Radix Journal

Radix Journal

A radical journal

Tag: Economy

Accelerationism and Coronavirus

Two weeks ago, on the “Chimerica” stream, audience member Diem Golightly asked to “apply Nick Land to current Chi-Virus situation.” Let’s give it a short try and talk Accelerationism.

Two weeks ago, on the “Chimerica” stream, audience member Diem Golightly asked to “apply Nick Land to current Chi-Virus situation.” Let’s give it a short try and talk Accelerationism.

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The Bright Side of Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration might not be so bad after all.

Originally published November 2012 at Jack-Donovan.com

I had an epiphany a couple of months ago.

After looking over their shoulders, some co-workers started complaining about all of the illegals in our industry. As their go-to right-wing ideologue, I smiled, took a deep breath, and mentally arranged my collection of completely legitimate complaints, theoretical objections, snarky cheap shots and racist laughs.

Then it hit me.

Illegal immigration might not be so bad after all.

Sure, every group is defined by its borders, and you can’t make rational decisions—let alone collective decisions—for a group if you don’t know who is in and who is out. It doesn’t matter if the group is a team, a tribe, or a nation. If your group has open boundaries, it really isn’t a group at all. Your group, if it is even your group, is loosely “whoever shows up at any given time.” That makes it virtually impossible to maintain security or do any kind of meaningful long-term planning. People who simply come and go as free agents share no common culture or connection. Everyone, at least theoretically, is just passing through. It doesn’t make sense to run any group that way.

“Who’s on your football team?”

“I guess those guys out there.”

“Do they know the plays?”

“I doubt it.”

“Do they know the rules of football?”

“Can’t be sure.”

“Can you talk to them?”

“I can try. Oh, wait. There’s another one. And those two look like they’re leaving.HEY! You guys!”

(Points and gestures.)

“This is going to be a great game.”

Illegal immigration also hits me where I live. I like to do simple, honest jobs. I drive a delivery truck so I don’t have to swindle people, or tell lies, or send passive-aggressive emails cc-ing someone’s supervisor. I can write what I want and I don’t have some prissy Human Resources busybody reading my blog. The thing about simple, honest work, though, is that it generally doesn’t require a lot of experience or educational background, and usually requires some physical labor. In most places in America, that puts me in direct competition for jobs with illegal immigrants.

Illegals are happy to work 60 hours a week. They’ll take split shifts and split days off. They’ll work days and nights and graveyard shifts. They’ll do whatever you tell them to do, whether it’s the job you hired them for, or scrubbing a toilet. Illegals will let you talk to them like morons, whether they’re morons or not. They’ll whistle while they work like good little dwarves, they’ll stick around forever, and they’ll do it all for peanuts.

Why?

Because they don’t have a lot of other options.

Who cares if they can’t speak English at an elementary school level? They’re cheap!

Lift-o, the boxes-o!

Ándale! Ándale! Arriba! Arriba! Arriba! 

The presence of “undocumented workers” or illegals with fake paperwork in an industry translates to worse hours and lower pay for anyone else working in their industry. Illegals raise an employer’s expectations of how much his labor dollar will buy, and lower what he expects to offer in terms of benefits and accommodations. Why should he treat you with respect when he can treat Pedro like shit and get the same work done, and for half as much money?

Uncontrolled immigration is bad for security and long-term planning. It lowers quality of life for working people. It creates disharmony and ethnic tension. It grinds my gears because I want things to make sense, and poorly managed immigration just doesn’t make sense for a nation if you want the best for the people of that nation—if you want that nation to succeed.

But, what if you don’t want it to succeed? What if you want your nation to fail?

If, as Richard Spencer recently wrote, one’s aim is to “actively disengage from this equally evil and stupid political system,” and the idea is to hasten the failure of that system, then why get your chonies in a bunch about a big, fat wrench in the works like illegal labor?

Instead of blustering on about all of the ways that it darkens the nation, I’ve decided to look for the bright side of illegal immigration.

Because it has failed to secure its borders and enforce its own immigration laws to protect the interests of its citizens, the United States government has undermined its own authority and created a nation of bourgeois criminals. Instead of respecting the rule of law, millions of average, hard working Americans have chosen to ignore the law and abandon any sense of community and allegiance to each other. To make a profit, they hire foreigners because it’s cheaper and easier than hiring their neighbors’ kids and the people they grew up with. In a sane country, we’d hang these people for treason—or at least socially shun them—but America stopped making sense a long time ago. One wonders if a nation built on merchant morality and short-term profit seeking ever made much sense.

You can’t even blame illegal immigration on big, global corporations. Small businesses might hire the document challenged to compete with big business prices, but hiring illegals isn’t GloboCorp’s game. GloboCorp has enough pesos to outsource labor anywhere in the world. GloboCorp screws over working people and undermines the state in completely different way.

No, the businesses that create a market for illegal labor—the businesses that lure illegal immigrants into America—are small businesses. It’s mom and pop who are hiring Juan instead of John. Conservatives love to condemn about illegal immigrants and sing the praises of small businesses, but it is small businesses who hire workers under the table and build their whole business models on breaking the law. Then they call their confessions to drive time talk show hosts and look for absolution by complaining that in a country with a high unemployment rate, they simply can’t find any Americans who are willing to do hard work. I’m not saying a lot of young Americans aren’t lazy or entitled, but if as an employer you feel entitled to treat your employees like refugees from a Third World Country, why would any First World workers want to work for you? The grass gets cut both ways when you pay minimum wage (or less).

I’ve been in a lot of snazzy restaurant kitchens over the years. I know for a fact that at least twenty percent of the folks washing your dishes and prepping your $30 entrees can’t pass The Roy Rogers Test.

(If you can’t say the R’s in Roy Rogers, you probably weren’t born on this side of the Rio Grande, and if you’re washing dishes, you probably didn’t go through the lengthy and complex legal immigration process. The Roy Rogers Test is probably about as accurate as E-Verify.)

Illegals with fake paperwork are stocking your warehouses and picking your potatoes and setting up the white tents for your fairy tale weddings. So many people are somehow involved in turning a blind eye to illegal labor. It’s not just some swaggering dickhead plantation owner with a big brass belt buckle; it’s also his sweet old accounting lady and the chipper bilingual stooge he hired to manage the operation. It’s Bob the Builder with his pickup truck. It’s all of the regular white guys like me who just shrug their shoulders, accept it as reality, and end up teaching their customers words like “celery.” We all know what’s up. As with Prohibition, almost everyone is somehow wink-and-nod complicit in this crime that unde
rmines the rule of law in America. And, instead of enforcing the law and protecting the interests of the nation as a whole, every President from Reagan to Obama has allowed this middle class anarchy to flourish. They even dangle amnesty in front of illegals every few years to reassure them that crossing the border was a swell idea, after all.

