Sociolibertarianism and Ted Kaczynski

Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, was a mad anarchist bomber who killed by postal bombs for 18 years in order to propagate his ideology and cause social unrest. For this he should be praised, of course, but the main interest of the Unabomber is not in his actions but in his writings.

From his views on freedom and society, we can derive a lot of conclusions – some of which the Unabomber himself did not see or considered to be flawed. I will examine here the premises which interest us in politics and why a sociolibertarian system best answers Kaczynski’s criticism of the industrial-technological society, not tribal anarchy.

Alienation and the power process

The main merit of the Unabomber Manifesto is to present a precise definition of what conditions bring about a lack of alienation – fulfillment, here called the “power process”. The power process is composed of four parts : goal, effort, attainment, autonomy.

A goal is that which we seek to obtain by our actions, be it simple survival, success, or others. These goals must require effort and be attainable. Furthermore, they must permit the individual to have a great part in solving them. This does not necessarily require a structure-less system, but a sense that the individual is doing something important for the accomplishment of his own goals. Kaczynski gives the examples of “nuclear accidents, carcinogens in food, environmental pollution, war, increasing taxes, invasion of his privacy by large organizations, nationwide social or economic phenomena that may disrupt his way of life”, as elements on which the individual has little to no control (although his ideas on free trade are as fallacious as those of the majority of the population), and therefore entail insecurity and alienation.

A failure to obtain any of these criterias can cause severe psychological problems in most people. And we do observe in society that failure to find purpose is a severe problem for a majority of people, causing all kinds of coping behaviours to emerge (such as over-consumption, over-working, searching for meaning, anxiety, frustration with life, existentialism and relativism), and ultimately higher suicide rates.

A caveman does not have the time to feel profoundly bored, frustrated, revolted or alienated : his power process consists of sustaining his very life. However, cubicle workers, to use a stereotype, suffer from burnouts, a sense of non-autonomy and hostility against the system they live in, depending on their work environment and life situation. Fulfillment in one’s work is more easily attained when there are definite achievable goals, and that the individuals have more freedom in the achievement of their goal and in the decision-making process.

This is, as Kaczynski points out, not a universal fact but a tendancy. Some people are fulfilled even in a lack of autonomy, or without having any definite goal, notably by using artificial goals or because of cultural factors. Some people have little drive to power at all, while others have such a strong drive that they pursue something regardless of whenever their goal can ever be fulfilled (for example, the drive for status or money). Belief systems or hyper-structured systems (such as religions, cults, armies, political parties, mass movements) are one way that people have found to use the power process in others for their own goals.

Freedom and sociolibertarianism

Kaczynski’s view of freedom is motivated by this definition. He defines freedom as :
1. the opportunity to go thru the power process.
2. being in control over the life-and-death issues of one’s existence.
3. having the power to control the circumstances of one’s life.
4. being able to do 1 to 3 as an individual or a member of small group (influence on the process).

Therefore his definition of freedom incorporates both political (3) and a particular form of social freedom as seen from the point of view of the power process (1,2,4). For an individual, social freedom is as important, if not more, as political freedom. A political system which gives people rights but molds society in accordance with certain given structures, including its own, is no better than a socialist society where people are nevertheless free to associate in many different ways. Citizens of both societies see their freedom reduced as a result.

This is why it seems that sociolibertarianism is the best political alternative, because it maximizes both political and social freedom. The Manifesto’s retort that government can only lead to less freedom is a false dilemma common to anarchists.

The main objection to tribal anarchy as an answer to the alienation problem is that it dramatically reduces the choices available to us. To have goals presupposes their existence, therefore the Choice Criteria is an important factor in the fulfillment of the power process. But sociolibertarianism is the system where the Choice Criteria is fulfilled. Not only that, but a state of tribal anarchy as proposed by Kaczynski would destroy the great majority of goals possible to human beings ! What expands the field of human action is precisely technology and knowledge.

Kaczynski also argued about the power of man in a primitive society versus his power in a technological society. It is true that, in his tiny field of activity – mainly survival – the tribal man detains much power over his fate. But when we leave that sphere, he is definitively powerless.

Furthermore, while he contends that the added control made possible by technology and the large organizations “necessary for the functioning of industrial-technological society” bring powerlessness, it is also a complaint against modern society that man is becoming more and more detached from others. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. In fact, what happens is that while progress from absolute poverty requires to unify people into working units, our new communication technologies permit more and more decentralization.

Another objection to the tribal anarchism concept is that industrialization and progress are inevitable. He himself admits it when he states that “technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom”. This is a true statement, but that means we must learn to adapt to the perils of progress, not to attempt futilely to destroy it.

The only solution is to effect political and social freedom thru sociolibertarianism. Such a system would not support large-scale coercion or structures over smaller ones, and permit people to choose their own political and social context if they so desire. And it is easy to imagine systems where it is possible to live mostly in small-scale structures. To associate industrialization with large-scale systems is not a necessary relation.

In answer to the problems of industrialization, the answer of sociolibertarianism is :
1. responsability instead of coercion – to encure the continuation of freedom and the power of free trade to solve problems and establish priorities, over coercitive structures.
2. free market of social structures – to ensure the individual power to determine one’s own life and to progress on his own terms.

Of course such a system would not be perfect. For example, economical power is determined by one’s capacity to fulfill the needs of other people. Individuals who cannot do this are less likely to be able to accomplish themselves. But this is not much different from the fact that in a tribal society, only those who are the most physically fit and perceptive will have more success, and will be able to accomplish their goals better. The difference is that the successful capitalist also helps to lift the entire society up in terms of level of life and prosperity. Those, like Kaczynski, who would find it “demeaning” to achieve modern goals would be free to attempt to live their lives in another manner.