Of certain people, by certain people, for certain people
September 13, 2014 7:58 AM   Subscribe

The class war in American politics is over. The rich won.

"About 54 percent of Americans have held a blue-collar job for a substantial portion of their adulthood, Duke University political scientist Nicholas Carnes has found. The portion of those serving in Congress who come from a blue-collar background is less than 2 percent.

On the other hand, those with a net worth of at least $1 million constitute about 3 percent of the U.S. population. Yet millionaires constitute a majority of the current members of the U.S. House, a supermajority of the Senate, a majority of the current membership of the Supreme Court, and one out of one of the current occupants of the Oval Office."

From the Vox story: "The makeup of state and local legislatures — which tends to foreshadow demographic changes in national offices — suggest that, if anything, working-class representation may decline even further. In state legislatures, for instance, women's representation skyrocketed from 8 percent to 24 percent between 1976 and 2007, and the share of lawmakers who were black or Latino grew from 9 percent to 11 percent. During the same period, the share of state legislators from blue-collar jobs fell from 5 percent to 3 percent... The problem for reformers who want to make the government more representative of and responsive to blue-collar workers is that their efforts need to pass through our white-collar government."

Previously, previously, previously; plus the latest from Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org.

See also the discussion of class vs. money in the Tinder thread.
posted by GrammarMoses (128 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, lets see - we've got Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken firmly on our side, so far as I can tell. Anyone else, or is the rest of the millionaire bunch in Congress just making populist noises when it doesn't matter?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:20 AM on September 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Kirth: Bernie Sanders too.
posted by ensign_ricky at 8:21 AM on September 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


Congress obviously cares about me! I see them on TV.
posted by glaucon at 8:23 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hey there's still Dennis Kucinich, who . . . wait, no, he was kinda run out of Congress by redistricting and now works for Fox News. Yikes!
posted by General Tonic at 8:28 AM on September 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


I always suspected that the rich would win the class war in America's politics. I am less certain of their chances when the class war moves out of politics and into the streets.

They're obviously preparing for it; I suggest that the rest of the country do the same.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:32 AM on September 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


And yet, just a couple years ago the Republican brand was "collapsing".
posted by DarkForest at 8:33 AM on September 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


The American population will be as successful at wrestling control of power from the rich as any other civilian population was. Which is to say, not at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:35 AM on September 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


Which is to say, not at all.

... until it becomes bloody revolution.
posted by fatbird at 8:40 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


And yet, just a couple years ago the Republican brand was "collapsing".

It doesn't matter. With a very few exceptions, the Democrats are as or more wealthy, and support wealth-friendly measures as much as the Repubs. Which is the point of TFA. The famous "differences" are largely theater.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:47 AM on September 13, 2014 [34 favorites]


And yet, just a couple years ago the Republican brand was "collapsing".

The rich control both parties. The two parties represent different factions of the ruling class, not different classes.

As far as winning or losing the class war, well, the ruling class has built an army. Clearly they're expecting something.
posted by graymouser at 8:47 AM on September 13, 2014 [23 favorites]


I don't think it's over. We're just waiting for the Arab Spring to come to America.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:48 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


My own view is that we've been in the bread-and-circuses stage for some decades now.
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:55 AM on September 13, 2014 [12 favorites]


Bloody revolutions just establish new elites. They don't always start out rich, but they get rich PDQ. Even if they have an ideological reason not to want to own the word "rich", or not to live in extreme luxury, the bottom line is that they control all the resources.

You may overthrow the current rich, but it seems that's an ecological niche that always gets filled. You may even overthrow capitalism, but that just means that an elite class establishes itself in some other way. "Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite". And don't get me started on theocracies.

If you're very lucky, a revolution may make things somewhat better for 50 or 100 years. At least as often, you have a bloodbath and end up with a worse tyrrany than you started with.
posted by Hizonner at 8:56 AM on September 13, 2014 [46 favorites]


Nice article, it's interesting, both my parents and my wife's parents are left leaning socially and politically (conservative personally though) but they just cannot get the ideas put forth in the article, it is like speaking a different language to them, I can talk and talk and talk but in the end all I ever hear back is:

"people just need to work harder"
posted by Cosine at 8:57 AM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


The class war is never over-- the rich need the rest of us to create the capital that they accumulate. If we refuse to do that for them effectively, they melt like March snowmen.

There is no "war," merely cycles of power. Treat people well enough, and they'll tolerate capitalism's raw deal. Let your greed and hubris go too far, and the little people will bristle and eventually they'll force a change. Then the people who own the means of production start boiling the frog again as their natural impulses take over. And we're back where we started.

It's a glacial change that takes generations. But the whole reason that we even have a concept of 'history' is because there's no endgame. These sorts of articles are good as calls to action, but any suggestions of a new reality are as fleeting as the infinite number of new realities that have come before it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:58 AM on September 13, 2014 [29 favorites]


Oh yes, let's definitely hope for a bloody revolution, those have been having such a stunning success record lately. Just look at how well all of those countries that had Arab Spring revolutions are doing now.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:00 AM on September 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


Mr Mayor: I usually dislike people who say "but this time is different!" but this time is different. What are the underclasses going to do when the technological gap between the haves and have-nots is so great that there is no possible way for the have-nots to push back, when they are nothing but behaviour controlled servants?
posted by Cosine at 9:02 AM on September 13, 2014


Bloody revolutions just establish new elites.

Which is why it is necessary to dismantle the state as well as decapitate it.
posted by colie at 9:04 AM on September 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


I didn't mean to call for bloody revolution, I wanted to observe that it would be the natural outcome of the 'winning' side trying to hold on. If you don't allow the cycle that Mayor Curley mentions to occur smoothly, it occurs violently. There was a time when the best argument for tolerating the essential inequities in American capitalism was that it permitted a higher level of real class mobility.
posted by fatbird at 9:04 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


colie: Which is why it is necessary to dismantle the state as well as decapitate it.

If you don't build a new state there won't be anything to prevent someone else from establishing one against your will.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:07 AM on September 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


The famous "differences" are largely theater.

Womens rights, queer rights, POC rights, not being ruled by a regressive theocracy; these aren't theatre.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:07 AM on September 13, 2014 [82 favorites]


The class war is never over-- the rich need the rest of us to create the capital that they accumulate. If we refuse to do that for them effectively, they melt like March snowmen.


