Friday, August 14, 2009

In response to the question "Do we live in a post-scarcity society?"

That's actually an interesting question. I think that in the '50s and '60s, when the economy was much better, it was possible to argue that we lived in a post-scarcity society a la Murray Bookchin's book "Post-Scarcity Anarchism", but since the economic stagnation of the 1970s, and especially with the current downturn, I think that premise has gotten shakier. Besides, post-scarcity as a concept takes for granted the idea that the ability to create wealth on a level necessary for eliminating basic wants for everyone is shared evenly throughout society. I feel that even during the Golden Age, as the era from the '50s to the mid '70s is sometimes referred to as by economists, the internal distribution of wealth and power was still stratified, although for various reasons, including a bigger labor movement and a more progressive tax system, this was partially mitigated. Since the '70s that internal inequality has only increased, rising very quickly during the Reagan/Bush years and only leveling out, not really improving much, during Clinton's presidency. It continued to rise during the Bush II years, although because of 9/11 this issue was largely obscured from public view.

That, with neo-liberal governmental policies and a general neo-liberal international trade framework, and now financial instability due to high risk deregulated financial transactions, has made scarcity now an issue in the United States, whereas it didn't use to be.

But, and I don't know if you're coming at post-scarcity through Bookchin's ideas or through some other channel, some of the stuff, actually a lot of the stuff, that people focussed on in the '60s and '70s that went beyond traditional left proposals, things like ecology, appropriate technology, ways of life that were both simpler and more fulfilling, New Urbanism, critique of bureaucracy and of alienation caused by excessive development of things like tract housing and strip malls, things like that are still valid issues, on top of more traditional Left ones.

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