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Back to Feudalism? August 2, 2005 by RedStar2000


The ideology known as "primitivism", it's often claimed, is "beyond" left and right. Although there are "anarcho-primitivists" and "libertarian-primitivists", most of them are basically uninterested in the political struggles of the last two centuries. In their eyes, "doom" is "at hand"...and has no meaningful "political solution".

What would it mean if "they were right"?


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quote:

The twin challenges of Peak Oil and global climate change are making it increasingly clear that our present civilization...will not long survive.


No.

First, you can forget about "peak oil" for at least another century...

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file...NG46CMUPL60.DTL

The evidence for global warming is quite robust...but I've seen no evidence that civilization cannot "survive" a warmer climate.

Some of the ideas in this post are pretty good ones...others are, well, not so good. And some are pretty bad.

quote:

If humans are to take their place as co-inhabitants of this earth, rather than rulers over all, we must extend the idea of the commons to embrace all species.


Species that injure us or even just annoy us cannot reasonably expect anything from us but implacable hostility.

Humans are "rulers over all" and will act as we see fit.

That our acts should be guided by reason is obvious.

quote:

A sustainable socialism, then, would be a socialism embracing all life, with no one species having preferential access to the necessities of life over any other species.


Won't happen...ever. Every species comes first in its own eyes -- and we are no exception.

quote:

Interrelationships among all life on this planet are organized through stable ecosystems in dynamic equilibrium within the range of biological diversity.


No they're not; ecosystems are not "stable" except in a very temporary way.

quote:

Choose a place to live that requires the smallest heating and cooling budget.


Nice idea...but probably impractical. When people are buying a house, they have a whole series of constraints (price of home, convenience to work, quality of neighborhood and schools, convenience to shopping, etc.).

There are some "energy efficient" homes being built...but they are pretty expensive.

quote:

Grow as much food as possible around and in our homes.


Most city-dwellers are not into gardening at this time...even if they have the space.

quote:

Choose our work places close to home so we can walk or bicycle to and from work, including at noon so we can enjoy a good nutritious vegetarian meal with our loved ones, and a glass of good wine.


I actually managed to do that once...rent an apartment close enough to walk to and from work every day -- and it was terrific! The stress of commuting is really something to avoid if possible.

But my bloodsucking employers decided that the commercial rent was too high...and the job moved beyond walking distance.

Not being a rabbit, I'll pass on the "good nutritious vegetarian meal".

quote:

Choose our homes within walking or bicycling distance to markets, library, schools and live music and entertainment.


Well, sure...if you can. You will find in life that many times you must grab the first affordable place you can find...you need a place to live quickly.

quote:

Eschew television and other propaganda devices.


Self-evident. I have not owned a dummyvision for 20 years.

quote:

Participate in neighborhood associations, home owners associations, volunteer fire departments, neighborhood road associations. Attend local civic councils and assemblies and testify regularly in defense of neighborhood and community values. Run for local office. Work for local candidates for local office who support community values, democracy, local self-reliance and mutual aid.


This, I'm afraid, is just reformist crap.

With very rare exceptions, these groups are dominated by careerists trying to work their way into the local power structure.

quote:

Do not darken the doorsteps of big box stores, food chains, fast food emporiums or malls for any reason whatsoever.


Utopian. Sometimes there is simply no reasonable alternative to going to those places -- though I agree that one should avoid them as much as possible.

quote:

Get rid of all but one small fuel efficient vehicle and drive it only once a week for 10 miles or less.


I'll pass that along to my friend who has to take her child to the day-care center and then drive 10 miles to work and then drive 10 miles home, stopping at the center to pick up her kid. She drives a 1981 (yes, 1981) Buick that probably gets 8 miles to the gallon...she cannot afford to get a new "fuel-efficient" car.

quote:

Get rid of every gadget around the house and neighborhood that has a gas motor attached to it. Yes, that includes the leaf blower. Especially the damned leaf blower!


Ok by me. I never understood why they didn't just leave the damn leaves on the ground to rot.

quote:

Get to know our neighbors, work with them on neighborhood and community projects.


Sociable folks already do this. The ones who don't do it probably prefer anonymity.

quote:

Learn real practical skills: plumbing, electricity, home repair, car repair, appliance repair.


Or just buy the "how-to" books and keep them around until a repair is actually needed.

quote:

Work on a farm, apprentice to a car mechanic, build a house, install a toilet. It's fun, it's cheap and it's empowering!