The rich that are in control of government are SO rich that they won't actually need the rest of us for a few hundred years. Your average upper middle class person makes something like 3 million in their life time. These people have tens or hundreds of millions or more. They really don't need us at this point, except to keep padding those numbers. If the class war breaks out, they''ll just take their toys and go play in Europe for a generation or two.
posted by zug at 9:11 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


At this point, a "class war" would look more like a "peasants" war - all the losers fighting over scraps.
posted by zug at 9:12 AM on September 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


>"people just need to work harder"

And this will be the meme that wrecks us. The current technology revolution is going to make a huge swath of the labor market obsolete, as ever more jobs get automated. Grocery store cashiers get replaced by self-check stands, and now fast food cashiers, and soon truckers and taxi cab drivers; it's really not too hard to imagine a future in which the majority of people cannot sell themselves in the job market, even at the pathetically low minimum wage we have today.

But because a not insignificant number of the politically significant people believe in "working harder" and "the American Dream", there will certainly be years of political foolishness that allows millions of people to fall through the cracks. I'd say we're already seeing the beginning of it, but it's been labelled things like "an education crisis", or "an organized labor crisis" or any number of other things.

As though "work" (and especially "hard work") are direct links to "productive work", and are historically constant.
posted by DGStieber at 9:12 AM on September 13, 2014 [43 favorites]


If you don't build a new state there won't be anything to prevent someone else from establishing one against your will.

The state is a symptom of unequal class relations not a cause.
posted by colie at 9:13 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


How you do prevent unequal class relations, colie?
posted by fatbird at 9:15 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Serious question: what would you suggest as a replacement?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:15 AM on September 13, 2014


Serious question: what would you suggest as a replacement?


Benevolent AI overlords.

I'm not even kidding, it's our only hope (other than maybe genetic behaviour modification).
posted by Cosine at 9:18 AM on September 13, 2014 [13 favorites]


colie: The state is a symptom of unequal class relations not a cause.

Without a state you won't have any way to prevent people from establishing unequal class relations, even if you eliminate them in the beginning.

Hell, without a state, you won't have any way to prevent people from becoming full-on gun-toting warlords. Anarchy is fundamentally incapable of defending itself.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:18 AM on September 13, 2014 [7 favorites]


Well I'm a Marxist. Class relations are redrawn by revolution and it is the job of the proletariat to reorganise society around the production system.

But sure, Marx's comments about the 'withering away' of the state are some of the most difficult to interpret.
posted by colie at 9:20 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can you translate that into practical solutions? Again, honest question.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:23 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


i call bullshit on this premise. the class war hasn't started yet. when you look out your window and see tumbrels rolling to the guillotine, memail me.
posted by bruce at 9:29 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


when you look out your window and see tumbrels rolling to the guillotine, memail me.

Be careful what you wish for.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:32 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Percentage of blue collar congresspeople" is an unusual way to measure representation for several reasons. For the most part, the legal field is white collar with high median incomes, and it's the pipeline that spits out politicians. As a working class person, I want to be represented by someone who knows the law, just like I would like a licensed plumber to work on my sink, as opposed to a web developer who has an avid interest in and strong opinions about plumbing. These people may have come from a wider variety of class backgrounds, but becoming a successful lawyer will make you rich. The article even concedes that even in better times, there was *never* the type of parity that he's looking for. Also, just because someone was a laborer doesn't mean that they're pro labor - quite the opposite has been the case in recent times. Some of these politically prominent blue collar politicians got there by being paid shills for the interests of the rich.
posted by Selena777 at 9:32 AM on September 13, 2014 [15 favorites]


NSA to this entire thread: "Why don't you have a seat right over there...."
posted by digitalprimate at 9:35 AM on September 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


The only solution to the massive oppression facing the majority of people in the US is revolution, and there have been plenty of revolutions in history before. The only class that can achieve the revolution is working class because they are the source of value in society and can stop its wheels turning in a matter of hours. The revolution will expropriate the parasitic classes, at which point you're into the Leninist arguments about the role of the state in ensuring counter-revolutions are put down and that the working class remains in control of production.

The US would need to be in a pre-revolutionary situation before the working class could take leadership (with the help of other revolutionary vanguards in the military) and probably that is only going to happen as a result of the effects of actual war and starvation.

In terms of what people like us (educated middle class elites) can do right now, I would say Occupy was a refreshing way of both raising consciousness and also experimenting with what 'building the revolutionary party' looks like 100 years after the Russian revolution. Marxists traditionally liked to remind each other that Lenin and Trotsky overthrew the Czar just a few years after their revolutionary party consisted of basically five people and a dog or something.
posted by colie at 9:39 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can you translate that into practical solutions? Again, honest question.

I think about this question a lot. I'm a nobody, but I do have a degree in mathematics, and it's been plain for a long time that the rate of change of inequality is unsustainable and is going to end very badly.

The best I can come up with is that people who want to fight this have to band together and propel more Elizabeth Warrens into the ranks of national politics. Not easy, considering it's an uphill battle against better-funded adversaries who fight dirty.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:44 AM on September 13, 2014 [8 favorites]


colie, I think I was unclear perhaps. The theory is nice, but what I am asking about is the structure you think could replace the current system. How would you like to see governance work, in practice?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:47 AM on September 13, 2014


I disagree with the assertion that having more working class people in government would actually change anything. I don't think wealth precludes progressive political beliefs. Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ were fantastically wealthy men. Nixon and Reagan were born into extreme poverty.

The problem is, at some point the people of this country will have to start voting for politicians who actually represent their economic interests and not the ones who tell them what they want to hear while picking their pockets.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 9:51 AM on September 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


the structure you think could replace the current system

I honestly don't know. Lenin is fairly criticised for retaining most of the Czarist state machinery after 1917. But in classic Marxist theory the 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' stage between capitalism and socialism must involve the continuous extension of democracy rather than the immediate building of a bureaucracy.
posted by colie at 9:55 AM on September 13, 2014


Womens rights, queer rights, POC rights, not being ruled by a regressive theocracy; these aren't theatre.

