- Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell (April 1973)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385027389
- ISBN-13: 978-0385027380
- Package Dimensions: 7 x 4.2 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #839,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Where the Wasteland Ends Paperback – April, 1973
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Roszak analyzes the single vision philosophy of the Judeo-Christian tradition and its descendant, science. These two seemingly opposing philosophies are seen as the foundation of the creation of the dominant technocracy which is poisoning the planet and alienating manking. His analyses of Blake, Wordsworth, and Goethe are also interesting and erudite. The amazing feat of this book is that he broadens his analysis of the Counter Culture to the foundational roots of the problem. An amazing, life-changing book, which will make you re-evaluate "progress" and the alienating powers of our technocratic age. It should be required reading for all philosophy and science classes.
Top customer reviews
Contrary to the negative review below, Roszak is far from despising science. What he's critiquing is "scientism," the idolatry of science & the rationalist worldview -- for that matter, he's just as far from despising reason, as well. Drawing upon William Blake in particular, his argument is that reason & science are PART of a living worldview, but do not constitute a viable worldview on their own. In short, he's critiquing the reductionist worldview that claims everything can be reduced to "nothing but."
Are human beings complex biological, or chemical, mechanisms? That argument can be made ... but are we "nothing but" biological or chemical mechanisms? If so, what does such an outlook mean for human beings & their culture? After all, machines can be replaced, rebuilt, bought & sold -- individual machines have no intrinsic worth, only utility -- mercy, pity, compassion, empathy have no bearing on the bottom line -- such are the moral & spiritual dilemmas Roszak poses for all of us.
Nobody can deny that we live in a world of astonishing technical breakthroughs & wonders. We can communicate with anyone around the world, we have access to vast libraries of information at the click of a mouse, we can download music & film & art from every culture & era in an instant, we can perform medical miracles ... but is that enough to make a better, more humane world?
If anything, the alienation & commodification of the human being that Roszak decried in 1972 has only grown worse in the passing decades. Despite the greater access to information, there's a general dumbing down of culture. Anti-intellectualism is a public virtue, narrow-minded fundamentalism of every stripe has made a ferocious, horrific comeback, and the culture as a whole is soaked in fear, anxiety, and a desperate hunger for hedonistic escape. Hardly the utopia promised by Progress!
What Roszak points out is the need for the Sacred, the Holy, the Meaningful -- which is NOT the same as the need for that old-time religion in any of its traditional forms. Indeed, it's quite possible to cultivate the Sacred without any belief in the supernatural, as it's essentially a holistic worldview, born of experience & wisdom, one which poets & philosophers have advocated for centuries. A mode of Being, rather than merely Existing.
Granted, this approach can have dangers of its own -- just look at much of the vague New Age wooliness pervading our culture today. It's just as much an escape as fundamentalism, or easy bigotry, or mainlining one's drug of choice (chemical, electronic, sexual, take your pick). But again, Roszak isn't suggesting that we simply throw reason to the wind & eagerly embrace whatever feels good & makes us happy for the moment.
This book isn't an argument for easy panaceas, empty placeboes, slack thinking, or feel-good philosophies. It's a passionate plea for depth & wholeness, which seldom comes without hard work. As the culture becomes more vacuous, frenetic, dehumanized, so the need for an alternative worldview becomes more pressing. Roszak offers this critique as a starting point, a diagnosis of our present illness. The next step is up to each us.
Most highly recommended to all who seek a better life, a better world!
This book took my breath away.
Although I have many individual criticisms, (and indeed additional comments) to make to Mr Roszak on some points of his analysis of what is so desperately ailing western culture (no longer civilization, my friends...) I have no qualms whatsoever with the broad lines of his diagnosis :
Our culture has done its best to evacuate the overwhelming spiritual needs of human beings, reducing them to pablum, and ultimately channeling them into Saturday afternoon buying sprees at the local shopping mall, or Saturday afternoon buying sprees at the local pharmacy, to try to take care of our physical ills.
Well, putting a dollar sign on anything that lives, breathes, moves, ensures that we are going down the tube, faster and faster these days it seems, if anyone has noticed, and our modern day Tower of Babel -cum stock market is not about to prove me wrong.
On trial : the "scientific" ESTABLISHMENT, and certain promoters of a secular humanism that does its best to turn us all into reasonable, realistic automatons. (But don't take my word for it, see how Roszak ties all this together ; it's fascinating).
Written over 30 years go, Roszak's first chapters about the risks facing our society, have a prophetic ring that is almost frightening in its accuracy.
And the fundamentalist backlash against Enlightenment reductionist thought finds its own justification when subjected to the analysis that this book provides.
This book is number one on my list of must reads for anyone trying to understand what is going on in Western culture these days.
By the way, I know that I am generalizing. So what ?
Someone needs to generalize these days, otherwise, the bigger picture gets lost amidst all the details.
One last point : I have been saying for years that our culture has become materialistic and money grubbing without having the means to come to terms with the full implications of these statements.
Roszak has helped me do this.