Martin Gurri talks about elites who take a head-first dive into the 20th century. That's the way your conclusion reads to me. Your TL;Dr is that somehow the crisis of legitimacy will lift, we will go back to the 1958 equilibrium, and we'll live happily ever after.

Doesn't seem like such a likely scenario.

Expand full comment
Mar 8Liked by Brink Lindsey

For me one of the interesting things about this "crisis of legitimacy" is that it seems to extend practically everywhere and extend far beyond even today's stretched compassing of "politics". Democracy, sure. But also Catholic Church, FIFA, The Olympics, the New York Times, Major League Baseball, Tour de France, the current crypto winter, public stock markets after 2008... I'm sure everyone can add dozens more examples big and small.

I have my doubts that the world is actually more corrupt today than it was in the past -- though the rise of winner-take-all coupled with global markets and continued rising global wealth means the prize for clawing your way to the top is bigger than ever, so perhaps I'm wrong -- but it is hard to escape the feeling that we're in the middle of a decades-long realignment as the pervasiveness of news, phones in every pocket, and social media reshapes everything and our illusions from yesteryear crumble.

Can they be rebuilt when the dust settles?

Expand full comment
Mar 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

As always, many great insights in this piece. No doubt, we are experiencing a crisis in political legitimacy. But query if this is a part and parcel of a broader crisis of cultural legitimacy. Is the problem that government isn’t doing its part to deliver Abundance or that Abundance isn’t delivering what we hoped it would?

Expand full comment
Mar 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

If you haven't read Martin Gurri's "The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium", you really should.

Expand full comment
Mar 9Liked by Brink Lindsey

In my opinion, your layout of the symptoms of Capitalism is so astute but they remain in the shadows of the theoretical work out there that pushes a bit further than you seem willing to go—it’s like you’re on the precipice of a Left politics but not willing to go over it because you’re a libertarian. That intellectual line that theorizes that, despite it creating the type of growth Keynes imagined in the piece that underlies your project, Capitalism might actually be the cause of the social demise simply due to its nature. And also may be the cause of all the symptoms you painstakingly lay out in your pieces.

I admit I haven’t read all your essays, but at least the kickoff and a few others, including this one. I see reflections of the idea that the social output of Capitalism has become something uglier but there’s a hedging against this idea that maybe the ugliness is caused by Capitalism’s nature, in and of itself.

I welcome the correction and explicit description if I’ve missed something. Theorists like Wendy Brown, Nancy Fraser, Mark Fisher, Byung-Chul Han, Catherine Casey, Gilles Delueze, Herbert Marcuse, Martin Heidegger, etc. have done an incredible job of describing Capitalism as something beyond an economic system but rather an embodied way of affecting our being.

That neoliberalism’s world-making rationality focused exclusively on its drive to economize all features of existence, from democratic institutions to subjectivity, ultimately prepares the ground for the mobilization and legitimacy of ferocious anti democratic forces (Brown). That Capitalism has expanded beyond economics into an institutionalized social order requiring dominance over social reproduction, politics, and non-human nature (Fraser). That Capitalism is more like a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action (Fisher). That we now live in an achievement society where excess work and performance escalate into auto-exploitation and a subjugation of ourselves that causes massive burnout (Han). That in the corporation it is not only the personal time of employees that is appropriated but also their identities, a kind-of corporate”colonization of self,” where workers become ‘company people’ even at home where they cannot think about much else beyond their job or well-being in the firm (Casey). That neoliberalism has led us into a society of control where we willingly allow ourselves to be surveilled, sampled, evaluated, and harvested for data that sorts us (Delueze). That Capitalist civilization has to defend itself against a world that wants to be free, therefore our subjectively is more and more given to us by corporations that take our free time in exchange for money that we spend on commodities that don’t make us any more free (Marcuse). That by seeing our world and ourselves as resources to be exploited we have completely altered our way of being that gets us away from our authenticity (Heidegger).

There’s so much.

I guess I’m not trying to criticize, but to be critical in wondering where we go from talking about symptoms of society which you state well are alarming, to talking about the condition. This blog discusses so many symptoms of the broader failure, always skirting around it. Keynes cannot answer the question because he could never imagine the Capitalism of today. You keep massaging it but aren’t breaking through it.

Of course, there’s not absolute truth to discover, but the problem has been revealed for a long time now. You don’t have to be a Marxist to see it. I’m not.

Either way, thanks for sharing your thoughts so thoroughly.

