Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Modernity and alienation

Building on the below posts, I think that although the Enlightenmnet has given us good things, for example Democracy, it's left life barren and devoid of personal meaning. This vacuum of meaning is echoed by the technological extension of culture that has produced an artificial environment around us that doesn't fit anyone's need but is instead haphazardly constructed with no view to the future or to the impact of the actions involved. This also relates to capitalism, but more in the sense that the belief in unregulated capitalism is a symptom of a greater problem, which is this stupid barrenness produced by the influence of the Enlightenment on culture. Capitalism itself divides up society, produces classes, dispossesses people, but it's part of the juggernaut of modernity, which is bigger than capitalism itself.

One of the ways to counter this would be to introduce concepts from before the Enlightenment, particularly from the Renaissance, which have a more balanced assesment of man, nature, and society, as a balancing and restraining force against self destructive modernity and the rise of the machine culture.

The Renaissance is good for this because it was the original birthplace of the ideas of liberty that the Enlightenment later took up. The idea of Democracy, the idea of Rights, started in the Renaissance. Somehow it got off the track, probably when the Enlightenment in later stages felt that it could go it alone and turned its back on the philosophical tradition that it came out of.

What we have now is abstraction trying to dominate a non-abstract world. Seeing people as basically beings that seek pleasure and avoid pain and act in a mechanical way to maximize their marginal utility, as the economist say, or to restate it, advance their self interest and self pleasure without any other considerations, moral or social, produces people that are disconnected from everything that a society that looks to survive into the far future needs.

Instead, the people at the bottom are pressured to give up their sense of solidarity and communal ethics which typify working class culture, and replace it with the ethics of self interest and greed above all. But even those who buy into the system never get far, if they're from the working class. The attractions of materialistic accumulation are illusory. They give the illusion of power over one's destiny and a false sense of importance.

On the other side of the equation, the pursuit of greed by the capitalist class above all else has produced the machine itself. The machine extracts value from the bottom and and redistributes it upwards, as well as using the value produced to fuel the extension of the machine, which is pursued in order to get more money and more value, which is then used again, ad infinitum.

The machine produces useless excess for the upper class while it drives society into the ground, creating conditions that will lead to the ecological and social collapse of that society itself.

A return to previous ethics, which included more of a sense of social solidarity, social justice, and harmony in relation to the natural world and to human needs is necessary to stop the machine from running into the ground and destroying itself.

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