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We, mostly Americans but with much international collaboration, built this Empire out of immediate and temporary needs, some of them in service of public interests, some of them in service of vested private interests. For the good of the Republic, it is long past time to tear it down.

There's a really good, imaginative new novel out about the whole collapse of the American Empire idea by Gary Shteyngart: A Super Sad, True Love Story.

But I think we also have to ask whether although there are plenty of bad things about the American Empire, does that really add up to a reason to seek its undoing without first building the foundations for a better way of organizing the world? For example, I think it can be argued pretty well that globalization (or the latest term for the post-globalized world, "globality") is almost entirely dependent upon existing within a polity we derogatively call the American Empire. And therefore, without such a polity, or an immediate replacement for it, truly catastrophic things might happen without it.  I think we may see a drastic decrease in transnational relationships of all kinds -- from Internet communications, trade, investment, migration, knowledge sharing, extreme levels of urbanization etc. And to the extent that a large part of many, especially less developed countries', recent increases in economic prosperity and population may depend almost entirely upon the continuation of such relationships, a collapse of the American Empire at this time could cause tragedy on scales unheard of before. Maybe a billion people could die quickly if we take a back-of-the-envelope calculation that about a billion people today live at the Malthusian margin of life and death.  And almost none of them would likely be Americans or Europeans or Japanese.  

Political scientist Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in economics last year for her work showing that everything we do, and particularly life-supporting economic relationships of trade and individual exchanges, are dependent upon larger institutional infrastructures of rules, narratives, and the power involved in creating and maintaining such institutions.  The implication is that if you dismantle the institutions, you also might destroy the human relationships that the institutions allowed to prosper with possibly catastrophic consequences.  This argument challenges the basic neoclassical vision of society where human relationships are naturally existing first, and the rules are imposed afterward by governmental predators. Since we don't really believe the neoclassical vision of society here at ET, I think we should also be critical of arguments that assume that most of the good things we enjoy from a globalized world would be able to continue at all if the principal institutional sponsor of that world were to suddenly collapse.

by santiago on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 01:47:40 PM EST
I don't have as sanguine a view that neoliberal globalization policies have had a net positive effect on food production in Africa. On balance, globalization causes more harm than good to the food security of the developing nations I am most familiar with, and the loss of globalization would be more akin to the loss of a plague of locusts.

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 Nov 22nd, 2010 at 06:21:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is food production really the problem in Africa?  I thought availability and distribution were real threats to life and well-being.  The question is, can the current number of people who live in slums survive if the income of the globally-oriented elite who provide them with, essentially, the scraps they need to live on, suffer significant income declines due to a big drop in trade, investment, migration, and other transnational activities made possible by "Pax Americana?"  
by santiago on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 11:32:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The numbers of people living in slums are a function of people being driven off the land by waves of dumping of subsidized grains.

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 Nov 23rd, 2010 at 01:19:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But is this process reversible? The fact that collapsing globalisation would stop the growth of slums is small consolation to those who are already in them if their food security deteriorates.

Though of course, stringing up some of the local "elites" from lampposts might solve part of the distribution problem. I suppose I can see scenarios there that involve only acceptable casualties (though I can also see scenarios that involve quite unacceptable casualties).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 01:37:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... or in a policy sense?

Establish market towns with local trial fields, regulated market, clinic, school and credit union, and then once the periodic subsidized grain dumping stops destroying local agrarian economies, they can be rebuilt.

Will it happen automatically? Eventually, but only with much more pain, as its harder to create than it is to thoughtlessly destroy as a side effect of income subsidies to rural areas of high income nations.


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 Nov 23rd, 2010 at 05:30:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's certainly part of the function, but if it were the principal one, then we wouldn't see slums growing so rapidly in slumdog India where landholdings remain tiny by law (no forced migration as farms become concentrated as in other countries), and grain imports are negligible (India remains largely self sufficient in food (India imports grain on net only low production years and also imports fruits and vegetables, like many high income countries do too.)
by santiago on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 07:55:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... principle reasons to be the same in India and Africa?

And in India, it seems absurd to suggest that less powerful farmers are not forced off their land by the machinations of more powerful farmers based on the laws that are on the books to prevent it ... that would be like concluding that there is no bribery of officials in Nigeria because it is against the law.

