When Elites Can’t and People Don’t Want to…

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This is the most bizarre presidential election that I’ve seen since coming to this country in 1978 and probably the most bizarre in anybody’s living memory. Evidence for declining wellbeing of the American population has been piling up for years (as I exhaustively review in the just-published Ages of Discord) and one would think that the election would be about how to reverse this deplorable state of things. Instead, all you read in the press is how one candidate made vulgar comments about women in 2005 and the other tried to discredit women who accused her husband of sexual misconduct decades ago.

There is a Russian saying, “when Elites Can’t and People Don’t Want to”, which is a contraction of a recurrent theme in Vladimir Lenin’s writings about the necessary conditions for a revolution.

lenintribune

Lenin speaking to revolutionary masses (source)

The full quote goes something like this: for revolution to happen, it’s not enough that people don’t want to live as before; it’s also necessary that the rulers can’t rule in the old way (for the Russian version see here). This idea, in fact, is also a central one in the Structural-Demographic Theory (which is not surprising as SDT integrates major ideas of Malthus, Marx, and Weber).

This observation is of direct relevance to the 2016 elections. One on hand, popular discontent, resulting from declining well-being, has propelled an anti-establishment candidate, Donald Trump, to the point where he has a real chance of becoming our next president. On the other hand, we see an unprecedented (at least, since the nineteenth century) fragmentation of the political elites. The Democrats are split between an establishment candidate (Clinton) and a surging populist from the left (Sanders). The Republicans are even in a worse shape, with three factions: the Republican establishment, the Tea Party, and populism from the right.

Are we, then, on a brink of revolution? Lenin (probably) would say “no”. After all “when Elites Can’t and People Don’t Want to” are necessary, but not sufficient conditions. There is no organized revolutionary party, armed with a radical ideology, that could mobilize the masses and overthrow the old regime. So we still have time to figure out how to get out of this mess without piling up lots of dead bodies, which is the most common way in which structural-demographic crises are resolved.

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Edward

in the 21st century an organized revolutionary party might not be possible or required.

100+ years is a long time so comparison with Russian revolution is not apt.

Tsarist Russian state differs from the 21st century state in many ways including two very important ones: it did not have an intelligence agency or 24hr mass media.

move forward to the revolutions that overthrew communism in Eastern Europe and we get a bit closer to America. the communist bloc allowed no opposition parties. they had massive intelligence services that set a strict state political ideology and a controlled media which kept reminding people of it – although this media was really significant, it was not 24hr mass media that had become reliant on social media (e.g. statements, leaks, press releases, videos posted to the internet).

compared to the Eastern European countries prior to their revolutions then: America is the same because there are no rival political parties to the establishment, has a massive intelligence service (FBI, CIA, Homeland Secuity) that sets the ruling ideology (especially the third one), and a supercharged mass media which constantly reinforces the message.

characteristic of the 1989 revolutions was the speed of contagion between the different Eastern European countries (regimes falling like dominos). this shows that despite the immense power and threat of the state instutions, once a critical mass of individuals (usually elites) had committed it was easily done.

these weren’t peasant revolutions and this critical mass of individuals was in no case a political party.

Poland forced reforms required because of the threat of striking workers. Hungary elites made reforms in an attempt to solve an economic crisis. In Czechslovakia the revolutions were student lead and influenced by elites who decided to reform. Romania had some mass demonstrations and then essentially had a military coup.

if you look at what these revolutionies did – and they were different people in all the states – and did not do you would get an idea how a successful revolution would take place in US.

the people did not actually expend a lot of energy enaged in violence, taking over a palace or legislature building, or the intelligence services headquarters etc. the place of most importance was the state media buildings which were responsible for reinforcing the political ideology. in US this would be Fox News, CNN etc.

In 1989 these institutions in some cases may have been directly taken over but usually were circumvented (by foreign – western – media and early forms of grass roots media) or forced to report on highly symbolic acts or demonstrations that sent out a message contrary to the political ideology (Brandenburg Gate classic example of this, but other events like strikes, and the removal of the Austrian-Hungarian fence and many other events important).

once the constant stream of political ideology was challenged and broken the elites within the state, the existing state could be taken down by relatively few elites working within the system with little bloodshed.

revolution in America would likewise involve elites within the system changing the message. given the influence of social media, and how the mass media is so reliant on grass roots media for content, this process might happen even quicker than it did in Eastern Europe. Within the space of a month or a week.

