1930-Somethings

History never repeats itself, but it rhymes, runs the suggestive aphorism (falsely?) attributed to Mark Twain.

James Delingpole writes in the Daily Telegraph:

… have you ever tried reading private journals or newspapers from the 1930s? What will surprise you is that right to the very last minute – up to the moment indeed when war actually broke – even the most insightful and informed commentators and writers clung on to the delusion that things would somehow turn out all right. I do hope that history is not about to repeat itself. Unfortunately, the lesson from history is that all too often it does. 

There’s quite a lot of this about.

For one theoretical account of how history might rhyme, on an ominous 80-year cycle, there’s a generational model that sets the beat. “Strauss & Howe have established that history can be broken down into 80 to 100 year Saeculums that consist of four turnings: The High, The Awakening, The Unraveling, and the Crisis.” From a philosophical point of view, it seems a little under-powered, but its empirical plausibility rises by the month.

Among Shanghai’s anomalies is a peculiar relation to the 1930s. For the city beyond the International Settlement, the decade slid into disaster when Sino-Japanese hostilities broke out in 1937. Yet the preceding period was not marked by depression, but by exuberant High Modernism. Dates from the 1930s that would in much of the world seem distinctly sinister are displayed on the city’s historic buildings as a mark of Golden Age authenticity. For the paranoid mind, that would slot neatly into the same disturbing rhyme scheme today.

Throughout most of the rich world, economic, political, and cultural decay seemed — retrospectively — to presage the coming cataclysm, as if nothing less could jolt exhausted social systems from their relentless downward slide. Almost everywhere, some version of fascist thinking was seized upon as the antidote to relentlessly gathering malaise. Beneath the surface of the global geostrategic order, shifting tectonic plates accumulated intolerable tension. Degenerate monetary systems came apart into uncontrollable swirls of dysfunctional signs.

Still, it’s entirely possible that there’s nothing to worry about:

StockcycleClick image to enlarge.

ADDED: “If you hear echoes of the 1930s in the capitulation at Geneva, it’s because the West is being led by the same sort of men, minus the umbrellas.” (I’m hearing echoes of the 1930s just about everywhere.)

 

November 26, 2013admin 17 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Political economy , Templexity , World

TAGGED WITH : , , ,

17 Responses to this entry

  • fotrkd Says:

    From a philosophical point of view, it seems a little under-powered

    Hmm. I’d agree with that. Retrospectively it’s relatively easy to chart out these Turnings, particularly in the US where there appears to be the grand total of three. It would have been reassuring in 1962 though: ‘Crisis! What crisis? We’re not even halfway through the Saeculum (etc. etc.)’

    The Human Seasons

    Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
    There are four seasons in the mind of man:
    He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
    Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
    He has his Summer, when luxuriously
    Spring’s honied cud of youthful thought he loves
    To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
    Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
    His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
    He furleth close; contented so to look
    On mists in idleness—to let fair things
    Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
    He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
    Or else he would forego his mortal nature.

    (John Keats)

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 26th, 2013 at 5:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • Callowman Says:

    The essential difference is of course the bomb. There’s quite a different set of incentives out there for nation-states than there was in the late 30s. I believe that, yes, the post-national order will be kicking in right quick now, but there’s no reason to assume a massive conflagration that nobody can win is about to break out. Cf. Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles, in particular the neat little drawings in the middle, showing how revolutions in military technology successively resulted in new state systems throughout the modern and late premodern era.

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    The rub is that protracting the cycle means you get stuck with Nomads indefinitely. Saudi Arabia is an example of this: suicide bombers. This is the American equivalent, and it would just go down from there.

    [Reply]

    Steve Johnson Reply:

    Wow, I’ll take suicide bombers over that.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 26th, 2013 at 9:43 pm Reply | Quote
  • pseudo-chrysostom Says:

    >even the most insightful and informed commentators and writers clung on to the delusion that things would somehow turn out all right.

    this is largely because the american entry into the war was more or less the result of the machinations of fdr and the rest of the internationalist caste.

    compare with the observation of yuri bezmenov: theres no such thing as grass roots revolutions.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 26th, 2013 at 10:22 pm Reply | Quote
  • Manjusri Says:

    Unrelated:

    Seems David Brin has encountered Neoreactionaries via the Techcrunch article… and, while not in left-wing high dudgeon (he’s too much the West Coast Heinleinian for that), does not like what he sees:

    http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2013/11/neo-reactionaries-drop-all-pretense-end.html

    I don’t know where to even begin with him. Or whether to bother.

    [Reply]

    Alrenous Reply:

    There’s a recipe for that.

    Define a goal.
    Define a strategy.
    Balance costs against benefits.
    Scale cost/benefit by estimate of chance of success.