Illegal immigration may be slowing down, but it’s still happening, and millions of legitimate American citizens remain out of work while employers hire illegals instead of Americans.

People try to say that America is simply “changing,” but that’s the liberal language of passive resignation. It’s like convincing yourself that getting prison-banged by Bubba is merely “changing” the shape of your lower intestine. America isn’t simply “changing.” It’s getting torn apart from the inside, it’s bleeding internally, everyone is looking the other way, and no one is coming to help.

Illegal immigration is killing my grandfather’s America, but that America is never coming back.  The bright side I see is that this is all part of the process of creating a failed state—a state where no one believes in the system, where the government is just another shakedown gang, where no one confuses the law with justice. A state where there is no such thing as a law-abiding citizen, a state full of middle class criminals. A state where overregulation and corruption, combined with a lack of the will and the resources to enforce the law, leads to widespread civil disobedience.

In a failed state, we go back to Wild West rules, and America becomes a place for men again—a land full of promise and possibility that rewards daring and ingenuity, a place where men can restart the world.

Yippee ki-yay, motherfuckers.

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Summarizing Descent

Marxism, despite its best efforts, is a mega-structure of ‘social constructs’, it is the tenets of Communism implanted onto culture and human interaction and is the source of the modern ‘social justice’ movement prevalent among youths and in universities.

Originally published at Sigurd-Strong

Liberal society strives for equality in all social and political areas, but fails itself in the economic department, though democratic governments practice welfare systems and equality in regards to work and education opportunities, it continually fails to practice true equality within economics. So although liberal society practices ‘Cultural Marxism’, it fails to put into practice the natural (historical) conclusion to the question of economic ‘equality’, which is Communism. Communism is an economic system rather than a political system – modern liberals seem to believe that economics will solve all problems within society, the redistribution of wealth, the levelling of material possession and the stripping of old concepts of (racial and social) superiority will cease conflict and ensure the abstract idea of equal human rights. It is true that communism does in fact strip the individual of his identity; it removes the natural element of competition and makes each man indistinguishable from the next, ultimately unveiling a sort of democratic totalitarianism – and if the isolated man has no rights (Rougier) until relationships are created, then the people under communism, as interchangeable outlines of men certainly have no ‘rights’. 

Marxism, despite its best efforts, is a mega-structure of ‘social constructs’, it is the tenets of Communism implanted onto culture and human interaction and is the source of the modern ‘social justice’ movement prevalent among youths and in universities. The focal points are that gender and race are constructs built to discriminatorily divide people and every person ‘deserves’ universal human rights (which contrarily is not a social construct). This process of unblinking despotism succeeds through firstly encouraging one to willingly throw off one’s oh so oppressive, presumptuous characteristics and either acquires new vetted titles or else entirely denies nationality, race, gender etc. Unfortunately these advocators are misty eyed over ‘equality’ and cannot see the ‘double-think’ for the teetering manipulation of words – “we are all the same, but different”.

So how do you convince a young person to throw off their identity? You baffle them with biased history lessons and sentimental ideas. You lead them to believe that their natural attributes are a representation of historical persecution (i.e. all white males were slave traders), so upon this illogical guilt they attempt to align themselves with the ‘persecuted’ by putting themselves in an ‘oppressed minority’ or as we’ve suggested, denying themselves, this then rids them of their guilt. ‘Oppressed minorities’ i.e. women, then convince themselves that they need to rid themselves of the memories of their collective oppression, i.e. femininity, which is a relic of the past –equally, men who’ve adopted this neurosis, rid themselves of masculinity which again is a reminder of patriarchy and the pattern continues. Their behaviour is self-destructive, akin to caged animals, performing obscenities in affront to their ‘persecutors’.

Alienating the individual is not nearly enough, however. The ‘diversity through homogeny’ stint must permeate all institutions, in every group imaginable – political, social, cultural is the apparent need for a universal attitude within (the group) regardless of its aim. It must allow representatives from every category; every gender, race, age and religion must be heard and represented. Exclusivity, pride and success are sins which create resentment, instead of dealing with conflict the natural way – division (tribal and national) or competition, we insist that that is wrong but what is more humane is making the two agitators more alike, and then surely they will cease fighting?

It’s widely believed that Judaism and its sequel Christianity are the progenitors of egalitarian thought and ‘human rights’ since ‘all men are equal under God’. The modern distaste for competition and pride, and the seemingly impossible task of accepting a plurality of truths, or rather ideas as well as the thinning integrity of borders (globalisation) is evidence enough that liberal ideas stem from the universalism of these Asiatic religions. To reverse to a time when these thought structures were not neatly entrenched, we’d end up at our pre-Christian ancestors who worshipped a pantheon of gods and spirits and competition and pride was at the centre of culture. Victory was its own justification and life was sacred for its ephemeral nature and not clung to, to the detriment of growth.

So this simplified explanation of Cultural Marxism aims to enlighten the individual, who finds the communistic ideas appealing on a superficial level, because ‘equality’ is an obvious truth in a society that revolves around money. When money and equality are synonymous, we have the growth of global trade and larger bodies of power to oversee it. We have Westerners involving themselves with ‘less’ civilised parts of the world to spread the truth (spot the Christianity again!). What is the result? Large corporations who own a complete trade where the cogs are paid little and the product is equally cheap, this causes the deterioration of local industry and ambition. This makes it increasingly difficult for people to own their own businesses, houses etc. This is where Cultural Marxism and Economic Marxism cease mirroring each other and actually meet to form all-inclusive Communism. There is no middle ground on the path we are on, because in the society that values ‘progress’ over sustenance (and tradition), there will reach a pinnacle of extremism.

Communism does not see the individual, you are interchangeable, replaceable and therefore your national identity matters little, your national identity encourages exclusivity which is detrimental to the growth of global economy. Your countrymen could be easily replaced or mixed with that of another, and the cogs would continue. There is no place for ‘aiming higher’, the schooling system and therefore public expectations are lowered to accommodate the lowest common denominator, the message is uniformity masquerading as tolerance and equality.

Your best form of defence is quite simply to value your national identity, your local community and its smaller businesses. Cultural Marxism is the process of willing Communism – so revolt against it by embracing tradition and your natural identity, changing your priorities from the materialism that sedates you to your innate spirituality. Enhance your self-esteem, not by demanding others opinions accommodate yours, but by arming yourself with intellectual and physical strength. What is popular is rarely there to inspire success, cultural Marxism is not a system of elevation but of degradation, encouraging the belief that self-destruction and lewd behaviour is ‘empowering’, in open revolt against healthy tradition.

Support true identity, not the merging and watering down of it.

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The Fourth Estate

The concept of the “middle class” is crucial for the liberal-capitalist ideology. Although it appeared later than the Marxist theory of class struggle and the famous communist doctrine of the two antagonistic classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the very meaning of the term “middle class” has a much longer history and has its roots in the period of bourgeois revolutions and the rise of the Third Estate, which claimed henceforth a monopoly in political and economic spheres. 

 

The History and Meaning of the Middle Class


Science and Ideology: A Problem of Method

None of the words we use in the course of social and political discussions and analyses is ideologically neutral. Outside of ideology entirely, such words lose their meaning. And it is not possible to determine one’s attitude toward them unambiguously, since the content of any expression is shaped by context and semantic structures, a kind of operational system. When we live in a society with an obvious ideology, openly maintained as the dominant one, things are clear enough.

The significance of words flows directly from the ideological matrix, which is instilled through upbringing, education, and instruction and is supported by the active ideological apparatus of the state. The state forms a language, defines the meaning of discourse, and sets—most often through repressive measures, broadly understood—the limits and moral tint of the basic collection of political and sociological concepts and terms.

If we lived in a society in which communist ideology dominates, concepts such as “bourgeoisie,” “fascism,” “capitalism,” “speculation,” etc. acquire not only strictly negative connotations but specific meanings, with which capitalists, fascists, and speculators would categorically disagree. The disagreement concerns not only signs, but the very significance of words. The way a communist sees a fascist, or a capitalist seems to the fascist, might seem to a different party to be little more than a caricature or a distortion. And this, of course, works the other way around: fascism seems natural to the fascist, and communism, utterly evil.

For a capitalist, communism and fascism are equally evil. The capitalist most often does not think of himself as bourgeois. Speculation is for him a form of the realization of natural economic rights, and the system he defends he usually regards as a “free” society, an “open” society. Neither the Marxist analysis of the appropriation of surplus value, nor the fascist critique of the web of interest obligations and payments, and the international financial oligarchy, which usurps power over peoples and nations, ever convince him of anything.

Ideologies are similar to religions; hence Carl Schmitt speaks of “political theology.” Each believes sacredly in his own values and ideals, and criticism of or apology for alternative values most often has no effect (except for a few cases of confessional change, which occurs in the history of religion and in the history of political teachings).

Consequently, before speaking seriously about one or another term, it is necessary to determine in which ideological context we will be considering it. Someone will surely object: science must take a neutral position. That is impossible. In this case, science would pretend to the status of a meta-ideology, i.e. a kind of “true ideology,” of which all other ideologies are relative forms. But nobody will agree with this, even it should come into someone’s head to flaunt such ambitions.

In the religious sphere, syncretic teachings periodically arise, claiming that they are the expression of “absolute truth” and that all other historical religions are its relative manifestations. But as a rule, such tendencies do not enjoy great popularity, remaining the property of rather small circles and denied by major confessions as “heresies.” Science, likewise, cannot claim the status of a meta-ideology and remain relevant. But it differs from ordinary ideology by three features:

  1. It reflects distinctly upon the structures of the ideological paradigm it considers. (Ordinary people do not even suspect that what seems to them their “personal opinion” is a secondary or even tertiary product of ideological processing, the mechanisms of which are entirely hidden from them.)
  2. In the course of analysis of ideological discourse, it uses the techniques of classical logic (Aristotle’s laws and Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason).
  3. It is able to build a comparative matrix of the correspondences between diverse ideologies, juxtaposing structures in their foundations and establishing symmetries and oppositions between separate discourses and their elements.

Thus, in considering any concept or term, it is possible to proceed in two ways: either to interpret it from the position of one or another ideology, not digging into its foundations and not comparing it with other interpretations (this is the level of propaganda and low-quality applied analysis/journalism), or to attend to the scientific method, which does not free us from adherence to an ideology, but forces us to reason, observing the three above-mentioned rules of the scientific approach (paradigm, logic, comparison).

We propose to consider the concept of the “middle class” in precisely this scientific spirit.

From Caste to Class

Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (15th century) Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (15th century)

The concept of the “middle class” is crucial for the liberal-capitalist ideology. Although it appeared later than the Marxist theory of class struggle and the famous communist doctrine of the two antagonistic classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the very meaning of the term “middle class” has a much longer history and has its roots in the period of bourgeois revolutions and the rise of the Third Estate, which claimed henceforth a monopoly in political and economic spheres.

Before considering the “middle class,” let’s turn to the concept of “class” as such. Class is a concept of the social organization of modernity. Ancient orders and social-political systems were built on the caste principle. “Caste” should be understood as the doctrine that the inner nature of different people differs qualitatively: there are divine souls and earthly (feral, demonic) souls. The caste reflects precisely this nature of the soul, which man is not able to change during his life. The caste is fatal. The normal society, according to this conception, must be built so that those of a divine nature (the elite) are above, and those of an earthly (feral, demonic) nature remain below (the masses). That is how the Indian Varna system is arranged, as were ancient Jewish, Babylonian, Egyptian, and other societies.

This caste theory was replaced by a more flexible estate theory. The estate also proposes a difference in people’s natures (the existence of higher and lower), but here the fact of birth in one or another estate is not considered a final and natural factor in the determination of belonging to a certain social status. Estate can be changed if the representative of a lower estate accomplishes a great feat, demonstrates unique spiritual qualities, becomes a member of the priesthood, etc.

Here, alongside the caste principle, is the principle of meritocracy, that is, rewards for services. The meritocratic principle extends also to the descendants of the one who accomplished the feat (ennobling). Estate society was predominant in Christian civilization right to the end of the Middle Ages. In estate society, the highest estates are the priesthood (clergy) and the military (aristocracy), and the lowest is the Third Estate of peasants and craftsmen. Precisely the same way, in a caste society, priests and warriors (Brahma and Kshatriya) were highest, and lowest were peasants, artisans, and traders (Vaishya).

Modernity became the era of the overthrow of estate society. Europe’s bourgeois revolutions demanded a replacement of the estate privileges of the higher estates (the clergy and the military aristocracy, the nobility) in favor of the Third Estate. But the bearers of this ideology were not the peasants, who were connected with traditional society by the specific character of seasonal labour, religious identity, etc., but the more mobile townspeople and burghers. “Bourgeois” is itself formed from the German word “Burg” meaning “town.” Hence, modernity gave first priority to precisely the townsfolk-citizen-bourgeois as a normative unit.

The bourgeois revolutions abolished the power of the Church (clergy) and aristocracy (nobility, dynasties) and advanced the model of building society on the basis of the domination of the Third Estate, represented by the townsfolk-citizen-bourgeois. This is, essentially, capitalism. Capitalism, in its victory, replaces estate distinctions, but preserves material ones. Thus, the notion of class arises: class signifies an indicator of the measure of inequality. The bourgeoisie abolish estate inequality, but preserve material inequality. Consequently, precisely modernity’s bourgeois capitalistic society is a class society in the full sense of the word. Previously, in the Middle Ages, belonging to an estate was one’s primary social attribute. In modernity, the entire social stratification was reduced to the attribute of material riches. Class is thus a phenomenon of modernity.

