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Neo-feudalism and neo-nihilism

by Jerome a Paris Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 03:52:12 AM EST

One of the trends of our times has been this creeping move towards something that looks like feudalism, ie a system where wielding uncontested power (political or economic) becomes more important than what that power is used for. A more authoritarian, more unequal, and, ultimately, poorer world.

Those at the top have decided they didn't care that they could be better off, in absolute terms, in a fairer world - they are happy that they are richer, relatively speaking, and more powerful, in the system they are slowly bringing back by corroding all the great institutions that made our prosperity in the second half of the 20th century - good government, strong unions, the rule of law for (almost) everybody and good education and healthcare for all.

Some push that ideology out of naked short term self-interest. Many support it because it is wrapped in the name of individual freedom (be entrepreneurial and successful!) or validates their life (you earn what you deserve / you deserve what you earn); many go along because they yearn for simpler days when "people knew their place" or because they think their freedom and opportunity is hampered by some evil parasitic other.


But this is known and has been diagnosed by many, here and elsewhere. What has struck me over the past few weeks, as I was able to take a bit of quieter time off work and look around me, is the state of mind of a lot of people who are somewhat or fully aware of this situation.

They basically know that there is a massive transfer of wealth from the majority to a small minority, they see inequality rising and institutional solidarity being chipped away; they know that the political class is part of the problem and the parties of the left are only notionally so these days, ie that they are a lesser, slightly gentler, evil rather than a real alternative. They saw massive transfers to the banks and now they see the sustained calls to dismantle the social programmes that (still) work.

And they don't care anymore.

They don't expect that any politician will change this - indeed, those who have a chance to get to power are all more or less enabling it, and the others - well, they have no power and no chance to get any. And they don't expect that they are going to be able to do anything themselves in any meaningful way.

Call it despair, call it despondency, call it ignorance, but a lot of people are willfully retreating from the political scene. Add to that the need to focus on surviving - keeping your job, finding one, facing spiralling healthcare or debt service costs, etc... and you have people who by choice and by necessity are on their own. They don't find help when they need it, and they can't or won't provide it to others, because they don't have the resources, and because they can't see why they should pay for others (again - whether they believe they are already paying for bankers or for browner people)

Which in turn feeds selfishness in society, as people close off to one another beyond their immediate circle, and lose trust in government. (And by the way, this is why the "they all do it" meme is so corrosive - it destroys belief in, and support for, collective action, and as such it is always right-wing propaganda. We know ours are corrupt, but yours are too, so we'll stick to "our camp" against the alien you).

Most of the time, this just translates into brainless consumerism for those who still have money, and sullen bitterness for those who don't. But occasionally (and maybe this week-end's shooting can be seen as a warning), it can bubble up into something nastier. In fact, given the media's tendency to ignore or mock obviously left-wing protest movements, and to shine a light, often favorable or at least neutral, on rightwing events, people may be forgiven from thinking that hate-mongering populism seems more likely to succeed in changing things than the more idealistic kind.

And this is noticed, which feeds yet more cynicism and retrenchment into one's own.

It sounds like we rather desperately need hope and change.

Display:
Recommended.  Because I wasn't QUITE depressed enough already.

I'm going to sleep on this and hope that I awaken with a few suggestions for actions that could improve this situation in some tiny way.

Karen in Bischofswiesen

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Sun Jan 9th, 2011 at 04:02:06 PM EST
Indeed. I noticed that a frequent theme in the young adults generation is: "We won't get any pension" i.e. the pension system that we know today will be completely dismantled by the time they reach old age. So it's every man for him/herself.

It's no accident that this agenda is cynically pushed by business interests who'd love nothing more than replacing the current solidarity based systems (Social Security in the US, Assurance Vieillesse in France, etc...) by "market based" systems that will guarantee them a juicy rent extraction by the way of commissions and other "fees".

As E.Todd was putting it in "After Democracy", at some point the powers that be will just stop pretending and do away with formal representative democracy, merely acknowledging the full replacement of government by governance. The process has been well under way for some time now. There's No Alternative, as we all know.

If any ray of hope is to be found, it seems to me it is in the younger people: high school students who are taking to the streets and re-discovering the art and craft of collective action. Sure they may not stand a chance, but in the (not so) long run their generation will outlive ours.

This is especially true in what we call - sometimes dismissively - "the South countries": look at what's going on in Algeria, Tunisia.. Also look at the South American continent (Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela...); there are plenty of young people out there who have nothing to loose and (and you'll have to read part of my French here) will take none of that shit. [There, got it off my chest]

by Bernard on Sun Jan 9th, 2011 at 04:33:18 PM EST
that believing that you'll get screwed out of a pension is not incompatible with wanting there to be pensions. it just means you can read the writing on the wall, and are being realistic about what's in store for you.
by wu ming on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 04:20:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]

- idrewthis.org

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 06:44:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As J. Edgar Hoover used to say: "The wish if father of the thought!"  :-)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 11:36:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You know, Bernard, the thing that amazes me is that they DO stand a chance. The political and economic forces that made collective action so powerful in the past are still every bit as potent a force today as they ever were. In some ways more powerful. The predators are closer to the surface of the dark waters today, but just as dependent on the narcotized placidity of the "lower orders"

There are two huge things that make them powerless today.

The first thing is, of course, their belief that "That shit just doesn't work anymore". Wrong.

The second is the culture of selfish individualism, in which he who shares is a chump.

