Harper's still has it. Over a double scotch last night on the night flight home from the Vital Speeches home office in Phoenix, Saul Bellow derided my curmudgeonliness (in an excerpt from an essay in 1951):
The idea that we are at the degenerate dwarf-end of history is one that [a writer] must reject as he rejects his own childishness. Writers have a conservative tendency, in the literal meaning of the word, and are hostile toward the future. The future may destroy, or ignore, their premises, their beliefs, their assumptions, all that they have received from the past.
But just as I was resolving to embrace every shiny new thing from brand journalism and Bruno Mars, Wendell Berry said I'm perfectly justified—nay, heroic!—in resisting no less a force than the Industrial Revolution itself!
My premise is that there is a scale of work at which our minds are as effective and even as harmless as they ought to be, at which we can be fully responsible for consequences and there are no catastrophic surprises. But such a possibility does not excite us.
What excites us is some sort of technological revolution: the fossil-fuel revolution, the automotive revolution, the assembly-line revolution, the antibiotic revolution, the "green revolution," the genomic revolution, and so on. But these revolutions—all with something to sell that people or their government "must" buy—are all mere episodes of the one truly revolutionary revolution perhaps in the history of the human race, the Industrial Revolution, which has proceeded from the beginning with only two purposes: to replace human workers with machines, and to market its products, regardless of their usefulness or their effects, to generate the highest possible profit—and so to concentrate wealth into ever fewer hands.
This revolution has, so far, fulfilled its purposes with remarkably few checks or thwarts. I say "so far" because its great weakness is obviously its dependence on what it calls "natural resources," which it has used ignorantly and foolishly, and which it has progressively destroyed. Its weakness, in short, is that its days are numbered.
Having squandered nature's "resources," it will finally yield to nature's correction, which in prospect grows ever harsher.
So should I embrace the future despite the fact that it may destroy my premises? Or should I continue to remind my readers and myself that my "premises, beliefs and assumptions" are timeless if homely economic and human truths that we have had enough oil to ignore for the last 200 years?
Honestly, I never liked any of Bellow's books anyway.