Richard

Edward, the US is a massive place; much more massive than any of the little Eastern European countries that were toppled relatively bloodlessly. And with major cultural differences across regions. Plus, in all cases, there was support by the military there. The idea of the military being involved in a coup in the US is rather frightening, but luckily, I believe we are still far from that.

Secondly, I’m not sure why you would want that in any case. If the current status quo is taken down by revolution, the revolutionaries are most likely to be bigoted, racist authoritarian populist right-wing Trumpists. There’s a reason why African-Americans backed in overwhelming numbers the most status quo candidate (Hillary) in both the Democratic primaries and general election. That isn’t because everything is peaches and roses for them right now, but because they are probably among the most clear-eyed voters in the American political landscape. They are but a couple generations removed from discriminatory Jim Crow laws, being denied the right to vote, and lynchings, so understand how bad it can get if you upset the status quo (with the Greatest Generation now in their 80’s and 90’s and dying off now, most American whites have forgotten that).

Edward

a military coup in the US is very welcome if it means stopping deranged elites starting nuclear World War III over Syria.

The word “racist” is used a lot in American politics but from the outside the reluctance of American elites to discriminate between who they bomb from 50,000 feet is a much worse crime and one that is happening today.

Something needs to be done to stop them messing about with the world, specifically the Middle East, which is having ramifications in Europe. If I was American I would never vote for Clinton who is partly responsible for the current situation.

Your characterization of Trump is very Punch & Judy so here’s Punch.

Mass arrests need to be made (starting with the Clintons) to clean up the corrupt American establishment, protect America’s democracy and stop the nuclear war they appear determined to start over Syria.

Richard

Edward: Mass arrests are what tin-pot dictators in banana republics do. They would definitely undermine liberal democracy. Your call for them actually reveals more about you than it does anything else.
I also get the feeling that you and/or family have never experienced living in an authoritarian state. I wonder if you’d be so glib about mass arrests if you had.

In any case, how exactly is the US starting nuclear war over Syria?

And you do realize that it’s the Russians who are indiscriminately bombing Syria right now, not the US, right?

Eric Stromquist

Not that I want to get in the middle of an argument that is pretty far from Cliodynamics, but …

The worry would be this. During the cold war direct military conflict between the US and USSR was very unlikely because both sides knew that most scenarios could rapidly escalate to a nuclear exchange. But now, neither our nor the Russians activities in the Middle East are of primary or existential importance to either country, so direct military conflict would not be thought important enough or likely to lead to a nuclear exchange.

But that’s the risk, because it makes such direct conflict thinkable and therefore much more likely to begin. The problem is that once a shooting war between the US and Russia begins, even if it is a small one, there is a very large risk of initially-unplanned escalation, perhaps even, in the end, to the unthinkable nuclear level.

Edward

let’s reintroduce some Cliodynamics.

UK and US differ in one very interesting way: a massive number American citizens have dramatically lost, or fear they are about to lose, their social status, one that UK citizens never had. that is, they’ve lost, or about to lose, their status as an American citizen, which use to be something that made them proud and something that entailed power.

What do I mean by that? The traditional American political ideology:

you live in the land of the free
a land of opportunity
we are all equal under god
your speech is free
men are allowed guns

How many of those things are true or not underattack from the state today? Consider homeland security; escalating inequality (most opportunity is for illegal immigrants); political correctness (guilt tripping white Americans); attempts to restrict gun ownership.

American elites are taking away the high status Americans (especially middle class Americans) once had and turning them into Brits, or worse.

In Cliodynamics a maxim of the elite crisis stage is surplus elites are more likely to fight when they have status to lose than when they never had it to begin with. The same thing I believe applies to American citizens who have traditionally had a very high status and standard of living compared to the rest of the world. Cliodynamic says they won’t let it go without a fight.

Richard

Edward, do you only read American right-wing propaganda sites to get your info on America?

Only those in the right-wing information bubble would believe that the right to own guns is under attack in the US. And most opportunity is for illegal immigrants? WTF?

