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Industrial Society and Its Future

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Industrial Society and Its Future
CountryUnited States
PublisherThe Washington Post
Publication date

Industrial Society and Its Future is a 1995 article by Theodore John Kaczynski ("Ted" Kaczynski). It was published by The Washington Post in 1995.[1]

The article was succeeded by Kaczynski's 2015 magnum opus Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How.

Outline of contents[edit]

  1. Introduction
  2. The Psychology of Modern Leftism
    1. Feelings of Inferiority
    2. Oversocialization
  3. The Power Process
  4. Surrogate Activities
  5. Autonomy
  6. Sources of Social Problems
  7. Disruption of the Power Process in Modern Society
  8. How Some People Adjust
  9. The Motives of Scientists
  10. The Nature of Freedom
  11. Some Principles of History
  12. Industrial-Technological Society Cannot Be Reformed
  13. Restriction of Freedom is Unavoidable in Industrial Society
  14. The ‘Bad’ Parts of Technology Cannot Be Separated From the ‘Good’ Parts
  15. Technology is a More Powerful Social Force than the Aspiration For Freedom
  16. Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable
  17. Revolution is Easier Than Reform
  18. Control of Human Behavior
  19. Human Race at a Crossroads
  20. Human Suffering
  21. The Future
  22. Strategy
  23. Two Kinds of Technology
  24. The Danger of Leftism
  25. Final Note


The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.

The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.

The Psychology of Modern Leftism[edit]

The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism can be called feelings of inferiority and oversocialization.

Feelings of Inferiority[edit]

Feelings of inferiority mean not only inferiority feelings in the strict sense but a whole spectrum of related traits:

  • low self-esteem
  • feelings of powerlessness
  • depressive tendencies
  • defeatism
  • guilt
  • self-hatred
  • etc.


Socialization is a term used by psychologists to designate the process by which children are trained to think and act as society demands.

Oversocialization results when some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin. Oversocialization can lead to:

  • low self-esteem
  • a sense of powerlessness
  • defeatism
  • guilt
  • etc.


The Power Process[edit]

The power process is a human need (probably based in biology) that 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.

  1. goal
  2. effort
  3. attainment of goal
  4. autonomy

Nonattainment of important goals results in death if the goals are physical necessities, and in frustration if nonattainment of the goals is compatible with survival. Consistent failure to attain goals throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem or depression.

Thus, in order to avoid serious psychological problems, a human being needs goals whose attainment requires effort, and he must have a reasonable rate of success in attaining his goals.

Surrogate Activities[edit]

A surrogate activity is a term used to designate an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the “fulfillment” that they get from pursuing the goal.

For many if not most people, surrogate activities are less satisfying than the pursuit of real goals (that is, goals that people would want to attain even if their need for the power process were already fulfilled).


Autonomy as a part of the power process may not be necessary for every individual. But most people need a greater or lesser degree of autonomy in working toward their goals.

Sources of Social Problems[edit]

Among the abnormal conditions present in modern industrial society are:

  • excessive density of population
  • isolation of man from nature
  • excessive rapidity of social change
  • the breakdown of natural small-scale communities (such as the extended family, the village or the tribe)

Disruption of the Power Process in Modern Society[edit]

Human drives can be divided into three groups:

  1. Those drives that can be satisfied with minimal effort
  2. Those that can be satisfied but only at the cost of serious effort
  3. Those that cannot be adequately satisfied no matter how much effort one makes

The power process is the process of satisfying the drives of the second group (those that can be satisfied but only at the cost of serious effort).

The more drives there are in the third group (those that cannot be adequately satisfied no matter how much effort one makes), the more there is frustration, anger, eventually defeatism, depression, etc.

How Some People Adjust[edit]

Not everyone in industrial-technological society suffers from psychological problems. Some people even profess to be quite satisfied with society as it is.

  • Individuals with a weak drive for power may have relatively little need to go through the power process, or at least relatively little need for autonomy in the power process.
  • Some people may have some exceptional drive, in pursuing which they satisfy their need for the power process. For example, those who have an unusually strong drive for social status may spend their whole lives climbing the status ladder without ever getting bored with that game.
  • People vary in their susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques. Some people have low susceptibility to advertising and marketing techniques. Others are much more susceptible.
  • Some people partly satisfy their need for power by identifying themselves with a powerful organization or mass movement.
  • Another way in which people satisfy their need for the power process is through surrogate activities.

For the majority of people, the need for the power process is not fully satisfied.

The Motives of Scientists[edit]

Science and technology provide the most important examples of surrogate activities.

Some scientists claim that they are motivated by “curiosity” or by a desire to “benefit humanity.”

Also, science and technology constitute a power mass movement, and many scientists gratify their need for power through identification with this mass movement. Thus science marches on blindly, without regard to the real welfare of the human race or to any other standard, obedient only to the psychological needs of the scientists and of the government officials and corporation executives who provide the funds for research.

The Nature of Freedom[edit]

Freedom is the opportunity to go through the power process, with real goals not the artificial goals of surrogate activities, and without interference, manipulation or supervision from anyone, especially from any large organization.

Freedom means being in control (either as an individual or as a member of a SMALL group) of the life-and-death issues of one’s existence; food, clothing, shelter and defense against whatever threats there may be in one’s environment.

Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life.

One does not have freedom if anyone else (especially a large organization) has power over one, no matter how benevolently, tolerantly and permissively that power may be exercised.

Some Principles of History[edit]

Think of history as being the sum of two components: an erratic component that consists of unpredictable events that follow no discernible pattern, and a regular component that consists of long-term historical trends. Here we are concerned with the long-term trends.

