An Outsider's Sojourn II, Desultory Heroics, Epochs, Freedom, Ideology, Leisure, Revolution, technology
Not entirely sure what to make of the article. It’s a hodgepodge of ideas and insights being served up on the run, so to speak, which isn’t to say that it wasn’t interesting. The focus of the article seems to be the tension between the trance like prison of ideology and the impulse to revolution. This, roughly speaking, is how I see that tension:
Epochs are times of stability, when a social order — however unjust or just, repressive or lax — is more or less persistent over a period of time, when social roles are more or less clearly defined and the majority of people adhere to their assigned duties and accept, if not always in gratitude but grudgingly, the rewards deemed to be their due by the norms of the dominant ethos of their society. Epochs, in other words, are the historical periods in which ideological conformity, and not critical dissent, is the rule.
When the system begins to break down, when large numbers of people begin to suffer acutely from not having their basic needs and expectations satisfied in customary ways, the end of the epoch draws nigh, people begin to be shaken out of their ideological trance, to wonder about what the fuck is going on. They notice that between the promises being preached by the elect from on high and the paltriness of the miracles being realized on the ground, there is a painful discrepancy if not a chasm.
When the people begin to suffer en mass and the suffering becomes sufficiently intolerable, that is the time of possible mass upheavals, and there is no telling how turbulent the coming storm might be or what it may leave in its aftermath.
The aftermath will certainly be a new order, a new epoch dominated by a new ideology, the mindset or culture of whoever will then comprise the new ruling class. This mindset will most certainly and in many ways resemble the dominant mindset(s) of what went before: it will be reactionary or progressive on the basis of what was because nothing in the evolution of culture or modes of life ever emerges into the light of day that isn’t largely a variation of what went before.
Therefore, the likelihood of a socialist aftermath will depend upon how far and wide the ideals of socialism will have been disseminated before the upheaval happens. You cannot make a revolution; but a revolution can to some degree be co-opted. That is the most that progressives can hope for.
To my mind, if the aftermath of the next upheaval turns out to be a step forward rather than backward, industry will be geared more to the satisfaction of human needs; and the pursuit of technological advances to enhance productivity — rather than being motivated as it is now by a mindless drive to pad and monopolize profit margins — will be used to drastically reduce the workday for everyone.
Everyone talks about freedom, but no one really says what in fact it is in concrete terms: it is leisure.
That society which maximizes ‘personal leisure time’ for the citizen, also thereby maximizes the ‘individual freedom’ of the citizen. The more you have to work, the more you have to attend to the needs of others, the more hemmed in you are by ‘necessity,’ then the less ‘freedom’ you possess as an individual.
A society that truly prizes the individual and his freedom will try in so far as it can to increase for all its citizens in as equitable a fashion as possible a maximum of leisure time, to create the ‘space’ in which each person, unharried by the hurly-burly of making ends meet, can explore and discover, alone or in company, the joy of engaging in self-selected and self-directed pursuits.
Technology reduces work-time and the drudgery of work, and that should be its only socially useful and redeeming purpose.
If someone asked me what I had in mind when I speak of my hope for a socialist future, this would be the outline of my answer.