Technology, Sex, & Totalitarianism

Technology, Sex, & Totalitarianism January 24, 2018


Augusto Del Noce was an Italian thinker from back in the 1960s who predicted much of what we are facing today.  A Catholic Christian, Del Noce explored the connections between the sexual revolution, the technological revolution, and totalitarianism.

Two of his books are newly available in English: The Age of Secularization and The Crisis of Modernity.  Francis X. Maier reviews them for First Things in The Most Important Thinker We Don’t Know.

Says Maier,

At the height of Soviet power, Del Noce predicted with stunning accuracy the collapse of Marxism-Leninism. He foresaw the sexual revolution in its weirdest forms, including the transformation of the political left from advocate of the working classes to defender of sexual “freedom.” He explained the link between the fierce rejection of traditional morality in the 1960s and the same decade’s ferocious moralizing for radical change. And he described in great detail the fundamentally totalitarian nature of the West’s emerging tech civilization.

As Maier explains Del Noce’s thought, Marxism had the effect of repudiating all transcendent truths in favor of a rigorous materialism.  But in its moral critique of capitalism, its apocalyptic utopianism, and its revolutionary zeal, Marxist-Leninism retained a religious impulse.  This contradiction, among others, cannot be sustained, and Soviet-style systems–still at their strength when Del Noce wrote–will eventually collapse.

But that collapse will simply usher in a system that will also repudiate all transcendent truths and embrace a rigorous materialism only without any religious impulse whatsoever.  Scientism will reign supreme, with the conviction that technology will solve all of our problems.  In this climate, purged of any higher meanings, feelings will become the most important facet of human life.  And the most intense feelings are sexual, so we will have a sexual revolution with no moral limits.

The totalitarianism of Marxism and Fascism promoted “total” state control, governments that regulated the “totality” of human life.  The emerging new “technopoly” will promote totalitarianism of a different sort.  Science would become “totalitarian,” asserting authority over all of existence and, as with Communist and Fascist leaders, insisting that it is the only authority.

Del Noce was worried, in the words of Maier, “about a culture addicted to science and technology as the only “real” forms of knowledge; a culture hollowed out and stupefied by the material well-being its tools provide; a culture subject to the resulting philosophy of scientism that renders questions of transcendence irrelevant by confining the human horizon to the here and now.”

By discrediting traditional moral ideals and comprehensive systems of belief—including even belief in itself—Marxism clears the way for a more effective, pragmatic materialism that has little need to attack religion directly, because it renders the supernatural useless and implausible. The more well-being technology provides, the stronger its momentum toward technocracy. And technocracy becomes technopoly—becomes totalitarian—not by gassing dissidents, but by gradually commandeering the human imagination and excluding human reason from appeals to any higher rational benchmark, any higher moral authority, than itself.

The technological society is opposed to both religion and revolution.  “In this regard, it truly represents the bourgeois spirit in its pure state,” says Del Noce, “the bourgeois spirit triumphant over its two traditional adversaries, transcendent religion and revolutionary thought.”

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