  1. FIRST PRINCIPLE. If a SMALL change is made that affects a long-term historical trend, then the effect of that change will almost always be transitory—the trend will soon revert to its original state.
  2. SECOND PRINCIPLE. If a change is made that is sufficiently large to alter permanently a long-term historical trend, then it will alter the society as a whole.
  3. THIRD PRINCIPLE. If a change is made that is large enough to alter permanently a long-term trend, then the consequences for the society as a whole cannot be predicted in advance.
  4. FOURTH PRINCIPLE. A new kind of society cannot be designed on paper. That is, you cannot plan out a new form of society in advance, then set it up and expect it to function as it was designed to do.
  5. FIFTH PRINCIPLE. People do not consciously and rationally choose the form of their society. Societies develop through processes of social evolution that are not under rational human control.

Industrial-Technological Society Cannot Be Reformed[edit]

By the first and second principles, any change designed to protect freedom from technology would be contrary to a fundamental trend in the development of our society.

It follows from the fourth principle ("A new kind of society cannot be designed on paper") that even if the new form of society could be once established, it either would collapse or would give results very different from those expected.

Restriction of Freedom is Unavoidable in Industrial Society[edit]

Modern man is strapped down by a network of rules and regulations, and his fate depends on the actions of persons remote from him whose decisions he cannot influence.

The system HAS TO force people to behave in ways that are increasingly remote from the natural pattern of human behavior.

The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system.

The ‘Bad’ Parts of Technology Cannot Be Separated From the ‘Good’ Parts[edit]

A further reason why industrial society cannot be reformed in favor of freedom is that modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can’t get rid of the “bad” parts of technology and retain only the “good” parts.

Technology is a More Powerful Social Force than the Aspiration For Freedom[edit]

It is not possible to make a LASTING compromise between technology and freedom, because technology is by far the more powerful social force and continually encroaches on freedom through REPEATED compromises.

A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it very seriously later on.

While technological progress AS A WHOLE continually narrows our sphere of freedom, each new technical advance CONSIDERED BY ITSELF appears to be desirable.

Another reason why technology is such a powerful social force is that, within the context of a given society, technological progress marches in only one direction; it can never be reversed.

No social arrangements, whether laws, institutions, customs or ethical codes, can provide permanent protection against technology.

Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable[edit]

It is clear that the human race has at best a very limited capacity for solving even relatively straightforward social problems.

Revolution is Easier Than Reform[edit]

The system cannot be reformed in such a way as to reconcile freedom with technology. The only way out is to dispense with the industrial-technological system altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature of society.

Control of Human Behavior[edit]

Since the beginning of civilization, organized societies have had to put pressures on human beings of the sake of the functioning of the social organism. Some of the pressures are physical (poor diet, excessive labor, environmental pollution), some are psychological (noise, crowding, forcing human behavior into the mold that society requires).

Modern methods of controlling human behavior:

  • Drugs that affect the mind
  • Techniques of surveillance
  • Education as a scientific technique for controlling the child’s development

Assuming that industrial society survives, it is likely that technology will eventually acquire something approaching complete control over human behavior.

Human Race at a Crossroads[edit]

The system is currently engaged in a desperate struggle to overcome certain problems that threaten its survival, among which the problems of human behavior are the most important. If the system succeeds in acquiring sufficient control over human behavior quickly enough, it will probably survive. Otherwise it will break down.

Therefore two tasks confront those who hate the servitude to which the industrial system is reducing the human race.

  1. First, we must work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible.
  2. Second, it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial society if and when the system becomes sufficiently weakened.

Human Suffering[edit]

The industrial system will not break down purely as a result of revolutionary action.

  1. In the first place, revolutionaries will not be able to break the system down unless it is already in enough trouble so that there would be a good chance of its eventually breaking down by itself anyway.
  2. In the second place, one has to balance struggle and death against the loss of freedom and dignity.
  3. In the third place, it is not at all certain that survival of the system will lead to less suffering than breakdown of the system would.

The Future[edit]

But suppose now that industrial society does survive the next several decades and that the bugs do eventually get worked out of the system, so that it functions smoothly. What kind of system will it be? We will consider several possibilities.

First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.

On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained.

But suppose now that the computer scientists do not succeed in developing artificial intelligence, so that human work remains necessary. Even so, machines will take care of more and more of the simpler tasks so that there will be an increasing surplus of human workers at the lower levels of ability.

If man is not adjusted to this new environment by being artificially re-engineered, then he will be adapted to it through a long and painful process of natural selection. The former is far more likely than the latter.


With regard to revolutionary strategy, the only points on which we absolutely insist are that the single overriding goal must be the elimination of modern technology, and that no other goal can be allowed to compete with this one.

Two Kinds of Technology[edit]

There are two kinds of technology to distinguish, which can be called small-scale technology and organization-dependent technology.

  • Small-scale technology is technology that can be used by small-scale communities without outside assistance.
  • Organization-dependent technology is technology that depends on large-scale social organization.

The Danger of Leftism[edit]

Because of their need for rebellion and for membership in a movement, leftists or persons of similar psychological type often are unattracted to a rebellious or activist movement whose goals and membership are not initially leftist. The resulting influx of leftish types can easily turn a non-leftist movement into a leftist one, so that leftist goals replace or distort the original goals of the movement.

Final Note[edit]

This article has imprecise statements and statements that ought to have had all sorts of qualifications and reservations attached to them; and some of our statements may be flatly false. All the same, the general outlines of the picture are roughly correct with a fair amount of confidence.


  1. Kaczynski, Theodore John (1995). "Industrial Society and Its Future". The Washington Post.

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