Expand full comment

I think it’s more the third trend you observed. Cultural changes facilitated and accelerated by the internet mainly are causing the crisis of legitimacy. Government hasn’t really failed. But people have become more entitled, and they are being habituated and conditioned to react on impulse and make emotional decisions. The reason the rational legitimacy for our government began to erode right when the internet began, and it has been getting worse the more the internet has begun to alter social life, is because the internet blunts and dulls your rationality with sensory overload and encourages conformity. It sounds very cynical of me to lay the blame all on the masses themselves so to speak but it is their fault. Indeed it can be no one else’s so long as we believe people are personally responsible for their decisions, a precept of natural which we need to believe. I don’t even blame the technology, but the way people passively allow themselves to react to their environment, and because it’s easier to be passively entertained than know the truth, they submit to demagogy. They even actively will demagogy and anarchy, because it stimulates an overstimulated and thus chronically bored, chronically lonely personality. The reason it’s so baffling to centrists like us, is only because we aren’t addicted to the internet and alternative sources of information, as the masses are. And it’s hard to believe that most people can be this lazy and stupid, but they are and they always have been. The internet has caused us to return to our premodern primitive instincts, after modern assumptions of truth, reality and political order have withered and decayed because they proved not to be fun and exhilarating enough. Why don’t trump supporters care that he’s a liar? They know he is. But they don’t care. That he surprises the elites and offends the left over and over is too entertaining to give up. The reason we’re in a crisis of legitimacy has to do with twitter and fox news which panders to the loudest and most obnoxious voices and empowers them. There seems to be no way around this erosion of the belief in universal morals and objective truth until disaster strikes encouraging people to wise up. This can’t be fixed with money. We can’t just throw money at the working class like biden thinks. That won’t work. We can’t reshore and throw money at local communities. Or regulate the internet to control for misinformation. That will all make the problem worse. Half the reason people are so entitled is not because they’re poor and desperate but because they are being subsidized by big government and talked down to by it. I think leaving big tech alone and privatizing education and cutting welfare benefits, allowing people the liberty to be stupid and see how it works for them, and not subsidizing dependency, would help stem the tide. But how we can get to the point, where someone would make these reforms is the problem, because the system is hijacked by populism and their cronies.

Expand full comment
Mar 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

The permanent problem is greed. They just don’t know a good thing when they have it. A few decades of the thing they think will give them more is on the horizon. Since we in Canada love to copy America, I sure hope we see the cost/benefit before jumping in.

As one earlier comment mentioned “the dirty proles” I have to ad; the “dirty proles” will really behave crazily if they find out that everybody isn’t equal under the law. Could that be the thing that breaks the spell of democracy?

Mr Lindsey, as always your writing is incredibly interesting. The link to YouTube was awesome. Can you imagine what it was like for those poor buggers before the revolution?

Expand full comment
Mar 7Liked by Brink Lindsey

I am moved to comment half way through reading this. From where I'm standing in Europe (Ireland) I don't see "authoritarian populist parties' and not even in the UK which is the other politics I'm most familiar with. What I am seeing and feeling myself is a scary lurch towards authoritarianism in our centre right parties here in Ireland, typified most recently by their covid response (longest lockdown in Europe and not even an inquiry yet). They seem to have hitched themselves to the authoritarian green left like many in Western (as opposed to central/Eastern) Europe and that is why people are unhappy.

Expand full comment

These processes aren't unique to the US, but they are uniquely bad there. In Europe the recent news is mostly good. The examples of Trump, Putin have gravely damaged the far-right parties that supported them. Rather than radicalising, significant elements of the far-right (Meloni and LePen for example) have tried to move to the centre. At the same time, those events have (mostly) pushed the left and centre-left to unite, as in Germany.

That's from a long way away, and maybe I've got it wrong. But certainly in Australia, there's nothing like a crisis, just a general feeling of weariness with a system that works, more or less, but never seems to deliver very much.

Expand full comment

"I told people that if it came to that I’d crawl over broken glass to vote for Sanders"

Sanders thought the Soviet Union was a good idea. Trump did nothing that negatively affected my life for four years. You think he is the first dude with his personality type that's been president? That you could even contemplate voting for him over Trump shows a derangement and class loyalty that is discrediting to the core of who you are.

It was the same during COVID. Wasn't COVID the Libertarian Moment! And what did they do? Beltway libertarians either embraced the lockdown culture of their class or muttered on the internet but mostly went along and criticized anyone that tried to take real action against it (those dirty proles). Class loyalty trumped principle.

2016 didn't both me at all. COVID did (I include all of the wacky events of the two years, but COVID front and center). COVID was the first time I believed that "America" didn't mean what I thought it meant. That basic human rights I thought were inherently protected in my country simply did not exist. The idea that whoever held power didn't matter too too much to my life was shattered.

Only power existed. And only winning that power mattered. And the only loyalty anyone has to anything is the power of themselves and their group. Without power, you are not human, you have no rights, and people can take whatever they want whenever they want for any reason they want.

Don't like it? Didn't Biden point out that F-16s can bomb any citizen that resists.

Expand full comment

I think accusing the government of being Satanic pedophiles is too fringe for the counter-establishment at Fox News.

Expand full comment
Mar 7·edited Mar 7

The American Federal Government is a contradiction. At its founding, Hamilton & Jefferson fought bitterly over the role of the Federal government, with Hamilton for a strong, authoritarian government and Jefferson favoring a weak and benign system. Hamilton's ideas won but Jefferson and his political party proved more attractive to the people.

Lincoln, at the Gettysburg Address affirmed the populist view, declaring "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." All the while Lincoln was greatly responsible for centralizing the power of the Federal government and increasing its authority over people.

Since President Johnson and the 1960s in particular the Federal government has greatly struggled. The elite have made many bold promises on which they have made claim on the American people and their wealth to pursue. And they have failed, over and over

There is a crisis of political and institutional legitimacy precisely because the "elite" of American society have so demonstrably failed. The response to this failure is worrisome, for what we observe is people choosing to cling to their political tribe regardless of the evidence showing the lies and errors of the tribal leadership.

The response of the elite is to accept this loyalty and exploit it further. So we get no apologies, no public acknowledgement of wrong. No admission of error. But just dogmatic persistence of the same ideology that produced failure - and so we heap failure unto failure.

How does this not end but with social, cultural, legal, political and economic collapse?

Expand full comment