One thing you don’t seem to understand about the US is that race is as big a deal as class is in the UK. Look at the periods of peak discord in the US. All of them involved race. The main contention of the Civil War was the fight over the right to enslave black people, The biggest outbreaks of violence in that peak of discord around 1920 were race riots (mostly whites burning down black neighborhoods) and lynchings (in case you didn’t know what that means, it means a mob of white people hunting down and murdering black people like animals; in some cases because a black family ran a business better and were an economic threat). In the late ’60’s, the riots were mostly in black neighborhoods where black mobs faced off against almost all white police.

If there is a populist revolt, it will be by working class whites, and minorities would be the ones who suffer the most. Not elites. Why do you think that African-Americans, who are poorer and more working-class than average, support Democrats in overwhelming numbers? Because they understand America, which you don’t seem to.

Given all that, why exactly do you think a populist revolt a good idea?

Edward

I disagree. There won’t be a populist revolt. America’s crisis is a crisis of the elites not the people.

These elites respond to broad populist sentiment (such as that reflecting the traditional American political ideology which elites have sought to change) and may act because of it, but there won’t be a populist revolt. If you examine so-called “populist” ideas they are highly sophisticated and actually originate from elites not grass-roots Clive Bundy type yokals.

A populist revolt is impossible in practical terms. The introduction of large intelligence services and mass media in the 20th century changed everything. The main reason is there is nothing for the people to revolt against because the power is not concentrated in the executive but spread across the ruling class.

The people can’t “storm a bastille” or Parliament and take power. They are too weak – even in America in where people have guns. Power can realistically only be transferred among the existing, competing, powerholders.

This is why in Eastern Europe the revolutions were elite reforms rather than violent uprisings. As I said in my first post the situation in America is more like the situation in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s than Russia before the revolution.

Edward

The key take-home point is the idea of surplus elites.

Traditional American political ideology

you live in the land of the free
a land of opportunity
we are all equal under god
your speech is free
men are allowed guns

was incredibly successful creating wealth and new powerful families, in addition to previous power-holders.

Now part of the elite class has sough to end that political ideology to claim more power for themselves. The music stops. There are only so many seats.

Richard

Edward, I keep repeating, but it doesn’t seem to sink in:
You seem to have a distorted view of what is “traditional American ideology”.

Hopefully, this article will enlighten you:
http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/19/13288594/new-silent-majority

The Clinton coalition is based on a shared belief in the virtues of multiculturalism and tolerance and includes minorities as well as whites who are 3 of the 4: college-educated, young, secular, and female.
The Trump base is composed of whites who are 3 of the 4: working-class, old, religious, male.

The composition of the US population has changed a lot in recent decades, with the younger generations more multicultural (less white), more college-educated, and more secular.
Which is why the McGovern coalition of minorities and young professional (secular) whites got thumped in 1972 but the Hillary coalition of minorities and female/secular/young/professional whites will win in 2016.

If you are a minority or a woman or gay or Jewish or secular, the “Good Old Days” weren’t terribly good. You don’t care much about gun rights. If you’re secular, you’re glad that God is exiting the public sphere and there’s more freedom of speech now. And for all those groups, there is more freedom and opportunity than ever before. Blacks sure didn’t feel more free when they were being denied voting rights and being lynched (minorities of all types certainly don’t think there was more opportunity back when there was more racial discrimination against them). Women certainly don’t think they had more opportunity when sexism was more rampant in the workplace, Jews certainly don’t think there was more opportunity back when the Ivy League had a Jewish quota and they were denied entry in to the white-shoe law firms. Gays certainly don’t think they were more free back when they were persecuted for their sexual orientation.

Edward

You are disputing what should be American political ideology or what was once American political ideology?

The point is that if there WAS an ideology that was generally established for a couple hundred years and then in the space of a few decades a couple of administrations blunder in and change everything you are going to cause a heap of confusion.

Pure utopianism that you can announce a change to a long established political ideology that you consider to be better and expect everyone overnight to agree with it. Demand everyone agrees with it and the utopianism becomes like velvet fist in a iron glove, or something like that.

Nichol

“Multiculturalism”, and the virtues of same, doesn’t strike me as a topic well covered by cliodynamics…at least in the books I’ve read.

There is the notion of a culture solidifying due to an external threat (the Russian or colonial American model), but a breakup due to mass movement of populations seems to be a hole in these theories. Whether it’s mass immigration from Latin America or the Middle East, or the likely huge problem presented by the population explosion in sub-Saharan Africa, the First World will find itself under more, not less, stress due to diversity in culture.