The generation of today is the most powerful in history.
They could bring the mighty to their knees in six months if only they gave a shit about someone besides themselves.
As long as it's Get Yours First, they'll be just meat.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 01:22:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I want to point out that a feudal system is not possible in a highly technical-developed society. There is no way you can sustain the machinery, the structure and the knowledge with a feudal system.

What you can indeed have is a "South-America in the 80's" world. That is, you can have societies where 30% are not considered citizens (no-status, hunger..), 30% have low level jobs, 30% are middle class (the technics sustaining hte knowledge) and 10% have huge amounts of wealth.

The present 15% of low wage workers, 70% roughly in the middle and 15% super rich can indeed change and become more unequal. But the famous 10% at the top and 90% in misery of feudal societies is just not possible.. luckily.  This is not to say that the world some people have in mind is not disgusting.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sun Jan 9th, 2011 at 05:36:55 PM EST
The idea that technological society can't be maintained under a feudal system needs to be investigated further.

In the feudalism of the middle ages, while it's true that technology didn't develop, there was a class of scribes who maintained the accumulated written knowledge. And there was a civil engineering class that specialized in technically complex cathedrals.

One must also ask what all of the future 10 billion people are going to do. Make-work is one good answer, and a feudal system can supply that through a complex and superfluous hierarchy of servants and minions, each with a specified rank and privilege. The railroad system in India seems to have that system figured out, as do most military establishments.

And who says that feudalism needs to be unpleasant? If it can supply a basic level of physical comfort, plus football and gossip, 90% of humanity will be perfectly happy. It's only the troublemakers who worry about social justice who get upset when the hierarchy isn't "fair."

The trick is for the ruling class to manage the system so that there's no revolution. With the lower classes enthusiastically supporting the current system, we're quite a ways from that sort of bother...

by asdf on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 03:12:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not actually true that technology did not develop in the middle ages. It did, but it was based on craftsmanship rather than centralised mass education.

It is quite probable that centralised mass education is necessary to maintain a technically sophisticated industrial society. But it is less than perfectly self-evident that this education cannot be co-opted by a feudal system. If you have a two-tier educational system in which corporations sponsor high-quality education in subjects that they like (and in a context that encourages loyalty to their bureaucracy), then you would have an almost classic late feudal system. As a member of the privileged classes you would get to pick which corporation you want to align with (and work in and pay off your student loans to). As a member of the underprivileged classes, your situation would be analogous to that of the Incas after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

I don't see how this can't possibly work, as long as the plunder remains profitable. And when it becomes unprofitable, all you have to do is corral in the lower classes with consumer credit. Then we've come full circle.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 07:09:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Spain it is already the case that the "added value" of a private University education is not a higher academic standard, but access to a "job bourse" at the end of the degree, or an internship during the degree leading to a job afterwards. Public universities, by and large, lack this.

The same is true of Master's degrees: in most cases the point is not to receive an education but to access an internship or job with one of the firms sponsoring the program.

If you have any appreciation for education or knowledge, or believe in universal access to education or equality of opportunity, the system is already repugnant.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 08:41:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Famous story of Euclid's response to a student who asked what gain he would get from studying geometry, "Give him three obols, since he must needs make gain out of what he learns."

In the US we've been constantly told a university education is a sure route to a high paying job.  A half-truth since most high paying jobs require technical knowledge easiest and quickest to acquire at a school of higher learning.  The other half of the truth: studying and acquiring knowledge to deepen understanding or only for the joy of learning, is hard to justify in a predatory capitalist climate where scientists, engineers, and other intellectuals are effectively 'hired guns,' or mercenaries, useful to our Masters only as much as we twiddle around making things capable of maximizing profits over the shortest amount of time.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:20:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which makes me think y'all might find this article interesting:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/business/09law.html?pagewanted=2

Karen in Bischofswiesen

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 06:54:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Alas, the NYT lies when it reports:

Like everything else about the law, however, the full picture here is complicated. Independent surveys find that most law students would enroll even if they knew that only a tiny number of them would wind up with six-figure salaries. Nearly all of them, it seems, are convinced that they're going to win the ring toss at this carnival and bring home the stuffed bear.

Neo-Classical Economics informs us in a rational world where people act only rationally based on rational decision making having rational expectations.  

Rationally.

Thus, the situation described in the article is UnPossible and should, therefore, be ignored.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 07:42:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What options do young people have? Get rich or die trying?!

The modern culture is full of stereotypical Darwinism, that there is not much choice neither economically nor socially.

by das monde on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 06:43:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was always surprised, when living in the USA, at how many people spent lots of money gambling.  I like the bumper sticker that says "Gambling is for the mathematically challenged."

I personally enjoyed law school, the learning part, but never had any expectations of becoming wealthy.  Unlike the guy profiled in the article, I didn't kid myself that it gave me any special status, especially among the people whose opinions mattered to me.

Karen in Bischofswiesen

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 09:18:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How did Euclid himself make a living?

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 05:26:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He was an academic, as you well know.  (I assume.)

When I first started looking into Complexity Theory, as an offshoot of my interest in General Systems Thinking, the "practical" benefit was nil.  Nobody was going to pay me one nickel per decade for the knowledge.  Now (30 years later) Complexity Theory is vital for a project I'm working on; a project that has a distinct change of making me a rather nice sum.  

Other knowledge I've acquired over the years hasn't made me a dime and most likely will never will.  

Acquiring knowledge for "it's own sake" gives the learner the same skill set as those who only acquire the knowledge to get a degree as a credential to get a job.  But, in my experience, those who take joy in learning will go on and continue to learn.  Those who only wanted to get a job will stagnate.  The economic benefit, which I do not deny, of continual learning is an ever-expanding skill set that, among other things, allows a person to recognize opportunities and take advantage of them as they arise.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 01:04:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You indeed can have a two-tier system, but it is absolutely impossible that this would be 10-90. No, it would be 10-30-30 and non-existent(another 30).

