The Natural and the Industrial
Humans live on the cusp of a fundamental upheaval in the history of life on earth, as our symbolic capacity has brought with it the potential to transform, overwhelm, and perhaps destroy the evolutionary process out of which it originated. Yet despite the revolutionary character of this change, it is neither discontinuous with what has gone before nor easily perceived, largely because we do not observe it from some external point, but are ourselves swept up and defined within it. Having largely lost our reference points in the natural order, industrialism itself has become our source of reference, so that destruction becomes ‘development’, technocracy becomes ‘culture’, and both become normalised as ‘just the way things are’. However, because symbolism grew out of embodiment and is still sometimes congruent with it, the relation between them is not a simple one of conflict and displacement, but rather of gradations of representation, distortion and subversion. Symbolism can enhance our relation to the natural order as well as undermine it; and this book should not be taken as a critique of symbolism per se, but only as pointing to the vulnerabilities that it introduces. Consequently, the realm of the ‘human’ includes all these sometimes consistent, sometimes opposing, tendencies, so that the current character of industrial humanity is one of tension and contradiction.
KeywordsNatural World Emergent Property Industrial Society Natural Order Industrial System
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