Abraham Rotstein, Weekend Notes XVI

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Weekend Notes (Overview)

Freedom & Technology (8) - General Comment - Mass Society

[2] The two articles in “The Listener” (discussing the Dudintsev book) shift the framework of our work conformism in America, which is a speculative theory on the total origins of the phenomenon. […]

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It takes us back to Robert Owen and at the same time establishes the technological civilization more definitively than we ever succeeded in doing. The importance of the subject grows, but not in the sense of a construction (e.g. calling conformism totalitarianism).

The American mistake is in believing that America has more Christian elements than Russia. The April 25th report in “The Listener” discusses “Not by Bread Alone” which is a Russian book and takes our subject to the present. […]

On the subject we discuss, there [3] isn't a single book (perhaps there is Berdayev, but he hasn't the same concreteness).

It also gives us a third front that we cannot ignore. P. is not for a Christian anarchism in Russia, restaging the whole delusion of the denial of the reality of society which P. is fighting.

We have much more to say then we had. Our subject was too narrow. It did smell of something antiquated. The difficulty is to make some room for socialism. Robert Owen is of enormous help. He identified the problems of society with the limitations that society puts upon us in our dealing with the problems of machine.

P. couldn't find the appropriate beginning or the frame till he hit on one that hinges on being more personal and therefore more modest. We are trying to sum up our starting point in a more personal way and with less authority. Once you get the breadth, you lose the authority, unless you act as the personal Saviour coming from the skies and landing with all the truth, and that would be premature. We will write a more modest book and it will have more appeal. However, it will not change our subject matter and that is what we want people to know about. It will not be the rassling, clanging thumps of an argument, but the scenery for the audience to understand the world - a travelogue.

As to the problem of the title, we can solve it without refering to the machine. It may have a different title now that we refer to the ferment in Russia.

P. has discussed with sociologists, the question of Parsonian sociology and was convinced that we really mean the modern sociology which [4] runs through Weber, Marx and Pareto. But they agree that we have rightly understood it. P. agrees with my point that we need more sociology and to have less metaphysical and apocalyptic.

P. wasn't sure that Bledsoe would think that what he sent him is an outline, but Bledsoe knows The Great Transformation and so had no difficulty in understanding it.

P. gave almost a whole day to the question of how one can write such a book, and it is almost impossible. It is only by saying that it is an old man and a young man etc. and peeping on the century which has gone by and on the century to come. This gives some perspective on things that have gone by and on the century to come. What did the world look like fifty years ago when P. turned into manhood, and fifty years from now when I conclude my life? In comparing notes, the only thing we conclude together is about the generation between. This include the change to socialism and here one takes a milder view, but it is not the time for relaxation either. That would make it easy to give the freedom to one's tone and supply the modesty required. […]

Concerning “The Listener” review of “Not by Bread Alone”, the Russian situation is important and the general problem raises the question of the reality of society. How much importance is to be attached to the form of society and the view of resurrection in the anarchist position? However, it is no an anarchist position but a commmunist position.

This book is acclaimed by the mass of students and it is impossible [5] to treat it in a light way, and the real scope of the matter […]

P. wrote something in the meantime, that in 200 years of technological development there were 200 years of the discovery of society and the different philosophies expressing the concern with society never ceased.

The problem of freedom never ceased to exist. How is the reality of society compatible with the spiritual interpretation of history or the spiritual nature of man? Only with Hegel and Marx was history apostrophised. (Arendt says that suddenly history came up). One can start the problem of freedom with Hobbes, Spinoza and Rousseau.

This is the human history of the machine that is being written, while the reaction to it - the social philosophy - shows how much is to be said. P. might write the history of modern sociology as part of this story.

To include the Russian developments has much less rigour, but it is true that we are in the same boat.

P. has given up putting the matter as a syllogism. The biggest job in 1957 is to view the world as a whole - the crisis of socialism. If we do that, it is an important book and no book answering the American problem alone is sufficient if it leaves out China and Russia.

Mannheim says that there is a mass democracy in every industrial society which is unlike medieval society. This individual is a literate person expected to offer a view from a position of self-determination. This is not the case in a traditional society at all. In a traditional society there would be no dilemma of freedom.

[6] That man lives by brea alone is the economistic fallacy in a socialist society.

It is a completely mistaken argument that Hitler and Mussolini came when the problem was resolved (cf. Arendt and Stolpern).

The cold war now seems to cause less danger … […]

P.'s difficulty is to show where socialism may be an advance over capitalism.

P.'s answer is Owen's answer; we must improve the society. The limits of society can be found only by our best endeavours. We must to be prepared to accept the limits set by society so we can't stand out for a communism which is a contradiction in terms. Since such a position involves the reform of socialism, the sympathies of the world are with those who want to reform socialism.

If the second revelation stands, then Owen is right and we have to follow it and be ready to resign ourselves. (Cf. The Goethe poem about “der musen”).

We cannot know the limits that society sets beforehand, because it is the knowledge of the limits of man. It is always tested by trying the impossible.

Politics is usually regarded as a problem of ethics, but it hinges on what kind of people we should be like. The political and moral is identical - what [7] is right and wrong. Aristotle in politics… […] England was always Aristotelian.

Things … […]

The Industrial Revolution … […]

The economistic fallacy … […]

P. said that in the first phase of the Industrial … […]

Unless you have a metaphysical dilemma you have nothing. The various determinisms, statistical, biological and physiological are all elements of the reality of society. There are inescapable alternatives. […]

The French Revolution took over the absolutes state power of the ancien [8] regime. There was no idea of society.

The Middle Ages and its corporative work disintegrates. People were anxious about society before Hobbes and Rousseau but not in the same way. E.g. if we go into Francis Bacon, Rober Bacon, science, etc. The genetics don't usually add to the explanation of anything. The machine began to grow into peoples' lives.

