reality without having restrictions imposed upon us by ideologues who merely answer each other's errors with errors of their own. Science, in effect, must cease to be a Church. It must tear down the ecclesiastical barriers that separate it from the free air of nature and from the garden which nourished its intellectual development.
Technics the skills and instruments for humanity's metabolism with nature, formed the crucible in which the modern concepts of reason and science were actually forged. In the sphere of production (in Marx's "realm of necessity") the ambiguities of freedom emerged with unadorned clarity. During the modern industrial era and even earlier, during certain preindustrial periods, reason finally became mere rationalization and science was visibly transmuted from a pursuit of knowledge into mere technique and instrumentalism. Hence it should not seem surprising that technics exhibits the ambiguities of freedom in their most striking form. The notion that technology is intrinsically morally neutral, that the proverbial "knife" cuts either way — as weapon to kill or as tool to cut, depending upon the user or the society in which it is used — was not a widely accepted viewpoint until the rise of industrialism. To be sure knives, like other hand tools, can be viewed in such ethically neutral terms. But in the larger context of technics — notably, tools, machines, skills, forms of labor, and "natural resources" — the means of production rarely were regarded as value-free, nor was their impact contingent merely on individual or social intentions.
Although preindustrial societies may not have explicitly distinguished between libertarian and authoritarian technics (a distinction that probably forced itself upon the modern mind with the massive supremacy of highly centralized industrial technologies over traditional crafts), they apparently were more aware than we of the ecological implications of technique. If Stephan Toulmin and June Goodfield are correct in their appraisal, preindustrial communities distinguished very early in history between "natural arts" and "artificial crafts" — a distinction that expressed ethical outlooks basically different from our own toward technological development. The "natural arts," such as farming, husbandry, and medicine, were patently necessary for human survival, and their place in the preservation of the individual and the community was of central importance. But they were "natural" not just for pragmatic reasons; their very success in satisfying basic human needs required that they be subtly in rhythm with "natural change." The artisan's insight melded human craft and nature together into not only the natural materials required by the Anvilik Eskimos for their soapstone artistry but also the larger natural processes that determined the success of an enterprise.
Toulmin and Goodfield, in effect, refer to a cosmic tableau in which the person engaged in a "natural art" was situated in order to "steer [these natural processes] in a favorable direction" and to utilize "certain natural powers" stronger than those possessed by the individual to remedy the disasters that afflicted agriculture or health. Accordingly, all efforts were valueless if one failed to act at the "correct time" in synchrony with "natural cycles." Ritual became as much a part of production as seasonal changes, climatic variations, drought, and predation, or, in the case of medicine, the periodic onset of certain illnesses. It is fair to say that we are reclaiming these remote, apparently lost sensibilities today with our growing awareness that sound food cultivation and good health presuppose the attunement of life — and crafts — with biological cycles that foster soil fertility and physical well-being. Both the organic farmer and the serious practitioner of holistic health, for example, have been obliged to cultivate insights that extend far beyond the conventional wisdom of the agronomist and the physician. Certain all-important notions — that nutriment and health are not merely industrial products, artifacts ("magic bullets") that can be engineered into existence; that our modern pharmacopias for agriculture and physical well-being cannot function as substitutes for a wisely "crafted" way of life; that life itself is a "calling," which rests on that rare combination of craft and nature we designate as "art" — have their roots in ancient notions of a sense of craft that is "in step with the ruling cycles of natural change."
By contrast, the "artificial crafts played a much smaller part in men's lives than the natural arts," Toulmin and Goodfield observe. "Given flint tools and weapons, and some pottery, life was supportable at a primitive level without metal, glass or perfume, even in an English winter." These remarks belabor the obvious and render the distinction between "natural arts" and "artificial crafts" merely pragmatic. We must not ignore the essentially metaphysical aspects that distinguish them. Artificial or not, early crafts such as metalworking, glass-making, and dyeing alike had the task of imitating Nature, and of creating products which were indistinguishable from the best natural materials. The earliest glass objects known are certain Egyptian beads which were used as personal ornaments in place of precious stones; even then they were known as "sparklers." Glass-making thus began as the production of artificial jewels, and since gold and jewels were always in short supply men continued to think of the crafts in this light as late as classical times. The metal-workers of Alexandria, for instance, produced silver and copper alloys having the appearance and properties of gold; and they developed for this purpose a whole range of techniques for depositing a durable golden color on a relatively cheap alloy. There was nothing necessarily fraudulent about these techniques. Men were paying for the appearance, not the "atomic weights," so the craftsmen and customers alike were entitled to be satisfied with the results.
Hence the "natural" rather than the valuable, the useful and beautiful rather than the costly and the rare still retained their primordial hold even on "artificially" crafted products. Use-value, as it were, held its predominant position over exchange-value and the glitter of the utopian held sway over the dross of self-interest.
To the degree that the craftsperson "imitated" nature, he or she had entered into a quasimystical communion that authenticated the natural qualities of human-made products. Skill was permeated by the imagery of a natural endowment, of gifts bestowed upon the craftsperson by natural forces — gifts that, in some sense, had to be reciprocated. The naturalistic "law of return" reflects a distinctly ecological sensibility — indeed, a sense of responsibility that involves compensation for what is withdrawn or even simulated in the natural world. Hence, as Toulmin and Goodfield tell us:
A ritual element can be found also in the artificial crafts of the ancient world, where at first sight the recipes [for producing the product] looked so much more direct. For example, in the Mesopotamian recipes for glass and glazes . . . instructions for the necessary technical procedures are accompanied by other injunctions of a ritual kind. The recipes from the library of Assurbanipal (seventh century B.C.) begin by explaining that the glass-furnace must be built at the auspicious time: a shrine to the appropriate Gods must be installed, and care must be taken to keep the good will of the deities in the daily operations of the workshop.
In laying the plans for the glass-furnace, the builder was warned to set a censer of pine incense as an offer to the "embryo-gods," a reference that, as Toulmin and Goodfield observe, has a history. In the earlier set of recipes, dating from 1600 B.C., there is a very obscure passage in which some scholars have seen evidence that actual human embryos — possibly still-born infants — were buried in the furnace. What could have been the point of this? There is little contemporary evidence, but perhaps we may read back into this association beliefs which are quite explicit later on. For, if one contrasts the brilliancy and cohesion of new-poured glass or metal ingots with the dirty and chaotic pile of ore, ash and sand from which they are made, the change is most striking: it is as though one had transformed a dull, lifeless agglomeration into a living unity. The sparkle of gold and glass had something of the vital spark visible in the human eye, so that it was not mere fancy to see, in the artificial production of these materials, the creation of something superior — if not actually alive.
Production, in effect, implied not only reproduction, as Eliade has observed for metallurgy, but also animation — not as "raw materials" bathed in the "fire of labor," but as nature actively imbuing its own substance with a "vital spark." The spiritized nature of technics is reflected in a highly suggestive body of possibilities that only recently have entered into our accounts of the history of technology.
The original "magic" of gold, in fact, may justify a more literal interpretation of the metal than we have previously given. Its original attraction is perhaps less a function of its monetary value and rarity than of the fact that it is untarnishable. The metal seems to present a mystical eternality to the flux and change that afflict more mundane objects. Alchemy may have drawn its inspiration from these attributes; well before gold became coinage or the ornamental evidence of wealth and power, it may have been sacred substance that defied the assault of time and the perishability of things. If these speculations are valid, the division of labor between "natural arts" and "artificial crafts" — indeed, the historic division of labor between food cultivation and crafts that underpins the separation of town and country — is haunted by ideological ghosts: the rearing of temples, the fabrication of sacred objects and altars, the ornamentation of deities, the artistry applied to priestly vestments and artifacts. Only later do artificial crafts begin to apply to personal products that satisfy the appetites of ruling classes.
