Standardised




Standardised                     -                      Bespoke
Machine                            -                      Human
Unit                                   -                      Individual
Large scale                        -                      Small scale
Efficient                            -                      Inefficient




[…] quantity will predominate over quality in individuals to the extent that they approach a condition in which they are, so to speak, mere individuals and nothing more, and to the extent that they are thereby more separate one from another […]

This separation turns individuals into so many 'units’, and turns their collectivity into quantitative multiplicity; at the limit, these individuals would be no more than something comparable to the imagined ‘atoms’ of the physicists, deprived of every qualitative determination; and although this limit can never in fact be reached, it lies in the direction which the world of today is following.

A mere glance at things as they are is enough to make it clear that the aim is everywhere to reduce everything to uniformity, whether it be human beings themselves or the things among which they live, and it is obvious that such a result can only be obtained by suppressing as far as possible every qualitative distinction; but it is particularly to be noted that some people, through a strange delusion, are all too willing to mistake this ‘uniformization’ for a ‘unification', whereas it is really exactly the opposite, as must appear evident in the light of the ever more marked accentuation of 'separativity’ implied.

It must be insisted that quantity can only separate and cannot unite; everything that proceeds from ‘matter’ produces nothing but antagonism, in many diverse forms, between fragmentary ʻunits' that are at a point directly opposite to true unity, or at least are pressing toward that point with all the weight of a quantity no longer balanced by quality […]

[René Guénon] 
The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, p. 47-8

 


[…] according to the traditional conception, it is the essential qualities of beings that determine their activity; according to the profane conception on the other hand, these qualities are no longer taken into account, and individuals are regarded as no more than interchangeable and purely numerical ‘units'. 

The latter conception can only logically lead to the exercise of a wholly ‘mechanical’ activity, in which there remains nothing truly human, and that is exactly what we can see happening today. 

It need hardly be said that the ‘mechanical’ activities of the moderns, which constitute industry properly so called and are only a product of the profane deviation, can afford no possibility of an initiatic kind, and further, that they cannot be anything but obstacles to the development of all spirituality; indeed they cannot properly be regarded as authentic crafts, if that word is to retain the force of its traditional meaning.

There is thus no difficulty in seeing how far removed true craft is from modern industry, so much so that the two are as it were opposites, and how far it is unhappily true that in the reign of quantity the craft is, as the partisans of 'progress' so readily declare, a ‘thing of the past'.

The workman in industry cannot put into his work anything of himself, and a lot of trouble would even be taken to prevent him if he had the least inclination to try to do so; but he cannot even try, because all his activity consists solely in making a machine go, and because in addition he is rendered quite incapable of initiative by the professional 'formation' - or rather deformation - he has received, which is practically the antithesis of the ancient apprenticeship, and has for its sole object to teach him to execute certain movements ‘mechanically’ and always in the same way, without having at all to understand the reason for them or to trouble himself about the result, for it is not he, but the machine, that will really fabricate the object.

Servant of the machine, the man must become a machine himself, and thenceforth his work has nothing really human in it, for it no longer implies the putting to work of any of the qualities that really constitute human nature.

The end of all this is what is called in present-day jargon ‘mass-production’, the purpose of which is only to produce the greatest possible quantity of objects, and of objects as exactly alike as possible, intended for the use of men who are supposed to be no less alike; that is indeed the triumph of quantity, as was pointed out earlier, and it is by the same token the triumph of uniformity.

[René Guénon] 
The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, p. 58, 60-1




The conclusion that emerges clearly from all this is that uniformity, in order that it may be possible, presupposes beings deprived of all qualities and reduced to nothing more than simple numerical ‘units'; also that no such uniformity is ever in fact realizable, while the result of all the efforts made to realize it, notably in the human domain, can only be to rob beings more or less completely of their proper qualities, thus turning them into something as nearly as possible like mere machines; and machines, the typical product of the modern world, are the very things that represent, in the highest degree attained up till now, the predominance of quantity over quality. 

From a social viewpoint, ‘democratic' and 'egalitarian' conceptions tend toward exactly the same end, for according to them all individuals are equivalent one to another. 

This idea carries with it the absurd supposition that everyone is equally well fitted for anything whatsoever, though nature provides no example of any such 'equality’, for the reasons already given, since it would imply nothing but a complete similitude between individuals; but it is obvious that, in the name of this assumed 'equality’, which is one of the topsy-turvy 'ideals' most dear to the modern world, individuals are in fact directed toward becoming as nearly alike one to another as nature allows - and this in the first place by the attempt to impose a uniform education on everyone. 

It is no less obvious that differences of aptitude cannot in spite of everything be entirely suppressed, so that a uniform education will not give exactly the same results for all; but it is all too true that, although it cannot confer on anyone qualities that he does not possess, it is on the contrary very well to suppress in everyone all possibilities above the common level; this ‘levelling’ always works downward: indeed, it could not work in any other way, being itself only an expression of the tendency toward the lowest, that is, toward pure quantity […]

[René Guénon]
The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, p. 51-2



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