about us       copyright 2011                    www. projectworldview.org             home 

Welcome to project Worldview's Worldview Watch
periodic commentary and analysis on news items from a worldview perspective

 previous issue                                          issue #17,  posted 4 /2 / 2011                       archive of all  issues

 Disaster Capitalism and Class Struggle

in the newsBack in September, 2008, as the American Congress contemplated bailing out Wall Street and the survival of capitalism supposedly hung in the balance, Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, warned, "Whatever the events of this week mean, nobody should believe the overblown claims that the market crisis signals the death of ‘free market’ ideology."  She says that crises "are very, very handy, because you can say we have no choice...the sky is falling in." Klein and others charge that an affluent, greedy, powerful few are increasingly using both manmade and natural disasters or fear of them, to force changes on the frightened, less fortunate, often powerless, many--changes that will bolster their position in ongoing class warfare.
     One might argue that in the USA, until recently,  no one talked about class struggle.  It was seemingly a topic buried with the end of the Soviet Union,  the Berlin Wall, Marxism, etc. a couple of decades ago. Then Warren Buffett, in lamenting the massive transfer of wealth in the USA from the poor to the rich in the last three decades and arguing that he and other billionaires should pay more in taxes, was quoted as saying, "There’s class warfare, all right...but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Now Market Watch's Paul Farrell, apparently distressed by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's war on public sector unions and Michigan governor Rick Snyder's hiking taxes on seniors and the poor by $1.7 billion in order to give corporations a $1.8 billion tax break, refers (in a recent article) to the class struggle as a "civil war."  And North Carolina State University professor Michael Schwalbe, in answering students who question whether class struggle exists, writes, "Class struggle is going on all the time in every major institution of society. One just has to learn how to recognize it." 

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org): Assuming such class warfare exists, one can attempt to identify the major themes in the worldviews of the combatants. Here's my quick reckoning of this:

WV Themes Important to the Anti-Democratic, Greedy Rich WV Themes Important to their Opponents
#43   Seeking Wealth & Power #24   Struggling With A Basic Need: Sustenance (for some) 
#20A  Elitism #21A   Populism 
#20B  Authoritarianism #31   Education for Democracy
#2B   I Know What's Best For You

#48   The Cooperative, Decentralized Society Advocate  or

#19 Economic Individualism  and / or  #49A   Social Welfare Statism   or
#22 Expansionism #49B Socialism

Assuming this is a (as yet, non-shooting) war necessitates that each of these opposing worldviews value and is actively Working for Change (theme #35B)With disaster having occurred or looming, and the emergency prompting talk of suspending democratic niceties, those in charge of cajoling or bullying to get concessions need a The Threatening Person (theme #29B) mentality. 
     Klein's and Farrell's assertion that wealthy capitalists are trying to use disasters to advance their agenda suggests that we examine how each side values another worldview theme:
Apocalypticism (theme #9B).  Shearing this theme of any religious connotations leaves belief in and potential fear of "some catastrophic event after which life won't be the same." While I can't dispute the numerous examples of the powerful using disasters to their advantage that Klein's book provides and subsequent history offers, I think that if they are seeking to truly "win" the class struggle, the affluent are playing with fire--and courting a really big disaster.  It seems the "haves" would fear apocalyptic events much more than the struggling desperately poor "have nots," who have little to lose. Certainly this is the case if the apocalyptic event is a revolution, triggered by feelings of "we have nothing to lose" and hopelessness, that overthrows the existing order.  Certainly the powerful are smart enough to leave the less fortunate a few crumbs so that they won't revolt and bring the sky falling in on them?  Examples of that happening? In the revolutionary turmoil of 2011 sweeping North Africa and the Middle East see recent actions of the Saudi royal family.  

Note: For a somewhat different perspective on related topics see: Worldview Watch issue #10: Technology, Disasters, and Moralistic Apocalpyticism.        

Your Comments -- email them to us, put Worldview Watch #17 in subject line click here