In the short term, the obvious answer will be increasing top-down design of government systems as explicit rules and enforcement replace cultural norms. In the long run, I’d expect a fissioning of states.

Richard

Edward:

That ideology you are described did not exist for hundreds of years and was held to by only a subset of the population.

And the new ideology isn’t one that just I consider better, but one that women, minorities, gays, Jews & other non-Christians–that is to say, THE MAJORITY OF THE AMERICAN POPULATION–considers better. Ultimately, the question is: Do you believe in democracy or not?

Eric Stromquist

It seems that there are two groups in the US which might have potential interest in a revolution, although to say so seems extreme. The first consists of the working class whites who are the backbone of Donald Trump’s support. The second consists roughly of Black Lives Matter and supporters.

These two groups are totally opposed to each other. The BLM supporters are a literally a minority group. If working-class whites are in fact a strong political force, they merely need to win the election to gain power, which is possible but is not a revolution outside the system. Nor is there an elite contingent that would support a working-class white revolution, since it seems that nearly all elites support the status quo liberal-progressive movement.

I suppose more militant socialist group than Bernie Sanders could arise, but support for Sanders seemed to seemed relatively opportunistic on the part of Millennials as opposed to being ideologically committed, and today’s conservative working-class whites seem very disinclined to socialism.

So it seems sufficient conditions are far from being in place, just as Prof. Turchin says. I suppose there is risk if Trump loses – or if Trump wins and his promises to improve the situation of working-class whites appear to be foiled by the establishment – then a more radical populist working-class white movement may arise four or eight years from now.

Ross Hartshorn

As “look on the bright side” columns go, this one is pretty dark. But, probably correct. As great as the dissatisfaction (of the masses) and incompetence (of the elites) is, most people aren’t ready for violence.

However, it doesn’t require that most people be ready for violence. It only requires that, say, 1% of them are suicidally ready for violence, and the elites are incompetent to stop that. I could easily see the incidence of “rampage killers” increasing until it becomes, not just a headline-grabbing news story, but a genuine threat to society. Normal society requires that the vast majority, almost 100%, want to live peacefully side by side, most of the time (even the criminals most of the time want this).

The fellow in Austin, Texas, where I live, who threw rocks off an overpass onto the interstate, killing a few people, until he was caught, was not a revolutionary. He was, however, indicative of a problem: too many people without an interest in keeping society functional, who turn to random violence. I don’t think we have enough of such people to cause a breakdown, yet. But we could be headed in that direction, not from organized insurrection, but just random psychosis from too many people, and an elite that don’t know how to stop it. But hopefully not.

Just bought your new book yesterday, by the way. Looking forward to it!

Richard

There won’t be a nationalized grassroots revolution across the whole of the US. The reason for that is because a big chunk of the US (the suburban white-collar middle-class), while not doing great in recent decades, have a big deal to lose in a revolution. Furthermore, yes, the BLM people won’t ever align with the Trumpists. That should not be overlooked. The Nazis were able to seize power (note that they never had the majority of votes in any election) because the Stalin-controlled Communists and Social Democrats in Germany never united (because Stalin wanted to destroy the Social Democrats). Times aren’t so desperate yet that the radical left would break with the center-left and allow Trumpists to seize power.

So there are only 2 ways to discord:
1. A more clever and disciplined Trump gets elected. It’s almost a blessing that Trump is so ignorant, lacks self-discipline, and is misogynistic. Someone with his authoritarian bent, disregard for the rules of a liberal democracy, and bigotry would be dangerous if they were smart and disciplined enough (and didn’t alienate many women) to win (and Trump was not that far away). I can certainly see a smarter more-disciplined version of Trump cause constitutional crisis where the military and police have to choose between obeying their commander-in-chief or breaking laws and norms (putting minorities in concentration camps, for instance).

The US splits asunder (like Civil War times).
We can see a major disparity in terms of the percentage of the white vote that Obama got in 2012:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/10/1159759/-Percent-of-White-vote-won-by-Obama-2012-by-state:
Less than 20% of white in the Deep South states of MS, AL, LA, GA, and SC (and well as UT, where GOP nominee Romney was the favorite son) and OK voted for Obama. A big change from 2012 is that large numbers of college-educated (conservative) whites (especially women) are abandoning Trump, so GA may change. I really want to see the breakdown after the 2016 polling is finished.
But we may see calls for revolution and secession from the inner South (MS, AL, LA, TN, KY) and possibly even TX and OK.

