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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  271 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows  ·  

So sample from this list. Broad generalization, not always true, but civil wars are generally fought across three divides:

- Ethnic. My people hate your people and have always hated your people. This covers Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Yemen, Ethiopia, Angola, most of the "places you barely know about and would never visit" wars.

- Ideological. Your way of running the world and my way of running the world are utterly incompatible. This covers Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, places the US sent troops in the name of domino theory.

- Economical. Your use of capitalism and my use of capitalism are mutually exclusive. These wars are exceedingly rare. I can only think of one.

In my lifetime, the "proper" way to discuss the Civil War has shifted from "it was obviously about freeing the slaves" to "it was obviously about the economic repression forced upon the Southern States by mercantilist Northern industrialists" to "it was obviously about freeing the slaves who also weren't truly freed and anyone who says otherwise is a racist" in no small part because the only logical conclusion of the actual facts on the ground is "unfettered capitalism does grievous harm to humanity." Kinda like how we talk about the vast open unsettled spaces of the American frontier rather than the multiple civilizations we wiped out through targeted genocide in order to make them appear wide open.

I bring this up because you learned about the Missouri Compromise without learning why because history teachers aren't allowed to teach "our current system was bad, is bad and is likely to continue to be bad" their best bet is to lay the facts at your feet and hope you twig to enough of the clues that eventually you'll look shit up for yourself who am I kidding 99% of them don't know either. Look:

- The economic system of the northern (manufacturing) United States was "rich people own factories, poor people work until they're dead or useless at which point we cast them aside and they can either beg on the street or hope they've had enough children that they'll be tended to in their nasty, brutish and short old age."

- The economic system of the southern (agricultural) United States was "rich people own plantations, they also own the people who work on those plantations and if they're kind plantation owners the lives of the people they own will be marginally better than the lives of the people the northern industrialists hire."

- The social system of the northern (manufacturing) United States was "rich people own everything, if you're lucky you'll get a job so you'll have a roof over your head."

- The social system of the southern (agricultural) United States was "rich people own everything including, maybe, you, and if they don't, hardscrabble subsistence farming is pretty much what you got but you're too uneducated and primitive to know the difference, hey look it could be worse you could be black and in chains."

So the Missouri Compromise? Was fundamentally "do we let the economic and social system of the north expand or do we let the economic and social system of the south expand." The North can't make money if employees are free, the South can't make money if employees are skilled. The economic and social systems were far more divided than people have been led to believe; there had been a system whereby southern agricultural staples were turned into northern manufactured goods but globalism meant that non-Southern cotton etc. was cheaper. Expanding free ranching and farming to the West would further undercut the South so in order to protect the Southern economy, Western production needed to be both cheaper and shittier than that produced by literal slave labor. The Northern companies and economists firmly believed the only way for the United States to exist as a country was to increase skilled labor in the south; one of the principle reasons for fighting the Civil War is the British were more than happy to subsidize crappy slave-based agriculture in the South, starve out the North and basically reintegrate the disUnited States back into the Commonwealth.

So everybody learns "it was/was not about freeing the slaves" because "it was about whether your slaves feel 'free' or not" gets your textbook banned in Texas.

I BRING THIS ALL UP because the actual strains necessary to produce a "civil war" in the United States are gargantuan compared to "does a thin/thick margin of popular opinion support/condemn this or that contrived social issue." The amount of "interstate commerce" trappings in the Constitution, leaned on heavily by the Originalists on the Supreme Court, basically prevent Kansas from going to war with Missouri. Not only that, but troops are deliberately scattered about for exactly this reason, the Army hates the Navy for exactly this reason, federal taxes are spread about for exactly this reason.

Yes, we fought a civil war before, yes it was ostensibly about cultural issues, but it was a different country then under very different pressures with very different interdependencies in a very different economic milieu. If anything, the tensions in the United States are entirely about rural vs. metropolitan for the simple reason that the Electoral College is tilted towards rural areas.

I will also point out that the Trump Administration, and their supporters, literally attempted to overthrow the government of the United States through every means available to them... and failed... because the government is largely made up of bureaucrats who want to keep their job. That's it. That's their motivation. Rome persisted for centuries not because of any natural cultural superiority, but because bureaucrats will always preserve their bureaucracy and when you decentralize things enough, your org chart simply can't be decapitated.

The government of Ukraine has fallen twice in the past 20 years under pressures less than January 6, for example, once in 2004 and again in 2014. Yeah, the current situation sucks... but like, a plurality of Republicans want to legalize weed. 42% of Republicans don't want Roe overturned. So do I think shit gonna be ugly? Yes. Yesindoodledydo. Do I think Arizona's gonna start shooting across the border at California?

It's too expensive to even posture like that.

Kaius  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    The North can't make money if employees are free, the South can't make money if employees are skilled.

Help me parse this a bit more? Why is North restricted by "Free" and the South restricted by Skilled workers?

kleinbl00  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·  

So check it. In 1776, the thirteen colonies had a combined population of 2.5 million people. The population of England, Scotland and Wales was about 5.5 million people. Nonetheless, English law forbid sales of heavy machinery or manufactured goods from the overseas colonies, and English involvement in the Seven Years' War was in no small part paid for by taxes on English goods sold to said same colonies.

The South mostly gave no fux about this because they couldn't manufacture shit. They weren't set up for it. The North, on the other hand, citified early and often and tended to attract obnoxious assholes like Ben Franklin who don't know when to stop thinking. This is why when you learn about the Revolutionary War, you mostly learn about Paul Revere and the Tea Party and the Liberty Bell and shit distinctly north of the Mason-Dixon line. South went along with it because hey, if you need something manufactured, a third of the population of the British Commonwealth isn't an ocean away and turns out Americans were, in general, better mechanics than the English (much to their chagrin - fuck off, Worshipful Company of Eat a Dick.