After all has been said about the classical world's disdain for labor, I wish to add a qualifying note. In many respects, Hellenic and Roman ideas about work score a profound ethical advance over preliterate and early ancient mystical attitudes toward technics. Claude Mossé reminds us that Odysseus built his own boat, and that Hephaestus, the deity of crafts, spent his life "in the red glow of his forge." The ancient world did not despise work as such. The origins of the Greek ideal of free time derive not only from an ideological disdain for the slave and for enslavement but also from a profound respect for freedom as an activity. Aristotle pointedly observes that "the best ordered poleis will not make an artisan a citizen." Citizenship will "only belong to those who are released from manual occupations" and, in effect, are thereby engaged in the work of managing the polis. It is this latter concept of active citizenship based on individual autonomy and freedom of judgment that is central to the Hellenic notion of citizenship. As Masse correctly observes, "It is not the manual activity of work which makes labor despised, but the ties of dependence which it creates between the artisan and the person who uses the product which he manufactures." The Hellenic attitude toward labor is conditioned as much by the autonomy of the worker as it is by an association of active citizenship with free time. The ethical principle of autonomy is no less significant than the social and psychological factors that shaped the attitude of the polis.
Mossé's elaboration of this Greek view toward work is worth citing in more detail.
To build one's own house, one's own ship, or to spin and and weave the material which is used to clothe the members of one's own household is in no way shameful. But to work for another man, in return for a wage of any kind, is degrading. It is this which distinguishes the ancient mentality from a modern which would have no hesitation in placing the independent artisan above the wage-earner. But, for the ancients, there is really no difference between the artisan who sells his own products and the workman who hires out his services. Both work to satisfy the needs of others, not their own. They depend on others for their livelihood. For that reason they are no longer free. This perhaps above all is what distinguishes the artisan from the peasant. The peasant is so much closer to the ideal of self-sufficiency (autarkeia) which was the essential basis for man's freedom in the ancient world. Needless to say, in the classical age, in both Greece and Rome, this ideal of self-sufficiency had long since given way to a system of organized trade. However, the archaic mentality endured, and this explains not only the scorn felt for the artisan, laboring in his smithy, or beneath the scorching sun on building sites, but also the scarcely veiled disdain felt for merchants or for the rich entrepreneurs who live off the labor of their slaves.
By contrast, the farmer earned not only the material independence requisite for a free man, but also the sense of security requisite for a free spirit. He was no client. The classical mind read clientage into vocations that would surprise us today — for example, the dependence of wealthy usurers on their debtors, of traders on their buyers, of craftsmen on their customers, and of artists on their admirers. Even though the usurer, trader, and artisan began to preempt the farmer in social power, the tension between reality and ideal, while it finally destroyed the traditional reality, did not destroy the traditional ideal. In fact, agriculture enjoyed cultural eminence in the classical world not only because it conferred self-sufficiency on its practitioners but also because it was seen as an ethical activity, hence not only a techné. "Life in the fields strengthened both the body and soul," Mossé observes.
Love for the soil was an essential ingredient of patriotism . . . . The earth was just and gave her fruits to those who understood how to tend her, and who obeyed the injunctions of the gods. Whatever magical practices they resorted to, in order to gain good harvests, they certainly never took the place of the day-to-day care the earth needed, and experience was the basis of this knowledge which was handed down from father to son. But the science of agriculture went no further than an attempt to find better ways of organizing labor.
Food cultivation as a spiritual — indeed religious — activity had not been changed basically by the emergence of the polis and the republican city-state. But it had also been given a moral dimension that was more in accord with the rationalism of the classical world.
The secularization of technics occurred within a context that, while rational and pragmatic, was not strictly rationalistic and scientistic. Initially, religion — and later, ethics — defined the very function of technology within society. The use of tools and machines called for a series of explanations that were not only mystical but also ethical and ecological explanations rather than strictly pragmatic. Were arts authentically "natural" or not? Were crafts "artificial"? If so, in what sense? Did they accord with the structure, solidarity, and ideology of the community? At a later time, when the polis and the republican city-state emerged, more sophisticated parameters for technical change emerged as well. Did technical changes foster the personal autonomy that became so integral to the Hellenic ideal of citizenship and a palpable body politic? Did they foster personal independence and republican virtue? Viewed from an ecological viewpoint, did they accord with a "just" earth who "gave her fruits to those who understood how to tend her"? Here, the concept of an "appropriate" technology was formulated not in terms of logistics and physical dimensions but in terms of an ecological ethics that visualized an active nature as "just," comprehending, and generous. Nature abundantly rewarded the food cultivator (or the artisan) who was prepared to function symbiotically in relation to her power of fecundity and her injunctions.
Despite the morass of slavery into which the classical world descended, only to be followed by feudal forms of servitude, these ethical distinctions did not disappear. A close association between ethics and technics persisted throughout medieval society, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. Feudal custom and the Protestant ethic dictated a sense of moral responsibility and theological "calling" toward work and technical change, all other social and doctrinal limitations aside. The medieval guilds were not merely occupational associations; they regulated the quality of goods according to very distinct canons of fairness and justice in which Biblical precept played as much of a role as economic considerations. Until the enclosure movements of the sixteenth century turned the English nobility into mere agricultural entrepreneurs, the manorial society over which it presided had an avowedly patronal character. When the nobility began to betray its traditional yeoman clients by replacing them with sheep, the Tudor monarchs from Henry to Elizabeth vigorously sought to arrest this development and became the objects of sharp opprobrium by the landlord and merchant classes of the time.
By the late eighteenth century, England had plummeted recklessly into a brutalizing industrial society that advanced terribly meager ethical criteria for mechanization. Bentham, as noted earlier, identified the "good" quantitatively rather than in terms of an abiding sense of right and wrong. Adam Smith, in many ways more of a moralist than an economist, saw "good" in terms of self-interest governed by a vague "rule of justice." From an ethical viewpoint, the displaced yeomanry and the new working classes were simply abandoned to their fate. If the emerging factory system stunted its human "operatives" (to use the language of the day) — if it shortened their lives appallingly, fostering pandemics like tuberculosis and cholera — the new English manufacturing class advanced no weighty ethical imperatives for the human disasters it produced, beyond some hazy commitment to "progress." The British ruling elite may have been sanctimonious, but it was often blissfully lacking in hypocrisy, as the writings of one of its greatest theorists, David Ricardo, has revealed. "Progress" was unabashedly identified with egotism; the classical ideal of autonomy and independence, with "free competition." English industrialists were never infused with a spirit of "republican virtue" — nor, for that matter, were the ideologists of the French Revolution, despite all their mimicking of Roman postures and phraseology. Neither Adam Smith on one side of the Channel nor Robespierre on the other identified their ethical views with the existence of an independent yeoman class whose capacity for citizenship was a function of their autonomy. Both spokesmen were oriented ideologically toward vague notions of "natural liberty" that found their expression in freedom from government (Smith) or a "tyranny of freedom" (Rousseau) that took the form of a highly centralized State.
