“The end of history is a political and philosophical concept that supposes that a particular political, economic, or social system may develop that would constitute the end-point of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government.”
To unpack it further, Graeber is implicitly addressing Francis Fukuyama and his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man.
Which is basically: NeoLiberalism won the Cold War and shall reign until the Heat Death of the Multiverse.
“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
~ Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?”, The National Interest (Summer 1989)
During the 1990s, a new class of globetrotting economic elites emerged, enriched by the opportunities created by globalizing industrial firms, deregulated financial services, and new technology platforms. This new class is an order of magnitude richer in absolute terms than previous generations of the ultra-wealthy. As Thomas Piketty has recently demonstrated, the rise of the new plutocrats since the 1970s reflects an historic shift in the structure of capital accumulation. The accumulation regime that predominated during the heyday of social modernism depended on a new class of workers who could afford the goods they were producing. The great fortunes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were built on the backs of worker-consumers in primarily inward-looking national contexts. By contrast, today’s plutocrats thrive by selling their goods and services globally; their success is dramatically less connected to the fortunes of their fellow national citizens than was that of previous generations.
Moreover, the two signature types of massive wealth accumulation in the early 21st century have been high technology and financial services. Neither of these industries relies on masses of laborers, so their productivity is detached from the health of any particular national middle class. The result has been a dramatic rise in inequality within countries, even as wealth inequality transnationally has narrowed.
The plutocrats have also developed novel ideological self-conceptions. Many see themselves as “the deserving winners of a tough worldwide competition” and regard efforts to make them to pay for public goods as little more than organized theft. Whereas during the Cold War the apparent availability of a socialist alternative pressured the ultra-rich to temper their maximalist ambitions, the collapse of communism removed that constraint, enabling a shift in how many of the new ultra-wealthy conceived their relationship with society. While some continued to see themselves as owing a debt of obligation to the societies in which they enriched themselves, a significant subset, particularly among financial elites, began to see their personal achievements as being detached from the success of the national societies in which they reside. Instead of seeing themselves as the ultimate winners of the systems in which they work, they characterized themselves as the noble rebels who made it on their own despite the drag caused by incumbents, loafers, and parasites in government and society. The growing popularity of the pseudo-philosophical novels of Ayn Rand, whose ideas George Monbiot refers to as “the Marxism of the new right”, represented the most visible manifestation of an ideology that depicts the rich as “makers” and the masses as shiftless “takers.” From Washington to London, plutocrat-funded think tanks devoted themselves to creating a body of usable ideas and policy proposals aimed at dismantling what is left of social modernity. This ideological shift heralded the arrival of the plutocratic insurgency.
The defining feature of the plutocratic insurgency is its goal: to defund or de-provision public goods in order to defang a state that its adherents see as a threat to their prerogatives. (Note that, conceptually, plutocratic insurgencies differ from kleptocracies; the latter use the institutions of state to loot the population, whereas the former wish to neutralize those institutions in order to facilitate private-sector looting. In practice, these may overlap or co-mingle.) Practically speaking, plutocratic insurgency takes the form of efforts to lower taxes, which necessitates cutting spending on public goods; reducing regulations that restrict corporate action or protect workers; and defunding or privatizing public institutions such as schools, health care, infrastructure, and social space.
The political strategy associated with the plutocratic insurgency is to use austerity in the face of economic shocks to rewrite social contracts on the basis of a much narrower set of mutual social obligations, the ultimate effect being to de-collectivize social risks. As a palliative for the loss of public goods and state-backed programs to improve public welfare, plutocratic insurgents typically promote philanthropy (directed toward ends defined not democratically but, naturally, by themselves alone). “There’s no such thing as society”, Margaret Thatcher famously declared, issuing the cri de cœur of insurgent plutocrats everywhere. If there’s no such thing as society, then the very idea of social services collapses, along with any responsibility on the part of the rich to contribute to them. From this perspective, plutocratic insurgency signifies the reimportation of the aforementioned “structural adjustment” policies (originally designed to discipline poor states) back into the rich, industrialized core.