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 Nov 24th, 2010 at 12:50:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, in India it is not farmers who are moving to the urban slums so much, but family members of farmers and non-farmer rural dwellers.  Why would family members of farmers have to move to the city?  Well, usually because if you can't grow the size of your farm, which is prohibited by law in India in most cases, you can't increase your family income either to keep up with the higher costs of living and affording things like cell phones and new medicines. So you send your kids to the city or to foreign countries to diversify your family income.  

Much empirical work has been done on this in Africa as well. Farm consolidation and growth allows farm families to increase their income, but migration allows them to both grow and diversify their income and lower risks of income shocks, which is necessary to be able to continue to afford the ever increasing necessities of modern life.  (Alternatively, farmers could become like the anti-capitalist Amish and simply eschew modern technological benefits altogether and thereby avoid the need to grow income entirely.)

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 11:02:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... hitting the entire agrarian sector while at the same time reducing the cost of living in urban slums?

You are referring to studies on how African agrarian communities react to the impact of First World attacks on their livelihood that silo off the original cause of the sector-wide income shocks. Assuming sector-wide income shocks that are inversely correlated with urban informal sector real incomes to predict the response to the removal of that pattern of shock is begging the question.

Indeed, if access by women to education is inversely related to rates of population growth, starting an explanation of which sectors of the population of the most densely populated rural areas are forced into internal migration to the urban informal sector by assuming that poorer households will have higher birth rates is another silo.

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 Nov 24th, 2010 at 12:20:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and that is exactly what we're talking about here regarding the benefits of empire to lots of people that may actually now depend on it for survival. If you conceive if it just as an "attack," that is "hitting" the rural sector, as if the conservatism of rural life has a greater claim to reproducing itself than the more liberal opportunities provided by urban life, then yes, it's an argument that begs the question, as you say.

But let's conceive of it a bit differently. If the affect of liberal order was entirely on cost of living of urban dwellers and did not negatively affect the incomes of rural dwellers, we would have the same migration issues. Rural dwellers may be migrating to the cities because they want to and not because they have to.  In fact, in the US experience, the data supports this.  An acre of farmland has produced the same real income for last hundred years for which data has been collected on it. This means that the only reason that farmers have had to migrate to cities is to enjoy some of the benefits that urban progress has offered. In order to get electricity and health care and the Internet, you have to increase your income in order to pay for it, so you either grow the size/productivity of your farm or find extra work in urban economy to trade for urban goods and services.

You can only conceive of this as an "attack" on the rural sector if you assume, a priori, that few people in rural areas want to enjoy any of the benefits that liberal, urban society offers.  

Anecdotal aside: I recently met with some US farm industry lobbyists, all of them now aged children of farmers and who opted for a city job  when they were young instead of returning to their farms (and who were dismayed about the prospects for continued agriculture subsidies given the outcomes of the last congressional election).  Over beer, one them explained why he had never really been much of a supporter of rural policy initiatives to retain rural populations and had been more than happy, as was his father, to leave farm life altogether years ago.  "If the rural hometown of my childhood had been twice as large, it would have been twice as shitty" he said. Lesson: We can't assume that rural to urban migration is a bad thing for most people who do it, even if it leaves them in institutional dependency situations they would not have if they remained farmers.

The Amish are an example of people who have little need to increase income because they can be mostly self sufficient in small-holding communities by forgoing most of the benefits of urban life that other farmers don't choose to forgo.  But there are reasons why most people don't opt to become Amish, even if some do. Most people just might not view that kind of life as very much fun.  But in order to avoid the forces that push and pull people out of rural communities and into cities and slums, people actually have to eschew most of the "fun" things that the Americanized liberal order has offered them, just like the Amish try to do.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 01:33:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If food production is no problem, and starvation today is upheld by the local elites backed up by Pax Americana, it is hard to see to how the end of Pax Americana would make it worse. Could just as well go the other way.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 04:17:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It might, but the issue is that we can't assume it will.  In order to make the case that things will improve for the poor or at least not get dramatically worse we have to show that the global institutional framework we call the American Empire or Pax Americana is actually what is keeping the poor from prospering rather than what is allowing the poor to be born and exist.  

