Chapter Review - After Collapse: The Regeneration of Complex Societies (Part 4)
Stealing from the kulaks to give to themselves
In the previous entry in this series, we looked at the effects that forces external to a polity - immigration and trade - have upon the intensity and direction which that society’s secular collapse and recovery may take. As we continue our chapter review, in this installment I would like to discuss the role which access to resources has upon collapse and regeneration. Specifically, the role which the relative distribution of those resources - who has the ability to garner them and how much they are able to do so - plays in demographic-structural cycling.
One of the historical observations that Turchin and others have made about secular cycles is that the growth phases in these cycles are typically characterised by a relatively narrow “wealth gap” between elites and commons. Certainly, such a gap always exists - no society yet has actually managed to eliminate economic disparities (and the ones who say they want to are generally putting us on about it anywise). However, during these periods of secular growth, such gaps are not nearly as pronounced and thus do not tend to create the sort of social friction that extremely wide gaps do. But, these kinds of pronounced economic disparities are what we tend to see as a society passed from its stagnation phase to its collapse phase.
Why is this? Well, this phenomenon is related to another that Turchin has discussed called “elite overproduction.” Keep in mind that elites in any society, who are obviously those who wield disproportionate political and social power, always have an outsized ability to take to themselves disproportional wealth, as well as access points to its further creation. A duke obviously has, and can get, more wealth than a peasant. However, elites typically only make up a very small proportion of a society’s total population, so there still remains a good deal of wealth that the commons can access, at least during the growth phases when times are good and opportunity expands.
But during the good times of a secular cycle’s growth phase, the relative proportion of elites to commons also begins to rise, which means a larger percentage of the population now exists who can gather up an oversized share of resources. Because resources are a somewhat limited commodity, intraelite competition tends to intensify as stagnation turns to collapse and elites become more rapacious - fighting amongst themselves while also fleecing the commons for everything they can get. It’s not surprising that such phases are characterised both by enhanced conflict (even up to civil wars) between elite factions and their clients, as well as large portions of previously prosperous commoners being downgraded into servile or poverty status through the deliberate actions of hostile elites.
So what am I talking about? Well, during this type of widening disparity you will typically observe that the elites in a society actively work to centralise and concentrate access to wealth (and therefore power) into their own hands to a greater and greater degree. This takes the form of a mixture of elites monopolising access to new wealth and power that is created and the transfer of resources (most often forcibly) from the commons and to themselves. For instance, elites may use their enhanced access to legal systems to cheat small landholders out of their properties. The taxation power of government may be applied to the commons to milk them of money to be given to elites and their clients through various types of rent-seeking. At the same time, the ability to upgrade one’s social position (and thus access to wealth collection) may be shut down for commons and restricted only to the elites and specially chosen clients who can be allowed to “join the club.”
Notably, we see all of these things happening in the USA and across the western world as the economic gap keeps broadening between our current social elites and the working- and middle-class commons. Indeed, as Turchin has observed in many historical cycles, this gap drives a good deal of our social instability. It’s important to note that all of this talk about wealth disparity is not really a socialist talking point. Indeed, in the USA and the rest of the West, self-proclaimed progressives and socialists are the ones primarily driving this disparity as they continue to loot the middle and working classes while centralising this wealth and power into their own hands.
At this point, let’s remember that in pretty much all previous secular cycles to our own, in whatever society on whichever continent and at whatever time, “resources” referred as much to the basic necessities of life such as food, access to land, and so forth as it did to monetary wealth and things like access to prestige trade goods. This is because in all previous cycles, societies were basically agrarian in nature (even trading and thalassocratic states needed access to these “basic” goods) and their scope of wealth creation was extremely limited in comparison to that which industrial and post-industrial societies are capable. Consequently, their margins for error were much narrower and it was quite common to see earlier historical collapse cycles be driven by (and result in) famine and abject poverty for the commons. These often accompanied the other aspects of collapse such as civil wars, geographic decentralisation, and decline in trade.
One thing that struck me recently is that our current worldwide secular cycle, which has been going on roughly since the late 18th-early 19th centuries, is the first which has taken place in the presence of widespread industrialisation and rapid technological advancement in areas such as transportation and communications among the major powers. Now, the effects on secular evolution from these communication/transportation techs is an interesting question in its own right, and one that I may perhaps try to address on here some day. However, to our current point, industrialisation would seem to have largely eliminated the concept of scarcity among the commons (except for the truly destitute, whose life situations are probably caused by more immediate concerns than secular macrocycles). In none of the major, or even middling, powers is there any real famine or lack of access to basic necessities of life. In the USA and other advanced countries, even the poor have smart phones and designer clothing and so forth, even if they put themselves into further debt to acquire them.
As such, when we talk about the widening gap between “rich and poor” (really, elites and commons), this is not something that takes the sort of “we have enough to eat, while they do not” form that it often did in times past. So what counts as a limited “resource” in our societies today? Wealth, certainly, in terms of access to luxuries and elite status that comes with it. Power also goes along with this - in democratic societies which supposedly distribute power among the mass of the people, we’ve actually been seeing the opposite take place. There is also access to government largesse, via patron-client relationships, etc. When I talk about our being in the “looting phase” of our collapse, I mean that literally. Our current elite stratum is in the process of looting whatever wealth is left in the US and other treasuries (see the Ukraine grift, e.g.), and is also following various programs designed to liberate accrued wealth from the hated middle- and working-class kulaks and into the hands of the elites.