It was actually in America — and perhaps there alone — that republican virtue most closely approximated the classical ideal. A living federalism, which was not significantly diluted until the latter half of the nineteenth century, provided the soil for a stunning variety of political institutions and economic relationships. To be sure, this rich galaxy of forms included the slavocracy of the southern states, institutions (and ideologies) for the genocidal occupation of Indian lands, and a barely concealed system of peonage involving not only indentured servitude during the colonial period but the plantation economy that came with the expropriation of Mexican territories. But New England political life was organized around the face-to-face democracy of "the town meeting and around considerable county and statewide autonomy. An incredibly loose democracy and mutualism prevailed along a frontier that was often beyond the reach of the comparatively weak national government.
Permeating this relatively democratic world was an intense republican ideology that provided the ethical context of American technical development for generations after the Revolution. Although it is commonplace to cite Jefferson as this ideology's most articulate spokesman, we must often be reminded how closely his views approximated the classical ideal and how deeply they affected American technical development. In the famous Notes on the State of Virginia of 1785, Jefferson's association of republican virtue with the "natural arts" of agriculture and an autonomous yeoman class reads like a strident passage from Cicero's De Officiis:
Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phaenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example. It is the mark set on those, who not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistence, depend for it on the casualties and caprice of customers. Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.
Jefferson's concern for the independence of a republican body politic renders this passage strikingly unique. Eighteenth-century European political economists like the Physiocrats had also given primacy to the "natural arts," notably to agriculture over manufactures. But they had done so more as a source of wealth rather than because of social morality. Jefferson's emphasis on agriculture is largely ethical; it is anchored not only in the virtues of husbandry as a technical calling but in the farmer as an independent citizen. By contrast, the "mobs of the great cities" are corrupted by their clientage, self-interest, and lascivious appetites. They lack the industry, virtue, and moral cohesion that is necessary for freedom and stable republican institutions.
Nor was Jefferson alone in this ethical stance. Similar views were echoed (although far less fervently) by John Adams as early as the 1780s, and even by Benjamin Franklin, whose favorable view of the "artificial crafts" was that of a highly urbanized republican artisan — of a printer turned propagandist. For our purposes, what makes Jefferson's views unique is the extent to which he exalted the virtues of nature as such. He speaks to us not only in the traditional language of "natural law," but in a more esthetic vernacular that reveals his appreciation of the mutual enhancement of the natural world and labor. The Biblical injunction of hard labor in the fields as penance is replaced by an ecological vision of virtuous labor as freedom. The husbandman "looking up to heaven" or down to his "own soil" is the imagery of ecology, not of political economy.
But we soon encounter a remarkable paradox. Once this fervently republican tradition is extended beyond an agricultural society peopled by self-sufficient farmers, it contains the seeds for its own negation. Perhaps even more striking, this tradition provides a basis not only for the absorption of the "natural arts" by the "artificial crafts" but also for the total mechanization of personal and social life. Neither Jefferson nor the agrarian populists of his day could have prevented the growth of manufactures in the New World, nor could they present a strong ideological case against the increase of nonagricultural pursuits. Indeed, Jefferson the president was significantly different from Jefferson the author of the Declaration of Independence. If the vitality of the republic, conceived as a body politic, depended upon the independence and autonomy of its yeomanry, then the vitality of the republic, conceived as a nation, depended upon the independence and autonomy of its economy. An agrarian America that required industrial goods could hardly hope to retain its republican integrity if it remained a mere client of European industry. It followed logically that America had to develop its own industrial base in order to maintain its own sense of republican virtue.
Here lay the conditions for a supremely ironical development in the relation of ethics to technics. To preserve its secular ethics, American republican ideology had to accept a course of technical development that threatened to vitiate its own classical premises. The nation could not become autonomous without rendering its own body politic of self-sufficient yeomen increasingly heteronomous. To cease to be a client of English industry, America required an industry of its own with its consequent rationalization of labor and its use of scientific principles to devise sophisticated instruments of production. Jefferson had never seen English factory towns and the squalor they produced; his unruly urban "mobs" were largely artisans and small retailers. Yet even this modest level of economic development sufficed to disquiet him. The emergence of the factory raised even more thundering problems. Visitors to England during the first half of the nineteenth century returned to their respective homelands with horrendous accounts of the filth, the disease, and the demoralization of the working classes that accompanied the new industrial system. In the 1830s, De Tocqueville told the French about Manchester, this "new Hades," with its "heaps of dung, rubble from buildings, putrid stagnant pools . . . the noise of furnaces, the whistle of steam" and the "vast structures" enshrouded in "black smoke" that "keep air and light out of the human habitations which they dominate." A decade later, Engels gave the Germans an even more detailed, vivid account of England's chief industrial city. Still another decade later, Dickens described the situation to his more fortunate countrymen in the well-to-do parts of the country.
To build a large factory complex in the new United States meant little more than to place classical republican ethics on the rack. How could Yankee merchant-entrepreneurs, whose parents and grandparents had presumably risked their lives and fortunes for the republican ideal, hope to decorate a relatively sophisticated industrial system with the garlands of republican virtue? The ideal itself had to be modified without overly abusing its form, which itself had to be significantly altered without seeming to lose its surface attributes. Accordingly, the concern for the autonomy of the body politic with its world of free farmers had to be transferred to a concern for the autonomy of the nation with its world of free entrepreneurs. This problem was to become a central theme of American social life for more than a century after Jefferson's death. It recurs to this day as a cultural reflex against an increasingly centralized and bureaucratic society.
Republican virtue viewed as a human good had to be depersonalized, generalized, and finally objectified into republican virtue viewed as an institutional good. This change in emphasis was decisive. Where Jefferson had placed the locus of his ethics in a family-worked farm, independent and strong in its commitment to independence, the new merchant-entrepreneurs placed the locus of their ethics in an industrial community worked by hired, robotized hands. The autonomy of The Republic, in effect, was purchased at the expense of its republicans. This shrewd dehumanization of ethics into a mere stratagem for material gain assumed a highly sinister form. If The Republic now began to supplant its republicans, its sense of "virtue" persisted — but now as a discipline rather than as an ideal.
As John F. Kasson has noted in an excellent study of technology and American republican values, a decisive step in achieving this shift in emphasis occurred in the 1820s, when a group of Boston merchant-entrepreneurs built the earliest American industrial complex at what was to be called Lowell, Massachusetts. Francis Cabot Lowell, who conceived this textile manufacturing complex and provided it posthumously with his name, also furnished it with its ethical rationale, its initial design, and its ubiquitous criteria of discipline. As Kasson observes,
Previous American factory settlements had retained the English system of hiring whole families, often including school-age children. Lowell and his associates opposed the idea of a long-term residential force that might lead to an entrenched proletariat. They planned to hire as their main working force young single women from the surrounding area for a few years apiece. For a rotating force such as this, women were an obvious choice. Able-bodied men could be attracted from farming only with difficulty, and their hiring would raise fears that the nation might lose her agrarian character and promote resistance to manufactures. Women, on the other hand, had traditionally served as spinners and weavers when textiles had been produced in the home, and they constituted an important part of the family economy.
Here, piety and pastoralism formed a perfect fit with profit and productivity. The women were expected to be docile. Raised in a Puritan tradition that preached a message of self-discipline, hard work, obedience, and salvation, their sense of virtue was home-bred and merely required paternal surveillance. On this score, the Lowell mill-owners used their concept of republican ideals in an unprecedentedly expansive manner: the factory system's demands for order and hierarchy were introduced into every aspect of the employee's living situation.
