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|Table of Contents|
|Start of eBook||1|
|A Social Analysis of Civilization||46|
|Civilization Is Becoming Obsolete||98|
|Steps Beyond Civilization||128|
|SUGGESTED READINGS AND REFERENCES||168|
LEARNING FROM HISTORY
Human history may be viewed from various angles. The easiest history to write concerns the doings of a few well known people and their involvement in some memorable events. History may also concern itself with inventions and discoveries: the use of fire, of the wheel or smelting metals. It may center around sources of food, means of shelter, or the making of records. It may be concerned with the construction and decoration of cities, kingdoms and empires.
Social history enters the picture with travel, transportation, communication, trade. Human beings group themselves in families, clans and tribes, in voluntary associations; they compete, plunder, conquer, enslave, exploit; they co-operate for construction and destruction. Political history is but one aspect of man’s group contacts and group projects.
There have been histories of particular civilizations and of civilization as a field of historical research. With minor exceptions none of the authors that I have consulted has attempted an analytical treatment of civilization as a sociological phenemenon.
Scientists start from hunches, examine available data, advance tentative conclusions, test them in the light of wider observations, and round out their research by formulating general principles or “laws.” This scientific approach has been used in many fields of observation and study. I am applying the formula to one aspect of social history: the appearance, development, maturity, decline and disappearance of the vast co-ordinations of collective, experimental human effort called civilizations.
“Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, where are they?” asked Byron. He might have added: “What were they? How did they come into being? What was the nature of their experience? Why did they rise from small beginnings, develop into wide-spread colossal complexes of wealth and power, and then, after longer or shorter periods of existence, break up and disappear from the stage of social history?”
Such questions are far removed from the lives of people who are busy with everyday affairs. In one sense they are remote; in the larger picture, however, they are of vital concern to anyone and everyone now living in civilized communities. If Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians built extensive empires and massive civilizations that flourished for a time, then broke up and disappeared, are we to follow blindly and unthinkingly in their footsteps? Or do we study their experiences, benefit from their successes and learn from their mistakes? Can we not take lessons out of their voluminous notebooks, avoid their blunders and direct our own feet along paths that fulfil our lives at the same time that they meet the widespread demand for survival and well-being?
Civilization has been extensively experimental. Several thousand years, during which civilizations have appeared, disappeared and reappeared, have been too brief to establish and stabilize a hard and fast social pattern. As the complexity of civilizations has increased, variations and deviations have grown in number and intensity. With the advent of western civilization a culture pattern is being put together which differs widely from its predecessors.
All civilized peoples seem to have developed from simple beginnings and experimented with broader and more complicated life styles. In western civilization the number of experiments has increased and the span of their deviations seems to have broadened. Under the circumstances an analysis of civilization must take for granted not only social change but the development of, human society along lines which link up the outstanding structural and functional ideas, institutions and practices of successive civilizations.
I propose in this inquiry to state certain accepted facts from the history of civilizations and of contemporary experience. I also propose to analyze the facts and generalize them in such a way that the results of the study may provide an understanding of the human social past, together with some guide-lines that will prove useful in the formulation and implementation of the present-day policy and procedure of civilized peoples, nations, empires and of the western civilization.
This book is not a popular treatise, nor is it a textbook. Rather. it is an attempt to summarize an area of critical human concern. Academia may not use such material: nevertheless it should be available to students and administrators who must plan and direct the social future of humankind.
Civilization and Beyond rounds out a series of studies that I began in 1928 with Where Is Civilization Going? The series has extended through The Twilight of Empire (1930), War (1931) and The Tragedy of Empire (1946). Up to 1914 my field of study was confined largely to the economics of distribution. The war of 1914-18 pushed me rudely and decisively into the broader field. I have described the process in my political autobiography: Making of a Radical (1971).
I hope that this study will provide a useful link in the chain of material dealing with the structure and function of man’s social environment, leading directly into an action program that will conclude the preservation and loving economical use of nature’s rich gifts and the dedication of thousands of young aspiring men and women to the good life here, now and indefinitely, into a bright, productive and creative future.
As of this date seven publishers have examined the manuscript of this work and declined to publish it. All felt that it would not find any considerable reading public. Nevertheless, I feel that the work should be printed and distributed because it carries a message that may be of first rate importance to the future of my fellow humans.
Harborside, Maine May 5, 1975
THOUGHTS ABOUT HISTORY AND CIVILIZATION
We may think and talk about civilization as one pattern or level of culture, one stage through which human life flows and ebbs. In that sense we may regard it abstractly and historically, as we regard the most recent ice age or the long and painful record of large-scale chattel slavery.
From quite another viewpoint we may think of civilization as a technologically advanced way of life developed by various peoples through ages of unrecorded experiment and experience, and followed by millions during the period of written history. It is also the way of life that the West has been trying to impose upon the entire human family since European empires launched their crusade to westernize, modernize and civilize the planet Earth.
A third approach would regard civilization as an evolving life style, conceived before the earliest days of recorded human history and matured through the series of experiments marking the development of civilization as we have known it during the five centuries from 1450 to 1975.
Thinking in terms of this age-old experience, with six or more thousand years of social history as a background, it is possible to give a fairly exact meaning to the word “civilization” as it has been lived and is being lived by the present-day West. It is also possible to understand the history of previous civilizations in cycle after cycle of their rise, their development, decline and extinction. At the same time it will enable the reader to recognize the relationship (and difference) between the words “culture” and “civilization”.
Human culture is the sum total of ideas, relationships, artifacts, institutions, purposes and ideals currently functioning in any community. Three elements are present in each human society: man, nature and the social structure. Human culture at any point in its history is the social structure: the aggregate of existing culture traits, the products of man’s ingenuity, inventiveness and experimentation, set in their natural environment.
Civilization is a level of culture built upon foundations laid down through long periods of pre-civilized living. These foundations consist of artifacts, implements, customs, habit patterns and institutions produced and developed in numerous scattered localities by groups of food-gatherers, migrating herdsmen, cultivators, hand craftsmen and traders and eventually in urban communities built around centers of wealth and power: the cities which are the nuclei of every civilization.
Urban centers, housing trade, commerce, fabrication and finance, with their hinterlands of food-gatherers, herdsmen, cultivators, craftsmen and transporters, are the nuclei around which and upon which recurring civilizations are built. Within and around these urban centers there grows up a complex of associations, activities, institutions and ideas designed to promote, develop and defend the particular life pattern.
A civilization is a cluster of peoples, nations and empires so related in time and space that they share certain ideas, practices, institutions and means of procedure and survival. Among these features of a civilized community we may list:
(1) means of communication, record-keeping, transportation and trade. This would include a spoken language, a method of enumeration, writing in pictographs or symbols; an alphabet, a written language, inscribed on stone, bone, wood, parchment, paper; means of preserving the records of successive generations; paths, roads, bridges; a system for educating successive generations; meeting places and trading points; means for barter or exchange;
(2) an interdependent urban-oriented economy based on division of labor and specialization; on private property in the essential means of production and in consumer goods and services; on a competitive survival struggle for wealth, prestige and power between individuals and social groups; and on the exploitation of man, society and nature for the material benefit of the privileged few who occupy the summit of the social pyramid;
(3) a unified, centralized political
apparatus or bureaucracy
that attempts to plan, direct and administer the political,
economic, ideological and sociological structure;
(4) a self-selected and self-perpetuating
oligarchy that owns
the wealth, holds the power and pulls the strings;
(5) an adequate labor force for
farming, transport, industry,
(6) large middle-class elements:
craftsmen, tradesmen, lesser bureaucrats, and a semi-parasitic
fringe of camp-followers;
(7) a highly professional, well-trained,
for defense and offense;
(8) a complex of institutions and
social practices which will
indoctrinate, persuade and when necessary limit deviation
and maintain social conformity;
(9) agreed religious practices and other cultural features.
This description of civilization covers the essential features of western civilization and the sequence of predecessor civilizations for which adequate records exist.
Successive civilizations have introduced new culture traits and abandoned old ones as the pageant of history moved from one stage to the next, or advanced and retreated through cycles. Using this description as a working formula, it is possible to understand the development followed in the past by western civilization, to estimate its current status and to indicate its probable outcome.
Long-established thought-habits cry aloud in protest against such a description of civilization. Until quite recently the word “civilization” has been used in academic circles to symbolize a social idea or ideal. Professor of History Anson D. Morse of Amherst College presents such a view in his Civilization and the World War (Boston: Ginn 1919). For him, civilization is “the sum of things in which the heritage of the child of the twentieth century is better than that of the child of the Stone Age. As a process it is the perfection of man and mankind. As an end, it is the realization of the highest ideal which men are capable of forming.... The goal of civilization ... is human society so organized in all of its constituent groups that each shall yield the best possible service to each one and thereby to mankind as a whole, (producing) the perfect organization of humanity.” (page 3).
Such thoughts may be noble and inspired; they are not related to history. We know more or less about a score of civilizations that have occupied portions of the earth during several thousand years. We know a great deal about the western civilization which we observe and in which we participate. Professor Morse’s florid words apply to none of the civilizations known to history. Certainly they are poles away from an accurate characterization of our own varient of this social pattern.
We are writing this introduction in an effort to make our word pictures of mankind and its doings correspond with the facts of social history. With the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, it is high time for us to exchange the clouds of fancy and the flowers of rhetoric for the solid ground of historical reality. The word “civilization” must generalize what has been and what is, as nearly as the past and present can be embodied in language.
Civilization is a level or phase of culture which has been attained and lost repeatedly in the course of social history. The epochs of civilization have not been distributed evenly, either in time or on the earth’s surface. A combination of circumstances, political, economic, ideological, sociological, resulted in the Egyptian, the Chinese, the Roman civilizations. One of these was centered in North Africa, the second in Asia, the third in eastern Europe. All three spilled over into adjacent continents.
No two civilizations are exactly alike at any stage of their development. Each civilization is at least a partial experiment, a process or sequence of causal relationships, altered sequentially in the course of its life cycle.
These thoughts about culture and civilization should be supplemented by noting the relationship between civilizations and empires. An empire is a center of wealth and power associated with its economic and political dependencies. A civilization is a cluster or a succession of empires and/or former empires, co-ordinated and directed by one of their number which has established its leadership in the course of survival struggle.
The total body of historical evidence bearing on human experiments with civilization is extensive and impressive. It covers a large portion of the Earth’s land surface, includes parts of Asia, Africa and Europe and extends sketchily to the Americas. In time it covers many thousands of years.
Experiments with civilization have been conducted in highly selective surroundings possessing the volume and range of natural resources and the isolation and remoteness necessary to build and maintain a high level of culture over substantial periods of time. In these special areas it was possible to provide for subsistence, produce an economic surplus large enough to permit experimentation and ensure protection against human and other predators. Egypt and the Fertile Crescent were surrounded by deserts and high
Histories of civilizations, some of them ancient or classical, have been written during the past two centuries. There have been general histories in many languages. There have been scholarly reports on particular civilizations. Prof. A.J. Toynbee’s massive ten volume Study of History is a good example. Still more extensive is the thirty volume history of civilization under the general editorship of C.K. Ogden. These writings have brought together many facts bearing chiefly on the lives of spectacular individuals and episodes, with all too little data on the life of the silent human majority.
At the end of this volume the reader will find a list, selected from the many books that I have consulted in preparation for writing this study. Most of these authorities are concerned with the facts of civilization, with far less emphasis on their political, economic and sociological aspects.
In this study I have tried to unite theory with practice. On the one hand I have reviewed briefly and as accurately as possible some outstanding experiments with civilization, including our own western variant. (Part I. The Pageant of Experiments with Civilization.) In Part II I have undertaken a social analysis of civilization as a past and present life style. In Part III, Civilization Is Becoming Obsolete, I have tried to check our thinking about civilization with the sweep of present day historical trends. Part IV, Steps Beyond Civilization, is an attempt to list some of the alternatives and opportunities presently available to civilized man.
Any reader who has the interest and persistence to read through the entire volume and to browse through some of its references will have had the equivalent of a university extension course dealing with one of the most critical issues confronting the present generation of humanity.
The Pageant of Experiment With Civilization
EXPERIMENTS IN EGYPT AND EURASIA
Thousands of years before the city of Rome was ringed with its six miles of stone wall, other peoples in Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa were building civilizations. New techniques of excavation, identification and preservation, subsidized by an increasingly affluent human society, and developed during the past two centuries of archeological research have provided the needed means and manpower. The result is an imposing number of long buried building sites with their accompanying artifacts. Still more important are the records written in long forgotten languages on stone, clay tablets, metal, wood and paper. These remnants and records, left by extinguished civilizations, do not tell us all we wish to know, but they do provide the materials which enable us to reconstruct, at least in part, the lives of our civilized predecessors.
Extensive in time and massive in the volume of their architecture are the remains of Egyptian civilization. The earliest of these fragments date back for more than six thousand years.
The seat of Egyptian civilization was the Nile Valley and its estuary built out into the Mediterranean Sea from the debris of disintegrating African mountains. Annual floods left their silt deposits to deepen the soil along the lower reaches of the river. River water, impounded for the purpose, provided the means of irrigating an all but rainless desert countryside. Skillful engineering drained the swamps, adding to the cultivable area of a narrow valley cut by the river through jagged barren hills. Deserts on both sides of the Nile protected the valley against aggressors and migrants. Within this sanctuary the Egyptians built a civilization that lasted, with a minor break, for some 3,000 years.
Egyptian temples and tombs carry records chiseled and painted on hard stone, which throw light on the life and times of upper-class Egyptians, including emperors, provincial governors, courtiers, generals, merchants, provincial organizers. In a humid, temperate climate these stone-cut and painted records would have been eroded, overgrown and obliterated long ago. In the dry desert air of North Africa they have preserved their identity through the centuries.
Since the Egyptians had a few draft animals, and little if any power-driven machinery, energy needed to build massive stone temples, tombs and other public structures must have been supplied by the forced labor of Egyptians, their serfs and slaves.
Egypt’s history dawns on a well-organized society: The Old Kingdom, based on the productivity of the narrow, lush Nile Valley. The products of the Valley were sufficient to maintain a large population of cultivators: some slave, some forced labor, about which we have little knowledge; a bureaucracy, headed by a supreme ruler whose declared divinity was one of the chief stabilizing forces of the society. Between its agricultural base and its ruling monarch, the Old Kingdom had a substantial middle class which procured the wood, stone, metals and other materials needed in construction; a corps of engineers, technicians and skilled workers, and a substantial mass of humanity which provided the energy needed to erect the temples, monuments and other remains which testify to the political, economic, and cultural competence of the ruling elements and the technical skills present in the Old Kingdom.
Foremost among the factors responsible for the success of the Old Kingdom was the close partnership between the “lords temporal” and the “lords spiritual”—the state and the church. The state consisted of a highly centralized monarchy ruled by a Pharoah who personified temporal authority. This authority was strengthened because it represented a consensus of the many gods recognized and worshiped by the Egyptians of the Old Kingdom. The monarch was also looked upon as an embodiment of divinity. Some Egyptian pharoahs had been priests who became rulers. Others had been rulers who became priests. The two aspects of public life—political and religious—were closely interrelated.
In theory the land of Egypt was the property of the Pharoah. Foreign trade was a state monopoly. In practice the ownership and use of land were shared with the temples and with those members of the nobility closest to the ruling monarch. Hence there were state lands and state income and temple lands and temple income. The use of state lands was alloted to favorites. Each temple had land which it used for its own purposes.
Political power in the Old Kingdom was a tight monopoly held by the ruling dynasty of the period. During preceding epochs it seems likely that rival groups or factions had gone through a period of power-survival struggle which eliminated one rival after another until economic ownership and political authority were both vested in the same ruling oligarchs. This struggle for consolidation apparently reached its climax when Menes, a pharoah who began his rule about 3,400 B.C., in the south of Egypt, invaded and conquered the Delta and merged the two kingdoms, South and North, into one nation which preserved its identity and its sovereignty until the Persian Conquest of 525 B.C.
The unification of the northern kingdom with the South seems to have been a slow process, interrupted by insurrections and rebellions in the Delta and in Lybia. Inscriptions report the suppression of these insurrections and give the number of war-captives brought to the south as slaves. In one instance the captives numbered 120,000 in addition to 1,420 small cattle and 400,000 large cattle.
Using these war captives to supplement the home supply of forced and free labor, successive dynasties built temples, palaces and tombs; constructed new cities; drained and irrigated land; sent expeditions to the Sinai peninsula to mine copper. Such enterprises indicate a considerable economic surplus above that required to take care of a growing population: the high degree of organization required to plan and assemble such enterprises, and the considerable engineering and technological capacity necessary for their execution.
Chief among the binding forces holding together the extensive apparatus known as the Old Kingdom was religion, with its gods, its temples and their generous endowments. Each locality consolidated into the Old Kingdom had its gods and their places for worship. In addition to these local religious centers there was an hierarchy of national deities, their temples, temple lands and endowments. The ruling monarch, who was official servitor of the national gods, interpreting their will and adding to the endowments of the temples, was the embodiment of secular and of religious authority.
Egyptians of the period believed that death was not an end, but a transition. They also believed that those who passed through the death process would have many of the needs and wants associated with life on the Earth. Furthermore they believed that in the course of their future existence those who had died would again inhabit the bodies that they had during their previous existences on Earth. Following out these beliefs the Egyptians put into their tombs a full assortment of the food, clothing, implements and instruments which they had used during their Earth life. They also embalmed the bodies of their dead with the utmost care and buried them in carefully hidden tombs where they would be found by their former users and occupied for the Day of Judgment.
Holding such views, preparation for the phase of life subsequent to death was a chief object of the early Egyptian rulers and their subjects. One of the preoccupations of each new occupant of the throne was the selection of his burial place. Early in his reign he began the construction of suitable quarters for the reception of his embalmed body. The great pyramids were such tombs. Other monarchs constructed rock-hewn chambers for the reception of their bodies. In these chambers in addition to a room for a sarcophagus were associated rooms in which every imaginable need of the dead was stored: food, clothing, furniture, jewelry, weapons.
Adjacent to the royal tomb favored nobles received permission to build their own tombs, similarly equipped but on a smaller, less grandiose scale than that of the pharaoh. By this means the courtiers who had attended the pharaoh in his life-time would be at hand to perform similar services in the after death existence.
Construction and maintenance of temples and tombs absorbed a considerable part of Egypt’s economic surplus. These drains on the economy grew more extensive as the country became more populous and more productive. Thanks to the lack of rain in and near the Nile Valley and despite the depleting activities of persistent vandalism these constructs have stood for thirty centuries as monuments to one of the most extensive and elaborate civilizations known to historians. Despite the absence of detailed records, Egyptian achievements under the Old Kingdom indicate an abundance of food, wood, metal and other resources far in excess of survival requirements; a population sufficiently extensive to produce the necessaries of existence and a surplus which made it possible for the lords temporal and spiritual to erect such astonishing and enduring monuments; high levels of technical skills among woodsmen, quarrymen and building crews; the transport facilities by land and water required to assemble the materials, equipment and man power; the foresight, planning, timing and over-all management involved in such constructs as the pyramids, temples and tombs which have withstood the wear and tear of thousands of years; the willingness
Speaking sociologically, the structure of Egyptian society from sometime before 3,400 B.C., to 525 B.C., passed through four distinct phases or stages. During the first phase, the Nile Valley, which had been separated by tribal and/or geographical boundaries into a large number of more or less independent units, was consolidated, integrated and organized into a single kingdom. This working, functioning area (the land of Egypt) could provide for most of its basic needs from within its own borders. In a sense it was a self-sufficient, workable, liveable area. Egypt was populous, rich, well organized, with a surplus of wealth, productivity and man-power that could be used outside of its own frontiers. Some of the surplus was used outside—to the south, into Central Africa, to the west into North Africa, to the north into Eastern Europe and Western Asia, inaugurating the second phase of Egyptian development. During this second phase Egyptian wealth, population and technology, spilling over its frontiers onto foreign lands, established and maintained relations with foreign territory on a basis that yielded a yearly “tribute,” paid by foreigners into the Egyptian treasury. The land of Egypt thus surrounded itself with a cluster of dependencies, converting what had been an independent state or independent states into a functioning empire.
The land of Egypt was the nucleus of the Egyptian Empire—center of wealth and power with its associates and its dependencies. The empire was held together by a legal authority using armed force where necessary to assert or preserve its identity and unity.
Expansion, the third phase of Egyptian development, involved the export of culture traits and artifacts beyond national frontiers, extending the cultural influence of Egypt into non-Egyptian lands inhabited by Egypt’s neighbors. Merchants, tourists, travelers, explorers and military adventurers carried the name and fame of Egypt into other centers of civilization and into the hinterland of barbarism that surrounded the civilizations of that period.
Thus the land of Egypt expanded into the Egyptian Empire and the culture of Egypt (its language, its ideas, its artifacts, its institutions) expanded far beyond the boundaries of Egyptian political authority and established Egyptian civilization in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe.
The era of Egyptian civilization was divided into two periods by an invasion of the Hyksos, nomadic leaders who moved into Egypt, ruled it for a period and later were expelled and replaced by a new Egyptian dynasty.
The fourth period of Egypt’s experiment with civilization was that of decline. From a position of political supremacy and cultural ascendancy Egyptian influence weakened politically, economically, ideologically and culturally until the year of the Persian Conquest, 525 B.C., when Egypt became a conquered, occupied, provincial and in some ways a colonial territory.
Egyptian civilization can be summed up in three sentences. It covered the greatest time span of any civilization known to history. Its monuments are the most massive. Its records, chiefly in stone, picture massed humans directed for at least thirty centuries toward providing a satisfying and rewarding after-life for a tiny favored minority of its population. To achieve this result, the natural resources of three adjacent continents were combined and concentrated into the Nile Valley through an effective imperial apparatus that enabled the Egyptians to exploit the resources and peoples of adjacent Africa, Asia and Europe for the enrichment and empowerment of the rulers of Egypt and its dependencies. The disintegration and collapse of Egyptian civilization occupied only a small fraction of the time devoted to its upbuilding and supremacy.
Before, during and after Egyptians played their long and distinguished parts in the recorded history of civilization, the continent of Asia was producing a series of civilization in four areas: first at the crossroads joining Africa and Europe to Asia; then in Western Asia (Asia Minor); in Central Asia, especially in India and Indonesia and finally in China and the Far East.
Experiments with civilization during the past six thousand years have centered in the Eurasian land mass, including the North African littoral of the Mediterranean Sea. Within this area of potential or actual civilization, until very recent times, the centers of civilization have been widely separated geographically and temporally. Occasionally they have been unified and integrated by some unusual up-thrust like that of the Egyptian, the Chinese or the Roman civilizations. In the intervals between these up-thrusts various centers of civilization have maintained a large degree of autonomy and isolation. Only in the past five centuries have communication, transportation, trade and tourism created the basis for an experiment in organizing and coordination of a planet-wide experiment in civilization.
Nature offered humankind two logical areas for the establishment of civilizations. One was the cross-roads of migration, trade and travel by land to and from Asia, Africa and Europe. The other was the Mediterranean with its possibility of relatively safe and easy water-migration, trade and travel between the three continents making up its littoral. Both possibilities were brought together in the Eastern Mediterranean with its multitude of islands, its broken coastline, and its many safe harbors.
The Phoenicians developed their far-flung trading activities around the Mediterranean as a waterway, and the tri-continental crossroads as a logical center for a civilization built around business enterprise.
Aegean civilization occupied the eastern Mediterranean for approximately two thousand years. Its nucleus was the island of Crete. Its influence extended far beyond its island base into southern Europe, western Asia and North Africa. Experiments with civilization on and near the Indian sub-continent centered around the Indonesian archipelago and the rich, semi-tropical and tropical valleys of the Ganges, the Indus, the Gadari, the Irra-waddy and the Mekong. Although they were contiguous geographically and extended over a time span of approximately two thousand years they were aggregates rather than monolithic civilizations, retaining their localisms and avoiding any strong central authority.
Beginnings of civilization have been made outside the Asian-European-African triangle centering around the Mediterranean Sea and the band of South Asia extending from Mesopotamia through India and Indonesia to China. They include the high Andes, Mexico and Central America and parts of black Africa. In no one of these cases did the beginnings reach the stability and universality that characterized the Eurasian-African civilizations.
ROME’S OUTSTANDING EXPERIMENT
Among the many attempts to make the institutions and practices of civilization promote human welfare, Roman civilization deserves a very high rating. First, it was located in the eastern Mediterranean area, the home-site of so many civilizations. Second, it was part and parcel of a prolonged period of attempts by Egyptians, Assyrians, Hittites, Babylonians, Mycaenians, Phoenicians and others in the area to set up successful empires and to play the lead role in building a civilization that would be more or less permanent. Third, the Romans seemed to have the hardiness, adaptability, persistence and capacity for self-discipline necessary to carry such a long term project to a successful conclusion. Among the widely varied human groups occupying the eastern Mediterranean area between 1000 B.C. and 1000 A.D., the Romans seem to have been well qualified to win the laurel crown.
Western civilization is an incomplete experiment. Its outcome remains uncertain. Its future still hangs in the insecure balance between construction and destruction, between life and extinction. It is “our” civilization in a very real sense. It was developed by our forebears. We live as part of its complex of ideas, practices, techniques, institutions. Since we are in it and of it, it is difficult for us humans to judge it objectively.
Roman civilization, on the contrary, is a completed experiment, one that came into being, developed over several centuries, attained a zenith of wealth and power, then sank gradually from sight, until it lived only as a part of history. A study of Roman civilization has two advantages. First, its life cycle has been completed. Second, it is close enough to us in history and its records are so numerous and so well preserved that we can form a fairly accurate picture of its structure and its functions. It was written up extensively by the Romans themselves, by their Greek and other contemporaries and by a host of scholars and students; since the break-up of Roman civilization as a political, economic and cultural force in world affairs.
Rome’s experiment is sometimes called Graeco-Roman civilization because Greece and Italy were close geographical neighbors and also because Greek culture, which reached its zenith by 500 B.C. and was closely paralleled by the rise of Roman culture, had a profound effect in determining the total character of Roman civilization. In a very real sense Graeco-Roman civilization was the parent of western civilization. Among the many completed civilizations of which we have fairly adequate records, those concerning Rome are most complete and most available.
