Greg Johnson & Richard Houck
An Analysis of Ted Kaczynski’s Manifesto,
Part 1 of 2 (Part 2 here)
The following is an edited transcript of the conversation between Greg Johnson and Richard Houck on the subject of Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future, that was broadcast on Counter-Currents Radio in April 2021. You can listen to the recording here.
Greg Johnson: I’m Greg Johnson. Welcome to Ted Talk. I am joined here today by Rich Houck, and we’re going to be talking about Ted Kaczynski’s Industrial Society and Its Future. Rich, welcome to the show.
Rich Houck: Thanks for having me on again.
GJ: It’s great to talk again. The first thing I want to say about the subject matter of tonight’s stream is that Ted Kaczynski is somebody whom I actually corresponded with more than 20 years ago. I think I sent him only two letters. It was very brief. I don’t have them handy, unfortunately. They are now tucked away in storage.
I read his Industrial Society and Its Future when it was first published in the 1990s in the New York Times and other outlets because of his bombing campaign. I followed his trial, followed his incarceration. I read books about him. And I thought he was a really fascinating person, obviously a highly intelligent man. He went to Harvard, got a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Michigan, and was a Professor at Berkeley at a fairly young age. Then he dropped out of teaching at Berkeley. He packed up and moved to Montana, and lived off the grid in a little cabin that he built himself, where he penned his manifesto and started sending bombs to people. It’s a fascinating story of a Professor, an intellectual, gone rogue. He’s now been in prison for more than 20 years in the Supermax penitentiary, and he’s continued to write and correspond widely with people.
He’s had all kinds of ups and downs with various federal authorities trying to steal his writings, prevent him from publishing, prevent him from contacting people, prevent him from reading books — but he still soldiers on. He’s got a message that he wants to get out there, and that he wanted to get out there badly enough to kill people.
I was thinking back on this today as I was rereading his book. I hadn’t actually reread it in full in 20 years. I had pulled it out and added it to my stack when I was working on The White Nationalist Manifesto, because I wanted to look at different manifestos as far as literary forms go. But I just glanced at it. I didn’t really read it.
It’s a remarkable piece of writing. It’s very deep in some ways. I think it’s wrong in other ways. I think it’s worth talking about, though.
So, Rich, how did you first come across this work, and how did it impact you initially, before we actually get into it?
RH: One thing I wanted to add to your brief introduction to Kaczynski is that he had lived out in Montana for some years before there was ever any bombing campaign. I think it had been almost a decade where he was peacefully living out in the woods. He dropped off the grid and did his own thing. I thought it was very interesting that he tried to come to grips with society by just dropping out.
I came across Ted Kaczynski’s work, interestingly enough — it almost had to be this way, I think — when I was 18 or 19. I had a job working for a large tech company. I was actually doing network support for this company, and it was a job where I worked in a cubicle, was very bored, and had tons of free time. I could take books or magazines to read while I was sitting in the cubicle. I had been feeling a lot of angst, and more and more dissatisfaction with my life and society. And really, there was no reason for it. Everything looked like it was going just swimmingly.
I came across this passage on a website — it was from paragraph 145 of Kaczynski’s manifesto, alongside a picture of people on their way to work, looking totally depressed as they were waiting for the subway to come. It read: “Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy and gives them drugs to take away their unhappiness.” Kaczynski goes on in this paragraph to talk about how rates of clinical depression have been increasing over the years, and the people managing society understand this and think that the solution is to give people distractions and drugs. I think we’re seeing that now with the movement to decriminalize or legalize marijuana, and other things like that. People might disagree with that particular point, but some believe that people are miserable, so they are being allowed to have drugs to make life tolerable. When I read that I thought, “Yeah, that’s exactly what’s going on.” And then I read the rest of it and really enjoyed most of it. I’ve gone back to it over the years.