I think this is more important than most people realize. What allows the oligarchy to divide and conquer are the differences they tell us are insuperable. The death of organized labor in the United States can be chocked up almost solely to working class white resistance to cut black workers in on the deal; as the recent fast food organizing shows, it's not that post-industrial society doesn't or won't support organizing. Which is not to say that overcoming bigotry will lead inevitably to a humanistic egalitarian society, but that I disagree pretty strongly with the frequent assertion that the changes and improvements of recent times are simply window dressing.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:00 AM on September 13, 2014 [20 favorites]


The complete breakdown of civic institutions, of order, of the economy: where do these fit into the Glorious Bloody Revolution? I don't fear the angry mob because I'm rich (I'm not). I fear the angry mob because it's not a political tool that can be wielded like a scalpel against the "oppressive class." The ones who will suffer most are the most vulnerable. Rape? Murder? Wanton destruction? Somehow the pretty theories of revolution never explicitly account for these.

Civilization is a tenuous thing. The history of violent revolution bears this out. I, for one, am not interested in experiencing its collapse first hand in order to play musical chairs among the haves and have nots. There has to be a political solution.
posted by echocollate at 10:01 AM on September 13, 2014 [27 favorites]


The complete breakdown of civic institutions, of order, of the economy: where do these fit into the Glorious Bloody Revolution?

They've already broken down for most people. That's the point.
posted by colie at 10:03 AM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Mmmmm...cake!
posted by fuse theorem at 10:03 AM on September 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Czarist Russia was not industrialized, did not have a proletariat (they were still serfs), and could hardly be called a capitalist country. Marx was writing about Great Britain; Russia was 100 years too early for that kind of revolution, and the need to establish rapid industrialization (5-year plans) dominated the early periods of socialist government.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:04 AM on September 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


Womens rights, queer rights, POC rights, not being ruled by a regressive theocracy; these aren't theatre.

If the portion of the 99% who benefit from those progressive changes are less immediately fucked because of them, yes, it is making a difference. If all of the 99% are fucked anyway, the 1% (including the Democrats who made those things happen) still has and eats its cake.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:08 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


They've already broken down for most people. That's the point.

Don't mistake living in a tiered society with the total breakdown of society. That is a profound and irresponsible failure to account for reality.
posted by echocollate at 10:12 AM on September 13, 2014 [16 favorites]


They've already broken down for most people. That's the point.
In the "rich west"...

Most people can walk down the street without being attacked and robbed, raped, or killed at random on a daily basis. Yes, some classes of people tend to get beaten up by cops more than others. No, it does not compare with what revolutionary mobs do.

Most people are eating on a fairly regular basis. Not eating healthy food or appealing food, but eating.

Most people have access to flush toilets and garbage collection.

Most people have electricity that's on most of the time. Most people have some kind of communications.

Most people have access to at least some medical care. Inadequate though it may be, it's a lot better than not being able to get a course of antibiotics that will save your life.

Most people have access to free educational resources. Even if it's hard to stay in school, they have a chance to try. And they have access to libraries and the like.

All of these are unusual in the context of human history, and all of them are subject to being lost in a revolution.

... and the idea that the "proletariat" is a monolithic entity that can or will act in a coordinated way is silly.
posted by Hizonner at 10:13 AM on September 13, 2014 [46 favorites]


I disagree with the assertion that having more working class people in government would actually change anything.

Couldn't hurt. More women, more people of colour, more out queer people in politics has resulted in (at least trying to) enact legislation that is more equal.

I've been of the opinion for a while that politician salaries should be tied to the districts they represent; if you're representing District A, your salary should be the median income in that district. Would give politicians rather sharp motivation to grow economies. (I admit I have no idea how I'd handle payment for appointed positions.)

I honestly don't know. Lenin is fairly criticised for retaining most of the Czarist state machinery after 1917. But in classic Marxist theory the 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' stage between capitalism and socialism must involve the continuous extension of democracy rather than the immediate building of a bureaucracy.

Okay. Thing is, I think some amount of bureaucracy is necessary for government. Anarchy doesn't work, and things need to be organized somehow, don't they? If nothing else, you'd need a bureaucratic institution to handle the very process of democracy, elections.

I mean, human nature really is such that small-c communism just doesn't work on pretty much any scale. The few examples of collective government that seem to have worked appear to be mainly exceptions to the rule; something something nobody wants to take out the trash. And they're all small-scale. It's all well and good to talk about revolution, but revolution that doesn't come with practical solutions is about as effective as Occupy, I think. (While Occupy sounded good, the whole movement effected exactly zero change. It was Facebook activism. The only change that it may have brought about is getting a few more young people to become politically engaged. A laudable goal and result, to be sure.)

Plus, unless we're actually talking about French-style behead-the-rich revolution, the rich are totally insulated. The really rich are insulated against even that. Plus, the proletariat is incredibly outgunned unless one posits the armed forces assisting in an insurrection. Some pockets might, but I'm guessing they'd be really outnumbered.

Plus plus, a revolution means a total post-apocalyptic breakdown in society. Guaranteeing continuity of, for example, medical care through a revolution is an exercise in futility.

So at the end of the day I have to agree with echocollate: there has to be a political solution. The people who'd get hurt by an actual revolution are the people already getting hurt, and it's the most bloodthirsty who will end up in control, as history has largely shown us. Sudden, violent changes in society end up dropping their costs on those who can least afford it. As much as it may suck, and as much as we may be getting beaten back these days, slow and incremental changes towards justice (not in only the legal sense; justice as in a just world for all) seem like the only way forward that doesn't mean sacrificing society's most vulnerable.

I don't disagree that massive changes aren't necessary, mind you.

Mmmmm...cake!

Brioche :P
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:16 AM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I disagree with the assertion that having more working class people in government would actually change anything.

Couldn't hurt.


Sure it could. Working Class is not a qualification, it's an attribute. It might or it might not make for a good politician. It could just as easily make for a crooked one.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:23 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


The D's and R's are both the party of the wealthy; at least the D's pay lip service to the lower classes, minorities, and women
posted by Renoroc at 10:23 AM on September 13, 2014


Ok, IndigoJones, but it's difficult to persuade politicians to work for change if they don't really get why the change is necessary. I'd be willing to bet someone with two kids scraping by on $30K/year would have a little more insight as to why e.g. government funding of daycare is a vital necessity than someone with a couple mil in the bank.

