An introduction to the thought of George Parkin Grant, on the centenary of his birth (Part Four)
By Mark Wegierski
George Grant's radical critique of the current-day situation lies in the realization that there is no ultimate contradiction between social liberalism or libertinism (as typified by the philosophy of Herbert Marcuse, and the catchphrase -- "if it feels good, do it"); and economic conservatism (or neoconservatism) (the dominance of the big corporations). Grant writes: "The directors of General Motors and the followers of Professor Marcuse sail down the same river in different boats." Both impulses actually reinforce each other, and both serve to shut out any communitarian ideas from playing a part on the modern scene -- ideas which Grant clearly cherishes. Grant pessimistically argues that any socialism which does not question technology, technological development, and hedonism, is no different from capitalism.
Grant would be very skeptical of whether socialism can, in the long run, be any sort of alternative to capitalism. It is not that he disagrees to the idea of the alliance of true Tories and socialists (on those issues where it may be possible); nor does he want to cease to hope that socialism would somehow be able to stop capitalism. Rather, his careful, pessimistic analysis of socialism suggests that it, in fact, offers no real alternative to capitalism. Grant really suggests no positive alternatives of his own for the future -- his radical analysis of the current situation suggests an attitude that the abyss is opening up before humanity and nothing can be done to avoid it. Socialism, since it is, at its roots, materialistic, non-religious, and so forth, poses no real challenge to the status-quo. It too ultimately has a modern and technological outlook. It is but a different means to the same end, or rather, a different means to no end.
For Grant, technology is seen as a total, all-encompassing world-view and force, which has its own drives and tendencies, which -- although initially perhaps, very attractive-seeming -- end up being contrary to human nature. The whole technological system is hurtling "forward" on its own trajectories, with human beings its captive passengers. This "drive towards mastery of human and non-human nature", this "spirit of dynamic technique", is unstoppable and not amenable to change. Grant is in the ironic and paradoxical position of effectively being a technological determinist who criticizes technology, because it will result in the end of everything that has ever had meaning to humanity. (One may conjecture it would be a world perhaps similar to that of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World dystopia.)
Canada, the neighbour of the most dynamic technological society that has ever existed in human history, is quite simply doomed to absorption into America – or what amounts to America in the current-day world. If America is said to be in moral and spiritual decline, then Canada must also be seen as disintegrating.
Grant's main thesis is that the end result of technological liberalism will be a conceptually homogenous, universal, hyper-technological, hypermodern world-state in which all sense of humanity and human ethicality will be lost. It is difficult to argue with Grant's thesis, if one accepts his description of technology and its inherent drives as valid. The only hope Grant leaves us with is the hope of Divine Providence -- he ends one of his most important works (Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism, 1965) with a quote from Virgil's Aeneid, "...their arms were outstretched to the further shore...”
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.