Havoc and the Great Unraveling

Long-time subscribers to The Chrysalis may recall the name Peter Pogany, the late Hungarian economist who wrote the book Havoc, Thy Name is Twenty-First Century. I gave it a brief review in a earlier (November, 2015) posting entitled “The Near Future: A Picture of “Havoc”” Current events would seem to bear out his dire forecast for a world descending into havoc or “the Great Unraveling”, so I’ve turned to it again for some insights into the present situation and his thoughts on our transition to a saner world. Pogany was influenced by Jean Gebser, whose works we have frequently referred to here in The Chrysalis.

I thought I would bring up Pogany’s book again for those who are perplexed and dismayed at current events, as it might be helpful. I will by commenting on it as I work my way through it once more.


49 responses to “Havoc and the Great Unraveling”

  1. davidm58 says :

    Hi Scott, I’m glad you’re reading this again. I’ve also been spending a lot of time with it – again. Interested readers can take your first Peter Pogany link to my page on him to learn more.

    Or more specifically – I’ve put together a compilation document that summarizes, in his own words, Pogany’s thoughts on the thermodynamic unfolding of recent world history in the sub-epochs he calls Global System 0, Global System 1, Global System 2, and Global System 3. See attachment.

    The heart of the document, “World History as the Synoptic Narrative of Thermodynamic Unfolding,” came originally as part of a 2010 paper called “What’s Wrong with the World? Rationality! A critique of economic anthropology in the spirit of Jean Gebser.” It was later published as Appendix B in the book “Havoc: Thy Name is Twenty First Century,” (2015). This paper is based mostly on the last edit printed in “Havoc,” with some additions that come from the original 2010 paper…and various additional quotes at the end. It is here:


  2. Scott Preston says :

    Thanks David. An accessible synopsis of Pogany’s work is very welcome, as his main works are written, it seems, for economists.

  3. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Speaking of narratives, the more literary-minded among us might wish to pair Pogany’s insights into the “Great Unraveling” with contemporary insights into the “Great Turning,” perhaps to get a feel for how well and poorly we’re progressing, in the Gebserian sense of progress as a moving away from something but also toward something else.

    “A new storytelling paradigm must find a way to transcend and include the conflict resolution core of the old storytelling paradigm. One way would be to reframe conflicts as lessons, focusing on the healing, developmental & evolutionary gifts of the challenges we face.” — Mark Allan Kaplan

    George Monbiot, et alia, please take note. ; )

    • Scott Preston says :

      Monbiot — carrying on the fine tradition of generations of British Radicalism.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Monbiot has a much condensed version of that longer talk which is only about 14 mins rather than over an hour which strikes all the same notes as the longer talk.

      • TheOakofNormal says :

        This guy seems spot on. As far as new political narratives go, I’m always kind of blown away how little known Sri Aurobindo is outside of consciousness thinker circles. He pretty much brought together the idea that a change in human consciousness and political change go hand and hand. We’ve all been jaded enough by politics by now that it’s so easy to spot someone authentic and legit like this gent compared to so many of the other scum bags. Maybe that’s the start of some kind of Truth-Force, immediate discernment to separate the wheat from the chaff.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        I prefer the long version as he goes into great detail about the proposed “Restoration Story” (which sounds suspiciously like the old “Restoration Story”) and invites us to help refine it.

        Right now, it smacks of the “grand unifying theory” (or TOE) and “monomyth” formulas as opposed to an integrative “story” (for lack of a better term) or, iow, a story of bioregional and multicultural revival and renewal or of diaphanous “streams of consciousness” forming a greater whole. (He’s actually highlighted stories of isolated pockets of humanity, i.e. various communities around the world, who are engaged in the revival and renewal of their communities despite the crushing weight of neoliberalism and “inverted totalitarianism” as has Deborah Frieze, et alia.)

        Just brainstorming here, but if there’s anything I know better than most any other art form, it’s storytelling.

        • TheOakofNormal says :

          Me as well on the storytelling. There’s a way to incorporate the small and the large together that I don’t think many people are seeing as it seems you’re in either one monomyth/hero story camp or the other micro/bio regional stories you mentioned. David Peat wrote a great book called Quantum Change that is def worth a look. It came out when it was Quantum this and that everywhere, but he was the perfect person to articulate it with his background and him starting his community in Pari.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            Excepting that “one monomyth/hero story camp” at the macro level each have decided their camp is comprised of the heroes of the “Hero’s Journey” story (like the Jedi and the Sith, which is dualistic as hell), everyone else be damned, while the damned either scream from Purgatory, “No, no! Being exclusively one or the other is not ‘mastery’ of the Force!” or “walk out, walk on” and experiment with something new, e.g. new ways to tell stories.

