Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

How The Seeds Of Revolution Take Root: the Middle Class Loses Upward Mobility

Published on March 1, 2016 by   ·   No Comments

If you cap the volcano, eventually the pressure beneath rises to the point that the cap gets blown off in spectacular fashion.

That the dramatic upheavals of war, pestilence and environmental collapse can trigger social disorder and revolution is well-established.

Indeed, this dynamic can be viewed as the standard model of social disorder/revolution: a large-scale crisis—often a bolt-from-the-blue externality—upends the status quo.

A third model was described by David Hackett Fischer in The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History. By assembling price and wage data stretching back hundreds of years, Fischer found that cycles of economic growth spawn population growth, resulting in more workers entering the market economy. Their earnings trigger a demand-driven expansion of essential commodities such as grain and energy (wood, coal, oil, etc.).Another model identifies warring elites and imperial meddling as a source of revolution: a new elite forcibly replaces the current elite (known colloquially as meet the new boss, same as the old boss) or a dominant nation-state/empire arranges a political coup to replace the current leadership with a more compliant elite.

In the initial phase, wages rise and commodity prices remain stable as supplies of essential goods expand and the demand for labor pushes up wages.

But this virtuous cycle reverses when the supply of essentials no longer keeps pace with rising population and demand: the price of essentials begin an inexorable rise even as an oversupply of labor drives down wages.

Fisher found that this wage/price cycle often ends in transformational social upheaval.

While proponents of these models have a wealth of historical examples to draw upon, these models miss a key factor:  the vulnerability or resilience of the nation-state facing crises.

Some nations survive invasions, environmental catastrophes, epidemics and inflation without disintegrating into disorder. Something about these nation’s social/ economic /political order makes them more resilient than other nations.

So rather than accept the proximate causes of disorder as the sole factors, we should look deeper into the social order for the factors behind a nation’s relative fragility or resilience.

The Decline Of Shared Purpose

Historian Peter Turchin defined a key factor in the resilience of the social order as “the degree of solidarity felt between the commons and aristocracy,” that is, the sense of purpose and identity shared by the aristocracy and commoners alike.

Read More HERE

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