Jaspers has the idea of the masses. What kind of mass? If you go near it, it disappears - there are committee members, trade union members, and the listen to the T.V. to discussion of the mass and they ready the paperbacks from Aristotle to Japsers. Mannheim says the modern society is democratic in an operational sense.

In the sense that each individual was separated by original sin, anarchistic Christianity is the same as atomistic individualism. In Christianity it is not the fate of mankind but the fate of each individual which is the concern. The essence of it is that society is individuals, and this is one of the interpretations of Christianity. This bought Calvin to decide on grace as predestined. Calvin said that this was determined at the time of creation and follows from the deterministic premise of science that everything must have a cause. Robert Owen is not far from this.

In Medieval times, the individual was not activated and now he is (see Mannheim above).

For us the machine is a “deus ex machina” and we talk of 200 years only in a modest sense. We never go beyond the authority that Robert Owen claimed.

If we sum up the term inner life, we are really talking about freedom (a mixture of hope and fear) and this is a definition of freedom. But it allows [9] you to say at the very bottom of all our troubles is an increasing consciousness of the loss of freedom. […]

Society didn't exist … […]

A totalitarian government which refrains from giving information becomes a shortcut to freedom. (?)

You can't make yourself responsible before your conscience … […]

The first point is the one raised by Owen and Quetelet; there is a sense in which the individual is not responsible and this comes under the headin of determinism.

There are fleeting borders between the individual person and society, … […]

Mass Society

[10] Myself: Perhaps what is meant by the term “mass society” is the reality of society.

P.: it is loose … […]

The mobilization of the individuals in the mass is not the danger. The danger is collective. Medieval society broke down releasing the individual (The Mannheim formula). […]

Where do we get … […] (Le Bon). […]

Averagism doesn't make the mass different from the aggregate of individuals.

Mr. Jaspers isn't different from the other individuals. If his shoes don't … […] [11] P. doesn't believe in the elite and it is a lack of education and coarseness to believe in such a thing.

P. thinks there is a growing in the mobilization of individuals…

[…] … Hume […]

[12] […]

The distinction between government and opinion doesn't exist in a democratic community.


[13] […]

P. started 30 years ago with the idea that the social effects of the individual's life were untraceable. We must … […] (Dudintsev) if this is what …

This is the argument for us. […]

This is the objection to the death penalty. If the state does it, such a society … […]

We are not saying … […]

[14] arisen … […]

There is an existentialism a common element with P.'s position in the realization of the unsatisfactory matters.

In 1957 it is not the mass danger, it is something … totalitarianism … […]

“Masses” is the situation … […]

The loss of freedom … […]

By using such popular … […]

Socialism does away … […]

[15] must we accept? […]

Some … […]

The totalitarian … […]

We can use the Commentary article … […] … technological civilization … Owen

The Commentary article … […]

[16] There is an emphatic … […]

My question … […]

One cannot … […]

For the Christian, power appears as evil because its essence is compulsion. This is because they think that only the government compels. Under the market economy the problem doesn't seem to arise.

In a technological … […]

Deciding to choose … […]

An atheist upholds this as well. Having convictions is the inner life. A person maintains them and is true to himself. This is not belief, this is [17] knowledge, not like the thermometer but from internal evidence. This is a knowledge of the universal character of human experience. (There may be a time when you didn't know it).

We insist … […]

The sociological framework … […]

Some religions insist upon certain things that stand out. The communism position is a Christian heresy. Christianity is a very vague matter and a number of values swing around in it. The Hindus base their case on nothing - they say so. They feel safer that way, and they think it's funny that we think of anything being certain. Christian anarchism pretends that there is no restriction to live on purely altruistic motives.

The reality of society is a tissue of situations which creates inevitable alternatives. […] The Christians object more to [18] participating than to being victims.

We can't answer the question of how the machine affects the tissue of interpersonal relationships. It reveals that through the above manifestations.

How does it create this situation? It may be through the division of labour, since this is inherent in the interdependence of movements in the economic process and their recurrence - the unity and the stability … … […]


Interdisciplinary Projet

[19] When the interdisciplinary project started in 1953 the first lecture was on equivalencies. This lecture was a failure because those present said there were no such things and P. didn't succeed in producing anything in ancient history or anthropology which resemble equivalencies.

One year later however, Connie Arensberg … […] Bohanan

Hegel & Marx

Hegel's term the “burgerliche gesellschaft” (civil society) is what we mean by the market economy. It took P. years to find out what Hegel meant. he was the first to use the term society in Gesellschaft und Staat. Marx probably took the term “politische economie” from Hegel. Marx meant a category like art, law, religion, etc.

Hegel contrasted the economy and society (he meant the market) while Marx consciously included the ideologies of the market system in the term political economy.


[20] P. thinks that by the awakening, Jaspers really means society. The modern world begins with the breakup of the medieval world. To talk about changes of consciousness is not empty of content. To say it was alchemy and science, etc. is true but there is a more topical subject.

People were getting wealthy and the church stopped giving alms when their domains were being secularised. In 1536 England passed a law depriving the church of its possessions.

Jaspers is strong in taking up the lines of general consciousness and comes close to us at one or two points e.g. where Marx dropped the dialectic.


The nationalism in Asia and Africa exists to keep control of the industrialization: to what point it should go and to cause a minimum of disruption internally.


Adjusting the child to the environment here, is like giving a person a map of how to lose his way - a kind of pocket compass of no return.


Grotius said to ignore religious differences.


Manya Harari, “Not by bread alone”


Victor Zorza, “Soviet Writers versus the Bureaucracy”

Text Informations

Date: End of 1957 (Interview)
KPA: 45/15