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03/02/2015

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Jim

"These remarks apply only to large, complex industrialized human societies."

I think you can take out "industrialized" in that, too. Your description here could really apply to any large, complex human society, which by default involves cities. There was a recent news article that is relevant to this:
http://www.livescience.com/49886-ancient-cities-urban-scaling.html

I bookmarked this a few years back, too (page 2, similar theme):
http://discovermagazine.com/2012/oct/21-geoffrey-west-finds-physical-laws-in-cities

Our particular form of complex civilization (labeled 'capitalism') is unique in that it appears to be exceptionally aggressive in the pace of growth. I generally think that current capitalism arose because of vast new areas of resource availability (mainly the discovery of the New World, to be followed by fossil fuel exploitation, followed by rapid technological innovation) and a debt-based, highly financialized form of market economy was required to manage it. This form of a market economy has aggressive growth as a requirement to function because it grew up around that expectation, and it was there in abundance for centuries.

Communism saw the gross inequality inherent in this form of market economy and tried to create a new form of a complex society marked by greater equality, only to find that inequality reinstated on perhaps a greater level and a much more sluggish form of growth - which perhaps is a big reason why communism as a form of complex society has largely failed (Russia) or been abandoned (China).

All previous complex societies have hit limits to the variables you've described, and have either collapsed, been absorbed or conquered by other complex societies, or more slowly reverted to less complexity.

People like Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben really do have their hearts in the right place, but they can't see the larger picture for whatever reason. We actually can't end our form of market economy called capitalism without collapse, even if, as they recognize, continuing it will inevitably result in collapse anyway. The very few who really care and are upset about our current trajectory, and who really want to do something about it, essentially only see a part of total problem, and thus their 'solutions' are either completely hallucinatory or completely ineffective, and the vast, vast majority see these few people as wild-eyed radicals. As a society we much prefer our iPads to some vague and currently immaterial future difficulty, and the lies and half-truths couched in optimism are our way of coping.

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