For plutocratic insurgents, this strategy is dictated at bottom by a raw cost-benefit analysis: The price the social modernist state asks them to pay in taxes and regulatory burdens outweighs the benefits they believe they receive from living in such a state. Plutocratic insurgents believe they can afford (and therefore everyone should be required) to buy for themselves the sorts of goods that the state was once expected to provide. They live in gated communities, travel via personal jets and private bus fleets, and send their children to exclusive schools. While each of these decisions may be motivated by lifestyle choices or a desire for social differentiation, the result is a progressive moral disinvestment and civic disengagement from the quality of these traditionally public services, especially as the habit of opting out of public services trickles down from the oligarchs to the upper middle classes.
Leaving aside the undemocratic nature of such private services, or the adverse selection problems that arise from partial privatizations, the hallmark of the arrival of plutocratic insurgency is when the rich begin to revolt against paying taxes for public services they never plan to use. As these public services deteriorate in quality, the result is a self-reinforcing cycle whereby plutocratic insurgents increasingly see no reason to contribute anything to their host societies and, indeed, actively contest the idea that citizenship comes with economic responsibilities.
“Send me to jail forever. You know, just don’t tell them I got their names. You know, send me away for the break-in. Say that the file wasn’t on the hard drive.”
“It’s a list of all the sins and secret bank accounts of the most powerful men in the world.”
“It’ll be open season for every grifter and thief out there. If I don’t tell them, they’d be defenseless.”
“Yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly right, yeah. See, you don’t tell them, they won’t see it coming. They broke the world, James.”
“As a philosophical problem, it comes down to a better way to engage with the passage of time. And I think we’re getting close to one. Because the loss of the future – the imaginative loss of the future – is becoming acute.The most effective political actors on the planet now are people who want to blow themselves up. These are people who really don’t want to get out of the bed in the morning, and face another unpredictable day.
The people of the world need a motivating vision of what comes next. They need a bone deep awareness that more will happen after that. That the future is a process and not a destination. The future is not a noun, it’s a verb. Our minds may reach the end of their tethers, but we’ll never stop futuring.” ~ Bruce Sterling, The Singularity: Your Future as a Black Hole, 2004.
“We are in a dark age. But the darkness doesn’t end when the sun rises. It lifts when the stars begin to shine.
Fascism isn’t defeated by bats and guns. By then, it is too fatally late. Fascism is defeated by civilization. As a verb, not a noun. Civilization is a process, an act, a way.” ~ Umair Haque, How to Stand Up and Fight
“Both Clinton’s and Obama’s phrases about the peaceful transfer of power concealed the omission of a call to action. The protesters who took to the streets of New York, Los Angeles, and other American cities on Wednesday night did so not because of Clinton’s speech but in spite of it. One of the falsehoods in the Clinton speech was the implied equivalency between civil resistance and insurgency. This is an autocrat’s favorite con, the explanation for the violent suppression of peaceful protests the world over…
Panic can be neutralized by falsely reassuring words about how the world as we know it has not ended. It is a fact that the world did not end on November 8 nor at any previous time in history. Yet history has seen many catastrophes, and most of them unfolded over time. That time included periods of relative calm. One of my favorite thinkers, the Jewish historian Simon Dubnow, breathed a sigh of relief in early October 1939: he had moved from Berlin to Latvia, and he wrote to his friends that he was certain that the tiny country wedged between two tyrannies would retain its sovereignty and Dubnow himself would be safe. Shortly after that, Latvia was occupied by the Soviets, then by the Germans, then by the Soviets again—but by that time Dubnow had been killed. Dubnow was well aware that he was living through a catastrophic period in history—it’s just that he thought he had managed to find a pocket of normality within it.
Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster, by a man once celebrated as the democrat to lead Turkey into the EU. Poland has in less than a year undone half of a quarter century’s accomplishments in building a constitutional democracy…
Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump’s all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past. They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform—like the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote. That should not be normal. But resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be.” ~ Autocracy: Rules for Survival
Which is why Invisibles Monasteries…
The decentralized, and seemingly chaotic guerrilla war in Iraq demonstrates a pattern that will likely serve as a model for next generation terrorists. This pattern shows a level of learning, activity, and success similar to what we see in the open source software community. I call this pattern the bazaar. The bazaar solves the problem: how do small, potentially antagonistic networks combine to conduct war? Lessons from Eric Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” provides a starting point for further analysis. Here are the factors that apply (from the perspective of the guerrillas):
- Release early and often. Try new forms of attacks against different types of targets early and often. Don’t wait for a perfect plan.