  4. Bob mcbride says :

    You introduced me to Jean Gebser some weeks ago and I’ve read Johnson’s excellent book and am about to put on my snorkel as I begin The Ever-Present Origin.
    Simply to say: thank you.

  5. TheOakofNormal says :

    He had a book called Gentle Action and an audiobook called that and heard a bunch of interviews and read his essays. It’s been a bit so I’m gonna have to look back. He just seemed to have the more informed/mature worldly/grounded outlook in this stuff more than what most people have done with that idea. Micro systems/Butterfly Effect stuff/field dynamics etc. but making it practical.

  6. TheOakofNormal says :

    You all introduced me to Michael Meade and I love his rendering of the Hero Myth into the Genius Myth. Much more relational to the Earth as that is where everything is headed back to.

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      WordPress is acting weird right now with trying to reply to comments, sorry meant those in a reply above.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Myth offers a third place to stand or a third way to see when we find ourselves caught between opposing ideas and hardening ideologies. — Michael Meade

  7. davidm58 says :

    Have you all seen this yet? Highly recommended!

  8. Scott Preston says :

    Our theme song for the times we live in — a certain musical commentary on Lewis Mumford’s “Megamachine”.

    In the shuffling madness
    Of the locomotive breath
    Runs the all-time loser
    Headlong to his death

    Oh, he feels the piston scraping
    Steam breaking on his brow
    Old Charlie stole the handle
    And the train it won’t stop
    Oh no way to slow down

  9. Steve says :

    I want to give everyone on this blog a heads up. I have a friend in Chicago today at a big agricultural conference. He is a sales rep for a fertilizer company. Last night he had dinner with reps from the largest AG company on the planet one thousand reps in Brazil alone. They told him we have about twelve months before we have the one of the largest food shortages ever in America. Literally told him fighting in the streets. Last night I put 80 dollars of gas in my car, this morning I woke to an empty tank. All over Austin gas siphoning from peoples cars has been going on. Gas is 4.85 a gallon. So, I have a feeling we are in for some heavy shit in the not too distant future. Biden has been talking food shortages but according to these guys he’s really holding back on the possible severity of the situation. Anyway, for what its worth.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Not unexpected. People have been warned for decades that climate breakdown, converging with other contemporary crises, would bring very severe consequences from continued negligence. This is just a foretaste of what is to come. This is a prime example of what Gebser means in saying that man’s sense of responsibility is not commensurate with the power of the technology. The Megamachine is beginning to break down and so it feels for many like the Apocalypse is nigh.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Biden has been talking food shortages but according to these guys he’s really holding back on the possible severity of the situation.

      Of course, he is. We wouldn’t start a panic, now, would we? It’s the oldest excuse on the books for refusing to tell “the masses” the truth. Considering the hoarding that was going on at the beginning of the pandemic….

      Man, this is going to be rough and the truest test of whether or not we have it within us to come together in common cause or if the “every man for himself” philosophy wins out. Guess we shall see.

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      Food shortage is those guys MO. Nothing new, that’s what they run on. Like if we had to everyone couldn’t grow food. Come on with the fear shit.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        That doesn’t change the fact that food shortages and inequitable distribution are a present reality and getting worse for the vast majority of us because the entire system has been set up to support Big Ag. It’s not fear shit to acknowledge the truth of our shared situation and our shared situation is getting demonstrably worse.

        Those of us who are more well off and don’t have anything pressing to worry about personally just yet are pretty obviously not imagining themselves in the shoes of the rest of us, much less thinking in terms of “what you do to the least of these, you do also unto me.”

        • TheOakofNormal says :

          For now. Seems we’re all kindred spirits here and in the long run these temporary hardships will lead to people overcoming the system that is ruining Life in general that is called here and other places by many names (the machine, system, Elite, etc.), but everyone knows needs to stop…what, it was supposed to be easy?!

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            In the long run, maybe, but not without needless and insufferable loss of life along the way. 😥

            • TheOakofNormal says :

              I really don’t think so. We’re not gonna turn into Mad Max or whatever apocalyptic scenerio people are worried about any time soon imo. Imagination goes both ways.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              I was referring to the needless and insufferable loss of life we’re experiencing right now.

            • TheOakofNormal says :

              A food shortage is killing people right now? Or people are dying different than they have in the past?

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Last night I put 80 dollars of gas in my car, this morning I woke to an empty tank.

      Locking gas cap. Not perfect, but it does the job pretty well. If they can’t get past it, they’ll have to ask if they can have some of your gas.

  10. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Those interested in new media and art forms may wish to check out the independent video game, The Forgotten City. From its inception as a Skyrim mod, a three man team has developed the general idea into a stand-alone project. Though it does rely on the trendy ‘Groundhog Day’ form of storytelling and the ending confrontation is…well, trite, I was especially impressed with what the developers depicted as “the way out.”

    Interesting to note that there are four possible endings and “the way out” is the mechanism that triggers all four, ranging from far less than ideal to ideal.