This is the most stable advanced society you ever had. Present feudal systems exist only in agricultural countries where the elites have to travel around to get the proper luxuries of high status. Feudal lords in Guatamela, Honduras, el Salvador,etc... do have to travel around.. and they have to import the technics to sustain even the small non-luxury bubble they have to live in.

So, you can not sustain a luxury life with less than 30% of a properly trained workforce. And this is Argentina, Brazil and Chile 30 years ago... and one still could claim that the numbers were not that bad since the highly advanced luxury areas had better numbers, and that you had to take into account that large areas where dominated by feudal agriculture structures.

Just, think about the level of workforce that you need for the health structure, the computer structure, the research structure, the innovation structure to have more, exciting new things (more expensive than the other to get the status), the machinery use and the distribution, plus the high-quality food structure plus the chemist plants, plus the heavy industry knowledge...keep counting.. Brazil had all that in the 80's and it needed at least 30% of the population to control it. One could actually argue that, right now, you need more people.

The argument that a feudal system would need to be 10-30%-40% plus 20% neglected is that when rich feudal systems emerges in India, you will have to shift all the workers that are now helping to reduce the need for low-medium skilled works and some highly skilled jobs from supporting overseas operation to support local luxury.

The only possibility to get a new feudal system appears when the number of items to generate status is fixed, and you get a half a century of improvements in the production (better productivity) of these items... however , the present western totem mythology makes that impossible. Feudal lords will never accept a freeze totem-status system, it is just impossible to think. They will not accept the idea that there is no possible cure via research of the illness that will kill them eventually. While we keep in their heads the stupid idea that science can make their lifes longer and longer non-stop until becoming immortals, they will not even think of a mythology where new stuff is not important.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 04:08:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]


And this is noticed, which feeds yet more cynicism and retrenchment into one's own.

It sounds like we rather desperately need hope and change.

Agreed, which is why a I don't go along with some of the generalised cynicism found on here. I prefer to support the least worse, rather than repeatedly denounce just about everybody in politics and the media.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Jan 9th, 2011 at 05:37:58 PM EST
is that it describes my own state of mind, of the past three years or so, pretty well.

This year's resolution : become less despondent. Act local, etc.

Good start : I rejoined my political party last month. Next step : collaborate in writing and delivering some leaflets for the upcoming departmental elections.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun Jan 9th, 2011 at 05:59:05 PM EST
As a counter-point, what of the recent phenomenon in France of Stephane Hessel's "Indignez Vous!"? Is it possible to discern anything meaningful from the high sales of this pamphlet, and how is it being digested within the French media (especially TV) and by serious people? I would hazard a guess that there must be some kind of disgusted knee-jerk reaction from elites that this old guy is invoking a war-time, resistance mentality to the here and now - though, perhaps, some element of good taste (even respect for Hessel) makes such a critique unutterable, in public at least. Without wishing to get vaguely hysterical with the historical parallels, it does seem to me that Hessel is tapping into a rich seam of potential on this - the last 30 years has seen a certain social and economic warfare being waged on the majority by the minority. Can we snap out of being our own willing executioners though?
by MaBozza (greig.aitken AT gmail.com) on Sun Jan 9th, 2011 at 06:28:24 PM EST
because the theme of resistance, social resistance, is the dominant theme on our side at this time, which in my view also explains a certain ideological retrenchment on the left, certainly you see this in NPA partisans, a fall-back in order to resist the onslaught of "reform" (buzz-word for regression these days) on offer from our political elites running the spectrum of the liberal/liberal centre of gravity in the PS to the neo-liberal Woerth/Horetefeux/Fillon wing of the UMP.

My own view is that this is a bit of a cul-de-sac, for while it is necessary to have ideological bearings in order to better resist (now is not the time to dialogue with the regressive elites, as some in the PS, Manuel Valls now on the issue of 35 hour work week, François Hollande among others on the issue of "reform" of retirement system a few months ago), this is not enough, we also need to remain open to new ideas about how to move forward, so leaving yourself stuck in the ideological underpinnings of 90-100 years ago is not the place to go to facilitate progress.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 04:27:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you mean Bolshevism doesn't provide the answers to everything?

My world view is collapsing!

< /heavy_handed_irony >

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 01:09:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]


The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 06:05:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The links between the Conseil National de la Résistance whose program shaped pretty much of the French social model in the second half of 20th century and the efforts of the French right wing überclass to dismantle it (they call this reform) have been pretty much nailed by afew in this diary: "Reform And Resistance" last May.
by Bernard on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 03:51:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The only problem I have with this analogy is that feudalism was a system of loyalty. Social relations were governed by formalized ties of loyalty between lord and vassal, instead of the current system of state and individual. While I would agree that our rulers are working diligently at curtailing democracy, eliminating widespread prosperity, and establishing a permanent aristocracy, I see no sign of the ties of loyalty that existed in feudal society.

Perhaps a system of personal fealty will arise as an end result of the current trend, but until then I'm not convinced that 'feudalism' is the correct analogy.

by Migel Sanchez on Sun Jan 9th, 2011 at 06:47:09 PM EST

As a peasant you didn't have much choice but to be "loyal", as an employee today you often have little choice but to be "loyal" or risk losing your livelihood. You might also buy into the ideology, propagated by the rich through their control of media, that says that the rich deserve their wealth and that such great inequalities are natural, like the divine right of kings.


