Why Do So Many Young People Think the Unabomber was Right?
On Ted Kacynski and the Allure of Anarcho-Primitivist Thinking
New Books Network 2023
Darts and Letters is creating a new podcast, Academic Edgelords.
This is a scholarly podcast about scholarly provocateurs. This is a leftist podcast that takes a second look at their peer-reviewed work, and tries to see if there’s anything we might learn from arguing with them. We are hosted by: Victor Bruzzone, Gordon Katic, Matt McManus, and Ethan Xavier (AKA “Mouthy Infidel”).
On this episode, we introduce our show by reading the ultimate academic edgelord: Ted Kacynski, who just died. This domestic terrorist was also a real scholar, with a few peer-reviewed works in mathematics. We read his manifesto: Industrial Society and its Future.
Why has the Kaczynski become so popular with young people? He is just one extreme proponent of an anti-civilizational political theory called anarcho-primitivism. Few call themselves anarcho-primitivists, yet the basic ideas have become widespread, thanks to worsening environmental degradation and the ongoing techlash. You probably saw some anarcho-primitive thinking on Twitter right after Kaczynski died; many people lamented his death, and praised his arguments.
What makes his thinking appealing to some? What does it get right about technology, and what does it get very wrong? We also discuss the broader anarcho-primitivist tradition, with the help of Chamsy el-Ojeili and Dylan Taylor's critical but generous review article from April, 2020, “the Future in the Past”: Anarcho-primitivism and the Critique of Civilization Today," in Rethinking Marxism.