I think the forum where I first saw that was one where people who worked for Fortune 500 companies in cubicles, and who were dissatisfied with their lives, would post. It turned out that the same thing I was thinking about was being thought about by other people who were living similar lives. Somebody there related it to Kaczynski’s work, and that was how I found it
GJ: I want to talk about some of the central ideas in the Unabomber’s manifesto. The first thing that struck me is that it begins with a critique of Leftism. I thought, “This is interesting, given that it was written by a radical environmentalist who was sending bombs to people to get his ideas publicized.” Imagine if he had just waited a couple of more years and started a blog. That was one of the things that was going through my mind when I was rereading this. Gee, if he had just waited a couple more years, he could have gotten a WordPress blog and put all this out there. He could have been a livestreamer. He could have eventually had a YouTube channel. He could have been huge. He could have been merchandising, selling T-shirts and coffee mugs, and getting his ideas out there instead of being in Supermax penitentiary. But for whatever reason, he chose this path.
So he begins with a critique of the Left. I thought that was fascinating, because you’d assume that a radical environmentalist would be a Leftist. Most of the radical environmentalists today who we think of are Leftists. But at the time, I was doing research into a counter-tradition in environmentalism: environmentalism on the Right. “Eco-fascism,” for want of a better word. That’s a term that Left-wing environmentalists use to describe this. They call them eco-fascists — and there’s nothing worse than a fascist, right?
I was reading Savitri Devi. I was reading Martin Heidegger. I was looking at policy in the Third Reich having to do with animals, trees, and agriculture, looking at some of the roots of those ideas in nineteenth-century thinkers, people such as Schopenhauer and Wagner. So when I read Kaczynski’s manifesto, I was thinking, “Wait a second here, this guy fits in – loosely — with what I was going to be calling eco-fascism, a Rightist approach to radical environmentalism.” I suppose this is fallacious, but my reasoning at the time was, “If he’s not on the Left, he’s got to be on the Right.” That was my initial reaction.
There are certain things about his approach that I would consider to be Rightist beyond merely that false dichotomy. But the big thing that he does against the Left that I found fascinating is that, without mentioning Nietzsche’s name, he gives a Nietzschean critique of them. He talks about two ideas that are associated with the Left. One is inferiority. Leftists have inferiority complexes. They are filled with resentment, as Nietzsche said, and they create their values and their political ideologies and their activities as a way of overcoming or avenging their feelings of inferiority.
Rich, what was your reaction to his take on that?
RH: Yes, I had a similar one. Immediately upon reading that, I thought of slave morality. Then he goes on to talk in paragraph 15 about all the things that are — I guess he doesn’t use these exact words — great and heroic, and those things and people that represent success and triumph, and how the Left lashes out against all of that. One of the things he lists that was very interesting, particularly for 1995, was the Leftist hatred of the white man. He was catching on to that. Many of the things he wrote about were ahead of their time: the liberal feelings of inferiority, how they don’t themselves, how they dislike their in-group, and how they say derogatory things about their own in-group.
To circle back to your discussion of how Kaczynski’s anti-Leftist views made you think that maybe he was a Rightist or eco-fascist, I wouldn’t say he gets into that subject, but there are a few places where he talks about his disdain for mass movements. He mentions National Socialism a couple of times. But for Kaczynski, his idea comes before any mass movement. His idea is that if you don’t have an industrial society, and you don’t have these people using modern technology and mass technology to encroach upon your rights and your views and who try control you, you wouldn’t need to belong to a mass movement. If there were no technology, and there were no Great War, and there weren’t people putting pressure on the Germans, they wouldn’t have then felt the need to join a mass movement to oppose it.
GJ: Yeah, but he does talk about the need to create some sort of mass movement against technology, and he’s somewhat concerned about that. The whole meat of the manifesto is bookended between discussions of Leftism. He begins by talking about the psychology of Leftism, and then one of the last sections is about “The Danger of Leftism.” In paragraph 222 he writes:
Leftists, especially those of the over-socialized type, are true believers in the sense of Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer. But not all true believers are the same psychological type as Leftists. Presumably a true believing Nazi, for instance, is very different psychologically from a true believing Leftist.