Feudalism is Alive and Well

Summary of What a Feudal System is

In each of these examples, one group of person has power over others and the groups with power are willing to use any means to ensure their own gain.  They enforce their power in harsh ways. They also propagate a form of paternalism that states that those at the bottom of the hierarchy benefit from unequal power relations.  In some cases, the disempowered accommodate and show gratitude.  Some accommodators become enforcers; that is, they enforce the rules that the aristocrats have set up, while not acknowledging that they too serve at the whim of their masters.

The economic system in the United States and perhaps world-wide is another variation on the peasant-aristocrat system.  The aristocrats are bankers, financiers, and politicians who created the system and benefited from it.  To maintain the system, the aristocrats co-opted those who were supposed to be supervising them and enforcing the laws. They also co-opted millions and perhaps billions of people who thought they were benefiting from the systems, such as persons who saw the value of their stocks rising, home owners who saw the values of their houses increasing, and individuals who bought homes for little or no money down and who did not have the income to pay the mortgages.

... The peasants who are losing their jobs, homes, and retirement savings are not benefiting in any way close to how the aristocrats are.

http://socyberty.com/society/feudalism-is-alive-and-well/3/



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Jan 9th, 2011 at 07:50:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was a system of fealty -- mutual obligations with a definite asymmetry in power relationships. There was formal loyalty, but it was usually very calculated. That aspect has been taken over by lawyers and employment contracts in our societies but the asymmetric power relationships remain. The real change is from one in which everyone had presumed universal rights under the laws of one's state to one in which one's rights are contingent on the contract and one in which one's loyalty was to the state has been superseded by loyalty to the corporation - often transnational in nature. There are no longer a large number of potential employers and they all have access to far more information about the individual than was previously the case.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 01:25:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's an important difference between classical feudalism and modern feudalism: The classical feudal nobility was just as much tied to the land as the peasants were. Yes, there was a strong asymmetry of power, but the feudal lord offered an important benefit over no feudal lord: He was extracting his rent from the same peasants and the same land year after year, so he had an interest in keeping them a viable going concern (as opposed to passing marauders and mercenary armies who had no lasting interest in the lands they pillaged).

Transnational corporations today are not tied to any particular workforce, country, capital plant or anything else that gives them comparable interest in maintaining society as a going concern. That can change virtually overnight if the guys with the guns decide to change it, of course, but so far the guys with the guns seem to like the looting and pillaging that results from purely mercenary transnationals.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 07:00:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Transnational corporations today are not tied to any particular workforce, country, capital plant or anything else that gives them comparable interest in maintaining society as a going concern.

Therefore no one has a compelling reason to maintain any particular society so individual societies can confidently await shredding by The Market®. This may well end with which ever significant country that DID NOT buy into the "supremacy of the market" being the new hegemon, as the social basis of all others will have been destroyed.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 11:33:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Transnational corporations today are not tied to any particular workforce, country, capital plant or anything else that gives them comparable interest in maintaining society as a going concern.

A key point and one (it seems) very carefully overlooked by politicians and other Decision Makers.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:27:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only because acknowledging it would force them to start making it not true, and they would really rather not do that.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:29:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Modern feudalism can only be a highly unequal society with non universal law but relations written in personal contracts. My only point is that we did have these kind of countries in the past in South-America, and all of them became more equal over time.

When chinese and Indian and Indonesian modern feudal lords appear the same thing will happen again, there.

Actually, one could argue that Mexico fifteen years ago was a perfect example of the modern feudal system (and it is has large areas with pure classical feudal system), and it was less unequal that any classical feudal system that it ever existed.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 04:17:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... one is working for within the modern system can change as easily as one's ultimate lord could change in the feudal period due to the complexities of succession or due to your direct lord changing his own lords.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 06:09:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Classical feudal lords were only tied to the existence of a domain to exploit ~ just like modern trasnational corporations, they were only tied to any particular domain by the lack of an opportunity to gain a better domain somewhere else and if, as when William of Normandy decided that England looked like a tasty morsel ripe for the plucking, new more lucrative domains opened up, they very readily picked up and moved to take on new titles in new lands.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Jan 15th, 2011 at 07:29:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
instead of the current system of state and individual.

The state is just a front office of the relation to individuals. Then, of course, the question is: What is behind the state? Who controls the state, or what the governments are really working for?

If you look at Eastern European governments, their serious work appears to be taking care of international investors: monitoring post-bubble private debt payments, assuming new public obligations. Things may not be very different in free-er worlds. Sure, not every investment banker is a winner, but that does not mean that a banking oligarchy has rather safely us all working for them. If you look historically, the Medici controlled Italian princes and their ministers, and the Rothschilds supervised 19th century European governemnts, rather less openly. Why the trend would change?

Yesterday I leafed through a "Newsweek" issue. One subheadline read: "Banking is politics by other means". Or can we say: politics is banking by other means? Ha ha. An other headline is: "Retiring In The Red". That's the pension reform you deserve?! Other article claims that Europeans (particulaly Germans) are fed up with government as well. So we know what's coming. And a jewel joke I found there (but no web link to a short article) was a bank analyst anticipating European Tea Parties...

by das monde on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 01:26:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But still, as yet, the state is the front for a loose and shifting oligarchy of interests, a 'Pirate's Cabal', if you will, so that it will only implement common denominator solutions. This seems to me to be the chief vulnerability of this system. Sadly.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 11:44:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Transnationals and other Biggest Players in the economic system are, to some extent, The State.  At a minimum, their interests are privileged over the Common Good -- which in the US has degenerated to meaning "the Right to make as much money as you can and keep it shall not be abridged."

