The Industrial Age is coming to an end, low-tech neo-feudalism will replace it


The author is a prominent American social critic, blogger, and podcaster, and one of our all-time favorite pessimists. We regularly broadcast his articles on RI. His writings on Russia-gate have been very entertaining.

He is one of the best known thinkers the new yorker dubbed “The Dystopians” in an excellent 2009 profile, alongside the brilliant Dmitry Orlov, another regular RI contributor (archive). These theorists believe that modern society is heading for a discordant and painful crisis.

You can find his popular fiction and novels on this topic, here. To get an idea of ​​how entertaining it is, watch this 2004 TED talk on the cruel misery of American urban design – it’s one of the most watched on TED. Here is a recent audio interview with him which gives a good overview of his work.


And so it was that the Democratic Party went to hoist the flag of “socialism” on the mizzenmast of its sinking carcass as it set sail for the end of the world. Bad call from a ship without a captain, and I’ll tell you why. Socialism was the response to a particular set of circumstances over time that led to the rise of industrial societies. These circumstances go, go, go away.

Suspicion of the appalling effects of industry on the human condition first surged into the public imagination with William Blake’s 1804 poem “Jerusalem” and its reference to the newly built “dark satanic mills” in England. Large-scale industry disrupted daily life in the Euro-American “West” in the mid-19th century and introduced a new kind of misery for the masses, arguably worse than their former status as peasants.

And so it must have been, through Karl Marx, Vlad Lenin and the rest of the gang, always strategizing to somehow alleviate all that suffering. Their big idea was that if the government owned the industry (the production methods), then the wealth would be distributed equitably among the working masses and the misery eliminated. You can’t blame them for trying, though you can blame them for killing tens of millions of people who somehow got in the way of their plans.

No one had ever seen anything like this in this industry before, or had to find a way to deal with it, and it was such a huge force in daily life afterwards that it shattered human relationships with nature and the planet on which nature is mounted. Of course, the story of everything has a beginning, middle, and end, and we’re closer to the end of industrial history than the middle.

Which opens the door to a big dilemma. If industrial society disintegrates (literally), then what replaces it? Many assume that this is a robotic utopia fueled by an as yet untapped cosmic juice, a nirvana of algorithms, culminating in endless orgasm (Ray Kurzweil’s transhumanism). Personally, I would check the “no” box on this result as a likely scenario.

Self-proclaimed socialists actually see the world through a rear-view mirror. What they are really talking about is sharing the previously accumulated wealth, which will soon be gone. Entropy has its evil way with this wealth, first transforming it into more and more abstract forms, then dissipating it as waste all over the planet. In short, the next time socialism is enlisted as a tool for redistributing wealth, we will make the sad discovery that most of that wealth is gone.

The process will be uncomfortably sharp and disorienting. The West in particular will not know what hit it as it emergently reorganizes itself into something resembling the feudalism of old. We have a new type of mass misery in America: vast numbers of people with nothing to do, no means of subsistence, and the most fragile notions of the purpose of life. Socialists have no answers for them. They won’t be “recycled” into some imaginary federal crusade to turn meth addicts into code writers for Google.

Something analysts call the ‘recession’ sweeps across the landscape like one of those dark, majestic dust storms of the 1930s, but this time we won’t be able to fight anything like World War II again for operate all machinery. again in stride. Nor, of course, the Make America Great Again fantasy for those who wait in the sordid ruins of the post-industrial Rustbelt or the strip mall wastelands of the Sunbelt.

Most of today’s beliefs and attitudes will be overthrown with the disappearance of the industrial orgy, such as the idea that humanity follows an infallible arc of progress, that men and women are interchangeable and can do exactly the same work, that society should not be hierarchical, that technology will save us, and that we can organize political workarounds to avoid the pain of universal contraction.

There are no coherent ideas in the political arena right now. Our prospects are really too alarming. So get on board the ship of socialism and see if it does you any good to sail to the ends of the earth. But watch out for the gap at the very edge. It’s a doozy.


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