The problem of corruption in politics has pretty little to do with how much money someone has, I think. Which state was it that just convicted a governor for selling out for approximately one year of their salary?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:29 AM on September 13, 2014


Mmmmm...cake!

Brioche :P


Mmmmm...Freedom cake!
posted by fuse theorem at 10:33 AM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


In the "rich west"...

I disagree with a lot of the assertions here. Apprenticeships were education previously, there wasn't the push to pay for a degree as it is now. Healthcare? Yea, those antibiotics could destroy a family's food and other budgets, thanks to the insurance industry. Access to libraries? Kinda. Library systems are facing lack of funds, fewer resources, fewer hours. Food -look at Camden, look at Detroit, look at many other economically depressed areas. Food deserts are a real thing, and they have a huge impact.As far as electricity, and indoor plumbing, those are what I would consider fairly recent creature comforts.

But no, we don't have to worry about land mines as we walk down the street. Which is a big bonus. But I would not say that things are sunshine & roses for all classes here.
posted by kellyblah at 10:35 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hizonner: Most of that great stuff you listed came about as a result of workers' struggles in the first place, some of which were put down violently by the very state machinery which you now claim protects all our lives...

In fact, lines like 'Most people are eating on a fairly regular basis. Not eating healthy food or appealing food, but eating' could almost be a verbatim quote from a factory owner employing children for 16 hours a day in nineteenth century England.

Other things on the list, like libraries, are under almost continuous attack from the ruling elites that control the state.

I think violent revolution presents less threat to these achievements of human solidarity than continued capitalism does.
posted by colie at 10:47 AM on September 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


The poor have been told that a rising tide lifts all boats, when in fact, it simply creates an excuse for bigger yachts.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:49 AM on September 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


...and it is the job of the proletariat to reorganise society around the production system.

Good luck, at least in the US, where a good chunk of the proles actually vote in support of the agendas of the wealthy. Because libruls and socialism!!!11!
posted by Thorzdad at 10:49 AM on September 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


Benevolent AI overlords.
I'm not even kidding, it's our only hope (other than maybe genetic behaviour modification).


We already have tried that. They are called Corporations and it isn't working out so well.
posted by srboisvert at 10:50 AM on September 13, 2014


Brioche

Wait, what? The rich really are different? Rich folks are MADE out of Brioche? That phrase was not just inflammatory rhetoric, we can actually eat them?

I am probably not paying very good attention to this discussion.
posted by sammyo at 10:53 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think violent revolution presents less threat to these achievements of human solidarity than continued capitalism does.

I think you've either given no thought to the collateral consequences of violent revolution or you've consciously dismissed them, and I'm unsure which I find more disturbing.
posted by echocollate at 10:53 AM on September 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


Sammyo, they tend to be on the lean side because of their diet, so I recommend brining and larding before placing them on a medium-hot grill. Garnish with crocodile tears and cilantro.
posted by jfwlucy at 10:58 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sorry, which corporations were benevolent?
posted by Cosine at 11:01 AM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think you've either given no thought to the collateral consequences of violent revolution or you've consciously dismissed them, and I'm unsure which I find more disturbing.

It depends what you have to lose. There have been plenty of revolutions in the past, presumably when more people felt they had less to lose than by keeping things going the same way.

Everything is globalised now (according to Apple etc) and according to the WHO in 2013, 2.6 billion people lack access to 'basic sanitation'. Why wouldn't they roll the dice?
posted by colie at 11:05 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Benevolent AI overlords.
I'm not even kidding, it's our only hope


That would just devolve the problem into an even less transparent or accessible nightmare. Who programs the AI? What's to prevent said AI from going full Skynet?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:05 AM on September 13, 2014


The simple fact remains that the odds of any revolution being violent are in direct proportion to the concentration of the community wealth held by the few.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:13 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


The US would need to be in a pre-revolutionary situation before the working class could take leadership (with the help of other revolutionary vanguards in the military) and probably that is only going to happen as a result of the effects of actual war and starvation.

The only thing close to being a revolutionary vanguard in the US military are the Dominionists in the Air Force. Who, oh yes, are also the service branch with all the H-bombs.

When you have a revolution in a very politically polarized society, that's actually what tends to get called a "civil war". And the side that all the armchair revolutionaries here are cheering for is not the more heavily armed side.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:15 AM on September 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


Everything is globalised now (according to Apple etc) and according to the WHO in 2013, 2.6 billion people lack access to 'basic sanitation'. Why wouldn't they roll the dice?

Other than tangentially, how is this related to the U.S., the country this post is about?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:20 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


And the side that all the armchair revolutionaries here are cheering for is not the more heavily armed side.

The military has to split in a pre-revolutionary situation and some camps support the revolution.

These things happen. Partly why the US stopped the draft was because of Vietnam: remember all those guys with long hair listening to the Doors and Hendrix? It all happens in the blink of an eye.
posted by colie at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


dude has been "studying" class warfare for 7 years, yet doesn't even understand the basic idea. You can't win class war. It's a metaphor for the system of social relations required to sustain exploitation of people for their labor. "Class" is a way of talking about how, in a capitalist society, people are divided by their relation to capital.

Here's an example:

Suppose you obtain a mortgage to buy a two-family domicile, hoping to live in one unit. Now, in order to afford your mortgage payments you have to raise the rent on the other unit. Thus, the bank is squeezing you for a loan you can't afford, and you, in turn, squeeze your new tenants for more money. The fact that you are good people, are gay, straight, black, support unions, vote Democrat, are anarchists, or card carrying socialists matters nothing. Your bank's relation to you and your relation to your tenants are all derived by the respective parties relation to capital: the bank has much capital, you have some, and your tenant none (for the purposes of this example.) The social system which requires your tenant to cough up more money, just because the bank demands it, is a system based upon class warfare.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:24 AM on September 13, 2014 [19 favorites]


Your bank's relation to you and your relation to your tenants are all derived by the respective parties relation to capital

Just to be clear, because I muddied the issue here a little. The point is the the social relations between you, your bank and your tenants in this example are all determined by your relation to the capital involved. That is, th e bank has capital which has loaned to you, you have capital in the form of equity (hopefully) in real estate, and the tenant has no capital in question. That the tenant may otherwise have access to capital is irrelevant because everyone's actions are effectively dictated by their relation to the mortgage and the equity in the building.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:42 AM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


The main party that represents labor in America stopped emphasizing work-related issues a long time ago.
posted by Brian B. at 11:59 AM on September 13, 2014


I would argue that the system itself requires a huge underclass. In our version of trickle-up capitalism, lowering the power base to the underclass isn't possible. Our officials are sock puppets--either bribed, coerced, or marginalized. Mr. Smith went to Washington, and had his eyes opened.