I thought that was fascinating, because he does think that he’s going to need true believers if he’s going to create a mass movement that is anti-technological. But he says that no true believer will make a safe recruit for the revolution unless his commitment is exclusively to the destruction of technology. So he is looking around for true believers with the right kind of psychology and the right kind of goals. It is interesting that he says that there can be true believers who are not Leftist types, which would be people motivated by inferiority complexes and also what he calls over-socialization. I love this.
You mentioned paragraph 15. It almost sounds like Ayn Rand:
Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good, and successful. They hate America. They hate Western civilization. They hate white males. They hate rationality. The reasons that Leftists give for hating the West, etc., clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They say that they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric, and so forth. But where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the Leftist finds excuses for them, or at best, he grudgingly admits that they exist, whereas he enthusiastically points out and often greatly exaggerates these faults where they appear in Western civilization. Thus, it is clear that these faults are not the Leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they are strong and successful.
I thought that was quite Nietzschean in its spirit.
RH: Yeah, I did also. He’s saying that industrial and technological society puts us in these confines and restricts us from what he calls the power cycle, which is basically self-actualization, achieving things for yourself, having goals, meeting those goals — that sort of thing. You’re in this big structure that does a lot of this for you. And the Leftists, due to their inferiority complexes and their over-socialization, like being in a structure where things are taken care of for them. He talks about autonomy a few times, self-determination and doing things for yourself, almost harkening back to early American rugged individualism in the sense that your destiny is in your own hands and you don’t expect people to do things for you. You go out and take the initiative and do them, and you’re high agency and high functioning.
What he seems to be saying is that Leftists don’t have this desire, they are fine with sitting around and being entertained, and having their food delivered to them. Even if they seem to be on board with some of the ideas of destroying industrial and technological society, they really can’t ever be completely, because they can’t see themselves going back to a society where they have to take some initiative and do things for themselves. That’s not what drives them psychologically. Whereas other people are driven by that, and are suffering psychologically by being placed in a society where there’s no way to achieve those things for themselves. Later he talks about surrogate activities, where if you don’t have these basic psychological needs met, you find other things to spend your time doing.
It is obviously an outlet, a catharsis — a way of of dealing with this modern society that Leftists don’t have, so they would make bad revolutionaries. You see that come out in some of their surrogate activities, as Kaczynski talks about. So maybe more Right-wing people would take up woodworking or bodybuilding or something like that, while Leftists collect Funko Pops.
GJ: Yeah, the inferiority complex is half of Leftist psychology, and the other half is what he calls over-socialization. And I think this is an interesting concept, so I want to try out my interpretation and see what you think about it. When he talks about socialization, he is talking about having society’s values taught to you.
An over-socialized person refers to one who is psychologically dependent on other people and other people’s thinking. They tend to be conformist. They tend to be worried if their thoughts stray from society’s dominant values. They feel anxiety.
Over-socialized people often claim that they don’t ever experience any censorship or repression of their ideas. And it’s a laugh. Camille Paglia pointed this out: Academics who claim that they’ve never been censored often say this because they’ve never had a single thought in their lives that strays from the consensus. They’ve never had an opportunity to be censored at all. They’ve never strayed. They’re conformist types. They’re highly motivated by other people’s opinions. They’re extremely attuned to other people’s opinions. They’re very other-focused and outward-focused, and are psychologically dependent people. I think that’s part of it. I don’t know if that’s the whole of it. What are your thoughts on this?