Class War

Georg Grosz, Eclipse of the Sun (1926) Georg Grosz, Eclipse of the Sun (1926)

The class character of bourgeois society, however, was perceived most distinctly not by the ideology of the bourgeoisie, but by Marx. He elaborated his revolutionary teaching on the basis of the concept of class. At its foundation was the idea that class society and the material inequality characteristic of it, elevated to the highest criterion, exposes the essence of the nature of society, man, and history. In Marx’s class picture, there are always rich and poor, and the rich always get richer, and the poor, poorer. Consequently, there are two classes, the bourgeoisie and proletariat, and their struggle is the motor and meaning of history.

All of Marxism is built on this idea: when we speak of classes, we speak of two antagonistic classes, the difference between which is not relative but absolute, since each embodies in itself two irreconcilable worlds: the world of Exploitation and the world of (honest) Labor. There are two classes: the class of Labor (the proletariat) and the class of Exploitation (the bourgeoisie). In the capitalist system, the class of Exploitation dominates. The class of Labor must become conscious of itself, arise, and overthrow the class of Exploiters. They must create, at first, the Government of Labor—socialism. Then, after the last remnants of bourgeois society have been destroyed, communist society will appear, now fully classless. According to Marx, a classlessness is possible only after the victory of the proletariat and the radical destruction of the bourgeoisie.

For Marx, a “middle class” simply cannot exist. This concept has no independent semantics in Marxist ideology, since everything that is between the bourgeoisie and proletariat (for instance, the petty bourgeoisie or prosperous peasantry) relates essentially either to the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. For Marxists, the “middle class” is a fiction. It doesn’t exist, and the concept itself is nothing but an instrument of the ideological propaganda of capitalists, trying to fool the proletariat, promising a future integration into the class of the bourgeoisie (which, according to Marx, cannot happen, since the appropriation of surplus value prevents the proletariat’s enrichment).

We can draw the following conclusion: the term “middle class” is a fiction for Marxists, an artificial figure of bourgeois ideology, called upon to conceal the real picture of society and the processes occurring in it. At the same time, Marxists admit the fact of a transition from estate society to class society and, consequently, agree with the bourgeoisie that a society of material inequalities (class society) is “more progressive” than a society of estate inequality; they disagree with the bourgeoisie in that, for communists, this is not the “end of history,” but only the beginning of a full-fledged revolutionary struggle. Liberals, on the other hand, insist that material inequality is entirely moral and justified and maintain that the communists’ striving for material equality is, by contrast, amoral and pathological. For liberals, “the end of history” begins when everyone becomes “middle class.” For communists, it begins when the proletariat finally destroy the bourgeoisie and build a communist society of total equality.

The Middle Class within Liberalism

The concept of a middle class is implicitly present in liberal ideology from the very beginning. That said, it only receives full implementation in the course of the establishment of sociology, which endeavors to combine many avant-garde theses of Marxism (in particular, the centrality of the concept of class) and bourgeois conditions. Sociology is thus a hybrid form: ideologically, it is between communism and liberalism; methodologically, it emphasizes a scientific, analytic approach. We can distinguish two poles in sociology, the social (the school of Durkheim, the theories of Sorokin, etc.) and the liberal (Weber, the Chicago and “Austrian” Schools in the United States, etc.)

In any case, the specific character of the liberal understanding of class is the conviction that, in the standard bourgeois society, there is only one class, and all differences between the depths and the heights are relative and conditional. If, for Marx, there are always two classes, and they exist in implacable enmity, for liberals (Adam Smith, for instance) there is always ultimately one class—the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie nominally embraces the entire capitalist society. The poorest layers of this society are, as it were, incompletely bourgeois. The richest, on the other hand, area super-bourgeois. But the social nature of all people is qualitatively identical: all are given equal starting opportunities, setting out from which the bourgeois can either reach a certain level of success, or fail to reach it and tumble down into the incompletely bourgeois.

Hence, Adam Smith takes as a standard situation the following classical liberal narrative:

The baker hires a worker, who has recently come to the city for work. After working as an assistant to the owner, the hired worker learns to bake bread and observes the organization of processes of interaction with suppliers and customers. After some time, the hired worker borrows credit and opens a bakery. After first working independently, he eventually hires a helper, who has come to the city for work, and the cycle repeats itself.

In this model, we see the following. Not only is society thought of as middle class, but there exists the already-middle-class and the not-yet-middle-class. In this picture, the hired worker does not form a peculiar type, but represents the potentially bourgeois, while the ready baker is actually bourgeois (though even he, coming to ruin, can theoretically be in the position again of the hired worker, the not-yet-bourgeois).

According to Marx, the quantity of riches in society is a fixed quantity, and the presence of two classes is based on precisely this: those who have riches will never share them with the poor, since life in capitalist society is a zero-sum game. For Smith, on the other hand, riches constantly increase. As a result, the boundaries of the middle class continuously expand. Capitalism is based on the presumption of the constant growth of riches for all members of society; ideally, all humanity must become middle class.

At the same time, there are two approaches to the middle class in liberal ideology. The first corresponds to left liberals: they demand that the super-bourgeois (the big capitalists) consciously share a part of the profits with the middle class and petty bourgeoisie, since this will lead to the stability of the system and to an acceleration of the growth of the middle class globally.

The second approach is characteristic of right liberals: they object to the burden placed on the super-bourgeoisie by taxation and welfare projects; they believe these contradicts the spirit of “free enterprise” and slows the dynamics of the development of the capitalist system, since the super-bourgeoisie stimulates the growth of the middle-bourgeoisie, which, in turn, urges on the petty bourgeoisie and the not-yet-bourgeoisie.

Accordingly, the concept of the middle class becomes, for left liberals, a moral value and ideological slogan (as in, “We must build a stronger middle class!”). For right liberals, on the other hand, the growth of the middle class is a natural consequence of the development of the capitalist system and does not demand special attention or elevation to a value.

Class as Social Strata in Sociology

In sociology, this basic ideological attitude of liberalism concerning the primacy of the middle class manifests itself in the relativization of the model of stratification. Sociology divides society into three classes: upper, middle, and lower (to this is sometimes added the underclass of pure marginals and social deviants). These classes are not identical to Marxist, nor to strictly liberal class concepts (since liberalism knows only one class, the middle class, while the others are thought of as its variations). This division fixes the dimension of individuals along four indicators: material sufficiency, level of fame, position in administrative hierarchy, and level of education. On the basis of strictly qualitative criteria, any person can be related to one of three social strata.

