Even if the masses were moved to revolution, the age of storming the Hotel d'Ville is over: i.e. military riot police, tear gas, machine guns, night vision, unmanned surveillance, facial recognition technology, etc.
I don't know if you saw it, but I started a thread a while ago about democracy being partially a product of developments in military technology, which made warfare more egalitarian: rifles instead of armoured knights. The people and state had the same arms. Now, things have changed. The common people do not have the weaponry to contend with the state. Even asymetrical warfare, ala Vietnam, is less likely to suceed.
By the way, let me note that I'm not really a pessimist, I'm just very worried. I want to sound the alarm before its too late. If it comes right down to it, I'll be there on the barricade, I just won't win.
Neo-feudalism, by which I mean a society that places little emphasis on labor, as there is no need because of advanced machanization, but which is not therefore egalitarian; a cashless economic system based on rewards and penalities, dues and allowances, rather than free capital. The essential feature of this would be that the objective of government would not be to 'do the people's business' but rather to reign; technological and demographic stability means no need for vehicles of social mobility; the world could be operated like a plantation. The land owners would have the power over those that worked, because the serfs really wouldn't have to work; i.e. there labor would be unneccessary.
You've hit upon an idea that's been much in my mind of late, which is the neutering of the possibility of revolution. The true principle of national security is to protect the current form of the government from its own people. Any revolution requires communication, and that communication is the property the government. No matter how I tried to start one (by phone, by internet), I would be arrested before it got going and tried as a terrorist, a greatly convenient and rousing catch-all for any activity that comprimises the interests of, yup, national security.
No, you're not a pessimist, because the alternative is no more inviting. My opinion of where your prognostications fall down is in your appraisal of who controls the national interests. You seem to believe it is the most obvious contender for the 'ruling class', the government. However, we are in this mess in the first place because of overriding interests, those of the corporations or, since the corporations have no self-interest, those who make money from them (the boardmembers, the executive officers, etc.). The most likely future, to me, is one of recovery, followed by recession, followed by recovery, followed by recession. Short of abandoning the free market, that is, and I don't think that's going to happen. The quick million dollars will always override the interests of the state and its people. Perhaps in the end they will bleed it dry and something like what you have described might come about, but I don't think this is the end.
This really is just a dystopian restatement of the 'technological Utopia' America offered the world at the end of WWII, a propaganda device meant to compete with Russia's labour Utopia. The thing is, it's a myth, it doesn't work. Anyone who's lived through the technological revolution knows that technology ultimately increases labour, not saves it. People don't have time on their hands anymore because as timescales of an activity shrink, possibilities expand and realising possibilities requires labour. The technological utopia requires an end to this. Trends beg to differ.
Two things should be noted about revolutions. (1) Sucessful revolutiuons in the past were almost always financed, if not actually conducted, by a minority which subseqeuntly took power itself or at least profited at the people's expense. (2) Even if the masses were moved to revolution, the age of storming the Hotel d'Ville is over: i.e. military riot police, tear gas, machine guns, night vision, unmanned surveillance, facial recognition technology, etc. I don't know if you saw it, but I started a thread a while ago about democracy being partially a product of developments in military technology, which made warfare more egalitarian: rifles instead of armoured knights. The people and state had the same arms. Now, things have changed. The common people do not have the weaponry to contend with the state. Even asymetrical warfare, ala Vietnam, is less likely to suceed. By the way, let me note that I'm not really a pessimist, I'm just very worried. I want to sound the alarm before its too late. If it comes right down to it, I'll be there on the barricade, I just won't win. :perplexed:
That would depend what you call hope. I find more hope in the idea that the United States fails than in continuing on with the status-quo. Sure things will get worse and then even worse, but sometimes great suffering creates wonderful opportunities.
You would probably do much better ruling the States than the Republicrats.
While there are all of those horrible weapons that you speak of in the hand of the military and the police, I wonder how many members of these forces would actually attack people they may actually know, when ordered around by a failed government. Obviously, no matter how bad the economic situation gets in the U.S., the people still have it good compared to many regions of the world. It would take a lot for the people to revolt, and I highly question if the enforcers of the current powers would stand in the way by that point.
1. I have to disagree with the idea that the progression from hunter-gather, to agricultural, to industrial society has corresponded to a progression towards broader, more democratic, authority. The only time in human history that a sort of egalitarianism worked in reality (i.e. not on a hippie commune) was in fact most of human history: i.e. the thousands of years before the domestication of plants and animals, farming, permament settlement, etc. Once all that arrived, so did hierarchy.
