Earlier this month, Dr. Robert J. Bunker and Dr. Pamela Ligouri Bunker published the long-awaited Plutocratic Insurgency Reader through the Small Wars Institute. Available in both Kindle and paperback, the book is a well-researched anthology of over thirty articles by fifteen different contributors, and is the first coherent attempt to document what I believe is one of the most important issues of our time: the ongoing assault on state and international institutions by globalized, transnational elites seeking to reshape such structures for their own exclusive benefit.
There are undeniably chilling implications to this topic, but informed persons can no longer afford to avert their eyes from what is happening around them. We are past the point of hopeful denial. As Nils Gilman bluntly states in the book’s preface, “We are reaching the end of the Westphalian-modernist system.” This subject has been discussed before in these pages, but we should begin with definitions. What do we mean by the term “plutocratic insurgency”? We must first understand that the word insurgency has been carefully chosen: modern states are facing an organized assault on their resources and institutions. As Dr. Robert Bunker states in the introduction:
Plutocratic insurgency represents an emerging form of insurgency not seen since the late 19th century Gilded Age. It is being conducted by high net worth globalized elites allowing them to remove themselves from public spaces and obligations–including taxation–and to maximize their ability to generate profits transnationally…It can be viewed as a component of “Dark Globalization” that, along with the emergence of criminal insurgency, is now actively threatening the public institutions and citizenry of the Westphalian state form. [p. xxviii]
Seen in a broader historical context, plutocratic insurgency is arguably a third phase in the ever-evolving perceptions of insurgency. Dr. Steven Metz of the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute has identified two major modes of insurgency thought: (1) the so-called “orthodox conceptualization” phase, lasting from the 1940s through the 1990s, and (2) the “counter-orthodox conceptualization,” which spans the period of the 1990s to the present. The first phase was what we commonly think of when we speak of “insurgency”: Marxist revolutionary movements using violence as part of grass-roots efforts to seize control of state institutions. The counter-orthodox conceptualization of insurgency represents the phenomena of Third World warlordism, narco-trafficking by cartels, and radical Islamism.
It seems clear we are now in a third insurgency phase, according to Dr. Nils Gilman and Dr. John P. Sullivan, both contributors to the book. This third phase may be termed “dark (or deviant) globalization,” and is characterized by the following key feature: globalized elites and multinational corporations removing themselves from state structures while aggregating for themselves larger and larger shares of the public domain. Plutocratic insurgency is, essentially, unrestrained predatory capitalism that leverages modern technology to exploit antiquated state institutions that are unable to mount an effective resistance. And as the articles in the book demonstrate, plutocratic insurgency is closely linked with organized criminality and creeping authoritarianism.
I should disclose that I am one of the contributors to the anthology. There are four readings under my name (nos. 12, 15, 18, and 20), as well as the book’s afterword (Wealth and Power in the Hands of the Few), which offers a historical perspective on the effects of unchecked concentrations of wealth. The volume offers a comprehensive analysis of all dimensions of plutocratic insurgency warcraft and methodology. Especially compelling are the following readings:
The Twin Insurgency–Facing Plutocrats and Criminals, by Nils Gilman
Public Looting for Private Gain: Predatory Capitalism, MNCs, and Globalized Elites, by Robert J. Bunker
Plutocratic Insurgency Note 6: Privatizing Urban Public Spaces, by John P. Sullivan & Robert J. Bunker
Plutocratic Insurgency Note 11: Low-Paid, Part-Time, “Gig Economy” as a New Involuntary Labor Model, by Pamela Ligouri Bunker and Robert J. Bunker
Onward to a Hollow State, by John Robb
The cumulative effect of these readings on any reader with a sense of fairness and justice can only described as devastating. Yet perhaps this sense of shock is precisely what we, the general public, desperately need. As I see it, the plutocratic insurgency depends for its survival on several key factors: (1) an apathetic, uninformed, and distracted public; (2) corrupt or collusive individuals in government willing to betray their constituents for personal gain; (3) weak judicial structures unwilling or unable to impede plutocratic designs; (4) convergence of national and transnational media corporations to the plutocratic agenda; (5) the unethical use of technological advances for corporate gain, and (6) educational systems that neglect the traditional humanities, producing students with poorly-developed senses of justice, selfless leadership, historical consciousness, human dignity, and public duty.
It is hoped that this book, the first coherent attempt to study this novel form of insurgency, will serve as an incentive to a wider debate that is long overdue. As I wrote in the afterword:
Few things are inevitable in history. We must take heart in knowing that social trends are not necessarily irreversible. Determined action and bold leadership can move mountains when the right conditions are present. For if it is true that the plutocratic insurgency exists–which it undoubtedly does–then it must also be true that a counterinsurgency strategy exists as well. The broad outlines of such a strategy are provided by some of the historical examples cited above. But it will be the task of future generations, animated by a spirit of public duty and fortified by an iron determination, to inscribe the historical record with the specific details.