The story of Roman civilization begins in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin in an era when Greek and Phoenician cities, together with segments and fragments of the Egyptian-Assyrian-Babylonian civilizations were competing for raw materials, trade and alliances. Egyptians had been supreme in the area for centuries. The Sumerian, Aegean, Chinese, Hittite, Assyrian and Indian civilizations had enjoyed periods of dominance but had never reached the level of supremacy enjoyed by the Egyptians.
When Rome came on the scene as a first-rate power, circa 300 B.C., the crucial land bridge joining Africa, Europe and Asia was being passed from hand to hand, with no power strong enough to succeed Egypt as the dominant political-economic-cultural force in the region. Historically speaking it was an interregnum, a period of transition. Egypt had ceased to dominate the public life of the area. The trading cities of the Greeks and the Phoenicians were pushing their way of life into the front ranks among the recognized powers. The kingdoms of Asia-Minor were still warring for supremacy in a field which none of the local kingdoms was able to dominate and hold for any considerable period of time.
Public affairs at the African-European-Asian crossroads were being periodically disturbed and upset by the intrusion of Asian marauders and nomads who came in successive waves, defeated and drove the native inhabitants off from the choicest land and settled down in their places, only to be pushed out in their turn by fresh Asian migrants.
The African-European-Asian triangle was a meeting place and a battle ground. Phoenician and Greek cities brought to this scene new factors and new forces: the rudiments of science; trade and commerce, including a money economy, accounting and cost keeping; the elements of economic organization; the conduct of public affairs by governments based on law rather than on the whim and word of a deified potentate; and the construction of cities and city states built on these foundations.
Rome entered the picture when the forces of political absolutism based upon an agriculture operated by serfs and slaves had fought themselves to a standstill and exhausted their historical usefulness. The times called for new forces capable of adapting themselves to a new culture pattern extending over a greatly enlarged world. The Romans, with their Greek associates, were in a position to fill the gap.
Romans lived originally in Latium, a small land area in southern Italy on the Tiber River far enough inland to be protected against pirates. They built a city which finally covered seven adjacent hills and developed a community of working farmers, merchants, craftsmen and professionals. The farms were small, averaging perhaps eight to fifteen acres, an area large enough to provide a family with a stable though meagre livelihood. The farmers were hard working and frugal.
At this period of Roman history and mythology Latium was one of many communities occupying Italy. Each was self-governing. Each took the steps necessary for survival and expansion. Like their neighbors, the inhabitants of Latium were prepared to defend themselves against piracy, brigandage and ambitious, aggressive rivals. Defense took the form of an embankment and a water-filled moat which surrounded the early settlements and provided shelter for herdsman and farmers in case of emergencies.
At some point in pre-history, presumably when Etruscan princes were in control of Roman affairs, the protective earth embankment which surrounded the Roman settlements was strengthened by building a moat 100 feet wide and 30 feet deep. Behind the moat was a stone wall 10 feet thick and 30 feet or more in height. Parts of this defense were built and rebuilt at various times. When completed they were about six miles in length, enclosing an area sufficient to accommodate the chief buildings of the city and living space for a population of perhaps 200,000 people.
The defenses were designed to prevent interference or intrusion into the life of the Romans. Behind them the inhabitants constructed temples, a forum, palaces and other public buildings, bringing in clean mountain water by an aqueduct that eventually reached a length of 44 miles, constructing an extensive system of drains and sewers that disposed of city wastes, building a network of roads that eventually gave the Romans access first to all parts of Italy and later to the entire Mediterranean Basin. They also replaced the wooden bridges over the Tiber and other rivers by stone bridges carried on stone piers and arches.
Early in their building activities the Romans learned to make a cement so weather-resistant that many of their constructs are still usable two thousand years after the Romans built them. These and similar building operations made Rome one of the show places of the Graeco-Roman world. They also provided for the Romans a level of stability and security far beyond that of their neighbors in that part of the unstable Italian peninsula.
At the time Rome was founded, presumably about 700 B.C., the Italian peninsula was occupied by a large number of principalities, kingdoms and tribal nomads, newly arrived from eastern Europe and Asia. The struggle for pasturage and fertile soil, for dwelling sites and trading opportunities, went on ceaselessly. Romans, like their neighbors and competitors, were reaching out to provide themselves with food, building materials, trade opportunities, strategic advantages. They expanded peacefully if possible, using diplomacy up to a certain point and only engaging in war as a last resort. But since the entire Italian peninsula was occupied by more or less independent groups, each of which was seeking a larger and safer place in the sun, the outcome was ceaseless diplomatic maneuvering, using war as an instrument of policy in the struggle for pelf and power. Four centuries of power struggle, in which Romans played an increasingly prominent role, gave the Roman Republic and its allies substantial control of the entire Italian peninsula. Beginning as one among many small independent states in Italy, the inhabitants of Latium emerged from four centuries of competitive diplomatic and military struggle as the de facto masters of all Italy.
Power struggles are carried on by contestants who occupy a particular land area with its resources and other advantages. Latium was small in extent (some 2,000 square miles) and had very limited natural advantages. Operating from this restricted base, through four centuries of diplomacy, intrigue and war, the Romans enlarged their base of operations to include the whole of Italy. In this crucial era of its history Rome expanded its geographic-economic base to a point from which it could use the natural and human resources of all Italy as a nucleus upon which to build the Roman Empire in Europe, West Asia and North Africa.
At the beginning of this period the Mediterranean Basin housed a number of African, Asian and European empires. Each exercised authority over a part of the Mediterranean littoral. Each empire was built around its central city or cities. Each empire had its distinctive institutions and practices. During these centuries all of the empires were defeated, conquered, occupied and either dismembered or otherwise brought under Roman control.
Extension of Roman authority, first over the Italian peninsula and subsequently over parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, was the result of a policy of expansion that was aggressively, persistently and patiently followed by Roman leaders and policy makers. Neighboring territories were amalgamated into the nucleus of the Roman Empire. More remote territories were associated by treaty as allies of Rome, as dependent or client dependencies of Rome, and as colonies or provinces of the Roman Empire. In all cases they were integral parts of an expanding political, economic and military sphere of influence with Rome, and later Italy, as the center and nucleus. In the course of this development the expanding Roman Empire grew to be the wealthiest and most powerful political, sociological and cultural unit in the Euro-Asian-African area.
The Roman imperial cycle spanned some thirteen centuries. During this period Roman life was transformed from its small, local seat of authority in Central Italy into its new stature as the outstanding power in the Mediterranean area. Economically it extended from peasant proprietorship and a use economy to a market-money economy; from a society of working peasant farmers to an economy resting upon war captives reduced to slavery; from an economy based on production for trade and profit to an economy based on power-grabbing, special privilege, speculation and corruption; from an austerity economy based on primary production to an economy based on affluence, exploitation, and gluttony.
These revolutionary transformations in the Roman economy were accompanied, politically, by hardening of the division of Roman society along class lines with the resulting contradictions, antagonisms, and class struggles, including open class warfare.
Domestic contradictions, confrontations, civil strife and formal civil war were present throughout the entire history of Rome. They existed in embryo in the earliest days of the original settlements on the seven hills over which the city of Rome eventually spread. As Rome and its interests became more complex socially and more extensive geographically the number and variety of contradictions, confrontations, civil and military conflicts increased correspondingly.
In terms of individual human lives the changes which took place in Roman society during the six or seven centuries that elapsed between the early Roman settlements and the reign of their Emperor Augustus were profound and far-reaching. Many communities of diverse and often incompatible backgrounds and interests were herded together, helter-skelter, into the City of Rome, Latium, the Italian nucleus and the subsequent alliances, federations, conquests, consolidations into colonies, occupied areas, provinces and spheres of influence. The greater the number and diversity of these interests and relationships, the greater the probability of conflict. This empire building process was not gradual and directed with scrupulous care to preserve the amenities and niceties of polite social intercourse. The job was done by and under the direction of military leaders who are traditionally in a hurry to get results. The subordinates who carried out military decisions were volunteer-professional soldiers, mercenary adventurers and conscripts drawn form the four corners of the empire. As the empire grew in extent and as its troubles multiplied, the military was more frequently called upon to take over and iron out difficulties.
Domestically, in the city of Rome and its immediate environs, there were several sharp lines of cleavage; between Roman citizens and non-citizens; between the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, the working proletariat and the idle proletariat; between the rich and the poor; between freeman (citizens) and the slaves who grew in numbers as the wars of conquest and consolidation multiplied war captives; between the civilian bureaucrats and the members of the military hierarchy.
In the brief period of maximum territorial expansion following the defeat and destruction of Carthage, the frontiers of the Roman Empire were pushed out ruthlessly, North, East, West and South. In the hurly-burly of rapid expansion individual rights were ignored, local communities and entire regions were overrun, depopulated and resettled with the tough disregard of individual and local interests that must characterize any quick, general movement—economic, sociological or military. If the expansion, expulsion and rehabilitation had produced greater degrees of stability and security for individuals and social groups they might have been tolerated and assimilated by the diverse populations caught up in the maelstrom of drastic expansion. But rapid, coercive social transformation produces neither stability nor security. Its normal consequence is chaos, conflict and further change. In the course of these internal conflicts the Roman Republic was gradually phased out. In theory it persisted until the establishment of the military dictatorship of Julius Caesar. Practically, while many of its forms remained, the conduct of public affairs passed more and more into the hands of political leaders who were able to command the backing of the legions.
When the first war against Carthage was launched in 265 B.C., Carthage was at the height of her power. Situated on the North African Coast almost directly across the Mediterranean from Italy, the Carthaginians were in effective control of the western Mediterranean. Carthage was firmly entrenched in Spain. It was trading extensively with the British Isles. Fleets of Carthaginian war ships patrolled the Mediterranean guarding against piracy and economic or political interference by rivals.
Roman political and business leaders, inexperienced in international political dealings and the promotion of international trade, found their further expansion to the west blocked by Carthaginian political, economic and military installations. The result of the confrontation was a series of three wars that began in 265 B.C., and ended in 146. During these 119 years an established power, Carthage, struggled to preserve its position against aggressive Roman efforts to take control of the West Mediterranean basin. The Carthaginians, under the able generalship of Hannibal, mobilized a military force (including elephants), marched from Spain over the Alpine passes into Italy reaching the gates of Rome. Romans countered with the slogan: “Carthage must be destroyed!” When the third Punic war ended in 146 B.C., with the defeat of the Carthaginian military forces, the city of Carthage was leveled.
The defeat of Carthage gave the Romans control of the western Mediterranean. During the same period Roman interests were pushing into East Europe and Western Asia. In 214 B.C., Philip of Macedon had made an alliance with Hannibal, directed against Rome. Consequently, three wars between Rome and Macedonia followed, the third ending in 168 B.C., with the defeat of the Macedonians and their subordination to Roman authority in the form of a Roman governor.
When opposition to Roman influence developed in Greece in 148 B.C., a commission of ten was appointed by the Roman Senate to settle affairs in the Greek peninsula. The city of Corinth was burned to the ground and its lands were confiscated. Thebes and Chalcis were also destroyed. The walls of all towns which had shared in the revolt against Rome were pulled down. All confederations between Greek cities were dissolved. Disarmament, isolation and Roman taxation were imposed on the Greek cities and the oversight of affairs was assigned to the Roman governor of neighboring Macedonia.
Successful wars against Syria and Egypt extended Roman control over additional territory in West Asia and North Africa. A map of Italy at the time of the Roman Federation in 268 B.C. shows Rome as the most powerful among two score minor associates in the federation. A map of the Roman Empire at the death of Augustus in 14 A.D. shows a Roman Empire extending from the Atlantic seaboard on the west to Central Europe on the north, the Black Sea on the east and a generous strip of Africa on the south.
Within three centuries Rome had expanded from its position as a minor state in Italy to the effective control of those portions of three continents which bordered the Mediterranean. Conquests during the following century further extended the Roman frontiers.
Under the Caesars Rome was a society in the throes of political transition. Roman Emperors, backed and frequently selected by the military, were exercising despotic power. They still paid lip service to the Constitution, an instrument that had relevance during the life of the defunct Republic. In the era of the Caesars the law slumbered and might ruled. The turbulent masses were fed and housed by the Roman Oligarchy to which the Emperors were ultimately responsible. The far flung territories conquered by military power and held by military occupation were subject to the authority of the same Roman Oligarchy.
Behind the shams, frauds and tyrannies of a political dictatorship paying lip service to the corpse of a defunct Republic lay the stark realities of a bankrupt economy. Throughout the era of the Caesars the Roman Empire continued to expand geographically. It also came into contact and conflict with peoples so remote from Italy that for them Rome was only a name for tyranny, extortion and exploitation. Julius Caesar and his immediate successors penetrated these remote territories, subjugating them, levying tribute, appointing governors and other officials, policing them, pretending to rule over them. To do this soldiers were marching on foot into regions that lay thousands of miles from the mother city. To be sure, they marched over Roman roads and bridges so well constructed that some of them are still being used at the present day.
But the excellence of Roman engineering could not match up to the implacable limitations of time and distance. Nor could they overlook the need for building the physical structure of Roman economy as they advanced into enemy territory. Equally decisive were the political consequences of the property confiscation and forced labor required to establish and maintain Roman power and enrich greedy Roman officials and their lackeys and overseers.
Rising overhead costs, with no corresponding growth of income, an empty treasury in Rome, and a persistent policy of fleecing the provinces to pay for the normal costs of bureaucracy, plus its extravagances and excesses, could lead to only one possible outcome. Higher taxes and more ruinous levies in the newly conquered provinces could not fill the insatiable maw of deficit spending.
Inflation was the immediate result, accompanied and followed by the debasement of currency and new expropriations of private property. Government expenses consistently exceeded income. The situation was aggravated by the growth of parasitic elements which persistently produced little or nothing and as persistently multiplied their luxuries and extravagances. The parasites grew richer. The impoverished masses suffered the normal deprivations of poverty plus the weight of steadily rising over-head costs. As Roman authority extended farther from its center, the chasm between its income and its out-go widened.
Slave labor aggravated the situation. There was a time when Roman farmers and craftsmen did their own work. That time ended with the enslavement of war captives who swamped the labor market. Like any parasitic growth, slavery and forced labor destroyed the fabric of a largely self-contained economy based on peasant proprietorship.
Roman economy was honey-combed with problems created by deficit spending, currency devaluation and exploitation. At its base was a foot-loose urban proletariat made up largely of refugees from a countryside given over increasingly to the employment of military captives as slave labor. The city masses at the outset were extensively unemployed. Increasingly they became unemployable, parasitic, restless, demanding.
At the outset the slave revolts were local and occasional. As the slaves grew more numerous unrest spread and hardened into organized resistance. Spartacus, a slave, led a revolt which mobilized armies, defeated the Roman legions in a series of battles and ended only with the death of Spartacus and the dispersal of his forces.
Local and provincial affairs under the Roman Empire were administered by a self-seeking corrupt bureaucracy.
Expansion by means of military conquest increased the influence of the military at the expense of the civilian administrators. The consequent burdens of militarism reached from the bottom to the top of Roman society. Eventually, under the Caesars, the military selected emperors from among the rivals for the purple of imperial authority, and used the legions under their command to protect and promote their own political fortunes, thus maintaining a form of latent and frequently open civil war.
Colonial unrest and provincial self-seeking were promoted by conspiracies among Rome’s less dependable allies.
Wars of rivalry between Roman candidates for top preferment shifted the power-balance out of civilian hands into the grip of the military. Step by step and stage by stage the Roman Empire became a warfare state maintained at home and abroad by the intervention of the military. Wars of rivalry at home in Rome were paralleled by wars of rivalry abroad.
During the Era of the Caesars Rome became the Eurasian-African honey pot. Wealth centered there. Authority was enthroned there. Power was generated there. Throughout the sphere of Roman political influence, of trade and travel, the central position of Rome was recognized and acknowledged. Not only knowledge and authority, but folklore mushroomed, with Rome as its central theme. Asian nomads, searching for grass, Asian potentates seeking new worlds to conquer and plunder, heard of Rome and finally went there. All roads led to Rome. Thousands of miles of stone roads were built as binding forces to hold the Empire together and defend it against all possible enemies. It was along these roads that the legions marched as they pushed back potential invaders and extended the frontiers. It was these same roads and bridges that made easy and sure the advance of the Asian hordes that would one day occupy and loot the home city. Roads and bridges enabled Roman authority to maintain and extend itself. The same roads and bridges provided a freeway that led into the citadel of Roman power.
Under the Caesars the Roman Empire achieved its greatest geographical extent and exercised its widest cultural influence. The city of Rome was the capital of the western world. There was one state, one law, one economy, one official language, one military authority.
Despite its apparent massiveness, Roman civilization was not a monolith. Rather it was a conglomerate, consisting of many parts held together by connecting social tissues which Rome and Italy alone supplied. In the first instance there was a division into provinces, colonies and newly acquired territories. The provinces, under their Roman appointed governors, enjoyed a large measure of economic and cultural self-determination within the Roman Empire. Beyond the Roman Empire lay territories and peoples associated with Rome by treaties, bound to Rome by trade and travel, in some cases paying tribute to Rome, but enjoying sufficient autonomy as peoples, nations and empires maneuvering for position and advantage, frequently allying themselves with non-Roman areas and occasionally conspiring to by-pass Roman authority and even to challenge Roman supremacy.
This political diversity along the defense perimeter of the Roman Empire existed in a chaos ranging from questioned authority to open defiance and military challenges to Rome and the threat of Romanization. Along this defense perimeter were stationed the legions that guarded the frontiers. Across it moved trade, travel, incursions, invasions and periodic reprisals as a result of which the more turbulent neighbors were brought within the sphere of Rome’s influence or, in cases of extreme dissidence and resistance, were depopulated, colonized and added to the Roman conglomerate.
It goes without saying that the influence of Roman culture extended far beyond the Roman defense perimeter, reaching peoples, nations and empires to which Rome was little more than a name. The no-man’s land between what-was and what-was-not Rome not only existed in a state of perpetual uncertainty, but provided a battle field for the smuggling, brigandage, the periodic border clashes, the migrations, incursions, invasions and punitive expeditions that are the characteristic features of every ill-defined political boundary.
Roman civilization under the Caesars was a centralized absolutism with a large measure of peripheral deviation and autonomy. It was directed by a central oligarchy and patrolled, defended and extended by a military force unified in theory but in practice grouped around the outstanding personalities and subjected to the vagaries and upsets always associated with power politics in the hands of military backed political despots.
Roman civilization, like all social organisms, came into being, moved toward maturity, reached a plateau of fulfillment from which it declined, broke up and eventually disappeared into the interregnum known as the Dark Ages. The entire episode occupied a dozen centuries. Its beginnings were unimpressively local. At the height of its wealth, power and cultural influence it bestrode the Eurasian-African triangle. Its decline and disappearance were no less spectacular than its meteoric rise to fame and fortune.
I would like to summarize the Roman experiment and some of its lessons by listing and commenting briefly on the forces that built up Roman civilization and those forces which resulted in its decline and dissolution.
Primary up-building forces in the Roman experiment:
1. Establishing the city of Rome as a stable, defensible center of merchandising and commerce, transport, finance, population, wealth and power with a hinterland of associates and dependencies. As it turns out, the city of Rome has outlived both the Roman Empire and Roman Civilization.
2. Steadfast dedication to
Roman interests first, by all necessary
means and despite costs which at the time seemed to
3. A recognition of that which
is possible, especially in political
relationships. The acceptance with good grace of a
half-loaf where no more was available.
4. Consistent, persistent aggression and expansion where such policies were beneficial to Rome, with little or no regard for their effects on Roman associates, allies, friends or enemies. Studied ruthlessness.
5. Rewarding Rome’s friends, allies and associates with economic, political and cultural advantages. Implacably punishing and where necessary exterminating Rome’s persistent enemies.
6. Wide tolerance of local
cultural variation in matters that
did not conflict with the major principles and practices of
Rome’s central authority.
7. Taking defeats in their
stride, paying the price, and recovering
lost momentum. Again advancing along avenues
which led to Roman success and aggrandizement.
8. Indomitable persistence in the pursuit of major objectives.
9. After the reigns of Julius Caesar and Augustus, concentrating power in a single person and his chosen brain trust, using that power to further aggrandize the Roman Empire and Roman Civilization.
This category is not complete. It aims to answer the basic question: In a situation where a thousand contestants entered the knock-down and drag-out struggle, first for survival and then for supremacy, what qualities or qualifications enabled Romans to win the laurel crown of victory?
Paralleling the up-building forces that established Roman supremacy were counter-forces which undermined and eventually destroyed the Roman Empire and Roman civilization:
1. The growth of city life at the expense of rural existence. At the outset of its life cycle, Rome was essentially rural. At the end of the cycle Roman culture was turning its back upon ruralism and moving into a culture that was to be chiefly urban during an entire millennium. In that millennium Rome, her associates and dependencies, experimented with a culture that was essentially urban, but encircled, dependent and eventually replaced by a culture that was essentially rural.
2. During the millennium between 600 B.C. and 500 A.D. the Romans and their associates succeeded in bringing large parts of Europe, Asia and Africa under their control, but the control was so rigid and temporary that tribalism and local nationalisms broke loose from the fetters of central authority and coercive integration, shattering the structure of Roman civilization and its structural core—the Roman Empire. Instead of resulting in closer cooperation, the strategy and tactics of the Roman builders and organizers led to contradictions, bitter feuds, civil strife, independence movements which combined with expansionist diplomacy and periodic wars to discourage, frustrate and eventually to eliminate peace, order and planned progress.
2. The spread of chattel slavery had a profound effect upon the texture of Roman life. At the outset Roman family farms housed the bulk of the population. During the cycle of Roman civilization unnumbered millions of captives were seized in the course of military operations and reduced to slavery. By the end of the Roman cycle the work-load of agriculture, commerce, industry, mining, transport, and the domestic life of the well-to-do was carried by slaves. Basically, therefore, the Roman world was divided first into Romans and non-Romans and second into masters and slaves, with a third category which consisted of an immense bureaucracy (including the military), a professional and technological group and a heavy burden of persistent parasitism.
4. Growth of the abyss that separated wealth and the wealthy from mass poverty in the cities and the countryside. The abyss was widened and deepened by the presence of slavery. More extensive and more frequent foreign conquests added to the volume of slave labor in a market already glutted and reduced the price of slaves. Against this super-abundant cheap slave labor, free labor could compete only by reducing its standard of living and thus deepening the abyss of poverty. At the other end of the social arc, the rich were able to surround themselves with multitudes of slaves who provided the energy needed to carry on the complex life of Roman civilization. As the Roman world expanded, the abyss widened, deepened and became all but impassable. It was from
Page 23such lower depths that Spartacus and other leaders of rebellious slaves drew sufficient manpower to challenge and for a time even defeat the full military power of Rome.
5. Built into the structure of Roman civilization was the potential of civil war. The contradictions of mass slavery and poverty side by side with boundless leisure and abundance was only one side of the picture. Each of the more distant provinces became a possible base from which ambitious governors or generals could wage wars of independent conquest at the expense of Roman authority. Each newly subjugated people, smarting under defeat and the heavy hand which Rome laid on its dissidents and opponents, became a potential center for disaffection, conspiracy and rebellion against Roman authority.
6. Conflicts over power succession, in the provinces, and more significantly in the mother city, added another aspect to the many sided pressures. As there was no legal means of determining the succession, the end of each imperial reign offered the probability of military intervention.
7. Deification of emperors, during the era of the Caesars, led to the denigration and degradation of the common man. The fact that the common men of Rome were more and more likely to be poor slaves furthered the process and deepened the abyss between the haves and have-nots.
8. Among the forces of disintegration operating in Rome none was more potent and more decisive than the numerical growth of the military and the increasing probability that any one of the growing contradictions and conflicts would lead to intervention by the military. Roman emperors were dictators and their retention of authority was increasingly decided by the legions which were willing and able to fight for the perpetuation and extension of their authority.
9. The extensive, complicated, elaborate structure of Roman civilization involved a persistent and implacable rise of overhead costs of food and raw materials, of production, of transportation, of the bureaucracy, including the military. The area of Roman civilization increased arithmetically. Overhead costs rose geometrically. They were expressed in an empty treasury, rising taxes, inflation, expropriation, the degradation of the currency.
10. Side by side with the rise in overhead costs went the increase of parasitism among the rich and among the poor. Something-for-nothing was the order of the day. Speculation was rampant. Gambling was universal. Instead of living by production of goods and services, Romans let the slaves do their work and lived by their wits.
11. From top to bottom of Roman society negative forces replaced positive forces. Self directed labor gave place to slavery; participation in productive activity yielded to parasitism; productivity was subordinated to destructivity; the spirit of
Page 24independence was replaced by the acceptance of increasing arbitrary individual authority.
12. Roman society constantly faced and consistently failed to solve the contradiction between centralism and local interests and local rights. This contradiction increased with increasing size, diversity and complexity.
13. Psychological forces played a part in the breakdown and break-up of Roman civilization. People lost faith and hope. They became disillusioned and cynical. They forgot the common good and devoted themselves to the gratification of body hungers. They turned from proud service of fatherland to the pursuit of pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Romans lost freshness and vigor. Creativeness had never been as highly regarded among the Romans as it was among the Greeks. Life was lived closer to the surface. It was confined more and more to the present. Growth in the volume of Roman life sapped its vitality so that there was less surplus for experiment and innovation as more and more of the social income was devoted to meeting overhead costs.
Moralists have insisted that the decline and dissolution of Roman civilization resulted from the abandonment of moral standards. Undoubtedly this was true. The upstanding womanhood and manhood of early Rome was replaced by a wealth-seeking, pleasure-loving, parasitically inclined population. But these features of Roman life under the empire and during the period of Roman decline were the outcome of political, economic and social forces that have characterized one civilization after another. Instead of insisting that Rome declined and fell because it was immoral, it would be far more accurate to insist that Rome declined and fell because the objectives which it sought, the means it employed and the civilized institutions which it developed contained within themselves oppositions and contradictions which led to decline and dissolution. Rome declined and fell because the ideas, institutions and practices upon which it depended—the ideas, institutions and practices of civilization—could lead to no other outcome.
THE ORIGINS OF WESTERN CIVILIZATIONS
An experiment with civilization presently spans the planet Earth. It is called “modern,” “contemporary” or “western civilization.” Its artifacts, institutions and practices predominate in Europe, North America and Australasia. They play a prominent role in the lives of Asians, South Americans and Africans.
Two thousand years ago a long established Egyptian civilization was passing into the shadows. Civilizations in China and India were developing. Roman civilization was approaching the zenith of its ascendancy.
