Note — Nov 25, 2018

The Complicated Legacy of Stewart Brand’s “Whole Earth Catalog”

Brand, as cited in the piece, is probably right that his influence is often overstated. However, he definitely has influenced a lot of people and it’s worth knowing the catalog’s history.

Certain elements of the “Whole Earth Catalog” haven’t aged particularly well: the pioneer rhetoric, the celebration of individualism, the disdain for government and social institutions, the elision of power structures, the hubris of youth. […]

While antagonism between millennials and boomers is a Freudian trope, Brand’s generation will leave behind a frightening, if unintentional, inheritance. My generation, and those after us, are staring down a ravaged environment, eviscerated institutions, and the increasing erosion of democracy. In this context, the long-term view is as seductive as the apolitical, inward turn of the communards from the nineteen-sixties. What a luxury it is to be released from politics––to picture it all panning out.