Is the American Empire and its associated neo-liberal institutions and narratives actually causing resources or potential capacities for living to be taken away from people who otherwise would have access to more of those things?  Or are the poor merely multiplying under the protective, if miserable, umbrella of cheaper food, fiber, and medicine than would have been available to them otherwise, allowing them to exist when they otherwise never would have been born?  It's not an easy question.

by santiago on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 07:48:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... if the American Empire is not sustainable, then whether maintaining it if it were sustainable would be better than not maintaining it if it were sustainable is a red herring: the live question becomes what to do to make a better aftermath of the rollback or collapse of American Empire.


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 Nov 24th, 2010 at 12:23:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No disagreement there.  But it's kind of sexy to be a subversive advocate for overthrowing the empire, and many such voices can be found. That doesn't make it the morally responsible thing to do, however.  Trying to build a society that is sustainable, particularly for the poor, is a lot more tedious and nerdy and often appears futile in comparison.
by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 01:58:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... this essay ... the international political economy of the 1950's and 1960's offered a better environment for economic development by low and middle income nations than the international political economy of the 1990's and 2000's. So it clearly can be better for middle and low income nations than it is today, so the conditions offered by the American Empire since it passed middle age and headed toward being old enough for Social Security can be bested: the current international political economy is clearly not the best of all possible worlds for middle and low income nations.

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 Nov 24th, 2010 at 03:19:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I think you are right. Does this really call for the collapse of the empire, though, or just a return to more sound policies than the neoliberal ones that have become so popular since the 1970's? America as a global, imperial type-polity has done rather well in both periods, even if various constituencies within it have fared better or worse at different times, so it would seem that a rejection of post-Reagan, rightist idealism in American politics may be sufficient for everyone involved and a bit less daunting to accomplish.
by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:28:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why do you assume that it will be easier to oust the neoliberal nutcases in Washington, reverse the decline of the American empire and implement sanity-based policies in the American empire than to topple the neoliberal nutcases in the local capital and implement sanity-based policies that the neoliberal nutcases in Washington will not have the capacity to suppress?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:58:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess it's because if America really can be conceived of as an empire, that is as a transnational, institutionalized polity of some kind, then this means that the most effective arena for policy change is Washington -- it's core. Most of the rest of the periphery will eventually follow what happens in the core, allowing for various degrees of resistance and diversity among its constituents.  

And the space between neo-liberal policies and progressive-liberal policies is not really all that wide either. The institutional framework, I don't think, is the real problem.  It's just the present political leadership that needs tweaking and the institutions of the empire allow for a wide range of peaceful means for doing so within the present framework. I.e., it's the path of least resistance.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 06:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess it's because if America really can be conceived of as an empire, that is as a transnational, institutionalized polity of some kind, then this means that the most effective arena for policy change is Washington -- it's core.

You assume that if nothing is done, the American empire will remain. It won't. Restoring the American empire to some semblance of sustainability will require active effort.

So in order to believe that the most effective arena for policy change in the periphery is Washington, you have to believe that the effort required to change policy in the periphery is less than the effort required to change policy in Washington plus the effort that must be expended to restore the American empire, plus the opportunity cost of the time lost between core policy propagating through the periphery, compared to changing policy directly in the periphery, minus the probability that the core resumes functioning on its own in time to salvage the empire.

We can quantify the time it takes for policy to propagate from Washington to Bruxelles, almost to the year, by looking at when Washington, resp. Bruxelles forgot how to resolve a systemic bankruptcy. Call it ten years (from the .com bust until today). Give or take a few years. Changing policy in Washington is likely to be harder than changing policy in Bruxelles, if for no other reason then because the American constitution is less amenable to grassroot efforts (and because the American government has far more deeply institutionalised corruption). Which in turn means that the imperial core is unlikely to resume sanity-based policies on its own. Add the effort required to restore the American empire to some semblance of viability, and the whole thing starts looking rather open-and-shut, unless you happen to be an American and therefore have to live with the America that actually unfolds.

the space between neo-liberal policies and progressive-liberal policies is not really all that wide either.

Well, compared to the space between Leninism and neo-liberalism, I suppose you might say that.

In practise, you'd have to purge half the top-tier civil servants, who have been drafted from the school of thought that grants corporations more rights than individuals, views paid-for speech as being equivalent to free speech and subscribes to fantasy-based economics. And then you'd have to destroy the neoliberals' sources of funding, academic support, media cover and intellectual foundations (OK, the last bit is easy enough), to make sure we won't be having this same discussion thirty years down the road. (The last bit was where American Keynesianism failed - it was insufficiently thorough in purging pockets of potential revanchists. It is noteworthy that the neoliberals have done their best to avoid repeating that mistake.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 07:11:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well - that depends on your definition of viabilty.