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:30:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If some oligarchy would be comfortably persistent, those shifting denominators would be a useful impression to make ;-) Just make the system stupendously rewarding to a few fresh masterminds from time to time.
by das monde on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 10:28:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... were front offices for something every bit as like (and every bit as unlike) a pirate's cabal as the corporate establishment that owns the polity in the United States.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 06:11:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is also based on having an excess population. The plague in Europe had a huge impact on the feudal system, because suddenly there was a worker shortage. Malthus and all that...
by asdf on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 03:16:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Once a book was written, titled "The Road to Serfdom". The author was Hayek or so. When the Western world was half-way to there in the 70s, that author got a Nobel prize and the West turn around the other direction. To the road of slaveholding and slavery.

Didn't several things change at that time? For example, there was a report of some "Club of Rome", dully questioning some limits of growth. A few decades later, that kind of questioning is exotic or impolite, or held only by ineffectual circles of internet nerds.

Perhaps we just have to prepare for a (managed?!) civilization collapse, trying to create an independent culture in a world of diminishing and limited (by appropriation rights) resources. How much do we need not to play that "best economic system" game?  

Add to that the need to focus on surviving - keeping your job, finding one, facing spiralling healthcare or debt service costs, etc...

This is just running Tyranny OS on Freedom Matrix. This astute technique evolved no less faster than CPUs and PCs.

by das monde on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:17:22 AM EST
While I agree with the description of neo-feudal thinking, there is one factor forgotten: there are way more of us than there are 'them'.

We have the tools - for the first time in history - for the rapid channelling of discontent into mass action. Tools that enable the bypassing of both sedentary politics and sedentary media. We have to learn to use these tools more creatively and less in awe of previous models of organization.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 03:05:17 AM EST
Yes, and the elite has the tools (the same ones) to communicate and organize their actions. Plus, they have the money to use the tools, and the political power to control the tools.

The thing about those books used to communicate the Enlightenment was that you could hide them under your bed when the police showed up. Recent events have shown that the modern day tools are not like that at all.

Yet we embrace Google...

Google's new cloud computing ChromeOS looks like a plan "to push people into careless computing" by forcing them to store their data in the cloud rather than on machines directly under their control, warns Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and creator of the operating system GNU.

Two years ago Stallman, a computing veteran who is a strong advocate of free software via his Free Software Foundation, warned that making extensive use of cloud computing was "worse than stupidity" because it meant a loss of control of data.

Now he says he is increasingly concerned about the release by Google of its ChromeOS operating system, which is based on GNU/Linux and designed to store the minimum possible data locally. Instead it relies on a data connection to link to Google's "cloud" of servers, which are at unknown locations, to store documents and other information.

The risks include loss of legal rights to data if it is stored on a company's machine's rather than your own, Stallman points out: "In the US, you even lose legal rights if you store your data in a company's machines instead of your own. The police need to present you with a search warrant to get your data from you; but if they are stored in a company's server, the police can get it without showing you anything. They may not even have to give the company a search warrant."


http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2010/dec/14/chrome-os-richard-stallman-warning
by asdf on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 03:23:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree about the dangers of cloud computing, but not with the elite knowing how to use the tools (or build them).

Few of the elite understand coding. It is done for them often by people who, in my experience in Finland, are rather anarchic and their non-coding peers and friends are in the group most threatened by elitist machinations. The coders may have a foot in the corporate world, but by night....

There are plenty of online equivalents to hiding a book under your bed.

In the long run what matters is speed. If we can organize protest - of whatever kind - FASTER than 'they' can plan to contain it, then we will win. OR we create and manage businesses that are far more efficient and fair than theirs à la Chris Cook.

Perhaps my and Chris's optimism comes from our Nordic experience, but imo we are only at the very beginning of online democracy.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 09:46:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe, but the "anonymous" crowd has not been very impressive, for example...
by asdf on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 10:26:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They are using only the most obvious 'tools' for headline effect. Effective warning shots. They are capable of much nastier interventions.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 11:54:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The other factor is that elements of the elite have, or could easily have, totally isolated equivalents of the web for their own institutional use, whether virtual private networks or physically separate networks. I do agree that individuals, such as PFC Manning of recent Wikileaks notoriety, can expose much of this, but at very considerable personal cost to that individual. For that degree of personal sacrifice to be sufficiently justified to inspire many more there needs to be much greater impact from such instances. Taking down BOA would constitute "greater impact".

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 11:51:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Private networks already exist. All banks use them. But unless they're physically isolated or physically secured, they're open to infiltration.

And they're also open to social engineering attacks. From experience, many low and mid level people who work for banks are incredibly stupid and inefficient, and someone ruthless might not find them difficult to manipulate.

But inherent openness is the best antidote for all toxic social systems.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:30:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know that I occasionally think that if and when the Irish elect another right-wing government - as right wing as possible given the options - that I'll just give up in disgust. Stop bothering about inequality and the corrosion of the middle class that voted for their execution again and again and simply concentrate on buttressing my own homestead.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 04:00:03 AM EST
middle class and there are good historical analyses which explain what we are seeing today.

That, and an aging population, make moving forward a challenge.  

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 04:29:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, I mean middle income group.

The classical middle class/petite bourgeoisie will do fine. It's the section of the working class that had income parity with them for a while that's really going to get it in the neck.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 05:07:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Understood as well. They've been welcoming their own undermining since the late 1970's in many parts of Western Europe and North America, though it is probably true that corrupt democratic political institutions hastened their ability to give political voice to that undermining.