It's also exhausting. Ok for the young and fit...not so good for the old and feeble.

quote:

Change our work from full-time to part time.


No effort on our part required; just wait a little while and our work will be reduced (involuntarily) to "no time".

quote:

We'll know we're on the right track when we don't spend any money for three to four days at a stretch.


I'm in that category...it just means that you don't do very much at all, since doing things usually costs money.

I think younger people would find that lifestyle intolerably boring.
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First posted at RevLeft on July 8, 2005
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quote:

We'll look back at March, 2005 as the historical point of Global Peak Oil, the point at which the energy available to fuel our civilization...began its inevitable decline.


Yea!!! Back to feudalism!

quote:

Does that mean we should attempt to kill every Great White in the ocean, or does it make more sense to recognize they play an important role in oceanic ecosystems, although they may harvest a human every now and then?


Do they eat fish that we would otherwise eat? If so, then it's curtains for the Great White shark.

quote:

As long as people view the planet in that manner, people will continue to have problems like deforestation, dirty air, unclean water and species extinction.


Not necessarily...though if people are, in some mysterious fashion, "incapable" of applying reason to their actions, then that could be the outcome.

quote:

Well, it has happened and existed for thousands of years.


Oh? What species prefers the well-being of a different species to its own?

quote:

Ecosystems in this country were stable until man made them unstable.


Ignorance.

quote:

Better late than never. Try community gardens. They're working well in my community...


The "community garden" next door to me died for lack of interest...it was eventually cleared to build a fast-food outlet but the neighborhood didn't want that...so now it's just a vacant lot.

quote:

So since we are the great rulers of the land, we should be able to destroy it, and not give a fuck about it. Genetically mutate animals and plants to fit the growing food portions of the great wonderful overlords?


We shouldn't destroy land unless there's a good reason to do so (like shale oil, for example).

I see nothing wrong with genetically modifying plants or animals if that will make them more useful to us.

Your sarcasm about "great rulers" is simply a rhetorical distraction. Whenever humans can gain control of some process that was hither-to left up to nature, we will do it...and modify nature to suit our own purposes.

quote:

My home is very energy efficient. We have a fan for the summer and a blanket in the winter.


Live in Hawaii, do you? Lucky you!

Most of the earth's surface requires considerable assistance to be made comfortable. I have an air conditioner/heater window unit...and although it's possible to leave it off for a month or two in the spring and fall, it's absence in the summer/winter months would be fatal to me.

By the way, the building I live in is a 1950s-era motel converted to apartments built from concrete blocks. This is an unusually "ecological" form of construction and does have a tendency to be warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

As I noted in my earlier post, some of the practical suggestions here are not bad at all.

But the overall outlook -- prepare for the end of the world as we know it -- is just silly.

We're not going back to feudalism.
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First posted at RevLeft on July 8, 2005
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quote:

Who said anything about feudalism?


You did...though perhaps unknowingly.

Your vision of a pre-industrial non-hierarchal society is utterly utopian, of course. What would happen after a "collapse of industrial civilization" would be a return to feudalism and possibly even slavery.

That's how agricultural societies with large populations function. Of course, if the great "die off" materializes -- according to some "peak oil" nutballs -- then we'll skip all that and go all the way back to barbarism (nomadism) and savagery.

Some fun, eh?

quote:

But people have lived sustainably in ecosystems with other living things and did so for thousands of years.


True...but there were only small numbers of them then and they were savages.

And even then they managed to do considerable damage to the "eco-system" -- although the theory remains controversial, some scientists do think that human hunters killed off most of the large mammals in the western hemisphere at the end of the last ice age. The peoples who settled New Zealand -- barely emerged from savagery -- managed to kill off all of the large and many of the smaller birds in those islands.

And the example of Easter Island is very instructive; the primitive inhabitants wrecked the place.

Early class societies in the "fertile crescent" did their best to make it as infertile as possible...with considerable "success".

In the long run, it is only a "high-tech" society with a broad base of scientific knowledge about ecology that will ever be able to manage the environment in at least a quasi-sustainable way.

quote:

This is an absolutely unbelievable statement. No wonder we're in such a mess!


If shale oil is what's needed to keep the electricity on...then you'd better believe that's what we'll do.

Get it through your head.

"High-tech" civilization is here to stay!

The only options are capitalist "high-tech" or communist "high-tech".

There ain't no other horse in the race.
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First posted at RevLeft on July 9, 2005
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quote:

This says NOTHING about systems of social organization or lords and vassals.


