24 December 2021

Lasch—To Postpone a Reckoning

Christopher Lasch
The World of Nations (1973)

Ch. XVIII, "Birth, Death, and Technology: The Limits of Cultural Laissez-Faire"
The prevailing image of technological utopia begets the counter-image of technological nightmare—the appalling vision of a scientific totalitarianism, embodied in such anti-utopian novels as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984. On the one hand we have a greatly exaggerated faith in the ability of science to solve all the material problems of life, and an exagger-
ated idea of the autonomy of science and technology as determining forces in history; on the other hand, these inflated estimates of the power of science give rise to a hysterical fear of scientific dictatorship. This fear, precisely because it is cast in the form of an anti-utopian vision of the future, serves to postpone a reckoning with science, while the sweeping quality of the scientific control it envisions serves to paralyze our will to act in the present. At the same time it gives the illusion that the destructive possibilities of science are at least being squarely confronted. The anti-utopian and the utopian myths of science have a common root in the assumption that science is an autonomous force, rather than an instrument of the will of the human community, and that its development is inevitable and irresistable.

(pp. 300-301)

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