I think the rot is spreading upward into higher income deciles...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 05:28:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We're living a paradigm shift from the neoliberal system to something new. Whatever it is, it won't be politically "liberal".

A short economic history of the 20th century:

After the Long Depression of 1873-96, there is a period of liberal democracy lasting about 30 year until the Great Depression, and punctuated by the banking Panic of 1907 and WWI (1914-18). Then there is a speculative binge ending in the crash of 1929, which ends the system.

The Great Depression and WWII are a conflict between the failed liberal  democracy and two critiques of it, socialist and fascist. In the end you get a sort of synthesis of the liberal and socialist positions (think The New Industrial State). This lasts from 1945 to the 1970s, roughly another 30 years.

The 1970s is another long transition crisis, with the neoliberal paradigm replacing the bastardised Keynesianism of the 50s and 60s. There follows a 30-year period in which Social Democracy capitulates to the Thatcher/Reagan revolution and the political system is again liberal democracy. The period is punctuated by the Black Monday of 1987, the EMS crisis of 1992-3, the Asian Crisis of 1997-8, and the popping of the .com bubble in 2000. The decade of 2000 is the final binge of this liberal democratic period, ending in the subprime crisis and followed presumably by another decade of transition crisis.

Because there isn't a left ideology waiting in the wings, the system that emerges at the other end won't be a synthesis of liberalism and socialism, it may well be a synthesis of liberalism and fascism (the only new political movements in the last decade have been right-wing populist and xenophobic). Maybe a progressive (green left?) ideology will be articulated starting in the next few years, but it won't have its chance to become the new paradigm until at least 2050.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 05:04:19 AM EST
ideology waiting in the wings. There is, it may be in need of some dusting off (current in process), what there is (seen in Die Linke and in Front de Gauche ideology) is probably the most Keynesian operative ideology in Western Europe, I think of it a bit as resetting the pattern in the service of people, and then holding that pattern until we can move forward. Anyhow, that's the Democratic manifestation of a left ideology, there are of course others, though it is true they don't get much megaphone-produced voice, which is unsurprising given media concentration, who controls that media and the fact they are (as in the 1930's) much less threatened, and for reasons Jérôme enounces, by the fascist critique (after all, they are in it for the power, their own prosperity being but a casual if not unimportant side effect of that power) which they increasingly embrace (all those wars!) than by the socialist one.

We also shouldn't forget that in large swathes of Western Europe, especially those where immigration is slowing down, we are undergoing a demographic shift, an inexorable (but ultimately, with an upper limit of political impact) aging of the population, something to which we on the left haven't yet formulated a response.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 05:15:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand what is missing from "the left's" response to aging populations. The left's idea, as I understand it, is to encourage fairness of opportunity, which I assume would be both between members of one generation and also between generations.

Over time, as the population distribution shifts, the revenue from taxation of the working population may go up or down, and the community must decide what level of taxation and what age of retirement is required to provide adequate support for those unable to work. You can do the calculation at a given point in time or you can try to do some sort of smoothing over time.

The right's idea, as I understand it, is to move towards social Darwinism, with the aged, infirm, young, and otherwise dispossessed to be instructed to take their problems off to a place where they aren't so noticeable.

What is the question?

by asdf on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 12:37:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
about fairness, and are far less concerned about opportunity (that was in the past!) as they are about their personal security, which goes beyond their health care and pension payments. By older people I mean retirees, those portions of the French electorate (in fact the only one if memory served) who voted majoritarily for Sarkozy in 2007. They are also worried about social cohesion, expressed in terms of defence of values sometimes, other times expressed in terms of identity politics (French versus immigrants, et c.)

The problem the left faces in this regard is, in my view, the capture of the left by liberalism, as that liberal capture, which started in the early 1980's here in France and, at least as far as power is concerned, was consolidated by the end of that decade, has two side effects.

The first is, on the left, the downplaying of the role of the state as guarantor of social cohesion, as direct job creator (and thereby full employment), which has created an underclass of chronically unemployed who express themselves sometimes violently (I think it was Rosa Luxemburg who said "crime is a waste of political energy," to paraphrase). This facilitates the neo-liberal world-view on the right, further undermining the left's position in this regard. Liberalism is, strictly speaking, anti-worker, and this is seen in unemployment, to begin with (Mitterand in France was elected arguably due to economic conditions in the early '80's. He inheritted an unemployment rate which had risen to just under 6% when he took office. By the end of his second term, 14 years later, that rate had more than doubled and stayed more than double that for another half decade.)

The second is that there are, among the Social Democratic (and also, though arguably marginal, anarchic if you except NPA from this) set, a great tendancy towards defence of civil liberties, which is seen in the general public as being to the detriment of law and order, which facilitates the right's demogoguing of the issue. While the PS has attempted to redress this image in France with not unmitigated success, unfortunately the law-and-order left was essentially crushed when the PS systematically undermined the PC (a process which began well before the dismantling of "the Wall," and which is indeed ongoing).

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 06:04:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Older people aren't just worried about fairness, and are far less concerned about opportunity (that was in the past!) as they are about their personal security, which goes beyond their health care and pension payments. By older people I mean retirees, those portions of the French electorate (in fact the only one if memory served) who voted majoritarily for Sarkozy in 2007. They are also worried about social cohesion, expressed in terms of defence of values sometimes, other times expressed in terms of identity politics (French versus immigrants, et c.)

