Monday, 21 February 2011


From the Commercial Revolution to the present, global economic integration has exacerbated geographic and social polarization. The rich-poor chasm would have been greater if it were not for revolutions of the bourgeois revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries, and worker/peasant revolutions in the 20th century.

Despite the recent modest upward mobility of the middle class in China, India, and former East Bloc countries, World Bank and UN studies confirm that in the past forty years poverty has been rising, the middle class declining, and labor losing ground as trade unionism has weakened. Similarly, there has been a widening gap between rich and poor nations where wealth is concentrated among a few families.

Dissemination of the consumerism doctrine in underdeveloped regions and among lower social classes in the advanced capitalist countries has only resulted in people demanding a fair share of income distribution so they can achieve upward mobility. The doctrine that upward mobility is inevitable in the market economy, and that consumption growth entails happiness has resonated throughout much of the world, except among peasants and workers in traditional societies where religious values prevail.
It is the multifarious and ceaseless ubiquitous marketing of the illusion imbedded in the 'consumption equals growth' dogma that is far more significant than the reality of material progress and human happiness. Despite economic growth figures based on GDP, uneven social and geographic development and rising poverty are among the reasons that the legitimacy of capitalism and the illusion that it engenders happiness comes to question. First, there is the contradiction that market economic expansion means national wealth, while in reality such wealth is concentrated, and the second contradiction regarding the growth in consumption equal happiness doctrine is not met owing to grossly uneven wealth distribution.

Besides the planet's rapid environmental degradation, the steady waning of the idyllic bourgeois lifestyle, now characterized by consumption and abuse of legal and illegal substances that are inexorably linked to prostitution and human trafficking in a number of countries, entails that the broader middle classes are governed more by fear and anxiety than comfort that capitalism promises in the 'growth and happiness' dogma.

There are many complex variables for asymmetrical geographic development and unequal socioeconomic conditions on a global scale. Among them objective conditions of the evolving capitalist system operating under super concentrated conditions and buttressed by the state without which the system would collapse as witnessed every time there is a recession and governments bail out large private firms. Progressives throughout the world have an undeniable responsibility either for surrendering to the status quo or surrendering to fatalism. The very young and many women across North Africa and the Middle East demonstrated in the first few weeks of 2011 that grass roots popular activism can bring about change of corrupt authoritarian regimes.

By contrast, progressives in the advanced capitalist countries have remained largely passive during the global recession of 2008-2011 while the state bailed out finance capitalism at the expense of workers and the middle class. This is mostly to co-optation of leftists and democratic activists.  Hardly a new phenomenon, it has accelerated since China's economic integration into the global market system, and since the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc.

Co-optation of progressives, their causes, factions, and political parties is not inevitable, despite the fact that we live in an unhistorical epoch as Carl Jung noted in *Modern Man in Search of Soul*. "To be unhistorical is the Promethean sin, and in this sense modern man lives in sin." The rise in co-optation corresponds with the
rise of corruption in the public sector and increasingly undemocratic policies of democratic regimes that pursue policies that weaken labor and middle class living standards. As geographic and social polarization increases, it can only contribute to the existing political and social order's demise if progressives engage in grass roots action like the masses throughout the Islamic world, and like the masses of uprisings in history that resulted in improved societal conditions.

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