The State We’re In
“Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions. […] And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.”
— Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto (1848)
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were describing something economists term “creative destruction”. This is a moment in the capitalist cycle when things fall apart so that new ways of making money can be found — for example a new colony exploited or a new technology invented — or a war started.
But this is really a much older idea — it’s the cycle of life and death that Marx is applying to economics. The Indian god Shiva embodies the concept of creative destruction as he dances his dance of the world. We are born, we grow, we decay, we die, our bodies disintegrate, becoming one with the world as we are eaten by the worms, and then maybe a tree grows in the grave, and an apple grows from the tree, and it’s eaten by a grandchild…
In astrology, we ascribe death and transformation to the planet Pluto, modern ruler of Scorpio — sometimes the sign of the phoenix.
Capitalism is closely linked to the cycle of Pluto, the planet we associate with vast wealth, especially through Capricorn, the sign of governance and structure. For example, the United States, a country that epitomises free-market capitalism, was born with Pluto in Capricorn.
Pluto in Capricorn 1024-1041, 1270-1286, 1516-1532, 1762-1777, 2008-2023
Here are just a few of the events pivotal to the development of industrial capitalism that took place during the last passage of Pluto through Capricorn. This is focused on Britain as the home of the industrial revolution that then spread across France, Germany, Belgium, the US and the rest of the world.
1762 — Barings, the first British merchant bank, opens a branch in the City of London
— the Highland Clearances begin. Landlords in Scotland persuaded crofters to leave, so they could use more modern agricultural techniques.
1766 — Boulton opens the Soho Manufactory outside Birmingham — the first modern factory
— Josiah Wedgwood buys Etruria as both factory and home.
1769 — First steam engine patented by James Watt. Building of the Oxford Canal is authorised. This canal would eventually bring coal to London.
1770 — Daily check clearing begins in a tavern in Lombard Street, London
— the “Triangular Trade”, shipping guns and hardware to Africa, slaves to the Americas and sugar or cotton back to Europe, is at its zenith.
1771 — First modern factory is opened in Derbyshire
1773 — the “Stock Exchange” opens in London
1776 — America declares independence and the war begins. Adam Smith publishes The Wealth of Nations, a seminal economics text
Capitalism relies on the lending and borrowing of money, which in turn relies on trust, law and order. When you have a breakdown of the latter three, capitalism can’t function. Democracy, as Lee Kwan Yu categorically demonstrated in Singapore, is not a prerequisite of capitalism. Stability is.
There have been many moments of serious instability for the system — WW1, the Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression, the Long Depression of the 1873-79, the American Civil War — not to mention the upheaval across Europe throughout much of the 19th century. Each time the system itself has shifted and bounced back — eventually.
The system carries on, but lives are destroyed to maintain it.
For example the industrial revolution was, in part, funded by the enslavement of millions of Africans, in part by the casting of thousands of peasants off the land in the clearances and “enclosures” across the British Isles, and later by the displacement of millions of Irish, Germans, Italians, Scandinavians, Greeks et alia to America and the industrial centres in Europe.
Today we are seeing another kind of convulsion gripping the global capitalism. Presumably, the system will right itself — but at what cost?
Although Pluto is only halfway through Capricorn, we have seen the predicted banking crisis, the results of which have not been completed. During the period when Uranus in Aries squared Pluto, we saw the Arab Spring and the total disintegration of law and order across the Near East. In Egypt, the old order reasserted itself with even greater brutality. In Syria and Iraq, civil war still rages. Libya is in tatters.
People power — on the right and the left and indeed even in the middle — has challenged the status quo. The internet — the realm of Uranus — has played a key role in all of this. From Tahrir Square to #blacklivesmatter, to Bernie Sanders, to the Trumpistas, the Brexiters and Remainers, and the Corbynistas, from Anonymous to ISIS: social media has been the way that interest groups have found each other, organised, and taken action. With Uranus in Aries, individuals feel personally empowered by new technology, but technology also becomes an echo chamber reflecting back to us our own views. It seemed as if everyone was behind the Tahrir Square demonstrations — but maybe that was just everybody with a Facebook account.
Uranus in Aries 1927/8 – 1934/5, 2010 – 2018/19
Throw into this Uranus/Pluto energy another big aspect taking place this year – the square between Neptune, the god of illusion and lies, and Saturn, the god of rules — and we get another lens to bring into sharper focus the current state of affairs. The Brexit campaign in this country turns out to have been based on a pack of lies, and perhaps even more bizarre and Neptunian, the main characters demanding Britain’s exit from the European Union have all vanished within less than two weeks of the vote.
Neptune (11° Pisces) wipes things clean. In one swipe of the squeegee, they are all gone, wiped away by their own lies — but not before destroying Britain’s most important international alliance. And now, to add to the strangeness, the Prince of Lies himself, Boris Johnson, has been appointed Foreign Secretary — he will literally be the interface between Britain and the world.
