by Gary L. Gregg II
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
“I find it a far more defensible belief than the one implicit in intemperate faith in lawless technological progress—namely, that man is on earth to create more durable and efficient images of himself, and, hence, to eliminate any justification at all for his own continued existence.”
We think of Vonnegut as a consummate man of the left, drawn mostly from the pacifist stances of such novels as Slaughterhouse Five, but at least in Player Piano he hits upon some of the major themes that have concerned thoughtful conservatives for half a century—the boredom of modernity, centralization, mechanization, the consequences of technological innovation, and the thoughtless drive toward “progress.” In our age where STEM, unburdened by concerns of ethics or metaphysics, is becoming the driving force in our educational system, where technological “progress” whirls faster than at any time in human history, where universities, government, and business interests are linked closer than ever before, and our welfare rolls have grown exponentially, Vonnegut’s Player Piano might be even more timely today than when it was published sixty years ago.
Gary L. Gregg is author of Thinking about the Presidency.
Republished with the gracious permission of the University Bookman.