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There's more than one kind of steady state:

  1. Steady-state population head-count.
  2. Steady-state 'science' - in the widest sense of world modelling and practical technology/agriculture.
  3. Steady-state culture - art and politics.
  4. Steady-state sustainable resource use, where resources taken from within the environmental footprint are either insignificant, or they replace themselves, or they're managed so that they replace themselves.

There's also force majeure steady-state where climatic and other conditions outside of immediate control remain stable.

Tribal cultures tend to do all of the above. This makes them inherently sustainable, but very static. You can leave a tribal culture alone for a few thousand years, and when you come back the people will doing the same things, eating the same food, telling the same stories and singing the same songs.

This looks secure but it depends on environmental stability. If the climate changes or if there's a disaster, these cultures have mixed prospects of adaptability. Without a tradition of innovation they may not be able to adapt.

Force-based cultures don't believe in the steady state. Survivability is enhanced through innovation.

But in fact the West is a mixed culture. It believes in force and change in everything except politics and economics (which is just politics with numbers).

There's vanishingly little political innovation in Western history. You can compare the Roman Empire or Greece to the US Senate, and they're recognisably similar. Rome had its redistributive land reform economic populists like the Gracchi, and they weren't any more successful than ours have been.

So in fact rather than looking for tribal self-sufficient nostalgia, a technological fix or a big die-off, I'd suggest that the way to make Western culture sustainable is to eliminate steady-state politics and economics.

This doesn't mean revolution in the Marxist sense, but it does mean making politics and economics more open-ended, chaotic, innovative and participative, and not based on the old tribal assumptions.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 01:18:32 PM EST
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Diary.

The brainless should not be in banking -- Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 01:22:59 PM EST
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