Constant Conflict

Stasis                  -         Change
Security              -         Insecurity

Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder.

Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again — the fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love ... illusions. Only the ladder is real, the climb is all there is.

Dialogue from Game of Thrones

We have entered an age of constant conflict. Information is at once our core commodity and the most destabilizing factor of our time.

For the world masses, devastated by information they cannot manage or effectively interpret, life is “nasty, brutish . . . and short-circuited.” The general pace of change is overwhelming, and information is both the motor and signifier of change.

Those humans, in every country and region, who cannot understand the new world, or who cannot profit from its uncertainties, or who cannot reconcile themselves to its dynamics, will become the violent enemies of their inadequate governments, of their more fortunate neighbors, and ultimately of the United States.

We are entering a new American century, in which we will become still wealthier, culturally more lethal, and increasingly powerful. We will excite hatreds without precedent.

[…] States will struggle for advantage or revenge as their societies boil. Beyond traditional crime, terrorism will be the most common form of violence, but transnational criminality, civil strife, secessions, border conflicts, and conventional wars will continue to plague the world, albeit with the “lesser” conflicts statistically dominant. In defense of its interests, its citizens, its allies, or its clients, the United States will be required to intervene in some of these contests. We will win militarily whenever we have the guts for it.

There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe.

Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive. The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing.

The next century will indeed be American, but it will also be troubled. We will find ourselves in constant conflict, much of it violent. The United States Army is going to add a lot of battle streamers to its flag. We will wage information warfare, but we will fight with infantry. And we will always surprise those critics, domestic and foreign, who predict our decline.

[Ralph Peters]
‘Constant Conflict’, Parameters, Summer 1997, 4-14

Whatever the horrors of war in the nineteenth century it had limited goals and could be terminated by the states that waged it. That was the kind of war classically theorised by Clausewitz.

[…] As the control of war has slipped in some measure from sovereign states the world has not thereby become more peaceful; it has become less governable and yet more unsafe.

[John Gray]
False Dawn, p.75

Much of the workforce now lacks even the economic security that went with wage-labour. It exists in the world of part-time and contract work and portfolio employment in which there is no stable relationship with a single identifiable employer.

[…] In this new orthodoxy the role of national governments in overseeing their domestic economies through policies of macroeconomic management has been reduced to devising and implementing microeconomic policies, promoting yet greater flexibility in labour and production.

The corrosion of bourgeois life through increased job insecurity is at the heart of disorder capitalism. Today the social organisation of work is in a nearly continuous flux. It mutates incessantly under the impact of technological innovation and regulated market competition.

[John Gray]
False Dawn, p.71

The most clear-sighted and candid of the New Right’s thinkers defined progress as ‘movement for movement’s sake’.

Any genuine conservative must regard this as a prescription for purposeless change - in other words, as an expression of nihilism.

In its more concrete uses, which are doubtless the ones that matter to neoliberals, ‘progress’ denotes the incessant social change forced on people by the imperatives of free markets.

[…] The permanent revolution of the free market denies any authority to the past. It nullifies precedent, it snaps the threads of memory and scatters local knowledge. By privileging individual choice over any common good it tends to make relationships revocable and provisional.

[…] As Joseph Schumpeter, who saw this aspect of capitalism with unsurpassed clarity, wrote: ‘The opening up of new markets, foreign and domestic, and the organisational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as US Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation - if I may use that biological term - that incessantly revolutionises the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.

This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.’

[John Gray]
False Dawn, p.36-7, 195

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