Quote notes (#7)

Some unusually brilliant Druidic prophecy from John Michael Greer:

Whether the crisis is contained by federal loan guarantees and bank nationalizations that keep farms, factories, and stores supplied with the credit they need, by the repudiation of debts and the issuance of a new currency, by martial law and the government seizure of unused acreage, or by ordinary citizens cobbling together new systems of exchange in a hurry, as happened in Argentina, Russia, and other places where the economy suddenly went to pieces, the crisis will be contained.  The negative feedback here is provided by the simple facts that people are willing to do almost anything to put food on the table, governments are willing to do even more to stay in power, and in hundreds of previous crises, their actions have proven more than sufficient to stop the positive feedback loops of economic crisis in their tracks, and stabilize the situation at some level.

None of this means the crisis will be easy to get through, nor does it mean that the world that emerges once the rubble stops bouncing and the dust settles will be anything like as prosperous, as comfortable, or as familiar as the one we have today. That’s true of all three of the situations I’ve sketched out in this post. While the next round of crisis along the arc of industrial civilization’s decline and fall will likely be over by 2070 of so, living through the interval between then and now will probably have more than a little in common with living through the First World War, the waves of political and social crises that followed it, the Great Depression, and the rise of fascism, followed by the Second World War and its aftermath—and this time the United States is unlikely to be sheltered from the worst impacts of crisis, as it was between 1914 and 1954. [Read the whole thing]

(Combining large-scale historical vision, cybernetic theory, and extraordinary native intelligence, Greer is one of the most important voices on the reality-relevant blogosphere. His model of Catabolic Collapse, in particular, is an indispensable reference. Outside in will be visiting his ideas repeatedly over the next few weeks.)

July 10, 2013admin 10 Comments »
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10 Responses to this entry

  • Manjusri Says:

    Yet another branch of the Dark Enlightenment… “Eco-Traditionalists”.

    I’ve been reading Greer for a long time. He’s the clearest thinking occultist this side of Evola. But I’ve had friends mock and dismiss anything he says, even refuse to read him, because he’s a druid. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.


    admin Reply:

    The way he uses ecology, to frame specific cultural patterns, is very suggestive. His reading of Hesiodic (declinist) time in the context of chronic soil erosion and falling yields is one impressive example.


    Posted on July 10th, 2013 at 6:33 am Reply | Quote
  • Doug Says:

    The reaction-sphere is far too eager to embrace predictions of collapse, particularly imminent collapse. The two main predicted precipitations are either financial crisis or the eruption of sectarian violence. Sustained financial depression probably isn’t going to happen. At the end of the day financial prices are tied to real economic assets, and corporate America has pretty much assured that those are in near top condition. We’re not the Soviet Union with its crumbling economy. Most private sector industries are at historic highs for productivity and efficiency. And thankfully the current crop of industries under the public sector are pretty much all superfluous fluff like education and healthcare.

    Hyper-inflation, the other side of the coin, is highly unlikely. The current rung of economists aren’t exactly brilliant, but they’re not dumb either. Hyper-inflation requires supreme economic mismanagement. Not even basket-case, serial devaluation, Italy succumbed to it in the 50 years it managed its own currency. We’re likely to get double digit inflation sometime soon, but the chance of society destabilizing 100%+ inflation in modern developed countries is pretty much zero.

    As sectarian violence it’s a pretty remote possibility. The elites have divided into factions and hate each other more than ever. But elites don’t make up foot soldiers. And the masses have never been as disinterested in politics as they are today. The ideology of the median American is blandly cynical apathy, not deep ideological passion. No one’s going to the barricades when Facebook and XBox provide plenty of distractions. Plus throw in just how old the West is getting. Pretty much everyone over 24 loses their desire to get shot in some riot.


    admin Reply:

    Greer’s arguments are worth scrutinizing. They’re anti-apocalyptic, but distinctly declinist, and certainly not the least plausible forecasts I’ve ever seen. He’s a Peak Oiler, although in no way hysterical about it. Most valuable of all are his ‘morphological’ studies of cultural ‘time shapes’, which helps to expose how abnormal (or at least highly specific) a number of common sense time assumptions actually are. It’s only by going ‘meta’ on forecasting that it’s possible to get past raw, questionable expectations (saturated in invisible cultural bias).


