Industrial Society and Its Future begins with Kaczynski's assertion: "The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race." He writes that technology has had a destabilizing effect on society, has made life unfulfilling, and has caused widespread psychological suffering. He argues that most people spend their time engaged in useless pursuits because of technological advances; he calls these "surrogate activities" wherein people strive toward artificial goals, including scientific work, consumption of entertainment, and following sports teams. He predicts that further technological advances will lead to extensive human genetic engineering and that human beings will be adjusted to meet the needs of the social systems, rather than vice versa. He believes that technological progress can be stopped, unlike people who understand technology's negative effects yet passively accept it as inevitable. He calls for a return to "wild nature."
Kaczynski argues that the erosion of human freedom is a natural product of an industrial society because "the system has to regulate human behavior closely in order to function", and that reform of the system is impossible because "changes large enough to make a lasting difference in favor of freedom would not be initiated because it would be realized that they would gravely disrupt the system". However, he states that the system has not yet fully achieved "control over human behavior" and "is currently engaged in a desperate struggle to overcome certain problems that threaten its survival". He predicts that "if the system succeeds in acquiring sufficient control over human behavior quickly enough, it will probably survive. Otherwise it will break down," and that "the issue will most likely be resolved within the next several decades, say 40 to 100 years". He states that the task of those who oppose industrial society is to promote "social stress and instability" and to propagate "an ideology that opposes technology", one that offers the "counter-ideal" of nature "in order to gain enthusiastic support". A "revolution against technology may be possible" when industrial society is sufficiently unstable.
Throughout the document, Kaczynski addresses left-wing politics as a movement. He defines leftists as "mainly socialists, collectivists, 'politically correct' types, feminists, gay and disability activists, animal rights activists and the like", states that leftism is driven primarily by "feelings of inferiority" and "oversocialization", and derides leftism as "one of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world". He additionally states that "a movement that exalts nature and opposes technology must take a resolutely anti-leftist stance and must avoid all collaboration with leftists", as in his view "leftism is in the long run inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the elimination of modern technology". He also criticizes conservatives, describing them as "fools" who "whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth."