Collapse Scenarios - Satire or Vision of the Future Part Two - Guest Post - Anthony Harrington

by: EJ on 08/24/2011
Posted in: Peak Oil

Part one of this blog series looked briefly at Dmitry Orlov’s proposition in his book, Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects, that the US is in the process of following a similar collapse trajectory as its now-defunct superpower rival, the Soviet Union. The book is great value in dozens of different ways, even if you don’t buy into the idea that there is anything inevitable about the demise of America.

Below, for example, is Orlov on the fact that superpowers need to motivate the “masses” with an all-inclusive idea, since those with the top jobs aren’t interested in doing the grunt work.

Middle-class dismissed

The Soviet Union’s big myth to engage and motivate its citizens was the classless society – a really deep, black joke, given the power of the apparatchiks and the powerlessness of the average joe citizen. The US equivalent is the myth of the middle class. Orlov points out that as the only functioning industrial power after the end of World War II America lucked out big time. It used the economic momentum given to it by this position, as the writer puts it, to:

“...put every American within striking distance of achieving a cheap simulacrum of landed gentry, symbolised by a detached house surrounded by a patch of land big enough to accommodate private parking, a patch of grass and some shrubbery, and adorned, as an absolute necessity, by one’s own private automobile ... The wonderful  thing about the American middle class concept is its malleability, because it is almost entirely symbolic...”

The concept, “middle class”, covers the banker in his ancestral mansion and the trailer park guy with a pickup truck. What both have in common is the automobile, and the route to the collapse will see this linchpin wobbling then falling.

“The universal right to drive a car is the linchpin of the American communal myth. Once a significant proportion of the population finds that cars have become inaccessible to them (with fuel priced beyond their means), the effect on the national psyche may be so profound as to make the country ungovernable... [the car] is propelling the American communal myth towards a flaming crash with the reality of permanent fuel shortage, compared to which the gradual fading away of the Soviet communal myth (of the classless society) will have been gentle and benign.”


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