Hollow States (two kinds)

I don’t mean to make much of the Upwing/Downwing dichotomy. They can be understood in existing words but those words have a lot of political baggage. Better to use nonsense words if I’m going to imbue new meaning at all.

And, frankly/uninterestingly, both “teams” will have plenty of objectively significant events to cherry-pick in the near future, as signs of the bend in the road towards their presumed future. Thanks to accelerating wealth inequality,  libertarian triumphalist Diamandis can have his commercial spaceflight while technocrat/institutionalist Gates fights the forces of decay. Meanwhile, infrastructure continues to crumble and distrust in authorities continues to increase. People can and will [and do] go hungry in a world of free(-seeming) internet access.

From Ft.com’s profile of Bill Gates recently:

According to Diamandis, the Gates Foundation, with its focus on alleviating the suffering of the poorest, smacks of the early 20th-century philanthropy of the robber barons – men such as Andrew Carnegie and John D Rockefeller, who built and then milked monopolies before spending their later years doling out cash to worthy causes. The latest wave of techno-visionaries, he says, is focused instead on creating whole new industries capable of changing the world.

[…]

To Diamandis’s argument that there is more good to be done in the world by building new industries than by giving away money, meanwhile, [Bill Gates] has a brisk retort: “Industries are only valuable to the degree they meet human needs. There’s not some – at least in my psyche – this notion of, oh, we need new industries. We need children not to die, we need people to have an opportunity to get a good education.”

Below, more DownWinging. Probably, tomorrow I’ll post a little UpWing stuff since the material was forged recently anyway in a Facebook conversation with some friends.

 

Resilient Communities

Another DownWing writer I’ve enjoyed for some time is John Robb, an author I first encountered through links to one of his blogs, Global Guerrillas, where he talked about “open source warfare”, Strategist John Boyd, and a load of other interesting topics regarding “the future of conflict”.

He’s also the writer behind Resilient Communities:

To help you:

* find ways to locally produce the food, energy, water, and things you and your community need — in abundance.

* learn how to make a living, gain economic independence, and prosper in turbulent times.

* build a safe and secure life for you and your family by helping you build a more resilient community to live in.

Of course, these are not meant primarily as hobby skills. Long before forking off the Resilient Communities site, Robb outlined what he called the “Hollow State” on Global Guerrillas:

I coined the term, “hollow state” back in 2007.  The idea derived from what I was seeing develop due to open source warfare and primary loyalties.  Here’s a run down on what it means:

“The modern nation-state is in a secular decline, made inevitable by the rise of a global market system. Even developed nations, like the US, are not immune to this process. The decline is at first gradual and then accelerates until it reaches a final end-point: a hollow state. The hollow state has the trappings of a modern nation-state (“leaders”, membership in international organizations, regulations, laws, and a bureaucracy) but it lacks any of the legitimacy, services, and control of its historical counter-part. It is merely a shell that has some influence over the spoils of the economy. The real power rests in the hands of corporations and criminal/guerrilla groups that vie with each other for control of sectors of wealth production. For the individual living within this state, life goes on, but it is debased in a myriad of ways.  The shift from a marginally functional nation-state in manageable decline to a hollow state often comes suddenly, through a financial crisis.”

This early analysis was right on.  Four years on from the above and we’re seeing a rapid “hollowing out” of the developed nation-states.  So much so that nearly every nation in the developed world is in a debt crisis, cutting services, and losing legitimacy.

That was one-third of the post (the rest of it is about the crisis of capitalism).

John Michael Greer, the writer of the Archdruid Report that I’ve mentioned before, also has a resilience-type site, “Greenwizards.org“, built as a resource for appropriating technologies in a de-industrialized future.

 

Governing a (Different Kind of) Hollow State

Another paper I found that coined “Hollow States” meant it in a different (non Downwing) sense.

In the Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory, the Hollow State is vaguely more related phenomenon to the submerged state a state whose functions are not recognized by its beneficiaries as “government” functions. Milward and Provan’s Hollow State [warning: PDF] is a “metaphor for the increasing use of third parties, often nonprofits, to deliver social services and generally act in the name of the state.” The paper linked attempts to measure the government’s efficacy, and also raises the question of what effect third-party contractors have on the perceived legitimacy of the state.

Their use of “Hollow State”, instead of necessarily meaning an empty facade, was based on a 1986 Business Week article on “The Hollow Corporation”, about “a new organizational form that replaced internal production with a network of subcontractors.”