A Technocrat for the Counterculture

Fred Turner 

In 1965 Buckminster Fuller was 70 years old. Short, plump, bespectacled, and when he spoke in public, often clad in a three-piece suit with an honorary Phi Beta Kappa key dangling at its waist, Fuller looked like nothing so much as an early 20thcentury plutocrat. When he took the stage, he filled the air with hours of technocratic talk, much of it of his own design. Industry! Technology! The Space Program! Leaping from topic to topic across sentences decorated with his own fabulously recondite vocabulary, Fuller spun a cotton candy of machineage dreams. New chemicals, new alloys and new ways of measuring the ever-more massive output of international industry; like the most visionary corporate executive of the high industrial era, Fuller urged his listeners to imagine a world made good by machinery, management and design. And yet, for all his obvious allegiance to the ideals of the industrial world, Fuller was also a hero to the young members of the American counterculture. Two of his books, Ideas and Integrities (1963) and Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969), became staples of hippie libraries across America. His lectures became magnets for the young and his geodesic domes became the preferred housing of many rural communards. In 1968, his writings became the inspiration for the publication that has long been seen as the bible of the back-to-the-land movement and a signal document of the counterculture, the Whole Earth Catalog. To all those who had wandered off into the plains of Colorado and the hills of New Mexico to build new communities, and to all those who dreamed of making such a move, Buckminster Fuller was an inspiration...[+]

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