Richard

And structural demographic crisis may yet be resolved without resorting to major bloodshed.
After all, the situation in the US was as bad as now at the end of the first Gilded Age, yet, as stated in a comment on the previous post:
1. Busting up of big national monopolies/companies and championing of regional/local interests/businesses was started by the trust-buster Teddy Roosevelt at the start of the 20th century. That may lead to more sort-term inefficiency but more long-term societal health and vitality:
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/11/cities-economic-fates-diverge/417372/

Immigration was halted in the ’20’s (which allowed assimilation to rebuild asabiya). WWII also helped in that regard.
Redistributive policies and strengthening of unions was done in the ’30’s.

Even with a paroxysm of violence around 1920, it wasn’t as bad as the Civil War or the French/Russian/Chinese revolutions.

We’ll see how Hillary governs, but I believe she is favorable to the first and third. And (external) war may yet come.

Richard

Busting up of big national monopolies/companies and championing of regional/local interests/businesses was started by the trust-buster Teddy Roosevelt at the start of the 20th century. That may lead to more short-term inefficiency but more long-term societal health and vitality:
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/11/cities-economic-fates-diverge/417372/
Immigration was halted in the ’20’s (which allowed assimilation to rebuild asabiya). WWII also helped in that regard.
Redistributive policies and strengthening of unions was done in the ’30’s.

(better formatting)

Richard

Though I just thought of this: Our social welfare state is dependent on young immigrant workers to support (generally ungrateful leeching conservative) elders in order to function properly.

That is a problem if immigration is curtailed.

Nichol

Who, in turn, pays for those immigrants as they age?

In the final analysis, you have two choices.

1) A stable population that is rich enough to support a high average age as improvements in medicine/diet/etc. occur (up to natural limits of course).
2) An ever growing population buoying up an ever growing population of seniors. That eventually leads to a die-off, or an expanding ball of human flesh growing at the speed of light. Compound interest is serious stuff.

(there’s always choice ‘0’, a lowering of the limits of old age).

I suppose there’s choice 2.5, a replacement population who lowers it’s birthrate over time and then holds the territory. Everything else being equal, populations with higher birthrates end up holding the globe if boundaries don’t exist.

Richard

Nichol:

Populations with high birthrates become populations with low birthrates once the women in those populations get even a little education.
Thailand’s fertility rate dropped from 6.15 in 1960 to 2.11 in 1990 (replacement level) to 1.44 in 2010.
Iran’s fertility rate dropped from 6.93 in 1960 to 2.19 in 2000 (it’s 1.90 in 2010).

And I believe in choice 3: Enough productive automation to support a ton of nonproductive old people. We are still several decades away from that, however. In the meanwhile, it’s a working population that is increasingly non-white supporting a growing population of unproductive often-ungrateful mostly white seniors.

Loren Petrich

Donald Trump’s candidacy is something like what happened to the Democratic Party in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when the New Left got involved it, competing with organized labor. Neither side liked the other very much, and that split doomed George McGovern’s 1972 Presidential candidacy. The New Left considered organized labor a bunch of Cold War Establishment fuddy-duddies, and labor-union leaders considered the New Left a bunch of amateurish upstarts. AFL-CIO leader George Meany once grumbled about how some party delegation included 6 open homosexuals and only 3 AFL-CIO people.

George McGovern wasn’t a vulgar narcissist like Donald Trump, however. Though in retrospect, that was the beginning of an era of political strife.

More recently, Bill Clinton’s Presidency provoked remarkably bitter hostility from the Right. Though he was a mushy centrist, right-wingers acted as if he was a left-wing ogre. They even departed from their most cherished principles to do so. When BC proposed funding 100,000 police officers, the Right turned anti-cop. When BC fired some White House travel agents, the Right forgot all about its belief in the absolute sovereignty of employers over workplaces, its opposition to wasteful government spending, and how coddled government employees are. In the Paula Jones case, the Right forgot about its pooh-poohing of the issue of sexual harassment. About BC’s wars, the Right opposed them, taking a position that they had long vehemently opposed as everything from dangerous naivete to outright treason.

