Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 09:42:12 AM EST
Below is a comment meant for Jerome's Neo-feudalism and neo-nihilism, that turned into a diary:
I've said before that I disagree (and so agree with Migel Sanchez) with this loose use of "feudalism" as an analogy for the socio-economic order most of us see coming into being. Feudalism was a highly-coded system of mutual obligations, sanctioned by religion, in which membership of a particular class was strictly regulated and clearly visible. You can rush in with parallels, and there are many suggested in Jerome's diary and the discussion on it, but all of them are too approximate or strained. What's emerging is something new, in which those at the top don't even need to offer guarantees in return for their power (one thing that died the death in the latest financial crisis was already-sick old Fordism), or engage in struggle with the regalian power of the State, since by various means they possess inordinate influence over it.
I've no idea what to call it, and it might be argued that "feudalism" is as good a catchword as another since most people make a face when they hear it. But I'd suggest that accepting it may simply obfuscate and delay a more accurate description of what's going on.
Enough pedantry, the neo-nihilism is more of a problem, imo. That the social redistribution systems built in the postwar years are being more or less speedily dismantled to pay for and permit more of the risk-taking of the financial sector, is now quite widely understood. I meet people who are ready to protest against this, perhaps even to move on to a more serious fight (this is in France...). All the same, there's a lost-cause undercurrent one can feel. And not everyone wants to fight. Among younger people, as Bernard points out
, it's common to say "there'll be no pension for me". The corollary seems to be "I'll deal with it myself". If you were to say: "Tomorrow, there'll be no health insurance", that might get the same response. When you're young enough, you may feel you've got time to work things out and nothing bad will happen to you. And what's widespread is the notion that I (or a clannish "we") can fight my/our way through in a competitive world.
It's like competitiveness for countries: if all countries fight to become competitive, they will all have a trade surplus. So with individuals: if we all perform well in a competitive system, we will all win. Well, no. There'll be winners and losers. In fact, far more of the latter than the former. But I'll make it. Whatever it takes, I'll get by.
So there's a fair amount (as in, "a lot") of illusion involved. The illusion is not without an ideological basis in notions surrounding competition and the individual. Individualism is the key poison that has seeped through a couple of generations now, since even while the "boomers" were dreaming of a new world they were even more passionately holding that each should do his/er own thing, that it was his/er own dreams s/he should accomplish. Is this wrong, is it quite impossible to imagine a just and equal society in which each individual may follow his dream, is moot. Moot because, in the context of empowerment of globalising financial capitalism that kicked off in the '70s, romantic individualism became, for most, simply subsumed into the individualism of the liberal economy. In point of historical fact, an entire generation that hankered after a better and fairer world, did little to bring it about. And the key neolib themes of competition and economic individualism made their way into the Zeitgeist practically unchallenged.
And they are there now, undermining even the determination of those who think they should put up a fight. Check the sexiness of terms like "collective", "cooperate", "collaborate", "mutual", "reciprocal", (for example). They barely exist in today's ideological space (with a possible Nordic exception, see ChrisCook and Sven T), and they have largely been disqualified as belonging to some proven-bankrupt red-flag nightmare.
What can we do? Accurately describe what's happening without reaching for the crutch of imprecise historical analogies, for one ;). Attempt (however difficult it may be) to undermine the foundations of the common wisdom, the manufactured consent that keep the technocrats and communicators on the strait and narrow. These are things ET can have a shot at, even though we don't even scale to David v Goliath. Harder still - who has the mythology of human cooperation that needs to put individualism in its place? Who can think it, flesh it out, brand it, market it, push it?
See anyone else moving on this?