Al Gore Manifesto

human-history Stuart Staniford, who tracks peak energy problems, today suggests that those of us who hope to help engineer soft landings ought to abandon socialism in favor of Al Gore.  Speaking of human history, Staniford proposes that, “at least until we decide to engineer better human beings, a decent society will have an economic elite.”  To try to combat elites, in Staniford’s view, is to deny human nature.  The best we can do, he suggests, is to accept and nurture our overclass, in hopes of convincing “them, like Al Gore, to use a portion of their undoubted economic privilege in an attempt to move society in a direction of lower impact and less emissions.”

FWIW, I replied thusly:

If you are going to appeal to big history, I would suggest you stick with it. 5,500 years ago, permanent elites figured out how to keep surplus wealth for themselves as “property.” That, as you note, was the beginning of the end for egalitarian kinship societies.

Fair enough.

But when did anybody start making a serious attempt to check ruling classes and their stories of biological superiority? 1776/1789. Less than 250 years ago, on a 5,500-year timeline.

And when did socialists start trying to extend democracy to economic affairs? 150 years ago. And they also did so while making the mistake of dismissing existing democracy as mere bourgeois illusion. So, socialism 2.0 has barely started, here in the latest 20 years on that 5,500-year timeline.

And here you are, talking about the naturalness of elites? I don’t buy it, either as history or strategy.

The point of leftism is not absolute monetary equality. It is the extension of democracy over macro-economic choices.

Of course, the impending energy/eco crash is going to make modern wealth levels and our range of macro-economic options a lot smaller.

Capitalists, meanwhile, are militant ostriches and obstacles, like it or not, because they are trying to retain what is utterly unkeepable. Al Gore thinks electric cars are a sufficient answer.

5 Replies to “Al Gore Manifesto”

  1. Marla, I generally like Monthly Review as a “school” of socialist writing. My overall sense is that we’re in something of a dead zone in terms of dynamic and creative socialist writing. There are good things coming out in dribbles, but they tend to be either on specific topics, or excessively weighed down by the felt need to sound like Karl Marx. I’m not sure there’s anything truly great that synthesizes the current historical moment, or even anything that captures just the dynamics of the class system. As Russell Jacoby pointed out 25 years ago (and again in his hilarious rip on the latest tripe from Erik Olin Wright), most prospective contributors have been swallowed by flea-fucking academia.

    The late Daniel Singer tried to take the longer view near the end of his life, but he was clearly not at his peak by then.

    Chomsky remains a clear #1, by a wide margin, IMHO.

    I know people who think Istvan Meszaros’ recent tomes (and they are tomes) are something shiny and new, but I have tried to see it and failed, finding them stilted and prolix and not all that revelatory. Maybe I quit too quickly, though…

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