Bulletin N° 736
Subject : CHANGE: ADAPTATION OR EXTINCTION ; WHAT SKILLS FOR SURVIVAL ?
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
It is during a social debacle that the various strata of any society, in any era, become visible. The logical and social component parts of a social structure of past societies are easily identified by historians, and nowhere is this better done than in Volume 2 of Fernand Braudel’s classic work, “Civilization & Capitalism, 15th – 18th Century”. In Chapter V of this Volume, The Wheels of Commerce, which he entitles, “Society: A Set of Sets,” the famous historian conducts an anatomy lesson on corpus feudalis :
The best description of ‘feudal society’ is still to my mind Georges Gurvitch’s brief sketch (rapid and authoritarian as it undoubtedly is) based on a careful reading of Marc Bloch’s marvelous study but developing its conclusions in a very individual way. Shaped by centuries of sedimentation, destruction and germination, ‘feudal’ society is in fact a combination of at least five ‘societies’, five different hierarchies, existing side by side. The most ancient and fundamental of these, now dislocated, was seigniorial society, its origins lost in the mists of time, which bound together local landlord and peasants. Less ancient, but with historical origins in the Roman Empire and spiritual roots plunging even further back, was the theocratic society constructed by the Roman Church with fortitude and tenacity, for it had not only to conquer but also to keep and thus constantly control its faithful. A large share of the surpluses of early Europe went into this huge and far-flung enterprise: [W]ere cathedrals, churches, monasteries, church revenues an investment or waste of capital? Thirdly, a younger society, pushing its way between the others and seeking a foothold, was taking shape around the territorial state. The latter had foundered with the last Carolingians, but the wreck as so often was not total. The fourth sub-sector was feudalism in the strict sense, a tenacious superstructure which insinuated itself into the upper reaches of society and the gaps vacated by the failure of the state: it united feudal lords in a long hierarchical chain and sought to control and maneuver all society through the hierarchy. But the church was not entirely imprisoned within the net; the state would one day tear the mesh apart; and as for the peasant, he often lived on the margin of this agitation in high places. Finally, the fifth and last system, to us the most important of all, consisted of the towns. They appeared or reappeared, from the tenth or eleventh century, as states apart, societies apart. They were the daughters of a distant past --Rome often lived again in them. But they were also daughters of a present which helped them to blossom: they were new creations –the product in the first place of a colossal division of labor (between town and countryside), of consistently favorable economic circumstances, of the revival of trade and of a re-emergent money supply. Through money, a major multiplier, a sort of electric current was directed towards the West from Byzantium and Islam, across the great stretches of the Mediterranean. When the sea later went over to Christendom, this meant both revival and upheaval for early Europe.
This was not one society then but several, coexisting, resting on each other to a greater or lesser degree; not one system but several; not one hierarchy but several; not one order but several; not one mode of production but several, not one culture but several cultures, forms of consciousness, languages, ways of life. We must think of everything in the plural. (pp.464-465)
Such an anatomy of past societies can only help us in our approach to understand present social conditions. By recognizing the various layers from the past upon which we now exist, we are more informed about the stabilities and vulnerabilities on the ground where we are standing. The rapidly changing context, of which we are a part, will inevitably modify our relationships, creating new social class solidarities and new political/cultural alliances.
Nothing is more permanent than change!
The 13 items below will provide CEIMSA readers with insights into the changes –both large and small-- that now confront us, almost on a daily basis. Adapting to these changes, and knowing where they come from and what they imply, is the challenge that we face collectively today.
Professor emeritus of American Studies
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
Greenland Ice Sheet Melting 600 Percent Faster Than Predicted by Current Models
The climate is very capable of changing to another stable state unfavorable to the human species, and this is a real danger of our global experiment with unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions, says Arctic ice specialist David Barber
Trump's Cabinet Represents the Fusion of Big Oil and State
Jamie Henn of 350.org says we can't just fight Trump; we also must put pressure on state and local officials while challenging the political power of the fossil fuel industry
Rebel Cities, Urban Resistance and Capitalism:
a Conversation with David Harvey
Emanuele: You begin your book Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, by describing your experience in Paris during the 1970s: “Tall building-giants, highways, soulless public housing and monopolized commodification on the streets threatening to engulf the old-Paris… Paris from the 1960s on was plainly in the midst of an existential crisis.” In 1967, Henry Lefebvre wrote his seminal essay “On the Right to the City.” Can you talk about this period and the impetus for writing Rebel Cities?
