The Violence of Bourgeois Revolutions and Authoritarian Capitalism

Why is there so little understanding of the French Revolution? I’ve previously pointed out that, “More people died in the American Revolution than died in the French Reign of Terror. The British government killed more people in their suppression of the 1798 Irish bid for independence. The Catholic Inquisition in just one province of Spain had a death count that far exceeded the number killed in the entire French Revolution. In criticizing revolution, such counter-revolutionaries were defending colonial empires and theocracies that were more violent and oppressive than any revolution in history. For example, the Catholic Church, that ancient bastion of traditionalism and conservative morality, ordered the death of millions over six centuries. At least, a revolution is typically a single event or short period of violence. Oppressive governments can extend such violence continuously generation after generation.” (The Haunted Moral Imagination; for specific figures, see this comment)

That isn’t meant to rationalize violent revolutions. Still, let’s be honest with ourselves. Who started the French Revolution or else co-opted the revolutionary fervor? Sure, there were the bread riots involving the restless peasants who were starving to death, but that alone would not have led to revolution. It was primarily the clerical elite and landed aristocracy who wanted to wrench power away from what they perceived as a failed and incompetent monarchy in order to increase their own power. The Jacobins, and later on Napoleon, weren’t democrats, much less socialists or even populists. Those who gained control of the French Revolution, as the Federalists did with the American Revolution, were mostly the upper classes who were aspiring to be the new ruling elite — as conspirators, leaders and beneficiaries of what were, in Marxist terms, bourgeois revolutions (different than proletarian revolutions; some Marxists argue that bourgeois revolutions are what create capitalism whereas proletarian revolutions as a following stage of development that happens within capitalism itself after it’s been established, since the latter requires a capitalist working class, the proletariat, to exist before they could revolt). Many of these bourgeois revolutionaries, from Maximilien Robespierre to George Washington, were a variety of what today we’d call right-wing reactionaries, at least going by Corey Robin’s use of that label.

This was the soon-to-be capitalist class. They were radically and violently enforcing capitalism upon a feudal society or what remained of it. We forget that this was the bloody birth of modern economic ideology, following its earlier conception in imperial colonialism and the centuries of privatization/theft of the commons. The French Revolution had everything to do with capitalism, something that would not exist in its present form if not for Napoleon having overthrown all across Europe the despotic pre-capitalist system and local idiosyncrasies of common law, having replaced it with a well-regulated civil law and a common monetary system. This created the groundwork for a certain kind of modern capitalism that has ever since defined mainland Europe. British mercantilism was even more violent, based on a variety of evils, including but not limited to genocide and slavery. Those were among the main models of modern capitalism. If you’re against violent revolution and radical ideologies, then that means you’re opposed to capitalism as we know it. There is no two ways about this. It didn’t emerge naturally and peacefully but was imposed by revolution and empire.

From the Jacobin takeover of the French Revolution to its culmination in the imperial reign of Napoleon, it was a right-wing backlash through and through. It had nothing to do with democracy as mobocracy. It was mostly controlled by wealthy men who were the elite both before and after the revolution. Thomas Paine in the French National Assembly was ignored when he suggested that they should write a democratic constitution ensuring equal rights, including voting suffrage, to all citizens. The ‘revolutionary’ elite thought egalitarianism that included the masses was ludicrous. Don’t forget that Napoleon gave the land back to the former landed aristocracy. Instead of aristocrats, they were then capitalists. Instead of imperialism justified by monarchy, it was an empire built on capitalism. And instead of a king, there was an emperor. It was the same difference. The authoritarian power of the system remained quite similar. Millions upon millions of feudal serfs and foreign populations were sacrificed on the altar of European capitalism.

The rhetoric of capitalism has often used the language of revolution and reform, but in practice those imposing capitalism were less than idealistic. This includes Napoleon in his claims of a civil society where everyone was on equal footing: “Overall, the is no consensus amongst modern historians about the legacy of French and Napoleonic reforms in Europe. The view of Grab (2003, p. 20) that “On a European level, the main significance of the Napoleonic rule lay in marking the transition from the ancien régime to the modern era,” is a common one. Yet there is disagreement about this point, with some, for example Blanning (1989), arguing that reform was already happening and the effects of Napoleon were negligible or even negative. Grab himself notes that Napoleon was “Janus faced”—undermining his reforms by his complicity to the rule of the local oligarchs. He writes: “Paradoxically, Napoleon himself sometimes undermined his own reform policies . . . In a number of states he compromised with conservative elites, allowing them to preserve their privileges as long as they recognized his supreme position” (Grab, 2003, p. 23)” (Daron Acemogluy et al, From Ancien Régime to Capitalism: The French Revolution as a Natural Experiment). Then again, this “Janus faced” tendency remains true of capitalism to this day, such as how the American empire will argue for rule of law in one case while at the same moment elsewhere aligning with local oligarchs or, if the desired local oligarchs don’t already exist, then creating them. That duplicity and complicity is the defining feature of capitalist regimes.