The first manufacturing complex, which opened in September, 1823, consisted of six factory buildings "grouped in a spacious quadrangle bordering the river and landscaped with flowers, trees, and shrubs." The greenery that surrounded Lowell and its buildings not only imparted the appropriate pastoral setting for a classical republican community but also insulated its employes from large towns with their unruly "mobs" and insidious political ideas. The factory buildings, in turn, were dominated by a central mill, crowned with a Georgian cupola. Made of brick, with flat, plain walls, and white granite lintels above each window space, the factories presented a neat, orderly, and efficient appearance, which symbolized the institution's goals and would be emulated by many of the penitentiaries, insane asylums, orphanages, and reformatories of the period. Beyond the counting house at the entrance to the mill yard stretched the company dormitories. Their arrangement reflected a Federalist image of proper social structure. The factory population of Lowell was rigidly defined into four groups and their hierarchy was immutably preserved in the town's architecture.
A Georgian mansion directly below the original factory in Lowell symbolized the authority of the complex's manager. Beneath the company's agent stood the overseers, who lived in simple yet substantial quarters at the ends of the rows of boardinghouses where the operatives resided, thus providing a secondary measure of surveillance. In the boardinghouses themselves lived the female workers who outnumbered male employes three to one. Originally these apartments were constructed in rows of double houses, at least thirty girls to a unit, with intervening strips of lawn.
Later, as the company expanded, the apartments were strung together, "blocking both light and air. These quarters were intended to serve intentionally as dormitories and offered few amenities beyond dining rooms and bedrooms, each of the latter shared by as many as six or eight girls, two to a bed."
Although Lowell's textile technology belongs to the beginnings of the industrial system, its obsessive concern with surveillance and discipline was eerily in advance of its time. It reveals with startling clarity the implications of the factory as a unique form of social organization — an issue that only recently has come to the foreground of institutional discourse. Lowell did not merely exploit its workers; it sought to totally recondition them. Its surveillance system may seem particularly crude today, but at the time it was highly effective in reshaping the very outlook of naive country folk:
The factory as a whole was governed by the superintendent, his office strategically placed between the boardinghouses and the mills at the entrance to the mill yard. From this point, as one spokesman enthusiastically reported, his "mind regulates all; his character inspires all; his plans, matured and decided by the directors of the company, who visit him every week, control all." Beneath his watchful eye in each room of the factory, an overseer stood responsible for the work, conduct, and proper management of the operatives therein . . . . In addition . . . corporate authorities relied upon the factory girls to act as moral police over one another. The ideal, as described by an unofficial spokesman of the corporation, represented a tyranny of the majority that would have made De Tocqueville shudder.
Theoretically, at least, the mere suspicion of moral and behavioral improprieties led to ostracism until the suspected operative, shunned by her coworkers on the streets of the town, on the job, and in the boardinghouse, was reduced to an outcast. Eventually, the victim of this unrelenting social pressure would be forced to leave the community.
It would be simplistic to dismiss Lowell as an industrial penitentiary, a blight among many that marked the onset of the Industrial Revolution in America. As with the factory system in England, one of the primary functions of such highly supervised working conditions was to regularize labor, to standardize it, and to govern its rhythms by the tick of the clock and the tempo of the machine. But Lowell was also a uniquely American phenomenon. Ideologically, it had been reared on the basis of a distinct republican ethic that related technics to lofty concepts of citizenship. In practice, however, it dramatically demonstrated how ethics could be dismembered by technology — indeed, absorbed into it. Values that had stemmed from a long tradition of human rationality became not only dehumanized but also rationalized, not only instruments in the service of industrial exploitation but also sources of social regimentation.
Far from being a phase in early industrial development like the unfeeling factory town of Manchester, Lowell was in many ways far ahead of its time. As early as the 1820s, when small-scale agriculture and family-type artisanship were still predominant in American society, an industrial entity had emerged that, in the very name of domestic republican ideals, thoroughly industrialized every detail of a community's personal life. Lowell had created not only a society of "artificial crafts" but also a cosmos of industrial hierarchy and discipline. Nothing was spared from these industrial attributes — not dress, food, entertainment, reading matter, leisure time, sexuality, or demeanor. As Kasson notes, the cupolas which crowned Lowell's mills were not simply ornamental; their bells insistently reminded workers that time was money. Operatives worked a six-day week, approximately twelve hours a day, and bells tolled them awake and to their jobs (lateness was severely punished), to and from meals, curfew, and bed.
Although Lowell was to fade away as a model industrial community, its legacy never disappeared. Such a highly regulated world did not reappear in the United States until the 1950s, albeit in the pastel colors favored by social engineers and reinforced less by brute surveillance than by the subtle arts of industrial psychology. But these new techniques were effective because Lowell and its successors had done their job well. The dissociation of traditional republican ethics from technics was complete. By the 1950s, the factory system and market had begun to invade the last bastions of private life and had colonized personality itself. No overseers and superintendents were needed to perform this task. Reinforced by rationality as a mode of instrumentalism and science as a value-free discipline, the Lowells of our own era have ceased to be an extrinsic feature of social mechanization. They arose immanently from the factory system as a way of life and the marketplace as the mode of human consociation. Technics no longer had to pretend that it had an ethical context; it had become the "vital spark" of society itself. In the face of this massive development, no private refuge was available, no town or frontier to which one could flee, no cottage to which one could retreat. Management ceased to be a form of administration and literally became a way of life. Ironically, republican virtue was not completely discarded; it was simply transmuted from an ideal into a technique. Autonomy was reworked to mean competition, individuality to mean egotism, fortitude to mean moral indifference, enterprise to mean the pursuit of profit, and federalism to mean free trade. The ethic spawned by the American Revolution was simply eviscerated, leaving behind a hollow shell for ceremonial exploitation. As it turned out, it was not the hideous squalor of a Manchester that placed a lasting imprint on the industrial age but the clinical sophistication of bureaucratic disempowerment and media manipulation.
What is most chilling about the ambiguities of freedom — of reason, science, and technics — is that we now take their existence for granted. We have been taught to regard these ambiguities as part of the human condition, with the result that they merely coexist with each other rather than confront each other. We are becoming deadened to the contradictions they pose, their relationship to each other in contemporary life and the history of ideas, and the harsh logic that must eventually assert itself when one element of these ambiguities asserts itself over the other. Our intellectual neutrality toward reason and rationalism, science and scientism, and ethics and technics creates not only confusion about the notion of paradox as such, but also a misbegotten "freedom" to alternate flippantly between both sides of the ambiguity — or worse yet, to mindlessly occupy utterly conflicting positions simultaneously.
The social and ecological problems of our time will not allow us to delay indefinitely in formulating a sound outlook and practice. The individual elements of these ambiguities of freedom have acquired a life of their own, all the more because our neutrality fosters abstention and withdrawal. The continuing substitution of rationalism for reason, of scientism for science, and of technics for ethics threatens to remove our very sense of the problems that exist, not to speak of our ability to resolve them. A look at technics alone reveals that the car is racing at an increasing pace, with nobody in the driver's seat. Accordingly, commitment and insight have never been more needed than they are today. Whether or not the time is too late I will not venture to say; neither pessimism nor optimism have any meaning in the face of the commanding imperatives that confront us. What must be understood is that the ambiguities of freedom are not intractable problems — that there are ways of resolving them.