    Alrenous Reply:

    expose how abnormal (or at least highly specific) a number of common sense time assumptions actually are

    Links? Or at least trail markers?


    Posted on July 10th, 2013 at 7:56 am Reply | Quote
  • Manjusri Says:

    My critiques of his peak-oilism:

    1. He’s awfully confident that we won’t be able to open up new non-fossil energy resources in the near (next 50 years) future. He may be right, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    2. Some of his math on certain energy sources looks like it might be wrong or outdated (esp. concerning nuclear power, which has greatly increased in efficiency over the last 50 years).

    3. Ought does not mean will. Just because the US and China shouldn’t, in his mind, burn the mountains of coal that we’re sitting on doesn’t mean that we won’t. When it comes to economic competitiveness vs. saving the Earth, China will blatantly pick the first each time- and the US will find ways to weasel around it.

    4. While he portrays himself as clear-headed and “facing reality”, it’s obvious that he’s deeply invested in his ideology of deep ecology and nature spirituality, and actively wants an industrial collapse. Part of the DE is realizing that wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so.

    He’s a good writer and saying something different, and probably the most clear-headed occultist this side of Evola, but there are definitely some flaws in his narrative.


    admin Reply:

    Agreed on all points (although not entirely persuaded that the Evola comparison is especially enlightening). Greer has definite blind spots, but he makes an invaluable contribution to big-picture socio-historical pattern recognition. Ultimately, his cyclic time commitment is no less one-sided than progressivism, but it makes for an excellent corrective.


    Posted on July 10th, 2013 at 9:17 am Reply | Quote
  • dan Says:

    The energy issue is not dire right now.

    Nuclear (or coal) power + electric cars are a heavy duty backup that is well-developed now but is not economically and/or politically viable. In a crisis, the economic and/or political hurdles are much reduced.


    Posted on July 11th, 2013 at 6:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • Orlandu84 Says:

    I found Greer a very interesting read, and I have added one of his books to my reading list. The idea of a slow but inevitable decline seems plausible for the current situation since it has happened before with the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, I do have one problem with Greer’s analysis: he treats energy (Peak Oil) as if it’s value were a constant.

    As Thomas Sowell would point out, almost all economic activity is marginal. In other words, if there were an easy way to make a lot of money, everyone would already be doing it. Instead, economic advances happen gradually as individuals and corporations find slightly better ways to produce and consume things. The more advanced the economy, the more marginal the gain has to be for it to worthwhile to do. A brief example: it takes less energy to watch a video online than through a video store. As data compression techniques advance, it will take even less energy. Thus, a company that can compress video into a smaller amount of data will be able to stream more for less and thus make some money.

    This same marginal competition for scarce resources applies to all parts of the economy, including energy. Look at the following chart: http://pricedingold.com/crude-oil/ Crude oil in America has jumped in price over the last 50 years, but the average today is the same as it was in the 1950’s. Now, a time might come when oil is no longer economical. By that point, however, the economy will have already adapted itself as competition for energy forces economic reconfiguration. Of course, this presumes that the Cathedral allows the economy to function. Whether that happens is anyone’s guess.


    Posted on July 11th, 2013 at 7:51 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    The main problem with the Druid’s analysis is that he ignores how much waste can be squeezed out of our current governance structures without any real loss. The easiest way for this to happen is the way the Romans did it–by centralizing and simplifying their government structure. In other words, we’re not at the Roman imperial stage yet, we’re late Roman Republic.


    Posted on July 12th, 2013 at 10:06 pm Reply | Quote

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