Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dueling Systems and the Five Stages of Collapse

Over the past week and a half or so, I've been chatting with a number of Cobb's commenters and intermittently with the man himself. Here lately, he's embarked on an apologia for war socialism. Brahman has a tendency to get caught up in philosophical rather than practical or empirical argumentation. I've begun to suspect that a significant part of his political orientation is attributable to this tendency. In opting for philosophy and abstraction - both he and his conservative co-religionists have a tendency to get lost in flights of metaphorical fancy.

Case in point yesterday afternoon on a post he called The Morality of War he asked;

"Are you suggesting that we should not have fought Stalin?"
Last I checked, we didn't...., but that minor historical quibble aside, this was not a discussion of history, philosophy, or morality per se. Rather, it was the branching of a prior thread in which I was accused of blaming G-Dub for the American war socialist posture. A brief review of Jay Hanson's warsocialism site will clearly dispel any such notions of contemporary blame - and - put the concept of war socialism on its proper historical footing. Hanson calls the system of American governance a war socialist system - I happen to find his arguments concise and very persuasive.

Aside from the countless tragic, wasteful, and destructive proxy wars that it spawned - the political, philosophical and moral dimensions of the Cold War hold little interest for me - I won't be pursuing any of those issues at great length. Rather, what I'd like to bring to your attention is the way in which the former Soviet Union survived it's own economic and industrial collapse - and - invite you to compare and contrast the adaptability and survivability of our own war socialist system of governance in the face of impending collapse. Dmitry Orlov writes;
the collapse of the Soviet Union - our most recent and my personal favorite example of an imperial collapse - did not reach the point of political disintegration of the republics that made it up, although some of them (Georgia, Moldova) did lose some territory to separatist movements. And although most of the economy shut down for a time, many institutions, including the military, public utilities, and public transportation, continued to function throughout. And although there was much social dislocation and suffering, society as a whole did not collapse, because most of the population did not lose access to food, housing, medicine, or any of the other survival necessities. The command-and-control structure of the Soviet economy largely decoupled the necessities of daily life from any element of market psychology, associating them instead with physical flows of energy and physical access to resources. Thus situation, as I argue in my forthcoming book, Reinventing Collapse, allowed the Soviet population to inadvertently achieve a greater level of collapse-preparedness than is currently possible in the United States.

Having given a lot of thought to both the differences and the similarities between the two superpowers - the one that has collapsed already, and the one that is collapsing as I write this - I feel ready to attempt a bold conjecture, and define five stages of collapse, to serve as mental milestones as we gauge our own collapse-preparedness and see what can be done to improve it.
IMOHO - this is the type of systematic thinking that we need to enjoin in America as we gird ourselves up to cast what may be operationally and systemically decisive votes in this year's presidential election. I sincerely believe that the U.S. is caught up in a still civil dispute among its ruling elites over the type and pace of contraction and collapse that citizens will be subject to over the next twenty to thirty years. I believe that the frontrunning presidential candidates literally embody the respective elite camps and their dueling perspectives on how this should shake out.