This has happened before. It will happen again.

Every so often, the people have to rise up and shift the standard paradigm to a new state in order to be successful in the new cultural environment that has been created.Those occupying the top of the hierarchy are loath to make the necessary changes that these cultural environments require because of their uncertainty of the position they will occupy in the new environment.

This has happened before as our society makes a step-function shift to a new way of organizing ourselves – the Depression, the Gilded Age, the Civil War and the American Revolution. Each time, a new social balance allowed us to be successful in the new cultural environment created.

The inequalities today are more complex now so it does not seem as though as much is happening as did in the 1880s. I believe that is about to change.

Paradigm shifts from one world view to another can happen really fast. Nothing changes faster than a successful society that has to. 

This article is worth reading. Because the debate is on whether we are actually in the middle of a similar battle.

The Debate on the New Gilded Age
[Via Lawyers, Guns and Money]

I have pushed the New Gilded Age as a way to understand 21st century America and what it is reverting to for several years now. I think it is an apt comparison on many levels, with growing income inequality, corporate control over American society and politics, crushing unions, growing racial violence, etc. That said, obviously the metaphor has its limitations. No two periods are exactly the same or even that close to the same, especially when we are talking about 125 years ago. The differences are always going to be greater than the similarities. Yet reminding people of the similarities has significant value in both helping people understand what the heck is happening in the world around them and to help people learn about the past and how it is useful to them.

What’s interesting to me is how many people are now commenting on the New Gilded Age metaphor is a number of ways. Some of these are pretty worthless, such as saying that capitalists lost the Gilded Age. Oh, OK.

A couple of more useful discussions. First, the historian Heath Carter, arguing we are not in a new Gilded Age That’s because in the Gilded Age, Americans fought like hell against income inequality and today, the most prominent ideology actually supports the wealthy and doesn’t challenge capitalism much at all:


I think as we become more rapidly informed of what works and what does not the change will come faster than any one predicted. Remember how fast acceptance of gay marriage flipped from civil unions are the best approach to full same-sex marriage? There was a generation of battles before that happened but the final change was quick (although there are still skirmishes, we will not shift back to the older paradigm.)

I agree that we are on the cusp of some rapid changes. History will see Occupy Wall Street, Bernie Sanders and probably even the TEA party movement as nascent attempts to find a way to regain some equality. But we know that the demonstrations that worked in the 1880s do not work today. 

So it seems like nothing is getting done and nothing is effective. That is only because the distributed democratic approaches that will be successful  are also not simple. So we try different ones until one works.

Occupy Wall Street arose from the attempts of liberals to bring balance back to the system.The TEA party was originally similar attempts from conservatives.

Both were unable to be effective against their opponents on the Left and the Right who favor the current state of things. They had the wrong balance of top-down hierarchy needed for actions and bottom-up, distributed democracy needed for wise decisions.

But, as with any good experiment, failure is informative.

So now we have both Trump and Sanders as anti-Establishment leaders attracting people because the candidates appear to have a better balance of the needed processes.

Now Trump is actually pretending to be the anti-Establishment candidate because his whole life has demonstrated absolutely nothing like the balance needed. He only believes in his authority.

Sanders, on the other hand, has lived the exact sort of balance he is representing, getting things done and making wise decisions. 

I think what the Establishment may be missing – Sanders will appeal to many conservatives also. Because this battle will be won when conservatives and liberals come together to fight authoritarian hierarchy.

As it has every other time.

Image: Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose