17 October 2020

Violence, instability to spread in the US - election result won’t matter


In 2016, the late leading US sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein wrote of a problem of growing instability in the US

We are used to thinking of instability in states as being located primarily in the global South. It is about those regions that pundits and politicians in the global North speak of “failed states” in which there are “civil wars.”

The late sociologist noted the “golden era of U.S. dominance of the world-system began to come undone circa 1970 and has been unraveling ever since, and increasingly.”

On protests and the formation of anti-government forces in the US, Wallerstein’s commentary tells us:

The problem is that both the federal and local governments are unsure what to do. They “negotiate” for fear that asserting their authority will not be popular. But when the negotiations fail, the government finally uses its force. This more extreme version of action may soon spread. It is not a question of moving to the right but of moving towards more violent protest, towards a civil war.

All this time, the United States has been truly losing its authority in the rest of the world. It is indeed no longer hegemonic. The protestors and their candidates have been noting this but consider it reversible, which it is not. The United States is now considered a weak and unsure global partner.


It should be noted that this commentary from 2016 was authored before Donald Trump was elected as president. Even during Obama’s years in office, the US was in a steep decline, falling out of favor with its allies.

The US may not be faced with civil war as a result of some specific crisis following the election this year, as suggested by many. However, there should be no doubt that the social conditions leading political violence and disintegration are growing in the United States and unlikely to be affected by any election.

In an earlier commentary in 2015, Wallerstein had concluded that the prevailing policies of a state do not change even if radicals or outsiders are elected. Referencing seemingly disruptive election results in Europe, he stated, “in the end neither the geopolitics of the country nor the middle-run economic options of the country seems to have changed”.

This does not mean people should refrain from voting, but it does mean no-one should expect real change as a result of just casting a ballot. The same pig putting different-colored lipstick on doesn’t bring about fundamental change. – ClubOfInfo

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