“According to the principle of necessary subtraction, the only right and reasonable thing for the radically convinced person on many historical occasions is to simply withdraw from the system--to refuse to participate in the social game, to quite simply leave the system in order to build up parallel, temporary utopias, whose objectives with time are made permanent--and to do this together with dedicated syntheist brothers and sisters." - Alexander Bard & Jan Soderqvist, "Syntheism"
As the authors of “Syntheism” point out, the bloody revolutions associated with the Western Enlightenment were of a different nature than the revolutions needed in the information age. Whereas the printing press was the technological driver of the previous paradigm shift, the Internet is the driver of this one. And whereas the last revolution led to the emergence of the nation-state and of the dominance of capitalism, this revolution is bringing into question these interlocking systems and inviting a new vision for how we might live together.
This principle is about recognizing the necessity of subtracting ourselves from the current political, cultural, & economic systems that we’re currently embedded within and dependent upon. Without subtracting--i.e. becoming independent of--we aren’t free to imagine living in new ways; we can’t dream up and build out new temporary utopias, because we’re still caught in the previous nightmare of the Western Enlightenment. As is famously said in the Japanese Zen tradition, “Today’s enlightenment is tomorrow’s mistake.” The principle of necessary subtraction is the means by which we collectively liberate ourselves from the shackles of our previous Enlightenments.