A thousand years ago Roman civilization, like that of Egypt, was a memory; Chinese and Indian civilizations were holding their own, while the followers of Islam were reaching out into Central Asia, North Africa and Eastern Europe.
In east central Europe and around the Mediterranean the beginnings of western civilization had made their appearance and were expanding their control along the Eurasian trade routes and beginning to penetrate western and northern Europe. The Crusades had introduced Asian culture traits into the European backwoods. Hardy European and Asian mariners were penetrating the Americas. Dark ages of ignorance and superstition which had held sway in Europe for centuries were coming to an end. Western civilization was beginning to draw the breath of a new life.
The vast structure of Roman civilization had split West from East. The Eastern Empire retained its form and continued its culture for centuries after its break with the West. Meanwhile the West fragmented into smaller and smaller units, increasingly self-contained and increasingly isolated. Cities raised and manned their own walls. The countryside broke up into smaller and smaller divisions over which the Holy Roman Empire exercised little more than a shadowy authority. Each landed estate had its stronghold or castle. Each locality looked after its own interests. The massive Roman Universal State, stretching for centuries across parts of three continents, had broken up into a multitude of tiny semi-sovereign, semi-independent fragments. Some of the fragments as leagues, alliances and coalitions were reaching nationhood.
New dawn was illuminating the Dark Ages. Western man was sorting and re-assembling some of the scattered fragments of the defunct and dismembered Roman civilization. The task was colossal. Rome’s “one authority, one law, one language” hegemony had been replaced by an all pervading diversity. The closely knit Greco-Roman Empire had been superseded in Europe by a sparsely inhabited, roadless wilderness, largely bereft of trade, using waterways as the easiest means of communication and transport. The economy was built around wood cutting, charcoal burning, backward animal husbandry, hand-tool agriculture, hand-craft industry, the rudiments of commerce and finance centered in trading cities. The great houses of the aristocracy and the gentry, scattered villages, towns and walled cities were preoccupied and disrupted by endless feuding and between-seasons warfare.
Adding to the chaos of this dismembered society were the controversies over dynastic succession. Intermittent incursions of migrating hordes from central Asia pushed their way into central and southern Europe. Covert and open conflicts between ecclesiastical and secular authority added to the general lethargy, confusion and chaos.
Europe struggled for centuries to free itself from Asian invasion and occupation. At the same time Europe was improving its agriculture, restoring its trade and expanding its hand-craft industries and its commerce. Towns grew in population and productivity. Life-standards rose in the cities. Cities based on trade and commerce extended their authority and became city-states. Commercial cities joined their forces to form trading leagues.
Lords spiritual and temporal, who had ruled Europe for centuries, were joined by lords commercial, enriched by the growth of trade, transport and developing industry.
Generations passed into centuries—the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth. From small local beginnings the nations of western Europe emerged: Spain, Portugal, the Low Countries, France, Britain, Italy, Austria and eventually Russia. Each was a consolidation of local principalities, earldoms, dukedoms, kingdoms. Each was passing through the rural-urban transformation. Each was outgrowing feudalism and producing a larger and larger group of businessmen, professionals, tradesmen, craftsmen and maturing a middle class and a proletariat. After the fifteenth century each state was spilling over its own frontiers, annexing or losing neighboring territory, spreading beyond the boundaries of Europe into the teeming markets of Asia and the newly discovered treasure-house of the Americas.
A score of European peoples were engaged in the give-and-take of this struggle for wealth and power—for land and its resources in Europe, North Africa and the Near East; for booty, trade and overseas colonies. As the struggle grew more intense smaller and weaker nations dropped out of the contest or were partitioned and gobbled up piecemeal.
Such was the condition of Europe’s free-for-all in the closing years of the seventeenth century and the opening decades of the eighteenth century, while three developing forces pushed into the forefront of European life: the enlightenment and science, representative government, and the industrial revolution.
Enlightenment broadened the social basis of knowledge and learning. During the Dark Ages, knowledge and learning were a monopoly of a tiny privileged minority composed of priests, scholars and a segment of the aristocracy. Monasteries, great houses and trading cities sheltered this monopoly. The countryside was a sea of ignorance, superstition, oppression and exploitation. With the printing press came books. Books promoted literacy and curiosity. Literacy and curiosity led to speculation, experiment, discovery and the formulation and spread of ideas. The product of these forces was science, which had had a long period of gestation in North Africa and Asia.
Dark Ages of localism, with landlords, priests and soldiers directing public affairs led to the concentration of wealth and power in the landed aristocracy and the church. But traders in the countryside and merchants in the centers of commerce held a talisman that opened before them ever increasing sources of wealth. Country dwellers harvested one crop a year. When crops were poor they starved. At best the margin of profit was thin. Traders and merchants made a profit every time they found a customer. The countryside lived on a use economy supplemented by barter. As money increased in quantity it was loaned at rates of interest by merchants and bankers who owned it and used it for their purposes. Accumulating wealth and money enabled the traders, merchants, bankers and manufacturers to out-buy and out-point landlords and churchmen. Politically, these changes reduced the authority of absolute monarchies. In their places representative governments made their appearance.
The third force that surfaced in Europe after the end of the Dark Ages was the industrial revolution, which led to fundamental changes in the means of production at the same time that advances in natural and social science produced their practical counterpart—an explosive expansion of technology.
Science, representative government and the industrial revolution led to a rapid and extensive transformation of western society sometimes referred to as the bourgeois revolution. As the bourgeois revolution worked its way into the structure and function of European society, the developing class of businessmen and professionals who had begun to challenge the power-monopoly of the “lords spiritual and temporal” ended by establishing a higher power monopoly under the control of business, military, public relations oligarchy. This revolutionary transformation of modern society took place during the thousand years that elapsed between the crusades and the closing years of the nineteenth century. The resulting social transformation had its geographical homeland in Europe from which it spread around the planet. Politically, these forces found expression through the commerce-dominated, profit-seeking, colonizing empires, with the nation-state as nucleus. Colonizing empires became the dominant force in Europe and in the non-European segments of the planet which were gradually brought under European imperial control.
In the course of voyaging, “discovery” and the establishment of trade, Europeans set up military outposts and maintained increasingly large naval forces. The avowed object of these military and naval build-ups was to defend and promote Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French and British imperial interests. Actually military and naval installations were marking out and maintaining the defense perimeters of their respective colonial empires. One of the widely accepted axioms of the period equated colonies with national prosperity. The more successful colonizing empires of the seventeenth and eighteen centuries became the strongholds of nineteenth century monopoly capitalism.
Industrial revolution, flowering in Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, gave the European commercial empires a lead over potential rivals based on Asian wealth-power centres. As a result of this lead European empire builders were able to establish and maintain their authority in India and Indonesia, dismember the Turkish and Chinese empires and partition Africa among themselves. Their only potential rivals were the lumbering, isolationist United States of North America and the newly awakened Island Kingdom of Japan. Both of these non-European nations began playing serious wealth-power roles in the same period from 1895 to 1910. Up to that point Europe continued to be the homeland of monopoly capitalism. The chief centers of heavy industry, commerce and finance were in Europe. European merchant fleets and European navies sailed the seas. European banks and business houses dominated planetary financing, insuring and investing.
Viewed from outside, the ascendancy of Europe seemed to be complete. Europe held the strategic strong points: productivity, wealth, the means of transportation, mobile fire-power. By the end of the nineteenth century Europe was the monopoly-capitalist motherland. The rest of the planet was made up of actual or potential dependents under European authority. From these outsiders living at subsistence levels, Europeans could get their supplies of food and raw materials at low prices and to them Europeans could sell their surplus manufactures, their commercial services, and their investment capital at high prices. The resulting European prosperity was expected to continue indefinitely into the future.
This planetary structure, with Europe as the center of wealth, power, art, science, free business enterprise and wage slavery, progress and poverty, left the majority of mankind living as dependents and colonials. The situation embodied several confrontations:
1. The masters of Europe might quarrel among themselves.
2. Non-Europeans might set
up rival wealth power centers
and challenge Europe’s world hegemony.
3. Colonials and other dependants
might demand independence,
and equal status in the family of nations.
4. Rootless middle classes
and the wretched of the earth
might join forces and pull down western civilization’s house
Western civilization, like its predecessors, was accepting and following one central principle: expand, grab and keep. The application of this principle took the form of an axiom of public and private life: might makes right; let him take who has the power; let him keep who can.
Grab and keep, in a period of rapid economic expansion, led each of the burgeoning European empires to the zealous defense of its frontiers as the first principle of imperial policy. The second principle: geographical expansion, followed as a matter of course. Expansion inside Europe, with its tight frontier defenses, meant war with aggressive rivals. Expansion abroad, especially in Asia and Africa, was less costly and might prove more profitable. As a consequence, from 1870 onward, British, French, Dutch, Russia and German colonial territory increased; European armaments multiplied. Each expanding empire prepared for the day which would give it additional square miles of European and foreign real estate.
Grab-and-keep, with its resultant chaotic free-for-all, was the rule of thumb accepted and followed by the West during the decline of Roman power and through the middle ages to modern times.
The “might makes right” formula was in violent conflict with the “love and serve your neighbor” professions of Christian ethics. Nevertheless, it was the accepted overall principle of private enterprise economy and the ruling ethic of Western statecraft. The principle was formulated in five propositions or axioms:
1. Make money, honestly if possible, but make money.
2. Every businessman for himself and the devil take the laggards.
3. We defend and promote our national interests.
4. Our national interests come first.
5. Our country, right or wrong.
These five propositions were the outcome of a millennium of experience with the Crusades and extending to the present century. They are the outcome of preoccupation with material incentives that can be stated in two words, profit and power.
Such propositions, applied to everyday affairs, produced an economy and a statecraft which favored the interests of a part before those of the entire community. Where the whole is favored before any part there is a possibility of co-existence and even of cooperation. Placing a part before the whole involves competition all the way from the marketplace to the chancelleries where the fate of nations is discussed and decided.
The above five propositions or axioms result from preoccupation with material incentives: profit and power for managers, disciplined co-ordination for subordinates, affluence, comfort and recognition for the favored few. They provide the ideological background for twentieth century western civilization.
THE LIFE CYCLE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION
Like its predecessors, western civilization from its inception was essentially competitive. As it developed, the commercially, technically and politically supreme Spanish, Dutch, French and British Empires battled individually, or in rival alliances, for plunder, colonies, markets and raw materials.
From the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, to the Victorian Jubilee in 1897, Great Britain became and remained top dog economically, politically and to a large extent culturally. Britain was the workshop. British shipping was omnipresent. The pound sterling was the chief medium of foreign exchange. The British Navy patrolled the seas. English was replacing French as the language of commerce and diplomacy.
During this British Century, from 1815 to 1897, Great Britain was dominant among the European great powers, but it was never supreme. Always there were countervailing forces. For centuries France had been a major factor in the control and direction of European affairs. Defeat at Waterloo reduced but did not destroy French influence. After 1870 Bismark’s Germany began playing a major role. Russia, Austria, Holland, Italy and Spain were also European powers. Overseas, the United States of America and Japan were spreading their imperial wings.
With the explosive advances made by science, technology, productivity, income and wealth accumulation, other countries were moving to the fore. Even though Britain maintained her actual levels of economic output and potential diplomatic presence she was one among several relatively equal European states and world empires. At the same time her natural resources were being depleted and with the growing importance of cotton, rubber and petroleum, all of which Britain must import, her economic ascendancy was progressively undermined. During the wars of 1914-18 and 1936-45 Britain entered an era of decreasing relative importance. Her empire was largely intact, but her economic and political strength was stretched to the breaking point.
Throughout its history, until the wars of 1914-45, western civilization had its headquarters in central and west Europe, with branch offices elsewhere on the planet. At no time after 1870 did any one European power occupy a position of easy superiority over its rivals. If Great Britain was top dog, France, the long established continental power was snapping at her heels. Germany was an expanding power of major consequence. To the North and East lay Russia, with its vast territories and its persistent pressures into East Europe and Far Asia. By any standard of political measurement Europe was in no sense a universal state. Literally it was a potential battle field. War fortunes and misfortunes revolutionized the Europe of 1870-1910. They also realigned the planetary power structure. Heavy war losses down-graded all of the erstwhile European powers. Central and West Europe ceased to be the planetary hub. At the same time America and Asia shouldered their way toward the center of the world stage. From London, Paris, Berlin and other European vantage points the 1870-1945 era could be described as a period of world revolution.
For half a century United States money and arms were used to stabilize capitalism. For many years Washington through its control of all Latin American states (except Cuba after 1960) had been able to dominate United Nations policy, exclude socialist nations, notably China, and hem in socialism. Through this period Washington subsidized and armed counter revolution. Its anti-socialist-communist doctrine had been accepted and largely followed by the West.
Washington’s drive to cripple and stamp out socialism-communism was accepted and followed particularly by the states with fascist leanings. Since many western states had large and influential socialist minorities and since several of them had been governed by coalitions in which socialists-communists played a substantial role, acceptance of Washington’s anti-socialist program never won wholehearted support in Europe. Atlantic alliance countries voted against the admission of People’s China to the United Nations during the Dulles Era. The stalemated outcome of the Korean War (1950-3) called Washington anti-socialist policies into serious question. The stupidities, mendacities and wanton cruelties of the United States’ undeclared Vietnam War, even before the advent of Johnson and Nixon, had so weakened Washington leadership that no major power would associate itself with the adventure. The “Allies” in Vietnam were the U.S.A. and two or three vassal Asian states.
Half a century of cold war and co-existence punctuated by military invasions and hot wars, fought between groups from both sides in the class struggle, faced mankind with several undeniable facts:
1. Planet-wide economic, political
and social changes had been
made during the previous half-century.
2. Capitalism was no longer
supreme as it had been before
1900. On the contrary, since 1950 the planet has been divided
along class lines—capitalism versus socialism.
3. Socialism-communism is one
of the most obvious facts of
present-day planetary life.
4. Capitalism is losing ground, especially in Europe.
5. Socialism is gaining ground, especially in Eurasia.
Co-existence presupposes recognition of these five propositions and a willingness to abide by the outcome of the evolutionary-revolutionary process, through which the western world is passing.
During several centuries, ending in 1900, western civilization passed through an era of consolidation and integration that brought its sovereign segments into increasing stable relationships. The most advanced of these relationships took political shape in the half-dozen European empires which controlled the planet in 1900. Side by side with the consolidation of the planet into nations and empires there was another process, world-wide in scope, which made the facts and products of science and technology and their duplication the common property of mankind, creating a cultural synthesis far more universal than the political synthesis in nations, empires, the League of Nations or the United Nations.
Any social synthesis includes positive and negative aspects which function side by side. One builds up. The other wears down. For centuries the building forces in western civilization were in the ascendant. Since the turn of the century a shift of forces has been under way. The wearing down forces presently are in the ascendant. Had it been less competitive and more cooperative and co-ordinated, western civilization might have taken another step in advance by extending cultural unification into the political arena. The League of Nations and the United Nations were efforts in this direction. Neither succeeded in breaking down sovereignty far enough to permit planet-wide political federation.
Having failed to co-ordinate and establish a planet-wide authority during the critical years following 1870, western civilization accepted the antithesis of co-ordination and entered a period of fragmentation:
1. During the century and a half from 1815 to the present day, as facilities for co-ordination were multiplied by discovery and invention, Europe remained stubbornly fragmented into more than a score of sovereign states. Minor changes were made in boundary lines and in internal relationships of property and privilege, but the European maps of the period present a record of persistent fragmentation of the continent into strongly frontiered sovereign segments.
2. Break-up of the European
empires after two general wars
led to the fragmentation of each empire into self-determining
3. The “third world,” consisting chiefly of European empire fragments, has not consolidated, but after the Bandung Conference of 1955 has consisted of a fragmented Africa and Asia torn by domestic and inter-state conflicts and harried by the persistent intervention of the western powers.
4. Rivalry in the Pacific and in Asia has been heightened by the meteoric rise of Japan as a world power, the dismemberment of the Japanese Empire after 1945 and the fierce subsequent economic competition between Japan and her planetary competitors, chiefly the United States.
5. United States efforts to coordinate Latin America as a source of raw materials and a market for manufactures and investment capital have not produced a United Latin American front against a common Yankee menace, but a sturdy refusal even of the tiniest Latin American Republic to surrender or limit its sovereignty has pushed a thorn into the vulnerable side of Washington’s Monroe Doctrine control of the western hemisphere.
6. The high point in divisiveness was the decision of the United States spokesmen to inaugurate the American Century by establishing control over the Pacific Ocean, making itself the chief power in Asia and installing U.S.A. authority in the power vacuum left by the expulsion of Britain, France, Holland and Japan from the territories composing their former empires. Local wars begun in Korea (1950) and extending across Southeast Asia have strengthened the determination of the local peoples to defend themselves at all costs against imperialist invaders from Europe and North America.
7. The United States has been rich enough since 1945 to build and maintain a navy that can patrol the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea and maintain large military forces in various European and Asian waters. This policy has been justified by the Truman-Johnson-Nixon Doctrine of determined opposition to the extension of socialism-communism and the consequent perpetuation of the cold war.
8. In theory the socialist world is unitary. In practice it is so fragmented by national boundary lines and ideological differences that its members have not been able (during recent years) to get together and discuss their major common problems.
United States wealth and military equipment have been sufficiently over-whelming to support the program of an American Century during which one nation might establish a universal state exercising planet-wide authority along the lines of the Universal State established by the Romans at the zenith of their power. In practice the program has not worked out. On the contrary, opposition to the United States as the world power or even as the power in Asia has grown steadily and quickly into a widespread “Anti-Americanism” or “anti-Yankeeism.”
Conceivably a universal anti-American movement might develop a hot war similar to the anti-Hitler coalition of the 1930’s. If that precedent is followed, however, the defeat of the United States would be followed by a period of fragmentation similar to or even more intense than the fragmentation of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Present efforts to shore up the insolvent U.S.A. economy and the resulting opposition of America’s leading European trading partners is not reassuring. If western civilization has passed the zenith of its development and entered a period of decline and fragmentation even a figure of Napoleonic capacities would be sorely pressed to breathe new life into its disintegrating social structure. At the moment, to the best of our knowledge, no such genius is in sight.
Western civilization is in some ways unique. In the main, however, the development of its life cycle has been typical. May we take it for granted that western civilization has turned its corner or may we assume that it is still replete with the possibilities of further maneuver, development and expansion? Perhaps the best way to approach the problem would be to ask three questions: What contribution has western civilization made to human nature, to human society and to mother nature, and what further contribution can it make in the foreseeable future?
Individuals, born or reared in any form of society are adjusted, shaped and conditioned by the social pattern of which they are a part. Each society attempts to stamp the individuals with its own image and likeness. The success or failure of this effort to assure individual adjustment to the social norm and conformity to its practices varies with the prosilitizing enthusiasm of the society and with the ration of adaptability and self-consciousness of its individual members.
Western civilization has produced a bourgeois human being intensively conscious of his capacities and anxious to try himself out in the rough-and-tumble of the market place and on the battlefield; to initiate, undertake, direct, administer. In the main, these are characteristics of the human male, though the female often possesses them in a greater or lesser degree.
Western civilization has opened the doors wide to aspirants eager to win out in the game of grab-and-keep. It has been equally kind to their chief executives, organizers and managers who rank second or third in the chain of command. These individuals come from widely different backgrounds. The social mobility of a bourgeois society gives them opportunity to climb high on the ladder of preferment.
Many of those who fall into line, adapt themselves to the civilizing process, accept with alacrity the chances that come their way, but do not reach the top of the success ladder. They have the health, energy and assertiveness necessary to keep climbing. They accept their assignments and carry them out with modest success. They are the lesser executives who work themselves out by the time they are fifty and find some sinecure or safe position near the top of the social pyramid.
Below the high command posts there is a wide range of handymen and specialists who fill particular positions and place their time, energy, experience and expertise at the disposal of the high command. Among them are scientists, engineers, technicians. Equally important are their spokesmen, advisers and apologists: lawyers, preachers, teachers, writers, speakers, publicists, carefully chosen for their ability to apologize, passify, justify and reassure. On the political side are the diplomats and politicians. Protection for their persons and property is provided by the police and the armed forces, composed of highly paid, well-trained, well-armed destroyers and killers.
Social stability and mass support come from an extensive middle class composed of public servants and body servants, small tradesmen, self-employed craftsmen, rentiers and retired persons who are assured body comforts, social recognition and preferment for themselves, their relatives and dependants. Members of this middle class are recognized on occasion, pampered, amused, diverted, bored, frustrated and eventually corrupted by the soft living which their middle class status makes possible.
Close to the middle class come the white collar workers and the better paid blue collar workers. Their lives are cluttered with gadgets and fringe benefits. Their homes are paid for or bought on credit.
Below these more or less regularly employed workers on salaries and wages come the semi-employed, racial or class underlings living in poverty at or near the subsistence level.
Associated with this range of bourgeois occupations and often closely identified with it are owners of family farms, tenants and hired hands.
Outside of the employment range, but dependent upon the economy are the defectives and delinquents, the parasites who live on cake and the parasites who live out of garbage cans.
Beyond these categories, in the American Empire, there are the colonial compradors and handymen who enjoy standards of living comparable to their opposite members in the North America nucleus. Below them are the colonial masses who live their entire lives under conditions of uncertainty and insecurity.
Millions of young people across the planet, born into the complicated and bewildering social network of western civilization after war’s end in 1945 and graduated from school after the onset of the Vietnam War in 1965, find themselves in a complex, frustrating jungle. Should they fit in or drop out? Those who are more conventional and adaptable fit in as best they can, although the recent high unemployment rate among the youth indicates that the adjustment is often difficult. Millions of the less adaptable drop out.
Such a situation could have been foreseen by the initiated. Preparations could have been made in advance to deal with it when it arose. In the absence of adequate preparation the result is the chaos incident to every downturn of the private enterprise business cycle, magnified in this case by the regressive forces released during the disintegration of the entire social fabric.
Two other areas require a word of comment. Among human faculties are ambition, imagination, ingenuity, inventiveness, creativity. Human beings are, to a greater or lesser degree, cosmically aware. In the physical field western civilization handsomely rewards initiative. In the social field it has been far less generous. Imagination and cosmic consciousness have been quite generally listed among the undesirable endowments of mankind.
Western civilization, in the early years of the present century, produced a generation of insecure, unsettled, anxious, worried, harried people. This is generally true of young, middle aged and old, of rich and poor. Rapid social transition from expansion and advance to contraction and retreat is a traumatic, hectic experience for any human being.
Western civilization in the early years of its decline has not brought out the more generous aspects of human nature. In the best of times a materialistically oriented society appeals to the more material and less spiritual aspects of human beings. A period of social decline leads away from principled conduct toward unashamed opportunism.
The current generation, born and reared in a disintegrating civilization has been sorely tested and tried. From such tests the strong and purposeful are likely to emerge stronger and more determined. For the weak and vacillating the consequences are likely to prove disastrous. The individual born into western society during its current “time of troubles” has not had an easy row to hoe.
What has western civilization done to human society as such?
Western civilization has urbanized its society. Until recently in Europe and until very recently in North America, the majority of people were living outside of cities, in villages or on the land. From their flocks and herds or from their cultivated land they fed themselves and the cities. Mechanization reduced the demand for labor power in the countryside. At the same time the growth of industry, trade, commerce and “services” increased the demand for labor power in the cities. Relatively the countryside was poor while the cities were rich. The high prizes were in the cities, bright lights, crowds and the seductive excitements of seething mass life. Incessant human contacts were part and parcel of city life. City landlords collected high rents, city merchants found many customers. City manufacturers could pick and choose their wage and salary underlings among throngs of young and not so young jobseekers.
Western civilization grew in and around its cities. Both in form and function it was urban rather than rural.
Western civilization specialized its society, mechanized it and later computerized it, making social relationships depend less and less on personality and more on the position of the individual in a working team or on an assembly line. Human beings ceased to have names. Instead they acquired numbers on the payroll, on their homes, on their identity cards.
Specialization and division of labor, plus power-driven machines increase productivity, income, surplus. In the countryside goods and services often are scarce. In the city they are likely to be super-abundant.
Growth of wealth and income provide support for an increase in population. Hence the population explosions in cities and in centers of developing industry, trade and commerce. Countries passing through the industrial revolution expanded their populations. Recently, the population of some countries has doubled each twenty-five years.
Western civilization has been militarized as it was mechanized. Every tool is a potential weapon. The truck becomes a tank, the airplane a bomber. War making, like other aspects of western civilization, was mechanized. Formerly war had pitted man against man. Mechanized war pitted machines and their attendants against other machines and their human attachments. The same mechanical forces that built cities, factories and ships converted these agencies of production into instruments of destruction. Each country in the civilized West fortified its frontiers, trained officers in special schools, mobilized young men and women for military service, stockpiled weapons, multiplied fire-power, making western civilization an armed camp, with guns pointing in every direction.
Regimentation of city life, of industry and commerce, of war, of education and public health followed one after another as the individual human became more and more a cog in a vast social mechanism. This regimentation dulled imagination at the same time that it deified greed, with “gimme, gimme;” “more, more;” as its watch words.
At certain points in its development western civilization has lifted itself temporarily above the material forces that hemmed in the life of primitive man. The Renaissance was one such period. The Enlightenment was another. A third was the scientific breakthrough from Darwin and Marx to the research and experiments which split the atom and inaugurated the space age. These gains were offset by the growing planet-wide chasm between wealth and poverty, the plunder and pollution of man’s natural and social environment and the terrifying growth of destructive power revealed during two prolonged general wars in one generation.
Mechanized war demonstrated its destructivity, physically, socially, psychologically. Prolonged war accustomed an entire generation of mankind to unnecessary suffering and the deliberate twisting, maiming and destroying which are characteristic features of the war-waging civilized state.
Exposure of an entire generation to wholesale destruction and mass murder as a way of life had two quite divergent effects. It converted sensitive introverts into pacifists. It produced millions of trained destroyers and killers, experienced in the science and art of mechanized warfare. Pacifists opposed, denounced and resisted the warfare state and its progeny. Masses of trained destroyers and killers, the “new barbarians,” gained experience and improved their qualifications by taking part in conventional warfare and in the innumerable guerrilla adventures and operations that accompanied and followed conventional wars.