Whatever you think of it, you can’t deny the result of these revolutions was capitalism. Napoleon was a visionary who sought to implement a continental-wide trade system that would make Europe independent. His was a different vision of capitalism than that of the British, but it was capitalism, maybe more akin to Thomas Jefferson’s vision as opposed the corporate hegemony and mercantilism of the British East India Company: “A vision of the peasant smallholder and modest bourgeois landowner – hard-working, self-sufficient leaders of tightly knit rural communities and small towns – to whom the ethos of his legal and financial reforms appealed so much” (Michael Broers, Napoleon was a European to his core – except when it came to England). These two visions, expressed as Federalism and Anti-Federalism, would struggle for power in post-revolutionary America, but what both had in common was the assumption that capitalism inevitably would be the new social order. Feudalism was decisively ended and, though proto-socialism had challenged the establishment as early as the English Civil War, no other alternative was able to challenge the dominance of capitalist realism until much later.

Napoleon was defending the new capitalist system. Yes, it is true that Napoleon was an imperialist, even if it was merely a variant of what came before. There was no conundrum in that. Capitalism, right from the beginning, went hand in hand with this revamped imperialism. This was seen with how colonial corporatism, indentured servitude, slavery, sharecropping, prison labor, company towns, etc were the various expressions of modernized neo-feudalism in carrying over some of the old practices and incorporating them into the emergent capitalism that was taking shape during that period and following it, although eventually many of these traces of feudalism would fade (e.g., the slave plantation and the company town, like the feudal village that came before, would prove to be less profitable than the hyper-individualism that destroyed community and consumed social capital; though feudal-style capitalism still seems to work well in countries like China where workers are locked into factories).

There were other elements during that revolutionary era. But genuine left-wing voices like Thomas Paine, they were silenced and eliminated. That was the case in both major revolutions, American and French, with Paine having failed to fully promote democracy in either one. His advocacy of a free society, a free citizenry, and free markets would not prevail. For the most part, the authoritarians won. In some ways, the post-revolutionary authoritarianism was less oppressive than the feudal authoritarianism. The reason the peasants were restless under the French monarchy is because they were starving to death and food shortages became less of an issue with the modern improvements and reforms of agriculture, trade, etc (when people did starve in the post-revolutionary era as they did in Ireland under British rule, it was done intentionally to weaken and eliminate the population, an artificially-created food shortage by stealing the food and selling it on the international market). But whatever you think of one kind of authoritarianism over another, the point is that it wasn’t left-wing ideology that came to rule in the United States and France, not even when the revolutions were at their height. Both countries sought their own versions of imperialism and attempted to spread across their respective continents, although one attempt was more successful than the other in the long term.

No rational, intelligent, and educated person could blame any of this on left-wingers. Even much of the so-called “classical liberalism” that came to define the capitalist class has since then been claimed by the political right, ignoring the more complex history of early liberalism such as that of the radicalized working class (Nature’s God and American Radicalism). The rabble-rousing left-wing of that era, limited as it had been, was so fully trounced that it took generations for it to regain enough force to be a threat later on in the 19th century (e.g., feminists). Capitalism won that fight, for good or ill, and it was a particular kind of capitalism, plutocratic and increasingly corporatist, mostly that of wealthy white male landowners. Those in favor of capitalism have to accept both credit and blame for what was created through that early modern period of violent revolution and brutal oppression. And, yes, the American Revolution involved a high death count.

The French Revolution was central to the rise of modern capitalism in its relationship to modern rule of law and well-regulated markets, as is rarely acknowledged. But admittedly, it was the American Revolution that was most fully led by a capitalist class, as the colonies were the site of the emergent capitalist mentality. The earliest British colonies, after all, were originally founded as for-profit corporations. That was something that had never before existed. That brand of capitalism, from that point on, would be marked by violence. That has been true ever since, as seen with big biz alliance with Nazis, Pinochet, Saudis, etc, not to mention the CIA overthrowing democratic governments to ensure that big biz can freely exploit foreign workers and natural resources. This continues with the wars of aggression in the Middle East for purposes of controlling oil fields, pipelines, and ports.

