Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 36, No 11 May 30th, 1973
What he doesn't say
What he doesn't say
So when considering the 'throw-away society', Toffler licks off with glee multifunctional products (perfumed rubbers!) 'rental revolutions' and fads (remember the hula-hoop?) and many other exciting things we're now getting to throw away, but his analysis totally ignores the questions of which strata in society purchase in this way, or the relative amounts spent on such things as compared to education, urban renewal, welfare scheme, alleviating hunger, or paying the rubbish collectors. Answers to these questions might force a different epithet on such a society, but the questions themselves are ignored.
According to a tradition at least as old as Galbraith, technology can solve our social and political problems for us if we would use it for this purpose. Some ideals of doing this because it is a worthy thing to do can be seen in Galbraith, but when Toffler pays lip-service to the tradition he forgets to include the idea that it may intrinsically worthy. Where Toffler acknowledges the sorts of problems we are discussing here he assures us technology could solve them, but he can't assure us that technology wants to solve them, nor tell us how it is going to solve them. But he can tell us why it might get around to it: because the poor, the hungry, and the disadvantaged might rise up and take over if it doesn't; because it would be a good way of delaying future shock in the United States for fifty years or so; because it would reassure romantics that technology has the interests of the people at heart. Such reasons are akin to those of the Machiavellian prince who has his prison cells fitted with hot-and-cold running water so that those inside won't riot and those bound for them can equate prison with their heart's desires.
Future people will have lots of choices to make but since they are subject to whims in the fashion parade of values of the future society, they will be without any free will to make them. We are told how lucky we will be to be able to choose between thousands of different models of everything, but the consumer economy and patriotism require that we choose at least one. The suspicion is, that if we were every so foolish and past-orientated as to indulge in the 'Luddite' defiance of refusing to choose at all, the 'social future assemblies' will wire our views 'into the network', the psych corps Gestapo would move in, and, using that most odourress of poisonous gases, statistics, paralyse us.