Previous civilizations have been harried, hectored and undermined by migrating “barbarians” who had heard of accumulated wealth and had come to share or perhaps to take over the “honey-pot” and lick up the honey. Western civilization has faced the problem of migration, intensified by population explosion. But the “barbarians” who are tearing the social body of western civilization limb from limb are not outsiders, invading a civilization in order to plunder and sack it, but the offspring of well-to-do civilized affluent communities who have repudiated the acquisition and accumulation of material goods and services, turning, instead to the satiation of body hungers and the freedom of social irresponsibility.
Western man has spent ten centuries in building a civilization aimed at economic stability and social security for the privileged. The “new barbarian” progeny have rejected this civilization of affluence and are busily engaged in fragmenting the social apparatus that has made affluence possible. In a word, western civilization has organized and coordinated, but in the process it has sowed the seeds of disorganization and chaos.
One last word about the effect of western civilization on human society. The West has littered and cluttered the planet with an immense variety and with enormous quantities of gimmicks and gadgets from tin cans to airplanes that fly faster than sound, and rockets that carry their occupants to the moon. Western productivity has multiplied greatly. Too often it has by-passed utility, ignored quality and outraged beauty. More often than not its goods, services, institutions, practices and ideas have remained at the surface without reaching down to life’s essentials.
If life can be fragmented into “physical,” “mental,” “emotional,” “energetic,” “spiritual,” and “creative” it must be evident that the western way has smothered life’s more significant aspects under a blanket of trivialities, non-essentials and inconsequentials.
Western civilization has stressed competition, aimed at the acquisition and accumulation of material goods and services. The competitive struggle, in its civilian and military aspects, has played fast and loose with the contents of nature’s storehouse.
Through uncounted ages Mother Nature has set up a knife-edge balance among the multitude of aspects and differentiated forms that have existed and still exist on the planet. Humanity has increasingly upset this balance of nature, ignorantly and often stupidly, without pausing to determine the resultant changes. Nowhere is this upset more in evidence than the changes in climate and animal life and their possibilities of survival brought about by the erosion of topsoil. Paul Sears, in his Deserts on the March, has told the story. It can be summed up in four words: deforestation, overgrazing, erosion, drifting sands.
Another aspect of man’s aggressions against nature is the wanton destruction of wildlife—like the American bison and the wood pigeon.
Still another example is the extraction from the earth’s crust of minerals and metals accumulated through ages and used to turn out frivolous gadgets or, more disastrously, the materials and machines of civilized warfare. Instead of conserving natural wealth, rationing it and thus extending its use to succeeding generations, western man has burnt it up in the firestorms deliberately kindled during the seven disaster years from 1939 to 1945.
In the course of its existence western civilization has replaced food gatherers, cultivators and artisans by hucksters and professional destroyers of mankind and ravagers of the living space afforded by the earth’s land mass.
Western civilization has done its most far-reaching disservice to mankind by separating and estranging man from nature. For ages man lived with nature as one aspect of an evolving ecological balance. Civilization’s basic unit—the city—as it sprawls, cuts off man from more and more contacts with the earth and its multitudinous life forms; with fresh air, sunshine, starshine; with nature’s sequences—day and night, the procession of the seasons; with the birth, growth, death animating so many of nature’s aspects. The city is man-made. Well planned, properly built and organized, it might have become an ornament beautifying and exalting nature. Page the cities of the West one by one—they are monotonous, ungainly, ugly slums and rookeries set off by an occasional bit of creative architecture.
Western civilization has differed in certain respects from the long line of its predecessors, stretching back through the centuries. In one sense it has matured, ripened, taking its ideas and practices from its nearest of kin. In the course of its life cycle it has already made distinctive contributions:
1. It has become more nearly
planet-wide than any of its
2. It has developed unique
approaches and controls through
its science and its technology, inaugurating the power age
by making riotous use of nature’s energy sources.
3. It has extended man’s
conquest of the planet and begun
his adventures into space.
4. It has enlarged the field
of human creativity by increasing
the number and proportion of men and women trained and
experienced in productive and creative enterprises.
5. It has opened the door to
study and experimentation in
extrasensory perception—man’s “sixth” sense.
6. It has made possible an
unprecedented increase in the
human population of the planet.
7. It has raised its potential
for destruction far above and
beyond its potential for production and construction.
8. It has brought together, classified and indexed the ideas, materials, techniques and generalizations which made possible this study of civilization, its appearances, disappearances and reappearances.
9. Europeans have carried the burdens of western civilization and inherited its disintegrative consequences for so long a period that the fate of western civilization and the fate of present day Europe are closely interwoven. Western civilization seems to have reached and passed the zenith of its lifecycle without achieving the political integration, the stability or the unified authority attained by the Romans and the Egyptians at the high points in their lifecycles.
FEATURES COMMON TO CIVILIZATIONS
Each civilization that has left legible records or significant traditions during the past five or six thousand years has made distinctive contributions that modified the culture pattern of its predecessors and its contemporaries. At the same time all of the civilizations have had certain common features that are the characteristic aspects which justify the general definition of civilization presented in the Introduction to this study.
Civilization is the most comprehensive, extensive and inclusive life pattern achieved by terrestrial humanity. Starting locally and following the three basic principles of urbanization, expansion and exploitation, each civilization has charted a course that led from tentative local beginnings through a cycle of growth, maturity, decline, decay and dissolution.
The civilizing process is essentially collective, subordinating the interests of each part to the interests of the whole, while allowing sufficient home rule to enable each part to have the political, economic and cultural advantages enjoyed by the other parts, always excepting the privileged position occupied by the civilization’s dominant empire and its nucleus.
Necessarily a civilization is composed of more or less disparate segments, each one (before its inclusion in the collective whole) maintaining a large measure of sovereign independence. Utilizing advanced techniques of communication, exchange, and transportation, the separate sovereign units are coordinated, consolidated, unified and universalized. The result is an aggregate of parts, differing in many local respects, but acknowledging the authority of the power center and contributing material goods and manpower to its support and defense. The main sociological purpose of each civilization has been to impose central authority and universality upon political, economic and ideological diversity.
Every civilization has been confronted with the advantages of unity over diversity. Every civilization has professed its devotion to unity. Every civilization at one or another stage in its development has subordinated unity to the increasingly insistent demands of diversity.
For at least six thousand years one civilization after another has sought to achieve centralization and universality. In every instance of which history provides a legible record, centralized, universalized institutions and practices have fragmented into diversity and stubborn localism.
Western civilization is part and parcel of this generalization. Generation by generation and century by century it has professed and proclaimed the advantages of universality while it yielded to the persistent demands of nationalism, regionalism and localism. Throughout the latter years of the nineteenth century the will to unify gained much ground. The tide turned with the turn of the century. For the first half of the present century the forces of unity and of diversity seemed stalemated. War’s end in 1945 saw the shadow of a universal state flicker across the screen of history. With the adjournment of the Bandung Conference in 1955 the shadow dissolved and was replaced by the strident nationalisms that have become an outstanding feature of planetary politics, economics and social organization.
Despite the insistence of reason and experience that strength and stability are the result of unity,—tradition, custom and habit have held human society at the level of political, economic and ideological diversity. Nowhere in history is this generalization more emphatic than in the failure of the European standard-bearers of western civilization to replace a millennium of diversity, discord and conflict by a unified, coordinated, co-existing, cooperating European community.
At its best a civilization is insecure and even unstable, disturbed and upset by an increasing domestic struggle for preferment and power that includes rivalry, competition, revolt, rebellion, civil war and wars of self-determination carried on by unassimilated regional, provincial and colonial elements. From beyond their frontiers civilizations have been assailed by rival aspirants for power, by armed bands in search of plunder or by migrating peoples seeking greener pastures. All of these forces have held the ground for diversity and barred the way to universality.
Another factor of great consequence leading to the instability of civilizations has been the concentration of wealth, power, privilege, comfort and security in the hands of a minority, in sharp contrast with poverty and insecurity among the less well-placed majority. Generally, the privileged minority has been relatively small and the exploited majority overwhelmingly large.
Still another disturbing factor in each civilization is the transformation of its military arm from a means of defense against external enemies into a major factor in the direction of domestic affairs. The professional military build-up has frequently usurped the state power and became king-maker by virtue of its monopoly of weapons, organization, and its highly trained personnel of professional destroyers and killers.
Upset by one or another of these disturbing and disruptive forces, civilized populations have panicked and retreated from their collectiveness toward more localized, more fragmented, less social and more individual life patterns. Such a retreat rounds out the later phases of a cycle of civilization—the phases of decline and final dissolution.
Civilizations perish in the first instance because of internal contradictions and conflicts, the struggle to grab, monopolize, and keep wealth, status, power.
They perish because of the division of the nucleus and its associates and dependencies between those who work for a living, those who have an unearned income and those parasites who scrounge for a living. They perish because of the hard class and caste lines that grow out of economic contradictions; because of the development of a social pyramid, layer above layer, until the summit is reached where there is standing room for only a few. Competent, talented persons may rise from level to level in this pyramid. A political and social bureaucracy develops which feeds at the public trough. Then comes a bitter struggle to get both feet in the trough and keep them there side by side with an equally determined effort to exclude outsiders and other intruders. An army of volunteers and novices is converted into a military establishment which becomes a state within the state, extending its control until it makes policy, selects top leaderships and carries on its internal feuds and wars of succession dividing the defense forces and using them for partisan purposes. Overhead costs rise; deficits in the public treasury grow; so does public debt. Inflation follows, and the debasement of the currency. Levies are made on private wealth for public purposes. There is expropriation of the property of political enemies. Espionage, secret agents, the growth of informers become part of the society, along with the use of assassination as a political weapon, the increase of violence and crime, and eventually, a flight from the cities.
This tragic enumeration only skims the surface of the many and various aspects of a situation that reaches its breaking point in civil war, famine, pestilence and eventually in depopulation.
Social dissolution is accelerated by provincial revolts against central authority; by survival struggle between the empires which were coordinated and consolidated into the civilization; by revolt in the subordinate and dependent segments of the civilization; by rivalry and conflict between racial, cultural and political sub-groups forced into the civilization, held there by coercion, policed by armed force and taking the first opportunity to win political independence and self determination.
While the momentum for expansion lasted, the civilization grew in wealth and power. When it waned, disintegration set in. Changelessness seems to be impossible in a social group. A civilization either expands or withers, builds up or falls to pieces.
Starting from one or more local groups, each civilization has reached out “to conquer the world”, occupy it, organize it, dominate it, exploit it, perpetuate itself. In each case expansion, occupation, domination and exploitation are limited by human capacity (human nature); by the relative brevity of a single human life; by the extreme variations in the capacity of successive leaders. It is limited by geography; by the means of transportation and communication; by overhead costs that increase geometrically as the civilization expands arithmetically; by the means of delegating responsibility; by accounting devices, available raw materials and labor power; by power struggles inside the ruling oligarchies; by the failure to maintain a balance between centerism and localism; by growing local demands for self-determination; by the invasion of nomads seeking to plunder the tempting honey pot at the nucleus of the civilization.
Such limitations are political, economic and sociological. Psychological forces are also at work. The vigor and vitality of the early builders gradually spends itself. The will to austerity and the sense of loyalty and social responsibility are diffused and diluted. Bureaucracy degenerates into a rat race. The paralysis of parasitism replaces the will to power. Physical gratification gains priority over the service of the gods. Consistently, through its entire written history, civilization has been built upon what the civil law of all nations calls “robbery with violence”. In every instance when the robbers have grabbed everything in sight, and gorged to the point of physical satiety, they fall to quarreling among themselves or turn with boredom and disgust from the whole sodden mess of discord, disorder and degeneration.
Each step, from the establishment of an urban nucleus of expansion, through the building of rival empires to the final struggle for supreme power, involves the violent subordination of lesser interests to the interests of one supreme authority. Violence takes precedence over persuasion and negotiation. In each case the final appeal is to armed combat using the most sophisticated weapons available.
During the “time of troubles” which overtakes each civilization, war and the threat of war become normal aspects of domestic and international relations. A specialized war-making bureaucracy is organized; war plans are made; war games (rehearsals) are carried on, and wars are fought as a means of determining which nation or combination of nations shall have access to raw materials and markets, dominate the trade routes, control the weaker peoples, own and exploit the colonies.
To the victor, war is the means of extending national or imperial frontiers and legalizing expansion at the expense of the vanquished. Defeat in war leads to the imposition of indemnities, the payment of tribute, the transfer of territory to the victor and in extreme cases the extermination of the defeated nations or empires.
Settlements imposed by violence and policed by victors lead to resentment, antagonism, hatred and the build-up of a desire for revenge, including the restoration to the vanquished of lost territories. The logical outcome of such a situation is preparation for a war of independence by the vanquished, countered by military occupation, rigid suppression, and exploitation by the victors in the previous struggle.
War is taken for granted as an instrument of policy. It is employed by civilized nations and empires as a means of expansion. Wars of independence and restitution follow conquest, dismemberment and annexation. Civilized nations and empires prepare for war and wage war as a normal aspect of civilized life.
Civilization, and in particular western civilization, is a time-bomb, built to detonate and scatter its fragments far and wide. It is a type of booby trap in which humanity has been caught periodically and horribly mangled. Without exception, each civilization has contained the forces and equipment needed for its own annihilation. At no time reported by history has this formulation been more obvious than during the decades immediately following war’s end in 1945. Destructivity was lifted to new levels of efficiency by electronic communication, the tank and the airplane. It was further escalated by atomic fission and nuclear fusion. Advances in science and technology had made dramatic increases in the tempo of production and construction. Utilization of atomic energy had stepped up destructivity to the nth power.
Based on assumptions that oft-repeated experience has proved to be false and misleading, civilization in the 1970’s is unstable and insecure. Most civilizations are strangled in their cradles or plundered and demolished in the course of the never-ending political, economic and military conflicts which have marked and marred civilizations since the dawn of history. The national and imperial survivors of these struggles in every known instance have been largely or wholly led by military adventurers and plunderers in search of booty, fame and power. With professional plunderers, destroyers and murderers occupying the seats of power, it is only a question of time and occasion before rising overhead costs and the misfortunes of war result in their overthrow and replacement by better organized, better armed invaders who slaughter and enslave their predecessors and usurp and abuse their power. Of necessity, civilizations are self-destructive, built as they are on the ebb and flow of power struggle.
Successive conflicts involve an indefinite volume of overhead costs, which grow with the intensity and extent of the expansive survival struggle, creating a series of crises along a path that leads to self-destruction and the return of the experimenters to a condition of pre-civilized self-containment.
We in the West, looking back on our own immediate history, refer to this pre-civilized status as the Dark Ages. Actually, such Dark Ages are the transition stages between two periods of experiments with the building of civilizations. In view of this oft-repeated experience, modern man must look upon an epoch of civilization not as a way of life, but an adventure of suicidal self-degradation and ultimate self-destruction.
Each cycle of civilization has had its peculiarities, determined by the geographical and historical factors surrounding its origin and development. Yet all have had features in common. Among the common features we would list:
1. A revolutionary movement within the societies under consideration. In each experiment with civilization the culture pattern was transformed from pastoral and/or agricultural to a culture based on trade, commerce and finance; from rural to urban; from simple to complex; from local toward universal.
2. In each case an independent, self-directing, expanding state was built around an urban center.
3. In each experiment a simple, local, social structure was extended, expanded, specialized, sub-divided, integrated, consolidated.
4. In each experiment a relatively static society passed into the control of an emerging class of peddlers, merchants, traders, speculators, business enterprisers and professionals who were not directly involved in the conversion of nature’s gifts into goods and services ready for human use, but in political and cultural practices which enabled the emerging bourgeois class to stabilize and extend its wealth and power and build an economic structure that augmented unearned income and laid the foundation for predation, exploitation and parasitism.
5. In each experiment an amateur apparatus for defense and/or aggression matured into a professional military means for enlarging the geographical area and strengthening the economic and political authority of the new trading-ruling classes. In each empire and each civilization there was an evolution of “defense” forces from voluntary to professional status, from subordinate to dominant status, from participation in public life to political supremacy over all aspects of public life.
6. In each experiment massed labor power (slave, serf, or wage-earner) was assembled, organized and trained to build roads, bridges, aqueducts, housing facilities and eventually to operate agriculture, construction, industry, trade and commerce, public utilities and other services in the interests of an oligarchy.
7. In each experiment a capital city (and associated cities) became the nucleus for accumulating wealth, constructing public buildings, providing means of transportation and sources from which raw materials could be secured for city maintenance and for the provision of sanitary facilities, means of recreation and diversion.
8. In each experiment there was a competitive struggle between rival communities, each passing through the rural-urban transformation. The result was an increasing conflict for survival, for expansion and for local supremacy.
9. Each experiment expanded along lines that led the more successful to build traditional empires consisting of wealth-power centers and peripheries of associates and dependents.
10. Each experiment produced a competitive survival struggle between rival empires that would determine eventual supremacy.
11. In each experiment one among the local and regional contestants defeated, conquered, dismembered, assimilated or destroyed its rivals and emerged as victor, giving its name to a civilization: Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Roman.
12. In each experiment the victims of imperial aggression, conquest, exploitation and assimilation, conspired, united, resisted and revolted against the dominant power. The result was endemic civil war.
13. Within each experiment, as the civilization matured, the same confrontations appeared at the nuclear center and in the provincial-colonial periphery:
a. Extremes of riches side by side with slum-dwelling poverty.
b. Expanding unearned
income, with one class (the propertied and
privileged) owning for a living and another class (peasants,
artisans, serfs, slaves) working for a living.
c. Intensified exploitation of mass labor side by side with the proliferation of parasitism throughout the body social, consisting of individuals and social sub-groups whose contribution in the form of goods produced and services rendered was less than the cost of maintaining the participants.
d. Economic stagnation. Public spending in excess of public income; higher levies and taxes to replenish the empty treasury; rising prices due to excess of demand over supply; public borrowing with no means for repayment; the issue of money without corresponding reserves; degradation of currency through decrease of its metal content; unemployment among citizens due chiefly to increase in forced labor of war captives and other slaves; public insolvency due to territorial over-expansion; excessive overhead costs; nepotism, bribery, corruption in public service; an over-large bureaucracy feeding at the public trough.
e. Revolution in
the nuclear center and fierce suppression.
Provincial revolt. Revolt in the colonies. Endemic civil war.
f. Migration toward
the central honey-pot; invasion by rivals and
adventurers seeking to control it, plunder it and guzzle its
g. Dissolution of the society; boredom; ennui; loss of purpose and direction; growing dissension; power struggle and avoidance of responsibility for trends that were little understood and generally beyond the control of existing officialdom.
Histories of individual nations and empires and histories of civilizations and civilization assemble and present a great body of factual information which support and substantiate this factual summary. The present study aims to organize the facts, to compare them and to draw conclusions as to the benefits and detriments; the practicality or futility; the wisdom or folly of building empires and merging them into civilizations.
These conclusions are based on several thousand years of experiment and experience with the civilized life pattern. Time after time, in age after age, human beings by the millions have poured faith, hope and unbounded energy, devotion and dedication into the upbuilding of the urban nuclei of successive civilizations. Details have varied. Ultimate conclusions have been the same. One civilization after another has passed into the limbo of history leaving, sometimes, splendid ruins as a testimonial to its evident inadequacy to meet the survival needs of oncoming generations.
Such conclusions, based on history, are underlined by current experience with the over-ballyhooed, over-priced variant of the life pattern which signs itself western civilization. Dating from the Crusades a thousand years ago, western civilization has been promoted, built up and carried forward by the blood, sweat and tears of credulous, hopeful, eager human beings. Its promises have been wonderful; its performance, especially since 1900, has been pitifully inadequate, superficial and unsatisfying.
THE POLITICS OF CIVILIZATION
Several thousand years ago humankind began experimenting with the life style which we are now calling civilization. Presumably it was not thought out and blueprinted in advance but worked out by trial and error, episode by episode, step by step—perhaps, also, leap by leap.
Historical and contemporary experiments with this lifestyle supply a fund of valuable information, some of which has been covered in the earlier chapters of this book. Our next task is to analyze and classify this information under four headings: the politics, the economics, the sociology and the ideology of civilization. (When the information is properly arranged, we can do something with it and about it.)
Politics is the part of social science and engineering which is concerned with the organization, direction and administration of human communities. We use the word to cover the conduct of public affairs in any social group more extensive than a family. Hence we refer to village politics, town politics, national politics, international politics and, in the present instance, to the politics of civilization as a way of life.
Each sample, referred to in our examination of typical civilizations, was built around a center, nucleus or homeland consisting of one or more cities with their adjacent hinterlands. The nucleus of the developing civilization was also the nucleus of an empire. Each nucleus was a center of planned production; accumulating wealth, growing population and expanding authority. Certain locations are better suited than others to provide the essentials of a civilization nucleus.
The first requirement for a nucleus is a tolerable climate, primarily a satisfactory balance between heat and cold. Before the general use of fire as a source of warmth human populations were concentrated at or near the tropics. With the increasing use of artificial heating and lighting human beings were able to cluster farther and farther away from concentrated equatorial sunlight.
The second requirement of such a location is a strategic position in a crossroads, in a network of transportation and communication.
The third requirement is a readily available source of the food and building materials necessary to feed, house, and clothe a community and provide it with some of the niceties of daily living.
The fourth requirement is the presence of sufficient man-power to operate the nucleus and provide a surplus for defense and for its extension and expansion.
The fifth requirement is defensibility against aggression or invasion.
The sixth essential is the availability of sufficient raw materials to meet the requirements of the nucleus, provide the exports needed to maintain a favorable trade balance for the nucleus and permit of its expansion, advancement and enrichment.
Seventh, and in some ways, the most important requirement for the establishing of an empire or a civilization nucleus, is the presence of a will to live, a will to grow, a will to advance, competence in management, and a dogged persistence that will remain constant through generations or centuries of adversity, and still more demanding, through long periods of security, comfort and affluence.
Eighth, and by no means least important, is the capacity to fight and win the aggressive trade and military wars incidental to the defense and expansion of the nucleus, of the empire, and eventually of the civilization.
The ninth requirement is tolerance, receptivity to new ideas and practices, the capacity to adapt and to assimilate the outside elements which are constantly incorporated into the growing, expanding empire or the civilization.
Finally, as we read the history and observe the development of nuclei, empires and civilizations, we are impressed by the role of outstanding individuals who occupy positions of responsibility over sufficiently long periods or with sufficient intensity to leave a lasting impression on the ideas, practices and institutions of their times. This requirement covers the practice of effective leadership.
Our concern, at this point, lies primarily with the first eight of these requirements for survival and success in building up empires and civilizations.
Empires and civilizations are established during periods of social expansion when the up-building and out-going urges are widely felt. The surge produces not a single center of growth and expansion but dozens or scores of competitors, each aiming to win and keep a position well in advance of its rivals. The resulting up-surge and free-for-all, which usually lasts for centuries, is a characteristic and recurring feature in the political life of every civilization.
This statement is less a requirement for success in organizing the nucleus of a civilization, than a generalization about the natural and social milieu out of which competing nuclei arise. Success of one among the many competitors is a characteristic feature of the struggle for nuclear survival, development and perhaps for eventual supremacy.
From earliest times waterways have provided the readiest means of getting about. All that was needed was a hollow log, a raft, a primitive canoe. Movement by land was impeded by mountains, deserts, forests, swamps, water courses. Movement by water was a natural.
More and bigger boats required shelter against storms and protection against destruction by enemies. A good harbor with an adjacent walled town or city was the answer to this need.
Good harbors and navigable waterways are notably absent along the west coast of South America and notably present in the Eastern Mediterranean. Consequently, the South American West Coast line is sparsely settled to this day, while the Eastern Mediterranean has been crowded with peoples, teemed with trade and commerce, carried largely by sea, between cities that occupied the best access to waterways.
Safe harbors and navigable waterways made trade and transport easy and cheap. As each wave of human advance turned from animal husbandry and agriculture to bourgeois practices of industry, commerce and finance, locations at strategic points along trade routes were first occupied by occasional markets and fairs and eventually by trading towns and cities. Geography was a decisive factor.
Fertility was equally important. In the early stages of social development transportation was difficult, dangerous and expensive. Sources of food and building materials were found within a short distance of the growing trade center. Again geography played a decisive role. A deep, sheltered harbor backed by a desert could not attract and support a thriving trade center. Food and raw materials are indispensable to concentrations of human beings.
The Nile Valley, like that of the Ganges and the Yellow River, provided the fertility and transport, the food and raw materials that have sustained concentrated human populations for many thousands of years, forming part of the base for Egyptian, Indian and Chinese civilizations. Animal husbandry and grain farming, coupled with fishing and forestry, made possible the growth of cities and laid the foundations for the nuclei of these civilizations.
Temples, tombs and other public constructs provided the centers around which Egyptian civilization was built. The stone, wood and other raw materials used in the building of these unique examples of human handiwork were floated up and down the Nile from their sources of origin. Annual Nile floods provided silt deposits necessary to fertilize farms and gardens. Nile water, impounded during floods, irrigated the land during the long dry seasons. Banked by deserts, the Nile was a ribbon of fertility running through a largely uninhabited wilderness. The upper reaches of the Nile lay in the mountains of Central Africa. The Nile delta, built up through ages by silt deposits, provided a meeting place where African, European and Asian traders could exchange their wares and lay the foundations for the civilization of lower Egypt. The Nile also provided the means of communication which connected Lower Egypt with Upper Egypt and led, finally, to the unification of the two areas in a long enduring and prestigious Egyptian civilization. Once again geography was laying down the guide lines within which civilizations have been built up and liquidated.
Thus far we have noted the role of physiographic factors that have led to building the nuclei of empires and civilizations. They have been parallelled by social factors as men took advantage of natural opportunities to concentrate, feed and house ever larger human aggregates.
Empires and civilizations have been built up by comparatively large numbers of human beings concentrated in relatively small spaces. Wandering food gatherers and herdsmen ranged widely in search of game and grass. Cultivators settled in villages from which they could work the land. If crops were scanty, population was sparse. Only abundant crops, dependable, season after season, provided the basis for large settled populations.
Large, settled populations, adequately supplied with the essentials of life, enabled human beings to organize social centers in which a comparatively few people, tending their animals and working the land, could release a comparatively large part of the population to devote its time and energy to trade and commerce, to industry and transport, to the arts and sciences and to the organization, direction and administration of large scale enterprises such as government, the military, construction and the mobilization of sufficient labor power to carry on and enlarge their enterprises. In its simplest essence this was politics.