RH: I definitely think that’s part of it. I wanted to note that he talks about that in the very first paragraph under the over-socialization heading, paragraph 24. Its last line is, “Many leftists are not such rebels as they seem.” He was very ahead of his time. There’s a meme of a radical-looking Leftist with a goofy haircut and wearing a Black Lives Matter pin who is screaming, “We’re the resistance!”, while behind them is a sea of corporate logos and heads of state. On the other side there’s a guy with only the MyPillow logo above him who is saying, “Okay.” These people think they are something they are not. How can you even think that you are fighting against anything when you have every major academic institution, major political organization, and major company on your side? He’s saying that there is a group of people who are likely to become over-socialized and enjoy it. That’s the psychology of the Leftist, and that’s what makes them get along with the system so well.
There’s another point I wanted to bring up. It’s slightly off the over-socialization topic, but it’s an overarching theme in the background. All of these things that people like us are against — mass censorship, the offshoring of jobs, the importing of non-white migrants, globalism, all of that — it fits under the umbrella of industrial and technological society for Ted Kaczynski. That’s the top level. And under that are things such as globalism or the environmental problems that are caused by large companies. All of that falls away when you attack the industrial system as a whole.
Another theme throughout is that people who want a decent amount of autonomy and who aren’t over-socialized by this system will feel a lot of frustration, because things are now so far out of their hands. If you have more taxes imposed on you, if your job gets offshored, it’s really far out of your hands. Some would say, “Hey, that’s the consequences of globalism, and it sucks.” Or, “That’s the consequences of NAFTA, and it sucks.” But Kaczynski would say, “Yeah, you’re right, but that only happens because the industrial society exists.”
GJ: Yeah, that’s another element of over-socialization which I think boils down to a lack of vitality as well. And this touches on the Nietzschean themes in his writing, although I don’t think he actually refers to Nietzsche in this book.
In paragraph 26, which is the third paragraph on over-socialization, he begins:
Oversocialization can lead to low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, defeatism, guilt, etc. One of the most important means by which our society socializes children is by making them feel ashamed of behavior or speech that is contrary to society’s expectations. If this is overdone, or if a particular child is especially susceptible to such feelings, he ends by feeling ashamed of HIMSELF.
Over-socialized people are so psychologically intimidated and bullied by society that they internalize all of its norms. The trouble is that the norms of our society — and really the norms of any society, when you get right down to it — can’t be wholly and consistently practiced. It’s just not possible — especially in our society, where we’re supposed to like and do things that are impossible, such as believe that all people are equal, not laugh at Helen Keller jokes and things like that. We simply can’t do that. It’s just not human.
The majority of people engage in a significant amount of naughty behavior. They lie, they commit petty thefts, they break traffic laws, they goof off at work, they hate someone, they say spiteful things or they use some underhanded trick to get ahead of the other guy.
This is just life. This is just the way human beings are. And the more vital you are, the more likely you’re going to do these things. The more likely you are to say things that you shouldn’t say, or notice things you shouldn’t notice. And there are all kinds of speech taboos and noticing taboos that are at the core of our society today. He goes on: “The oversocialized person cannot do these things, or if he does do them he generates in himself a sense of shame and self-hatred.” Over-socialized people basically experience a constant state of shame and self-hatred due to their natural human vitality, which basically contravenes all the rules of society, especially the rules of political correctness. So they’re unhappy people. They’re self-loathing, because they don’t have the ability to push back against all these “oughts” that society is telling them to follow, that their school teachers and the media and so on are all putting on them. They don’t have the ability to push back against those oughts. They’re like the camel that’s loaded down with all these oughts, staggering under the weight of social expectations. To the extent that they have any sense that this isn’t a good fit and that it is constricting, and that they don’t like it, they hate themselves for it.
RH: Yeah, you just hit on the crux of the problem of the over-socialized types. They really care a lot about what these societal prescriptions are. When they violate them, they feel like they’re bad people. They have cognitive dissonance, and they don’t have the ability to get outside of it.
