Planetary Service

A Way into the Third Millenium

by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, as Dienst auf dem Planeten.

In Planetary Service, Rosenstock-Huessy formulates his tripartite law of technological change: every such advance shortens time, widens space, and destroys a familiar social group. “The three gifts of technology: the acceleration of time, the widening of space, and the destruction of the existing peace must be offset, and they must be offset with the help of people who have nothing to do with technology.”

Modern technology shrinks space and shortens time, and in its wake the question of how to change borders in a shrinking world arises. Borders cannot simply be dismissed; they protect their societies’ most important cultural heritage. And changing borders has hitherto nearly always required war; in a shrinking world, all war has become civil war. So what offers a way out, a “moral equivalent of war” in William James’ words? Rosenstock-Huessy believes that the answer to this pressing question is work service, that borders can be overcome by freely and openly addressing one another, and that shared labor creates the necessary shared space for conversation.

This book is important for everyone with an interest in voluntary work services, or hopes for its eventual universal requirement, but it has its flaws. When Rosenstock-Huessy was asked to write it in 1965 (in German, for Germans), he was already 77; the 1978 translation by Freya von Moltke and Mark Huessy of necessity leaves much of that specific material aside. Their work offers the American reader vivid evidence that work-service was at the heart of Rosenstock-Huessy’s life and work.

Argo Books, 2001. Paperback, 144 pages.