Marx assumed the same view toward the "burden of nature. " But he placed considerable emphasis on human domination as an unavoidable feature of humanity's domination of the natural world. Until the development of modern industry (both Marx and Engels argued), the new surpluses produced by precapitalist technics may vary quantitatively, but rarely are they sufficient to provide abundance and leisure for more than a fortunate minority. Given the relatively low level of preindustrial technics, enough surpluses can be produced to sustain a privileged class of rulers, perhaps even a substantial one under exceptionally favorable geographic and climatic conditions. But these surpluses are not sufficient to free society as a whole from the pressures of want, material insecurity, and toil. If such limited surpluses were equitably divided among the multitudes who produce them, a social condition would emerge in which "want is made general," as Marx observed, "and with want the struggle for necessities and all the old shit would necessarily be reproduced." An egalitarian division of the surpluses would merely yield a society based on equality in poverty, an equality that would simply perpetuate the latent conditions for the restoration of class rule. Ultimately, the abolition of classes presupposes the "development of the productive forces," the advance of technology to a point where everyone can be free from the burdens of "want," material insecurity, and toil. As long as surpluses are merely marginal, social development occurs in a gray zone between a remote past in which productivity is too low to support classes and a distant future in which it is sufficiently high to abolish class rule.
But misty, almost stereotyped figures like Gilgamesh seem like metaphors for individuality rather than the real thing. More clearly etched personalities like Achilles, Agamemnon, and the Homeric warriors are often cited as the best candidates for western conceptions of the newly born ego. "The model of the emerging individual is the Greek hero," observes Max Horkheimer in his fascinating discussion of the rise and decline of individuality. "Daring and self-reliant, he triumphs in the struggle for survival and emancipates himself from tradition as well as from the tribe." That these qualities of daring and self-reliance were to be prized in the Greco-Roman world is accurate enough, but it is doubtful if the model is properly placed. In fact, the most striking egos of the archaic world were not the bronze-age heroes celebrated by Homer but the iron-age antiheroes so cynically described by Archilochus. Indeed, Archilochus himself was the embodiment of this highly unique personality. He links a hidden tradition of the ego's self-assertion in organic society with the calculating individual of emerging "civilization."
But Marx was stating a fact about parties in general that, after the French Revolution, had already ceased to be a novelty. The modern State could more properly be called a "party-state" than a "nation-state." Organized from the top downward with a bureaucratic infrastructure fleshed out by a membership, the Party possesses an institutional flexibility that is much greater than that of the official State. Structurally, its repertory of forms ranges from the loosely constructed republic to highly totalitarian regimes. As a source of institutional innovation, the Party can be sculpted and molded to produce organizational, authoritarian forms with an ease that any State official would envy. And once in power, the Party can make these forms part of the political machinery itself. Our own era has given the Party an autonomy unequaled by any State institution, from the ancient pharaohs to the modern republics. As the history of Russian Bolshevism and German fascism dramatically demonstrated, parties have shaped European states more readily than states have shaped their parties.
But in our preoccupation with the skill, care, and sensibilities of traditional artisans, we all too easily forget the nature of the culture that produced the craftsperson and the craft. Here, I refer not to its human scale, its sensitivity of values, and its humanistic thrust, but to the more solid facts of the social structure and its rich forms. That Eskimos crafted their equipment with considerable care because they had a high sense of care for each other is obvious enough, and that the animate quality of their crafts revealed an internal sense of animation and subjectivity need hardly be emphasized. But in the last analysis, all these desiderata flowed from the libertarian structure of the Eskimo community. Nor was this any less the case in the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic communities (or of organic society generally), whose artifacts still enchant us and whose traditions later formed the communal and aesthetic base of the "high civilizations" of antiquity. To the degree that its social traditions retain their vitality, even in a vestigial form, its skills, tools, and artifacts retain the all-important imprint of the artisan conceived as a self-creative being, a self-productive subject.