Here, the concept of class does not have a direct ideological content, but, as a rule, it is applied to bourgeois society, where sociology as a science appeared. This sociological classes, identified with social strata, should be distinguished from Marxist classes and from standard liberal conceptions about the middle class as the universal and single class.

In this case, in a bourgeois framework, the struggle for the rights of the underclass or support of the lower class (in a sociological sense) can be thought of as a left continuation of the liberal approach: attention to the lower layer of bourgeois society stipulates striving to facilitate its integration into the middle class, i.e. to pull them up the level of the bourgeois. For right liberals, such an effort is “amoral,” since it contradicts the main principle of social freedom: initiative and honest competition (the strong win, the weak lose, but such are the rules of the game; all should endeavor to become strong). The extreme version of right or even far-right liberalism is the “objectivism” of Ayn Rand.

The Middle Class and Nationalism

Thomas Hart Benton, Steel in America Today (1930) Thomas Hart Benton, Steel in America Today (1930)

There is one other ideological system of modernity, which we have yet to consider—nationalism. Nationalism is a variation of bourgeois ideology, which insists that the standard horizon of bourgeois society should not be humanity (the “cosmopolitanism” and “globalism” of classical liberals) but society as defined by the borders of a nation-state. The nation or people is taken as the maximal unit of integration. The market is open within the boundaries of the nation. But in the inter-state system, economic activity transitions to the level of the state, not private actors. From here, there arises the legitimization of such instruments as tariffs, protectionism, etc.

Nationalism thinks of the middle class not abstractly but concretely, as the middle class of a given national formation of the state. Nationalism also, like liberalism, accepts as a standard figure of society the townsperson-citizen-bourgeois, but puts the accent precisely on citizen, and what’s more, the citizen of a given national state.

The “nation” as a political formation becomes a synonym of bourgeois society. For nationalists, beyond this society, there exists only a zone of national and social risk. The nation is thought of here as a community of the middle class. And the task consists in integrating the lower layers into the national whole, often with the help of welfare measures. That is why nationalism can possess numerous socialist features, though the ideological basis here is different: pulling the economically weak to the level of the middle class is a task of national integration, not a consequence of orientation towards justice and material equality. We see something similar with left liberals, who consider integrating the under-class into broader society as a condition for the stability of the development of the capitalist system.

Nationalism, as a rule, relates negatively to national minorities and especially to immigrants. This is connected with the fact that in the eyes of nationalists, these elements disturb the homogeneity of the national middle class. Moreover, some national minorities are blamed for concentrating in their hands too much material wealth, in other words, those who challenge the national middle class “from above.” Nationalist feelings of injustice are expressed in antagonism towards “oligarchs” and, often times, as “economic anti-semitism,” a sentiment that was not foreign to Marx himself. In turn, other non-nationals (usually immigrants) are blamed for increasing the numbers of the lower strata and underclass, the integration of which is complicated by national differences. A variant of anti-immigrant nationalism consists in the charge that the increase of cheap labor slows the process of enriching the “native” population and the “harmonious” (for nationalists) growth of the middle class.

The Problem of the Middle Class in Contemporary Russia

After making these necessary methodological refinements, we can finally raise the question: what is the middle class for Russia? What are its prospects? Is it important for us or, on the contrary, are discussions about it optional and secondary?

It is impossible to answer this without turning to one of the three classical ideologies (including the versions contained in each through the polarities of left and right).

If we take the position of right liberalism, the answer is this: we should not pay attention to the middle class; the most important thing is to secure maximum economic freedom (that is, complete removal of government from business, taxes approximating zero, etc.), and everything will fall into place. Right liberals and consistent globalists are convinced that the growth of the middle class in Russia is not the goal; it is a consequence of the nation’s integration into the global economy, the opening of internal markets for external competition, and the prompt dismantling of an overbearing state.

If we take the position of left liberalism, then our attitude changes substantially. The broadening of the middle class is the number one task for our society, since the successful establishment of capitalism in Russia depends on precisely this, as does its integration into the international community. A small and weak middle class facilitates the degradation of society into “lumpens” and “oligarchs” and indirectly helps nationalistic and socialistic anti-liberal tendencies capture the minds of the population. Social injustice and inequality, the volume of the underclass, and the slow growth of the middle class demand special attention and the execution of goal-directed policies, since the fate of capitalism in Russia is at stake. Again, the struggle for the middle class is a slogan of left liberals. And they are the ones who would most likely focus this topic, since it is the core of their ideological positions.

If we are contemporary Marxists by inertia or conscious choice, then any mention of a middle class must evoke our rage, since this is the ideological platform of the sworn enemies of communism—bourgeois liberals. For communists, the following is correct: the narrower the middle class, the sharper the social contradictions and the more acute the imperative of the class struggle of proletariat against bourgeoisie. Thus, the communist perceives a large lower social strata and underclass against the background of prospering oligarchs as the ideal social picture. For communists, the middle class is a lie, an evil, and its absence or underdevelopment is a chance and window of opportunity for revolution. If some “communist” thinks otherwise, then he is not a communist, but a revisionist and compromiser with the bourgeoisie.

If we are nationalists, then the middle class acquires for us an additional dimension. It is thought of as the skeleton of national society in opposition to the “immigrant underclass” and “foreign-born oligarchy.” This is the peculiar notion of the middle class in the nationalist framework. And the cutting edges of this conception of the middle class are directed against oligarchs (the upper class) and immigrants (the lower class and underclass); the middle class itself is regarded as the national class, i.e. as the Russian class, which includes Russian entrepreneurs, Russian proprietors, the Russian bourgeoisie, etc.

It is impossible to speak of the middle class as such, without adhering (consciously or not) to an ideological position. But since in Russia, according to the constitution, there is no state ideology, theoretically we can interpret the middle class however we want. The fact that this concept has become the center of discussions attests to the fact that in contemporary Russia, by the inertia of the ‘90s and early 2000s, a liberal paradigm prevails. In the absence of a state ideology, liberals nevertheless strive to impose on us their paradigm as dominant.

Let’s conduct a thought experiment: a discussion about the middle class is taking place in a socially significant platform, for instance on one of Russia’s major television stations. Representatives of all possible ideologies of modernity are participating: Russian liberals, Russian communists, and Russian nationalists.

The first, a Russian liberals, would say:

The growth of the middle class and elevation of the level of wealth for the citizens of Russia is the main task of our society and government.

The second, a Russian communist:

Illegal privatization in the ‘90s put national property in the hands of oligarchs; look how our people live in the provinces in poverty and squalor!

The third, aRussian nationalists:

Illegal immigrants are taking jobs from Russians, and they’re all led by Jewish and Caucasian oligarchs. That is a catastrophe for the Russian middle class!