The reconstruction of reason as an interpretation of the world must begin with a review of the modern premises of rationalism — its commitment to insight through opposition. This oppositional commitment, common to objective and subjective reason alike, casts all "otherness" in stringently antithetical terms. Understanding as such depends upon our ability to control what is to be understood — or, more radically, to conquer it, subjugate it, efface it, or absorb it. Like the Marxian vision of labor, reason is said to establish its very identity through its powers of negativity and sovereignty. An activistic rationalism of the kind so endearing to both German idealism and American pragmatism is a rationalism of conquest, not of reconciliation; of intellectual predation, not of intellectual symbiosis. That there are phenomena in our world that must be conquered, indeed, disgorged — for example, domination, exploitation, rule, cruelty, and indifference to suffering — needs hardly to be emphasized. But that "otherness" per se is intrinsically comprehended in oppositional terms also biases that comprehension in the direction of instrumentalism, for hidden within a dialectic of strict negativity are the philosophical tricks for using power as a predominant mode of comprehension.
Just as we can justifiably distinguish between an authoritarian and a libertarian technics, so too can we distinguish between authoritarian and libertarian modes of reason. This distinction is no less decisive for thought and its history than it is for technology. The creatively reproductive form we wish to impart to a new ecological community requires the mediation of a libertarian reason, one that bears witness to the symbiotic animism of early preliterate sensibilities without becoming captive to its myths and self-deceptions. Even though animals have not been persuaded by rituals and ceremonials to seek out the hunter, we would do well to respect the animals and plants we consume by using an etiquette, perhaps even ceremonies, that acknowledge their integrity and subjectivity as living beings. For here nature has offered up a sacrifice to us that demands some kind of recompense in turn — even an esthetic one. Nor are we alone the participants and audience for that ceremonial; life surrounds us everywhere and, in its own way, bears witness to ours. Our habitat, in effect, is not merely a place in which we happen to live; it is also a form of natural conscience.
The symbiotic rationality I have called libertarian is a ubiquitous presence, a sensibility, a state of mind, not merely a cerebral series of thoughts. To harvest life and feed on it unthinkingly is to diminish the sense of life within us as well as the reality of life around us. Denied its esthetics and ceremonials, an ecological sensibility becomes a mere pretense at what we so flippantly call "ecological thinking," or (to use the sleazy formula of one prominent environmentalism) the notion that there is no "free lunch" in nature. Libertarian rationality does not include "lunches" or "snacks" in its vision of ecological balance. It is a redefinition of "otherness" not simply as a "thou," but as the very way by which we relate to beings apart from ourselves. Our approach to all the particulars that constitute nature is as intrinsic to a libertarian rationality as the images we form of them in our minds. Hence it is a practice as well as an outlook. How we till the soil or plant and harvest its produce — indeed, how we walk across a meadow or through a forest — is coextensive with the rationality we bring to the environments we are trying to comprehend.
The "other," to be sure, is never us. It is apart from us just as surely as we are apart from it. In western philosophy, particularly in its Hegelian forms, this fact has inexorably locked "otherness" as such into various concepts of alienation. Leaving Hegelian interpreters aside, however, any serious reading of Hegel's works reveals that he was never fully comfortable with his own notion of the "other." Alienation conceived as Entäusserung is not similar to alienation conceived as Selbstentäusserung. The former, favored by Marx, views "otherness" — specifically, the products of human labor — as an antagonistic mode of objectification that asserts itself above and against the worker. By no means does Marx confine Entäusserung to capitalism; it also emerges in humanity's intercourse with nature since, under natural conditions, even cooperative labor, in Marx's view, "is not voluntary but natural, not as [the workers'] united power, but as an alien force existing outside them . . . and which they therefore cannot control, but which on the contrary, passes through its own power series of phases and stages, independent of man, even appearing to govern his will and action." Hence Entäusserung in the antagonistic sense of "estrangement" is coextensive with humanity's "embeddedness" in nature — another example of Marx's atrocious misreadings of "savage" society — and can be annulled only by its conquest of nature.
In Hegel's mature ontology, alienation as "otherness" is the Selbstentäusserung, or "self-detachment," of Spirit — the unfolding concretization of its potentialities into self-consciousness. Self-detachment is not committed to antagonism as much as it is to wholeness, fullness, and completeness. Although Hegel's emphasis on negativity can never be denied, he repeatedly weakens its asperity — for example, in his vision of "true love." "In love the separate does still remain," he wrote in his youthful years, "but as something united and no longer as something separate; life (in the subject) senses life (in the object)." This sense of detachment as a unity in diversity runs through the entire Hegelian dialectic as certainly as does its sweeping spirit of antithesis. Hegel's concept of transcendence (aufhebung) never advances a notion of outright annihilation. Its negativity consists of annulling the "other" in order to absorb it into a movement toward a richly variegated completeness.
But Hegel's notion of alienation is strictly theoretical. If we remain with him too long, we risk trying to explore different forms of reason in purely speculative terms. Reason, as I have emphasized, has its own natural and social history that provides a better means of resolving its paradoxes than does a strictly intellectual strategy. It also has its own anthropology, which reveals an approach to "otherness" that is based more on symbiosis and conciliation than detachment and opposition. The formation of the human mind is inseparable from the socialization of human nature at birth and its early period of development. However significant biology may be in shaping the human nervous system and its acuity, it is ultimately the gradual introduction of the newborn infant to culture that gives reason its specifically human character. We must turn to this early formative process to find the germinal conditions for a new, libertarian mode of rationality and the sensibility that will infuse it.
Biology and socialization, in fact, cojoin precisely at the point where maternal care is the most formative factor in childhood acculturation. Biology is obviously important because the neural equipment of human beings to think symbolically and to generalize well beyond the capacity of most primates is a tangible physical endowment. The newborn infant faces a long period of biological dependency, which not only allows for greater mental plasticity in acquiring knowledge but also provides time in which to develop strong social ties with its parents, siblings, and some kind of rudimentary community. No less important is the form of the socialization process itself, which intimately shapes the mentality and sensibility of the young.
Reason comes to the child primarily through the care, support, attention, and instruction provided by the mother. Robert Briffault, in his pioneering work on the "matriarchal" origins of society, accurately depicts this anthropology of reason. He observes that the
one known factor which establishes a profound distinction between the constitution of the most rudimentary human group and all other animal groups [is the] association of mother and offspring which is the sole form of true social solidarity among animals. Throughout the class of mammals there is a continuous increase in the duration of that association, which is the consequence of the prolongation of the period of infantile dependence, and is correlated with a concomitant protraction of gestation and the advance in intelligence and social instincts.
We may reasonably question whether the mother-infant relationship is the "sole form of true social solidarity among animals" — particularly in the case of primates, which have a surprisingly large repertoire of relationships. But had Briffault emphasized that the mother-infant relationship is the initial step in the socialization process — the cradle in which the need for consociation is created — he would have been accurate. The role of this relationship in shaping human thought processes and sensibilities is nothing less than monumental, particularly in matricentric cultures where it encompasses most of childhood life.
In many respects, "civilization" involves a massive enterprise to undo the impact of maternal care, nurture, and modes of thought on the character structure of the offspring. The imagery of growing up has actually come to mean growing away from a maternal, domestic world of mutual support, concern, and love (a venerable and highly workable society in its own right) into one made shapeless, unfeeling, and harsh. To accommodate humanity to war, exploitation, political obedience, and rule involves the undoing not only of human "first nature" as an animal but also of human "second nature" as a child who lives in dependency and protective custody under the eyes and in the arms of its mother.