In some cases, as we now know, even large political empires like the Hittite Empire were based overwhelmingly on small farms. Typically, these were worked by five or six people, using perhaps two oxen, and the cultivable land was divided into mixed croplands, vineyards, orchards, and pastures that rarely supported more than small flocks of goats and sheep. In imperial Roman times, yeoman farms that had lingered on from the early republican era coexisted with immense latifundia worked by thousands of slaves. The beautifully terraced slopes that marked agricultural belts from Indonesia to Peru were worked not merely for the State but (often segregated from State-owned lands) for the needs of the extended family and local community. If Chinese corvee labor in the Sui dynasty (c. 600 A.D.) may have exceeded five million commoners (who were under a guard of 50,000 troops), the great majority of the peasantry continued to work its own plots, cultivating mixed crops and orchards, and raising domestic animals. Even Aztec agriculture, despite the highly despotic militaristic state that governed central Mexico, was organized primarily around clan-type horticulture, notably the lovely floating or chinampa gardens that lined and infiltrated the shallows of the Lake of Mexico.
The recent emphasis on "limits to growth" and "appropriate technology" is riddled by the same ambiguities that have imparted a conflicting sense of promise and fear to "high technology." I have said enough about the danger of dissociating instrumental technics, "soft" or "hard," from institutional technics; I leave the elaboration of their integration to the closing, more reconstructive chapter of this book, where I shall explore the possible structures of freedom, of human relationships, and of personal subjectivity that delineate an "appropriate" social matrix for a libertarian technics. For the present, however, I must emphasize again that terms like "small," "soft," "intermediate," "convivial," and "appropriate" remain utterly vacuous adjectives unless they are radically integrated with emancipatory social structures and communitarian goals. Technology and freedom do not "coexist" with each other as two separate "realms" of life. Either technics is used to reinforce the larger social tendencies that render human consociation technocratic and authoritarian, or else a libertarian society must be created that can absorb technics into a constellation of emancipatory human and ecological relationships. A "small," "soft," "intermediate," "convivial," or "appropriate" technical design will no more transform an authoritarian society into an ecological one than will a reduction in the "realm of necessity," of the "working week," enhance or enlarge the "realm of freedom."
By the late eighteenth century, England had plummeted recklessly into a brutalizing industrial society that advanced terribly meager ethical criteria for mechanization. Bentham, as noted earlier, identified the "good" quantitatively rather than in terms of an abiding sense of right and wrong. Adam Smith, in many ways more of a moralist than an economist, saw "good" in terms of self-interest governed by a vague "rule of justice." From an ethical viewpoint, the displaced yeomanry and the new working classes were simply abandoned to their fate. If the emerging factory system stunted its human "operatives" (to use the language of the day)-if it shortened their lives appallingly, fostering pandemics like tuberculosis and cholera-the new English manufacturing class advanced no weighty ethical imperatives for the human disasters it produced, beyond some hazy commitment to "progress." The British ruling elite may have been sanctimonious, but it was often blissfully lacking in hypocrisy, as the writings of one of its greatest theorists, David Ricardo, has revealed. "Progress" was unabashedly identified with egotism; the classical ideal of autonomy and independence, with "free competition." English industrialists were never infused with a spirit of "republican virtue" -nor, for that matter, were the ideologists of the French Revolution, despite all their mimicking of Roman postures and phraseology. Neither Adam Smith on one side of the Channel nor Robespierre on the other identified their ethical views with the existence of an independent yeoman class whose capacity for citizenship was a function of their autonomy. Both spokesmen were oriented ideologically toward vague notions of "natural liberty" that found their expression in freedom from government (Smith) or a "tyranny of freedom" (Rousseau) that took the form of a highly centralized State.
Nor was Jefferson alone in this ethical stance. Similar views were echoed (although far less fervently) by John Adams as early as the 1780s, and even by Benjamin Franklin, whose favorable view of the "artificial crafts" was that of a highly urbanized republican artisan-of a printer turned propagandist. For our purposes, what makes Jefferson's views unique is the extent to which he exalted the virtues of nature as such. He speaks to us not only in the traditional language of "natural law," but in a more aesthetic vernacular that reveals his appreciation of the mutual enhancement of the natural world and labor. The Biblical injunction of hard labor in the fields as penance is replaced by an ecological vision of virtuous labor as freedom. The husbandman "looking up to heaven" or down to his "own soil" is the imagery of ecology, not of political economy. 2b1af7f3a8