Are we headed for a world of corporate feudalism?
World Systems Analysis
In terms of world systems, I've been analyzing the whole of it now from an ecological model, rather than through economic theory, because it appears to me that a wide range of environmental problems are approaching an ecological crisis point.
A couple of blogs back, I brought up the notion of levels of succession with what ecologists identify as r-selected species for low succession eco-systems and k-selected species for high succession eco-systems. I correlated the concept "species" with the different types of cultural adaptations that can be characterized as human societies. In that sense we can see, from studying ranges of societies through social sciences like anthropology, that human culture itself is an adaptive mechanism in the same way that genetic endowments of species are. Once we've analyzed the features, we find that the variation among societies can be categorized in terms of their eco niche features, much as we do species.
In that blog I correlated the r-selected species with features of neoliberal capitalism-based societies. I'll offer one of the better write-ups on neoliberalism I've found on the web below to clarify what I mean by neoliberal capitalism.
Wallerstein, along with Gunder Frank, provided what I consider an attractively sophisticated analysis of the evolution and spread of world capitalism with the intertwining of differentiated global societal relationships. That debate has evolved, now, in the Twenty First Century, to one that addresses limits to growth issues in very starkly real terms.
That issue might be phrased this way: The question for today is, given that one hundred years ago most nation state policy makers would probably have concluded the world could sustain several economic life spaces based on the capitalistic economies that were considered predominant, what can the globe sustain of the system we see evolving now? And the answer, now as then, depends on the issue of technology... but technology writ large, not as mere technique, but as the broad system of organizing the processes of providing material support for society."
I approach that question more consciously now, given my own study of environmental issues, in terms of recognizing that energy as the primary ingredient to the technology issue, as the transformation of energy in an eco-system is the primary ingredient to life. Most of the technology in the world has evolved in relation to fossil fuels. When the energy sources in a given eco-system are few, that is one way of identifying a low succession eco-system, and one that is unlikely to be balanced and stable.
I would say the global economic system right now is aimed at maximizing the technology involved with that low succession form of energy consumption. I think whatever we want to consider about the notion of "economic life zones" is predicated on recognizing that. But it would seem to me that the globalizing neoliberal principles involved in the policymaking of the major developed nations are geared to allowing that recognition.
I would hazard a further suggestion and say that whether peak oil has already occurred, or whether it won't occur for a hundred years, the current neoliberal strategy of attempting to maximize a kind of democracy based on neoliberal principles is headed for the same kinds of unstable adaptational constraints characteristic with all r-selected species eco-systems.
I would suggest that free market ideology may be more of a religion designed to overcome, in a fundamentalist way, questions raised to the eco-sanity of that economic philosophy, which in that sense "almost" puts it in the category of a religion.