- Given a large enough pool of co-developers, any difficult problem will be seen as obvious by someone, and solved. Eventually some participant of the bazaar will find a way to disrupt a particularly difficult target. All you need to do is copy the process they used.
- Your co-developers (beta-testers) are your most valuable resource. The other guerrilla networks in the bazaar are your most valuable allies. They will innovate on your plans, swarm on weaknesses you identify, and protect you by creating system noise.
- Recognize good ideas from your co-developers. Simple attacks that have immediate and far-reaching impact should be adopted.
- Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away (simplicity). The easier the attack is, the more easily it will be adopted. Complexity prevents swarming that both amplifies and protects.
- Tools are often used in unexpected ways. An attack method can often find reuse in unexpected ways.
~ Global Guerrillas: THE BAZAAR’S OPEN SOURCE PLATFORM, John Robb, 2004
Open source warfare is an organizational method by which a large collection of small, violent, superempowered groups can work together to take on much larger foes (usually hierarchies). It is also a method of organization that can be applied to non-violent struggles. It enables:
- High rates of innovation.
- Increased survivability among the participant groups.
- More frequent attacks and an ability to swarm targets.
Here are some suggestions (this is but one of many methods based on recent history, I’m sure that over time a better method will emerge) for building an open source insurgency:
A) The plausible promise. The idea that holds the open source insurgency together. The plausible promise is composed of:
- An enemy. The enemy serves as the target of attacks. This enemy can either be either received or manufactured (any group or organization that can be depicted as a threat). The enemy can be any group that currently holds and exerts power: invader, the government, a company, an ethnic group, or a private organization.
- A goal. This objective animates the group. Because of the diversity of the groups and individuals that join together in an open source insurgency, the only goal that works is simple and extremely high level. More complex goal setting is impossible, since it will fracture/fork the insurgency.
- A demonstration. Viability. An attack that demonstrates that its possible to win against the enemy. It deflates any aura of invincibility that the enemy may currently enjoy. The demonstration serves as a rallying cry for the insurgency.
B) The foco. Every open source insurgency is ignited by a small founding group, a foco in guerrilla parlance. The foco sets the original goal and conducts the operation that provides the insurgency with its demonstration of viability. It’s important to understand that in order to grow an open source insurgency, the founding group or individuals must follow a simple path:
- Relinquish. Give up any control over the insurgency gained during its early phases. In practice, this means giving up control of how the goal is achieved, who may participate, how to communicate, etc. The only control that remains is the power of example and respect gained through being effective.
- Resist (temptation). Stay small. Don’t grow to a size that makes the original group easy for the enemy to target (very few new members). Further, don’t establish a formal collection of groups, a hierarchy of control, or set forth a complex agenda. This will only serve to alienate and fragment/fork the insurgency. In some cases, it will make the foco a target of the insurgency itself. It will also slow any advancement on the objective since it limits potential pathways/innovation.
- Share. Provide resources, ideas, information, knowledge, recruits, etc. with other groups and individuals that join the insurgency. Share everything possible that doesn’t directly compromise the foco’s integrity (operational security and viability). Expect sharing in return.
~ Global Guerrillas: OPEN SOURCE INSURGENCY >> How to start, John Robb, 2008
“It’s not a war, it’s a rescue mission AND there is the rescue mission and the salvage mission” let that be the zeroth law, I guess…
Surveillance Self-Defense is EFF’s guide to defending yourself and your friends from surveillance by using secure technology and developing careful practices.
Let find the Others be the first law. Let them congregate in sekrit rooms and the hidden places. Each working on a piece of the puzzle. Swapping notes, sharing insights, making introductions.
Let there are no sides, just people who help us and people who don’t be the second law. Unite the disparate tribes. Form temporary, strategic alliances. Find the woke in high places who want to help burn down the world they made, and profited from, to build something real.
Over to you, Ed… break down the end of the End of History for us all, man (starts 38mins in):
“If we want to build a.. or live, enjoy… the fruits of a better world. If we want to make sure that the rights that we have encoded into our laws are actually reliable. That we live with them and pass them to our children. This will never be the work of politicians. This can only be the work of the people. Of the population. Because politicians do not simply do what they think is best. They do what they think people want to hear. They do what they think will gain them support. And ultimately if we want to see a change we must force it through ourselves. If we want to have a better world we can’t hope for an Obama, and we should not fear a Donald Trump, rather we should build it ourselves.“
What are they building in there?