Fascinating discussion. More intellectual sparks flying in the exchange even than usual. Bring him back and slow him down. I think Russ Roberts is right about the speed of change as critical to whats going on and just the gravity pull of big cities. Mancur Olsen has insights on the process as well. Old industries and sectors and places have formed distributional coalitions, accumulations of restrictions on innovation, entrepreneurial behavior, risk taking that give new technologies an edge as they've not yet had to capture a regulatory apparatus. Moreover, the cultural accretions that attend old established technologies and industries erode with change giving rise to entropy, the entropy that caused the accumulations to emerge in the first place. The natural order of things is to fall apart, to suffer entropy and controls, natural glues emerge to deal with this tendency. So when things change too fast we come apart because these cultural accretions were emergent selective sanctions and rewards. Like guild rules and culture, but far more complex and interrelated. I don't like the use of the term populism for what's going on but don't know what else to call it. Cities absorb change more easily because it's inherent, part of the landscape and those who exercise controls live there. This latter is harder to see in the US. but was and is a feature in many countries I've lived in where the elite are more obvious in their exercise of control and do indeed live in the one or two dominate cities.
These words that Benjamin wrote in the face of the undiminished appeal and continuing advance of fascism in Europe in the late 1930s, can still illuminate dominant, unreflective historical attitudes of the twenty-first century that have led to a significant underestimation of the threat – and consequent surprise about the actual rise – of right-wing populism in Europe and the United States. As we have seen, Horkheimer, Fromm, Adorno, and Lowenthal grounded their analyses of fascism, authoritarianism, and right-wing populism in a historical theory of the modern bourgeois epoch as a whole. The provocative thesis of Horkheimer’s path-breaking essay, “Egoism and Freedom Movements” – which provided the historical and theoretical foundations for much of the Institute’s later work on authoritarianism – was that the particular social and social-psychological dynamics that led to fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s had been present from the beginning of modern bourgeois society.
Laura Ingraham’s Phony Populism | The American Conservative