Neptune in Pisces 1848 – 1861, 2011 – 2025
Saturn in Sagittarius (10°) would indicate rules about immigration, international trade agreements, travel, passports, import and export — you get the idea — and so it has already transpired. We are seeing changes to rules in all these areas — and there will be more to come. Neptune will always trump Saturn right now because Neptune in Pisces is so strong — imagination rules sense — and Saturn in Sag is rather weak. Saturn will go direct in August however and we should see how things progress then.
Note also that the flood of refugees coming into Europe has fallen to a trickle already. Saturn has stemmed that flow which was at full force when Jupiter in Virgo opposed Neptune in Pisces last September.
Neptune is also about idealism, and fanaticism. You can feel Neptune’s presence at a church revival meeting, in the voice of the imam, and right now, especially, in political rallies all over the world. The “moral” party, whatever that is, preaches against the “other”. Sagittarius is, of course, also a sign associated with religious zealotry, and in this country, we are having a repeat of 1985-1988 the high tide of Militant Tendency, a hard left faction of the Labour Party that was eventually expelled.
Already commentators are writing about “post-truth politics” — what could be more Neptunian?
One thing is becoming clear — democracy has been tested and found wanting. How well can democracy work when the citizens are lied to? Or is it really that now we find out more quickly that we’ve been lied to? Again, it’s salutary to think of the protesters in Tahrir Square, that hope-filled Uranian rebellion, banjaxed by a straight punch from Saturn in Libra and a left hook from Pluto in Capricorn. The common person is represented by Uranus, and his or her desire to be an individual by Aries.
Saturn in Sagittarius 1926 – 1929 , 1956 – 1959, 1985 – 1988, 2014 – 2017
In the West, we have been living through decadent times for some decades: “…too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce…”. Have we reached a point of peak capitalism? One thing is certain, we have reached a point of deep, deep debt.
Our economies are driven not by production, the model with which Marx was familiar, but by consumption. We need to keep on shopping to keep the economy moving — but what happens if we reach peak stuff in the West? The Chinese or the Indians will certainly keep shopping for a long time — but maybe they will make their own stuff.
Last time Saturn was in Sagittarius in the mid-1980s, the system finished off was Communism, but one way of doing things in the City of London ended too, with the Big Bang . Previously, Saturn in Sagittarius combined with Uranus in Aries to bring an end to the Roaring Twenties and create the Wall Street Crash. The mid-1950s saw the end of post-War austerity — so this is by no means a bad transit — and also the end of European pretensions at world dominance with the Suez Crisis in 1956. (The Suez Crisis saw Pluto at 0° Virgo square Saturn at 1° Sagittarius. Pluto’s long passage through Virgo marks the main period during which Britain and France give up almost all of their overseas empires.)
Saturn, Jupiter, Pluto in Capricorn; Uranus in Taurus
The Berlin Wall came down when Saturn (walls) conjoined Neptune (idealism) and Uranus (revolution) in Capricorn (established systems) in 1989. This was the last time Saturn was in Capricorn, so the new Europe, shaped after the fall of the iron curtain will have a sort of Saturn Return soon.
Saturn will go into Capricorn in December 2017 and conjoin Pluto in January 2020 (just once). That same year, Jupiter will also be in Capricorn. At the end of 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will conjoin at 0° Aquarius (also just once). Saturn and Jupiter conjoin every 20 years — but when was the last time it was at 0°?
This marks a new era for society, but one can’t help but wonder about what goes on in the run up.
Meanwhile, Uranus, the planet of revolution, will have been struggling to enter another earth sign, Taurus, associated with money and stability, of course. It takes Uranus three goes between May 2018 and March 2019 to finally make it into the solid ground of Taurus. But then Pluto and Uranus will be in harmonious earth signs.
You don’t need to be an astrologer to see that our world is in a fragile state at the moment. And some things are going to get worse — climate change, racial tension, terrorism — before, we hope, they get better. The question is what do we do when things fall apart? How we can we respond personally?
It’s easy to say turn inward, develop yourself, but actually the millions of people joining political movements across the world know this is only one way of dealing with our times. Astrology teaches us that there are many ways of being. It’s not a matter of right or left, spiritual or material, artist or banker — but a matter of being human. Most of us need to engage with the world; some of us don’t have to. All of us must follow our truth. The hard thing is to remain balanced when everything seems to be falling apart. People are turning against each other in ways that are unwholesome. (Today the news of President Erdogan’s purge in Turkey are in the headlines. This is a man with transiting Mars in vengeful Scorpio and natally a sanguinary combination of Mars-Moon on the degree from which Mars went Rx. Dangerous. Scary.)
Jupiter in Virgo this summer tells us that god is in the detail; soon Jupiter in Libra will tell us that god is in the effort at balance. It’s not in keeping things fixed. Balance is not about simply holding still, but about making adjustments — like dancing Shiva. Take note of where the eclipses are this year — Virgo and Pisces, order and dissolution, earth and spirit — this may be where you will change most…
This month is charged and made volatile by the Uranus-Mars quincunx; next month Mars bursts out of that grip and into noisy Sagittarius. Be safe. Dig deep. Answer your own questions truthfully even if the answers are bitter. The world is in chaos, but you have a core identity that is real and certain. Maintain that properly and you will know how to act.