Revolution is a fantasy. More likely is the possibility of an armed insurrection that leads to chaos, that leads to a heavy-handed reactionary response, that leads to some sort of martial law, which, for all practical purposes, will last until, well, as longs as there are capitalists to capitalize on it. The militarization of our police forces is a good example of how this works. If you compare the cop on the beat system with the SWAT theory, you can easily see a similar, parallel trend our "democracy" has taken.

Another token of our increasingly dense civilization is housing: your house has become an asset, either yours or someone else's. The expectation is that you'll get a starter home, then as you move up the class ladder, you'll eventually work your way into the townhouse in the city, or the summer home in the Hamptons. The poor will rent their homes from a syndicate. Rent keeps creeping up, because that's the nature of assets. A bright line exists between the sort of home a person can afford to buy and what he cannot. The line remains the same, as a percentage of his yearly income, but the price of the houses continues to increase. Housing, asset or no, provides and veritable army of laborers with jobs, so the true cost is hidden. I can't begin to try to describe other things required of a constantly expanding economy--if it can't grow, it collapses. I'll just compare it to farming: if you had to increase your yield every year, at some point you would have to start throwing away food. Or else you would have to have a constantly expanding population. The extra people will have to be able to buy your food, and you surely don't need them to work on your farm. Under our version of capitalism there's no mechanism to pay you for food that a large part of our population cannot afford to buy.

What sort of revolutionary project will redefine the situation in such a way that will take the greedy out of the equation? How will you overcome the power of the elite? How will you overcome the inertia of the middle? In what way would you empower the poor?

Okay, there's the road warrior scenario. Or the "Postman" project. After the big die-off, regionalism may have a chance to work out some schemes.

Orwell spins in his grave.
posted by mule98J at 12:12 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


look to the Occupy movement. nothing came of it. Look to revolution--last one in 1776 and n o more to come. Best bet: getting minorities and lazy people to vote to change things by passing needed laws such as clamping down on campaign money, lobbyists, and term limits...vote in those only who will support such measures and then vote out those who do not.
posted by Postroad at 12:28 PM on September 13, 2014


That the term "class war" has only recently found common usage in this country is evidence that it's only just begun.
posted by klarck at 12:29 PM on September 13, 2014


Was Vox supposed to be an opinion vehicle all along? I thought it was supposed to be a general journalism venue.

Czarist Russia was not industrialized, did not have a proletariat (they were still serfs),

Serfdom was abolished in 1861. It was, in fact, the emergence of industrialization in the early 20th century that was a major force in creating the led to the political splits/activities/environment that led to the Russian Revolution.
posted by Jahaza at 12:30 PM on September 13, 2014


Look to revolution--last one in 1776 and n o more to come.

Well that was the last succesful one, but there have been a number of small military rebellions in U.S. history and the quite large American Civil War.
posted by Jahaza at 12:38 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Revolution is a fantasy.

It always seems that way, but you know, if you look at history it happens in the places you least expect it. France was the greatest absolute monarchy in the age of absolutism, Russia the greatest in the age of empires. Think about it in terms of a pressure cooker. The lid is on tight, but if the temperature inside gets too hot, it's going to explode. The lid on inequality will be airtight – right up until it isn't any more.
posted by graymouser at 12:48 PM on September 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


Tech is creating a neo-serfdom of temporary workers (see: Amazon mechanical turk, taskRabbit...). The conditions and environments of previous revolutions are here in the present but we are talking about them with 200 year old language.

We are sitting back and saying "surely our system can't produce/withstand this much inequality" without knowing what to do about it or even how to talk about it, without bringing up tired Marxist tropes or the demonstration language of the civil rights era.

I don't think any of us even know how to start creating a framework for current times and that's why occupy was such an asymmetric failure.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 12:56 PM on September 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


everyone's actions are effectively dictated by their relation to the mortgage and the equity in the building.

It's true that people enter into contracts, but I don't really see how that's terribly interesting.
posted by jpe at 1:37 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been listening to the Revolutions podcast, which has covered the English civil war to the French Revolution so far, and it seems to me that the one commonality was an out of control executive that ran out of money because of badly managed wars, and representative bodies (largely comprised of the wealthy) that refused to continue to fund them.

It's rarely been inequality or 'the masses' that started revolutions, it was usually a political breakdown amongst the wealthy and the powerful themselves that caused it.
posted by empath at 1:37 PM on September 13, 2014 [12 favorites]


And, yes, I am seeing the stirrings of revolution in the us right now. The fact that cliven bundy was able to face down armed federal troops with his own armed mob and get away with it does not bode well for the future of the republic. The government needs to hold a monopoly on violence, and today it does not. You've also got waves of migrants living in the country illegally, local governments that actively ignore federal laws, an executive branch that has for literally decades now has been ignoring congressional laws, a congress that hasn't passed major legislation in years, a lot of extremely wealthy people heavily invested in bringing down the state, and a growing underclass without access to money or political power, and a country swimming in guns and heavy weaponry at every level from private citizen to local sheriff to federal government, and you have all the ingredients in place for a cataclysm like the world has never seen.

The us is in a scary, precarious position right now.
posted by empath at 1:46 PM on September 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


When one reads the speculative fiction of the right, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that there are some among them who think the best thing that could happen to this country is for some calamity to send the world back to before the steam age technologically, because only then will the useless financiers and liberal redistributionists finally have to pay for their sins at the hands of the prudent and ruthless.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2014


The us is in a scary, precarious position right now.

Of course that may be a cultural thing right there as well. James Nicoll commented the other day that he found it really odd how Americans always insist that the Republic is really fragile, and that just one more straw will break it, Any Day Now. And evidently we've been saying this for a very long time.

This time I'd course is different; we're really doomed this time.
posted by happyroach at 2:20 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Everything is globalised now (according to Apple etc) and according to the WHO in 2013, 2.6 billion people lack access to 'basic sanitation'. Why wouldn't they roll the dice?