The neo-fascist model is one where 1-2% of the population can survive at the expense of the rest. This is the sole foundation and aim of the current American empire.

And it works, and will continue to work, at least until such time that the Earth itself is barely habitable.

It might even survive for a while after that.

But that's a dispiriting and fantastically stupid excuse for something that calls itself a civilisation.

While the right enjoys its fantasies of Social Darwinism, the reality is that pure Darwinian competition leads to animal idiocies. Evolutionary competition is stupid. It has no strategy, no goals, and no predictive horizon longer than the next meal, the next pecking order status play, or the next fuck.

In comparison, the progressive model of government is strategic. The aim is the full expression of a population's creative, intellectual and physical talents.

Education, food management, social mobility, and wealth redistribution aren't just moral issues, they're also practical strategies. Done properly they create dynamic, diverse, inventive and resilient societies that are capable of innovation, strategic intelligence and far-sighted goal setting.

Neo-fascism in any form always regresses into infantile fantasies of omnipotence and practical disaster. To deal with reality effectively you have to accept that reality exists, and that's something the neo-fascists are simply unable to do - which is why their future prospects are so limited.

It's not just that they harm other populations, but that they're incapable of surviving without destroying themselves.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 08:02:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The neo-fascist model is one where 1-2% of the population can survive at the expense of the rest. This is the sole foundation and aim of the current American empire.

And it works, and will continue to work, at least until such time that the Earth itself is barely habitable.

But it is less than perfectly clear that it works well enough that it can sustain a society that is capable of projecting political and military power far beyond its own borders.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 08:08:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it need to? The only difference between local and remote aggression is that you're dealing with a bigger 98%.

The essence of the fascist mindset is extreme hierarchy. It's all about relative gradations and relative resource use.

Mugabe in Zimbabwe doesn't care that his country is a festering joke. As long as he has food on his table, clean uniforms to parade around in, a few guns and a prostitute or three, the starvation and horror are either irrelevant to him.

Who knows? He may even enjoy them.

The point is that this kind of implosion is inevitable in fascist economies. But it doesn't matter to the winners, because they don't care about the total size of the pie as long as they can maintain some semblance of being special and important, and they're personally comfortable.

It's the ironic poverty of fascism that makes it such a threat. It's implacably and relentlessly hostile to stable, genuine prosperity.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:47:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it need to?

If it wants to motivate the rest of the world to care about what happens in the US, beyond the fate of one's immediate friends (and the sort of general but rather vague pity most people feel for sub-Saharan Africa), then yes.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:58:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I doubt that's been a serious consideration in Washington for quite a while now.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 10:45:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
 Or are the poor merely multiplying under the protective, if miserable, umbrella of cheaper food, fiber, and medicine than would have been available to them otherwise, allowing them to exist when they otherwise never would have been born?  It's not an easy question.

It is not that hard a question. The demographic transition has increased population in mercantilistic, late feudal, capitalistic, communistic, colonial, colonised, fascist, mixed and finally neoliberal economies. To put it down to the American Empire seems a bit odd.

santiago:

Is the American Empire and its associated neo-liberal institutions and narratives actually causing resources or potential capacities for living to be taken away from people who otherwise would have access to more of those things?

If we look at the actual actions of liberalisation on food security, things like this keeps popping up:

CADTM - Famine in Malawi Exposes IMF Negligence

The original sin seems to lie with the IMF and the European Union, which repeatedly called for Malawi's grain reserve to be privatized and run on a "cost-recovery basis." This resulted in the 1999 spin-off of NFRA from ADMARC, with a mandate to maintain adequate buffer stocks of grain and to protect Malawians against fluctuations in food production, availability and prices.

When demand destruction means death, it is hard to argue that the population on average will prosper.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:03:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not that hard a question. The demographic transition has increased population in mercantilistic, late feudal, capitalistic, communistic, colonial, colonised, fascist, mixed and finally neoliberal economies. To put it down to the American Empire seems a bit odd.