Yes it does. The kind of society you have depends on your level of available technology.

If "high tech" civilization "collapses" -- as you seem to predict with relish -- then we go back to "low tech"...and that means feudalism at best.

quote:

We know such societies did exist. It's taught in freshman level anthropology classes at community colleges.


Yes, they did exist...but they were hardly "societies" at all. Just small bands of humans hunting and gathering.

They had no private property -- so in that sense they were "communist".

But they were not "anarchist" -- the strongest guy in the band probably ruled "with an iron fist"...or, to be more precise, a stone fist.

quote:

Why wait? Start living according to the principle of sufficiency today.


Go out in the wilderness and find a cave.

quote:

Perhaps they would see our present society as been run by savages!


No, they would see us as "gods"...everything about the way we live now would look like "magic" to them.

quote:

When does this happen? It's only getting worse, not better, and all of the evidence points to the exact opposite.


I dispute your general claim that "it's only getting worse". There are some things that are still getting worse...and other things that are getting better.

quote:

If it's too expensive to deliver a usable product to the consumer, it's not going to happen.


As the article I linked to showed, it is already happening.

quote:

And you should get it through your head, that no one is talking about ending technological advancement.


Yes you are...the "end of civilization" means the end of all but very primitive technology. All your yap about primitive societies shows the direction you really want to go in.

quote:

Again, more pontifications, but little substance. The Ohlone didn't have either. Neither did the Inuit and the Athabaskans.


Yeah...and their libraries are "the wonder of the world".
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First posted at RevLeft on July 9, 2005
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quote:

Having technology doesn't necessarily imply feudalism is how society is organized. Technology is technology and capitalism is capitalism and socialism is socialism. Technology can be produced at varying levels within any of these economic systems.


No it can't...at least that is how things have worked out so far. A given level of technology generates and supports a given level of social organization -- a "type" of class society.

Efforts to establish a different kind of class society in the absence of appropriate technology always fail.

Modern capitalism was not really possible without the steam engine.

Socialism is not even remotely practical without massive computerization.

And what technology we need to make communism a practical possibility remains speculative -- it may not yet have been invented or is still in the earliest stages of development.

Meanwhile, should anything happen to destroy our present level of technological development and throw the survivors back to dependence on earlier means of production, then social organization will follow that same path...back to feudalism, slavery, nomadism, or even savagery.

I don't think there's anything that can do that short of global nuclear war or collision with a large asteroid.

quote:

I don't have the article in front of me, but as I recall, it showed no such thing.


quote (San Francisco Chronicle):

The consortium, which includes Chevron and ConocoPhillips, is producing 155,000 barrels of high-quality synthetic crude a day. It plans to invest more than $1 billion a year for the next several years to increase its output to 500,000 barrels -- an output that, at current prices, would be worth more than $8 billion a year.
-- emphasis added.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file...NG46CMUPL60.DTL

quote:

It's also very disappointing to see a moderator of the forum use this sort of diction during an exchange of ideas.


Why?

I am scornful of primitivism and see no reason to "be polite" about that simply because I moderate this forum.
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First posted at RevLeft on July 22, 2005
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quote:

Ecosystems aren't organized that way, so why man feels like he has to organize worldwide systems is a mystery to me.


Probably because "man" ate that damn apple. *laughs*

Conservatives like yourself always resort to "original sin" of one sort or another...and since there are no "gods" around to "punish us", "Nature" will do the job.

quote:

So fat Americans with cheetos stained fingers can continue living their consumptive way of life. By the way, I'm scornful of these people, which I assume includes YOU.


Yes, I weigh 490 pounds and devour a ton of cheetos every week. *laughs*

I think this statement reveals one of your real motives -- as if you are saying "abundance is sinful" and "deprivation is virtuous".

That may possibly explain the appeal of "peak oil" to you...it will make us "fat lazy Americans" get off our couches and go outside and earn our bread "by the sweat of our brows" -- like "God" intended.

quote:

This article seems to make a strong case for the non-sustainability of a petro-chemical based society.


No one argues, at this point, that a petroleum-based energy system is indefinitely sustainable.

But what I argue is that no one knows how much oil remains beneath the earth's surface...or what costs will be involved in extracting it.

For example, given the history of the oil industry, it is almost certain that new technology will be developed to extract oil from shale that will be cheaper and more efficient than that which is presently available.

quote:

This is the sort of society you want? You're not a communist, a socialist or an anarchist, because you apparently support the type of industrialization that requires unfair wages in a capitalist society.


