Cultural Complexity and Decline

Cultural Complexity and decline

The following text is Quoted from Plato’s Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology, by William Ophuls, Kindle page 138-139. This book is an essential read for anyone who remains perplexed by America’s dramatically declining condition, as well as our debouched political system.


When we recognize its necessity, we shall see that a simpler way of life might indeed be more virtuous and happy than the one we now believe represents the acme of human progress. In the first place, industrial civilization has become too complex and interlinked for its own good. As Joseph Tainter points out, an excess of complexity, usually aggravated by other factors, has spelled the downfall of previous civilizations. (13)  The costs of increasing complexity grow disproportionately until they eventually reach a point of diminishing or even declining returns. the civilization therefore has to run harder and harder to make further progress or even to stay in the same place.

In addition,  a civilization already stressed by the high costs of complexity may no longer be resilient enough to respond to further challenges. It risks a cascade of failure should a critical link fail for whatever reason. The interconnected institutions of a highly complex society are like mountain climbers tied to one rope with no belay: the fall of one can trigger the death of all. For example, the world financial system experiences periodic crises when the failure of one bank brings down a host of counterparties. Similarly,  a sudden or significant increase in the price of a critical commodity, such as petroleum, can choke an industrial superstructure predicated on cheap and abundant energy. The further danger is that  such a crisis can trigger psychological panic and social pandemonium. In short, the higher we build the edifice of civilization, the more vulnerable we become to catastrophe. A simpler, more resilient way of life would therefore be advisable on prudential grounds alone.

But our primary concern here is politeia, and the political argument for cultural simplicity is that great size and complexity produce a debased politics. When a polity grows beyond certain bounds, oligarchy in the bad sense is inescapable, the burden of bureaucracy grows ever more stifling, and genuine consent of the governed is practically unattainable.  A vicious circle fostering ever greater  centralized planning, administrative intervention, and political control takes over. If democracy survives at all, it will be a token democracy shadowed by the lurking menace of mob rule.

In the United States today, for instance, a tiny circulating policy elite makes all the important decisions in ways that align the interests of government, finance, and business. Since the system is “democratic,” the elite has to take into account the passions of the mob, which can erupt if its ox is palpably gored. So as long as he American ruling class provides the bread of affluence and the entertaining media circus, it can do pretty much as it likes. Having long since outgrown the relatively simple conditions required to support its constitutional design, the United States has therefore become an imperial polity bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the original American republic. Such is  the political price of great size and complexity .


End of Quote.

It is clear that the ol’ saying: “Nothing Lasts forever” applies to everything we cherish, including our home-land; the once great socioculture of the United States of America.

America’s stability and permanence is an illusion. Indeed, simplifying the American lifestyle would promise to bring benefits to many people. But, we might then be hard-pressed to imagine how we would go about winning WWIII, in which our very existence is now on the line.

This is particularly the case when so many of our citizens and politicians suffer from pathological levels of denial of the current war on Western Civilization and also from delusions of an achievable peace through kindness, acceptance and forbearance toward America’s mortal external and internal enemies.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 10/13/16 (From the Reservation)

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