Other than tangentially, how is this related to the U.S., the country this post is about?

Did you miss the "Everything is globalised now" part? The class war is not particular to the U.S. The resources of the U.S. "rich" are part of a world wide system. The resources of the poor are world wide, but they are not part of a system. Any one or two billion of them who try to roll the dice will have a world wide effect, but there's no reason to expect it to destroy the system of the rich.
posted by carping demon at 2:20 PM on September 13, 2014


Tech is creating a neo-serfdom of temporary workers (see: Amazon mechanical turk, taskRabbit...). The conditions and environments of previous revolutions are here in the present but we are talking about them with 200 year old language.

This seems like a direct response to the kind of labor organizing that led to Marxist revolutions in the first place, or the labor movement in the US and elsewhere. It's obviously better for the capitalists to have no real employees at all, just app-summoned contractors who never even see each other. Even better, don't own any actual assets, just rent-seek on the backs of "sharing" your apartment or your car. Living in the bay area it's amazing to see how many different things are being turned into these "apps" or "digital marketplaces", I don't think people who live outside of the tech bubble understand what is coming. You may think Uber is great for making taxis obsolete, but the next startup will be whisking your job into this ever-more-efficient way of arranging labor through the filters of software and algorithms. We'll all need that extra cash from the next Airbnb-of-_____ when even more industries join the list of things made obsolete by the technology revolution.

How can the usual Marxist revolutionary narrative ever happen in this kind of atomized economy and society? I think what we're seeing, from the WTO protests to Occupy to the Arab Spring, is experiments in these new forms of organizing, a new set of language and tactics that take into account the new reality. Call it horizontal or leaderless or anarchist or whatever, but these methods parallel the same architecture of the internet that enables me to order my groceries within the hour from some random person with a cell phone trying to make an extra buck through the Instacart software. That's the problem with all these singularity utopia theories about AI solving everything - the algorithms are already here, running our lives, and they are definitely not benevolent. If the goal of Occupy was to spread the organizing tactics that can work in the new digital and distributed terrain, then it was definitely not a failure as some here are quick to suggest.

Maybe the revolution will come when someone writes the Twitter-of-rioting app. We can't expropriate the factories anymore, so maybe we need to expropriate the networks and use them for something other than providing labor for Facebook, Instagram, or Airbnb to accumulate capital.

It's unfortunate that greatest minds of my generation who could probably solve that problem are trying to figure out how to get rich by drone delivering my laundry.
posted by bradbane at 2:24 PM on September 13, 2014 [12 favorites]


Of course that may be a cultural thing right there as well. James Nicoll commented the other day that he found it really odd how Americans always insist that the Republic is really fragile, and that just one more straw will break it, Any Day Now. And evidently we've been saying this for a very long time.

The us has had a revolutionary war, a civil war, a Great Depression, two world wars, the civil rights movement, the labor movement, etc, etc. it's always on the verge of breaking down, and sometimes it actually does.
posted by empath at 3:08 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


as anyone who's taken a good look at the revolutionary war, the writing of the constitution and the leaders who were behind them knows, the system we have was designed for an elite and it has been working as designed
posted by pyramid termite at 3:17 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Business attire has always been required in the House and Senate, hasn't it? In that interesting fact is, if you needed it, a sartorial indicator of which class is/has always been in charge since the founding of the Republic. Even if you were a worker who wanted to represent workers in Congress, you'd still have to dress up as a businessman to do it.
posted by clawsoon at 3:48 PM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Abraham Lincoln came from humble beginnings and the old connected elites hated the thought of a commoner in his place so much they assassinated him (especially since he was also the commoner responsible for destroying the slave system they had cobbled together to replace feudalism).

But we have always had at least a thread in our culture--even among those elites--of genuine populist sentiment. That spirit seems to be just completely dead now in those quarters.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:55 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the author of this piece knows any blue collar people or spared any thought to their political activity. Blue collar people smart enough to be Congressmen are blue collar because they hate the idea of wearing a suit, shuffling papers, and arguing with and bureaucrats all day. Moreover, it's not like blue collar people don't have effective political capability -- it's not an accident that prison guards are paid more than prosecutors or most of the union carpenters and iron workers on big construction sites are fourth generation. Finally, the notion that blue collar stands in opposition to business owner is a rather strange dichotomy -- a huge proportion of businesses are blue collar tradesmen, and, boy, they sure know about taxes and regulations and maybe aren't exactly the obvious candidate to back a socialist revolution.
posted by MattD at 3:58 PM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sorry, which corporations were benevolent?

Market Basket, apparently.
posted by uosuaq at 4:04 PM on September 13, 2014


I always suspected that the rich would win the class war in America's politics. I am less certain of their chances when the class war moves out of politics and into the streets.

I've been thinking about this a little bit lately and it worries me. Not the prospect of class warfare in the streets, but the *prospects* of class warfare in the streets. In the good old days you might be able to storm the manor with torches and pitchforks, and in exceptional circumstances you could even storm the *palace*. But now the super-duper-wealthy are not living down the road in a big building -- they can always retreat to their personal custom-built island in Dubai, and instead of swords or muskets they've got drones, missiles, satellites, dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you, Ferguson-style "police" forces, etc. So if the conflict ever reached that level (which it really shouldn't have to, but I'm continually amazed at how short-sighted our genius job-creator overlords are), I fear the playing field is nearly vertical at this point. Maybe instead we should just go Galt on their sorry asses.
posted by uosuaq at 4:16 PM on September 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Was Vox supposed to be an opinion vehicle all along? I thought it was supposed to be a general journalism venue.

It's just another media money machine with a "progressive" slant.
posted by Pudhoho at 4:18 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


We really could do some damage but it would require being much nastier than people generally like to be in our society. I'm still hoping the idiots among our elite will come to their senses, as unlikely as that is.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:25 PM on September 13, 2014


My landlord's husband is a blue-collar tradesman. He drives a Mercedes convertable when he's not driving his work truck. Being blue-collar does not preclude you from being an owner of capital.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 6:16 PM on September 13, 2014


uosuaq: In the good old days you might be able to storm the manor with torches and pitchforks, and in exceptional circumstances you could even storm the *palace*. But now the super-duper-wealthy are not living down the road in a big building -- they can always retreat to their personal custom-built island in Dubai, and instead of swords or muskets they've got drones, missiles, satellites, dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you...