What we so facilely call "maturity" is not ordinarily an ethically desirable process of growth and humanization. To become an "autonomous," "perceptive," "experienced," and "competent" adult involves terms that historically possess very mixed meanings. These terms become very misleading if they are not explicated in the light of the social, ethical, economic, and psychological goals we have in mind. The child's growth away from the values of a caring mother toward autonomy and independence becomes a cultural travesty and a psychological disaster when it results in a youth's degrading dependency upon the caprices of an egotistical and unfeeling taskmaster.
Neither the youth's autonomy nor its character structure benefit by "maturity" in this form. Dickens's account of Oliver Twist is not a study of the growth of a child's capacity to cope as he "develops" from life in a nineteenth-century orphanage to survival in the wens of London. Rather, it is a study of a dehumanizing society that tends to destroy whatever sense of sympathy, care, and solidarity is woven into its character structure by maternal love. By contrast, the "primitive" Hopi children are in an immensely enviable position when they find many mothers to succor them and many loving relations to instruct them. They acquire a much greater social gift than "independence," which modern capitalism has redefined to mean "rugged egotism." Indeed, Hopi children acquire the all-important gift of interdependence, in which individual and community support each other without negating the values of kindness, solidarity, and mutual respect that become the child's psychic inheritance and birth right.
This heritage is formed not only by maternal care and nurture but also by a very specific rationality that often is concealed within the maudlin term "mother love." For it is not only love that the mother ordinarily gives her child, but a rationality of "otherness" that stands sharply at odds with its modern arrogant counterpart. This earlier rationality is unabashedly symbiotic. Fromm's evocation of "mother love" as a spontaneous, unconditional sentiment of caring, free from any reciprocating obligations by the child, yields more than the total deobjectification of person that I emphasized earlier. "Mother love" also yields a rationality of deobjectification that is almost universal in character, indeed, a resubjectivization of experience that sees the "other" within a logical nexus of mutuality. The "other" becomes the active component that it always has been in natural and social history, not simply the "alien" and alienated that it is in Marxian theory and the "dead matter" that it is in classical physics.
I have deliberately emphasized the word symbiotic in describing this libertarian rationality. The dual meaning of this ecological term is important: symbiosis includes not only mutualism but also parasitism. A libertarian rationality is not unconditional in its observations, like "motherlove"; indeed, to deny any conditions for judging experience is naive and myopic. But its preconditions for observation differ from an authoritarian rationalism structured around estrangement and ultimately around command and obedience. In a libertarian rationality, observation is always located within an ethical context that defines the "good" and is structured around a self-detachment (to use Hegel's term) that leads toward wholeness, completeness, and fullness (although more in an ecological rather than Hegel's metaphysical sense). A libertarian rationality raises natural ecology's tenet of unity in diversity to the level of reason itself; it evokes a logic of unity between the "I" and the "other" that recognizes the stabilizing and integrative function of diversity — of a cosmos of "others" that can be comprehended and integrated symbiotically. Diversity and unity do not contradict each other as logical antinomies. To the contrary, unity is the form of diversity, the pattern that gives it intelligibility and meaning, and hence a unifying principle not only of ecology but of reason itself.
A libertarian rationality that emphasizes the unity of "otherness" is not a logic of surrender, passivity, and sentimentality, as Jacob Bachofen, in his work, Das Mutterrecht ("Mother Right"), imputed to motherlove and "matriarchy" more than a century ago. Symbiosis, as I have already observed, does not deny the existence of a harmful parasitism that can destroy its host. A libertarian rationality must acknowledge the existence of an "other" that is itself blatantly antagonistic and oppositional. Actually, the ability to manipulate nature and to function actively in natural and social history is a desideratum, not an evil. But human activity is expected to occur within an ethical context of virtue, not a value-free context of utility and efficiency. There is a natural and social history of mentalism that objectively validates our concepts of the "good." Our very ability to form such concepts from the vast reservoir of natural development in all its gradations and forms derives from this natural history of subjectivity. Humanity, as part of this natural history, has the intrinsic right to participate in it. As a unique agent of consciousness, humanity can provide the voice of nature's internal rationality in the form of thought and self-reflective action. Libertarian reason seeks to consciously mitigate ecological destruction, in the realms of both social ecology and natural ecology.
Actually, the formal structure of dialectical and analytical reason would require very little alteration to accommodate a libertarian rationality. What would have to change decisively, however, is the overwhelming orientation of rational canons toward control, manipulation, domination, and estrangement that collectively bias authoritarian rationalism. Libertarian reason would advance a contrasting view in its orientation toward ecological symbiosis, but doubtless this can be regarded as a bias that is neither more nor less justifiable than the bias of authoritarian rationalism. But biases are not formed from mere air. Not only do they always exist in every orientation we hold, but their impact upon thought is all the more insidious when their existence is denied in the name of "objectivity" and a "value-free" epistemology.
It is not the interplay between abstract intellectual categories to which we must turn in order to validate the assumptions behind all our views. It is to experience itself — to natural and social history — that we must turn to test these assumptions. Not only in nature but also in "maternal care," in the very cradle of human consociation itself, do we find a human "second nature" that is structured around nurture, support, and a deobjectified world of experience rather than a world guided by domination, self-interest, and exploitation. It is in this social cradle that the most fundamental canons of reason are formed. The story of reason in the history of "civilization" is not an account of the sophistication of this germinal rationality along libertarian lines; it is a vast political and psychological enterprise to brutally extirpate this rationality in the interest of domination, to supplant it by the "third nature" of authority and rule. That fetid word "modernity" — and its confusion of personal atomization with "individuality" — may well demarcate an era in which the cradle of reason has finally been demolished.
A new science that accords with libertarian reason, in turn, has the responsibility of rediscovering the concrete, which is so important in arresting this enterprise. Ironically, "paradigms" that quarrel with "paradigms," each blissfully remote from the natural history and ecological reality in which they should be immersed, increasingly serve the ends of instrumentalism with its inevitable manipulation of mind and society. Paradoxical as it may seem, the abstraction of science to methodology (which is largely what scientific "paradigms" do) tends to turn the scientific project itself into a problem of method, or more bluntly, a problem of instrumental strategies. The confusion between science as knowledge, or Wissenschaft, and as "scientific method" has never been adequately unscrambled. Since Francis Bacon's time, the identification of scientific verification with science itself has given a priority to technique over reality and has fostered the tendency to reduce our comprehension of reality to a matter of mere methodology. To recover the supremacy of the concrete — with its rich wealth of qualities, differentia, and solidity — over and beyond a transcendental concept of science as method is to slap the face of an arrogant intellectualism with the ungloved hand of reality. Plagued as we are today by a neo-Kantian dualism and transcendentalism that has given mind "a life of its own" — supplanting the reality of history with a mentalized myth of "historical stages," the reality of society with "flow diagrams," and the reality of communication with "metacommunication" — the recovery of the concrete is an enterprise not simply involving intellectual ventilation but also intellectual detoxification. Whatever we may think of Paul Feyerband's intellectualized version of anarchism, we may well treasure his work; he has opened the windows of modern science to the fresh air of reality.