Barack Obama has governed much like Bill Clinton, but the Right has also hated him as a left-wing ogre. One who was born in some other nation — birtherism. Obamacare was something proposed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation in 1988, by a Republican Senator as an alternative to Clintoncare in 1993, and by Republican Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney in 2006 (“Romneycare”). Mitt Romney even recommended it to Barack Obama in a USA Today op-ed. But as Obamacare progressed, the Right developed a raging hate-on for it as an alleged government takeover of the healthcare business.

In both BC’s and BO’s presidencies, the Right’s hostility extended to shutting down the Federal Government.

Nichol

It’s worth considering that the political boundaries are shifting to new axes. The 20th C was largely fought over concepts of national economics, perhaps the 21st will concern other matters.

My guess is that people just ‘know’ what side they’re on in all of this and simply slap a patina of logic atop to justify their actions (or web pontificating). Defining the sides will be interesting.

Richard

Nichol:

Lots of good articles by Lee Drutman about this.

In the Fifth Party System from the New Deal to the Great Society (1932-1968 or so), the battle lines were drawn along economic grounds. In the Sixth Party system, since the GOP was tired of losing, started using race as a political tool. In the 7th Party System (starting about now), identity will be the main dividing line, with the Democrats united by a belief in tolerance and diversity (and democracy, I predict) and the Republicans united by a belief in white nationalism (and autocracy, I predict). In that sense, US politics will be going back to the 19th century. Specifically, the period between the Civil War and the Great Depression, when politics meant identity politics to all sides. Not surprising that the Second Gilded Age produces Gilded Age political divisions again.

John Taylor

I doubt that there will be a revolution against the elites at least not yet.
Two factors are worth thinking about. One is that the elite have set up a number of conflict points that can be used at will to divert conflict. If you look at history when elites are under pressure they divert attention by going to war against the”enemy”. The major enemies that are being pushed are
1 Race war…blacks are taught to hate whites
2 Religious wars–the western elite are both importing lots of Mohammedans and at the same time picturing Mohammedans as barbarians and creating war in Muslim countries
3 Russia is being set up as the evil empire, Putin as an antichrist and to save the world americans need to have a nuclear war with evil.

The other factor is that all revolutions need lots of money. When battling against the state you need either assistance from alternative internal powerful elites or outside elites. The russian revolution was not just caused by ww1 and the weakening of the Romanovs but also by massive funding by the German secret service , American money looking for resources and the Schiffs & co. looking for revenge.
At the moment in the USA there is not the organising principle or money power to create the revolution. More likely there will be a series of wars of distraction. This will also solve the problem for the state of excess debt that can not be repaid and promises that can not be met.

T.S.

You overlook that people are well on to this “war of distraction” tactic. The public is far beyond ordinary war fatigue. If any of these scenarios go down, there will be no rallying the public, and the establishment elite will not fare well in the process. I do not believe you can get the large electorate for Trump behind anything Clinton would do. Even in the face of an external “common” enemy, I am sure they would prefer to bunker down locally and in small community factions before they would rally as ‘her nation.’ They are simply too inoculated against her boilerplate manipulations.

And besides, these “enemies” watching this are not dumb. They realize there is a huge base of support they can cleave away from a Clinton presidency, whom they don’t have to fight, and can win the respect of by embarrassing and otherwise resisting her schemes. It’s past time to admit that their strategy has been a disaster for US and world, and any more of it would make for a very weak and vulnerable “ruler.”

Richard

Telling that you put “enemies” in quotes. Personally, yes, I do consider those who try to undermine American liberal democracy enemies.
There are far, far worse disasters than our current state of being*. That’s what you’d learn from reading history.

Granted, our current lot could improve. As I stated, 1. busting up of big national monopolies/companies and championing of regional/local interests/businesses, 2. halting immigration (allowing assimilation to rebuild asabiya), and redistributive policies and 3. strengthening of unions would do the trick. Ironically (from your perspective, as you oppose her), Clinton would do more on 1 & 3, and while Trump may halt immigration, he’d destroy asabiya with his inciting of bigoted white nationalists against everyone else.

Vladimir Dinets

Why do you think halting immigration would improve asabiya? Just look who’s signing up for the Army.

