Zeitgeist Movement

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URL: http://thezeitgeistmovement.com/


The Zeitgeist Movement describes itself as a worldwide grassroots movement advocating social change, most significantly that of society transitioning from a monetary based economy to a resource-based economy. This group used to be noted on their website as 'the activist arm of the The Venus Project', a non profit venture by designer and social engineer Jacque Fresco, before the two organizations split in 2011. The movement claims to have approximately 500,000 subscribers.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Zeitgeist_Movement)


Quite a few people consider the movie based on unsupported conspiracy theories and the movement unhealthy because of the cult-like behaviour of leader Peter Merola ("Peter Joseph").

1. Jeremy Green:

"In fact, the whole Zeitgeist thing is strongly reminiscent of the C19th utopian socialists that Engels derided so successfully. If the Zeitgeisters have heard of Saint-Simon and the Comptean Positivists, or even the Owenists, they gave no sign of doing so, but they need to hear about them. They need to know that there have been movements before that have thought that technology has just reached the point at which it can deliver abundance without injury to the planet and in such a way that class conflict will become unnecessary. They need to know that these movements failed, dismally, and they need to have a good think about why. The idea that the world could be better run by a scientific elite of experts has an old provenance too, as is the notion that this is somehow 'apolitical'. In fact this thread runs through the philosophies of both Left and Right, particularly in Britain, where it was a component of both Fabianism and Moseley's Fascism. Come to think of it, the Zeitgeisters could profit from some time reading H.G. Wells' “The Shape of Things to Come”. Perhaps one of the reasons why some on the Left are so upset about the Zeitgeist Movement is that it reminds us that we've been steeped in this sort of thing ourselves, at least sometimes." (https://jezzascuriousblog.blogspot.be/2013/03/z-day-at-south-bank-university.html)

Assessment by Eric Hunting

Eric Hunting:

"Some here have mentioned the recent apparent 'success' of the Zeitgeist movement and the related Venus Project. I think there are some important lessons for us in their story. But I'd hazard to call it a success because, in fact, while they have been very successful at gathering attention, they've so far failed quite miserably at doing anything constructive with it. The name Zeitgeist is very apt because that's the key thing in their story. For something around 50 years -yes, 50 years- Jacque Fresco has been cultivating one of the largest bodies of futurist media work ever created, all produced almost entirely by himself. And the production value of this one man's labor is incredible. Though some of his design has become stylistically anachronistic, there is no question of this man's genius. I am so envious of his talent, skill, and energy. The things we could have done with that in the FMF/LUF! And all of this has been done to try and communicate and sell one idea; the great rewards of adopting a Post-Industrial culture based on a sustainable scientifically managed resource based economic system. It's basically the same cultural model Marshal Savage described in TMP as the basis of creating a spacefaring civilization. The same idea for recovering and repurposing the vast amount of social productivity that we squander today on other people's profit and an endless cycle of war and social/racial oppression. Savage just couldn't get into it to the same depth -how much can you pack into one book?

But in those 50 years, after the production of a book, countless designs, works of art, and models, numerous media interviews, and a whole series of very nice documentary videos, the only physical accomplishment of The Venus Project is the construction of Fresco's own futuristic home/studio compound in Venus Florida -and they nearly lost that as it went up for sale a few years ago. (folks here may remember I was actually toying with the notion of buying it to use as the LUF HQ because I feared what the knuckle-headed developers in Florida will do with such lovely architecture and because we desperately need the same kind of studio and workshop facilities) What went wrong? Well, the key problem is that the Venus Project narrative is critically incomplete. Fresco is a designer and thinks like one. He does the 'visioneering'. The messy details of implementation is someone else's department -and that someone else never materialized. He believed that if he could just paint a sufficiently compelling picture of the future it would make everyone realize the abject squalor of contemporary life and demand a revolution. But pictures of lovely architecture and sexy cars, planes, and boats don't tell you how to get from A to B. The Venus Project is like a beautiful matt painting of a wonderful city propped-up on the horizon but with no obvious path going there. It's a Greek temple on a golf course model of the future. And so the public never got it. (do you remember when I once suggested here that every settlement in TMP should plan to include a Greek themed miniature golf course?)

What has now brought The Venus Project back from the brink of oblivion is Peter Joseph; the man who made the Zeitgeist films. Whatever you might think about the content of these films, you have to respect his talent and their ability to draw attention. (personally, I think the first films were a bit dumb. The latest should have been the first one, because it finally gets to the heart of the concept of a mass social pathology as Fresco has always characterized the contemporary situation and clearly defines what a resource based economy is) The reason these films have been so much more effective than the 50 years of work done by Fresco is that they clued into the actual contemporary zeitgeist. All his life, Fresco has been swimming upstream against a current of middle-class complacency and Cold War propaganda inspired paranoia about alternative cultural models. It's hard to get people to realize they live in abject squalor when everything else around them keeps reinforcing the delusion that they live in the best of all possible worlds and anyone who suggests otherwise is trying to take it away. One aspect of Post-Industrial cultural theory Fresco missed was that the modern middle-class -particularly in the US- was very deliberately cultivated as a stop-gap measure against the tide of cultural revolution that began to rise in the wake of the Great Depression. A big middle-class was, quite literally, created to keep the working and underclasses down. The middle-class is the foreman class -which is why cops always identify themselves as middle-class. (could they be cops otherwise?) I often joke that America positioned itself over the 20th century as the Pointy Haired Boss of the world. But that's not just a joke. We became the world's clueless self-absorbed middle-mananagement. Only now the jig is up. The inherent unsustainability of Industrial Age economics has -as anticipated as far back as the end of WWII- caught up with us. We are in an era of accelerating successive economic and environmental catastrophe and the ruling class is desperately trying to circle the wagons and cash-out in advance of the ultimate collapse they've engineered. And the cultural result of all this is a wave of middle-class anxiety throughout the industrialized world.

Joseph has clued into that. Clued into that aspect of Fresco's versions of modern history and economics that basically explain how and why the world got f-ed up. And then he played-up the angle of conspiracy because that very effectively pushes people's buttons. Fresco only talked about a socio-economic pathology inherent to a culture that evolved with the early Industrial Age unable to fully shake-off the vestiges of feudalism and a peasant psychology. Other progressives aren't so moderate. They will point fingers at specific people and institutions benefiting from social exploitation and start declaring it time to build guillotines. I can't say if that's right or wrong, but it's been effective at motivating people by turning unfocused mass despair into directed anger. Combine this with the novelty of the Internet as an alternative to the now tainted and dubious corporate mass media, and you've got a 'movement'.

But anger directed to what? As I understand it, the Zeitgeist movement loses people at about the same fast rate it now wins them because once these now motivated folks start joining groups and forums and going to Venus Project conferences and lectures, they discover there is nothing for them to actually do because Fresco simply never had a plan to build his model future. Just a design. Just a Futurama exhibit. Zeitgeist leadership seems to be becoming aware of this problem and is trying to address it, but they've been in denial and operating in a vacuum relative to the larger global progressive movement for a long time. They have a lot of ground to cover while the enthusiasm they've finally won rots on the vine. " (open manufacturing mailing list, March 2011)

More Information

  1. The Zeitgeist Movement Activist and Orientation Guide (Old version), http://thepiratebay.se/torrent/5185193/The_Zeitgeist_Movement_Activist_and_Orientation_Guide_(83_pages)
  2. Zeitgeist Movement Defined: Realizing a New Train of Thought (Current Orientation Guide), http://thezeitgeistmovement.com/orientation
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technocratic_movement ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technocracy
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Venus_Project
  5. Peter Joseph on Economic Calculation in Resource-Based Economics