From the Shelf The Making of a Counter Culture

CRISIS. I have considered myself a radical since last winter, and a revolutionary since last April: a "cultural" revolutionary, as opposed to a social revolutionary. I became convinced that necessary change in our society requires more change in the nature of people than a social revolution can generate. It seemed most imperative that we directly change ourselves and our way of living; that we create the new life, rather than try to attain it.

But I have encountered compelling arguments against the possibility of a cultural revolution before a social one. For instance, I came to believe that educational institutions need immediate, drastic reforms because they exert tremendous influence upon the nature of people. The universities seemed the obvious place to start. But then I read Ridge-way's Closed Corporations and realized how thoroughly the universities have been bought by government and big business, those powerful opponents of any revolution. After that, I coudn't convince myself-honestly-that anything more than token change could be achieved from within the educational system. And what about honesty? In arguments with an acquaintance in SDS (WSA). I invariably had to acqiesce to his terms, for he disposed of mine systematically. My ideas were extremely bourgeois, totally unrelated to the real oppression of the working class, and diversionary from social action to overthrow the profiteering capitalistic order.

From there on, the arguments were merely logical processes of instruction. In the end, I had to ask myself why I wasn't joining him. It wasn't only his intolerant dogmatism. regimentation, and commitment to an armed revolution; there was something more. He pointed again to my bourgeois liberalism. I thought he was wrong, but I couldn't articulate anything. I always came home drained and terribly confused.

Then I read Roszak's book. It was like a psychological transfusion. For the time being, at least; hope is regenerated, commitment renewed, direction refocused.


The Making of a Counter Culture must be described as a seminal work. Like any other seminal work, it has flaws, some of them serious-but they don't diminish its singular importance. Visionaries of all sorts have glimpsed the new life that man might lead. Roszak is the first to give us a scrupulously critical celebration of the new life now being made, the emerging counter culture, and to advise us concerning its further creation.


He also reveals the most plausible and terrifying picture vet of what the counter culture is countering. It demands considerable attention. Roszak sees the United States as a technocratic society, in which "those who govern justify themselves by appeal to technical experts who, in turn, justify themselves by appeal to scientific forms of knowledge." Technocracy, to paraphrase an important communist concept, is the highest stage of industrialism: the mature product of a society convinced of the necessity for technological progress and deeply imbued with the scientific ethos. It all meshes quite nearly. Technological progress requires rational expertise, efficiency, order, predictability-all the qualities so cherished in the scientific world-view.

THIS GIVES us a clue to the awesome power of the technocracy in our world. Rationalized in the jargon of industrial necessity and Objective Science, the technocracy transcends political ideology, even revolutionary ideology. It grows without check in all industrial societies-capitalist or collectivist, Roszak emphasizes-while its often disastrous breakdowns are blamed on this political faction by that one. Everywhere, the dominant motives are social integration and control. (E. g.: big business in America, now assured of fairly steady profits, seeks along with the government to "rationalize" -manipulate and control-the total economy of the country and, if possible, the world.) Under technocratic domination, capitalist and collectivist societies come to resemble each other more and more. Compare the United States and the Soviet Union. And give China a chance.

For the time being, though, the United States has the most excellently crafted technocracy of them all. Long removed from political controversy (the think-tanks and universities work for every administration), it has consolidated its power behind a fantastic screen of hypocrisy and cant. Roszak sums it up well enough:

The business of inventing and flourishing treacherous parodies of freedom, joy, and fulfillment becomes an indispensable form of social control under the technocracy. In all walks of life, image makers and public relations specialists assume greater prominence.

Thus, "education," "free enterprise," "pluralism," "democracy," "justice," are phrases invoked for tightly-manipulated processts by which the technocracy maintains itself. The same with "sexuality," "creative leisure," and "recreation."

But most depressing of all is the reaction, or lack of it, of Majority America to the events of this decade. The technocracy has ravaged the natural environment, created an unspeakable thermonuclear arsenal, etc., and hasn't eliminated a single big problem-not even poverty, which it could eliminate easily. Yet most Americans remain convinced that our individual and societal problems are still basically technical, that science and government will solve them, that they need only keep the radical troublemakers from making more troubles and defer all power to the experts, the men on top who know best. (After all, they've put Americans on the moon.) The technocracy in the United States retains the security of "a grand cultural imperative which is beyond question, beyond discussion." That old spectre, 1984, seems only minutes away.


That all makes consummate sense to me. Other critics have presented basically the same picture as Roszak's, but they didn't go any further. None of them went ahead to question and discuss the technological impertive for what it is, a profoundly potent ideology in itself.

Roszak deals with that ideology in a shattering critique near the end of the book. I can't possibly convey its power; if you read nothing else, you must read that chapter, "the Myth of Objective Consciousness."

By "myth," Roszak means "that collectively created thing which crystallizes the great, central values of a culture." As the sine qua non of all scientific knowledge, objective consciousness is the foundation upon which the technocracy has built its citadel. Even in our most private lives, we pay homage to that citadel all the time.

But what does being objective mean? Because involvement in or commitment ot whatever we consider would introduce subjective elements, objectivity requires that we maintain a certain distance between ourselves (rational consciousness) and everything else. Rational, objective consciousness is the one most authoritative way of regarding the hending, unreliable. Unless rational consciousness uncomprehending, unreliable. Unless rational consciousness-superior and etached-can reduce or organize it into predictable patterns and categories, all else (stars, atoms, dogs, primitive religons, literature, dreams, cognitive processes, human beings) is without intrinsic dignity or value.