Despite the fact that the viewers might like all three positions, the jury and “respected experts” will, undoubtedly, grant victory to the liberals. For ultimately, we still find ourselves in the condition of the ideological dictatorship of liberalism. This would happen despite the fact that society, recognizing the right of liberal discourse, fully and persistently denies its supremacy and absolute right. (In contrast, for the political elite, liberal dogmas remain sacred and unshakeable.)

From this, we can draw a conclusion: the middle class and discussion about it reflect the ideological order of liberals among Russia’s political and economic elite. If we do not share liberal axioms, then we might not consider this topic at all, or else offer an interpretation (Marxist, nationalistic, etc.) that liberals will vigorously reject.

The Fourth Political Theory: Beyond Class

In conclusion, we can conduct an analysis of the middle class in the context of the Fourth Political Theory. This theory is built on the imperative of overcoming modernity and all three political ideologies in order (the order has tremendous significance): (1) liberalism, (2) communism, (3) nationalism (fascism). The subject of this theory, in its simple version, is the concept “narod,”roughly, “Volk” or “people,” in the sense of “peoplehood” and “peoples,” not “masses.”

In its complex version, the subject of this theory is Heidegger’s category of Dasein. We can say, as an approximation, that narod must be thought of existentially, as the living, organic, historical presence of Russians in a qualitative spatial landscape, in the expanses of Great Russia. But if the subject is the narod and not the individual (as in liberalism), not two antagonistic classes (as in Marxism), and not the political nation (as in nationalism), then all the obligatory elements of the modern picture of the world change. There is no longer materialism, economism, recognition of the fatefulness and universality of the bourgeois revolutions, linear time, Western civilization as a universal standard, secularism, human rights, civil society, democracy, the market, or any other axioms and buzzwords of modernity. The Fourth Political Theory proposes solutions and horizons knowingly excluded by liberalism, communism, and nationalism. (More on this is found in my book The Fourth Political Theory and my new book The Fourth Way.)

On the whole, The Fourth Political Theory, when applied to the problem of the “middle class” says the following:

The transition from caste to estate and from estate to class is not a universal law. This process can occur as it did in modern Western Europe, or it can fail to occur or occur partially, as is happening today in non-Western societies. Hence, the very concept of class as applied to society has a limited applicability. Class and classes can be identified in modern Western European societies, but whether they can replace the caste inequality of the soul and human nature is not at all obvious. Western societies themselves are confident that classes do so. But an existential approach to this problematic can call this into question.

The most important thing is how the human relates to death. There are those who can look it in the face, and those who always have their backs turned to it. But the origins of the social hierarchy, the fundamental distinction between people and the superiority of some to others consists in precisely this. Material conditions are not decisive here. Hegel’s interpretation of Master and Slave is based on this criterion. Hegel thinks that the Master is the one who challenges death, who steps out to encounter it. Acting in this way, he does not acquire immortality, but he acquires a Slave, one who runs from death, lacking the courage to look it in the eye. The Master rules in societies where death stands at the center of attention. The Slave acquires political rights only where death is bracketed and removed to the periphery. So long as death remains in society’s field of vision, we are dealing with rule by the wise and heroic, philosophers and warriors. This is caste society or estate society. But not class society. Where class begins, life ends, and the alienated strategies of reification, objectivation, and mediation prevail.

Hence, the Fourth Political Theory thinks that the construction of society on the basis of the criterion of property is a pathology. The fate of man and narod is history and geography—but in no way economics, the market, or competition.

The Fourth Political Theory rejects class as a concept and denies its relevance for the creation of a political system based on the existential understanding of the narod. Even more so does it reject the concept of the “middle class,” which reflects the very essence of the class approach. The middle class, like the middle (that is, average) person, is a social figure situated at the point of maximal social illusion, at the epicenter of slumber. The representative of the middle class corresponds to Heidegger’s figure of das Man, the generalized bearer of “common sense,” which is subject to no verification or examination. (Das Man is often translated into English as “The They,” in the sense of “They say so-and-so will win the election this year…) Das Man is the greatest of illusions.

The middle, average person is not at all the same as the normal person. “Norm” is a synonym for “ideal,” that to which one should strive, that which one should become. The middle person is a person in the least degree, the most ex-individual of individuals, the most null and barren quality. The middle person isn’t a person at all; he is a parody of a person. He is Nietzsche’s “Last Man.” And he is deeply abnormal, since for a normal person, it is natural to experience horror, to think about death, to acutely experience the finitude of being, to call into question—sometimes tragically insoluble—the external world, society, and relations to another.

The middle class doesn’t think; it consumes. It doesn’t live; it seeks security and comfort. It doesn’t die, it blows out like a car tire (it emits its spirit, as Baudrillard wrote in Symbolic Exchange and Death). The middle class is the most stupid, submissive, predictable, cowardly, and pathetic of all classes. It is equally far from the blazing elements of poverty and the perverted poison of incalculable wealth, which is even closer to hell than extreme poverty. The middle class has no ontological foundation for existing at all, and if it does, then only somewhere far below, beneath the rule of the philosopher-kings and warrior-heroes. It is the Third Estate, imagining about itself that it is the one and only. This is an unwarranted pretension. Modernity and capitalism (in the sense of the universality of the middle class) is nothing more than a temporary aberration. The time of this historical misunderstanding is coming to an end.

Thus, today, when the agony of this worst of possible social arrangements still continues, you must look beyond capitalism. At the same time, we must value and take interest in both what preceded it, the Middle Ages, and in that which will come after it and that which we must create—a New Middle Ages.


Translated by Michael Millerman


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The Boycott Is A Bourgeois Form Of Protest

The beast won’t starve. The beast is still getting seconds, and dessert, and a nip off that dusty old bottle of port from the cellar.

Originally published at Jack-Donovan.com

So, you’re going to refuse to buy something from company x, even though it would be to your immediate advantage to do so.

You want to “starve the beast,” or “refuse to support a company that __.”

That’s nice.

NO ONE CARES.

Sure, if a small business has a handful of customers, and half of them stop buying in protest, you can really force an owner to re-think his policy. It’s standard procedure for leftists to bully mom and pop shops into baking lesbian wedding cakes, or run them out of business by smearing them as “racists” or “sexists” or some other offense to the People’s Revolution of Hand-Holding Vegan Transvestites. Happens all the time.

But a company operating in a national or global market isn’t going to notice if 1,000 radical weirdos switch brands of shampoo. Unless you manage to shame them in the mainstream media and your objection goes viral, no one will even notice. You’re a rounding error.

The beast won’t starve. The beast is still getting seconds, and dessert, and a nip off that dusty old bottle of port from the cellar.