As you said, there are these various taboos about saying certain things, not laughing at certain things, not noticing certain things. And when they do these things, they immediately police themselves. They thought-police themselves through this over-socialization. This is one of the harder sections to really understand. This has consequences that ripple throughout society, and when you realize that, you see why Kaczynski included the problem of over-socialization in his manifesto. He said he does not like the over-socialized person; he doesn’t have much respect for him. They are treated as the victims of this society as well. Did you get any sense of that?
GJ: Yeah, well, he clearly thinks that they are unnatural in some sense. The opposite of the social, the conventional, is nature, and that’s the side he wants to stand on. He upholds the idea of nature, and he thinks that nature includes being naughty by the standards of society, laughing at things you shouldn’t laugh at, and noticing things you shouldn’t notice. Those are natural things that we’re not supposed to do.
Another word for the over-socialized is the denaturized or denatured, the uprooted — those people who lack any form of roots in nature. And I think that there’s a lot of truth to that. He has a lot of contempt for these sorts of people, because one of the things that he is battling against is convention. He’s battling against dogma. He’s battling against the reigning follies of our time. Over-socialized people are the ones who cling to what “one thinks,” “what people say,” what we’re supposed to think and do, and that means they are refusing to consider alternatives. He’s trying to get alternatives out there; he’s got some very important alternatives he’s trying to reach us with.
RH: Yeah, the over-socialized people are the cog in the machine that he talks about: the sheep, those people just going through life asleep, like drones and zombies who just do what they’re told and don’t really question it. And as you said, it creates a real problem. These types are definitely a problem for anybody trying to effectuate any change.
On the other hand, he later talks about — and this is another place where I could see the eco-fascist label being applied — how it doesn’t matter what those people say, and that these things are not dealt with in a democratic process. It is a small minority of people who lead society and change history. But these people go wherever they are told to go.
GJ: Yeah, yeah. One thing that I also think is somewhat Nietzschean about this analysis is his concept of the power process. When he explains over-socialization, he’s hinting that over-socialized people are alienated from something. Well, they’re alienated from nature. But how does nature manifest itself in human life? How do human beings live naturally and healthily? And that leads us to the section that follows over-socialization, which is called “The Power Process.” The beginning of paragraph 33 reads:
Human beings have a need (probably based in biology) for something that we will call the “power process.” This is closely related to the need for power (which is widely recognized) but is not quite the same thing. The power process has four elements. The three most clear-cut of these we call goal, effort and attainment of goal. (Everyone needs to have goals whose attainment requires effort, and needs to succeed in attaining at least some of his goals.) The fourth element is more difficult to define and may not be necessary for everyone. We call it autonomy and will discuss it later.
I think this is very interesting because it’s central to Nietzsche’s psychology. His metaphysics is this notion of will to power. How do human beings thrive? They have goals that they strive to achieve, and once they achieve them, they posit new goals. Nietzsche doesn’t talk about resting. He basically talks about endless striving.
It strikes me that Kaczynski is in fact somewhat opposed to this idea of endless striving, because he talks about three different kinds of needs, as I recall. The first kind of need is easy to meet. The second is a hard-to-meet need. And the third kind are those needs that you can never meet.
In a way, what Nietzsche is talking about with will to power is that it’s more important to be perpetually pursuing goals, and setting new goals and pursuing them, and feeling that there must be striving to actually achieve anything. And so when you achieve something, you never rest on your laurels — you set new goals for yourself. That’s what engages you as an organism: this constant struggle. And if you don’t have a constant struggle, you create things to struggle over.
RH: I agree with that. The only thing I want to add to the discussion of the power process is to point out that it’s a small section of the manifesto, five paragraphs in total. But it’s one of the most important concepts in Kaczynski’s entire philosophy, because what he’s saying is that human beings need to go through this power process of having a goal, striving towards that goal, exerting effort, and then attaining the goal. Without that, people are basically miserable. It messes them up psychologically and causes them to be depressed and anxious, which leads to many of the ails of modern society. Modern society deprives people of this power process. This is very critical. This is why Kaczynski wants to see an end to mass industrial and technological society: because it strips people of being able to participate in this power process.
