Podcast: This Declining American Life – On the Shifting Terrain of Empire

Originally published on It’s Going Down

In this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we speak with two ongoing IGD contributors Peter Gelderloos and Scott Campbell about the shifting terrain of US empire globally as well as internally. Touching on everything from new global free trade agreements which seek to remove the United States from the equation, the continuing possibility of world nuclear war, as well as continued attacks at home on workers, migrants, and the poor, we look at life in the US one year under Trump.

But as we discuss the current terrain, our guests return again and again to the reality of declining US hegemony and power, as well as the question of what that means for humanity. The fact that we are living in a country that is losing both economic as well as military supremacy, both in terms of influence and control, is now not a controversial statement, but one of growing academic discussion.

For instance, a recent study from an economist at MIT found that the US economy is now on par with developing nations, in that it has an insulated elite class which is surrounded by a shirking middle class and growing contingent of potentially insurgent poor:

[A] two-track economy with on the one hand 20 per cent of the population that is educated and enjoys good jobs and supportive social networks. Mr Temin used a model, which was created by Nobel Prize winner Arthur Lewis and designed to understand developing nations, to describe how far inequalities have progressed in the US. When applied to the US, Mr Temin said that “the Lewis model actually works”.

He found that much of the low-wage sector had little influence over public policy, the high-income sector was keeping wages down to provide cheap labour, social control was used to prevent subsistence workers from challenging existing policies and social mobility was low. Mr Temin also claims that this dual-economy has a “racist” undertone. “The desire to preserve the inferior status of blacks has motivated policies against all members of the low-wage sector.

As capitalist civilization and humanity face ongoing crisis, we must ask if we can not only withstand what is to come, but also see possible opportunities for escape and liberation, as this system crashes in on itself.

More Info: Peter Gelderloo’s Worshiping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation and Scott Campbell on Twitter.

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