The Future of Energy-Dependent Societies

Keith Hudson at Evolutionary Economics shares his perspective.

Is this realistic or pessimistic?

Link: Evolutionary Economics – SEX, STATUS AND ECONOMICS.

Despite the gloss that many economists place on apparently positive figures from quarter-year to quarter year, a great deal is patently going badly wrong in developed countries. ‘Recoveries’ in employment are nowhere near what normal growth in employment used to be. Official figures for unemployment disguise many more who are not registered for various reasons.

Somehow the whole forward momentum of the last 200 years has been lost. I suggest that what now appears to be an artificial assumption of status by means of consumer goods is now bumping up against real constraints in their supply and adoption in the present type of modern world. The way that modern societies have evolved — particularly in the form of super-metropolises, highly centralised governments, almost total separation of home and workplace and an increasing divide in the employment structure — means now that fully developed countries are now highly vulnerable.

For an increasing number of people in the developed world, a life of physical drudgery in former times has now become a life of psychological stress and, frequently, social isolation. But we will not be able to change our present system in a rational way. Given our over-large institutional systems with so much protective practice built into them, we can never do this. We can only be forced into it by dire circumstances.

What will finally put the tin lid on all this and bring about a change will be the continuing rise in energy prices. This will finally force us out of our present systems and built environment into entirely different forms of dispersed, more self-reliant patterns of living, working and governing ourselves in which in which status can have a more natural place in a community.