This sound observation actually argues my point exactly.  We have at least two, notable, dramatic collapses of large-scale institutional regimes in the non-American dominated world. China's Great Leap Forward, which regrouped the rural countryside into communes and, as official Chinese scholars themselves have come to recently admit, caused the great famine that killed tens of millions of people.  And we also have the disastrous effects of the neo-liberal shock therapy performed on the formerly Communist soviet states. In both cases collapse of the reigning institutional paradigms, and both of them very much imperialist paradigms, led to tragedies of enormous dimensions for millions of people.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 04:39:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not think I am understanding your point here. Empires falling is worse then empires existing? But empires always falls, its like saying that boom is good and bust is bad.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 06:16:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Empires don't always fall.  They eventually fall, just like people eventually die, but that is something different entirely than always falling.  

Speaking abstractly, it's only a good thing when an empire falls if the harm being done to people by that empire is truly egregious and much worse than what would occur if it collapses. I'm not sure that the "American empire" is really all that bad, even if we can find lots of bad things about it, especially compared to what could happen to a lot of people without it or if there wasn't first a better institutional framework to replace or overtake it.

by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 10:14:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean empires don't always fall, like people don't always die?

I suppose if you're a vampire squid you might have a different view of the process to the rest of us.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 10:35:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Great Leap Forward did not involve the sort of collapse that you seem to be discussing elsewhere in the thread. It was a purely domestic phenomenon and the existing political structure remained intact.  Sticking with China I'd think that the drawn own end of Imperial China and its aftermath would be closer to what you're getting at.
by MarekNYC on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 06:49:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not what most scholarship on it, including recent official Chinese scholarship says. Most people who have looked at it fault the institutional changes caused by the Great Leap Forward for the Great Famine which occurred a few years later as people's capacity to obtaining food, as well as agricultural production declined, precipitously due to the social reorganization into communes which had different rules and norms for distributing things and controlling behavior than what previously existed.
by santiago on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 09:59:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
But I think we also have to ask whether although there are plenty of bad things about the American Empire, does that really add up to a reason to seek its undoing without first building the foundations for a better way of organizing the world?

I do not see that we have the power to undo the American Empire or organise an alternative. So I do not see the relevance.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 03:54:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You certainly have the power to organize an alternative for when the American Empire collapses. You just have to have a clear eyed view of which parts need replacing.

Establish shadow periodic (eg, quarterly at first, eventually fortnightly) exchanges where developing nations can offer finished goods at set local currency prices and EU producers can offer finished goods at set Euro prices, which EU buyers bidding for quantities and EU prices of the developing nation finished goods, and developing nation buyers bidding for quantities and local currency prices for the EU finished goods, and set shadow exchange rates that clear the bids.

I've already discussed sea lane coverage versus invasion forces ... as far as keeping a sea lane open through the South Atlantic and then the southern Indian Ocean to East Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia, that seems doable with the resources that the EU nations throw away on junior partner invasion forces and defending West Germany from invasion from East Germany.

Making an international market by a capital goods producer and keeping sea lanes open to trade ... are there any another useful side effects of American Empire that is not offset by losing the drawbacks of American Empire?

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 Nov 23rd, 2010 at 05:45:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I used we as we here at ET.

This is, what you call it - hobby horse? pet peewee? - for me, but I think that when we start reason in terms of what should be done if we happened to hold the reins of global power, we should tread carefully. On one hand it is useful to show that there is indeed alternatives, on the other strategies for action need to be rooted in the actual limited power we as individuals and collective has. I have the suspicion that the tendency to often place ourselves in the position of powerful undermines actual activism.

Taking responsibility for what replaces the American Empire strikes me as taking it a step to far, after all when the American Empire falls (as all empires has) it is rather unlikely to do so because mainly because of a blogpost. Opposing the empire serves on the other hand the concrete need of undermining the support for the next foreign adventure.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 07:07:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... but if ET can think about the under-TINA-unthinkable question of "after American Empire collapses, what then?", it will not be caught in moment of panic when things shift under people's feet ... the moment that the corporations can be expected to make a power grab under catastrophe capitalism.

And, yes, I was answering the plural as you Europeans in general, not European civil society in general let alone ET in particular ... but what Europe can do for good rather than for ill is the first step, after all, and then what European civil society can do to make that more likely, and then how ET can contribute to that.


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 Nov 23rd, 2010 at 08:28:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I am not opposed to investigate the question, just the framing. Could have been clearer on that though.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 03:23:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... working out the framing before we know what we want to accomplish has a very strong bias toward assuming a status quo that may in fact be unsustainable and therefore offers no foundation upon which to build solutions.

