Planned obsolescence or eternal being?

(Second of two editorials discussing critical challenges mankind face in a highly technological society. The first, which appeared last week, was entitled "No mechanized man. ")

A constant turnover of goods and products is considered necessary to the economic structure of an industrialized society. A consequence of abusing this process, however, is that many people have come to accept planned obsolescence virtually as a standard of life. From automobiles on the highways to the electric toaster on the kitchen counter, so many of the things around us seem to be purposely predestined to fall apart.

The implications of such a world view go much deeper than merely the breakdown of the machines and contraptions that provide material comforts. And one commentator on twentieth-century experience has suggested, "Perhaps it is this specter that most haunts working men and women: the planned obsolescence of people that is of a piece with the planned obsolescence of the things they make." Studs Terkel, Working (New York: Avon, 1975), p. xxii .

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God's doers
February 7, 1983

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