Friday, November 12, 2010

The Luddite’s War on Industry


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I’m really of two minds about this zine. On the one hand it does provide some interesting historical information on the Luddite movement, including songs and quotations from the time period. On the other hand it encourages a Luddite philosophy that I really don’t agree with.

You might be hardpressed to find someone who believes as strongly as I do that our current western society is horrible, wasteful, over-consumptive, and doomed. Yet I don’t believe the answer to these problems is “destroy machines, go back to subsistence farming”. There are reasons why most people aren’t willing to go back to 17th century ways of life, and these aren’t all based upon stupid consumer goods. Hot water, access to art, cures (albeit frequently overprescribed) for disease? These are all awesome things that modern society has given us, and things that I’m not willing to give up.

Yes, our society sucks. Yes, everyone needs to work less, consume less, spend more time with their friends and family, and probably be more creative. But I don’t believe this is a one or the other option. I truly believe that it is possible to use technology to provide everyone with everything they need without harming the Earth. This would involve a massive change in how society works, and Western over-consumption (of everything) would have to go away, but I really believe it is possible.

This zine does provide some interesting information, but it also leaves out information to help make everything coherent. One section is just paragraph after paragraph of quotations with no way of knowing where they’re from (parts of the zine are footnoted, others aren’t). This section also includes references to "frames" being destroyed by 19th century villagers. These ‘frames’ were apparently used by factories in the weaving industry, however, what they actually were used for, why they were so valuable, or whether they were even that difficult to replace isn't gone into. There are other terms and events that aren’t defined or explained, requiring you to have some knowledge of 18th and 19th century politics for you to understand what’s going on.

Ultimately this is a propaganda piece and, while there is some useful content here, if you’re interested in learning more about Luddites you’re probably better off reading a Wikipedia article.

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