Within capitalism, the revolutionary is simply the precursor to the counter-revolutionary. But in a sense, all of modernity has been an ongoing revolution, a radical overthrow of traditional society, a piecemeal dismantling of the ancien regime, the elimination of the commons and the commoners. That revolution maybe is finally coming to its culmination, as there isn’t much left of what came before. The so-called creative destruction of this capitalist revolution, over the ensuing centuries, has consumed itself and what remains is transnational corporatocracy and kleptocracy, a brutal authoritarianism at a scale never before seen. The seed of that violence was apparent in those first modern revolutions. That isn’t to dismiss the genuine democratic reforms that followed in some cases, if less impressive than was hoped for at the time, but the democratic reformers of the revolutionary era could not have imagined how much worse authoritarianism would get. And with fascism returning to public imagination, I doubt we’ve yet seen the worst of it.

12 thoughts on “The Violence of Bourgeois Revolutions and Authoritarian Capitalism

  1. A tremendous amount of information in the post. a lot I agree with, some not so much and some quibbles.

    Will ponder and take in more coffee and respond at length but well done – context is always crucial and linking the present to the past is always helpful!

    • My thoughts here are half-baked. It was just something that came to mind. There is some kind of insight I was trying to get at. But I won’t claim to have it exactly right. I almost didn’t publish it because I didn’t feel confident in my analysis and knowledge of the historical details.

      It’s not that any given person, such as Napoleon, was necessarily trying to create a capitalist society or would’ve explained their own actions in those terms. It is sort of like how no one identified as a liberal until after the revolutions were over. And even though proto-socialism popped in the English Civil War, no one explicitly talked about socialism as far as I know until the 1800s.

      We can look back on the past and see things in terms of present understandings. This can possibly offer new perspective, but it can also be misleading. A basic thought I had was that the Cold War frame of capitalism being the opposite of radicalism did not apply to the revolutionary era, a period during which capitalism still had a radical edge to it. The second part of that thought is that it’s very hard to separate the radical and the reactionary.

      Still, I’m not entirely sure what to think of the early modern revolutions as capitalist projects. Nor am I sure what that might tell us about what capitalism was from the start and what it’s become since. Capitalism, like liberalism, is one of those labels that can mean many things. Anyway, if capitalism was radical and even revolutionary all those centuries ago, maybe it still is and maybe that is why it is hard to pin it down.

      Just thinking out loud. But I look forward to your contributions. Maybe you’ll help clear up my vague speculations.

      • No worries – nothing wrong with work(s) in progress.

        This is such a vast topic I’ll break posts down into (half baked) sections.

        First we need to excavate a history of the historiography of the subject.

        Most of America’s history of the French revolution is essentially, English history of France.

        The dominant narrative is English and conservative or reactionary in an anti-left vein.

        For the English 1789 is analogous to 1917 with Napoleon as Lenin-Stalin and, for example, Fouche (N’s chief of police) as Berria.

        In this narrative the revolution is by definition wrong morally, intellectually and historically with the actors either being fools or cynics.

        The goal is to offer a reason for post 1945 England to be adjunct and partner to the US.

        It is essentially a Cold War historiography of 1789.

        As you point out a crucial fact (a disrupting fact) is that more people died by hanging in the UK then by guillotine in France during “the terror.” but the industry (everything from Dickens to Master and Commander) dominate the Anglophone version and of course because of the dominance of the Cold War narrative.

        Within all of that you have the war between French right and left wing writers.

        An example is the issue of Napoleon granting amnesty to French royalists.

        This is generally portrayed as either cynical or cold blooded politics in the service of power or grandiose ambition.

        Those are factors and should not be dismissed.

        But the Ultras (the royalist refusniks) were being bankrolled by the Brits and were receiving support from Austria and Prussia and Dutch bankers/aristocrats.

        At the same time the Vendee (SP? an area in the South of France) had been in open revolt and was again simmering with assistance from the Brits and was a stronghold of Catholic aristocratic counter-revolutionary forces.

        During this same era the English engaged in what we would now call state sponsored terrorism – culminating in the “infernal Machine plot” – a bomb detonated in Paris just missing NB and killing around 40+ people.