Food surpluses allowed societies to sustain large non-farming elements, the largest of which was the aristocracy, its frivolities, and its bureaucracies. Mesopotamian cities were ruled by extremely narrow oligarchies which owned virtually all property and in fact practiced just the sort of corporatism (oligarchical collectivism) that I'm always talking about; the people worked more or less as serfs, equal to one another in terms of the dole they got from the state, while the rulers of the state were above the law and lived off the produce of the serfs. The same pattern exists in Bronze Age Egypt, Mycenae, the Levant, etc.
2. What then did cause the very real increase in freedom and influence for the common man around the time of the industrial revolution, if not the rising value of his labor?
Consider the pre-modern republican movements in Renaissance Italy and Greece. Venice and Athens were both thriving commercial centers, as opposed to farming states like France and Sparta. Could it be that the rising wealth of the 'new men,' the merchants and industrialists, became able to compete with the old landed aristocracy, and so their monopoly of power was broken and citizenship, rather than birth, became the qualification for participation in government? There is a lot of evidence for this kind of movement in Greece during the 'dark ages' following the collapse of strictly hierarchical, Bronze age Mycenae. And also in Italy.
But then, doesn't this idea contrast with the fact (yes, not theory) that the business world, the corporations and banks, control the world today in a most undemocratic fashion? Maybe not. Maybe..the new boss is the same as the old boss. If there are brief periods in history when republican government forms, could it be only a temporary result of overthrowing the old hierarchical order? And then, once the new order is established, it rapidly becomes oligarchic again, albeit with new oligarchs? In other words, the landed nobillity that we imagine in Tsarist Russia or Bourbon France was simply replaced by a new nobility: the commercial.
I think this makes sense. While the commercial nobility, the new men of finance and industry and shipping, etc., need freedom to make their fortunes (e.g. need the free market, the end of serfdom, the end of class systems, etc.), and might be inclined to enlightened thought, once they (some of them) gain their position, they make an about face and do what they can do to preserve it. Or one might argue that, once this new commercial nobility reaches the summit of power, they begin to see the old aristocrats traditions in a more favorable light: they begin to enjoy the exercise of power over other people, and of ostentatious public displays, etc.
These are just some ideas that came to mind. I don't know if w can generalize too much about the causes of these trends. But I still maintain that, for whatever ultimate reason, high finance rules the world currently, and that they are using their influence to create something very undemocratic, which resembles feudalism, or Mesopotamian corporatism, except in that labor won't be needed much at all. I believe I said in another post that the oligarchs in hierarchical societies have always, and still do, view the common people as livestock to be bred and culled as suited their own needs. If the people's labor is no longer needed...its culling time.
EDIT: I want to come back and address all of this in greater detail, but I have to think more about it. I think the whole thing revolves not so much around personal liberty ala the bill of rights, but around the varying conceptions of property that have been popular throughout the ages. As a wise man one said, if you don't have the right to own property, you are property.
A 'battle' between landowners and bankers over who gets to control the rest of us. Interesting...I've recently read a commentary that our modern government essentially has one objective: To make us subsidize landowners. Think about it, we tax production. Which in contrast to a land value tax seems like a system specifically designed to place the tax burden on anybody but the landowners. And while I don't feel negative towards landowners, I can see how all government does - or should do - from building streets to policing, increases the value of the land in that area. So it seems our entire system is the government taking everyones money and using it to subsidize landowners. What do you think about the idea of a land value tax?
It seems to me that as technology advances, labor is saved as machines replace humans. This forces societies to either turn inward and provide elaborate social systems, or constantly expand to generate new employment. This is an exponential expansion. The west had that for while, but now there aren't enough resources/markets/etc for much more exponential expansion. A product of this exponential expansion, made possible largly by fractional reserve banking, has been a tendency to spend in the present wealth which we are anticipating in the future. In fact, we have become dependent on this, which is evident in the stagggering amount of debt in the U.S. and the world at large. In order for modern society not to collapse, the future has not only to be as prosperous as the present, but exponentially more so. This is not likely to happen. It seems to me that as a result of this development over the last century or so, and with the 'business cycle,' the few powerfuly interests that I referred ot earlier have acquired the rights to almost everything, via debt: i.e. when all this bad debt implodes, as it is beginning to do, those interests will take all the real assets which were essentially collateral for their insane derivatives, et alia. I see a new system in which the people own virtually nothing, but rather rent, pay fees, etc, to these 'plantation owners.' No doubt the guise of modern liberal democracy will be maintained as long as possible though.