The most recent issue (#104, Nov/Dec 2012) of the always thought-provoking Adbusters magazine contains an editorial-style article authored by Micah White entitled World Revolution. Knitting together numerous developments from the United States to Chile, China and Greece, White posits that a ‘global revolution’ could soon be upon us. While the concept is somewhat hazily-defined, the general thread of the article appears to suggest that new forms of protest and activism are challenging even the most ingrained social, political and economic structures in a way that may engender a popular worldwide revolt with near-mystical consequences.
It seems dishonest to cast aspersions on the assertion that remarkable developments – the result of many factors, including advances in communications technology, sinking developed world economies and desperate levels of corruption (particularly though by no means exclusively in Mediterranean states) – are discernible. But White’s extolling of collapse-defined Spain as a model leaves us wondering once more how much leftist economic theory has advanced since the November 1989 collapse of the Berlin Wall: the emphasis on communal living, the substitution of hard currencies such as the euro for time-based currencies like the ECO, and Robin Hood-style raids on large supermarkets seem broadly familiar.
These are no doubt timely and perhaps even necessary measures for millions of people – including those members of the credit-bubble middle class who now face living out the rest of their lives as negative equity statistics – for whom the formal economy is practically an almost-fictional construct. But a largely barter-based economy hardly seems like the ‘replicable solution’ White claims it to be: the minute one cannot trade services (owing to say illness or old age), the system theoretically leaves a person far more vulnerable than under many capitalist models. Communal living may be perfectly acceptable at the age of 20, but preposterous to most at the age of 35 or 40. And theft from retailers – while understandable in the context of the risk of mass malnutrition facing large sections of the Spanish population – is a paradigm of unsustainable practice. If White’s article is at all representative of cutting-edge social theory, then the Occupy movement has to ask itself some serious questions.