Your refusal to open your precious little purse is not only pointless, it’s also reductive. If your critique of modernity is that it reduces us all to bank accounts and units of labor, then why reduce your protest of modernity to a financial transaction? You may say, “to hit ‘em where it hurts,” but since it doesn’t hurt, then why bother?

I understand not wanting to luxuriate in the tasteless decadence of Wal-Mart, but if they have the lowest price on something you need for your survival or to advance your own concerns — GO BUY THAT SHIT.

No shot-callers care about your personal boycott, which matters about as much as your fringe vote, so refusing to buy something you could use or paying more to buy it elsewhere is self-destructive asceticism at best, and vapid in-group social posturing at worst. You’re not starving the beast. You’re starving yourself, or starving your cause.

Use the system. Use it like a whore. Take what you want from it and leave the rest for the rats.

And what’s more — instead of boycotting, turn the whole thing around.

Don’t worry about withholding money from the people you don’t like. Concentrate on putting resources into the hands of people doing things you enjoy or believe in.

Don’t go out of your way to avoid buying something from a company you hate. Go out of your way to buy something from a company you like.

And don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. It’s good practice in Portland to assume that everyone I come in contact with is some kind of Progressive, if not a complete hippy fruitcake. If I worried about that, I could never support anything local. If they’re doing something I think is essentially good, but for all of the wrong reasons, that’s probably still better than most of the alternatives.

Money is only a means — a way to achieve an end. Withholding money is a passive-aggressive scold, not a positive path forward. If you want to exert a positive influence, instead of being a miserable bastard who is always against everything, show people in your sphere how you are using money as a means to support ideas that matter to you.

This, too, can be obnoxious once it catches on, as you well know if you’ve listened to SWPLs (or urban elves, as I call them) brag about buying recycled toilet paper or “free trade” coffee beans.

It does, however, seem to be more effective than bitching all the time, or financially handicapping yourself by refusing to buy trivial things at the lowest price.

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To Survive—One Hour Longer Than the Machine

The crisis that began in 2008 with the bursting of the subprime mortgage bubble is no ordinary downturn. All observers understood this intuitively. Something has gone wrong with our world, something lying at the very foundation of our way of living, producing, and consuming—and even of our way of thinking.

This something that has just been broken is our faith in the millenarian mechanism of Progress.  

The following is the Foreword to the French edition of Survive—The Economic Collapse.


The crisis that began in 2008 with the bursting of the subprime mortgage bubble is no ordinary downturn. All observers understood this intuitively. Something has gone wrong with our world, something lying at the very foundation of our way of living, producing, and consuming—and even of our way of thinking.
This something that has just been broken is our faith in the millenarian mechanism of Progress.

For three centuries, Western man has had the idea that he does not need God, since he is his own savior. Humanity is the messiah of humanity: thus proclaimed the new religion. A religion that entered into Catholicism on tiptoes with Descartes. A religion, also, that ended up substituting itself everywhere in the place of the ancient faith.

People sometimes laugh at Juche, that ridiculous North Korean ideology whose only article states that man can transform nature indefinitely. Wrongly. In more sophisticated forms, all contemporary systems rest upon the postulate of human omnipotence. China has razed the house of Confucius and frenetically converted to the religion of growth. Eternal India—yes, even India—has set itself to conceiving the future as a rising curve.

All mankind has gradually entered into the naïve communion of the new religion, much less rational than it seems: technology to perform miracles, banks to serve as temples of the monetary idol. Monetarist neoliberalism—the last ideology, standing victorious upon the corpses of Jacobinism, classical liberalism, social democracy, communism, and fascism—would lead man to the millennium, the long-lost terrestrial paradise soon to be regained.

It was a false promise and a trap. We ought to have been suspicious. For the past few decades, the facade of the progressivist temple has begun to crack. . .

Since the 1970s, various Cassandras have been warning us: a project of indefinite growth cannot be carried out in a finite world. Their arguments have been swept under the rug as “not taking account of scientific perspectives.”

In the 1980s, the collapse of the USSR following the Chernobyl catastrophe provided food for thought for anyone willing to think: “so, an extremely large, over-integrated system can collapse suddenly, once a certain threshold of fragility is reached?” Here again, we have refused to draw the lessons from the event, preferring to blame the collapse on communist ideology without posing the question of over-concentration and over-integration as such.

During the 1990s, the West was giddy with triumph. Those were the mad years of the Internet bubble. “Who cares that the material world is finite: capitalism will invade virtual worlds of its own construction!” But the dream ended abruptly when the model of the new economy revealed its real nature—it was a mirage, an illusion. If there was a dizzying fall at the turn of the millennium, it was not that of the Twin Towers, but the collapse of hopes placed in virtual reality, the escape hatch through which were pushed the ever more insurmountable internal contradictions of a capitalist system driven mad by the permanent confusion between the monetary map and the economic landscape.
Once again, people decided to see nothing, to learn nothing. In order to maintain at all costs the illusion that the millenarian utopia could construct the meaning of history, the financial oligarchy put the economic system on life support, giving the American economy fix after fix of debt. It was an absurd effort that, besides, pointed out the absurdity of neoliberal monetarist semantics.

This absurdity could only endure for so long. In the fall of 2008, its time was up.

A great shiver ran down the spine of the hundred-thousand-headed beast—the ruling class. Amidst the crash, still more dollars were injected into the system, like so many symbols that concealed nothing, but which once more, for a few years, perhaps, allowed the neoliberal propaganda machine to keep grinding away at all costs.

These were just the last, dilatory maneuvers that will not change anything in the end: it is all an illusion. It hardly matters that financial indices are artificially maintained by lowering interest rates to zero. Breaking the thermometer never cured a fever.

Economic rationality alone is not able to provide the meaning of history. Technology cannot accomplish everything. A project of infinite development cannot be conducted on a finite planet. Man cannot have everything he wants; he must want what he is able to get.

We are faced with a return to limits.
Mankind will not be its own messiah—the humanist religion is a failure.

The beast with a hundred thousand heads is, indeed, behaving like a beast—in particular, it is as dangerous as a wounded animal that feels its hour has struck. Back from the failure of the credit system that served as an ideological shelter for their power, the elites and their trustees are now struggling to save their power, to preserve the messianic fiction, while gradually restricting it to themselves. On the one hand, a superior humanity that wants to be a messiah for itself and itself alone; on the other, an inferior humanity sent back into the symbolic shadows of thought’s absence, the non- existence of meaning—in fact, into the negation of its status as an autonomous subject, where it is forbidden to define a mental space free of the constraints placed upon it. A humanity skinned of its spirit.
Such is the generative schema of the next decades. The future is menacing. We might as well understand this. The humanist religion is going to transform itself into an anti-human ideology.
This turnabout, the creating of a monster by those who sought to make an angel, has been underway since the 1970s. But the 2010s will mark a perceptible acceleration in this process. And life, in consequence, will soon be very difficult for many of us.
In this context, the stakes of the game, for true men, will soon be to survive. That’s all—to survive.