        (The amnesty occurred prior to this but it’s of a historical moment).

        NB was faced with no good alternatives.

        A return to civil war was out of the question as a choice but was a consuming fear.

        War with the Ultras as proxies of the other powers was to be avoided (until it wasn’t) and a strong central if not authoritarian regime was essential because without it you’re back to civil war.

        as an example contemporary anglophone histories point to NB not granting universal suffrage but skip over how the English were not in favor of the vote and had NB granted the franchise the Brits would have treated him the same way they treated the Americans.

        This attaches to the demographic issues.

        The long small ice age was fading, crops were sketchy and there were a lot of people to feed.

        So for NB Inc an amnesty for the Aristos willing to come home was cynical but required as a means of splitting the opposition and placating domestic opponents and finding a way to merge the new money aristocrats and the old.

        Talleyrand the Kissinger of his era was old world aristocracy and NB and his family were minor minor nobility from Corsica.

        Most of N’s marshals were former peasants and in some cases street thugs.

        It was a kind of meritocracy which today’s historians tend to ignore as it was authentically radical.

        Of course then there’s the infamous kidnapping and execution of the Duc D’Engiene (sp?). Convinced he was engaged in a plot to overthrow the regime NB has him kidnapped (“rendition”;-)) “tried” and then executed.

        Talleyrand (in)famously said of it: it was not just illegal, it was wrong.

        Of course in a fevered atmosphere what does one do?

        Emphasis here on this all being very very cursory.

        The lit on this is library size of course.

        And so, out of all of this what is emerging is as you say a kind of proto capitalism.

        NB is a hybrid.

        A reactionary imperialist and a proto- Modernist establishing the first version of the professional bureaucracy.

        Among the radical innovations are the Bac or Baccalaureate – the “SAT” of France, property rights (which is clearly capitalistic but is a radical assault against the old regime and the church) the right to divorce, and various constitutionally protected freedoms – all subject to imperial whim and need;-/

        These in turn scared the piss out of the other empires – with as an example an aborted revolution in Ireland getting the English in a state of hysteria.

        A key text about this is Colonel Chabert which is also a great film with Gerard Depardieu.

        It’s based on an older story but in this version it’s about the war between the revolution and the restoration and the old regime and Modernity – which of course is feudalism vs capitalism.

        Chabert presumed dead in the war returns and his identity is in question – as a metaphor for who is and what is a citoyen – who owns property, who has rights, who “exists” and who does not.

        So, “Napoleon” as “tyrant” as “imperialist” as “gravedigger of the revolution” are all provisional and contextualized by the person building the frame.

        Apologies if this is a jumble.


        Speaking of Depardieu: there’s an epic film with him as Danton. Worth checking for. Famous Danton line: “Let us be terrible to prevent the people from being terrible.”

        He meant, bring “the terror” within the state machine so as to stop civil war and waves of revolution.

        Brutal of course but faced with the disintegration of the nation what were the alternatives?

        From this emerges a far more conservative system than Thomas Paine advocated.

        Crucially though, France was only 25 miles from England and I’ve often thought Jefferson would have been far less antagonistic to NB if England had been just off the coast of Virginia;-)

        • Thanks for the context and details. That is all good info. My post was mostly just something I tossed off as a somewhat casual thought. My interest was less in the revolutionary era itself. I was more thinking about what it says about capitalism today.

          You write, “Most of N’s marshals were former peasants and in some cases street thugs. It was a kind of meritocracy which today’s historians tend to ignore as it was authentically radical.” I came across info about Napoleon’s military. Most of the soldiers weren’t even French. It wasn’t merely an authoritarian power grab, but as much a continent-wide civil war.

          • Well not sure if “authoritarian power grab” is how I’d describe it though it contained elements of that.

            The crucial issue is to consider what were the alternatives – or viable alternatives.

            The “power grab” is contextualized by the alternatives – more Committee of Public Safety? A Bourbon restoration?

            Of course had the more radical elements won – say a Danton-esque cadre with Paine as Revolutionary Godfather, the English would have waged war all the same which would have provoked a save the nation “authoritarian power grab” 😉

            Where did you see that about the majority of the soldiers not being french?

            Conscription varied over the course of the era.

            A classic example of how these things get distorted is the numbers involved in the invasion of Russia.

            600,000 is the standard number but in truth the majority were garrison troops conscripted and left behind to safeguard lines of supply and such.