Chris Kavanagh

This seems like a post that better describes the political context of a few months ago and doesn’t take account of the recent precipitous drop in Trump’s support or the fact that Sanders has for months been strongly endorsing Clinton. Presently according to pretty much all polling Trump has almost no “real chance of becoming our next president”. Moreover, rather than disintegrating it looks like the Democratic party may on the back of the Trump implosion be set to gain a majority in the Senate and establish a liberal majority in the supreme court. It is still the case that there is a lot of popular dissatisfaction with Clinton and that the concerns of Bernie supporters’ have not gone away… but it seems likely that such sentiment will be weakened if the democrats sweep the presidency and gain control of the senate.

This doesn’t take away from the longer term trends that fit the pattern described but it does seem that in the short term the crisis is fading, at least for the Democrats.

Richard

The problem is that post-election, the Trumpists will still be around (possibly aided and abetted by foreign powers) along with their disregard for liberal democracy. Do not be surprised to see several Branch Davidian-type conflagrations or Oklahoma City-type bombings in the future.

Edward

The Oklahoma City bombing can essentially be summerised with the term “false flag” but the facts are too complex to discuss here.

The point is your prediction is not a scientific one at all and comes from an establishment perspective, which is biased. There have been “Branch Davidian-type conflagrations or Oklahoma City-type bombings” in the past so sure, why couldn’t there be some like it in the future? If one happened tomorrow would that really prove that there is a Trumpist people in conflict with the liberal state?

Are “Branch Davidian-type conflagrations or Oklahoma City-type bombings” really going to characterise elite instability? I would say the elite conflict can also manifest in other ways: such as mass arrests of corrupt establishment officials, and the character assassination of potential political rivals on increasingly arbitrary grounds making fewer and fewer people electable.

That would remove some of the surplus elites. However, demographic-structural theory would tell us that these solutions would not necessarily solve the problem, which is structural. There would be new elite conflicts coming up to replace the old ones.

If correct that the problem in America is primarily a elite conflict between elites one might predict that ordinary Americans would largely be untouched by what is going on, and their situation might not be any worse off. It would be more of the same.

This idea is completely contrary to the popular imagination of impending social catacylsm of the people vs the state.

I’m totally skeptical of this. The mass media is a huge part of the structure of modern society and to the great extent it projects out the establishment’s feelings it makes it difficult to tell what is really going on (as the perspective of the establishment is not neutral).

The fact Trump is a candidate at all shows that his support for him exists within the US establishment. He is not a phenomenon of the people. In fact, he’s their boss.

Richard

At this point this seems pointless, but I’ll try anyway:

My prediction is grounded in history: every time there has been social discord in the US, the hoi polloi have turned against each other (usually on racial grounds) and common folks have died (during the Civil War period, around 1920, and in the late 1960’s). Only in the first instance (the Civil War) did a lot of elites die as well.

What is your prediction that ordinary Americans would be untouched grounded in?

Edward

Other times in history in other parts of the world such as First Intermediate Period Egypt when the common people actually flourished compared to previous times and it was only the elites that felt a period of disruption.

What I want to know is why if you agree there are so many elites and they are all arguing and the US military is the most massively funded in all of history and the US government, according to Hillary Clinton, has 17 professional intelligence services, including a Homeland Security and militarized police force*, why you are worried about rednecks with pea-shooters storming capitol hill?

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz1NJ3fhso0

The racial divide in US today I believe is exaggerated and principally an effect of the elite conflict. It is a top down, not a bottom up lead phenomenon that will diminish as soon as the elites sort themselves out. Rich people don’t worry about division of spoils among races because they’re rich; poor people won’t worry about division of spoils among races, or among any other type of group, when there is a good economy.

Nichol

Perhaps the elite oversupply doesn’t gin up the controversy, but merely takes advantage of it.

Trump strikes me as a man who ran out in front of a mob and has done well in nudging it. Good, especially good ad hoc, speaking skills are no joke and can take you quite a distance.

In short, a social fission can be bottom-up and then taken over as a top-down piece of machinery. As Trump fades, and he probably will, that mob is still out there. I suppose you can think of the ‘mob’ as simply another tribe in a US increasingly built from self-interested groups, sometimes ethnically based, sometimes not. This particular one is built from what might be considered the remnants of the traditional US population, but there’s nothing in physics that says they have to remain dominant.

Richard

Indeed Edward,

I think Nichol has it right and you have it backwards. The social fission is there. An over-abundance of elites just takes advantage of it.
So you again seem to misunderstand me: I am not the one who is afraid of rednecks storming the capital. In fact, I’m the one saying that’s impossible, despite your grand fantasies. I’m afraid of the hoi polloi turning on each other, which is what has happened in the past in the US. Only when there is major bloodletting of the common folks is there also turning of the elites against each other.

