Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Word cloud

Word cloud

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hoffer gives us an insight on the technocrat

The first twenty pages of Between the Devil and the Dragon are a collection of very short pieces, most of them just a few sentences or a couple paragraphs.  I usually skip such things, but out of curiosity I read, and I'm glad I did.  On pages 12-13, Hoffer has an intriguing insight into the technocratic mind:
Both the scientist and the savage postulate the oneness of man and nature.  The difference between them is that the savage tries to influence nature by means which have proved their efficacy in influencing human nature, while the scientist wants to deal with human nature the way he deals with matter and other forums of life.  The scientist reads the equation human nature = nature from left to right, while the savage reads it from right to left.  Yet it is worth noting that Darwin, too, read the equation from right to left when he read cutthroat capitalist competition into the economy of nature. 
The remarkable thing is that the fanatic deals with men the way the scientist deals with matter.  There is a startling similarity between Bacon's prescription for mastering nature--"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed"--and Loyola's formula for manipulating men--"Follow the other man's course to your own goal."
I never thought of it this way before, but the analogy to shaman religious belief is fascinating in light of the interplay between religious and technocratic language in educational matters, especially when people are trying to play off the fruits of social science research, as I have touched on before.  On the other hand, a few pages earlier Hoffer discusses how the Abrahamic faiths separate man from nature, unlike many other faith traditions of the ancient world, and cast man as being made in the image of God.  Of course, the ordering of human affairs will thus inspire religious passion in one who sees man as being in God's image as much as it will in one who sees man as being part of the same supernatural world as the animals and plants around them.

(Somebody might object that a lot of technocrats are atheists, at least in modern academia, and thus do not see man in the terms of either religious tradition, but cultural leaves a heavy imprint on us.  We are often most like the things that we reject, because we rejected those things after feeling the burn of their brand.)

Anyway, this is something to ponder more fully.

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