April 24, 2012

History As the War of Abundance vs. Scarcity


Very true.

Baudrillard was, I think, on the mark when he asserted that the transformation from primitive to feudal to mercantile to capitalist society was instigated by a human desire for hierarchical differentiation, and not by material scarcity, as claimed by Marxists.

(Except for the part about it being a “human desire”; humans are naturally cooperative.) I haven’t read the Baudrillard on this, but it’s long been clear to me that the normal circumstance of humanity is abundance. Since our earliest days, the human brain has been capable of producing extraordinary bounty, in necessities, leisure, and the opportunity for happiness.
Natural scarcity has never been a problem for us. Our human capability transcends it. On the contrary, it’s always been abundance which subhuman criminals, lusting after elite parasite status, have viewed as the most dire problem, but also as a great opportunity. Naturally flush with all we want, the people could never be dominated or enslaved. But the construction of hierarchy could steal this abundance, use it to concentrate luxury wealth and power for this criminal elite, and at the same time artificially impose scarcity upon everyone else.
This has always been the purpose and function of all economic and political hierarchies. Fossil-fueled capitalism and the modern state represent the most extreme development of this organized crime trend.
With the end of the Oil Age, history now reaches its final crossroads. This shall be the final conflict between history’s democratic movement and its criminal movement. The latter will try to use the crisis of Peak Oil to lever civilization into a terminal slave system, the most vicious ever, once and for all.
But the end of oil is also democracy’s great opportunity. Humanity has come of age. We have complete knowledge of how to economically organize ourselves to produce abundance. We have complete knowledge of how to politically rule ourselves. A critical mass is reaching full democratic consciousness. With the end of oil, we resume history’s normal path of energy consumption. But we can now do it with a fully human consciousness, free of all the superstitions of the pre-oil age, and armed with all the immense knowledge we’ve accrued during the time of fossil fuels.
We can achieve the full triumph of humanity, once and for all. The only need left is the will to fight.



  1. Yep. The .01% only get the hoarding of the spoils if everyone else is playing artificial scarcity musical chairs. Ahh, the magic of compound interest. But the perpetual motion scheme/scam is running up against the finite limits of the planet and her ecosystems. How much longer will the 99 keep playing the game? http://www.theurbn.com/2012/03/interview-charles-eisenstein/

    Comment by Pete — April 24, 2012 @ 9:34 am

    • More and more are waking up. For example, we now have a generation of college grads who were induced into heavy debt for the sake of their “educations”. They received an education all right. The jobs they were promised don’t exist. Meanwhile the system now wants to render them permanently indentured debt slaves. More and more of them see clearly that this was a joint, premeditated government/bank/university con job. That’s the proximate wellspring of Occupy. That’ll be one of the democratic movement’s most potent wellsprings going forward.

      Comment by Russ — April 24, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

  2. “The normal circumstance of humanity is abundance”

    This is just not true, nor is it for other animal species. Please look at any study of hunter-gatherer groups and you will see that the various tribes would very quickly out-grow the productive capacity of their environments (as do all animals) and what followed was low-intensity warfare until one tribal unit was able to conquer the other or a balance of power is achieved. In the case of total defeat, normally the losing men were killed and the surviving women with reproductive value were incorporated into the winning tribe. And hunter-gatherers were almost always egalitarian societies with little to no social stratification, the main difference was by gender with men concentrating on big game hunting and fighting with women providing food by gathering and smaller scale hunting. So human conflict definitely pre-dates civilization (the dawn of agriculture). And in terms of cooporation, a more correct way to state things is that humans have a strong tendency towards cooporating with members of the IN-GROUP. Of course the flip side of this is that humans also have a strong tendency of hostility towards OUT-GROUPS.

    So clearly animals don’t live in a state of abundance, nor did hunter gatherers. So when could a Garden of Eden have existed? One possibility is after the dawn of agriculture, with the domestication of various plants and animals. There probably could have been a Semi-Anarchic Golden Age during this period and even the Bible hints at it Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes”

    But this abundance did not happen in a vacuum. This concentration of wealth eventually led to raiding by people not living in abundance and thus the creation of roving parasites. In response communities set up fixed parasites, aka States where specialized “elites” took on military and religious duties. Other times the roving parasites realized they were better off not wiping out their hosts but instead settled down and set up states and collected taxes and rent instead of raiding. With the dawn of the Bronze Age, military weapons became expensive and difficult to obtain and society became more aristocratic as the Few had a monopoly on military might. This continued as chariot technology overtook bronze weapons. Only with the advent of the iron weapons, which were much cheaper and easier to obtain, did more egalitarian societies start to gain power. And so on and so on until our present day which shows a strong tendency of our elites transforming from clear fixed parasites (Post WW-2 nation states with national based corporations) to our current Neo-Liberal Globalization era of roaming elites, emancipated from their societies and nations states and free to roam internationally for easy prey.

    In the end, if Anarchists want to return to a pre-elite Golden Age, they basically have a military problem to solve of how to gain enough power to overthrow elites/parasites and then how to keep elites/parasites from rising again in an age of abundance.

    Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — April 25, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    • Good Graeber review here: “That the invasion of market relations into every sphere of life has always been accompanied by violence. War, debt, and the market are inextricably linked. Even today, our money system is based mainly on the monetization of government war debts. If there is one persistent theme to this book, it is that our association of debt repayment with morality is false; that, indeed, the debt relations that hold today are rooted in a history of violence; that debt and money itself are social creations and not unalterable facts of nature; that our understanding of human nature is deeply colored by the market-based, debt-based world we live in. The world could be different. We are right to want it to be different.”