GJ: I agree. When he talks about the basic sort of needs, the easy-to-meet needs, what he’s talking about are those human needs that are natural. It’s not necessarily easy to meet your basic human needs if you live in a primitive society. Sometimes you starve. Sometimes you get caught in the rain. But the point that he’s making is that the struggle to satisfy these basic needs is at the core of human health. In advanced industrial societies, where there’s a great deal of productivity and plenty, it becomes quite easy to satisfy those basic human needs. This seems to be at the root of a lot of people’s problems. The natural basic needs are easy to satisfy, so a lot of what made life meaningful for earlier man is just gone.
What Kaczynski then talks about is how modern society — and really, past societies where there was a leisure class, such as the aristocracies — will create needs. Instead of just having natural needs, we create artificial needs. We create other goals to pursue. And he calls these “surrogate” goals or surrogate values. And he seems to be somewhat dismissive of them. It seems to be fake in his analysis. But when you look at what he’s talking about as surrogate goals, he’s talking about all the values that human beings pursue over and above the basic necessities of life.
This would include science. He mentions scientists again and again. It would include art. It would include technology. It really includes the whole realm of culture, the whole realm of high culture. And he wants to treat all of this as essentially frivolous and fake. Do you get that sense? That’s how I see it.
RH: I got two different ideas from his discussion of surrogate activity. One was, I thought, very keen and relatable, because I used to run a lot, and I went to charity races and 5Ks and marathons and triathlons and whatnot. It has been said that people who are long-distance runners aren’t ever happy just running; they are always looking to go further. And when they get further, they go faster, and so on. And I thought, “Yeah, that’s exactly right.” That’s why I really got into it when I had the crappy cubicle job with the flickering fluorescent lights that I really disliked. I was looking for surrogate activities that were essentially a waste of time.
But then he talked about a Japanese Emperor who devoted his life to marine biology, and made all these interesting discoveries and became an expert in the field. And he mentioned art and high culture. And I thought, “That can’t be the same.” There’s something here that feels off to me as well. A person who spends all his time playing video games as a surrogate activity: Is that the same as somebody making advances in marine biology? It seems as if the answer is no, but then he goes on to say that if somebody classifies some bug, who cares? Why would you be excited about that? What did you really add?
GJ: You can say that about art and math. Yeah.
RH: Mozart just wrote symphonies, but so what? Someone else added to philosophy, but so what? That was odd to me, and I don’t quite understand how all of it is surrogate activities. A lot of what I do might be considered as surrogate activities, because I don’t have these basic needs going unmet where I have to spend all day scavenging for food or gardening or hunting. But I tend to rank them. If I’m reading Kaczynski and talking about that, isn’t that a higher-level activity than if I was just playing video games all day, or watching pornography, or something else that was a waste of time?
GJ: Absolutely. What is a game? When you get right down to it, a game is a microcosm of the world. It’s a little world with a set of rules where you can “act” and achieve goals. It really is a surrogate for life in a sense, or an escape from life. It’s simplified in some ways and far more exotic in others. It’s far more engaging to the imagination than ordinary life often is, but it’s also simplified, so that it’s an appealing alternative to real life. That’s clearly problematic. That’s a distraction.
But the realm of culture is not. Another thing that he seems to dismiss — and he’s very clear about this when he talks about science — he seems willing to dismiss the entire realm of theory, the entire realm of pursuing knowledge for its own sake, the entire realm of high culture, which consists of things that you pursue for their own sakes. Any pursuit where you’re trying to be excellent is not necessarily something you do for any extrinsic reward, but simply because it’s intrinsically rewarding to be healthy, to be beautiful, to be accomplished, to read interesting books, to appreciate beautiful things, to make music, or whatever. All of these are ends in themselves. And he doesn’t seem to think that any of that is to be taken seriously, whereas I do.