    The only real trick is to be sincere about your strategy. Imagine it vividly and so on. Plan it as if you’ve already decided – plan to abort if necessary, rather than planning to initiate if it looks good.

    For me, he tripped a very bad flag.

    Painfully aware of how gruesomely awful such pyramid-shaped societies

    The conclusion has already been assumed. There’s no reasoning here, and thus the adage applies: can’t reason someone out of something they weren’t reasoned into to begin with.

    As a bonus, he’s using highly loaded emotional language, which means sophistry. He’s trying to crowd out the reasoning abilities of his audience by whipping them into froth.

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    Did he not notice that universal franchise merely altered the apex selection process of the extant pyramid for the worse? Can’t “go back” if you never left.

    Disappointingly, it seems Alexander’s, however shallow, represents the high water mark of NR criticism. Entropy is extracting its due.

    [Reply]

    Steve Johnson Reply:

    There’s an inherent problem with criticism of NR.

    For NR to be persuasive it has to criticize the mainstream. Government, science, art, everything.

    How do you criticize a critique? With a defense of the status quo? If the status quo was defensible then NR wouldn’t be persuasive at all.

    I think the best critic of NR is someone like Megan McArdle. She writes about how you can tweak the status quo in a few ways here and there and get huge benefits. If she’s right then the progressive structure isn’t doomed and falling apart. If the tweaks she favors are impossible because of the structural flaws in progressivism then the NRs are right.

    You’re not going to successfully persuade anyone who was open to the NR critique of progressivism that actually things are pretty good. You can only hope to persuade them that things don’t have to get worse and that progressives are capable of sanity.

    [Reply]

    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    Religious conservatives and libertarians are the prime targets for the NR appeal. They are the most attuned to the fact that some things (largely orthogonal things respectively) are totally fscked up and getting worse.

    admin Reply:

    Brin is attacking a straw-man (from my point of view, at least), but the tone of his post is quite calm. We’re still at the “let’s find some really good reasons for not looking at this crazy / horrible stuff” stage — but that’s OK. Best for us to chip people off the consensus discreetly, then discuss things with them in the shadowy depths of the reactosphere, rather than encouraging the illusion of open public debate (about the structurally-rigged system of public debate).

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 26th, 2013 at 10:36 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    NR/DEC is an attack.

    Forget Defense. The Defense is the attack, you are pointing out their ridiculous contradictions, the horrid consequences, and the sum of neo-reaction is a preference for truth over lies.

    You defend by attacking. It is an attack.

    Truth and Beauty to the Victors. Win first, then worry about what next. If what’s next is a preference for truth over lies, beauty will eventually follow truth. We may not live to see it, for we are all now living guilty of Shirking. A mortal sin in original Islam you know, and the Man knew what he was doing. Beauty is for our Daughters. We must first stand for them.

    Truth is for Men.

    Beauty for Women.

    Be Men, and the Sun will shine again.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 27th, 2013 at 1:56 am Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    China is a Asian Land Power, THE Asian land power. It’s interests are not in the Pacific.

    Attack with what ? It’s suicide for them to attack our Fleet and bases in the Pacific.

    The saber rattling may indicate domestic problems, perhaps Admin knows. Unless they’ve got a secret fleet however, one that’s caught up to us doing it for centuries..we are after all a Sea Power…

    The end of the petro-dollar is more serious. However I don’t like the petro-dollar or the Empire it props up. Not because I give a damn about foreigners – kill them all or leave them alone – but the Empire over my people is quite Mad. I would chafe but could live under a Sane Empire.

    But that’s not what they are.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Yes. What on earth would drive the Chinese to roll the dice like that? They gain from patience.

    Best contrary argument I’ve come across is that the Obama-as-C-in-C bonus sets a three year adventure window. (I don’t think even this is enough to provoke a reckless gamble.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 27th, 2013 at 2:11 am Reply | Quote
  • Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Quote notes (#74) Says:

    […] from Fernandez here, and here. For those who can’t get enough of that ‘back to the 1930s‘ feeling there’s WRM (sensible but lost) and Paul Johnson (lost), but both picking up […]

    Posted on April 17th, 2014 at 3:47 am Reply | Quote
  • Outside in - Involvements with reality » Blog Archive » Gyres Says:

    […] This excitable but nevertheless broadly convincing application of the Strauss & Howe generational theory of historical cycles to recent news headlines is a reminder of the inevitability of story-telling. (Outside in has touched upon this particular tale before.) […]

    Posted on June 18th, 2014 at 5:29 pm Reply | Quote
  • 1930-e-poucos – Outlandish Says:

    […] Original. […]

    Posted on April 4th, 2017 at 11:01 pm Reply | Quote

Leave a comment