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William Irwin Thompson:

"You can begin to understand the beginning of something when you are at the end. The two sides are somewhat alike, or if you want to look at it more visually, think of this as the turn of a spiral and as you are about to move into something you can see what it was you moved into so long ago. The period of, say, 1500 to 2000 is one kind of cultural epoch that can be called the modern world system. We are now moving from the modern world system to the new one, whatever you want to call it. I’ve used the phrase Planetary Culture. You can call it something else.

We’re moving from a period of expansion in which we have discovered a new world, new markets. It’s been a voyage of discovery, moving from that neat, concentric, medieval universe to one that is a kind of centrifugal force spinning out with new energies, and new humanism. But outside expansion has reached its limits. We are moving into a new kind of opposite phase that could be called neo-medievalism. It is more a sense of implosion. We feel the limits, we feel the ecological pressures of the biosphere, we feel the limits of certain kinds of industrial mentalities. Lewis Thomas, in Lives of a Cell, says the planet is most like a living cell and that we are all organelles within the single cell. If that is your perception of nature then your vision of your economic relationship with your neighbor is quite different than if you feel you are an autonomous individual moving around in a free market system, that you are basically by yourself. So that as one vision of interconnections goes out and another one comes in, the implications of personal relationships, of economic relationships, of political relationships all follow from this new archetypal world image."


The Digital Renaissance as Neo-Medievalism

Douglas Rushkoff, interviewed by ERIN LYNCH:

* In one of your recent lectures at The New School you talked about the initial purposes of the industrial age, one of which was to remove peer-to-peer transaction. Do you see that reversing and what would be the overall benefits of it?

I see almost everything about the industrial age being reversed by the things being “retrieved” by the digital age. A renaissance means old, repressed ideas being reborn (re-naissance) in a new context. So industrialism really came out of the last renaissance, which was largely about rebirthing the ideas of ancient Greece and Rome: centralization of authority, empire, and expansion.

Today’s renaissance would retrieve the medieval values (not the lifestyle!) that were stamped out by the renaissance: crafts, peer-to-peer trading at the market, local value creation…even craft beers! Really, it’s no coincidence that the cultural expressions of the digital age – like Burning Man and etsy – share so many medieval qualities.

The benefits of reversing the dehumanizing bias of the industrial age – the drive to reduce human involvement and intervention in production and expansion – is to put the economy and technology back in the service of human beings, instead of letting them continue to devalue us. Because today’s technologies are so much more powerful than they were in the era of the steam engine. If we program them to remove human interference, this time they may be able to do it." (