But are these priorities due to them being old or due to them being of the particular generation that they are? That is, will all people, on average, tend to adopt these priorities as they age, in which case a greater share of elderly people must be accounted for in terms of political strategy. Or is the fact that the elderly have these priorities an accident of history, which would imply that long-term strategy should be centered around meeting the priorities of the next generation of the electorate (since the present generation of elderly, not to put too fine a point upon it, won't be around to vote in the long run).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 06:17:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Its mostly a matter of generation, methinks. French people over 65 have grown up in the 40s and 50s with the Iron Curtain, Cold war, nuclear threat and also all the French colonial wars (Vietnam, Algeria) where the pigmented people are somehow menacing and not quite "French".

In their days, there was (mostly) no ethnic diversity in France; the economy was safely within the nation's border where everybody spoke French. 21st century world is a much scary place for this generation and tough guy macho rhetoric has had some success as seen with Sarko's electoral numbers in 2007.

The generation coming behind (that would be mine) is different: ex-colonies were all independent when I grew up, globalization was well underway even in the 70s and you have to be fluent in English to go anywhere (damn useful to communicate with all kind of people too). This generation is much, much less receptive to the traditional (and xenophobic/racist) right wing discourse.

by Bernard on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 05:13:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mig: I agree completely with all before the last paragraph, and there I fear you may be right but will not conclude that it cannot be fought successfully. But the outlook is grim.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 11:57:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm in the sullen bitterness and cynical retrenchment camp, to borrow Jerome's terms.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 04:37:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
We're living a paradigm shift from the neoliberal system to something new. Whatever it is, it won't be politically "liberal".

Yes and No.

I think that the sovereignty of the individual will - necessarily - be a key attribute of the networked 'Peer to Peer' society I see evolving.

Where it will depart from neo-liberalism is in the recognition that with the privilege of individual property rights under the 'Rule of Law' come responsibilities and obligations to the society from which these rights flow.

Migeru:

Because there isn't a left ideology waiting in the wings, the system that emerges at the other end won't be a synthesis of liberalism and socialism,

I disagree.

In the UK at least, the values of Solidarity and Mutuality have always underpinned Labour: if you read the Party card you'll see that's where it's languishing - unread - in the wings. As the French guy said in respect of French revolutionary ideals: the 19th Century was the Century of Liberty; the 20th Century the Century of Equality; and the 21st century will be the Century of Fraternity.

The problem for Labour was that they were led astray as New Labour when Blair, Brown and the rest swallowed the neo-liberal economic Kool Aid.

As I have frequently said in my posts on Labour List, the Coalition's 'Big Society' - now running into the sand - is the greatest opportunity for Labour and Union members (if not their hierarchy) in the last 100 years.

The key to this is a new generation of collaborative agreements, developed 'bottom up' and acting as frameworks for self organisation to a common purpose. Such an approach could take the Left down the road of a modern day Guild Socialism or of the short-lived war-time Common Wealth movement, which was side-tracked into a Party, and shrivelled.

In the UK the Coalition's Localism legislation may well be intended to open up the way to privatisation, but in my view it creates a vacuum into which the Left - through their many Labour council gains - can drive a communitarian, co-operative and mutual coach and horses.

Even more extraordinary is the Coalition's - completely undemocratic - policy concerning the NHS. This is 'action-based' politics where their declaration of intent has already started the decomposition of the existing institutions as managers get out while they can.

In my view, such action-based and reality-based politics is a double-edged sword. Union memberships can and should simply take control and provide services directly to the public, cutting out the State, as well as shareholders, as middlemen. The enabling mechanism is new - direct - funding and financing, and that is where my interest - and a growing number of others - is completely focused.

In future, the policy will create the party - rather than vice versa.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 01:09:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Union memberships can and should simply take control and provide services directly to the public, cutting out the State, as well as shareholders, as middlemen.

H'mmmm.

That challenges the domination of The Top whether that "Top" is a union president, the president of a bank, the leaders of the Labour Party, & so forth.  Any local union trying to "take control" will find the first and third of the previous list coming down on them like a ton of bricks.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 01:36:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frankly, I think that the steering wheel has come off in the hands of those at the top for the most part because they have unscrewed the linkage.

I believe that the UK 'reforms' being pursued with such vigour by the Coalition government are going to have unintended consequences......

And note I was not referring to Labour or Unions - but to Labour and Union members.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 04:24:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As was I.

Union and Party members are only members until the national secretary yanks their cards, making them UnPersons.  The kind of petty-assed shit that goes down when the peasants are revolting.  


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 06:52:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be the Unions' loss, not theirs.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 07:24:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No disagreement on that, here.

The local members lose as well.  They lose the advantages belonging to a national organization such as money and news exposure.  And the externalities of solidarity, fraternity, & all that Left Wing socialist-hippy stuff.  (He wrote with self-deprecating self-mockery.)

And the Right Wing can put out a anti-campaign based around "Even their Union thinks they are wackos."

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 07:38:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
However, if they get thrown out for local mobilization of direct responses ~ they are already organizing. And they already have a reason to continue organizing in response to being kicked out.

Recall when the Anti-Slavery Whigs in the US were purged from the Whig Party, and it was the Whig Party that collapsed as a result.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 11:51:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.

Either the Union leaders facilitate what the members wish to do, or the Unions wither on the vine.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 05:18:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The right talk a lot of trash about cooperation, but their own solidarity is to be envied. Is this the power of corruption? Or is it so usefull to fool people to distrust each other?

As is known, many neocons were former Marxists. They certainly preserved the discipline! And they harness other method of Communists: seize the mass media. Lenin's revolution took the telegraph first, Fidel Casttro stared on the radio, and now we have Foxnews and talk radios...

by das monde on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 06:50:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chris Cook:
The problem for Labour was that they were led astray as New Labour when Blair, Brown and the rest swallowed the neo-liberal economic Kool Aid.