      Comment by Pete — April 25, 2012 @ 10:17 am

      • Thanks Pete. It’s one of the potentially transformative books of the age.

        Comment by Russ — April 25, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

    • It’s a fact that humanity has always existed with vastly greater natural resources than we’ve been able to democratically use, and we’ve produced vastly more than we’ve distributed among ourselves. In both cases this has been because of organized, hierarchical robbery.

      I was indeed referring to the era of agriculture. Unlike many commentators, I think agroecology has proven that agriculture is not inherently hierarchical among humans nor between humans and the environment, and does not have to be practiced this way. We can have an organic agriculture in both senses. The domination aspect is intrinsic to hierarchy itself (including institutions like government and profit-seeking markets), not to every practice which is engulfed by hierarchy.



      In spite of straw men I’ve never advocated a return to hunting-gathering (although the evidence record is that H-Gs were healthier, worked less, and lived more free than agricultural workers – like Paine wrote in his agrarian essay, people who work the land are far worse off under elitist “civilization” as we’ve known it). Agriculture has always produced far more than enough food for everyone to eat an adequate and satisfying diet. Today that figure is 4.3 pounds of diverse foods (meat and vegetable) per person per day.

      The same potential bounty shall exist post-oil, if we who produce choose to finally control and distribute this produce among and for ourselves.

      Thanks for the Bible reference, which I may use.

      Comment by Russ — April 25, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

    • First, the complete quote/thought was “Natural scarcity has never been a problem for us. Our human capability transcends it.” Hunting and gathering is not a distinctly human capability, so it could not have been what Russ is discussing.

      Second, the fact that it is easier to steal something that somebody already has than it is to develop it yourself does not undermine the fact of abundance as described by Russ.

      You’re right, though, to fear that humanity’s penchant for aggression will prevent the promise of abundance from becoming the reality of abundance.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — April 25, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

    • Kevin, good comments. Especially about the era of the roaming elite. The unbounded corporate structure and the Noble Lie are their dominant formative tools used to gain control. You also have it right about the in-groups and the out-groups. Alliances, and the integrity of those alliances (not the SIZE of the alliances), always tell the evolutionary story.

      The normal circumstance of humanity is both abundance and deception.

      But the abundance is not limited to just agricultural production. The ‘excess’ in all creations of humanity, is in reality the mattergy (energy and matter) going to the birthing of the Onotron, the next iteration of humanity.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      Comment by i on the ball patriot — April 26, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

  3. Russ,

    Excellent post. So few people understand the implications of Peak Oil and the end of what you refer to “fossil-fueled” capitalism.

    And speaking of Baudrillard, it’s interesting to note that he was criticizing Marxism from the Left, as he believed that Marxism did not provide a radical enough critique of, or alternative to, contemporary capitalist and communist societies, organized around production. Apparently he first became disillusioned with the French communists after they failed to support the May 1968 uprising in France.

    And I found this from a longer quote in which Baudrillard distances himself from Marxism:

    “The Marxist critique is only a critique of capital, a critique coming from the heart of the middle and petit bourgeois classes, for which Marxism has served for a century as a latent ideology….Marxism is therefore only a limited petit bourgeois critique, one more step in the banalization of life toward the “good use” of the social! ….At any rate, Marxism is only the disenchanted horizon of capital – all that precedes or follows it is more radical than it is.”

    Baudrillard’s break with Marxism was also influenced by his reading of Nietszche as well as Georges Batailles’ concept of “symbolic exchange” where (as far as I can understand it) sacrifice, destruction, expenditure, waste, etc are considered more fundamental to human life than economies of production and utility. Bataille’s model was the sun that freely expended its energy without asking anything in return.

    At this stage in his thought (the 70s and 80s) I guess you could say that Baudrillard was celebrating “primitive” or premodern culture over utilitarianism and modern society, and so he was standing in a long French tradition such as Rousseau’s defense of the “natural savage” over modern man, Levi-Strauss’ fascination with the richness of “primitive societies”, and many others.

    However, keep in mind Baudrillard was a very prolific writer who published over 30 books spanning several decades, so these brief remarks barely scratch the surface of his thought.

    Comment by Sophie — April 25, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    • Thanks Sophie. I’ve only read a little bit of him, but that’s the right criticism of modern (i.e. fossil fuel profligate), authoritarian communism. (I recall his question about “Biosphere” – “Why are there no poisonous snakes in the Biosphere?”)

      Regarding the sun as practically infinite source of abundance:


      Comment by Russ — April 25, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

      • Occupy the sun, set the sun free. I like this, and we have to start thinking in these terms.

        Reminds me of that Wallace Stevens poem:

        “That scrawny cry – It was
        A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
        It was part of the colossal sun,

        Surrounded by its choral rings,
        Still far away. It was like
        A new knowledge of reality.”

        Comment by Sophie — April 25, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

      • That’s good. Which one is that – “Comedian As the Letter C”? (I haven’t gotten around to reading that one yet.)

        Comment by Russ — April 26, 2012 @ 6:48 am

      • Glad you liked it. The quote is from “Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself”.

        One of my favorite Stevens’ poems, and very appropriate for Spring.

        Comment by Sophie — April 26, 2012 @ 8:05 am

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