Saturday, March 05, 2011

"like any addict, it continues to do the same things, while expecting a different result"

Speaking of Stan Goff, today he posted this piece at Feral Scholar, by way of introducing us to this article by Sierra Bellows at the University of Virginia Magazine. Stan says:
Meanwhile, unbeknown to most Americans, there are still 75,000 troops in Iraq – where yet another rebellion threatens to break out; Commander-in-Chief Obama continues to oversee a lost and cruel war in Afghanistan; the CIA continues its covert drone war against rural Pakistan; and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke has successfully reflated a financial bubble, ensuring that the next crash – coming to a theater near you – is even more traumatic than the last. Then, we’ll see more Yorba Linda-like lunacies, because this is what middle-classes do when they are frightened.

I believe what the Irish bard said was, “the center cannot hold.”

The empire, in a word, has become unmanageable, but like any addict, it continues to do the same things, while expecting a different result. We 12-steppers call that “insanity.”

At last, I’ll get to my point, and link the article that this is leading into. Empires always become unmanageable, because they are inherently “addicted” to the exploitation of peripheries. As those peripheries are exhausted, the core must continually seek further and further afield to satisfy its habit. This core-periphery dynamic is, in fact, not only a feature of empire. Empire is one manifestation of the same process – an ecological one at bottom – that we call “civilization.” Because no core can continually feed on a periphery without materially exhausting it, no core can go on indefinitely. It will eventually overreach, and at that point, it loses the ability to manage its own system – a system that turns out at the end of the day to have created a fatal dependency on that periphery, even as it has pillaged it.

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