The tragedy of the Thermostat; Solipsistic v. co-created individuation

Wood, John. 2007. The tragedy of the Thermostat; Solipsistic v. co-created individuation. Systemica: Journal of the Dutch Systems Group, 14, pp. 475-490. [Article]

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ABSTRACT This paper asks how far the destructive aspects of over-consumption can be attributed to Western approaches to technology and individualisation. It reminds us that the autonomy of the monarch became a convenient prototype for the emancipation of the ordinary citizen and draws attention to the adverse ecological consequences of this development. Just as palace officials are inclined to shield Kings and Queens from certain unpalatable truths, so today's producers isolate their consumers from the ecological system that nourishes and sustains them. As a consequence, consumers enjoy strong individual rights of consumption but carry few acknowledged responsibilities, apart from payment. Taking a designer's perspective the paper shows how industrialists encouraged individualism as a catalyst for economic growth. Here, product diversification became integrated with consumer individuation (Forty, 1986) to become an increasingly co-productive process. In this system, people and things become equivalent. The rhetorical self- identity of products (Buchanan, 1989) regulate the self-identity of consumers, and vice versa. When the process takes place within a stridently competitive system of economic production it leads to the self-increasing flow of materials and energy. The system is also sustained by myths of solipsism that encourage individual citizens to consume, despite the inevitable consequences for all. (Hardin, 1977; Festinger, 1957; Sloterdijk, 1988)

the tragedy of the thermostat solipsistic v. co-created individuation. Available from: [accessed Aug 12, 2015].

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12 Aug 2015 14:03

Last Modified:

23 Jun 2017 13:16


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