"Science" must become the many sciences that make up its own history, from animism to nuclear physics; it must therefore respond to the many "voices" emitted by natural history. But these voices speak the language of the facts that constitute nature at different levels of its development. They are concrete and detailed; indeed, it is their very diversity as concretes that makes the organization of substance a drama of ever more complex forms, of "molecular self-organization" (to use the language of biochemistry). To recognize the specificity of these facts, their uniqueness as forms in enriching the enterprise of knowledge, is not to reduce science to a crude empiricism that replaces the scientist's need to generalize. Generalizations that seek to elude these concretes by fettering them to purely intellectual criteria of "truth" and "scientific method" — to garner what is quantitative in reality at the expense of what is qualitative — is to reject as archaic "paradigms" a vast heritage of truth whose value often lies in its richer, more qualitative view of reality.
Even natural ecology has not been immune to this orientation. It is already paying a severe penalty in its once-promising range of scope for its attempts to gain scientific "credibility" by surrendering its respect for the qualitative uniqueness of each ecosystem and instead describing the ecosystem in terms of energy values and flow diagrams. Reductionism and systems theory have scored yet another triumph. Hence, one of the key problems of science still lingers on. The scientist must approach nature for what it really is: active, developmental, emergent, and deliciously variegated in its wealth of specificity and form.
Finally, technics must reinfuse its "artificial crafts" with its "natural arts" by bringing natural processes back into techné as much as possible. I refer not just to the traditional need to integrate agriculture with industry, but to the need to change our very concept of industry. The use of the Latin term industria to mean primarily a contrivance or device rather than diligence is of comparatively recent vintage. Today, the word industry has become almost synonymous with production organized around machines and their products or "manufactures." Industry and its machines, in turn, foster a very special public orientation: we see them as rationally arranged, largely self-operating instruments, conceived and designed by the human mind, that are meant to shape, form, and transform "raw materials" or "natural resources." The steel, glass, rubber, copper, and plastic materials that are turned into motor vehicles; the water and chemical ingredients that are turned into Coca-Cola; even the wood that is turned into mass-produced furnishings and the flesh that is turned into hamburgers — all are regarded merely as manufactures, the products of industry. In their finished form, these products bear no resemblance to the ores, minerals, vegetation, or animals from which they were derived. Assembled or packaged, they are transmuted results of processes that reflect not the sources but the mere background of their constituent materials. The craftsperson of antiquity continually added a natural dimension to the products of his or her "artificial crafts" — say, by carving the legs of couches to look like animal limbs or painting statues with sensuous colors. But what little artistry modern industry adds to its products is explicitly geometric and antinatural — more precisely, inorganic in its passion for the "honesty" of the transmuted materials with which it functions.
This extraordinary, indeed pathological, disjunction of nature from its manufactured results stems from a largely mythic interpretation of technics. The products of modern industry are literally denatured. As such, they become mere objects to be consumed or enjoyed. They exhibit no association with the natural world from which they derive. In the public mind, a product is more intimately associated with the company that manufactured it than with the natural world that made its very existence and production possible. A car is a "Datsun" or a "Chevrolet," not a vehicle that comes from ores, minerals, trees, and animal hides; a hamburger is a "Big Mac," not the remains of an animal that once ranged a distant region of grasslands. Packaging obscures the corn and wheat fields of the Midwest behind the labels of the Del Monte, General Foods, and Pepperidge Farm corporations. Indeed, when we say that a product, food, or even therapy is "natural," we usually mean that it is "pure" or "unadulterated," not that it comes from nature.
What this orientation — or lack of orientation — reveals is not merely that advertising and media have imprinted corporate names on our minds with a view toward guiding our preferences and purchasing power. Perhaps more significantly, the actual fabrication of the product — from mine, farm, and forest to factory, mill, and chemical plant — has reduced the entire technical process to a mystery. In the archaic sense, "mystery" was once seen as a mystical, divinely inspired process (for example, metallurgy); but the mystery surrounding modern production is more mundane. We simply do not know beyond our own narrow sphere of experience how the most ordinary things we use are produced. So complete is the disjunction between production and consumption, between farm and factory (not to speak of between factory and consumer) that we are literally the unknowing clients of a stupendous industrial apparatus into which we have little insight and over which we have no control.
But this apparatus is itself the "client" of a vastly complex natural world, which it rarely comprehends in terms that are not strictly technical. We think of nature as a nonhuman industrial "apparatus." It "fabricates" products, in some vaguely understood manner, that we treat as an industrial phenomenon — with our extensive use of agricultural chemicals, our whaling and fishing marine factories, our mechanical slaughtering devices, and our denaturing of entire continental regions to mere factory departments. We commonly verbalize this industrial conception of nature in the language of mechanics, electronics, and cybernetics. Our description of the nonhuman or natural processes, as regulated by "negative feedback" or as systems into which we "plug" our "inputs" and "outputs," reflects the way we have "freaked" the natural world (to use Paul Shepard's vivid term) to meet the ends of industrial domination.
What is most important about our denaturing of natural phenomena is that we are its principal victims — we become the "objects" that our industry most effectively controls. We are its victims because we are unconscious of the way, both technically and psychologically, in which industry controls us. Techné as mystery has returned again, but not as a process in which the agriculturist or craftperson totally participates in a mystically enchanted process. We do not participate in the modern industrial process except as minutely specialized agents. Hence we are unaware of how the process occurs, much less able to exercise any degree of control over it. When we say that modern industry has become too complex, we normally mean that our knowledge, skills, insights, and traditions for growing or fabricating our means of life have been usurped by a stupendous, often meaningless, social machinery that renders us unable to cope with the most elementary imperatives of life. But it is not the complexity of machinery that inhibits our ability to deal with these imperatives; it is the new rules of the game we call an "industrial society" that, by restructuring our very lives, has interposed itself between the powers of human rationality and those of nature's fecundity. Most westerners ordinarily cannot plant and harvest a garden, fell a tree and shape it to meet their needs for shelter, reduce ores and cast metals, kill and dress animals for food and hides or preserve food and other perishables. These elementary vulnerabilities result not from any intrinsic complexity that must exist to provide us with the means of life; but from an ignorance of the means of sustaining life — an ignorance that has been deliberately fostered by a system of industrial clientage.
The factory was not born from a need to integrate labor with modern machinery. On the contrary, this building block of what we call "industrial society" arose from a need to rationalize the labor process — to intensify and exploit it more effectively than employers could ever hope to achieve with early cottage industries based on a self-regulated system of artisanship. Sidney Pollard, quoting an observer of the prefactory era, notes that workers who were free to regulate their own time as domestic craftpersons rarely worked the modern eight-hour day and five-day week. "The weavers were used to 'play frequently all day on Monday and the greater part of Tuesday, and work very late on Thursday night, and frequently all night on Friday'" to ready their cloth for the Saturday market day. This irregularity, or "naturalness," in the rhythm and intensity of traditional systems of work contributed more toward the bourgeoisie's craze for social control and its savagely antinaturalistic outlook than did the prices or earnings demanded by its employes. More than any single technical factor, this irregularity led to the rationalization of labor under a single ensemble of rule, to a discipline of work and regulation of time that yielded the modern factory, often with none of the technical developments we impute to the "Industrial Revolution." Before the steam engine, power loom, and flying shuttle came into use — indeed, before some of these machines were even invented — the traditional spinning wheel, hand loom, and dyeing vat that once filled the working areas of cottagers were assembled in large sheds primarily to mobilize the workers themselves, to regulate them harshly, and to intensify the exploitation of their labor.
