The Problem of Industrialism

Many years ago, on a train trip from New York City to Philadelphia, a friend (a city girl, actually) remarked to me, as we passed through the Jersey industrial swamps, that she would happily cancel the Industrial Revolution, supposing only that modern dental technique could be rescued for the benefit of a restored pastoral society.

My guess is that similar thoughts have occurred, at some time or another, to all but the most slavish adherents of industrial-technological culture—Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, or Andrew Carnegie, perhaps; or, in our own time, Bill Gates and Donald Trump.  Critics of industrialism, like William Blake and John Ruskin, are inevitably vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy and ingratitude; most of all, their objections are dismissed as irrelevant.  Industrialism, the technocrats argue, is the inevitable result of Western natural and economic science.  Moreover, its benefits can be proved to outweigh its sometimes admitted liabilities.  Would any one of us, they demand, honestly and truly wish to go without central heat and modern plumbing, rapid and efficient transportation almost everywhere in the world, instant global communication, the mass production of goods, mass affluence, a level of medical care that seems, to the layman, almost miraculous—an all-round standard of living, in short, that was unimaginable for the thousands upon thousands of generations of human beings who had the infinite misfortune...

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