Egyptian government, in its broad sense, rested on a class structured society: the aristocracy, the priesthood, officialdom, businessmen, highly trained scientists and engineers, skilled craftsmen and an immense proletariat consisting of tenant farmers, peons, slaves and war captives.
At the top of the political structure was an absolute monarch who wielded power that was limited only by the ambition, tolerance and loyalty of his associates—nobles, priests, soldiers, businessmen and political advisers, and by the willingness of the rural and urban masses to work and fight for their overlords. A number of the monarchs (Pharaohs) ruled for long periods—up to sixty years. It was during these long reigns that the Egyptian Kingdom was organized, strengthened and unified, the rule of the monarch was safeguarded; ambitious nobles were placated or destroyed; and the leadership succession was determined and assured.
The nucleus of the Egyptian Empire was a dictatorship by a self-perpetuated elite, headed by lords spiritual and temporal. Both groups held land, accumulated wealth and exercised authority. It was a government combining the theory of absolutism with the practice of public responsibility. It was sufficiently arbitrary to get things done. It was sufficiently inclusive to recognize and utilize special ability. It was sufficiently structured to carry on from dynasty to dynasty. It was sufficiently flexible to consolidate scattered communities into the Old Kingdom, to unite Lower and Upper Egypt, to extend its authority into Central Africa, the Near and Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe, thus laying the foundations for history’s most extensive and long-lasting civilization during the period 3500 to 500 B.C.
I have used the Egyptian example of nucleus organization because of the phenomenal successes achieved by the Egyptians in maintaining an empire for at least 3,000 years. For a considerable part of those thirty centuries Egypt was top dog in the strategic area where Africa joins Eurasia.
The nucleus is the hub from which the spokes of empire and of civilization radiate. The radius of authority and the vast stretches of occupied, exploited territory constitute the circumference of the wheel. The nucleus is the center of wealth and power surrounded by a cluster of associates and dependencies. The control, direction and administration of the nucleus is parallelled by the control, direction and administration of the total complex—the empire and/or the civilization.
The development from nucleus to empire and from empire to civilization creates three sets of political problems: those arising from the administration of the nucleus; those arising out of contacts between the nucleus and the circumference, between the associates and dependencies and the nucleus, and those arising out of the determination of the associates and dependencies to sever their connections with the nucleus, win their independence, and take part in the unceasing efforts to establish new nuclei, win the unending power struggle and shift the power center.
Relationship between nucleus and periphery are the normal outcome of the expansion of a nucleus into an empire. Each growing urban center reaches out for an extension of its territory; for the food and raw materials required by a growing population; for markets that can absorb the goods and services exported by the urban center to pay for its necessary imports of food and raw materials.
Politically speaking, the essential problem is to maintain a relationship that will keep the imports coming in and keep the exports going out. Imports may take the form of plunder seized by the strong in contacts and conflicts with weaker neighbors; tribute paid by the weak to the strong at the insistence of the strong, or trade in which each side gains something. Empire building involves all three methods.
In virtually all instances the nucleus is richer and stronger; the periphery is poorer and weaker. In virtually all instances these relative positions have been the outcome of military operations in which each party has tried to impose its will upon its rivals. In each case the spoils went to the victor, who forced defeated rivals to cede territory, to pay tribute, to give hostages or in some other fashion to agree upon a settlement that left the victor richer and stronger and the vanquished poorer and weaker.
Politically speaking, the relation of nucleus to periphery was that of superior to inferior. Where the discrepancy was very great it resulted in a relation of master and vassal or even master and slave.
An empire or a civilization, consisting of a wealth-power center and a periphery of associated and dependent territories and peoples, led to a living-standard differential in favor of the center. It also involved the establishment of a political apparatus strong enough to perpetuate the relationship by collecting tribute and taxes from the weak and depositing them in the treasure chests of the strong. The outcome was a civil bureaucracy backed by a military or police strong enough to defend and perpetuate an unpalatable superior-inferior position.
Once established, both the civilian bureaucracy and the military apparatus tended to maintain themselves, to extend their privileges and strengthen their positions. Since controversial issues, domestic and foreign, are generally decided by force or the threat of force, the military became the strong right arm of authority.
These confrontations and contradictions created three sets of political problems: centralism versus localism; established central authority versus provincial rights and self-determination; the concentration or centralization of authority in the hands of a select few civilian and/or military leaders, responsible to the central authority, who made on the spot decisions and took action.
Under the institutions and practices of civilized society, the select few were in a position to call in the military which was organized for emergency action and was constantly standing-by. The military was trained, disciplined and held a monopoly of weapons.
Civilizations frequently begin as commonwealths or federations forged in the course of survival struggle. In any such struggle the military will of necessity play a major role. As the competitive survival struggle develops, one of the contending parties establishes its superiority by winning military victory. In the course of this struggle the commonwealth, a cluster of equals, yields place to the pattern of empire—a center of wealth and authority with its associates, subordinates and dependencies.
The strong right arm of politics includes man-power, money and weapons. The politics of civilization faces a simple mandate: establish, stabilize and perpetuate a nucleus of wealth and authority; build around the nucleus a periphery of associates and dependencies.
Historically, the process was a long one extending through generations and probably centuries. Throughout the struggle individuals must have the necessities of daily life. Community activities must be housed, equipped, staffed, supported.
Pastoral and village life were based on a use economy. People produced what they needed and consumed their own products. Each tribe, family, village was a more or less self-sufficient unit. When they were threatened or invaded people defended themselves as best they could. At worst they abandoned their homes to the invaders and fled into the forests, mountains or deserts.
Towns and cities, with their industries, trade, commerce, their permanent housing and capital equipment faced a radically different situation. Since they could not carry their wealth on their backs they must stay put and defend themselves or face irreparable losses. Defense required careful, extensive, expensive preparations: walls, equipment, stored food, personnel. Unless the city was sacked and burned during survival struggles it remained as a vantage point to be held at all costs. If surrendered and occupied by assailants, it was equally valuable to invaders who were prepared to settle down, take advantage of the site, the capital equipment and exploit the available manpower.
Whether occupied by friend or enemy, towns and cities were centers of actual or potential wealth and power. They were also consumers of goods and services many of which could not be home-produced. Food must come from herdsmen or farmers. Building materials must come from forests or mines. Such raw materials, the essentials of daily life, must be brought into urban centers when and as wanted.
Food and raw materials could be secured occasionally by plunder. A regular supply depended on trade and commerce, or on tribute levied and collected periodically from associated or dependent peoples. In the long run trade and commerce proved to be more reliable and more productive than plunder.
As urban centers grew and developed, they established regular channels of trade and communication, by land and water. Along these channels needed imports moved into the urban centers and exports in exchange moved from the urban centers into the back country or the provinces. At every stage in the process care must be taken to prevent intervention by thieves, robbers or envious rivals. Two devices were used to meet this situation: money to facilitate exchange and a defense organization to deal with intruders.
Money and its uses developed money changers, money lenders and banks. Bankers and banks exchanged currency at a profit and extended credit.
Weapons in the hands of trained personnel evolved into locally employed police and centrally organized armed services, performing police functions and fighting wars, domestic and foreign.
Politics, local, regional or national, developed with the growth of population, the profits of expanding urban life, production, technology. As its scope broadened geographically city survival depended increasingly on wealth and power (money and weapons).
During periods of peace and stability the civil authorities controlled public affairs. In emergencies, such as natural disasters, invasion, civil or international wars, the military authorities took command.
Military authority is an institutional feature of every civilization. In periods of public danger it enjoys complete ascendancy. Like civil authority, the military is a permanent and frequently the dominant feature of each civilization. It is assured of ample income and entrusted with the installations and implements of war making. Both in income and in prestige the military holds a preferred position.
Since military functions center about destroying the person and property of the “enemy”—domestic or foreign—public funds are made available or are pre-empted by the military during periods of martial law. As a civilization becomes more complex and extensive, the funds at the disposal of the military tend to increase. The same factors of extent and complexity lead to larger and larger numbers of confrontations and conflicts in which the military is called upon to play the leading role. Increasingly, therefore, the military is at the center of policy making. Finally a point is reached at which war, civil, colonial or international is always in progress somewhere within the territories occupied by the civilization. At such periods civil law slumbers and military authority is more or less dominant and permanent.
Under the slogan “defense of civilization,” military necessity and military adventurism shape public policy, empty the public treasury, bankrupt and eventually destroy the superstructure of a civilization.
The nucleus which lies at the heart of an empire or a civilization has a political life cycle that runs from the unstructured or little structured aggregation of confederation or self-determining local groups to a highly centralized political absolutism holding and exercising its authority by the use of the military. The steps in this process have been clearly marked in earlier civilizations. They are playing a decisive role in the day-to-day life of western civilization. They extend from early forms of government under leaders selected or elected by popular acclaim or at least by popular consent, to more or less permanent leadership enjoying many political privileges, including the selection of its successors.
Under the pressure of social emergency, engendered within the social group or imposed from outside the group by migration, intrusion or invasion, leadership takes the measures which it considers necessary to preserve and/or extend its authority. Each emergency offers leadership an opportunity or an excuse to by-pass custom and/or law, overlook whatever public opinion may exist and proceed to the measures needed to meet the emergency. In each organized social group the exercise of authority has provided the leadership with a near-monopoly of money and weapons in the hands of a permanent military elite. The use of this elite to deal with the emergency is accepted by civil authority as a matter of course.
When social division of function has produced and armed a military elite, leadership turns to this elite in any emergency arising from natural disaster or social crisis. The outcome is a community directed by a military arm seeking to perpetuate and enlarge its own role in the determination and exercise of public authority, using any means which seems likely to produce the desired results.
Politically, therefore, any expanding empire or civilization reaches a point at which absolute monarchy, exercising unquestioned authority, makes and enforces public policy by the use of the military or with its help.
Many commentators write as though the essence of civilization was its art galleries, concert halls, its universities and its libraries. Such agencies are the trappings, decorations and fringes of a civilization. There is no justification for such a selective approach. The strong right-arm of every civilization has been its wealth (money) and its martial equipment (its guns).
Success in politics has been described as the art of selecting the possible and bringing it to fruition. Every community is more or less fragmented by deviations, contradictions, confrontations and conflicts. These fragmentations begin in the personality and extend through the entire social structure—from the individual, through the family, such voluntary associations as the sports club, the trade union, the merchants’ association, the educational system, the political party, the municipal or the national government.
Unrestrained and undirected social fragmentation leads to conflict, destruction, perhaps to chaos. Success in politics rests on an understanding of the chaos and its causes and an integration of conflicting forces behind specific programs and around charismatic personalities.
One aspect of the problem is especially disturbing and baffling to the uninitiated. Compared with the brief adulthood of an individual the life span of communities is immensely long. The individual is at his or her best for a few years or decades. Communities and their institutions endure for hundreds and in some cases for thousands of years. Under the most favorable conditions an individual can hope to play a part in community affairs for a decade or two. Before he comes on the stage of public affairs and after he leaves it, social life stretches indefinitely.
Politics is one aspect of that more or less extensive social experience. Its immediate objective is to bring order out of chaos and replace randomness by purpose and if possible by plan.
In the wake of the bourgeois revolution, which was directed particularly against monarchy and generally against absolutism, the most obvious and attractive social pattern was a republic, ruled by the citizens in a manner which in their opinion was best calculated to promote their safety and happiness.
Under a republican government public affairs would be openly and freely discussed by the citizens at a time or place of their choice by word of mouth, through a free press or in public gatherings. At stated intervals elections would be held at which all citizens of proper age would select representatives and a legislature or parliament where questions of public concern could be debated and appropriate measures adopted. Implementation or execution of these measures would be placed in the hands of executive officers responsible to the parliament. As a safeguard against any miscarriage of the public will, the right of petition was guaranteed. In some instances the right of referendum and recall was provided. To obviate any miscarriage of justice, provision was made for courts, responsible to the citizenry, as an independent arm of government competent to protect and assert popular rights.
Overall, citizens of the republic, through duly elected representatives, would draw up and proclaim a constitution containing a general plan of the governmental machinery. When adopted by the legislature or parliament this constitution became the law of the land. Governmental activities were carried out and laws were enacted in conformity with constitutional provisions. In practice the citizens of the freest republic were face to face with one of the oldest political dilemmas confronting mankind: the question of leadership and followership.
In almost any social situation, from trivial to grave and critical, some one woman or man volunteers advice and often initiates action. If no one approves, the initiative falls flat. If there is a chorus of approval, the crowd follows the lead of its spokesman. If some approve while others disapprove or remain silent, a show of hands is in order. If there are real differences in the group, some taking one side, some another side with no chance of common action, the group may divide into several factions, some remaining in the assemblage, others departing, with their spokesmen leading the way.
In such confrontations there are many determining factors, the experience and wisdom of the leadership; the urgency of the subject under discussion; the depth of the separation between opposing factions; the experience of the citizenry and their willingness to compromise on divisive issues; the willingness of the factionalists to abide by a majority decision.
Experienced leadership, which has enjoyed a period of public approval long enough to build up not only a group of devoted followers, but a group of place-men and office-holders who owe their positions to the leader, can assemble a bureaucratic or political machine, adopt measures and take the steps necessary to keep its chosen leader in a life job, with the possibility of naming a successor.
Republics have adopted various measures to prevent the establishment of a self-perpetuating dynasty, by limiting public office-holding to a stated number of years; by providing that the office holder may not succeed himself. Political leaders may avoid such provisions by staying in the background, having their closest associates elected to office, and when their term is ended, secure the selection of other associates upon whose personal fidelity they can rely.
All such measures require that the leader keep the favor of a considerable number of his constituents. To avoid this often difficult or disagreeable task the leader and his close associates may persuade their constituency to by-pass both constitution and parliament, enlist the support of the military, seize power and establish an arbitrary dictatorship of admirals and generals or establish a committee of military leaders who will pick out civilian office holders willing to follow the political line laid down by the military leaders.
As republics gain in wealth, increase their power and broaden their geographical base by bringing outside peoples under their sway, their dependence upon military means of resolving public controversies becomes greater. This is particularly true where outsiders brought under the republic’s authority have mature political institutions including their own leaders and their own ways of dealing with public relations.
Given such a situation, the control by the republic over the policy-making apparatus of dependencies is likely to have been established by force of arms. In such a case it is only a matter of time and occasion when the dependency will demand the right of self-determination and be prepared to fight for independence of “foreign tyrants, oppressors and exploiters.”
Minor inexpensive military operations for the suppression of colonial revolt which are quickly and successfully ended may add to the stature of empire-building leaders. But major operations, long continued, expensive and inconclusive, will undermine the prestige and weaken the position of the most firmly seated imperialist. The Boer War against the British and the wars waged by the Koreans and the Vietnamese against a series of occupiers and exploiters are excellent examples of the operation of this principle.
As empire building proceeds under its inescapable expansionist drive, a point will be reached at which the overhead costs of maintaining the empire will exceed the income. As that point is approached in one after another of the empires comprising the civilization, the central authority will be successfully challenged by the dependent, colonial periphery. Ordinarily, such challenges will coincide with the inter-imperial wars which have periodically disrupted every civilization known to history. When such a coincidence does occur, as it did in western civilization from 1914 to 1945, the bell is likely to toll loudly for the civilization in question.
Measures usually adopted to prevent such a catastrophe—martial law, military dictatorship, self-perpetuating monarchy, divine authority, are more than likely to heap fuel on the flames of rebellion and lead into a social revolution.
An unstructured social group operating under the competitive principle “Let him take who has the power” tends to develop into absolutism. At any stage in the history of a civilization this development can take place.
Civilization, therefore, comes into being with this built-in contradiction: the strong and predatory exploit the weak, but at a certain point protect the weak and nurture the defenseless. Exploitation by the rich and powerful is recognized and accepted as a prerogative enjoyed by the rich and powerful. At the same time limitations are placed on the character and intensity of the exploitation.
This dichotomy is perpetuated by agreements, laws and constitutions which guarantee the property rights and social privileges by which the rich and powerful safeguard and increase their wealth and power. Under the same agreements, laws and constitutions, the privileges and rights of the defenseless and weak, are specified.
Political institutions in every civilization, including that of the West, have accepted and adopted a regulatory structure under which limits are imposed on profiteering. The domestic life of a civilization consists of an establishment within which exploitation can continue in a manner which the constitution makers and legislators consider to be as efficient as possible and as fair as possible to all of the parties concerned.
As a civilization matures, wealth and power (the means of exploitation) are increased in volume and concentrated in fewer hands. The resulting absolutism with its immense structure of wealth production and its well-organized military arm, imposes conformity to its decrees, servility, peonage and even slavery on the working masses. The masses, in their turn, organize, agitate, demonstrate, strike, sabotage, and periodically take up, arms in defense of their lives and their livelihood.
We are describing certain political aspects of a process of social selection which has dominated one civilization after another. At the present moment it has reached a critical stage in the West. We apply the term “social selection” to the result of this process because there is a parallel between the natural selection of the biologists and the social selection which sociologists observe in the rapid and extensive changes presently taking place in the centers of western civilization.
Natural selection is a process in the course of which many compete and contend while only a few survive and mature.
Social selection is a similar knock-down and drag-out struggle in which peoples, nations, empires and civilizations take part. Many enter the contest but only a few live to write their story in the long and complex history of civilizations.
At the outset of such a contest, the European-Asian-African cradle of the coming western culture contained numerous political fragments—kingdoms, principalities, cities, city states, inert peasant masses, migrating tribes—struggling locally and regionally for a place in the sun, or for additional territory and extended authority. These struggles reached the military level in local wars, regional wars, general wars. In the course of this survival struggle, the weakest and least effective contestants were defeated, dismembered and gobbled up by their stronger and more efficient opponents.
Local struggles—in the Near and Middle East, in North Africa, in eastern, central and western Europe—were trial heats in the course of which many contestants were eliminated, while the survivors continued the process of city, nation and empire building at higher and broader levels. It was only after five hundred years of such conflicts that the outlines of western civilization took definite political form:—a group of battle-hardened contestants, centered in Europe, heavily armed and equipped, intent on protecting and enlarging their home territory and extending their authority over dependencies and colonies in various parts of the planet.
This survival struggle continued for another three hundred years, down to the beginning of the present century, reaching its highest level of intensity between 1914 and 1945, with contestants from all of the continents taking an active part. In this present round the contestants are nations and empires, organized in ever-changing alliances. Some of the contestants are old, scarred and battle weary. Others are young and vigorous, recent entrants in the planet-wide contest for pelf, possessions and power.
During the later years of the struggle, after war’s end in 1945, erstwhile dependencies and colonies of the disintegrating European empires declared their independence, joined the United Nations as sovereign states and played active parts in the battle for survival.
African development typifies the process during the later phases of western civilization. When voyaging and discovery became a leading activity of European nations around 1450 A.D. northern Africa was directly involved, but the bulk of the continent—Equatorial Africa—remained almost entirely untouched. After 1870 the pattern was dramatically altered as British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian forces moved inland, staking out their claims.
Division of Africa among the great powers reached its culmination when this process was completed, about 1910, when the whole vast continent of Africa excepting Ethiopia, Egypt and South Africa had been parcelled out among the rival European empires. In terms of geography and population, Africa was still African. Politically it was pre-empted, occupied, dominated and exploited by European empire builders, who used the over, all trade name of western civilization.
Excessive costs of empire building, including the disastrous losses of military struggle from 1914 to 1945, impoverished and weakened the European overlords to such an extent that they could no longer maintain their footholds in Africa. At the same time African minorities in various parts of the continent launched independence movements under the slogan of self-determination, drove out the European occupiers, organized political states and declared that Africa must be governed by and for Africans.
Much of Africa, at the time, was organized along tribal lines, which cut across the boundaries drawn by the European imperialists between their colonial territories. The resulting chaos temporarily removed Africa from any meaningful role in the planet-wide contest for pelf and power. Africans are politically sovereign. Economically and culturally they remain dependent on their former European masters.
Politically, western civilization is in a state of flux. Its European homeland is basically divided by potent fears, ambitions, feuds and conflicts, and separated geographically from North America and Asia. Despite several attempts to unify the continent politically, Europe was disrupted, fragmented and weakened by two general wars in a single generation. The European empires were politically and economically upset by widespread colonial revolt in Asia and Africa. Spectacular achievements of socialism-communism, particularly in East Europe and Asia, added to the previous fragmentation a new line of division between capitalist West Europe and socialist East Europe. This process of fragmentation is giving separatist forces ascendancy over the forces of integration and unification.
In Roman and Egyptian civilizations, the period of survival conflict led to the centralization of wealth and authority. After five centuries of suicidal competitive struggle, the European homeland of western civilization is criss-crossed by sharp lines of division. Furthermore, the shift of production and military power from Europe to North America and Asia reduces the probability of speedy European integration.
In the more important centers of western civilization the chief item of public expenditure is preparation for a war of air, water and land machines that may extend technologically into a nuclear war. While we have no precedent that would enable us to gauge the consequences of an extensive nuclear war it seems reasonable to assume that it would further fragment an already fragmented European continent.
The heavy burdens of militarism which western civilization is presently carrying, have unbalanced budgets, which lead to inflation and to onerous burdens of debt and taxes. It seems unlikely that a group of warfare states like the top western European powers can escape the economic contraction which presently threatens them and regain solvency and stability through fiscal reforms or readjustments in tariffs and trade.
Our analysis of the politics of civilization may be summarized in four general statements:
1. Each civilization has consisted
of a cluster of empires,
nations and peoples which at some previous period have
enjoyed independence and sovereignty.
2. Relations between these erstwhile sovereign units have been determined by a shifting mixture of diplomacy and armed force, with war playing a determining role in the process.
3. In the course of survival struggle, political leadership within the civilization has shifted back and forth as one group has succeeded in establishing and maintaining its authority over the entire civilization.
4. A general axiom of the politics of civilization might read:
At the conclusion of each war among civilized peoples the victors are entitled to make the following declaration: We operate under the Law of the Jungle: “Let him take who has the power and let him keep who can.” We have the power. We have grabbed the real and personal property of our neighbors and we propose to keep it. Our friends are welcome to attend our Feast of Victory. Let our enemies beware.
THE ECONOMICS OF CIVILIZATION
Politics involves the exercise of authority—the policy making, planning, control, direction and administration of a community. Economic forces provide the wealth, income and livelihood—the wherewithal upon which a community depends for its physical existence, its survival, its geographical extension, the continuance of its life cycle.
There is no sharp line separating economics from politics. While the two fields are different in character and scope, they are so interrelated and interwoven that any successful attempt to separate them would leave the inquirer with two segments of a lifeless social cadaver. In the course of this exposition it will become increasingly evident, as the political and economic lines cross and re-cross, that the two fields are inseparable parts of a total body social.
One civilization after another has begun with a predominantly rural economy that has become increasingly urban as it matured. Food gathering, pastoral life and small scale agriculture were rural. Trade, commerce, manufacturing and finance, concentrated populations, increased division of labor, specialization, inter-communication and interdependence produced the trade center, the commercial metropolis and the general purpose city.
Herdsmen and land workers, dependent on grass and rainfall, lived close to the subsistence margin and were at the mercy of forces they could not control. Traders and money changers, with an eye for business in a growing marketplace made a more ample living. At the same time the more successful among them accumulated capital which they loaned or invested in stocks of goods, shops, warehouses, caravans, ships. By hiring labor-power they multiplied their own limited physical capacities. By investing in varied enterprises they assured themselves against possible loss in any one of them. They also multiplied the possibilities of profit.
Trade, finance and commerce, by producing a regular flow of abundant income, brought into existence a new field of occupations and a new class—business and the businessmen. Herdsmen and farmers depended for their livelihood on nature, her niggardliness or generosity. The businessmen required only the presence of a group large enough to purchase goods and services, pay rent and interest, work for wages and leave the profits to the enterpriser. Each profit beyond the subsistence level enabled the businessmen to expand, buying more goods, hiring more labor, making still greater profits.
Communities of businessmen pooled their profits, extended their markets, built fleets, enlarged cities. Through joint action they engaged in plundering expeditions and collected tribute from their victims. Organized fabrication turned out the goods and services which were marketed for profits. The resulting wealth enabled the successful businessmen to build houses, stock them with consumer goods and art treasures, hire servants, live sumptuously. Productivity, wealth, prosperity filled their honey pot to overflowing.
Honey pots provide the “good things” of life for their owners. They also tempt outsiders. Honey-pot owners fear pilfering by their servants; fear sponging by their relatives, friends, neighbors; fear robbers and kidnappers; fear migrating hordes on the lookout for plunder. Defense is a necessary aspect of each rich household, neighborhood, city, nation, empire, civilization.
The sequence from productivity, through prosperity, wealth accumulation, abundance and the measures needed to defend and safeguard the accumulations, leads to an affluent community or society. It also calls into being new and distinctive class forces.
I. The business class (hucksters and profiteers), a self-seeking, aggressive group of adventurers, promoters and organizers of bourgeois society to whom profit comes first. At one or another stage in the life cycle of every civilization aggressive bourgeois greed for wealth and power makes itself felt. Their role in western civilization has been outstanding. The business class through its control of the productive apparatus and the sources of credit has been able to surround itself with subordinates, scientists and other experts, apologists, strong-arm squads (police and military), spies and assassins.
II. A middle class, made up
of business class subordinates
plus self employed tradesmen, professionals, independent
farmers and craftsmen.
III. A class of blue collared and white collared producers of goods and services who hold their jobs during good behavior. When not needed or wanted they are pushed into the ranks of the partially or wholly unemployed. Most civilizations have added to the working force serfs, peons and/or chattel slaves.
IV. A class of hangers on—economic parasites—who consume more than they produce. The payment of unearned income to property holders and the creation of monopolies enables this class to live on rent, interest and profit in proportion to their ownership. As parasitism increases and multiplies it proves to be a dead weight which eventually drags down any economy that tolerates it.
V. A class of dependents, defectives
and delinquents, supported
by society but contributing little or nothing to
its maintenance or its advancement.
Every civilization has maintained a greater or lesser degree of mobility between the classes. Mobility makes it possible for those with greater ability and energy to leave the countryside, settle near the market-place and climb the ladder of success. It has also made it possible for policy makers to dump those whose services are no longer needed or wanted by the ruling oligarchy.
Among the driving economic forces in a civilization are hunger, fear, greed, ambition. In practice these forces have proved far more effective than whips and clubs in the hand of slave drivers. They animate the rat-race for pelf, power, “success”, which attracts idealism, energy, ability and throws out the carcases of those no longer able to make a contribution to the wealth and power of the oligarchy and its establishment.