Good government in Rome fell apart for good when the Praetorian Guard realized that it was in a position to not have to listen to anyone. The American Armed Forces could, with a change in soldierly values, easily put themselves in that position today (what with the dog-bees and all). Here's to hoping they don't figure that out for at least another century or two.
posted by clawsoon at 6:21 PM on September 13, 2014


I believe the effective way to revolt today would be more like a sit-down. Break the fucking machine by simply not feeding it. Even if the revolution doesn't come, something like that may be inevitable: the rich slowly killing off the golden geese (middle class consumers with disposable income) will have exactly the same effect in the long run.

Unfortunately, as it has been said before, in the long run we're all dead.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:31 PM on September 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
-John F. Kennedy
posted by landis at 6:35 PM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Don't mistake living in a tiered society with the total breakdown of society. That is a profound and irresponsible failure to account for reality.
posted by echocollate at 12:12 PM on September 13 [8 favorites +] [!]


If the distance between tiers is great enough, the society is for all intents broken.
posted by landis at 6:54 PM on September 13, 2014


How can the usual Marxist revolutionary narrative ever happen...?

It's the same dynamic today, just with large chunks of the workforce replaced by automated manufacturing. The issue is the same - that rich folks own the means of production and can't be argued into sharing the profits. Although this might be the first time in history outside of complete totalitarianism where the government and corporations are in cahoots to enforce the kleptocracy to such an extreme.
posted by sneebler at 7:09 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Did you miss the "Everything is globalised now" part?

Care to actually respond to my criticism? Merely saying "well, everything is globalized, so there!" doesn't make the worldwide proportion of people lacking basic sanitation relevant to this discussion about the U.S.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:31 PM on September 13, 2014


Here in San Francisco, watching the Occupy people mill around in front of the Federal Reserve Bank offices for weeks, I kept wondering why they don't just go to Pacific Heights and blockade the rich people's neighborhood instead. Occupy seemed to be involved in merely symbolic actions. Is anyone going to try real actions?
posted by njohnson23 at 8:10 PM on September 13, 2014


I kept wondering why they don't just go to Pacific Heights and blockade the rich people's neighborhood instead

A number of reasons:

1) Getting a large number of people up there is difficult without access to public transportation (no, like one MUNI bus that goes every 20 mins doesn't count) ... plus, it's uphill (steep uphill) which makes marching there difficult (especially for older folks, people with certain disabilities, etc.)
2) Bystanders would not see it, since it's a very lightly trafficked area, and the press doesn't cover protests sympathetically, especially not Occupy
3) There's not a lot of choke points in the "rich people's neighborhood" -- it's a grid, so it's impossible to block every street which means the only action you could do would be...
4) ... a very limited, symbolic one, at least one of which was done (Mark Zuckerberg's house in SF), and probably more that I'm not aware of
5) And it's unclear just what kind of action you're proposing, but Occupy was catching enough flack from the cops and the press and various unsympathetic and undecided elements just for standing in a public space for a political demonstration -- obviously protected First Amendment activity. Preventing people from getting into / out of their houses is a clear escalation, something which may have lost the movement support (or gained, who knows). Not to mention it's something that you may not even have enough support from amongst the protesters to pull off.

I mean, it's not like I made the decision not to do this, but these are just a few clear disadvantages off the top of my head.

Occupy seemed to be involved in merely symbolic actions. Is anyone going to try real actions?

Well, activism is mostly symbolic. Protesters often don't have the means or sometimes even the will (due to factional disagreements within the movement about just how radical to be) to fundamentally transform society.

In any event, define "real actions." A revolution? That takes discipline, a mass base, a clear ideology that appeals to disgruntled people, the discrediting of all other political alternatives... and usually a looooong time to organize.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 8:42 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Revolution? Did you guys not see what happened in Ferguson? There will be no reprise of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité here.
posted by dejah420 at 9:05 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


The problem is, at some point the people of this country will have to start voting for politicians who actually represent their economic interests and not the ones who tell them what they want to hear while picking their pockets.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 9:51 AM on September 13 [4 favorites]


What do you realistically think the chances are of someone who represents the people's economic interests getting within ten miles of a ballot slot?
posted by landis at 9:07 PM on September 13, 2014


We achieve progress through peaceful movements with a clear constructive goal that posses an unattributable but credible threat of violence in the background, echocollate, colie, etc.

We rarely achieve anything through actual violence except possibly tearing down. Indeed, systems installed by violence are often worse. Although even that's potentially beneficial if it wrecks a harmful empire that represses foreign lands.

We do however need a credible threat of violence that's unattributable in the strong sense that it's an adversary to the non-violent revolution. I gave historical examples for this and suggestions here and here.

Assassination by drone is not likely to remain exclusively a tool for the powerful, uosuaq. I could imagine violent libertarian-ish revolutionaries making the powerful feel vulnerable with a series of drone assassinations, which then plays into progressive revolutionaries hands as only the progressive have the ability to influence consumption or production through strikes and boycotts and only the progressive have workable policy proposals.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:40 PM on September 13, 2014


long thread which I've only begun to read ... but a Joe Strummer song comes to mind. Yalla Yalla, where he does some riffing on the notion that some revolutions (or evolutions or whatever you want to call them) just don't happen in a lifetime, they take generations. Maybe they all do.
posted by philip-random at 10:51 PM on September 13, 2014


If anyone has any doubts what a prospective violent revolution in the USA would look like, look no further than what most of Palestine resembles now. One side has planes, guided munitions, tanks, and all manner of means of warcraft. One side has some homemade rockets and a few thousand AK-47s. Guess which side looks like London after the blitz?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:07 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not a civil war and Israel is not economically dependent on Palestine. Israel is fighting a colonial war of conquest and plundering the smaller state.