            And then non french troops fighting in the imperial army were “subjects of the empire” which of course is one of those politically elastic phrases that means whatever the powers that be want it to mean;-)

            Crucially the army of say the Italian campaign or the one sent to Egypt was very different from the one at Borodino in turn different in composition from the one at Austerlitz, etc.

            The “British” army in comparison at Waterloo was comprised of “Belgian” Hessians, and assorted others as well as English.

            Fairly typical for the era with mercenaries being common and “foreign” legions drawn from “territories of the empire”;-/

            My favorite old world example of capitalism is the saga of the Peruci and the Bardi banking dynasties from the 14th century.

            Have to write something about it eventually.

            It involves credit, defaults, banking, geo-politics, Mel Gibson and sheep;-) And no, I’m not kidding (pun intended;-))

          • “Where did you see that about the majority of the soldiers not being french? […] Fairly typical for the era with mercenaries being common and “foreign” legions drawn from “territories of the empire””

            It was typical of that era. Also, similar kinds of multiculturalism was seen earlier with the Axial Age and following with the Celtic trading communities, the Delian League, Alexandrian Empire, and Roman Empire. The colonial empires brought this to another level. The majority of the population in several British colonies were non-English. And in the American Revolution, there were the Hessians fighting on one side and French fighting on the other.

            Still, what Napoleon built with his own empire and military was different in that he consciously developed a pan-European identity. The closest earlier example would’ve been the Roman Empire when all the free people in Roman territories were declared Roman subjects and citizens. Napoleon, though, maybe embraced this larger imperial vision more than previous imperialists.

            The rhetoric of imperialism, as with capitalism and liberalism, often is total bullshit. But to some extent Napoleon’s pan-European solidarity was genuinely believed, even if it made for a convenient rationalization for doing what authoritarian power had always done. I’m not too quick to dismiss it as merely rhetoric. The old feudal kingdoms and monarchies were breaking down, and a central cause of that was the attraction of this new kind of inclusive and extensive identity.


            “He summoned the best minds and talents from all over Europe into his service, and his court was deliberately peopled with able young men – rising stars – from all over the lands of his vast hegemony: Dutch, German, Italian and even Polish “auditors” worked in the highest offices of his imperial civil service and served – often with valour and distinction – in the ranks of his Grande Armée.

            “His bodyguards were Egyptian cavalrymen, the Mamelukes, whose families he settled in Marseilles and looked after personally. He was escorted by Polish lancers when he fled the field at Waterloo, and over 2,000 Polish troops assembled to fight on with him after his last battle. His second wife was Austrian. His dearest mistress, Maria Walewska, Polish. Napoleon’s youngest sister, Pauline, was the godmother to Camillo di Cavour, the future unifier of Italy and Cavour’s great friend and mentor, Cesare Balbo, was one of Napoleon’s “auditors” in his Council of State, the nerve centre of the Empire.

            “His vision for that empire was of greater and deeper union and the core of his hegemony bore a striking resemblance to the boundaries of the original European Economic Community. An autocrat and a warmonger Napoleon may have been, but he was a European to his core. Except when it came to England. […]

            “His troops were citizens, not subjects; they were free men, doing their duty, not mercenaries, Napoleon trumpeted to his enemies. Unwilling conscripts the mass of his army may have been; they may have been hauled to their depots by brutal, cruel force, but – although conscripts – they were not slaves.

            “The French soldier was not a Prussian or Russian serf. He was not flogged excessively at the random whim of an aristocratic officer who saw him as chattel, for that officer, however brutal, was not his social superior. Flogging was abolished, and Napoleon declared how much better this made his army than the British, where discipline was as savage as in the feudal east.

            “The raw French levies – soon joined by Italian, German, Dutch, Belgian and Polish – were not the dregs of society, criminals who had been scoured from the prisons to fill the ranks: “The armies of the Republic (before he came to power) did great things because they were made up of the sons of tenant farmers and good small holders, not of rabble, because these men took the place of the officers of the old order,” Napoleon said in his memoirs. Britain’s reliance on convicts and mercenaries was a sign of degeneracy in his eyes.

            “However idealised a picture Napoleon painted of his soldiers on St Helena, his armies were undeniably pan-European. As I describe in chapter three of the second volume of my biography, Napoleon. The Spirit of the Age, following the shattering of his VII Corps at the battle of Eylau in 1807, when that corps was rebuilt, it now included only one French division.