Also, in a sense access (or potential access, if not for oneself than at least for your children) to elite status and economic advancement is itself a “resource.” In early periods during the present cycle, it was one that was applied more evenly but is now increasingly restricted. A hundred years ago a smart and ambitious farm boy from some place in rural Virginia or Iowa could work hard, go to college, become an engineer, and invent a world changing technology or become the CEO of a company. Nowadays, someone like this is purposefully shut out from this kind of access in favour of affirmative action minorities who are generally accepted into professional schools at much higher rates than Whites and Asians with similar test scores (a product of greater society-wide DIE/Civil Rights Act culture). Why? Because these minorities are well-established clients of the post-WWII progressive-left Regime in power who are often used to displace and undercut out-of-favour White chuds.
As our collapse phase progresses, this restriction of resources will continue to tighten. For the past few decades, our elite stratum has been expanding relative to the commons. In our case, it’s largely driven by the “everybody should go to college” mantra, the process of which is used to filter and create a “petty elite” of college-educated bureaucrats and “change agents” drawn from client groups to advance the overall progressive Regime agenda. Of course, this petty elite is entitled to share in the spoils of wealth assessment from the chuds and other class enemies, and since this elite stratum keeps expanding, so does the need to take greater and greater amounts of wealth and social status from the commons, right in line with “traditional” demographic-structural theory (DST).
So what happens to all of this when terminal collapse finally does happen and the check comes due? Well, we’ve seen this happen many times before,
This mirrors another element of DST. With collapses can come the winnowing of the current elite stratum, reduced in number and often to be replaced by “up and comers” or hardy provincials. Witness how many later Roman Emperors were from Spain, the Balkans, etc. - any place but Rome itself. Note that this is exactly what the elite are currently trying to prevent, especially when it comes to the young White men who normally drove the engines of innovation and growth in previous decades. To the extent the elites are currently allowing more applicants to participate in the looting, it is mostly ideologically controlled PoCs, feminists, gays, and token left-wing white males. Anybody but straight “right wing” chuds from the provinces.
One potential problem for proposed American post-collapse regeneration is that many of the same factors that led to our current problems could be carried over into the next, basically setting us up for failure again, a century or two on down the road. That carries with it the possibility that our current “elite” stratum (and yes, the scare quotes should apply throughout) may substantially weather the troubles and emerge in some form or fashion on the other side. Remember that elites are important because they wield an outsized influence on their societies. We shouldn’t confuse the endemic continuation of culture itself with any supposed ability of non-elites to greatly influence the course of sociopolitical regeneration,
However, with collapse usually comes a loosening of ossified late demographic-structural cycle social structures, which lessens the ability of current elites to “direct” the regeneration that follows. Indeed, the corollary to what was said above is that room is opened up for talented non-elites to rise into elite status by one or various means, and thus be able to wield power and accrue wealth,
Now, no regenerated system truly replicates what went before it in the previous cycle. Even when the underlying culture and ethnicities involved remain the same, profound changes in political arrangement and the like usually occur. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any continuity from before. The ideas that drove the previous cycle’s system can be carried over - usually by remnants of the previous cycle’s elites or those who consciously try to imitate them. Indeed, those in renewing systems often consciously TRY to make this happen (witness the way the Germanics sought to recreate Roman institutions after the fall of the Western Empire).
None of this bodes well for my hopes for a genuine monarchy in post-collapse America (LOL, I know this isn’t going to happen). Maybe at least we can end up with a greatly restricted franchise… Either way, there are several different ways in which post-collapse American polities might evolve, and these will probably involve both war and trade. Who knows, I might even get my Baptist theocracy buttressed by “privileged access to the spirit world”? (Probably not). The drive in many quarters towards trying to revive the present system will be strong.
However, the one thing that might short-circuit all of this is if enough up-and-comers manage to get into power to stave off a restoration that simply replaces one globohomo system for another. Deliberate rejection of the prevailing Regime ideology is widespread, if latent. Given the opportunity to openly express itself in a way that actually allows it to exercise real power, a regenerated system might differ from our present one a great deal, and in very positive ways.
For those of us in the present system as it undergoes collapse, there’s very little that we can personally do to direct the way things shake out. However, large scale organisation by the Right can enable us to “harden” our local areas for collapse while also positioning friendly local and state executives and others possessing political power to be able to more easily step into the gap and give real direction to what comes after.
For now, I’m going to close out this post. In the next (and final) installment, we’ll look in greater detail at factors such as environment, “Great Men,” and political metastructures which can all affect the directions which regeneration can take.
Thanks for reading The Neo-Ciceronian Times! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
People will tend to use the tools at hand to get the job done, which applies as much to ideas at it does to bricks. There's also the golden age bias - when in a collapse phase, the previous era looks much better. The combination of the two is why societies regenerating from collapse will tend to emulate what came before.
Ameliorating that, there's also the sense that there's a reason the previous society fell apart; so while whatever comes next is generally built out of the predecessors physical and ideological parts, in conscious immitation, no one wants to replicate it in every detail.
Best case scenario is probably a highly federalized, limited-franchise republican system. Buy-in for a monarchy in the general population isn't likely, given the political biases inherited from the last few centuries. That said a much stronger executive branch, and/or a more prominent role for the military, are by no means ruled out.
I disagree with this sentence: "For those of us in the present system as it undergoes collapse, there’s very little that we can personally do to direct the way things shake out."
We can do. Specially now, when talking to friends, family or in any debate or public speaking with people we know we have information and finally see, why there is big movement of LGBT, the WOKE ideology, Quantitative Easing, how the government and media are corrupted and also how things really were with pandemic. It can just help, to talk about that openly, nothing more, just to share this insight, and I am sure now people will listen.