  11. steve says :

    My friend just heard that if Russia / Ukraine war ended today, it would take 3 years for things to stabilize re: gas and fertilizer prices. Commodity prices now are still based on last year’s harvest. Price increases we see now are based on inflation in the US currently. When the inflationary pressures we are experiencing now in AG inputs are seen in commodity prices with the harvest this fall, we will see a doubling overnight in the cost of bread etc.

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      Terrible, I know, I’m low income myself right now. It just does seem like the machine is convincing us something is going on that isn’t on many fronts. It seems to me this is how it has to be for people to start being more autonomous with how they get food is all I’m saying, and ultimately live their lives…a very good thing in the long run. I am surrounded by farmland and have knowledge myself, so def get that my confidence in doing that isn’t everyone’s. The scarcity is a lie though and the rich don’t have what it takes to keep the lie going.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        the rich don’t have what it takes to keep the lie going

        Big Fossil’s Disaster Capitalist Response to Russia-Ukraine And, wouldn’t you know, a great many of us are buying into the spin-as-usual. In fact, I just had someone pass along a Big Oil rep’s statement, comprised of precisely those talking points, as “the real truth for a change.” I responded kindly, but fear they may never speak to me again nonetheless.

        We get what you’re saying about fear-mongering being the MO of all the “Bigs”; the scarcity, at least, being a lie; etc. But Steve here is not spreading Big Ag’s lies. He’s giving us the inside scoop on what Big Ag insiders told a fertilizer salesman about the expected severity of shortages. Smidge of a difference there. I’m sure the guy was speculating about “fighting in the streets.” (The Bigs don’t think much of us when they think of us at all.) I’m fairly certain, however, that their projections are correct. We can choose to be afraid or not. Point is: not all of us (and, probably, the vast majority of us) have the luxury of “being more automonous” with how we get our food; how we get other essentials; how we get around; and, generally, how we go about living our lives because the Bigs also have insured that there’s nowhere else to turn in the short-term. Oh, we’re experimenting. We’re bioregionaling, regenerating and reviving and renewing. Meanwhile, more and more of us are slipping into poverty and worse. Yes, even dying.

        • TheOakofNormal says :

          I completely understand your point. I wasn’t calling out Steve individually or anything, just the general fear/paranoia going on everywhere. I probably shouldn’t have posted anything I was in one of my moods last night. Just as tired of all this crap as anyone and I’m with ya with all the Bigs that it’s hard not to feel like a trapped animal right now, but can’t let the fear win (it’s the mind killer and we need better ideas).

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            Completely understand. Post away, I say, because you’re right that all this must come to pass during this liminal phase. We need practicable ideas for the short-term and we’re, frankly, coming up short on those.

            Deborah Frieze mentioned the gap in her TED talk. I get the impression folks are flooding into that gap and taking up the slack to the greatest degree possible given the circumstances. Could be wrong.

            These might help ease the exhaustion.

            “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” ~ Brené Brown

            We don’t have to think in terms of fighting an old order; we can think in terms of giving birth to a new one. It’s a different psychological and emotional orientation & makes a tremendous difference in our ability to sustain the energy needed to withstand the labor pains involved. ~ Marianne Williamson

  12. Scott Preston says :

    Indeed, the Megamachine rules through the rule of the carrot and stick — very simple rule that gets elaborated (or obscured if you will) into great edifices of ideological and economic thought.

    But the carrot and the stick is simply seduction on the one hand, and fear and anxiety on the other — the old pleasure and pain principle, reward and punishment — your reward in heaven or your punishment in hell.

  13. Steve says :

    Timac Agro, a 1.8 billion dollar a year company is whom my friend is hanging out with at this AG conference in Chicago. This is dinner conversation at the table. Insider information if you will. I present this to you for your knowledge. It’s hard to believe I know but also not so hard to believe. All I know for sure is that I went out and bought a new gas cap for my 1999 Camry that can only be opened with a key because I can’t have people stealing my gas. I’m not a wealthy man. That’s what’s going on in Texas and I can only imagine the possible behavior of people during a food crisis.

  14. Scott Preston says :

    Of interest certainly to Gebser studies, a new book “Out of Time: A Philosophical Study of Timelessness”


    A short preview of what to expect in the book is posted by one of the authors here:


    One of the root causes of widespread anxiety, actually, is the sense of not having time. There is a fear of “time-freedom” in that sense, just as there is a great fear of “emptiness”.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      “A Philosophical Study of Timelessness”?

      Been there; done that. IIRC, we called time “eternal.” Thing is: we have strange ideas about what “eternal” means.

  15. Scott Preston says :

    Navigating periods of disorder, “sometimes nothing makes sense until you get to the other side, and that’s okay”

    Sound advice for this period of havoc and transition


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