And this is not an argument...even remotely. At the present time, it does not matter what I "want" or what you "want". The oil corporations have decided that shale oil is now a profitable investment and they are going to do it...and are doing it.

(Note that Venezuela also has enormous deposits of shale oil...maybe as much as Canada. The Chinese are already seriously interested.)

quote:

No wilderness = no freedom


No sense = no sense.

quote:

And unlike [what] RS2k thinks, Tribe life was egalitarian.


With all due respect, no one knows that. By the time tribal life was seriously investigated (middle 19th century onwards), it was already decaying.

Further, it's now known that 19th and early 20th century anthropologists "read their own prejudices" into much of what they "observed" and reported. An "egalitarian" anthropologist saw "egalitarianism" in the tribe; a "hierarchal" anthropologist interpreted everything in tribal behavior in hierarchal terms.

It is a plausible assumption that savage life was far more egalitarian than nomadism, slavery/despotism, etc.

But that doesn't mean that savages were "anarchists"...though some might have been very close to that.
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First posted at RevLeft on July 24, 2005
---------------------------------------------------

quote:

There is a growing number of scientists and geologists, in the scientific, governmental and corporate communities that believe we are in fact at Peak Oil or very close to it.


Well, how about that! Clearly, I should flop on my belly at once and beg forgiveness from all those who have a financial incentive to say those things.

They must be right; the authorities always are!

But I will decline to do so nonetheless.

quote:

No process has yet proved successful in turning shale oil into crude oil, though many companies have tried.


So what are those people making up in the icy wastes of Alberta, anyway? If they're not making oil, that is?

And why are they pissing away billions of dollars to no purpose?

Your authorities are contradicted by others who are actually doing what you say can't be done.

quote:

So far, no venture has proved successful on a significantly large scale (Youngquist, 1998b).


What's a "significantly large scale"? And this is not, you may have noticed, 1998.

quote:

Greenhouse emissions from the production of shale oil to support the estimated energy demands would be nearly four times higher than from normal oil

Emissions from the Stuart project in Australia have repeatedly made local people sick

Shale oil produces highly toxic dioxins, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and immune system defects...is this the sort of world you want?


They didn't ask me what sort of world I "wanted"...but since you did, I'm happy to answer.

I want the fucking power to stay on no matter what it costs!

Happy now?

quote:

You support a level of industrialization that is ecologically non-sustainable, harmful to humans and non-humans and requires the exploitation of humans and non-humans.


So, industrialization = exploitation of humans.

You keep verbally denying that you're a primitivist but your prejudices keep constantly breaking into the open.

Well, I have no difficulty being open about where I stand...I want more industrialization and more technology. I want abundance beyond the dreams of kings and I want that for everyone on the planet.

Centuries from now, I want people to look back at our own times and say "how the fuck could people stand living in such barbarous and primitive conditions!".

quote:

We do know that egalitarian societies existed, and the studies and data that support the existence of such societies have endured the scrutiny of peer review.


Lots of crap has "endured peer review"...only to be withdrawn, leaving some very embarrassed peers.

quote:

Please read W. H. Edwards, An Introduction to Aboriginal Societies (1988, Social Science Press, Australia)


I'd be glad to, but this Australian text is not available at my public library.

quote:

By your logic, the results of any study could be explained away by prejudice. That's why we have peer review.


Don't be silly. Peer review is intended to block publication of obviously faulty studies...and it doesn't always catch even those. I think any reputable anthropologist would concede that the problem of studying tribal societies through "western eyes" is a serious one.
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First posted at RevLeft on July 25, 2005
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quote:

Should we ignore all science, particularly science from non-profit research groups funded via grants?


Obviously not. But science that purports to guide human behavior is, indeed, always suspicious...no matter what it says.

Bourgeois economics, for example, claims "scientific status" and they have arrayed themselves with all the paraphernalia of a "science" -- lots of charts and graphs, arcane equations, etc. They even award each other a fake "Nobel Prize" every year.

The only problem with their "science" is that it can't explain the real economic world.

quote:

Please explain the financial motivation of a researcher at The University of Alaska Fairbanks that's doing global warming research in the field for $35,000 per year.


It's a "hot field" right now. Moreover, the greater the predicted "catastrophe", the "hotter" the field will get.

quote:

If he was financially motivated, wouldn't this researcher look for a job at Shell, Exxon or Citgo for twice the pay?