Hunters, herdsmen, cultivators, craftsmen, mariners, miners perform services that maintain the solvency of any economy in which they play a leading role. Fast talkers, adventurers, promoters, manipulators, gamblers add little or nothing to the income of the communities in which they operate. Often, however, as gargantuan consumers, they play an important role in building up the deficits which finally wreck an economy.
Accumulations of wealth in market centers tempts the ambitious and the adventurous to enter the rat-race and grab more than their pro-rata share of the honey. The most obvious way to do this is to secure possession of the honey pot.
Far away, in the tribal past of a civilization, lay a period of scarcity in which the members of the community shared the scarce income or starved. As the tribal wealth increased, the leaders, their families and retainers got more than a fair share of the available goods, services, preferment, privileges. At a very early stage the “ants” stored away what they could spare, while the “grasshoppers” had a “good time”. Investing their stored wealth in land or productive enterprises the “ants” added unearned income to their normal earnings from productive labor.
Because the “ants” held the wealth of the community they were able to exercise authority and determine community policy. One result of their decisions was the creation of titles to land and stored wealth. A second result was the institution of property-custom and later of property-law under which those who owned property enjoyed special privileges which gave them still larger shares of the community wealth and income.
Wealth ownership and the exercise of authority, concentrated in one person or family, created a basic division in the community between those whose livelihood depended on their labor and those whose income was determined by their ownership of property and their exercise of authority. In the course of time this development divided the community into a property-owning, governing minority which was wealthy, and a property-poor majority whose livelihood depended upon the willingness of the property holding minority to use their land and productive implements in operations that turned out goods and services.
Property ownership and income were protected by law. Labor income depended on the bargaining power of the property-less majority. Property income yielded wealth to the property owners. Labor income, under the pressure of competition in the labor market, yielded only subsistence. Thus the community was divided into owners and workers. The owners controlled and spent or invested the income. The workers were provided with the necessaries and a few crumbs of comfort.
Private property and property law supported by state power institutionalized a basic division in every civilization. One segment of a civilized community enjoyed wealth and power; other segments produced goods and performed services. The owners were rich; the producers were poor. Riches side by side with poverty are characteristic features of a civilized society.
Exploitation has been the economic backbone of every civilization from earliest times to the present day. Each civilization has exploited and used up its natural resources. In every civilization individuals, groups, classes and sometimes castes have exploited or used up fellow humans and fellow creatures to suit their own purposes and advance their own interests.
Abraham Lincoln gave a classical definition of human exploitation in a simple sentence: “It is the principal that says you work and toil and earn bread and I will eat it.”
Exploitation of nature and of fellow beings by man began long before written history. During periods of civilization, and notably in present-day civilization, exploitation has determined social relationships. It has also become one of the pillars of every civilized community.
Civilized peoples use up natural resources as a matter of course. The more advanced technically have stripped their environments of replaceable and irreplaceable resources. They have also perfected techniques for using the productive power of their fellow creatures. One way to do this is by owning the body. Another way is ownership of land, capital and consumer goods which enable the owner to live without labor on the products resulting from the labor of others.
Owners of property and wealth receive an income because they are owners. They may be very young or very old, able-bodied or helpless. Their livelihood comes to them not because of anything they do, but because of the property titles which they own.
The owner of land may collect rent. The owner of capital may collect interest. The owner of an enterprise may collect profits. Each lives by owning.
Workers produce goods and services. They are paid an income proportioned to their production.
Owners of land, capital and consumer goods are paid incomes proportioned to their ownership.
Workers work for a living. Owners live by ownership, chiefly of land and the implements of production.
Owners of property frequently are rich. Workers, by comparison, are poor. The line separating owners from workers also separates riches from poverty.
Income from services rendered, from work, is earned income. Income from property ownership, by contrast, is unearned income.
The relation between earned and unearned income is not confined to one generation. Under laws passed by the owners and their retainers the owners of private property may give or bequeath this property to their descendants. In the course of time a community is divided between workers who are poor and owners who are rich. Since the rich need not work in order to live, they and those associated with them may live on the unearned income derived from property ownership. In a word, they may become parasitic.
Parasitism may lead to social decay. Generation after generation, the owners and their dependants may live in comfort or even in luxury while those who work and their dependents may lack simple necessities. This is the confrontation of riches and poverty which has played so large a role in every civilization.
Through the ages, in one civilization after another, the glaring contrast between riches and poverty has appeared, dividing the community and laying the foundation for class struggle and class war, both of which decrease social efficiency, intensify class antagonism.
In the early stages of any culture cycle, barter is replaced by a money economy. Money is a medium of exchange, usually issued by a public authority and used in daily transactions, to pay tribute or taxes and to meet other general expenses. In its earlier forms it is made of relatively scarce materials that are in general demand, limited in supply and easily divisible into smaller units. Gold, silver and other metals meet these requirements and have been used as money through the ages.
Cash money and promises to pay speed up wholesale and retail exchanges in the market place. They fill the bill in normal times. But there are emergencies and other exceptions. One of the commonest of the emergencies is war.
In a previous chapter we pointed out that war is a characteristic feature of a civilization that has passed the top-point of its expansion and begun to decline. Then the chickens come home to roost. Civil war, colonial wars and wars between imperial rivals follow each other, creating emergencies in which demand for certain strategic goods and services rises steeply, with no corresponding increase in supply. Prices increase. The common defense requires immediate purchase of supplies. The public treasury is exhausted. The government borrows from money lenders (bankers). It also prints paper money and puts it in circulation.
If the credit of the government is good, if the emergency is of short duration, matters right themselves and the economy survives without serious derangements. But war-emergency disrupts and sometimes destroys an economy. This outcome often results from military defeat.
Another exception to normal economic transactions is buying on credit—buying today and paying tomorrow. The temporary gap between purchase and payment is filled by credit—a promise of the purchaser to pay later and the confidence of the seller that the bill will be paid. Such credit transactions are covered by notes, bonds and mortgages made out by the buyer and accepted by the seller. Until the debt is settled, the borrower pays the seller interest at an agreed rate. Bankers enter the picture, providing capital and collecting interest on their loans.
Where credit is abundant and relatively cheap, borrowers spend beyond their incomes, hoping to pay later when the loan falls due. Borrowing and over-spending are among human frailties. They are also forms of risk-taking or gambling. Who knows whether the banker who promises to pay on demand will be alive and doing business next week when his promise to pay is presented for settlement? When the promise to pay is issued by a government which decides the value of currency, and accepted by that government as payment for taxes and other obligations, it is more readily acceptable than paper issued and guaranteed by an individual money lender or banker.
Each civilization has had a background of simple use economy—food gathering, animal husbandry, agriculture—in which most of the people produced what they needed and consumed what they produced. Such an economy employs money rarely.
In a money economy those who have cash use it to pay their bills or settle their accounts.
Those who buy on credit pay interest to money lenders. The money lenders, later the bankers, make their profits by helping others to spend beyond their own means. The money-lender also accepted loans from others, promising to pay them back at a later date, and giving the lender a piece of paper, specifying the amount of the loan. The paper promise to pay became a bank-note, passed from hand to hand. It had no intrinsic value, but as the money lender promised to pay cash for the note on demand, it was accepted in payment of debts or for the purchase of commodities.
When a shirt-maker turns out a product and exchanges it for a pair of shoes made by a shoemaker there are no overhead costs. Each producer adds to his wardrobe an item that makes his life more satisfactory.
Examples of simple barter are seldom found in market economies. Civilized society assembles quantities and varieties of goods and services in the market place, invites consumers to choose among the wares and provides money to make transactions quick and easy. Civilized society supplements money with credit on the principle: buy and use today; pay tomorrow. Civilization goes beyond these bare essentials of merchandizing by furnishing transportation and communication, making long term loans at interest, writing insurance, developing the techniques of accounting and management. Customers who visit the market have basic human needs—the necessities of life. Beyond these necessaries, there are conveniences, comforts, luxuries. The markets of civilization cover the entire range of human needs and human wants from necessaries to luxuries.
Civilized merchandizers take two other steps aimed to activate consumption. They develop new lines of merchandise that will have more customer appeal, leading to new wants. They also advertise new wares that will create new wants, bring back old customers and attract new ones.
For the foot-weary customer who has shopped away his energy and enthusiasm for buying more and more, a civilized marketplace furnishes food and shelter, recreation, entertainment and culture—beer, libraries, concert halls and circuses as well as food, clothing and shelter.
These multiple functions of a civilized economy are part and parcel of the changes which have converted the simple barter deal of exchanging a pair of shoes for a shirt into a specialized, civilized market place. They also cause civilized economies to devote far more time and money to marketing goods and services than they spend in their manufacture. In a broad sense, these supplementary costs are “overhead.”
Shirt makers and shoemakers convert raw materials and partly finished goods into shirts and shoes. Operating costs of manufacture are minimal in a civilized economy. The major items that go into the final price of the product are overhead costs.
Current accounting practices include in overhead: taxes, interest, insurance and general items. Actually the price of goods and services in a civilized economy includes minimal charges for raw materials and labor and maximum charges for overhead.
There is another phase of overhead which pyramids with each advance in the extent and complexity of a civilization—taxes to cover the costs of government. As the civilization expands and specializes, governmental services multiply. The number of government workers grows in proportion and often out of proportion to the total production costs. Expenses of government rise and with them the corresponding need to increase taxes.
Overhead costs in the village or small town are low. Much of the “public service” is done by citizens who volunteer their time and energy. In the centers of civilization public service is a profession, often well paid and usually quite permanent.
Expansion is a basic feature in the life of every civilization. Expansion increases overhead costs. When American Indians made their silent way through the forests or roamed the plains there was no overhead. Each provided his own means of locomotion. With roads came bridges. With roads and bridges came capital costs. As dirt roads gave way to macadam and macadam to asphalt and concrete, as country roads, winding over hill and through dale were replaced by graded superhighways cut straight through or built over all obstacles, the cost per mile rose fantastically. All of these added costs appeared somewhere in the tax bills which citizens were required to pay.
In any enterprise overhead costs rise in direct proportion to the extent and complexity of the social order. As they rise, they increase the prices of the goods and services which citizens (or consumers) must pay for their livelihood. A good illustration of this principle is the price of an identical acre of land: in the remote countryside; on an improved highway; in the suburbs of a growing city and at the city center.
Increasing wealth brings greater risks. Wealthy cities like wealthy individuals and families must pay for their protection against robbery and piracy; against extortion and expropriation. Among important business enterprises insurance ranks high. The costs and profits of insurance are suggested by elaborate insurance company buildings and the high salaries paid to their officials.
Insurance, usually a private overhead, comes high. Public insurance: maintenance of law and order, crime and punishment, the secret and open police, the armed forces, (land and sea and air) are vastly more expensive. If, to these limited costs of overhead are added the costs of militarism as a public enterprise and the ruinous costs of military adventurism and its inevitable wars, the mounting costs lead to insolvency and eventual economic and social ruin.
Another overhead cost which plays havoc with civilized nations and peoples is the support of a bureaucracy. Increased extent and complexity exhaust the community capacity for voluntary service and lead into an era where the volunteers who carried on the limited public activities of a village are supplemented and eventually replaced by a constantly growing body of public servants. Growing extent and complexity plus the need for finding safe places for those who are useful to the rich and powerful, widens and deepens the public crib. In large enterprises, private as well as public, paper work employs a small army, which must be fed and housed at a level worthy of “a great nation.” Business machines reduce the personnel necessary for a given social enterprise, but their high capital and operational costs increase overhead.
Another aspect of overhead costs is the multiplication of parasitic professions. In simple villages, there are few body servants, no able-bodied individuals who fetch and carry at the word of command, or who only stand and wait for the moment when some whim, fancy or real need may call for their services.
Village life, with its limited area and still more limited resources, has little economic surplus upon which parasitism can feed. There is landlordism, of course, but the margin of surplus is small. The city, the province, the nation, the empire present a different picture. Parasitic professions abound and proliferate: money changers, money lenders, realtors, confidence men, gamblers, fortune tellers, priests, entertainers, artists, thieves, robbers, and prostitutes abound, consume more than their share of the community income, without making an equivalent return in production or service. Their support adds to the social overhead.
Another source of social overhead are the numerous followers of the “something for nothing” cult who receive unearned income—an income derived from civilization in its mature and its final stages.
Broadly there are two types of income—earned income and unearned income. Earned income is something for something—or return for goods provided or service rendered. Unearned income is something for nothing—an income derived from some monopoly, privilege, sinecure or form of property ownership.
Property in persons or things has been a characteristic feature of all civilizations. Property owners, receiving rents, interest, dividends, in proportion to the amount of property which they own are not called upon to make equivalent return in exchange for their property—based income. This personal parasitism of property owners is aggravated by provisions of property law under which the owners of property can give, sell or bequeath these sources of unearned income to family members, friends, associates.
Eventually, unearned income, handed on through generations, creates a class or even a caste of citizens who live without rendering an equivalent of services, on the labor of their fellows, adding a significant amount to the total of overhead costs.
Wealth ownership, the exercise of power, living in luxury on unearned income, add to overhead costs, but are accepted as respectable in civilized communities. Another and far less respectable form of social parasitism is the manipulation of social forces in a way that will bring the operator more than a fair share of social income with no equivalent in service. Such is “politics” or “politicising.” “Politics” as a source of livelihood takes many forms, some less legitimate than others.
The most usual source of office-holding is the humble work of the clerk, handyman or messenger, responsible for carrying out the nagging routine of government. Beyond this common labor of public service are public servants skilled in their several professions. Beyond and above them are department heads and still higher are the appointed or elected officials responsible for the success or failure of a given public policy.
Who are the occupants of town, city, state, and national positions of authority and responsibility? Preferably they are elected or appointed because of their popularity or are the successful product of civil service examinations. At worst they are appointed as a return for favors or else because they are relatives or friends of successful politicians or their backers.
Whatever its source and however efficient or inefficient its performance, the body of paid public servants increases with the expanding life of locality, region, province, state, nation and empire. With its growth goes corresponding accommodations in wages and salaries, office space and equipment and other routine outlays. Frequently the increase of the emoluments of bureaucrats, especially at the higher levels of authority and responsibility, creates sinecures which are filled by parasites or by individuals who are engaged in shoring up the bureaucracy rather than rendering a public service. The outlays necessary to finance such a top-heavy bureaucratic fabric grow in direct proportion to the age and rigidity of the bureaucracy, draining off public funds into private coffers and adding uncompensated elements to overhead costs. If inflation is a problem, at or beyond the apex of an imperial epoch or cycle of civilization, financial costs rise correspondingly.
The chief overhead cost in every civilization is and has been war. Examine the budget of the United States or any other leading civilized power. From two-thirds to three-quarters of central government outlays are for war in the past and preparation for war in the future.
The net result of rising overhead costs appears in the history of all previous civilizations. They are eating out the vitals of western civilization while we write and read these words.
THE SOCIOLOGY OF CIVILIZATION
Sociology is the science and art of association.
Human associations range from kinship groups like the family, tribe and clan to larger more complex groups like villages, towns, cities, nations, empires, to still more inclusive leagues, federations and civilizations.
In a broad view, sociology includes politics, economics and ideology. For the purposes of our social analysis, we have divided the field into four separate categories, beginning with politics, continuing through economics and drawing our study together under the general headings of sociology and ideology.
No civilization that we have studied can be regarded as an intentional or projected or planned enterprise. On the contrary, civilizations have developed and matured in true pragmatic fashion, taking one step after another because their predecessors had followed this course or because, given the human urges and the available natural and social opportunities, the next step seemed to be determined by previous steps plus the momentum of the enterprise. In the course of this development an ideology was built up and modified in such a way as to justify and strengthen the entire project.
When William Penn received a grant of land from the English Crown, he was already committed, ideologically, by the Quaker faith to Quaker methods. Without ever seeing his proposed home across the Atlantic he drew up a plan for his City of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia), and for the organization and conduct of his enterprise. The entire project was formulated in Penn’s mind and put on paper. This is a good example of an intentional community.
No civilization so far as I know, has followed such a sequence. Certainly in the civilizations with which we are most familiar, political and economic forces, the principles of necessity and availability have led to the formulation of an ideology that would justify and promote the interests of the social group which was controlling and directing the community or communities in which the civilization was maturing.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that each of the component elements making up the expanding civilization—each people, city, state, nation, empire—developed its own total culture pattern, subject to the pressures mutually exerted by neighboring communities. The aggregate of these culture patterns, separately and often antagonistically matured, comprised a lesser totality called an empire and a larger totality called a civilization. It is with this larger totality that we are concerned.
We propose to analyse the sociology of civilization under the following headings: (1) the structure or anatomy; (2) the function, physiology, or process; (3) motive forces in civilization; (4) contradictions and conflicts, with a final section on the life cycle of civilization.
The structure of human society consists of specialized economic, political, administrative and cultural groupings assembled and maintained in relationships that supply necessities, conveniences, comforts, luxuries for the individuals, together with capital goods and services for the social groups composing the civilization.
In terms of social history the growth of structure has proceeded from the horde, tribe and clan to the family, village, city, city-state, nation, empire, civilization. These steps are not necessarily sequential. Under varying social conditions they have been determined and modified by particular historical situations. The smallest and most intimate building block of human society has been the family. The largest and most inclusive has been the civilization. The family as a social group has existed for long periods, over wide areas, in immense numbers. Civilizations have been few and often far between. They have arisen out of particular historical situations, played distinctive roles, written their own histories and made varying contributions to the sum total of human culture. In the long time intervals and the wide geographical distances that have separated civilizations human beings have lived within more local and less complex social structures.
Civilized human society is distinctive in structure. While it varies in detail from one civilization to another, its broad outline is unmistakable. Each civilization has been built, defended and perpetuated in and around cities.
Between civilizations, in time and space, most human communities have been self-sufficient. Whether as food gatherers, pastoral people or cultivators of the soil they have produced and consumed the food, shelter, clothing, implements and weaponry required for their survival.
The city, whether a political capital or a center of trade and commerce, was sharply separated from the self-sufficient countryside. The city, by its very nature, could not be self-sufficient. Food, building supplies and raw materials were not produced inside the city limits, but must be produced in the hinterland from which they were transported to the cities. City dwellers devised means of paying for the production, transportation and marketing of these necessary imports. The countryside can and does exist independently of the city because it can provide the goods and services on which its existence depends. The city, on the contrary, cannot exist without the supplies produced in the hinterland and transported to the city.
Urban centers of civilization have for their background a pastoral and agricultural source of food supplemented by fabrication, merchandising and financing. Instead of the occupational uniformity of the countryside, the city offers a wide range of occupations, increased productivity, quick and substantial profits resulting in a build-up of capital on one side and enlarged consumer spending on the other. Consequently the successful competitor in the race for supremacy develops productivity, accumulates wealth, expands capital spending, enlarges the scope of the arts, thereby augmenting the city’s attractiveness to business enterprise and migrants from the hinterland.
As the capital city grows in wealth and opportunity it requires larger imports of food, raw materials, building supplies, manpower. Growing internal need leads to greater external expansion. Economic, political, administrative and cultural needs not only increase the demands of the city on its existing hinterland, but they lead to a demand for a more widely extended hinterland.
The countryside is the goose that lays the golden eggs. The city gathers, guards and eventually consumes the eggs or converts them into capital forms and lives in part on this unearned income.
The city is the mecca which attracts by its wide ranging opportunities. It is also the center in which policies are made and offered to the countryside as normal facts of life. The countryside accepts city leadership including a higher wealth-power per capita ratio for the city.
Cities, with their accumulations of population and wealth, are walled or otherwise defended. When danger threatens, countrymen often move inside the walls until the danger abates.
Cities and city life increase and expand with the growth and expansion of civilization. Cities are the centers from which civilization grows and expands. Historically, a number of cities or city-states have competed for survival and supremacy. One by one they have dropped out of the race or have been out-classed, defeated and/or absorbed by the victors in the competitive struggle. One location proved to be more advantageous than others. The inhabitants of one locality were more skillful, more far sighted than those of rival localities. Many competed. Eventually one survived the final round of struggle, emerging as the nucleus of an expanding empire and a maturing civilization. A protracted conflict raging first in Italy and later in the entire Mediterranean basin, resulted in the Roman Empire and eventually in Roman civilization. A similar series of struggles, this time planet-wide, gave the British a taste of planetary supremacy in the nineteenth century and opened the door wide enough to give the United States oligarchy a glimpse of an American Twentieth century, which never eventuated.
Occupational differences within the city led to a differentiated class structure. As the trading city developed, businessmen eventually played a dominant role because they were able to command larger incomes, accumulate more wealth and offer more aggressive leadership.
Nuclei of both empire and civilization were associated with a cluster of allies, client states, dependencies and colonies related to the center by economic interests and by diplomatic bargains or political controls. They paid tribute or taxes as the price of living within the defense perimeter of the ruling elite, conforming to the chief aspects of its culture and in emergencies taking refuge inside the city defenses.
The city center made and implemented policy and provided local leadership in emergencies. Inhabitants of the city enjoyed a superior status and had a higher standard of consumer-living than most of those who inhabited the countryside and the hinterland.
A structured society based on division of labor and/or function enjoys a competitive superiority over a classless community. The structured city was not only richer than the countryside, but it was in a position to provide leadership, to plan and implement policy and act more effectively.
A civilization consists of a cluster of associated allies, clients, dependencies, and colonies bound together by economic, political and cultural ties. Since armed force has been the chief instrument for bringing these elements together, the agency responsible for exercising armed force enjoys priority in a listing of the structural institutions of civilization.
Land owners, often acting as military chieftains, dominated the hinterland of a civilization. The city was dominated by businessmen. The unification of city and hinterland and the complex of cities and hinterlands composing a civilization established a governmental apparatus in which all ruling elements were represented. In the earlier stages of a civilization there may have been assemblies or parliaments composed of representatives of various interests. As the civilization was unified by war, representation was replaced by some form of monarchy in which one supreme commander, emperor or pharoah was the final judge and arbiter. The monarch set up a network of public authority, regional as well as universal, provincial as well as central, and garrisoned it with professional soldiers and sailors paid by the monarch and responsible to him.
Corresponding with this political structure was an economic structure consisting of a central treasury, a uniform system of weights, measures and values, a system of spending priorities, decided by the central authority, a source of income: taxes, tribute, booty, sufficient to cover expenditures.
A civilization which ran a chronic deficit—over-spending its income—moved year by year, through debt, inflation, currency degradation, and repudiation toward its own disintegration and ultimate bankruptcy. The historical record is very clear on this point, especially in Roman civilization and in western civilization after 1870.
Most civilizations have had a body of religious institutions staffed by a priestcraft, which has shared power with the economic overlords. During certain periods in the long history of Egyptian civilization the priestcraft held the balance of power. So great was its ascendancy that the spoils of war and the gains of peace were shared by the temple treasury and the royal treasury. In some cases the temple treasuries had priority.
All civilizations for at least five thousand years have had a professional military of sufficient consequence to play a leading role in policy making and to claim a lion’s share of the spoils of military victory. In some cases civil and military authority were merged in one supreme commander—emperor, pharoah. At other times, notably in Rome, after the fall of the Republic, the Pretorian Guard nominated and appointed its emperors.
Well up toward the summit of each known civilization, four groups have shared authority and competed for supremacy: land-lords, wealth-lords, war-lords and priests. Where these four major shapers of public policy and directors of public administration were of like mind, they shared wealth and power. When they differed, one or another enjoyed priority and exercised some measure of control over the other three.
Less personal, but of major concern among the institutions of civilization were the channels of communication and transportation that have played so decisive a role in the life of every civilization. Top ranking among the means of communication were common language, spoken and written on metal, papyrus, paper; a unified system of accounting and cost keeping; permanent records. Among the means of transport were waterways, including canals, viaducts, roads, bridges skillfully built and kept in good repair.
Another significant institution of civilization is the idea of ownership, the division of property into public property and private property and the right of the private property owner to do what he will with his property, subject always to the over-riding principle of eminent domain: the right of the community to expropriate private property for public uses, with or without compensation.
Another institution of civilization is the provision of public services in addition to means of communication and transportation. These public services include a water supply; the disposal of waste; public defense of life and property; food and diversion (bread and circuses) for the needy; fire prevention and fire fighting apparatus; educational facilities, including libraries and reading rooms; outside recreational facilities such as parks and play-grounds. All of these facilities could be provided by the rich and powerful for themselves and members of their families. They could be supplied more effectively and apportioned more justly when they were public services open to all.
The countryside lacks the financial and the administrative means of providing a wide range of public services. Indeed, countryside dwellers pride themselves on being able to provide necessary services on a family, household or village basis. City dwellers learn to regard such public services as a matter of public right. Their existence is a magnet which draws a steady stream of migrants from the countryside into the cities.
Civilizations are dominated by business interests. It is for them to provide facilities for the transaction of business, cash money, credit instruments, installment buying, means for changing money, insurance, discounting facilities. As a civilization grows in wealth and population the political apparatus becomes a major employer, a major producer of goods and services, a major purchaser of producer and consumer goods, a major agency for borrowing, lending, insuring, in short a major factor in the multitudinous activities of a commercial, industrial community.
Classes, class interests and class lines are a part and parcel of all civilizations. They are less rigid and more flexible than similar lines existing in an agrarian community where land ownership plays so large a role in determining social forms and social functions. In a static agrarian community dominated by landlords, war-lords and the clergy, rigid class lines help to hold the community together. In a community dominated by business interests, both labor power and purchasing power must be free to respond to demand and supply. This is as true in a planned public economy as it is in a private enterprise economy. In accordance with the same principle, facilities are provided for the movement of individuals back and forth across class lines.
The specialized, interdependent structure of civilization with its city control of the hinterland, its products and inhabitants, enabled the city-centered oligarchy to accumulate and concentrate wealth and monopolize power, to skim the cream from the available milk, monopolize the cream, distribute the skimmed milk judiciously and thus perpetuate its ascendancy through generations and centuries. During periods of expansion civilized communities develop a dynamism which maintains their ascendancy. In subsequent periods of contraction form takes over, imposing conformity on the status quo.
During their periods of expansion civilizations are dynamic. Their history records growth at home, expansion abroad, exploitation, domestic and foreign under the pressure of effective motivating forces. The resulting dynamism leads to the contradictions, confrontations and conflicts which have studded the internal and external life story of every civilization.
Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the dynamic functioning of civilization is its growth in magnitude. It might be more accurate to describe the process as an explosive expansion—explosive because rapid and spectacular.
Form limits function. At the same time function modifies and ultimately determines form. The two factors are omnipresent and complementary. Except for purposes of analysis they are two inseparable aspects of every human society. Where form predominates, social status results. Where function predominates fluidity, flexibility and dynamism are the outcome. Rapid change occurs on the home front at the same time that it is taking place abroad.
Growth at home takes place in two fields. The first is the extension of the homeland frontiers, broadening the geographical area of the nucleus around which the civilization is being built. The second aspect of growth involves an increase in multiplicity, variety and complexity and perhaps also a higher level of quality. Increase in quality is an optional feature of growth and expansion. Toward the end of a cycle of civilization quality declines.
For the record we list fourteen aspects of the domestic growth of civilization: (1) population; (2) production of goods and services; (3) trade, commerce, finance; (4)wealth, capital, income, capital construction; (5) the defense establishment; (6) growth in numbers and in variety of consumer goods and services; (7) specialization; (8) formal education, literacy, learning; (9) advances in science and technology; (10) growth in the arts; (11) rising standards of luxury for the oligarchy and growth in the volume of the professional and technical middle class and their living standards; (12) growth of the state bureaucratic apparatus in its complexity and in the number of its personnel; (13) growth of the sources of unearned income and especially in the number of persons living on unearned income; (14) growth of dependents, delinquents, criminals and other outlaws. This list is not exhaustive, but it is indicative of the wide area in which domestic growth takes place.
Paralleling their domestic expansion, civilizations expand geographically up to the point of diminishing returns, determined by the growth of overhead costs. This process has taken the civilization, its personnel, its institutions and practices into territory not heretofore occupied, sometimes with the consent of the “foreigners”, but more often in the teeth of their determined and long-continued opposition.
Expansion of a civilization is of necessity a movement from an urban center and beyond the urban center. Each civilization has been built around one or more urban nuclei which accepted and practiced expansion as the primary law of their beings.
Expansion takes many forms. It may be peaceful, as travel is peaceful. It may be competitive, as trade is competitive. It may be economically aggressive; the search for markets, for raw materials, for investment opportunities carried on simultaneously by representatives of long time rival cities, states, empires. It may be a movement for a place in the sun; mass migration, colonization. It may take the form of planned military invasion having as its purpose the conquest and occupation of foreign territory; the subjugation of the citizenry of the conquered lands; the establishment of an alien government in the conquered territory; the reduction of the “natives” to the status of second class citizens in their own homelands; exploitation of the natural resources; the levying of tribute; the imposition of taxes and the expropriation of moveable articles such as bullion, works of art and other treasure by the invaders, conquerors and occupiers.
Policies of expansion, conquest and occupation rely upon weaponry and war-making as essential instruments. Historically their role has been frankly recognized by builders of every empire and the leaders of every civilization. All civilizations known to history prepared for war and utilized war as the final arbiter in their pursuit of expansionist policy. Empire builders and civilizers have taken it for granted that might made right. The mighty, in terms of military striking power and killing power, have fought over and inherited the earth.
The practices of every civilization have centered about exploitation—of natural resources, of labor power, of rivals in the race for supremacy, of weaker and less aggressive peoples. Expansion gives the ruling oligarchy of the expanding nation, empire or civilization command of the strategic vantage points from which the principle of exploitation can be made continuously operative.
We have dealt with exploitation in connection with the economics of civilization (Chapter 7). Its central concept is the “you work—I eat” formula. In sociological terms it extends far beyond livelihood, into the relations of man with the natural environment (ecology); the management and direction of labor power and policy making; social administration and policy implementation, including policing of the territories lying within the frontiers of the nation, empire or civilization, plus contacts and relationships with territories lying outside the frontiers: in short, with the success or failure, the domination or subordination of the territory under consideration.
Structurally and functionally a civilization cannot remain static. It must expand or contract. If it expands, crossing frontiers and penetrating areas heretofore considered foreign or alien, and proposes to remain in those alien territories, it must have sufficient means at its disposal to continue the administration of its home territory and at the same time to take on the administration of the newly acquired foreign territory.
Home territory administration has as its broad purpose the utilization of available means to attain its ends and serve its interests. Administration of areas into which the home forces are penetrating must attain the same ends and serve the same interests on the “you work—I eat” axiom. Unless the newly acquired territory can attain those ends and serve those interests it is a liability, not an asset, and its continued existence will pose a threat to the expansionist venture.
Natural resources, plus labor power, plus effective management and direction must be integrated in the interests of the entire enterprise. Self determination is of secondary consequence, coming into play only after the interests of the whole have been assured and safeguarded.
There is of course the collective principle under which the interests of the whole can be best served through the cooperation of its component elements. But this is a horse of quite another color. It presupposes the willingness of the respective parts to enter voluntarily into a cooperative relationship. Sociologically speaking this is the antithesis of the situation we have been considering: expansion and exploitation in the interests and for the purposes of the expanding forces. So long as expansion and exploitation are accepted and practiced as the basic principles of any community, so long independence and self-determination will be irrelevant and inimical to the dominant elements in the nation, empire or civilization under consideration.
Under the “you work—I eat” formula natural resources will be utilized in the manner best calculated to advance the interests of the ruling oligarchy. Who will be the judge, jury and executioner in the case? Who else but the concerned ruling oligarchy?
In the history of civilization this principle has been followed systematically. The forests have been cleared away, the land has been overgrazed, cultivated and exposed to the erosive attacks of sunlight, air, water and frost. Wood from the forests has been hauled to the cities and burned, has been used to construct palaces and temples, houses and ships, with no recognition of the principles of priority or renewal. If wood was available where must it go? The oligarchy decided the issue in terms of ostentation and expediency. Rarely during recorded human history have there been oligarchs who said: “Irreplaceable resources like minerals must be used with extreme economy. Replaceable resources like forests or top-soil must be used and at the same time replaced and if possible augmented.”
Decision making in the civilizations reported by history has been chiefly in the hands of specially privileged minorities. The purpose of these minorities has revolved around the provision of comforts and luxuries for the decision makers and their dependents and the increase of their wealth and power. Rarely has any ruling oligarchy said: “The continuance of our privileges and our barest existence is the result of labor power applied to natures gifts. We must safeguard nature and improve the health and vitality of those who do the world’s work. If, due to unforeseen circumstances, over which we have failed to exercise adequate control, there is some shortage, let the idler and the wastrel suffer. Under all circumstances the producers must have all those goods and services needed to preserve their productive efficiency.”
Through the entire course of written history the shrewdest, the strongest, the best fed and most comfortably housed have gained wealth and power, kept them and added to them. This has been the central sociological principle followed by the wealth-owning, power-wielding oligarchs of one civilization after another. Nature has been polluted, despoiled, pillaged. Society has been exploited and plundered. Most civilizations, during most of their history, have been led and ruled by the rich and powerful, who have used their wealth and power to advance their own interests, with scant respect for the hewers of wood, the drawers of water and the tillers of the soil. Those at the imperial center have milked the periphery. Cooperation has been occasional and confined largely to pre-civilized communities. In all civilizations exploitation has been the rule; the exploitation of nature, of labor power and of the social fabric.
The record of natural resources exploitation is well known. Paul Sears’ Deserts on the March; Fairfield Osborn’s Our Plundered Planet; William Vogt’s Road to Survival, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring tell the story of the misuse and the extravagant abuse of nature. The record of labor power exploitation is less publicized.
Food gatherers like the North American Indians had no machinery and a minimum of implements or weapons. They migrated with the weather and the available game, traveling with their possessions. Herdsmen also moved about in search of pasture. Land workers faced four new problems. They must stay with their land and make a weather-proof habitat in dwellings and villages. They must make the implements needed for farming, building and defense against marauders. They must accumulate and preserve enough food to carry them from one harvest to the next. They must improve and beautify their artifacts and constructs. Traders added a fifth must—they must produce and accumulate stocks to meet the needs of various customers as well as their own greed for profits.
Successive stages, from food gathering to trading and manufacturing, required more energy—human energy, animal energy, and eventually mechanical energy. Part of this energy enabled humans to survive, another part enabled them to multiply. Still another part made it possible for one portion of the population to live without productive work on the work output of their fellow creatures. This exploiting minority was headed by land owners, soldiers and priests.
Landowners built themselves and their dependents strong houses and castles. Much of the labor power that went into this construction was “forced.” The laborer gave the landlord labor time in exchange for the privilege of working part of the land for his own support. Soldiers defended the landlord and joined plundering forays on the territory of neighbors. The priests, in exchange for sustenance, mollified “higher powers” and built temples in which the people could gather, worship and be admonished.
Farsighted, energetic, resourceful men (and women), using mass productive energy, built themselves castles, built their priests temples and mobilized serfs, war captives and slaves who worked in gangs for generations and centuries to assemble the raw materials, construct and decorate the buildings, and perform the services needed to operate the enterprises and to provide their owners and masters with the necessaries, comforts, luxuries.
As centers of civilization grew richer and more powerful they defeated neighboring peoples, brought some of them home as war captives and exacted from their defeated rivals promises to pay yearly tribute in the form of timber, metals, food and often of slaves.
Mobilization of energy resources had been proceeding on a small scale for ages. Successful civilizers made this one of their chief tasks, mobilizing energy forces and materials and using them to build palaces, temples, mausoleums and whole city complexes with appropriate defenses against marauders and other enemies.
Administrative networks, adequate to produce such results, planned and directed the construction and administered and policed the operations. Using elaborate techniques of communication, transportation, fabrication, beautification, accounting, planning, initiative, leadership, mobilization, maintenance and replacement of labor power, imposition and sharing of authority, discipline, adjustment to deviation and opposition, means for dealing with revolt and rebellion, the builders of civilization performed their necessary tasks.
As civilizations have matured they have grown at the nucleus, expanded abroad and experimented more or less successfully with various means of exploiting nature, man and human society. Most of the competitors for survival and supremacy dropped out or were forced out in the course of continuous survival struggles.
Survivors of the obstacle race dealt successively with personal rivalries; class conflicts; civil wars; dictatorships; tyrannies; with overhead costs that grew more rapidly than income; with empty treasuries, inflation, depression, economic stagnation; with increases in top-heavy bureaucracies; with parasitism; with hooliganism; with the growing role of the military in decision making and administration; sharing the honey-pot with migrants and invaders; with rivalry and power struggle at home and abroad; with division, fragmentation and eventual dissolution.
Any student of the sociology of civilization must turn from this analysis of function with the conviction that whatever the advantages of civilization as opposed to earlier phases of human association, the pattern of civilization in action is workable only to a very limited extent. Civilization is not an example of perpetual motion. Rather it is a social life cycle, with a beginning and an end, and a peck of troublesome contradictions and conflicts in between.
Civilization is an integrative process. During the course of its competitive survival struggle, potential building units of an expanding civilization are tested out and included or rejected in much the same way that a stone-mason checks and tests the individual stones of which his wall is being built. The analogy is not entirely accurate. A wall becomes a completed part of a total structure. A civilization is a process of existence from conception and birth to dissolution and death. At any point in the process there is a delicate balance between integration and disintegration. As a matter of fact, both integration and disintegration exist and act, constantly, side by side. If the integrative forces are in the ascendant, form is built and function is accelerated. If the disintegrative forces are dominant, form breaks down and function stagnates.
This shifting balance and/or imbalance with its resulting build-up and/or break-down exists geographically, biologically, sociologically. It can perhaps be best described as successive change. It cannot be referred to as evolution except in its integrative aspect. Disintegratively it becomes devolution.
Civilization is a result of sociological build-up at a certain cultural level. It has not been universal in all human societies, but exceptional, both in time and in geographical space.
What has caused the pattern of civilization to appear, disappear and reappear again and again during the period of written history?
There have been many answers. The most general answer is divine intervention by beings above and beyond mankind. Whether such intervention has taken place or is taking place, human beings are unable to say with finality, but several thousand years of recorded history, plus our own daily experience provides convincing proof that the political, economic, ideological and sociological constructs which have appeared and disappeared in the course of social history are, at least in large part, the products of human brains and human hands. They are man-made.
The social pattern of civilization, like other social patterns which preceded civilization and which continue to exist side by side with civilized communities, is the result of human ingenuity and human energy, of human inertia, ineptitude, and the human urges to build, decorate and destroy.
Variety in human culture is caused by the variety in the human natural environment, the human social environment and in man himself.
Natural advantages exist and vary from place to place. There are fertile valleys; there are also mountains and deserts. There are a few fine harbors, but for the most part landings are difficult and dangerous. Certain islands have become the bases of civilizations, but this is true of only a very small number of many existing islands.
Civilizations have flourished in certain climatic zones and not elsewhere. At one historical period civilizations were established in the tropics and semi-tropics. In the present period they are located chiefly in temperate climatic belts.
Another source of differences between civilizations is the variation and the adaptability of certain peoples to the peculiar conditions out of which civilization grows.
Still another explanation of the presence or absence of civilization in particular times and places is the “great man” theory of history. All human communities, pre-civilized and civilized, have had gifted leaders whose thoughts and actions have brought about social changes. These “greats” were the divinely, ideologically or sociologically inspired. Divine inspiration or revelation led to the founding of religious faiths. Ideological and sociological inspiration resulted in domestic cultural changes and the extension of economic, cultural and ideological activities into foreign lands, thus pushing the frontiers of nations, empires, and civilizations farther from the chief wealth-power centers.
Thomas Carlyle wrote that history is the lengthened shadows of a few great men. Arnold Toynbee concluded from his Study of History that religion has been a prime motive force in the building and preservation of civilizations.
Technology has been a motive force of hard-to-define importance in revitalizing, changing, expanding and perpetuating civilizations. Increased productivity, expressing itself as increases in income, accumulated wealth and various forms of capital investment, have provided the economic basis for population growth and the more effective exploitation of natural resources and labor power, advances in the means for transportation and communication, accounting, planning management and “defense.”
Among the social motive forces responsible for the development of civilization is the accumulation of wealth in an impoverished world. The most important single factor in this connection was the development of a class of businessmen in a society dominated by landlords, churchmen and soldiers. Landlords, churchmen and soldiers lived during periods of animal husbandry and primitive agriculture on the very narrow margins produced during bountiful harvests. When harvests were bad, husbandmen and farmers were reduced to starvation levels. Lacking means of storage and refrigeration as well as facilities for transporting heavy materials such as food, fuel and building materials, pre-civilized society accumulated wealth slowly in mobile forms (precious metals and jewels) and made few productive investments.
The advent of trade (business) and the trading class created a small but potentially powerful class whose income and wealth were not derived from direct contact with nature but came from trade, money changing, lending, insuring and other activities associated with the accumulation and investment of wealth in profit-yielding enterprises. Only in a secondary sense did business depend on animal husbandry or agriculture. As their primary task businessmen devoted themselves to the exploitation of labor power and the storage and merchandising of the products turned out by herdsmen, farmers, craftsmen. Part of their profits went into more elaborate standards of feeding, clothing and housing themselves and their dependents. Another, and a more crucial part of their profits went into ships, warehouses, and the implements used in converting raw materials into consumer goods and services, transporting them to the markets, displaying them and persuading consumers to diversify their needs, purchase a greater variety of goods and services and thus increase the number and profitability of business transactions.
As this process mushroomed with the expansion of civilization, consumers demanded a greater number of more expensive artifacts and consumer capital goods, from housing and house furnishings such as bathrooms and well-stocked kitchens to refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, telephones, television sets, bicycles, automobiles and elaborate recreation facilities and equipment. The expansion of mass production and the mass market paced one another, constantly raising the ante.
Mass production, mass marketing and pyramiding profits resulted, first and foremost in the enrichment of businessmen. Their riches automatically pushed them into a position of pre-eminent importance from which they were able to make public policy and utilize public authority for the protection and advancement of their own class interests. It also called into being a vast array of new professionals; teachers, engineers, scientists, technicians, social workers and propagandists, converting the “middle class” from a shadowy remnant of feudal society into the largest class numerically and the most influential class politically in the entire modern community.
At the same time, economic enrichment and expansion increased the importance of the war-making apparatus. The expansion of civilization has involved a competitive struggle carried on constantly along several fronts, economic, political, cultural, ideological. The means of struggle in every civilization has included the military as a political force and as a final arbiter in deciding who should win and who should lose civil and inter-group wars. Victory and defeat determined the fate of land and natural resources, populations, capital installations, taxing facilities, domestic policing. This deterministic role of the war machine has never been more dramatically in the foreground than during the crucial years from 1910 to the present day, when war apparatus costs have topped the list of government expenditures.
Growth of state functions with the expansion of the economy has resulted in the creation of a vast state bureaucratic apparatus. Heading this bureaucracy are the ministers of state, each with a separate department. Under the department heads are sub-departments, sub-divided in their turn into bureaus or separate offices. At each level, functions are assigned and salaries are fixed. Entrance into this anthill is sometimes by personal favor, sometimes by examination. Once in, however, barring misbehavior, or some catastrophe like the abolition of a particular bureau, the office holder is in for life with a pension when he is retired for age.
Inside the bureaucracy there is a slow movement determined by seniority. There is also some skipping, as when new bureaus are formed or when death or retirement offer opportunities for the favored few to move forward or skip upward. As we read the record, the bureaucracy existed in the days of Egypt’s Amenhotep, or in those of Rome’s Augustus Caesar, as it exists today—locally in every municipality, province, nation and empire and generally throughout western civilization.
Every civilization known to history has had its priestcraft as well as its statecraft. Statecraft spawned its bureaucracy. Priestcraft spawned its theocracy. Both patterns have inter-penetrated entire civilizations. Each locality, region and district has had its representatives of state and of church. In some instances the church took precedence. In others the state was supreme. As the civilization matured, using war as the chief instrument of policy, the state in the person of military dictators has tended to predominate. In every civilization the state has collected its taxes and the church has collected its tithes.
The net result, in every civilization, has been a ruling oligarchy, self-appointed and self-perpetuating, which has shaped policy, planned and directed administration, exercised authority and lived comfortably and at least semi-parasitically on the backs of the underlying urban and rural masses, sharing its sinecure with its middle class handymen. In some times and in certain localities the oligarchy has maintained a representative front. Elsewhere it has functioned arbitrarily. In extreme cases one man has ruled for a brief period. Generally the oligarchy has held the reins of authority.
Each phase of human society has had its oppositions, its confrontations, its conflicts, proportioned to its magnitude, its specialization and the interdependence of its component parts, its ratio of change to stability and its foresight, plans and preparations for dealing with changes when they occur. Since civilization, of all known forms of human association, is the largest, most specialized and most interdependent, it is in civilization that we should expect to find the most intensive and extensive contradictions, confrontations and conflicts.
Among the many oppositions of civilized association five are outstanding: the we-they relationship; rural versus urban life; subsistence versus acquisition and accumulation; hard work versus ease, luxury and parasitism; poverty versus wealth.
Civilization is not only complex and interdependent in form, it is avowedly competitive in its functioning. Politically, nation building, empire building and the establishment and maintenance of each civilization is a competitive struggle between declared rivals to gain and keep place and power. Economically, the efforts to get and keep natural resources and labor power and to use them to Our advantage and Their disadvantage dominates the field of livelihood. Ideologically We are right, while They are wrong. Culturally We are superior. They are inferior.
The We-They relationship developed very early in the history of the human family. Individuals and small, more advanced groups have reached a level of understanding and living based on the cooperative inclusive formula of "We, Ours, Us", but every civilization known to history has accepted and adopted the competitive, divisive formula and poured energy and wealth into the political, economic, ideological and cultural struggle to take and keep for individual, local or class advantage.
Resulting oppositions fragmented civilization: (1) urban vs. rural life, city vs. hinterland; (2) cooperation vs. competition; (3) acquisition and accumulation vs. sharing; (4) riches vs. poverty; (5) the individual vs. the group; (6) status vs. change.
These fragmenting forces have been accepted, adopted and given priority by civilizations as they developed predominance. As they grew in magnitude they limited or subordinated the forces of integration and unification.
Opposites and oppositions lead to confrontations along class lines, geographic lines, cultural lines, color lines, racial lines. The traditional confrontation of rural vs. urban life is doubly underlined by two factors: first, the countryside operates generally on a use economy with pay for services largely in kind or by barter. The city operates under a market economy with payment for services usually in money. Second, the standards of life and work are more primitive in the countryside than in the city. Third, as the civilization advances toward maturity, city population increases while it declines in the countryside. Consequently vigorous, energetic, adventurous people leave the deteriorating countryside.
Increasingly the owners of land and capital live in the cities, visiting the countryside for holidays and recreation, leaving rural areas to servants, peons, serfs and slaves. Small owning farmers are bought out or expropriated. Unable to make a living in the countryside they move to the city. Lacking city skills they work as casual labor or are unemployed. The city is divided between enterprisers, their subordinates, owners of country estates and members of the state bureaucracy on one side and vassals, servants, serfs, and slaves and the unemployed on the other. The rich and powerful become richer and more powerful. The poor and dependent grow in numbers—protest, demonstrate, riot, revolt.
This class struggle dominates public life in the urban centers of every civilization. The rich offer petty reforms and minor benefits to the impoverished, semi-employed city masses. At the same time the urban oligarchy breaks up into rival factions: the Ins and the Outs. The Ins hold public jobs, spend public money, award contracts and pass around favors. The Outs wait and maneuver for their turn at the public pie-counter. Both Ins and Outs appeal for mass support.
Oppositions and confrontations lead to conflicts which have studded the life of every civilization. Conflicts include wars which may be divided into six groups: (1) Wars of expansion, conquest, colonization directed toward the enlargement of the territories included in the civilization. (2) Wars of survival among adjacent nations and empires. (3) Wars fought to suppress unrest and revolt in the colonies and dependencies of an empire or civilization. (4) Wars fought to repel the invasion of migrating peoples attempting to occupy territory over which an empire or a civilization claims jurisdiction. (5) Peasant, serf and slave revolts and rebellions against the authority of empires or civilizations. (6) Civil wars to determine the leadership of particular empires; wars of leadership succession; conflicts and power seizures within particular oligarchies.
In every civilization final decisions regarding domestic and foreign issues have been made by an appeal to arms. There were laws and legal institutions in many civilizations under which confrontations might have been prevented and armed conflict avoided. Where these legal means failed to provide solutions, contestants turned to armed force as the final arbiter.
Competitive survival struggle has played a prominent role in the life of every civilization known to history. Competition at its highest level employs armed force as its instrument of policy. War, domestic and foreign has, therefore, dominated the history of every civilization. Walter Bagehot called war a state maker. In the same context, war may be referred to as a civilization maker.
Conflict, including war, has played a major role, often a determining role in building and maintaining civilizations. It has also been a major and perhaps the major factor in undermining and destroying civilizations. Arnold Toynbee contends that war has been a “proximate cause” of the overthrow of one civilization after another. No observer of current western civilization can fail to note the determining part played by war during the first half of the present century.
Every completed civilization known to historians has passed through a sociological life cycle: origin, growth, expansion, maturity, violent premature dismemberment and death in the competitive survival struggle or gradual decline and eventual dissolution.
Every completed civilization has had small, local beginnings, on an island like Crete, or a group of islands like the Japanese Archipelago, or a tiny spot like Latium on the Tiber River, or an isolated area like the desert-surrounded Nile River Valley in Africa. The seed ground or nucleus of each civilization has been a small, well-knit group of vigorous, energetic people, well-led, living in an easily defended, limited area, enjoying relative isolation, but also having ready access to the outside world.
At the beginning the growth cycle has moved slowly, from victory to victory, as competing neighboring peoples have been brought under the authority of the victor in local wars. After generations or centuries of struggle a point is reached at which the nucleus of the growing empire begins to expand, through trade, colonization, diplomatic alliances, conquest, into an era of survival struggle in which rival cities reach out for the same piece of fertile land, the same markets, the same mineral deposits. Again the life and death survival struggle tests out the people, their leaders, their ambitions, determination, tenacity.
Earlier struggles were local. Now the struggle area has become regional. At the outset the peoples were amateurs in the science and art of expansion, occupation, consolidation, exploitation. Through the hard school of struggle they became professionals. From victory to victory they gained in territory, in wealth, in administrative skill. One by one, rivals were eliminated, annexed or associated with the nascent empire which was by way of becoming the central empire of a maturing civilization.
Generations of effort and centuries of time have gone into the empire building process. The farther the civilization has expanded, the greater the necessary input of manpower, wealth, enterprise and administrative talent needed to keep the enterprise strong, solvent, masterful.
Eventually the expanding civilization reaches a point at which the costs of further expansion are greater than the income derived from further extension of its authority. Up to this point expansion had paid its own way. Beyond this point it is a losing proposition—politically, economically, sociologically. At this point begin times of troubles; bad harvests; colonial or provincial revolts; power struggles between individuals or classes in the homeland; new rivals moving in to share in the prospective plunder of the mother-city.
From this time of troubles the civilization enters a new phase of its lifecycle. Up to this point victory has brought plunder and prosperity which have financed new foreign adventures and led to new victories. Beyond this point lies stalemate, economic stagnation, military defeat. Building an empire and establishing it as the central force in a civilization is a long and arduous process. Once the process is reversed, the decline may move quickly or slowly, but as it proceeds the civilization is fragmented and eventually dissolved or taken over by a more vigorous rival.
At all stages of this cycle there have been life and death survival struggles. Peoples, nations and empires entered the contest, played their parts, made their contribution to the up-building process. There were ups and downs, advances and withdrawals, victories and defeats. There were many contenders for survival and supremacy. Usually there was one survivor which gave its name to the civilization.
The period of ascendancy of any civilization has been historically brief. The struggle to the summit was long and exhausting; the descent from the summit more rapid than the ascent. Literally, like the bear that went over the mountain to see what he could find, and who found the other side of the mountain, the civilizations that have reached the summit of wealth and power have found on the other side of the summit a steep downward sloping time of troubles that ended in dissolution and liquidation.
Civilization, as a sociological life pattern, has proved to be seductive and alluring in prospect, but in retrospect unsatisfactory and frustrating. Civilization has proved to be not an opportunity for the ambitious, but a trap for the ignorant, inexperienced and unwary. For the many contestants who set out to conquer the world the experience has been disappointing and on the whole disastrous. For the few who have reached the summit the experience has been frustrating.
