For more than three years now, the themes of these online essays of mine—here, and in my previous blog The Archdruid Report—have had a relatively tight focus on the events of the present day. That hasn’t been accidental by any means. In 2016, strains that had been building for years within Western industrial civilization burst out into the open, upsetting a great many political and cultural applecarts and standing the conventional wisdom on its head. I trust I don’t have to whisper the words “Brexit” and “Trump” to make my point.
None of that was a surprise to those who understand that history is a circle and not a straight line, that civilizations have a life cycle and similar events occur at corresponding points along the great arc of rise and fall. Oswald Spengler, for one, wrote about the events splashed across recent headlines more than a century ago in the pages of The Decline of the West. He noted with dry Teutonic amusement how democracy turns into plutocracy as soon as the well-to-do learn to use money to manipulate the political system, how this leads to the rise of clueless elites too busy lining their pockets to notice what the policies that enrich them are doing to the rest of society, and how ambitious men—as often as not from within the plutocratic class—realize they can rise to power by championing the cause of the deplorables of their time.
Spengler called the charismatic populism that results from this process Caesarism, after one of the more memorable examples of the species. (It’s a running joke here on Ecosophia to refer to our current American example as the Orange Julius.) The conflict between institutionalized plutocracy and insurgent Caesarism, Spengler showed, is an inescapable historical event once a society finishes its millennium or so of growth and settles into its mature form.
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