Though prolific author C.S. Lewis is often regarded as a writer of children’s stories and a Christian apologist, his writings delved into much more; in fact, Lewis had much to say about and even predicted the current totalitarian “scientocracy,” or, technocracy, that American society is currently experiencing. Lewis was just as much a political theorist who focused on justice and morality as he was a novelist, and his works should be studied by any of us who seek to overthrow the yolk of technocratic government endemic to our domestic and international sociopolitical structures.
Lewis’s background is in classical thought, particularly the works of Plato and Aristotle, which influenced his interest in justice and injustice, tyranny and totalitarianism.
So, what was it that concerned Lewis so much? Well, he was particularly worried about a form of totalitarianism he called “scientocracy.” This is where governments leverage technology to control all aspects of life, erasing the personal and public divide. He believed that the omnipotent Welfare State, while tackling real problems, would simultaneously create opportunities for enslavement.
In a letter to a Chicago journalist written in 1959, Lewis expressed, “Ought we to be surprised at the approach of ‘scientocracy’? In every age those who wish to be our masters, if they have any sense, secure our obedience by offering deliverance from our dominant fear. When we fear wizards, the Medicine Man can rule the whole tribe. When we fear a stronger tribe, our best warrior becomes King. When all the world fears Hell, the Church becomes a theocracy. ‘Give up your freedom and I will make you safe’ is, age after age, the terrible offer. In England the omnipotent Welfare State has triumphed because it promised to free us from the fear of poverty.”
As the modern state shifts its focus from protecting our rights to improving our lives, and even attempting to improve human nature itself, Lewis worried about the consequences of governments wielding such power. He questioned whether there was a moral reality woven into the fabric of the universe or if morality was something malleable, a tool for the powerful.
This question of moral reality is a central theme in Lewis’s works, such as The Abolition of Man. Interestingly, Lewis doesn’t rely on divine revelation or religious scripture to ground his arguments. Instead, he focuses on the reality of the moral law itself and the stark alternatives to objective morality.
There are three main ideas that emerge from Lewis’ work on this subject. First, he believed that human education should be based on the nature of humans as reasoning and feeling creatures, with reason in the driver’s seat. He saw reason as more than mere calculation and argued that it should guide our emotions and appetites.
Second, Lewis posited that reason reveals a reality that does not depend on us for its truth. In essence, he was advocating for moral realism. He sought an “overlapping consensus” about the bedrock reality of moral truths, regardless of whether one ascribes to a theistic or atheistic worldview.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Lewis’s work continues to resonate today because advances in technology have made questions about reengineering human nature practical rather than merely hypothetical. While these debates stretch back to antiquity, the means to accomplish the abolition of man and woman seem closer to reality than ever before. We now live in an age in which social engineering is no longer theoretical, but is actually being practiced on a macro-level scale.
As we grapple with the consequences of rapidly advancing technology and the potential for totalitarianism, Lewis’s works are perhaps more relevant than ever. As a political thinker, he offers valuable insights that can guide our understanding of the relationship between morality, human nature, and the role of government. It’s time we paid attention to this often-overlooked aspect of his work and thought.