where the WasteLand ends.

Theodore Roszak examines the fundamental problems in urban industrial worldview. In urban industrialism, a nonscientific mindscape has been replaced with a dominantly scientific one. Roszak believes that this has harmful implications in the consciousness of ourselves and reality. The scientific mindscape is referred to as a ‘mindscape of single vision’ and the nonscientific is viewed as the ‘romantic movement’.  Roszak’s book Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society provides an analysis of possibilities in overcoming these problems; firstly, by a transformational shift from single vision to romanticism. Romanticism is a resistance to science and the notion of single vision. Secondly, Roszak offers that we, like [primal traditions], should become in touch with our dreams, organic nature and mysticism in order to prevent ultimately being blinded by “seeing” in the ‘dead-mans eye’. Thirdly, we need to steer away from treating nature as a machine so that this alienating mechanistic thinking is suspended. Immanuel Kant in Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals provide helpful insight in this discussion by providing an understanding of what it means to be human and a part of social reality in a more subjective manner. Kant proposes a pure moral philosophy and establishes humans as rational beings who need to have moral principles and to follow them with pure motivation. Kant’s insight is an important addition to Roszak’s examination of possibilities in resolving industrial society’s flawed worldview. In summary, living in the subjective and natural realm of the world is just as important as the objective if we are to be of any gain for humanism; otherwise we will be well-informed fools in an artificial environment.

According to Roszak, “the orthodox consciousness of urban industrialism is alienation, narrowing of the senses”[1]; he terms this state of mind as ‘single vision’ which he argues urban industrialism needs to get past. The unconscious is the most important part Roszak wants to look at and he believes the unconscious is the most significant. It is in this unconscious state of single vision that we all reside most of the time and we are most wide awake due to being constantly caffeinated[2]. To get past single vision, Roszak proposes that one would need to meditate, take hallucinogenic drugs or psychotherapy in order to no longer be in this artificial environment[3]. Interestingly, Kant discusses pure moral philosophy which is not based on any empirical evidence. Kant believes that humans are rational beings who should have moral motivation to follow and develop moral principles[4]. This moral obligation is a responsibility for all humans. Roszak’s concept of single vision, however, is known to have no morality, decisions are solely based on scientific worldview and all knowledge worthy of considering must be empirical. Modern philosophers are discussing senses empirically but not deeply[5]. Therefore, an example of the fundamental problem single vision has on the mind. Single vision does not take into consideration such inner reality that Kant values and believes is instilled in human beings. Urban industrialism needs to look beyond this single vision of seeing the world in merely a scientific lens so as to discontinue a mindscape of alienation and narrowing of the senses.

Internal reality becomes an alienated part in urban industrialism, once the misconception of it being external to the body is indoctrinated. Roszak specifies the misconception as being “our forgetfulness that the senses are internal not external to us”[6]. Therefore, the urban industrialism culture has a lack of understanding about the way experience really happens. Roszak explains one of the misunderstandings in particular which is what it means to be awake; he sees people as caffeinating themselves addicted to the point that they do not know how to stop. This type of mechanical behaviour disvalues dreaming since their high intake of caffeine “expunge their dream” leading them to forget it which is what they deem as being “productive”[7]. Roszak places great value on dreaming; dreaming is like the arts, he explains, and that is why we call some art “dreamlike”[8]. Moreover, this alienation of our internal world is explained in Roszak’s notion of death-in-life of the body. Besides the disvalue of dreaming, the culture created fear in our body’s truth so that they steer people to anything lifeless (e.g. plastic, steel)[9]. The solution to overcome this fundamental flaw is to reclaim our identity as organisms and become in touch with organic reality[10]. Also, to take a more tender minded approach which entails mysticism versus a tough-minded one which entails objectivity[11]. The tender minded will find solitude in urban industrialism since its purpose is to fix the “breaking of faith between people and environment”[12]. The tough-minded looks through a dead mans eye which is a blindness rather than seeing since it is the objectification of experience.[13] Roszak’s explanation on dreaming, organic nature and mysticism and Hegel’s value for self-consciousness illustrate that reality is not external to the body which urban industrialism misunderstands.

Urban industrialism treats nature as a machine which is another source of alienation amongst the population’s relationship with nature. The implication of such mechanical thinking is negative argues Roszak as it “kills purpose of it which is natural and spiritual and claims it only has a function”.[14] The natural world, alongside the organic reality, begins to die as it is all turned into mechanistic imagery.[15] Blame is placed on the scientific revolution for creating a culture based on single vision which is ultimately dehumanizing. Roszak does not go into specifics about what it means to be human but he does go into what it means to live. Roszak sums it all up when he writes “to cast aside all the prescientific and nonscientific realities by which men and women have lived for so long is to settle for a truth that is little more than an operational superficiality; worse, a license for the making of well-informed fools”.[16]

In conclusion, the mindscape of urban industrialism has fundamental flaws but Roszak provides possibilities to overcome these problems. He proposes one to get past single vision as to get past the scientific rationale that is composed of a tough-minded, mechanical and blind type of a fool. The transformation shift should be to one that has value for the nonscientific which is where our body is not seen as just external to us but also internal; thus leading one to have a mindscape that is in touch with our bodies, nature and spiritual consciousness.

note: the following is not to argue that these ideas are superior to others since these are  eurocentric writers (Roszak and especially Kant) on the sources of turmoil in specifically western society, it is to gain some insight from theirs. I suggest reading “Yurugu: European Cultural Thought and Behaviour” by Marimba Ani to understand the sources of such ills in Western society.


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2 thoughts on “where the WasteLand ends.

  1. Anonymous March 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm Reply

    Thank you for sharing this! i had to read Roszak’s actual work for a class and the language as going way over my head. This made the reading make a lot more sense!

  2. JEDAME February 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm Reply

    I think Rozak is another type of specialist. As to the above comment on his heady language, no wonder. He talks much of Kant who was another heady writer. Rozak’s system will never come to be in a security state. Are there any ruthless criminals in his utopia?

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