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Childhood's End for Humanity?  RSS feed

 
evan l pierce
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https://c4ss.org/content/6971

Kevin Carson wrote:Childhood’s End for Humanity?

History, since the agricultural revolution, can be usefully conceptualized as an offensive-defensive arms race between technologies of abundance and social structures of expropriation.

Until the appearance of agriculture, human society didn’t produce a large enough surplus to support much in the way of social organization above the hunter-gatherer group. Agriculture was the first technology of abundance sufficiently productive to support parasitic classes on a large scale. With agriculture came a superstructure of kings, priests, martial castes and landlords who milked the producing classes like cattle.

We now seem to be nearing the end of an interval of ten thousand years or so between two thresholds. The first threshold was the appearance of the first large-scale technology of abundance — agriculture.

Since then we have been in that aforementioned arms race. Sometimes technologies of abundance produce an increase in the social surplus faster than the class superstructure can expropriate it, and things become better for the ordinary person — as in the late Middle Ages, when the horse collar and crop rotation caused a massive increase in agricultural productivity, the craftsmen of the free towns developed new production technologies, and the decay of feudalism resulted in falling rents and de facto emancipation of large sectors of the peasantry. Sometimes the advantage shifts to the social structures of expropriation, and things get worse — as in the case of the absolute monarchies’ suppression of the free towns, what Immanuel Wallerstein called the “long sixteenth century,” and the Enclosures.

We’re approaching the second threshold, when the technologies of abundance reach a takeoff point beyond which the social structures of expropriation can no longer keep up with the rising production curve.

The interval between the two thresholds has been comparatively brief, compared to the hundreds of thousands of years that homo sapiens has existed in something like its present form and the billion years or so that the sun will likely be able to support human life. Seen in that light, this interval is a brief initial adjustment period in the early stages of human productivity. The state was an anomaly in this early stage of the technological explosion, in the childhood of the human race, by whose means the parasitic classes were briefly able to piggyback on the revolution in productivity and harness it as a source of income for themselves.

During this brief interval, parasitic classes — bureaucrats, usurers, landlords, and assorted rentiers — used the state to create scarcity by artificial means, in order to enclose the increased productivity from technologies of abundance as a source of rents for themselves. But after these first few millennia, the productivity curve has shifted so sharply upward that the increases in output will dwarf the rentier classes’ ability to expropriate it. What’s more, new technologies of abundance are rendering artificial scarcities unenforceable.

Around forty years ago, it was fashionable to say that humanity was entering the “Age of Aquarius.” There is a sense in which the 1970s really were the beginning of a new age of human liberation. They saw the birth of the two technologies of abundance — the desktop computer and cheap numerically-controlled machine tools — which will eventually free us from the grip of the corporate state and its artificial scarcities.

The apparent reaction of the decades since — neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus, Reaganism and Thatcherism, the jackbooted police state of the Drug War and War on Terror, the neocons’ wet dream of a Thousand Year Reich enforced by the Sole Remaining Superpower, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — can be seen as a desperate rear guard action by the corporate state, the death throes of a dying system, a last-ditch effort by the forces of artificial scarcity to suppress the forces that will destroy them.

This effort will fail. What file-sharing has done to the record industry, and what Wikileaks has done to the national security state, are only the dimmest foreshadowings of what technologies of abundance and freedom will do to the old authoritarian institutions.

Encryption and darknets are destroying the power of the music, publishing, and movie industries to collect rents on their so-called “intellectual property,” and eliminating economic transactions as a tax base to support bureaucrats.

New physical production technologies, by extracting greater outputs from ever smaller inputs, are rendering the privileged classes’ huge supplies of land and capital utterly useless as a source of income.

Ordinary people, with cheap means of informational and physical production, will soon be able to meet our needs through peaceful production and trade in a fraction of the present workweek, and dump the rentiers off our backs.

If this framing of human history is valid, we’re just finishing the dawn of humanity’s brief childhood, and entering the long afternoon of its maturity.
 
David Livingston
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Interesting but I think overlooks 1 the lack of future resources 2 the demographic issues
I still think Marx in his original writings ( before Lenin and trockski got to work in them ) has much to teach folks today.
David
 
Dale Hodgins
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I think that there are many things that are in fact scarce, especially locally scarce. Look at a stretch of coastline. California has thousands of nice places along the coast, that benefit from the moderating effects. Cooling summer breeze, more rain etc. But there are probably 30 million people in California, who couldn't possibly buy a chunk of the coast, so they are packed into less desirable places.

Other things are becoming more scarce.  Clean water, certain minerals and tigers, to name a few.

We can always find new ways to slice the pie. I'm not sure that this means everyone would get enough to satisfy their needs or desires. Needs, maybe. Desires,  not a chance. I'd like to have 100 miles of that coastline for myself. And that's not going to happen. I don't think it should be allowed to happen, for anyone.

The sweeping change predicted in many books, is generally not seen without civil war or other major calamity.  Gains in worker rights in Europe, spiked immediately after the plague. A shortage of workers combined with many dead masters, pushed change along.
 
John Weiland
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evan l pierce wrote:https://c4ss.org/content/6971

Kevin Carson wrote:Childhood’s End for Humanity?

History, since the agricultural revolution, can be usefully conceptualized as an offensive-defensive arms race between technologies of abundance and social structures of expropriation.

.....

If this framing of human history is valid, we’re just finishing the dawn of humanity’s brief childhood, and entering the long afternoon of its maturity.


Which sounds somewhat like the upward trajectory of humanity as suggested by the original conceptualization of evolution:

"....Does this list (of evolutionary tenets) look familiar? Here is a very similar list of principles from another domain:

1. Humanity is born in sin; we have a base inheritance.
2. Humanity is therefore condemned to a life of conflict and
3. Perpetual toil.
4. By faith and moral effort humanity can be saved from its fallen, selfish state.

So we see that the Darwinism described by Dawkins, whose exposition has been very widely (but by no means universally) acclaimed by biologists, has its metaphorical roots in one of our deepest cultural myths, the story of the fall and redemption of humanity. Dawkins did not invent this evolutionary story; he just tells it with great care and inspiration, in terms that clarify the underlying ideas of Darwinism. And what we see so clearly revealed is a myth with which we are all utterly familiar....."  Brian Goodwin, "How the Leopard Changed Its Spots: The Evolution of Complexity".
 
David Livingston
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I must admit being neither a fan of mr Dawkins nor his methodology .
Mankind to me is born in innocence and it's what happens next that's important . How can a baby be guilty of anything apart from making a mess ? Incidentally although I am agnostic this is also the view of Muslims as stated in the Quran and many other religions apart from christianity . I have noticed many people use the term Darwinism when in my view they really mean Lamarkism . There is no "best " brightist most clever etc etc there is only survival and having young nothing else matters . This to me was and is the big threat Darwinism represents to most religions , it does not need a god to make decisions or judgements for it to work .

David
 
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