Going back to the ranks of the powerful madmen is not an option. You might obtain the intoxicating illusion of superiority, and certainly easier living conditions, but only at the price of your soul. Resigning yourself to vegetating among the mass of the ruled is hardly less depressing. (And amidst that oppressed and impoverished body, violence will be the norm.) Our contemporaries have too deeply assimilated the perverse logic of the consumer society to convert suddenly to the voluntary simplicity that might save them.

Survival will almost certainly play itself out away from today’s bustle, in refuges we must know how to create and defend. Physical survival, yes; but also psychological and spiritual survival.

Of course, this is no exalted ideal. But at this stage, resisting the inhuman machine will often mean passing by it unnoticed, and above all, being able to do without it.

A modest struggle, but hardly a contemptible one.

For one day, when that machine has exhausted all the possibilities of its original élan, it will totter and fall. Then, for us, it will be enough to be numerous, to maintain solidarity, so as collectively to regain control of our Earth after we have fiercely defended our few areas of retreat. It is in order to be there, at that decisive moment, that we must survive now. So do not be ashamed: let us build our refuges! Remember that a rebel wins if he can hold out one hour longer than his adversary. Let us organize ourselves to do so.

So, my friend . . . wipe away that sad, drawn smile. Raise up those eyes you have kept lowered for so long. Look straight ahead at the horizon. Hold your chin up. Your life has meaning—to survive one hour longer than the machine.

Pass the word on: comrade, our children are counting on you!


Michel Drac is a writer, political commentator, and economist. For fifteen years, he worked as a controller. He is the author of numerous books and the founder of the publishing house Le Retour aux Sources. He is also a member of the national association Equality & Reconciliation.

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Peak Everything

“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” Samuel Beckett once quipped, a reminder that, when all else seems to be lost, there is still comedy. Hence, I was prone to take a cheeky attitude about the awful and tremendous dislocations now underway in the so-called “developed” world when I wrote my own recent books about it. As we march toward a reckoning with the mandates of reality, delusional thinking increases in direct proportion to the general anxiety level;  the net  effect appears to be an aggregate loss of intelligence, especially among people who ought to know better. What is more comically sublime than smart people acting stupidly?  

 

The following is the Foreword to the English-language edition of Piero San Giogio’s Survive—The Economic Collapse.


“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness,” Samuel Beckett once quipped, a reminder that, when all else seems to be lost, there is still comedy. Hence, I was prone to take a cheeky attitude about the awful and tremendous dislocations now underway in the so-called “developed” world when I wrote my own recent books about it. As we march toward a reckoning with the mandates of reality, delusional thinking increases in direct proportion to the general anxiety level; the net effect appears to be an aggregate loss of intelligence, especially among people who ought to know better. What is more comically sublime than smart people acting stupidly?

Political leadership especially appears mystified by the changes underway in the world. The most conspicuous feature in this period of history is the incapacity of the educated and ruling classes to construct a coherent narrative about what is happening to us and to form an intelligent consensus concerning what to do about it. This is tragic, of course, but watching it unfold has been a pretty riveting show, and the action is only beginning. Piero San Giorgio is arguably less prankish than I am in this very clear and useful guidebook to the present and future, but we share an appreciation for the comic gravity and strangeness of our time.

The three horsemen bearing down on industrial-technocratic humanity are well-known now: 1) peak oil (at least peak affordable oil); 2) the impairments of capital formation due to peak debt accumulation; and 3) the very tangible effects of climate change (or, at least, disorders of the weather). In the galloping charge of these horsemen, certain consequences seem predictable. For instance, we can see presently the relationship between fossil fuels and money. There is a direct link between the availability and quantity of cheap oil inputs to advanced economies and the expansion of cheap credit, which, when activated, is converted into debt. So, at the moment of peak oil, you also arrive at peak debt. And in passing the peak of each, we begin to witness the epochal unwinding of that debt as claims on things of value exceed the existing collateral. The unwinding presents itself as the disappearance of money and, more to the point, of aggregate wealth possessed by a society. That translates into falling standards of living.

For, perhaps, an even more direct example, we can see the tangible effects of climate change (or weird weather) express itself in crop failure, food shortages, and higher prices; or in the destruction of seaboard city neighborhoods and infrastructure when great storms strike; or the desertification of drought-stricken regions driving people from their homes. In all these cases, people suffer terrible losses of health, property, or economic standing.

So the salient point that an interested observer would make of the situation is that the terms of existence are certain to become harsher for just about everybody, as we compete for scarcer resources amid crumbling infrastructures for daily life and ecological breakdown. There are peculiar and pernicious side effects, of course, such as the tendency for the remaining wealth of nations to become concentrated in fewer hands, the notorious “one percent.” But that, too, leads to other effects, for instance, political upheaval, in which the “one percent” (or the aristocracy or the elite or ruling class) is subject to overthrow and physical assault—as in heads rolling. This, in turn, often leads to more widespread civil disorder in which a very general suffering prevails, while economies crumble and new elites attempt to establish rule.

The threat of that disorder, widespread among civilized people, has never been so ominous, though as of early 2013, the people in these societies remain deluded, confused, and apathetic (as in the U.S.) or only verging on manifest discontent (as in Europe). This excellent book provides a roadmap for understanding the journey through socioeconomic upheaval, and what to do at the destination.

I concur with Piero San Giorgio that there is much we can do besides hand-wringing, prayer, and needless political conflict to facilitate the transition into the next era of human history. I think we also agree on the nature of that journey’s destination: a “reset,” shall we say, to far less complex living arrangements in a world that has grown wider, with fewer people, smaller sovereign units of governance, and reconstructed local economies. The “to do” list of crucial tasks for civilized people can be stated succinctly: we have to grow our food differently as industrial farming goes obsolete; we have to inhabit the landscape in ways other than suburbia and colossal metroplex cities; we have to move people and things in ways other than airplanes and automobiles; and we have to rebuild the fine-grained, local networks of economic interdependence that will constitute commerce as we leave the economic dinosaurs of Walmart (and things like it) behind.

In this agenda, there is no room for crybabies, scapegoating, or pettifogging. Piero San Giorgio lays all this out here with a most refreshing clarity of purpose, which I commend to you as a valuable cram course in how to survive the rest of your life.


James Howard Kunstler is best known as the author of The Long Emergency and The Geography of Nowhere. He is also the author of many novels, including his tale of the post-oil American future, World Made By Hand. His shorter work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Metropolis, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and many other periodicals.

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