Marshall McLuhan on Karl Marx, communism and “service environments”

“The mechanizing process that began in the eighteenth century and led to the development of new service environmentsthe press, the highway, the postal routes—was soon augmented by steam and rail. By the middle of the nineteenth century the extent of environmental services available to the workers of the community greatly exceeded the scale of services that could be monopolized by individual wealth. By Karl Marx’s time, a “communism” resulting from such services so far surpassed the older private wealth and services contained within the new communal environment that it was quite natural for Marx to use it as a rear-view mirror for his Utopian hopes. The paradox of poverty amidst plenty had begun. Even the pauper lived, and lives, in an environment of multi-billion dollar communal services. Yet communal wealth developed by the mechanical extensions of man was soon outstripped by the electric services that began with the telegraph and which steadily enhanced the information environment. With the advent of an electric information environment, all the territorial aims and objectives of business and politics tended to become illusory. By now Communism is something that lies more than a century behind us, and we are deep into the new age of tribal involvement.”

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