It seems to me that Blair and Brown, along with Clinton in the USA, were serving the Kool-Aid to their parties as the elixir that would return them to power, which it did. The essence of The Third Way was to embrace the goals of the wealthy elite so as to become acceptable to them as a governing party. The problem is that this destroyed the ability of their parties to provide a serious alternative to the opposition. Come the crisis, there was no real alternatives available to the electorate. Still really isn't.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 04:12:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
Maybe a progressive (green left?) ideology will be articulated starting in the next few years, but it won't have its chance to become the new paradigm until at least 2050.

depends... mother nature has ways of hurrying such decisions along. my guess is more like 2020, if not earlier.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jan 16th, 2011 at 12:18:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The foundation for this has been rising for some time with the increasing isolation of the individual: political (decreasing power and meaningfulness of local bodies), economic (cubical farms, contracting, perma-temps, all in the name of "individual flexibility"), and social (communal activities replaced with sitting in front of your TV or keyboard).  As relationships have atrophied, so has the ability to resist.

Then comes betrayal.  The Anglo-American version goes like this: Desperate to defeat Thatcherism/Bushism, masses of the disenfranchised establish grassroots political organizations and are rewarded with Blair/Obama.  They all go back home.

After that, what will it take to remobilize?  Oppression itself won't do it.  So long as people have, or at least believe they have, anything, they will cling to it and to anyone who promises they will keep it.  I believe it will take desperation, something like Russia in 1917, breadlines.

by rifek on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 08:51:36 AM EST
The key to Lenin's success was seeing that, in his contemporary social context, a small, ruthless, hierarchical cadre was key to succeeding in seizing power. But that approach degenerated into power for power's sake and broke in the contest for military superiority with the USA. Mao's China only survived the Great Flop Backwards by endorsing policies contradictory to their ruling philosophy. We are still waiting to see how that turns out, so we cannot say that that model of obtaining power is bankrupt. But it is not something I would participate in creating.

The minimum criteria are that there be an effective means to determine that selected candidates will actually seek to advance a reform party's agenda. I think that rules out relying on either major party in the USA. Justice for criminal financiers and an economy that works for all are the minimum goals I would accept.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 10th, 2011 at 12:07:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And we have no mechanism for putting such people on the ballot here in the States.  H.L. Mencken ("On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts' desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.") is proving to have been an optimist.
by rifek on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 08:20:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Those at the top have decided they didn't care that they could be better off, in absolute terms, in a fairer world

I don't think they see it that way, but that they rather consider that they are living in the best of all imagnable worlds, however panglossian they might or might not be.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 08:25:35 AM EST
... and filled them up with echos of conclusions convenient to their short term ends, do we really believe that thirty years later, they have maintained an independent invisible media network that is filled with coherent analysis, unpolluted by the combination of half truths and outright lies that were required to reach those conclusions convenient to those short term ends?

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jan 11th, 2011 at 09:46:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Attitudes amongst the industrial elites may be shifting. This article is an example of CEOs asking some appropriate questions about educational and migration policies.
by asdf on Wed Jan 12th, 2011 at 12:40:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I like using the word "neo-feudalism" to describe what is happening because it's a useful shorthand.  Most people don't know jack about feudalism, they only know it was 'Bad' and they usually bring-up serfs.  At that point I can point-out serfs were tied to the land whereas today people are tied into peonage: "A system by which debtors are bound in servitude to their creditors until their debts are paid."

When you get right down to it, under feudalism the economic basis of the system was land; who had it; who controlled it.  Under neo-feudalism the economic basis is money; who has it; who controls it.  And for my purposes, that's good enough.

For me, the phrase is about constructing a emotionally compelling Narrative in which to hang Messages.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Jan 13th, 2011 at 01:13:11 PM EST
... the fact that the central organizing principle of authority in feudalism was a large property owner granting authority of specific kinds over specific portions of their domain to subordinates, or vassals, just as the central organizing principle of authority in corporate capitalism is the senior executives of the corporation granting specific authority to specific managers of distinct divisions and operations.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jan 13th, 2011 at 01:35:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's still land. Without mortgages people would not have debt. They would have savings. "Neo-feudalism" is very much exactly correct analogy of "neo-liberalism."
by kjr63 on Thu Jan 13th, 2011 at 06:32:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My (our) generation, so called "baby boomers" totally screwed up everything...absolutely everything. We screwed economy, we screwed our children, we screwed moral and common sense, climate, planet...you name it. It's such a nightmare for anyone with a grain of brain...
Feeling that nothing can be done is widespread and overwhelming and yes...nothing can be done. Somewhere in the future there will be revolutions broadly around the globe and heads will roll again...but I am not sure that anything good will follow...just a different kind of thieves will come to power...it really is a big reason to despair...Those young people will grow and they will be even worse...when they face reality. Maybe we were lucky ones who at least at some point in life have seen some kind (all tho not much) of conciseness in governing (at least in some part of the world)...But maybe it was just a dream...
Maybe we as a kind actually do not deserve to survive...
I hope not everyone is in this gloomy mood as I am...as that say goes " ignorant people are lucky people"...I do not care or worry that much for myself but I have great fears for my children and even more for grandchildren...we'll be gone sooner or later but the world we are leaving is such a mess and yet we did not prepared them for that kind of mess properly. They have even greater expectations then we had and will be even more disappointed...Fuck...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Fri Jan 14th, 2011 at 11:23:25 PM EST


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