Can We Call This Progress?
Rugged individualism might be an appropriate expression for all the creatures in the world, with one exception. Humans have, in the last few hundred years, moved from being rugged individuals to our present state in which we have fashioned an alien environment in which we have become chess pieces or ciphers. We have invented the Artificial Kingdom where, as Simone Weil once noted, “it is the thing that thinks and the man who is reduced to the state of the thing”.
I think that we, women and men, have become chess pieces. We have become objects to be manipulated by the market and the corporation. We spend our days like the chess piece; we have a quantified value and are placed on the board and used as desired by some one who may be a real person. The real person has still the human characteristics of creativity, spontaneity, improvisation, spontaneously reactive, discontinuous, a mosaic more than syntax or cipher. Just what we find is missing when using the telephone to contact someone out there.
In an effort to understand where we are now it might help to start back in time and move forward. In frontier days each person was very much an individual. Rugged individualism was a popular expression. Each man and woman was a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Each husband and wife was a team that together could and had to do everything that was needed.
In early America we were an agricultural economy. Most families were farm families we were all rugged individualist. The farmer was very much the jack-of-all-trades and the master of his or her domain.
As we move forward in time we see this team become a man working in a factory or office and the woman was at home raising the children and maintaining the day to day necessities for all family members. She washed, cleaned, shopped, sewed, and was still much of a rugged individual. Slowly the man became a specialized worker in a clockwork factory or office.
Moving forward in history we arrive at the present moment where not only is the man working in the factory or office but the woman joins him there also.
When we examine the factory or office workspace we find a very different occupation for the man and woman than the rugged individualism of emerging history of human evolution. We no longer are masters of our own domain but are ciphers in a clockwork that functions upon modern economic principles.
A pertinent example of this mode of commodification is how we have converted what was political economics into the modern economics. Political economy is the study of social relations. It is the study of culture. Political economy focuses upon the problem of how to regulate industrialization within the context of a healthy society, it worries about the problems of labor within a context of the laborer as an end and not a commodity—an object of commerce.
Economics, however, in its modern form, has replaced political economics. Economics has removed the pesky concern about labor as being human and has replaced labor as being a commodity—an object of commerce. Modern economics is now the study of scarcity, prices, and resource allocation. Economics has legislated that labor, as an end, is no longer a legitimate domain of knowledge for economic consideration. In doing so, over time, society has become ignorant of such concerns. Our culture has replaced concern about humans as ends with humans as means to some other end.
In the rugged individualist mode of living the individual was creative and master even though the domain of mastery was small. An individual’s personality is dramatically affected. Labor has become an abstract quantity and calculated into the commodity produced. We are the only creatures who have completely removed our self from what we were evolved to be. We are the only creatures removed from our grounding in an organic world. We came from a long ancestry of rugged individualist and now reside in the Artificial Kingdom. To what end only time will tell.
Do you feel like a cipher in our culture?
Can We Call This Progress?
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