Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred (1991)

Jerry Mander is asking “what happened to the future?” and challenging the idea that advances in technology equates to progress and that this is a good thing.

He defines a minimally successful society as one that:
    1) keeps its population healthy, peaceful and contented;
    2) has sufficient food, shelter, and a sense of participation in a shared community experience;
    3) permits and encourages access to the collective wisdom and knowledge of the society and whose members have a spiritually and emotionally satisfying existence.

Mander wants to encourage awareness, care and respect for the earth’s life support system.

But while technology has given us an improved standard of living, with greater speed, greater choice, greater leisure, greater luxury (bigger, better, faster, more), we haven’t eliminated poverty or crime and we don’t even have universal education.  So, while our society may be a material success, it doesn’t work.  And, even worse, the technological advances that have made this all possible have led to environmental degradation, but no one (except Mander?) seems to be questioning the price of technology.

In response, Mander wants to challenge what he calls the Pro-Technology Paradigm that is characterized by:
    1) dominance of best-case scenarios
    2) the pervasiveness and invisibility of technology
    3) the limitations of the personal view - we don’t see the wider effects of our tools, only how they help us
    4) the inherent appeal of the machine - its flash and promise
    5) the assumption that technology is neutral and the idea of a scientific priesthood - nuclear power leads to autocratic systems, while solar energy leads to democratic systems (centralized power vs. distributed power)


  1. Thanks for this tight little post. I am going to link to you from a pending post on my blog (

    1. You're welcome. I'm glad you found it helpful.