Modern Times

Thoreau saw it coming. But, then, so did Charlie Chaplin:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Times_(film)

Leftists look to Marx, who did have some early insights back in the mid-nineteenth century. But Marx didn’t see deep enough. He thought he could critique capitalist economic relations as a separate and temporary facet of It All. Marx was thoroughly modernist in his optimism about the overarching civilizational trendlines. In a certain sense … you can’t be more mistaken than that. And the left has suffered ever since.

More astute critiques of modernity developed post-Thoreau. I guess this is a good place to provide a list of the writers I’ve found most valuable in that respect. It’s in chronological order with approximate periods of influence [at the end of this post is the same list in alphabetical order] . . .

Henry David Thoreau 1840s

William Morris 1880s
Élisée Reclus 1880s

Edward Carpenter 1890s
Peter Kropotkin 1890s
John Muir 1890s

Aldo Leopold 1940s

Paul Goodman 1950s
Leopold Kohr 1950s
Lewis Mumford 1950s

Rachel Carson 1960s
Stanley Diamond 1960s
Ivan Illich 1960s

Murray Bookchin 1970s
Barry Commoner 1970s
Edward Goldsmith 1970s
Theodore Roszak 1970s
Marshall Sahlins 1970s
E. F. Schumacher 1970s
Gary Snyder 1970s

Rudolf Bahro 1980s
Wendell Berry 1980s
David Ehrenfeld 1980s
Chellis Glendinning 1980s
Arne Næss 1980s
Fredy Perlman 1980s
Jonathan Porritt 1980s
Langdon Winner 1980s

Riane Eisler 1990s
Richard Heinberg 1990s
David Korten 1990s
William Kotke 1990s
Jerry Mander 1990s
Helena Norberg-Hodge 1990s
Daniel Quinn 1990s
Wolfgang Sachs 1990s
Kirkpatrick Sale 1990s
David Watson 1990s

John Clark 2000s
Charles Eisenstein 2000s
Rob Hopkins 2000s
Caroline Lucas 2000s
Michael Shuman 2000s
Ted Trainer 2000s

Samuel Alexander 2010s

* * * *

Bernie Sanders-type reforms are needed, laudable, and worthwhile to strive for:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybZ0PLz_pl8

But, at the same time, it’s best to face the actual fundamental realities of our (unprecedented) era.

The population densities of the megalopolises are likely to breed pandemics. The complexities of the modern economies are prone toward instabilities. The extents of the infrastructures are beyond maintenance. The disparities of wealth and income can’t be overcome under conditions of mass society. Ditto: problems related to racial and ethnic conflicts.

Hey, it’s all too burdensome, anyway. It can more or less be handled, managed, coped with when there are enough resources, as there are in the affluent societies. The rest are languishing. Overall, we’ve made the sky much too heavy. The situation is stressing us and stressing the planet.

If we get busy building the new society within the shell of the old the collapse of the Leviathan, while presenting challenges, could be viewed as liberatory.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

Alphabetical list of key writers:

Samuel Alexander 2010s
Rudolf Bahro 1980s
Wendell Berry 1980s
Murray Bookchin 1970s
Edward Carpenter 1890s
Rachel Carson 1960s
John Clark 2000s
Barry Commoner 1970s
Stanley Diamond 1960s
David Ehrenfeld 1980s
Charles Eisenstein 2000s
Riane Eisler 1990s
Chellis Glendinning 1980s
Edward Goldsmith 1970s
Paul Goodman 1950s
Richard Heinberg 1990s
Rob Hopkins 2000s
Ivan Illich 1960s
Leopold Kohr 1950s
David Korten 1990s
William Kotke 1990s
Peter Kropotkin 1890s
Aldo Leopold 1940s
Caroline Lucas 2000s
Jerry Mander 1990s
William Morris 1880s
John Muir 1890s
Lewis Mumford 1950s
Arne Næss 1980s
Helena Norberg-Hodge 1990s
Fredy Perlman 1980s
Jonathan Porritt 1980s
Daniel Quinn 1990s
Élisée Reclus 1880s
Theodore Roszak 1970s
Wolfgang Sachs 1990s
Marshall Sahlins 1970s
Kirkpatrick Sale 1990s
E. F. Schumacher 1970s
Paul Shepard 1970s
Michael Shuman 2000s
Gary Snyder 1970s
Henry David Thoreau 1840s
Ted Trainer 2000s
David Watson 1990s
Langdon Winner 1980s

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Steven Welzer

Steven Welzer

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The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).