And drawing from ancient Egyptian history is laughable when current Americans share much more culturally with recent Americans than they do with ancient Egyptians.

Edward

The so-called “remnants of the traditional US population” who support Trump number well over 100 million people and cut across all social classes and cultures. However, the core voting group will be Americans of European ancestry. Rednecks, white middle class families, new age crystal healers, top establishment officials who oppose Neocons, business leaders marginalized by DC cronyism – they are all voting Trump. That’s quite a line-up. You can think of it as a ‘mob’ if you like but they are more likely to reinvent the failing system than smash everything up (that they, and their ancestors, have helped build).

Richard

Edward, you say “white middle class families” support Trump, but the reality is that Trump is losing the college-educated white vote (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/15/educational-divide-in-vote-preferences-on-track-to-be-wider-than-in-recent-elections/). First time the GOP has lost that demographic in generations.

Trump is also losing the married women vote (which the GOP usually wins): http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/marriage-after-trump/504440/

Right now, your Trump mob is mostly a combination of elder/non-college-educated/male whites.

edwardturner

Phrases like “your Trump mob” and your link to the apparent educational divide in voting preferences suggest that you believe the Clinton vote represents the intentions of wealthy intelligent people and the Trump vote the intentions of poor stupid people. This merely reinforces an unhelpful sense of superority and entitlement to power.

One cannot imagine the viewpoint from the other side, when the other side are just the wrong kind of people.

I don’t doubt that Trump supporters are taken in total are less wealthy and less intelligent but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good, and it doesn’t mean they do not deserve power.

Like a racing car set-up with a lot of oversteer will struggle to keep a straight line, intelligence and possessions make it harder for an individual to keep to the straight path. We live in a world where intelligence can and is often recruited to fool oneself and others that one’s selfish interests are for the best of everyone else. These deceptions take the form of religious and scientific beliefs and political ideologies.

So to find the good do look to the clever and the rich.

That is not to say clever and wealthy people cannot be good. When they are they deserve a lot of credit because it is extremely difficult. I would only espouse the virtues of this group of people with great care.

Nichol

” That’s quite a line-up. You can think of it as a ‘mob’ ”

I’m referring to it as a mob (and one of which I am likely a member) because it seems to still be searching for a core belief system and (probably more importantly) which beliefs to agree to disagree on. I don’t doubt that any merging group, if it achieves any kind of power, has to be filled with compromise and internal contradiction.

I was thinking about the existential threat to the West presented by mass immigration, and was considering an experiment with measurable results….

It seems to me that a good first order approximation of assimilation is accent. You can speak essentially the same language, but the closeness of group affiliation can be expressed as how language and pronunciation evolve separately. We have a new opportunity to do that due to the work in speech recognition (Siri, Echo, etc.) and I don’t doubt that changes can be measured over time. Given the near universal wiretaps afforded by the modern surveillance state, I wonder if some sociologist at the NSA has built this experiment.

Nichol

As an aside, I think that one of the great ironies of modern times is that one of the strongest (maybe ‘the’ strongest) current state religions and source of assabiyah appears to be the religion of diversity.

Maybe it’s just a passing fad, but the ability of something built out of apartness to cause social adhesion is rather a mystery to me. Perhaps what we are seeing is a second order kind of group glue made out of electronic communications. It’s easier to feel kinship to the foreign when you never deal with them in person but purely as an abstract concept or words on a screen.

Edward

Interesting but I would disagree that the “religion of diversity” is a religion. Likewise the “religion of global warming” is not a religion. These are moral credentials that have propagated because they arbirarily whittle down some of the vast numbers of potential political elite from positions of power.

In this time period of history, the mass media is the principal way that the public gets to learn about elites and they can exert massive control over peoples’ moral evaluation of them. Virtue signalling is the cynical display by elites of moral credentials for selfish reasons.

Not all elites who display the correct moral credentials are virtue signallers. There are legitimate scientific and philosophical discussions.

Virtue signalling occurs when these imporant moral and scientific debates are over-simplified (the scientific debate is over! Trump wants to build a wall so he must be a facist!) and used to promote cynical political ends, especially ones that benefit the rich at the expense of the poor, and promote a dangerous strain of “global nationalism”.

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