Hence, the initial goal of the factory was to dominate labor and destroy the worker's independence from capital. The loss of this independence included the loss of the worker's contact with food cultivation. English parliamentary legislation in the late seventeenth century acknowledged that "custome hath been retained time out of mind . . . that there should be a cessation of weaving every year, in the time of harvest" so that spinners and weavers could use their time "chiefly employed in harvest worke." As recently as the early nineteenth century, this practice was sufficiently widespread to warrant a comment in the Manchester Chronicle that many weavers could be expected to help in the late summer and early autumn harvesting operations on farms near the city.
The periodic shifting of workers from factories to fields should hardly be taken as an act of bucolic generosity on the part of England's ruling classes. Until the 1830s, English landlords still held a political edge over the industrial bourgeoisie. Workers who left factories during harvest seasons to work in the countryside were merely transported from one realm of exploitation to another. But it was intrinsically important for them to retain their agrarian skills — skills that their children and grandchildren were later to lose completely. To live in a cottage, whether as an artisan or as a factory worker, often meant to cultivate a family garden, possibly to pasture a cow, to prepare one's own bread, and to have the skills for keeping a home in good repair. To utterly erase these skills and means of livelihood from the worker's life became an industrial imperative.
The worker's complete dependence on the factory and o n an industrial labor market was a compelling precondition for the triumph of industrial society. Urban planning, such as it was, together with urban congestion, long working hours, a generous moral disregard for working-class alcoholism, and a highly specialized division of labor melded the needs of exploitation to a deliberate policy of proletarianization. The need to destroy whatever independent means of life the worker could garner from a backyard plot of land, a simple proficiency in the use of tools, a skill that provided shoes, clothing, and furnishings for the family — all involved the issue of reducing the proletariat to a condition of total powerlessness in the face of capital. And with that powerlessness came a supineness, a loss of character and community, and a decline in moral fiber that was to make the hereditary English worker one of the most docile members of an exploited class during the past two centuries of European history. The factory system, with its need for a large corps of unskilled labor, far from giving the workers greater mobility and occupational flexibility (as Marx and Engels were to claim), actually reduced them to aimless social vagabonds.
To reinfuse the "artificial crafts" with the "natural arts" is not just a cardinal project for social ecology; it is an ethical enterprise for rehumanizing the psyche and demystifying techné. The rounded person in a rounded society, living a total life rather than a fragmented one, is a precondition for the emergence of individuality and its historic social hallmark, autonomy. This vision, far from denying the need for community, has always presupposed it. But it visualizes community as a free community in which interdependence, rather than dependence or "independence," provides the many-sided social ingredients for personality and its development. If we (like Frederick Engels in contemptuously dismissing German Proudhonian demands for workers' gardens as "reactionary" and atavistic) hypostatize industrial authority, hierarchy, and discipline as an enduring technological desideratum, we do little more than reduce the worker from a human being to a wage laborer and the "artificial crafts" to a brutalizing factory. Here, Marxism articulated the bourgeois project more consistently and with greater clarity than its most blatant liberal apologists. In treating the factory and technical development as socially autonomous (to use Langdon Winner's excellent term), "scientific socialism" ignored the role that the factory, with its elaborate hierarchical structure, has played in extending the conditioning of workers to obedience, and schooling them in subjugation from childhood through every phase of adult life.
By contrast, a radical social ecology not only raises traditional issues, such as the reunion of agriculture with industry, but also questions the very structure of industry itself. It questions the factory conceived as the all-enduring basis for mechanization — and even mechanization conceived as a substitute for the exquisite biotic "machinery" that we call food chains and food webs. Today, when the assembly line visibly risks the prospect of collapsing under the mass neuroses of its "operatives," the issue of disbanding the factory — indeed, of restoring manufacture in its literal sense as a manual art rather than a muscular "megamachine" — has become a priority of enormous social importance. Taxing as our metaphors may be, nature is a biotic "industry" in its own right. Soil life disassembles, transforms, and reassembles all the "materials" or nutrients that make the existence of terrestrial vegetation possible. The immensely complex food web that supports a blade of grass or a stalk of wheat suggests that biotic processes themselves can replace many strictly mechanical ones. We are already learning to purify polluted water by deploying bacterial and algal organisms to detoxify the pollutants, and we use aquatic plants and animals to absorb them as nutrients. Relatively closed aquacultural systems in translucent solar tubes have been designed to use fish wastes as nutrients to sustain an elaborate food web of small aquatic plants and animals. The fish, in turn, feed upon the very vegetation which their wastes nourish. Thus, natural toxins are recycled through the food web to ultimately provide nutrients for edible animals; the toxic waste products of fish metabolism are reconverted into the "soil" for fish food.
Even simple mechanical processes that involve physical movement — for instance, air masses circulated by pumps — have their nonmechanical analog in the convection of air by solar heat. Solar greenhouses adjoined to family structures provide not only warmth and food but also humidity control by vegetation. Small, richly variegated vegetable plots, or "French-intensive gardens,'' not only obviate the need for using industrially produced fertilizers and toxic biocides; they also provide an invaluable and productive rationale for composting domestic kitchen wastes. Nature's proverbial "law of return" can thus be deployed not only to foster natural fecundity but also to provide the basis for ecological husbandry.
One can cite an almost unending variety of biotic alternatives to the costly and brutalizing mechanical systems that drive modern industry. The problem of replacing the latter by the former is far from insurmountable. Once human imagination is focused upon these problems, human ingenuity is likely to be matched only by nature's fecundity. Certainly, the techniques for turning a multitude of these substitutions into realities are very much at hand. The largest single problem we face, however, is not strictly technical; indeed, the problem may well be that we regarded these new biotic techniques as mere technologies. What we have not recognized clearly are the social, cultural, and ethical conditions that render our biotic substitutes for industrial technologies ecologically and philosophically meaningful. For we must arrest more than just the ravaging and simplification of nature. We must also arrest the ravaging and simplification of the human spirit, of human personality, of human community, of humanity's idea of the "good," and humanity's own fecundity within the natural world. Indeed, we must counteract these trends with a sweeping program of social renewal.
Hence, a crucial caveat must be raised. A purely technical orientation toward organic gardening, solar and wind energy devices, aquaculture, holistic health, and the like would still retain the incubus of instrumental rationality that threatens our very capacity to develop an ecological sensibility. An environmentalistic technocracy is hierarchy draped in green garments; hence it is all the more insidious because it is camouflaged in the color of ecology. The most certain test we can devise to distinguish environmental from ecological techniques is not the size, shape, or elegance of our tools and machines, but the social ends that they are meant to serve, the ethics and sensibilities by which they are guided and integrated, and the institutional challenges and changes they involve. Whether their ends, ethics, sensibilities, and institutions are libertarian or merely logistical, emancipatory or merely pragmatic, communitarian or merely efficient — in sum, ecological or merely environmental — will directly determine the rationality that underpins the techniques and the intentions guiding their design. Alternative technologies may bring the sun, wind, and the world of vegetation and animals into our lives as participants in a common ecological project of reunion and symbiosis. But the "smallness" or "appropriateness" of these technologies does not necessarily remove the possibility that we will keep trying to reduce nature to an object of exploitation. We must resolve the ambiguities of freedom existentially — by social principles, institutions, and an ethical commonality that renders freedom and harmony a reality.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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