1.The New Forms of Control
A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democraticunfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technicalprogress.
Indeed, what could be more rational than thesuppression of individuality in the mechanization of socially necessary butpainful performances; the concentration of individual enterprises in moreeffective, more productive corporations;the regulation of free competitionamong unequally equipped economic subjects; the curtailment of prerogatives andnational sovereignties which impede the international organization of resources.
That this technological order also involves apolitical and intellectual coordination may be a regrettable and yet promisingdevelopment.
The rights and liberties which were such vitalfactors in the origins and earlier stages of industrial society yield to ahigher stage of this society: they are losing their traditional rationale andcontent.
Freedom of thought, speech, and conscience were- just as free enterprise, which they served to promote and protect -essentially critical ideas, designed to replace an obsolescent material andintellectual culture by a more productive and rational one.
Once institutionalized,these rights and liberties shared the fate of the society of which they hadbecome an integral part.
The achievement cancels the premises.
To the degree to which freedom from want, theconcrete substance of all freedom, is becoming a real possibility, theliberties which pertain to a state of lower productivity are losing theirformer content.
Independence of thought, autonomy, and theright to political opposition are being deprived of their basic criticalfunction in a society which seems increasingly capable of satisfying the needs ofthe Individuals through the way in which it is organized.
Such a society may justly demand acceptance ofits principles and institutions, and reduce the opposition to the discussionand promotion of alternative policies within the status quo.
In this respect, it seems to make littledifference whether the increasing satisfaction of needs is accomplished by anauthoritarian or a non-authoritarian system.
Under the conditions of a risingstandard of living, non-conformity with the system itself appears to besocially useless, and the more so when it entails tangible economic andpolitical disadvantages and threatens the smooth operation of the whole.
Indeed, at least in so far as thenecessities of life are involved, there seems to be no reason why theproduction and distribution of goods and services should proceed through thecompetitive concurrence of individual liberties.
Freedom of enterprise was from the beginning not altogether a blessing.
As the liberty to work or to starve, itspelled toil, insecurity, and fear for the vast majority of the population.
If the individual were no longercompelled to prove himself on the market, as a free economic subject, thedisappearance of this kind of freedom would be one of the greatest achievementsof civilization.
The technological processes of mechanizationand standardization might release individual energy into a yet uncharted realmof freedom beyond necessity.
The very structure of human existencewould be altered; the individual would be liberated from the work world'simposing upon him alien needs and alien possibilities.
The individual would be free to exertautonomy over a life that would be his own.
If the productive apparatuscould be organized and directed toward the satisfaction of the vital needs, itscontrol might well be centralized; such control would not prevent individualautonomy, but render it possible.
This is a goal within the capabilities ofadvanced industrial civilization, the “end” of technological rationality.
In actual fact, however, the contrarytrend operates: the apparatus imposes its economic and politicalrequirements for defense and expansion on labor time and free time, on thematerial and intellectual culture.
By virtue of the way it has organizedits technological base, contemporary industrial society tends to betotalitarian.
For “totalitarian” is not only aterroristic political coordination of society, but also a non-terroristiceconomic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulation ofneeds by vested interests.
It thus precludes the emergence of aneffective opposition against the whole.
Not only a specific form of governmentor party rule makes for totalitarianism, but also a specific system of productionand distribution which may well be compatible with a “pluralism” of parties,newspapers, “countervailing powers,” etc.
Today political power asserts itself through itspower over the machine process and over the technical organization of theapparatus.
The government of advanced and advancingindustrial societies can maintain and secure itself only when it succeeds inmobilizing, organizing, and exploiting the technical, scientific, andmechanical productivity available to industrial civilization.
And this productivity mobilizes societyas a whole, above and beyond any particular individual or group interests.
The brute fact that the machine'sphysical (only physical?) power surpasses that of the individual, and of anyparticular group of individuals, makes the machine the most effective politicalinstrument in any society whose basic organization is that of the machineprocess.
But the political trend may be reversed;essentially the power of the machineis only the stored-up and projected power of man.
To the extent to which the work world isconceived of as a machine and mechanized accordingly, it becomes the potentialbasis of a new freedom for man.
Contemporary industrial civilizationdemonstrates that it has reached the stage at which “the free society” can nolonger be adequately defined in the traditional terms of economic, political,and intellectual liberties, not because these liberties have becomeinsignificant, but because they are too significant to be confined within thetraditional forms.