As Nicolas Taleb wrote, traditional categories of left and right are “verbalistic and often incoherent…at many levels” especially in the 2020 post-Covid era. International bankers, the military-industrial complex, free trade aficionados are all aligning behind Democratic or Liberal politicians. Trudeau argues for the great reset – which depending on how it is framed and implemented is not necessarily a bad idea. But critics point out that the great reset may be simply a form of consolidation of the ruling class’ (technocrats, banking sectors, big media, big pharma, etc) stranglehold on the world. The working and lower class people are increasingly being forced out of rural areas and to the cities due to a lack of economic drivers such as manufacturing (pulp, paper, mining) that was a feature of their economic sustenance. Instead, North America is fast becoming a service economy in the international order as capital and manufacturing can separate in a geographic sense. Capital is said to float.
Opposition parties, which invariably take on a populist bent in response to this dynamic are labelled right wing, even though they overwhelmingly represent lower and middle classes as well as rural people and not the ruling classes they once did.
We are entering, as the Norwegian commentator, Bjorn Andreas Bull-Hansen posted below argues, a neo-feudal era. He is not the first to point this out. I have written on this blog concerning the rise of neo-feudalism and it is a good term to describe the phenomenon being observed.
On the left, I tend to enjoy Rania Khalek’s commentary. She posted two videos that I link here.
On one I commented that what needs to happen is that her brand of leftist politics needs to blend with the populists to create a new political order. This will be hard as these groups do not share many similarities. Yet, I think this is an important task for activists concerned with issues of poverty and equity. As she observes in the second link, the ruling elite interest has already co-opted progressive identitarianism without changing their structural dynamics. This is a common corporate ploy – known by various names including sloganeering, virtue signalling, and slacktivism.
I have my own ideas and am working on articulating some of those. They involve Illich’s concept of conviviality combined with the corpus of scholarship around panarchism/anarchism (which really requires clear explanation as the term itself carries with it very disquieting resonances in the public imagination). But, as it is interpreted by scholars it means local control. It is a return to a kind of early nineteenth century Americana absent the transcendentalists who added a spiritual dimension to the movement.
The larger point is that intellectuals, observers, and engaged political activists interested in issues of political and economic justice, poverty fairness, and democratic values are going to have to begin to think deeply about the kind of politics required to meet the challenge of the twenty-first century. In so doing, new alliances are going to need to be forged, dialogue across difference needs to occur, and a more contemplative posture in the midst of scattershot social media postings needs to happen. I am doing my part in all of this as I seek out alternative voices (progressive and populist) to the mainstream narrative.