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 Nov 25th, 2010 at 01:24:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
santiago:
 The implication is that if you dismantle the institutions, you also might destroy the human relationships that the institutions allowed to prosper with possibly catastrophic consequences.

TBTF?

i get the implication alright, it's the old blackmail by inferred-threat-of-force-by-withdrawal-of-essential-services, so big players can cheat on the rules that keep the game fair(er).

'you' destroy? no payoff for the middle class to impoverish itself!

'we' didn't hollow out the global economy with war and casino capitalism, 'they', those who most benefited from the game, shat all over it, planted explosives deep in its bowels, secretly, camouflaging their sick predations with thick layers of impenetrable jargon-rich bullshit, while they flounced into galactically absurd levels of personal and corporate wealth capture, all the while bending liberal democracies into ugly, threatening shapes, by purchasing politicians like used cars.

the world would merrily let itself be governed by responsible 'deciders'... most people would love to turn over the keys to their happiness and social equilibrium to accountable, transparent, honourable governments, and just get on with their lives, but what if those deemed trustworthy enough to be given such excessive power to fracture societies with punishing cuts, (then gallivant off to well paid pastures, far away from the scenes of their crimes, or collect in secret G-20 type connivings), those whose most sacred duty is to maintain a fiduciary, maintenance role in the very architectural foundations societies are based on, can suck whole sovereign nation/states lifeblood dry for breakfast?

these clowns are flying too damn close to the sun, and we all know how that ends!

and guess who's getting splattered with burning wax and feathers?

they break it, from the inside, and then the shafted are supposed to be too fearful to contemplate living without these planetary eco-gobbling, totalitarian-minded goons and their mentally disturbed juggling of the family jewels.

money used to symbolise intelligence and sweat, now the cart is before the horse and it has become pure vapourware...

yes there will be a terrible price to pay for such hubris, with much loss of quantity and quality of life, but what role in creating this unholy clusterfuck did the common man play? how long is everyman supposed to weep for the dissolution of one form of semi-controlled chaos, when it's screwing him six ways from sunday, even if the alternative is more chaotic, for as long as it takes for people to tire of strife, and relearn to coalesce around verifiable realities, ones they can touch and feel, instead of virtual castles in the air, that crumble every time the winds of cyclic change blow?

those who couldn't see through the tissue of lies, and trusted those who coaxed and cajoled them into denial and the cognitively challenged, sheeplike support for imperial violence and resource plunder, have the most to lose.

some of the rest of us have been watching evil defying gravity blowback for decades, and there is a ghastly sense of the other shoe finally dropping. of course there will be goodies to give up, anyone thinking the firstworld vision of the future of happy motoring and sprawling suburbia, trashy media, junk food, braindead ed, groaning hypermalls and cheez whiz snack diets, and a pill or three for all that ails ya (as you contemplate the horror of the inevitable) is going to last much longer has more faith in the lies than i do... this whole model of western(TM) life has become heartless, even as millions of new acolytes assemble to quaff the shiny koolaide.

my bet is that the novelty of events changing globally, added to the excitement of seeing rotten old edifices crumbling, and the space they will make for new and wiser constructions, will more than compensate for the sacrifices we will have to make for exchanging the present rot-riddled paradigm for something more...evolved, even if it is painful. show me any birth that isn't!

they had their fun, at the poorest and weakest's expense, for centuries, they think they can have their cake and eat it for ever. we of the future can carry over the best of what we designed, before it was corroded by people of bad faith, or no faith at all.

so it goes went...

'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 Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 08:50:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... done getting mired down in the details.

And the promise of continuing to provide any essential services within the structures of the American Empire is an empty promise, since there is no question of the American Empire lasting: the question from inside the metropole is whether we here in the US start dismantling it before it collapses, and the question from inside Europe is how to prepare for riding out the shock waves that will result in either case.

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 Nov 25th, 2010 at 01:27:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
while i appreciate the compliment, i appreciate just as much your incredible ability to go into the details, to levels that would melt my cerebellum!

same with the other monetary gurus here.

freaking invaluable stuff...

cheers Bruce.

ET, where talents collide in fruitful profusion!

'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 Sat Nov 27th, 2010 at 04:01:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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