But you see, he’s really criticizing all of civilization here, not just industrial and technological civilization. At this point, he’s laying the groundwork for a sweeping critique of civilization as such.
RH: Yeah, there are a couple of places where I thought that even in the absence of industrial and technological society, some of this would still exist. Obviously in the pre-industrial area, there were people who simply focused on art and such activities. He mentioned aristocrats who would go on these large hunts or build magnificent castles or whatnot, and he does seem dismissive of them Well, that’s going to exist in any society.
As soon as a society — even a small society — that exists without the aid of modern technology gets to a point where only a fraction of the total population needs to be involved in farming and animal husbandry, for example, the others are then free to go do other things. Every single person doesn’t need to be involved in farming, and it hasn’t that been that way in societies for a long time. When one accumulates money or time, one is then free to go pursue other activities.
and I don’t know if here with the surrogate activities is writing as in general the average person and creates these surrogate activities because they have other desires that are not being filled because of modern society, or if it, if he just goes all, all the way as all attacking all of society and any of these activities at any period in history, if they seem to be useless. But his use of aristocrats and the higher classes as an example led me to believe that it was a total critique of anybody doing these things, whether you see the need for it or not, which I thought was odd, too.
GJ: Yeah, yeah. What this reminds me of in some ways is Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, which is a radical critique of civilization. Rousseau basically argues that civilization is alienating as such. The more complex a society, the more artificial its needs, the more we are alienated from our true selves and our natural needs. But he has two ways of looking at it. One is the critique of society, the critique of civilization, based on a kind of materialism where he basically understands human beings as organisms that are very simple. We have simple desires that are given to us by nature, and when we create civilizations, we make the ghastly mistake of pursuing these things that aren’t really natural, and becoming concerned about other people’s opinions of us. And so we get lost in this world of artifice and psychological dependency that alienates us from ourselves. Our heart really isn’t in civilization, and so maybe it would be best just to get rid of it.
But that’s only one part of his account. He makes it very clear that it’s premised on a materialistic, reductionistic understanding of human nature. But then in other works he introduces a different idea of human nature whereby he wants to offer a justification of civilization. Civilization may be alienating to a man who only has basic animal desires, but civilization is also absolutely essential for the actualization of man, who’s more complicated than just an animal. If we have the capacity for reason and imagination, for creating culture, for creating essentially non-natural worlds — historical worlds, and non-natural ideas and ideals — then civilization is the actualization of that aspect of our character, of our nature. Whereas somebody like Kaczynski really wants to stay in Rousseau’s first model, where man is simply a natural animal with basic, easy-to-meet needs, and anything more complicated than a primitive hunter-gatherer society looks like a recipe for alienation and disaster to him.
He also thinks that man can be perfectly satisfied, and he talks constantly about primitive societies. He seems to think that mankind could be fully satisfied simply by existing in a primitive hunter-gatherer form of life and without giving rise to anything more complicated: realms of high culture, and things like that.
I think this is a fundamental issue here, because if man is more complicated than simply being an organism like any other hominid, then it might be the case that our hearts just aren’t in civilization, according to Kaczynski. Whereas somebody like Rousseau really wants to give a justification of civilization and show that, no, indeed, our hearts really are in it, and that there’s something about human nature that absolutely demands that we create civilization. That’s how we actualize ourselves. We’re not self-actualized in a state of nature or a state of primitive society.
RH: That is one of places where you and I seem to have the same issue with this manifesto. There are places we agree and places we disagree. At a certain point he seems to go way beyond just wanting to get rid of modern industrial society and beyond the ills of modern technology. It makes you wonder: Does he believe that any society, anything beyond the small family unit, is problematic? He mentions the fall of Rome and how there were people who still had some localized technology. I got the idea that maybe he thought the fall of Rome was a good thing because of that. And if there was some technology then, was it too much technology? It was one of the things I really wondered about and find a problem with.
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 Ted Kaczynski moved to Montana in 1971. He sent his first mail bomb in 1978.
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