            “Its real lifeblood was two Polish and two Italian divisions, alongside units from Baden and Saxony. The Grande Armée had taken its first official step to becoming a truly European army, although conscripts from Italy, western Germany and the Low Countries had been serving under French colours many years earlier.

            “Nor was Napoleon alone among Europeans in his innate antipathy to England. […] Britain was a problem for many Europeans, not just the French, and Napoleon gained considerable support for his plans to choke off British imports. He failed spectacularly, because then – as now – the British economy was too intimately linked to most European countries for the ties to be shattered. That did not stop many Europeans resenting British competition and hoping a powerful France could drive out the powerhouse of the industrial revolution.”

    • I wonder. When was the first time a word like ‘capitalist’ was used? And when did the bourgeois become an actual social identity? Here is one aspect. The early modern revolutionary period wasn’t only a change in social and political thought but also economic thought.

      Consider the emergence of a capitalist class that initially overlapped with the old aristocracy. The colonial elite descended from aristocracy, but they were starting to lose some of that identity. They were the descendants of the younger sons of aristocracy and so were looked down upon by the aristocracy back in England.

      Also, there was an observation from, I think, Emma Georgina Rothschild’s Economic Sentiments. She pointed out that earlier it had been considered distasteful to speak of economics publicly. It wasn’t something respectable people did and it had no part to play in politics. Financial issues, including on in government, were taken care of privately.

      The rise of commercial society changed everything. That began centuries earlier, but the deeper cultural shifts required the violence of revolutions. There was great reluctance initially in embracing capitalism, as it undermined and destabilized the ancien regime.

    • I probably could have used more clear examples. George Washington was fairly committed to being an aristocrat. Maybe a better example might be Thomas Jefferson. In the latter part of his life, Jefferson was turning to the role of capitalist in attempting to industrialize his plantation.

      That colonial aristocracy, Washington included, was forced to create a new social identity or at least justification for their position. One remaking of class status was that of an enlightened aristocracy that had lost its hereditary ties with the end of primogeniture laws.

      This opened ‘aristocracy’ in a direction more open to that of being a paternalistic expression of a capitalist class. Interestingly, the enlightened aristocracy, unlike the feudal aristocracy, was defined by being independently wealthy. What made that interesting is that almost none of the colonial aristocrats were independently wealthy.

      Benjamin Franklin who worked his way into the capitalist class was one of the few founding fathers who actually was independently wealthy. So, someone like Franklin who began his life as working class with a trade and educated himself came the closest to being an “enlightened aristocrat,” by that particular definition.

      • Very interesting distinctions. It makes me wonder if capitalist in that era was more a reflection of new technology leading a change in perception or was it a change in perception that pushed for new methods leading to changes in technology etc?

        But then we’re back into issues of demographics and things like: more people means more roadage means more travel means more commerce means more people and do we say the road is the issue or the people or are they distinctions without a difference?

        Been a while since i read up on TJ.

        I’ll add it to the infinite list;-)

        • We have a particular notion of what capitalism means today. But it the emerging concept of being a capitalist might’ve been quite different before it settled into the framework of industrialized corporatism. And maybe it could’ve become something else entirely.

          Even Paine was arguing for a kind of capitalism, if not the variety that came to dominate. Still, Paine’s vision of a free market as expression of a free people in a free society is still used as rhetoric. There was also a strong anti-corporatist edge to early capitalism that is entirely forgotten now.

          • It is a curious situation. Capitalism as it is thought of now and for the last 100+ years is distinct from what the late 18th century conception must have been.

            The technological changes taken for granted in our era are as far from 1776/89 as they in turn are from the stone age.

            A voyage from the UK to the american colonies took around 6 weeks – depending upon the weather where as of course you and I can communicate instantly across hundreds of miles via what as recently as the early 70s Hunter S. Thompson called the Mojo wire – to convey the “magical” qualia of electronic communications.

            I used to take the metro into Old Town Alex, VA, and passed the airport. On some days the metro took a route that passed the excavated remains of old homes from circa 1700+

            It was a stark contrast between the modern airport and the world as it must have been – the quiet, the slowness, the all pervasive sense of elongation and the primacy of the individual.

            The rise of the industrial age began a process of enclosure for the individual and with that a profound change in the conception of “normal” emerged including a change in organization of production – a change in the relationship between the increasingly diminished individual and the means of production;-/

            “A lost capacity for wonder”;-/

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