by Charles Hugh-Smith

Some decades are easy and long, others painful, but necessary to lay the foundations for future progress.

Many people reject the idea of ​​historical cycles because of their inaccuracy. I understand the appeal of this objection, but it is nevertheless surprising that transformative decades tend to manifest themselves cyclically rather than evenly over time.

Compare the decades of the past 70 years: 1952 to today. How different was the US culture and economy between 1952 and 1959?

Despite the progress in civil rights and prosperity, the zeitgeist (look, feel, values, expectations, beliefs, outlook, mood, etc.) of 1959 was not much different from 1952: clothes, movies, the Cold War, segregation, etc. were identified in the same era.

Elvis, Chuck Berry and others. revitalized popular music, but the overall influence of rock/R&B was limited to entertainment and youth culture.

Now compare the zeitgeist of 1962 and 1969. The zeitgeist of 1969 was not like the zeitgeist of 1962. Not only clothes and music have changed; values, expectations, beliefs, worldviews, moods, and political, social, and economic structures were transformed in ways that resonated for decades to come.

The 1960s weren’t just tumultuous; the decade was transformative. Civil rights, feminist, and environmental movements have changed laws, values, culture, politics, society, and the economy. From an economic point of view, the stagflation of the 1970s was a consequence of the changes that took place in the 1960s, largely those under the surface.

In 1969, the popular music of fifty years ago (1919) could just as well have been the music of the last century. Yet here in 2022, music from the late 1960s and early 1970s is still being listened to, bought, and influenced today, 50+ years later.

Cycles are often the result of interconnected forces wars, economic upheavals, energy/food shortages, and large-scale economic and social forces: the shift from wood to coal, for example, or mass immigration caused by crop failures and poverty.

The 1920s is another example of a decade of rapid transformation that laid the groundwork for the Great Depression of the 1930s. The new freedoms of personal expression made the 1920s look and feel different from the era immediately following the First World War of 1919-1920.

The 1870s were another decade that changed economies and societies around the world. The railroad investment boom after the end of the American Civil War, the reparations imposed on France after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the stoppage of the silver coinage in the United States, the speculative stock market boom in Europe that collapsed as a result of the Panic of 1873 – all these dynamics intensified. each other, leading to a global depression that, according to some accounts, continued into the 1890s.

Yet despite the collapse of the railroads and banks, as well as widespread unemployment and suffering, the Second Industrial Revolution continued to transform the economy as coal, iron, steel, manufacturing, transportation, and urbanization changed the foundations of the global economy.

Industrial expansion by Western powers led to colonization, and reactions to colonization, such as the Meiji Restoration of 1868, changed Japan.

Of course, we can see changes in every decade of human history, but Lenin’s famous exaggeration (“There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen”) speaks of how different dynamics accumulate under the surface, interact with other forces , and then exploded.

Could the world of 2030 look and feel very different from the world of 2022?which still clings to excesses waste is the growth of the Landfill Economy extreme financialization and globalization?

I guess so. Previous cycles have resulted from financial surpluses either expansion or contraction, the consequences of wars, profound economic changes associated with the expansion of energy sources (switching from wood to coal and then to oil) or contraction (depletion of forests), and climate change (“years without summer”) » in the 1630s, etc.).

Although many believe that the next expansion of energy (thermonuclear or other nuclear energy, solar and wind) is beginning, the practical aspects of physics, resource depletion and cost hardly support these predictions.

For example, the US will need to build hundreds of nuclear reactors in the next 20 years to reduce hydrocarbon consumption, but only two reactors have been built in the last 25 years.

There is no evidence that the resources, material and financial, as well as the political will, needed to build 500 reactors in the next 20 years are available.

If large amounts of wind and solar are installed over the next 20 years, all systems that are 20 years old will need to be replaced as they wear out. They are not renewable, they can be replaced.

So we are facing energy contraction at the same time as the extremes of financialization and globalization that have led to expansion.

This unraveling will not be linear, i.e. gradual and predictable. It will be non-linear and unpredictable, with apparently modest changes disrupting supply chains and speculative excesses.

Extremes of inequality and repression act as pendulums. As soon as they reach the maximum endpoint of momentum, they turn around and draw a line to the opposite extreme with little friction.

Many of these dynamics are already visible. What is not yet visible is the rapid acceleration and mutual reinforcement of these dynamics.

Eras of expansion can be liberating and fun, but there is no guarantee that the liberation and fun will be evenly distributed.

Eras of downsizing are rarely fun, and unhappiness is widespread. Whether we like it or not, the era of waste is the growth of the Landfill Economy ends in what promises to be a non-linear process.

But this does not mean that the final result will not be positive. Violent transformations can create the foundation for greater prosperity and liberation. Some decades are easy and long, others painful, but necessary to lay the foundations for future progress. What will be the years 2022-2030? Stay tuned for updates.

The music of the late 1960s was very different from the music of 1962 – let alone 1952 or popular music fifty years earlier in 1919.

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