Saturday, June 25, 2011

Uprising - 2. Defining the Middle East Spring

News analysts have suggested that the recent departure of autocrats in Egypt, Somalia and Tunisia are an    "uprising." The detail is more interesting. What is happening in North Africa are uprisings of the privileged and elites who have not been allowed access to the benefits of globalization and development. This formation is not the same as that described by the uprising associated with proletarianization. That uprising would be the mobilization of the masses seeking total autonomy from established western legal structures.

The latter is the characteristic of jihad and its preferred social world. That is why jihad is so utterly powerful and bothersome - it offers an alternative model to the central tenets of western liberalism. The internet circulates this radical alternative on a global scale.

If proletarianization characterized the North African uprisings, few western democracies would be defending or supporting them. NATO would not be annihilating people in Libya under the pretense of democracy. There have however been aspects of proletarianization in the North African case - for example, the unknown quality and intent of the rebels in Libya. This suggests a mode of revolt that cannot be defined within pre-existing western definitions of government or management.

That is the point of the internet's relationship with proletarianization: it expresses and enhances unregulated aspects of human behavior. In seeking emancipation from the central control of Muammar Gaddafi's government, the rebels have positioned themselves against his Green Revolution, which was about not being "western." The rebels want to be free and in being free they want to be emancipated to be western. Unfortunately, it appears that the kind of "west" they have in mind in more in line with cowboys, not managed development. The latter was arguably achieved by Gaddafi's government. The question is: is the wild west being promoted by NATO and the US?

But the real question about he North African uprisings is how synchronous will the new governments be with the wests's interests? That is all that matters to the powers that be.

This should hardly be surprising. The most successful phase of western-style capitalism has been and continues to be cowboy capitalism. Its bastard offspring is crony capitalism with public subsidy capitalism driving the system for generations. It is not really capitalism at all, as the Chinese know... in fact, the Chinese are closely studying Marx's Das Capital. It is little wonder that they understand capital and its management, while the west continues to celebrate its cowboys. Look at which model is winning! But for the moment, freedom with minimal constraints, little or no regulation is preferred.

Proletarianization is a terrifying prospect for the western mode of thinking, because when it appears in formations such as the Tea Party in the US, it refuses to draw the veil of liberal deception across the public discourse. The internet is lifting the veil to reveal the cowboys, the cronies and the subsidized.

The "uprisings" in North Africa are the beginning of a continuation of  social movements informed and mobilized by internet media. People wanting emancipation now have access to the internet. Recent history has never been so unpredictable.