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IPFS News Link • Political Theory

I Read the Unabomber's Manifesto. Here's What He Thought--and Why I Disagree

•, Cody Cook

Ted Kaczynski died in prison on June 10, 2023 from an apparent suicide.

You may remember him as "the Unabomber," a terrorist who made a name for himself by sending mail bombs to people he thought were complicit in advancing our modern "technological society." The view that said society is destructive to human freedom and meaning is often referred to as anarcho-primitivism, though Kaczynski rejected this label for himself.

I read his manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future, not long ago. As a free-market libertarian, I generally see our technological society's ability to satisfy our basic needs and survival goals as one of modern capitalism's greatest achievements. Kaczynski saw it as a major problem to be overcome.

Why? Because pursuing the goal of survival—hunting, foraging, fighting bears, etc.—gives humans a sense of fulfillment. When that goal is met for us by complex social structures, we are left to pursue "surrogate" goals that are artificial and less fulfilling (perhaps goals like writing anarcho-primitivist manifestos and sending pipe bombs to strangers?). To quote Kaczynski, it is "demeaning to fulfill one's need for the power process through surrogate activities or through identification with an organization rather than through pursuit of real goals."

In addition to feeling less fulfilled, he argued that we also feel less free. The fact that our primary desires are met for us upon the condition that we obey and become properly socialized—like diligently filing into an office building every morning—means control of our lives is placed into the hands of others: bosses, technocrats, and other organizers of society. In other words, individuals have less control over their own lives in a highly organized technological society and must become dependent upon others. For Kaczynski, freedom is the "opportunity to go through the power process" of taking command of our own lives without control or manipulation.