Could the great recession lead to a great revolution?

Christian Science Monitor

For the first time in generations, people are challenging the view that a free-market order – the system that dominates the globe today – is the destiny of all nations. The free market’s uncanny ability to enrich the elite, coupled with its inability to soften the sharp experiences of staggering poverty, has pushed inequality to the breaking point.

This new social upsurge isn’t coming from the traditional left (who often appears adrift in a world they no longer understand or that understands them) but rather from groups of people banding together to find new ways of doing things now that it is obvious that our predatory capitalism is not only unjust but also a failure.

As a result, we live at an important historical juncture – one where alternatives to the world’s neoliberal capitalism could emerge.

History shows that revolutions must have political movement and a socially compelling goal, with strategic and charismatic leadership that inspires majorities to challenge a perception of fundamental injustice and inequality.

For this to happen in the US it must be a mass movement with overwhelming middle class support from all sides of the political spectrum. There is no other way.

Today, throughout the world, peasants, workers, indigenous peoples, and students are galvanized into movements that are challenging state power rooted in global norms of neoliberalism.

DJ at Asymptotic Life adds

Likewise in the U.S. there is another, very different kind of revolution underway: the lack of jobs has forced people back into self-employment– freeing them, often against their will, from the shackles of corporate slavery. (I’ve been self-employed since the last big recession, and have had the privilege of guiding several unemployeds in their transition to self-employeds.)

The current recession was largely caused by corporate looting and government incompetence(charitably put– some see it as collusion). Yet the challenges put before us by those who did not have our best interests at heart may well hold the seeds of liberation.


  1. I would, and have, argue we are already seeing it, though not so much a revolution as an devolution. Or, taken as a view of the longer picture a statistical iteration. With open secession movements in both Texas and Alaska, as well as not so open movements in both the North and Southeast, California printing fiat currency, Oregon and Montana passing laws legalizing the commercial production of hemp… the wheels are coming off.

    Physics is everything [everything is physics]: Wheels coming off</i. implies motion, or momentum. Momentum implies a degree of ability to see where the wheels will go. We are well beyond debating whether or no change will happen, it is happening – the “country” is breaking up into autonomous and semi-autonomous, if not fully independent, bio-regions based on cultural, economic and environmental commons. The hing to be debating is what we’re to do once we get beyond the change.

    • That’s an interesting observation– made more so by the language, which matches almost perfectly Toffler’s predictions in 1980’s “Third Wave” and 1993’s “War and Antiwar.”

      In Toffler’s view of the future, the central government becomes irrelevant, as society moves toward globalization (Goldman, Al Queda, the internet) and localization (bioregions, resilient communities, secessionist movements). Much of the conflict in the world today is not state-to-state, but rather state against global and/or local competition for power that has, in the modern era, generally belonged to the state.

      • Never read it, but it was a common… ahhh, thought at the time amongst those who study the intersections of history and statistics. Indeed, in the mid-seventies National Geographic, of all publications, printed a prediction of what the country would look like now, and it was just thus: autonomous and semi-autonomous, and fully independent bio-regions based on cultural, economic and environmental commons.

        Kinda’ like readin’ a Robert Heinlein novel.

        I think John Robb’s work comes closest to nailing the mechanics of it, but again, we need to be thinking not about the action but the the result – what’s on the other side of “change”.

  2. Scroll through the list of theories for America’s demise.

    70. Texas Secession: Gov. Rick Perry or a like-minded successor makes good on his sensationalist rhetoric and turns the Lone Star State into its own nation.

    71. “The Bubba Effect”: Glenn Beck’s end-of-America scenario: Survivalists on the border take the law into their own hands, shooting illegal immigrants on sight. The federal government cracks down, and the put-upon “Bubbas” revolt.

    72. Cascadia and Novacadia: Quebec secedes and Canada breaks into pieces. On the West Coast, British Columbia merges with Washington and Oregon. To the east, the four Atlantic provinces join Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.

    73. Alaska and Hawaii: Nativist movements win favor, pushing the American flag back to 48 stars.

    74. Geographical Sorting: “Communities of sameness” form as like-minded individuals cluster together and refuse to live alongside those they disagree with.

    75. La República del Norte: Professor Charles Truxillo argues that a growing Latino population in the Southwest will eventually reclaim the territory that Mexico lost to the United States in the 1800s.

    76. Red vs. Blue: Philosophical and cultural divisions grow deeper, leading to a civil war between the red states and blue states and a national schism.

    77. State Sovereignty Movements: Legislatures in states like New Hampshire pass bills to limit federal power. Built-in escape clauses allow states to secede when they perceive that the feds are infringing on their rights.

    78. Transition Cities: Huge groups of survivalists abandon major cities to live as locavores in small, agrarian communities.

    79. Nine Nations: North America abandons its arbitrary borders and splits into regions with cultural and economic similarities, such as the ones laid out in Joel Garreau’s Nine Nations of North America.

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