The idea that Reagan Ruined Everything seems to dominate, silently, the next chapter, “Decentralization Clarified.” I take this passage from its last paragraph to be its central idea:
In Kropotkin’s of G. D. H. Cole’s time it was still possible to imagine an entire modern social order based upon small-scale, directly democratic, widely dispersed centers of authority. Industrial society had not yet achieved its mature form; it was thinkable that decentralist alternatives might be feasible alternatives on a broad scale. Today, however, ideas of decentralization usually play a much different role, an expression of the faint hope one may still create institutions here and there that allow ordinary folks some small measure of autonomy.
A melancholy statement, and one that is truer now than when Winner wrote it. After all, it was about halfway between the writing of this book and out own moment when Scott McNealy told us, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”
Which in alternate moments makes me want to give up and makes me want to renew my determination to escape from Google. Ah, my early and innocent determination, how beautiful it was — and how distant it now seems. . . .