By contrast, millions of workers in the US have to drive the trucks and pump the gas and farm the food and all the rest of the stuff that keeps the capitalist show on the road every day. If tensions become so great that they stop, and achieve solidarity through organisations that come into being at the right time, it may not actually be possible to bomb them into restarting.
posted by colie at 2:41 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


The best way to make social change possible that everyone can do is to build solidarity between oppressed groups. That's what all the twitter / tumblr / Facebook social justice people are trying to do.
posted by Mistress at 2:59 AM on September 14, 2014


By contrast, millions of workers in the US have to drive the trucks and pump the gas and farm the food and all the rest of the stuff that keeps the capitalist show on the road every day. If tensions become so great that they stop, and achieve solidarity through organisations that come into being at the right time, it may not actually be possible to bomb them into restarting.

Organization is really the problem, and the key. I had hoped the internet would create new tools for organization, instead we got Facebook and G+.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:33 AM on September 14, 2014


How can the usual Marxist revolutionary narrative ever happen

It can as long as the Marxist revolutionaries have the truck drivers, the warehouse workers and the longshoremen on their side. Our society is still reliant upon human beings for logistics, and a general strike is still a potent weapon, even if it doesn't disrupt mass production. The stuff stops flowing for a few days and the rich can't keep their lifestyles any more.
posted by graymouser at 5:51 AM on September 14, 2014


The stuff stops flowing for a few days and the rich can't keep their lifestyles any more.

The rich will have no problem maintaining their lifestyles; they just have to take what they need from the stockpiles that the rest of us have. It's the poor who suffer when prices rise because of distributional issues. Sabotaging the production system in order to maintain high prices for labour is a crude tool, and the rich are better at using industrial sabotage to maintain high prices for capital anyway.
posted by clawsoon at 6:30 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Violent revolution cannot accomplish what we'd want anyways, Purposeful Grimace. We cannot have non-violent revolution though either unless a credible but unattributable threat of violent revolution exists.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:41 AM on September 14, 2014


I'm frankly baffled that a consensus has arisen - among its allies, no less - that Occupy accomplished nothing. Do a search of news articles pre- and post-occupy for "National Debt" vs. "income inequality." Does nobody remember that in 2010 and 2011 literally nothing got done in Washington without slashing $30 billion from the budget, from whatever old program the GOP could get its mitts on?

I mean, now nothing gets done in Washington, period, but that is an improvement over 2011. No occupy, and we probably have more austerity, and we are on our way to continued recession as Europe is facing.
posted by mellow seas at 7:51 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think there was much cause/effect there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:02 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, well, if you don't THINK so, I guess that settles it.
posted by mellow seas at 8:17 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


The stuff stops flowing for a few days and the rich can't keep their lifestyles any more.

As someone else pointed out upthread, the rich have a little set aside for a rainy day.
posted by echocollate at 8:21 AM on September 14, 2014


Occupy was basically marginalized in the media after its first 5 minutes. Everyone in power could see that they weren't actually doing anything except sitting around. The GOP held your country hostage then and got a gajillion dollars slashed, and they're holding it hostage now by refusing to do anything.

I really don't see what Occupy had to do with it. Protests really, really don't serve any purpose except to get other people more politically active--politically as in actually doing the hard work of lobbying politicians and changing their minds.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:24 AM on September 14, 2014


The more I live and the more I see, the more it seems like civilization itself is just a way for the sociopathic among us to setup a wealth pump and feed the rest of us into it. From the beginning, some proclaimed themselves kings and due the obedience and resources of the rest, and servility just seems so written into human DNA that any reversals of this law since have been minor and temporary. I am coming to the realization that as long as there is human society on a greater scale than tribal, there will be elites lording it over everyone else while some starve, and it seems like nothing can be done to alter this. Even worse, said natural servility makes it so that almost no one seems to find anything wrong with this state of affairs. This is the real Lovecraftian horror.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:36 AM on September 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


As someone else pointed out upthread, the rich have a little set aside for a rainy day.

But this is mixing up wealth with value created through the production process. Sure you can hoard wealth, but labour is still the ultimate source of value in society and capital needs to circulate through it in order to reproduce itself. No matter how rich you are, your baubles or banknotes will quickly mean very little when labour power is withdrawn from transport, distribution, food production, medicine, all the services of the public sector, etc., and you will panic, which in turn further destabilises the system.
posted by colie at 8:38 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


No matter how rich you are, your baubles or banknotes will quickly mean very little when labour power is withdrawn from transport, distribution, food production, medicine, all the services of the public sector, etc.

Being rich provides a lot of insulation against that happening. Being poor provides none.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:50 AM on September 14, 2014


More women, more people of colour, more out queer people in politics has resulted in (at least trying to) enact legislation that is more equal.

Actually, no. In the US, we've increased diversity in politics, the courts, education, big business, media, etc., over exactly the same period we've shredded safety-net policies and inequality has exploded. Reversing discrimination, to the extent that we have, has been no small achievement, but there is nothing about doing that particular thing that is essentially, or indeed in fact, inimical to vast inequality or the way the wealthy completely control the system now.
posted by batfish at 8:52 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sure you can hoard wealth, but labour is still the ultimate source of value in society and capital needs to circulate through it in order to reproduce itself. No matter how rich you are, your baubles or banknotes will quickly mean very little when labour power is withdrawn from transport, distribution, food production, medicine, all the services of the public sector, etc., and you will panic, which in turn further destabilises the system.

You mean the automated checkout lanes, ATMs, expert AI medical systems, etc, etc. The future value of unskilled labor, and even a lot of skilled jobs is going to plummet. You have your robot servants and your robot army.
posted by empath at 9:08 AM on September 14, 2014


cf The Robots of Dawn
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:13 AM on September 14, 2014


Everyone in power could see that they weren't actually doing anything except sitting around.

I think you mean everyone in power could see that they could just send their police to tear gas and beat the shit out of them and no one would care.
posted by bradbane at 10:37 AM on September 14, 2014


That too. My point being when the authorities can do that with impunity, it seems a bit of a stretch to say that change was effected, yeah?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:42 AM on September 14, 2014


The revolution, in science, is about the new iPod. Or else, in politics, it's something you talk about until SEAL2 sends a few guys down your chimney to give you a patriot quiz.

Does anyone have some ideas about how to affect a substantial change in global economics without creating a power vacuum? It seems obvious that we won't be electing anyone into our (American) government who will be able to make any changes that matter. Boycotts are out, for obvious reasons. Shame doesn't work. Integrity is too expensive for those in office, so they go wherever the money tide takes them.
posted by mule98J at 11:06 AM on September 14, 2014


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