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Delong's book Slouching toward Utopia
post # 2628
The tone and intent of a project is formative - and illusive. In his new book, Slouching Toward Utopia, which is very interesting, nevertheless still is an advocate for a techno-finance world.
DeLong writes in many forms over and over, "Pull the world out of the dire poverty that had been humanity's lot" He treats "humanity" as including everyone, ignoring that the elite the bulk of the population wants is not refrigerates, important, but class, much more important. DeLong affirms the refrigerator and car for everyone rather thn a meaningful life where the bulk of the population has always wanted what the aristocrats already had/ It ends up affirming the wrong measure of the good life - consumers not citizens not court but Amazon, We have a money fetish, believing that enough money can buy anything.
The implication is that everyone was in dire straights and that the economic sphere was responsible for the pulling. This legitimizes more economic activity and growth,
But there were always rich among humanity that lived very well, in many ways better than the richest today (court culture and arts around the king were very interesting. Life on a yacht off the coast of Italy is not so terrific). If you were king or court food was extraordinarily varied and interesting. The daily scene of pomp and circumstances was complex and interesting and, above all, gave a fuller sense of the meaning of life than anyone has today.*
It was this life of the aristocrats that appealed to the rest of the population. Delong's incessantly repeating the theme that the economy made us better that gets in the way of a more profound sense of human well being that is post material but has been out of reach for most of the population.
Recent books like Wengrow and Graeber';s The Down of Everything brings together recent anthropological and archeological narratives of how much better off many were in earlier societies, better off materially and, yes, politically and socially, There was more sociability among the hunter gatherers in the field and around the camp fire than in modern suburban and urban life with its isolation from social contact.
Delong like so many economists like to use us numbers. For example average age at death as a meansure, but for part of the population (see the biographies of well know people such as the philosophers and political figures who live about as long as such people do now). Delong's implication is that what led to a good life did not exist before tech. The implication of Delong is that we should have more tech and more finance, but what created a good life for some, take for example medieval tapestries and court music, are left our of the plan for a better future.
The spread of a plush consumer life to the rest of the population has happened but only to a small number. Using figures like $2 per day income leaves out that much of the world lives ok on a zero dollar income - because they do not live in a money based economy but in a communitarian world of sharing. The reality for much of the world is being forced to move from relatively social village life to hi-rise dystopic alienation.
The good life is friends, family, arts, deep conversation, shelter (compare the modern apartment with life at court. I am not making a plea for a return to brutal class structures but to a better understanding that the good life is more social and cultural and less tehncial and financial.
see se Huizinga The Autumn of the Middle ages.