This is Wallerstein 101 - the core is where innovation happens, the semi-periphery is where adaptation happens, the periphery is where resources come from. The American South was, right up to the Civil War, periphery - it produced raw materials which were exported in trade for manufactured goods. The American North was, from like the early 1700s, semi-periphery... they just weren't allowed to export, so they went to war. A lot happened in the ensuing hundred years or so as far as protectionism and such but in the process, the North became a manufacturing hub, trading refined products rather than raw materials.

A semi-peripheral state will either slide back into the periphery or it will advance to the core. If you're in the core, you don't want competition. If you're in the semi-periphery, you don't want to descend back into the periphery. You advance towards the core by focusing on innovation, manufacturing, research, skilled labor, training and all that other Western Industrial Might shit that turns "korea" into Korea. (side note: this is one of the many reasons Japan invaded everything within reach during the Meiji Restoration: you don't want to compete on your own terms, you want to dominate your neighbors like you're the British East India Company).

So. The Northern economy was based on industrialism, and its future depended on increasing industrialism. The South, on the other hand, was based on agriculture... and even that was experiencing severe change. Slaves can't maintain cotton gins. You don't wanna send your chattel to school because they might learn how not to be chattel. The North was arrayed around "everyone's free, eventually you too can strike it rich if you work hard enough" (true or not, that was the ethos) while the South was arrayed around "my family has owned this valley for six generations how dare you insult my honor, sir." Both societies were class-conscious in that if you owned shit you were on top but free Southerners were easier to keep happy because no matter how shitty your life was, there was always someone with a shittier life than you, so there was very little white impetus to change the status quo.

So. The Northern economy goes from "craftsman" to "industrialist" and it needs skilled labor. The Southern economy goes from "slave owner" to "slave owner" and the minute you inject skilled labor into that mess, you have a middle class to deal with and they don't like that no matter what they do they'll never own a plantation so you want to keep it out. 'cuz you know what? As soon as you have a social class where poor white people can make something of themselves without the direct patronage of rich white people, they start aligning with the black people against their mutual abusers.

I don't want to give the impression that Northerners hated slavery for purely economic reasons. Slavery was and is morally inexcusable. I do want to point out that most people give more of a fuck about the moral trespasses of others when it directly impacts their livelihood and the fact of the matter is, the economies and societies of the Northern and Southern states were drifting apart, the Southern states provided useful inputs to the British economy and the longer the United States was allowed to develop, the more of a threat to British hegemony it became.

The South was never going to become an industrial society on its own. It was a feudal agrarian society whose wealthy profited off of the labor of vassals. The North was either going to succeed or fail based on its industrialization. It was a rapidly industrializing society whose wealthy profited off the labor of craftsmen and artisans. Something had to change. It wasn't invariably going to be war, but war it was.

As an aside, while this situation has effectively nothing to do with the modern United States (Boeing just announced last week they were moving their headquarters from Chicago to Virginia, FFS), it's topical when discussing Russia and Ukraine. The tension there has always been that Russia is an agrarian society where wealthy landowners used slave labor to accumulate wealth while Ukraine was a peripheral state whose economy largely traded with Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Russia has been shithole steppe going back to the Parthians whereas Ukraine has bounced through a dozen different kingdoms, all of which are more firmly anchored to Europe than Russia.

Kaius  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Much appreciated, I just finished rewatching Ken Burns Civil War doc and had started making my way through this playlist so this discussion is timely.

Stepping away from the war itself and looking at some of the societal reasons beyond slavery that drove the conflict is interesting. I hadn't seen the World-Systems theory before, where would a luddite learn more?

kleinbl00  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I've been meaning to get through the Ken Burns. What's been holding me back is a lot of the scholarship since has been about what a terribly romantic notion we have about the South, how a lot of that is because of Shelby Foote, and how heavily Ken Burns leans on Shelby Foote. So long as you're doing that, I wholeheartedly recommend W.E.B. DuBois' Black Reconstruction in America. It is breathtaking. It is extraordinarily difficult (at least as a white dude). And it is a towering achievement in literature.

I've basically been letting Kamil Galeev push me around lately. Wallerstein came from this thread:

Kaius  ·  269 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yea I read Volume 1 of Shelby Foote's "The Civil War" based on how much Ken Burns leaned on him in the documentary (this was years ago, when I first watched it). Like him or not, Foote's anecdotes and insights in the documentary added much to its success, he romanticized the conflict from a mostly Southern perspective, delivered with a whiskey sipping drawl. He had charm. Upon reflection after the fact however, his lingering praise for Nathan Bedford Forrest felt odd. At one point he mentioned that Lincoln and Forrest were the two geniuses to be revealed from the war... hmm.

Ta-Nehisi Coates probably summed it up best:

    I'm looking forward to finishing Foote's trilogy. It really is an engaging read. And yet here is the bit of sadness: He gave twenty years of his life, and three volumes of important and significant words to the Civil War, but he he could never see himself in the slave. He could not get that the promise of free bread can not cope with the promise of free hands. Shelby Foote wrote The Civil War, but he never understood it. Understanding the Civil War was a luxury his whiteness could ill-afford.

Its well worth watching, but with clear eyes.

kleinbl00  ·  268 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Prolly Roots first. Haven't seen it in 30 years.