“To do that, we first have to free our minds of the state. We must lose the false assumption that the material advances made over the past 500 years — and anything humans might achieve in the future — could only have been made within the ambit of the state. Government — the institution to which civil rights leaders, civil libertarians, union organizers, feminist and LGBTQ activists, and immigrants seeking asylum have appealed for so many years to do the right thing and give them justice — is, ultimately, the biggest obstacle in their struggle. This is a hard truth for people who have lived their entire lives within the operating system called the state and cannot conceive of a pathway to justice that does not pass through it. Next, we need to devise ways to take back institutions like juries, schools, childhood and old-age benefits systems, and public or social housing so that they once again reflect the principle of mutual aid, creating autonomous services that provide for households’ essential needs rather than sanctifying the dominion of the modern state.”
“Other institutions and groupings that form part of the modern state furnish cultural and even paramilitary support to the social order, strengthen organized religion and reinforce racial and gender stratification: for instance, the extreme wings of the nativist Alternative for Germany; the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in India; and the American Legion, the Ku Klux Klan, the National Rifle Association, militia groups, the Proud Boys or the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States.”
By Eric Laursen, Roar Magazine
“The system” is back. And it is high time we talk about it again.
Fifty years ago, in the days of the Vietnam War, the counterculture and widespread questioning of government, a lot of prominent writers, not to mention day-to-day activists, used this bit of shorthand to describe the power they were fighting against. Today, in the era of dark money, neoliberal capitalism, police impunity and US American forever wars, we still need a way to think coherently about these problems, about the forces that produce them and we need to figure out how to fight back — without lapsing into some left version of QAnon.
In Robert Reich’s new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, the system is essentially an oligopoly of rich capitalists and business owners who abuse democracy to protect and expand their interests. In economist Richard D. Wolff’s The Sickness Is the System, published late last year, it is capitalism itself, which he says is approaching a terminal crisis point.
Naomi Klein, promoting her new book for young activists, How to Change Everything, does not offer a specific definition, but she names it over and over. “It’s the system literally just continuing to do business as usual that brings us to collapse,” she says, referring to the climate crisis. “The system itself is a failure. The system itself needs to change.”