We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The author presents a very large conceptual framework that requires a good knowledge of history, especially of the capitalist period, to fully appreciate. Within this context, his framework is a kind of theory of empire development and decay. He uses historical examples to illustrate how empires have pursued different strategies when they decline and the effects of such strategies. He argues that the US, which he sees in decline, is pursuing a very self-destructive strategy of military aggression, use of client states, subversion, and propaganda to maintain its empire.
I think that it needs to be stated clearly that he is addressing modern empires driven by the dynamics of capitalism. These include those ruled over by the Soviet Union as well as Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, the US, and the emerging power of China. Capitalism at its core is designed to promote the hoarding of wealth and power by a few at the expense of the many. Thus, to be conceptually clear, it is necessary to see the Soviet Union as a bureaucratic, state form of capitalism.
Except for China, the others are modeled after the British that were led by competing capitalists. China is more like a hybrid of the Soviet type and the classic Western type in that it is a state supervised economy of capitalists. Hence, it is clear to me that we would always be plagued by wars between nations and between classes of people as long as this destructive system lasts even if the threats of climate change and resource depletion were not entering the scene.
Although I believe that his analysis offers some excellent insights that go a long way toward explaining current events and I highly recommend the article, his conclusions are weakened by the fact that environmental factors of climate change and resource depletion are missing from his analysis. Such factors will impinge powerfully upon the continued economic growth of all capitalist countries and will have catastrophic effects upon many life forms on the earth if the capitalist system is allowed to continue.
Finally, his essay is a bit marred by typographical and other errors. The one that caused me the most confusion was his inconsistent use of the abbreviation, "EIP"--established imperial powers, which morphed for a while into "EIS"--apparently referring to established imperial states, and then back to EIP.