He probably did...unsuccessfully. The competition for good jobs in science is ferocious -- many young graduates have little choice but to take what they can get and keep trying for something better.

I'm not saying that he will consciously "cheat" to make global warming look like the "final doom"...but he does have an incentive to "assume the worst" and communicate that message.

That is something that happens in science all the time -- not deliberate cheating, but always "keeping in mind" what the guy who signs your paycheck would like to hear.

Scientists don't want to end up working at Wal-Mart any more than you do.

quote:

If they can pull it off, the payoff is enormous, but the majority of the scientific reports I've seen say it's not financially feasible.


Well, then we'll see what happens, won't we? If those corporations in Alberta give up...then your authorities will have been proven right (at least for the time being).

If the operation continues and expands...

quote:

One, we'd need about 300+ plants to take care of projected energy needs, and two, there's not enough money or trained engineers to do it in the time required. And then there's the problem of waste disposal, which still hasn't been solved.


1. 300 is a large number...but it's not infinite. And it's not as if they all have to be built "at once".

2. If the ruling class gets behind a project, then the money is always found to implement it.

3. New engineers can always be trained...how many computer scientists were there in 1980 and how many are there now?

4. The problem of nuclear waste has been technically solved for decades...pick a large area that is otherwise useless and dump it. If the whole state of Nevada became a radioactive toxic wasteland, who would give a shit?

quote:

As it stands today, current technology to produce oil from shale is about $9 per barrel compared to $2 a barrel of Persian Gulf crude.


I don't know where your figures come from...but with spot oil prices at $60 per barrel, it would seem that shale oil would be almost as profitable to produce as regular oil.

And note your phrase -- "current technology": do you think "that's it"? No more new technology will ever become available again in the field of oil extraction?

Is it "the end of the line"???

quote:

No, my sources are saying it's too expensive, creates environmental problems, and that it seems improbable that it can realistically replace the daily consumption of 73 million barrels of oil per day.


When your sources say that, they're also saying something else as well: give up!

Give up trying to advance the existing technological civilization and retreat to a pre-industrial society.

That's their message...and yours as well. Anything more advanced than 15th century technology is going to "cause environmental problems" somewhere.

As things stand now, we must wreck some portions of the earth in order for technological civilization to exist at all. It's unfortunate...but simply unavoidable.

If you are determined not to "wreck" anything...then you have no choice but to return to the 15th century -- which means feudalism with a little merchant capitalism on the side.

That makes you a primitivist in my book.

quote:

And you can have that with today's technology. If people would just reduce consumption by very small amounts, there would be a tremendous collective impact. Turn the lights off. Turn down the thermostat. Drive less and ride your bike more. Walk. Just be sensible about how you live and use your money for other things.


Being unable to read in the dark, I can't "turn the lights off".

If I "turn down the thermostat", my hands and feet ache with cold.

I am an old man -- my legs cannot "walk" two blocks without screaming in pain. I must take a taxi.

Being old is pretty hellish...but your prescriptions would make it even worse.

quote:

This doesn't mean or imply that all industrialized production is bad; it means that current levels are not sustainable.


Indeed they are not, but they will nevertheless continue and even increase. Perhaps when the world's population falls to a couple of billion or so (2200?), then some kinds of industrial production may be decreased.

quote:

More industrialization means more habitat destruction and environmental degradation for all species, not just man.


Habitat destruction and environmental degradation are inevitable. The priority should be to confine it as much as we can...in the context of the over-riding goal of raising 5/6ths of the world's population out of misery.

quote:

Abundance is a culturally relative term.


True...but there are commonalities as well. Whenever people have the chance to adopt more advanced technologies, they do it...and with alacrity. Very few people make a deliberate choice of "a simpler way of life".

And I suspect even fewer "stick with" that choice.

Still, if "wilderness" is what you really want, there are still places where you can find it...they are rather unpleasant places to live, but hey, it's wilderness.

At least for the time being.

quote:

If things don't change soon, they'll be looking backward and calling us a bunch of selfish motherfuckers.


But we'll be dead...so we won't care about their opinions of us. *laughs*

quote:

The answer to our current situation, as Mohandis Karamchand Gandhi told us 60 years ago, is to turn society upside down and build the human world from the people up, rather than from the ruling elite down.


That you would turn out to be a fan of that old faker comes as no surprise...at all.
----------------------------------------------------
First posted at RevLeft on July 26, 2005
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