Syria, Interrupted Game Change
by Jim Kavanagh
The recapture of Aleppo by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies marks a turning point not only in the conflict in Syria, but also in the dynamic of international conflict. For the first time since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the rolling imperial engine of regime change via American-led military intervention has been stopped in its tracks. To be sure, it’s certainly not out of service, even in Syria, and it will seek and find new paths for devastating disobedient countries, but its assumed endgame for subjugating Syria has been rudely interrupted. And in our historical context, Syria interrupted is imperialism interrupted.
Let’s remember where things stood in Syria seventeen months ago. After a four-year campaign, directed by the United States, thousands of jihadis in various groups backed by the US/NATO, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Israel, were on the offensive. ISIS occupied Palmyra, Raqqa, and swaths of territory, and was systematically raping, beheading, and torturing Syrian citizens and looting and destroying the country’s cultural treasures. Al-Qeada/al-Nusra had triumphantly poured into the eastern part of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city (and one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world), were beheading and crucifying their newly-subjugated Syrian captives, and were beginning their siege of the larger and more populous part of that city. Turkey had commenced military operations on Syrian territory against Kurdish forces (who had won significant victories against ISIS), and was enabling the transit of foreign jihadis into Syria and convoys of ISIS oil through its territory. Against these dispersed offensives, the Syrian Arab Army was undermanned and overstretched.
Essential Context about Trump’s Refugee Ban
by Alison Weir
President Trump has issued an executive order suspending entry to the U.S for people from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Yemen (the order is called “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”). These same countries were the focus of the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.”
Lies Promote Trump's Economic War Against Iran
Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's accusation that Iran's ballistic missile test violated a UN resolution is not backed by any evidence, and Press Secretary Spicer's allegation of an Iranian attack on a U.S. ship is a complete fabrication - Paul Jay interviews Ben Norton
If U.S. Cared About
Muslims, They Would Stop Killing Them by the Millions
by Glen Ford
Trump’s current ban on travelers affects nations that were already targeted by President Obama, “a perfect example of the continuity of U.S. imperial policy in the region.” The memo from State Department “dissenters” contains “not a word of support for world peace, nor a hint of respect for the national sovereignty of other peoples.
Secret Docs Reveal: President Trump Has Inherited an FBI With Vast Hidden Powers
by Glenn Greenwald and Betsy Reed
On Reality Asserts Itself
Bill Ayers joins Paul Jay to discuss his journey from an apolitical life to the militant group the Weatherman to social activism and organizing
Discontent with Politics of the Extreme Center Underlies French
Left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon could face a very popular right-wing candidate in Marine Le Pen; if victorious, he would find himself surrounded by hostile actors like how Syriza did when they took power in Greece, says Renaud Lambert
Black Agenda Report's Glen Ford says a progressive movement can't be build out of the pro-war, pro-CIA, and McCarthyite politics coming from Democratic leadership
A “Color Revolution” Is Under Way in the United States
by The Saker
A Russian joke goes like this: “Question: why can there be no color revolution in the United States? Answer: because there are no US Embassies in the United States.”
Funny, maybe, but factually wrong: I believe that a color revolution is being attempted in the USA right now.
Flailing Trumpsters Upset a Hijacked Nation
by Ralph Nader
The Trump Gang, hardly two weeks in the White House, is giving strong, petulant signals that it is hijacking the checks and balances of our democratic institutions. Coupling the Boss’s easily brusiable ego, marinated in infinite megalomania, with ideologues harboring objectives that would have frightened Nixonites and Reaganites alike, a runaway train is leaving the station.