Civilization as a way of life is like any other contest. The struggle is good for those who are able to benefit from it by learning its lessons. Whether they win or lose is a matter of no great consequence. For the losers the experience often is heart breaking and death-dealing.
Students of social history have been tempted to draw a parallel between the biological life cycle of an individual and the sociological lifecycle of a civilization. There are elements of likeness between biological birth, growth, maturity, old age and death of human individuals and of human civilizations. All of the individuals and civilizations that we know have passed or are passing through such a lifecycle. The same thing may be true of the larger universe of which we are a minute fragment. However exact or inexact it may prove to be, the parallel certainly is unmistakable, alluring. It may also be seductive and mortal.
IDEOLOGIES OF CIVILIZATION
This study was laid out along inductive lines: an examination of the facts with such generalizations as the facts suggest or justify. We began our social analysis of civilization by presenting noteworthy facts concerning the politics, economics, and sociology of various civilizations. In the present chapter we deal with their ideologies.
We are accepting and following the fourth variant definition of “ideology” presented by Webster’s New World Dictionary: “The doctrines, opinions or way of thinking of an individual, class, etc.” In this case we are reporting on the doctrines, opinions, thought forms and action patterns of entire civilizations.
Our concern is not with the doctrines, opinions and ways of thinking and acting advanced by elite minorities. Such an approach would involve a study of comparative ideologies. Rather we are asking what civilized peoples were trying to do, as measured by their political, economic and sociological activities, programs and purposes.
It may be presumptuous for an individual to generalize about civilizations of which he knows so little. On the other hand, if we recognize the limitations under which all assumptions and generalizations operate it is possible and often helpful to assume and generalize, although the generalizations may be no more than interim reports, subject to later amendment, correction or rejection.
What were the prevailing ideas of civilizations and what ideas were put into practice? What purposes dominated and directed the lives of civilized peoples? How successful have civilized peoples been in achieving their objectives?
At the outset we must realize that in any complex society there are wide ranges of ideology, from the body of ideas held by small uninfluential sects to the purposes, ideas, policy declarations and actions of governing oligarchies. We do not wish to defend or attack the ideas, but to summarize them and understand them in a way that will give a group picture of the purposes, ideas, policies and day-to-day activities of the civilizations in question. For convenience in our discussion we will take up, first, civilized societies as collectives, and then the operation of civilized ideology as expressed in the lives of individuals.
Presumably the most immediate purpose of all civilized peoples has been survival, getting on as a collective or group from day to day, through summer and winter, under normal conditions, and/or in periods of stress and emergency. If the group cannot survive it loses its identity, breaking up into the self-determining parts of which it is composed.
Survival means continued existence as a group—in the face of disruption from within or attack and invasion from without. The group which survives continues to exist and to act as a group that maintains the common defense and promotes the general welfare.
Each social group competing for survival has a sense of its own identity and a belief in its capacity to survive. This ideology is strengthened by the belief that the group has special qualities and is protected by powerful entities that will guarantee its success in the survival struggle. The group considers itself better qualified to survive than neighbor groups. Such ideas, carried to their logical conclusion, make the group in question superior to its neighbors in survival qualities and a people chosen by its gods.
A superior people, chosen by its gods, is in a class by itself. Other people, by comparison, are inferior. It is the destiny of the superior people to take the lands of their inferior neighbors, and, whenever opportunity offers, to defeat the neighbors in battle, capture them and force them to do the bidding of the captors.
Cults of ideological superiority are widespread. Put into successful practice by a victorious tribe, nation or empire, they develop into cults of superiority which assert: “We, the victors, are stronger, better people than our weaker neighbors.” As one victory follows another the belief in superiority grows. People in an expanding empire or burgeoning civilization are obviously better survivors than their less successful competitors.
Competitive survival struggle modifies the cultures of both victors and vanquished. The dispersal and adoption of culture traits, supplemented by negotiation and accommodation, broaden the geographical area of the victors, increasing the population and adding to the material resources, the wealth and income of the enlarged group. It may also involve the corresponding decrease of the geographical area, population, wealth and income of the vanquished.
In order to protect itself, preserve itself, to enlarge itself and, where possible, to improve itself, each competing groups aims to set up standards of ideas and conduct to which all living members of the group are presumed to agree and to which they must adhere. When new members enter the group, by birth or adoption, they are duly indoctrinated with the group ideology. Early in their history the individuals and sub-groups composing every civilization adopted such standards and promulgated them by the decree of a leader or by the common consent of associated groups, as the outcome of negotiation, discussion, give and take. During the history of every civilization such agreements were reached and recorded in compacts, treaties, laws, constitutions, specifying the nature and limits of the collective cultural uniformity at which the community aimed.
The struggle for collective uniformity was long and often bitter. Individuals and factions resented and resisted the imposition of group authority. Internal conflict led to civil wars in the course of which the group was divided or the solidarity of the group was reaffirmed despite hardships imposed on disagreeing, divergent minorities.
Closely paralleling the group need for survival and uniformity (solidarity) was the need for group expansion, or extension. In the competitive struggle for survival which played such an important role in the life of pre-civilized communities, strategic geographic location was often decisive. Soil fertility, mineral deposits, timber reserves, access to waterways, location on trade routes all played a part in community survival, stability and growth.
Such geographical advantages are few and far between. Often they are already occupied and defended by stable communities. Their control and utilization are basic in determining the survival or elimination of rivals in the competitive struggle.
Above and beyond the need to occupy the “corner lots” of the planetary land mass was the urge of civilized peoples to advance from littleness to bigness as a goal in itself. Confined by limitations on communication and transportation, pre-civilized man was circumscribed and localized. With the advent of cultivation, land workers were tied to a particular piece of real estate on which they lived and worked. When asked whether the village across the valley was Sunrise Mountain the local peasant could reply: “How should I know? I live here.”
Reacting against restricted living and pressed by curiosity and the spirit of adventure, the imaginative and adventurous members of each generation pressed outward from the homeland toward wider horizons. Many traveled. Some migrated. Others pursued the will o’ the wisp of expansion by adding field to field. The grass always looked greener on the other side of the mountain. The ambitious expansionist therefore tried to control both sides.
“Move on! Move on!” became the watchword, without any particular emphasis on quality. In one civilization after another bigness (magnitude) was accepted as a symbol of success, because “the more you get and keep, the happier you will be.”
Mastery of strategic advantages, plus the illusion of mere bigness, without any specification to quality, became keys to survival and success.
Civilized man exploited natural advantages and augmented his power over nature and society by increasing his wealth and multiplying the population. At the outset of the struggle strategic geographical advantages were occupied and utilized by local groups. Through survival struggle, one of the groups, better organized, better led, more determined and productive, succeeded in securing possession of one strong point after another, until an entire region, like the Nile Valley or the Mediterranean Basin had been conquered and occupied by a single great power. The measure of success in the power struggle is the occupation of strategic strong points. Natural resources, including land and labor power, are among the chief spoils of victory.
Seven basic goals or principles were involved in the building of civilizations: group survival; propitiating the gods; recognizing and following aesthetic principles; achieving and stabilizing property and class relations; expansion (bigness); individual conformity to the collective pattern; and collective uniformity in a united world of human brotherhood. At times and in places the basic propositions were accepted, rejected, fought over. Each civilization which followed them successfully was able to establish itself, maintain itself, and up to a certain point add to its prestige, wealth and power.
The first goal was success in the struggle for survival. Collective uniformity and expansion opened the path to wealth and power, in the city, state, the empire, the civilization. From a multitude of local beginnings the struggle for expansion and consolidation led to ever larger aggregations of land, population, capital and wealth concentrated in the hands of an increasingly rich, powerful oligarchy, protected and defended by a military elite pushing itself ceaselessly toward a position from which it could make and enforce domestic policy and order.
A second collective goal has been propitiating and wooing the unseen forces of the universe: holding their attention; keeping them on “our” side; relying on their influence for defense against enemies, mortal and immortal, and help in providing water in case of drought, fertility, assistance in healing the sick, comfort for the dying, consolation for the bereaved and success in business deals. These multiple aspects of ideology are summed up under the term “religion”.
Each civilization has had its religious ideas and ideals, its religious practices and institutions. Many civilizations have divided their attention between civil ideology and religious ideology. In some cases religious ideology took precedence, resulting in a theocratic society under the leadership of religious devotees. In other cases, notably Roman civilization and western civilization, religious ideology was subordinated to secular interests.
In the early stages of western civilization, religious ideology took precedence over secular ideology. With the rise of the bourgeoisie, secular ideology moved into the foreground, making loud religious professions, but also making sure that business-for-profit had the last word in the determination of public policy.
A third collective ideological goal of civilization has been aesthetic; the yen for symmetry and balance; the love of beauty; the desire for harmony; the quest for excellence; the lure of magnificence; the search for truth. Out of these urges have arisen the pictorial and plastic arts, architecture, music, the dance, science, and philosophy, providing outlets, occupations and professions that have colored and shaped many aspects of civilized living.
A fourth collective goal of civilization has been the establishment and maintenance of social structure, including classes and/or caste lines based partly upon tradition, partly on function and partly upon proximity to the honey-pot, the wellspring of wealth, income, prestige and power.
Since the principle of private property has been implicit in every known civilization, the ownership of land, capital and consumer goods and services has been a prerogative of the ruling oligarchies, shared by them with their associates and dependents and used as their chief means of establishing and maintaining the “you work, I eat” principal of economic relationships.
Private property, and its derivative, unearned or property income, has enabled the ruling oligarchies of civilized communities to receive the first fruits of every enterprise. They have also enabled the oligarchs to establish a priority scale of income distribution under which those who held property and its derivatives could have first choice among available consumer goods and services. Second choice went to the associates, retainers and defenders of the oligarchs. Third choice went to the preferred, professional experts who spoke for and represented the oligarchy. Fourth choice went to the artisans—skilled designers, builders, fabricators. What remained went to hewers of wood and drawers of water, the workers, women and men, who provided the necessaries, comforts, luxuries upon which physical survival and social status depended. Generally this proletarian mass, including chattel slaves, serfs, tenant farmers and war captives, were outside the pale of respectability. In a caste-divided community they were scavengers and untouchables, living a life close to that of domestic animals.
Most civilizations have permitted gifted individuals to move vertically, from the bottom toward the top levels of the social pyramid. Vertical movement was severely restricted, however. Generally people lived, served and died on the class or caste level into which they were born.
Members of classes and castes are not free agents. They have privileges and rights. They also have obligations and duties. Classes and castes are functioning parts of an interdependent social whole which can maintain balanced order only so long as each segment recognizes its obligations and performs its duties.
Social balance therefore depended on class collaboration. Successful collaboration, in its turn, is the outcome of a general acceptance of class and caste and general willingness to go on living and functioning in a class divided society.
A fifth collective goal of civilization has been expansion from the nucleus outward, with final authority exercised by and from the nucleus. At the outset of the survival struggle which led to the establishment of one language, one religion, one law, one authority, one loyalty, each among the many contestants had its own language, its own religion, its own law, its own authority.
These rival forces were temporarily confederated against internal disruption or foreign invasion. ("Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”) In the course of the survival struggle, the separate parts of which the civilization was composed began with the local autonomy permitted by confederation, and ended up with one among the many contestants donning the imperial purple and establishing itself as the master and supreme dictator—the Caesar or Pharoah of the conquered, unified world.
Foreign territories conquered and brought by force of arms within this imperium were subjects of a central authority which they never really accepted. Authority continued to be exercised from the imperial nucleus. The newly conquered territories were policed by professional soldiers whose primary loyalty was national but whose responsibility was to the aggregate composing the Roman or the Egyptian civilization.
The acid test of the expanding civilization was embodied in the degree of acceptance of wholeness as opposed to self-determination. Were the individual members—the provinces and colonies composing the whole—willing and able to sink their differences in an unquestioned wholeness, or were they prepared at the first opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination and declare their independence of the whole?
The resolution of this question constituted the sixth collective goal of civilization: to establish a whole in which the component members were able and willing to recognize the axiom that the interests of the whole come before the interests of any of its component parts.
The issue of central authority versus local self determination has been one of the basic issues of the present century because during the preceding period, the British, French, Dutch and Spanish Empires had been built up by the conquest and occupation of foreign lands. If the nineteenth century was an epoch of expanding imperial authority, the twentieth century has been an epoch of the dismemberment of empires by movements for independence and self-determination.
Seventh, and finally, among the collective goals of civilization, each has developed an ideology that justified empire building by conquest, exploitation, chattel slavery, peonage, wagery, the supremacy of the empire nucleus, the subordination of the periphery to the nucleus and other aspects of ascendancy and mastery including “divine” rights in politics and “natural” rights in economics.
Civilizations expect the individuals and groups of which they are composed to preserve the status quo, work as disciplined members of an effective team and be satisfied with the outcome. This brings us back to the goal with which we began this discussion of the collective goals of civilizations: The primary task of any civilization is to survive.
Each individual human being, living and working in a civilized community occupies a sphere of action, enjoys the advantages and disadvantages and accepts the responsibilities and duties which pertain to his sphere. Within his sphere the individual succeeds or fails in so far as he leads a rewarding personal life and contributes his share toward the collective life of the group to which she or he belongs.
If the individual in a civilized community is to live a good life, the first task is to maintain normal health, good spirits and a determination to get the most out of life and to contribute at least the equivalent of what he receives in service to his group.
As a civilization expands and extends its influence, the individual must contribute his mite to the entire enterprise while adding to his own store of goods and services. Acquisition and accumulation satisfy a human desire to have and to keep. They also add to the wealth and well being of the community on the widely accepted utilitarian formula: happiness comes in direct proportion to the extent and variety of ones possessions.
In most civilized communities the building unit is a family. It is this family unit, usually directed by a male or father figure, who acts for the family and represents it in the community.
In passing, the reader should note that the breakdown in family life now so prevalent in many parts of western civilization is a departure from the civilized norm. It is really a measure of the extent to which western civilization itself is disintegrating.
The revolution in science and technology, mass production and the distribution of goods and services through a mass market have put acquisition and accumulation of goods and services as a life-goal to a severe test. Until the early years of the present century no civilization had provided affluence for more than a small fraction of its population. The vast majority consisted of slaves, serfs, war captives, and tenant farmers. Only an exceptional few were in a position to live in comfort or luxury on unearned income. As each civilization matured, ownership of land and capital diverted the flow of consumer goods and services into the coffers of a diminishing proportion of the total population. The vast majority lived at or below the subsistence level. General affluence was a goal that was talked about and dreamed about, but there was no way to test its practical effects on the population as a whole.
Under conditions presently existing in many parts of the West, millions of individuals and families following the utilitarian principles of acquisition and accumulation have secured and kept an abundance of goods and services in strict accordance with utilitarian principles. Yet they have not been and are not happy.
Quite the contrary, in many cases they are unhappy, particularly in the second and third generations of affluent family life. This is notably true in the United States, Scandinavia, Switzerland and other parts of western Europe. It is true to a lesser degree in New Zealand and Australia.
Millions of families in these countries, with all their possessions, fail to enjoy peace and happiness. On the contrary, they are so acutely unhappy that many of them have come to regard acquisition and accumulation as a sterile rat-race. Consequently multitudes of people, young and old, have turned their backs on civilization, separating themselves from their affluent homes with their glut of consumer goods to live at non-civilized or pre-civilized levels. These individuals are avowedly anti-civilization in so far as its material incentives are concerned.
Similar attitudes were expressed in previous civilizations. Socrates went barefoot through the streets of Athens. Diogenes lived in a tub. Uncounted numbers of Indian holy men and early Christians rejected all affluence, embraced poverty, lived simply and austerely. Religious asceticism is no novelty. But the wholesale rejection of acquisition and accumulation as a way of life certainly marks a turning point in the popular attitude toward the utilitarian axiom that human happiness is directly proportioned to the quantity and variety of material possessions.
Civilization presupposes getting, keeping and exercising power over nature, society and man. Each civilization has added to man’s utilization of nature. This has been a notorious aspect of western civilization since the inauguration of the scientific-technological revolution. After a century of intensified exploitation of the natural environment, entire communities are reacting with dismay and disgust against the resulting pollution of air, water and land, the wanton waste of soil fertility, forests and minerals, and extermination of various forms of “wilderness.” Freedom to exploit nature’s storehouse has not brought happiness. On the contrary, it threatens the existence of other life forms and even the continuance of human life on the planet.
Private enterprise and other forms of permissiveness have led to practices that circumscribe and hamper life. Their declared objective is the liberation and enlargement of human life and well being. Where they have been tested out they have proved themselves to be obstructive and destructive rather than creative and constructive.
Notable advances in science and technology have greatly increased the human capacity to transform nature and remake society. Designed and executed as a means of enhancing the general welfare, science and technology might have promoted human well-being. But employed as a means of exploiting nature and society for the benefit of a favored few, science and technology, whether directed by European and American promoters of the African slave trade, Spanish conquerors in Latin America, by Belgians in the African Congo, by European whites in their dealings with the North American Indians, by the Nazis in Europe, or by Americans in South East Asia, have involved merciless exploitation accompanied by revolting atrocities.
Never in recorded history was the capacity of man to modify nature and exploit society more publicly tested out than in the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the purposeful devastation of jungle life and village life in large parts of Vietnam and Cambodia. Reported in the public press and pictured, live, over radio and television, these latest developments in the ugly record of man’s exploitation of nature have become part of the record of the decline and dissolution of western civilization.
Exploitation of human society for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many is an old story that extends through the entire record of written history. Every civilization has produced a cluster of institutions and practices that enabled a few rich and privileged to live in affluence at the expense of the impoverished many. This juxtaposition of riches and poverty is the logical outcome of a system of social relations designed to provide the few with comfort and luxury while the many are forced to accept penury and hardship. Exploitation, carried to its logical conclusion, permits and requires a parasitic minority to live in abundance while the majority must content itself with scarcity, extending to death from malnutrition.
Another goal presented to individuals by the promoters and fashioners of civilization is individual perfection, physical, mental, emotional, moral. Every generation of human beings contains individuals who are beyond the average—bigger, stronger, more talented, seeing farther, searching more deeply, endowed with greater sensitivity, working more conscientiously, imbued with a love of their fellows and determination to serve them. Such individuals have genius in one or another form and offer themselves and their products as a gift to the general welfare of their generation. Scientists, poets, musicians, inventors, artists, teachers, healers, philosophers, statesmen have appeared in each civilization adding their mite to the sum-total of community culture.
Innovators, moralists and counselors of perfection have played a noteworthy part by advocating and often by living noteworthy lives. Reports of their sayings and doings are part of the folklore and the history of each civilization. If they did not set the tone of their generation, they provided it with a model toward which their less talented, less creative fellows might aspire. If they were creative artists their works provided models which were admired, copied and emulated by their successors. If they were moralists or philosophers their sayings were recorded, respected and repeated by successive generations.
Each civilization has adopted lines of thinking and codes of action which embody the best and most advantageous in theory and in practice. These codes of thought, feeling and action are attributed to some outstanding individual and passed on from generation to generation as codes of conduct to which all right-thinking individuals may or should aspire.
Human beings know everything about themselves except whence they came, what they should do and whither they will go. To compensate for this lack of knowledge and wisdom each civilization has established and maintained religious organizations and institutions whose duty it was to search out the truth, record it and teach it to successive generations.
In some civilizations the religious institutions have dominated the secular. At other times and in other places the secular has maintained its ascendancy over the religious. In still other cases the religious and the secular forces have maintained an uneasy balance leading to acrimonious bickering and sometimes to civil war.
Central to their discussions is the nature of life. Is it continuous, as it appears in vegetation and the animal kingdom, or is it discontinuous like the rocks on the mountainside or the grains of sand on the seashore? Those who live for the moment prefer discontinuity. Those who observe their natural environment are forced to the conclusion that life today is part of a sequence or progression which relates the life of yesterday to that of tomorrow.
Recorded history, from fossil and geological remains, to the books on library shelves assures us that man has had a past. Projecting this experience, it seems quite reasonable that barring accident or a purposed intervention, man will have at least some future. To prepare for that future, using the knowledge and wisdom at our disposal, seems to be a must for any reasoning creature.
Even for the short planetary life-span of the average human, the logic of this position seems inescapable, whether it applies to the next hour, day, year, or century. In terms of our children and grandchildren it is even more impressive. Today we find it desirable to live as well as possible. If there is any future, the same principle should apply to its implementation and utilization.
If the “hereafter” begins tomorrow and if those whose well-being concerns us will probably be “alive” tomorrow, the science and art of the future (futurology) takes its place beside other fields of theory and practice as a must for all responsible members of the human race.
If the conditions presently existing in human society affordment, skills and technical experience necessary to make significant changes, why wait? Why not proceed forthwith to live a better life?
This dilemma has confronted individuals and sub-groups in various civilizations. It has been particularly in evidence during periods of decline and social disintegration. It has led people of both sexes and all ages to uproot themselves from the old social order and reestablish themselves in a social order “nearer to the heart’s desire.”
Such efforts have been described as “intentional communities” to distinguish them from a traditional, currently existing social order which emerged from the past encumbered with vestigial remains and obsolete institutions and practices having little or no relation to the needs and wants of a changing world.
Pilgrim Fathers in New England, William Penn in Pennsylvania, Lord Baltimore in Maryland aimed to organize local intentional communities. Similar efforts were made by the Mennonites, the Dukhobors, the Hutterites, the Mormons in North America. The Christians during the decline of Roman civilization led a movement to convert a large geographical area to a new and better way of life. Followers of Mohammed, several centuries later, made a similar effort to convert the Eurasian-African world to their ways of thinking and acting.
Young people by the thousands, in the United States and other western countries, are turning their backs on western civilization and are organizing enlarged families and communes that provide their members with a modified social order which aims at improvements here and now.
Necessarily such social experiments are looked upon with suspicion by the Establishment. They are “new”, “different”, “subversive”, “godless”, “wicked.” Hence, they are criticized, denounced, raided and often broken up as threats to existing law and order.
Intentional communities may grow out of consumers’ cooperation. They may begin as farm collectives. Generally, however, they consist of the followers of outstanding leaders of religious or ethical sects. Many intentional communes spring up, mushroom-fashion, and disappear with equal rapidity. Others endure for generations and centuries.
In a very real sense they are pilot plants designed to correct individual or social maladjustments and substitute new ways for old ones. As pilot plants they experiment with deviations from existing social norms, acting as a social laboratory in which new ideas and practices are tested, modified, accepted, rejected.
Change is one of the essential aspects of every society. There are changes in personnel. In each generation individuals grow old and retire. Others grow up and take over the tasks of organizing the communities in which they live. Profound social changes result from discoveries and inventions: the wheel, the arch, steam and gas engines, electricity, atomic power. Cyclic changes occur in the economy. Social changes follow alterations in the weather. Nations, empires, civilizations are produced by the changing life forms.
During long periods, social changes are so gradual that they are unnoticed save by the more sensitive and perceptive. At other times, social changes tumble over one another in an overwhelming revolutionary flood which sweeps away the old, yielding place to new, “lest one good custom should corrupt the world”.
Changes in society beget changes in ideology. Reciprocally, changes in ideology lead to changes in social structure and function. The more rigid the social order, the more stubborn its resistance to change. By the same token, more fluid societies lend themselves more readily to changes in practice and in theory.
It is not possible to discuss ideology without some reference to the closely related problems of means and ends. As we consider our existing social establishment, in the light of unceasing social change, we must deal with goals or objectives, with practicable modifications of social form and function and with the way in which changes can be, might be, will be brought about.
One fact is obvious. Whether social change is major or minor, local or general, it shifts the social balance. Any shift in the social balance involves reactionaries, conservatives, liberals, radicals, some of whom will gain, while others will lose in the course of each social transformation. All will be concerned and involved.
Since political change involves some alteration in the balance of social forces, it behooves those who advocate and those who oppose social change to maximize acceptance and minimize opposition in order to take advantage of the gains and cut down the losses incident to all change.
For present purposes we wish to make seven notes about means and ends.
1. Opportunists propose to act now and win what they can today. Never mind about tomorrow with its sequences and consequences of today’s action. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.
2. Pragmatists believe in serving their own interests, on the theory that whatever serves personal interests must have first priority. “What is good for me/us is good for the universe”.
3. Experimentalists are prepared to try out any suggestion which promises to achieve the desired goals. Singly and in working teams they test and try out, seeking the most effective means of reaching desired ends.
4. Innovators formulate projects
and test out results, checking
and rechecking as they search for more effective means
of achieving results.
5. Radicals seek out the roots, digging, sifting, classifying, assembling their findings, announcing their conclusions and working to apply them in theory and practice to the structure and function of their communities.
6. Revolutionists are in a hurry. Disillusioned with the past and the present they seek by “direct action” to create a new social order, out of whole cloth, quickly, here and now. Never mind the means, get results!
7. Totalists have the whole truth, attained through reasoning, experimentation, revelation. Having learned the truth, they dedicate their energies to the propagation of the faith. Where they encounter opposition they counter it and, if necessary, annihilate it with its originators and advocates.
As a matter of practical experience, proponents of all seven approaches to social problems and social change employ a wide range of techniques from persuasion to coercion. To support their projects they advance logical arguments, elaborate half-truths, make emotional appeal; employ trickery, deceit, preferment, privilege, flattery, soft living, bribery, coercion, physical and social violence—individual and collective extermination.
Civilization as reported in history and in its current practice is based on five faulty ideological assumptions:
1. Competitive survival struggle results in social improvement. Survival struggle has certainly played a role in stimulating discovery, invention and the diffusion of culture traits. Its end results have always included civil and inter-group war with its unavoidable costs in destruction, dissolution and death.
2. The effort to grab and keep, with its accompanying competition, is a chief source of social progress. The game of grab and keep is play for children. Mature human beings should strive to create, produce, share.
3. The accumulation of goods and services brings happiness. At the out-set of life this may be true. But accumulation for its own sake produces the miser. Misers are not happy people. Riches yield happiness only as they are distributed. Accumulation brings many headaches, and few abiding satisfactions.
4. Successful accumulators “have fun." Perhaps they do, for a time, at the expense of others on whose backs they ride and whose life blood they suck. But mature men and women do not “have fun”; they shoulder and carry their share of social responsibility.
5. Progress can be measured by the multitude of personal possessions. Not so. True progress for humanity consists in movement from having to doing; from the possessive to the creative; from the material toward the spiritual.
Ideologies have played a role in determining the structure and function of every civilization. As civilization grows up, matures, and declines, ideologies change with the changing times. In its early history each civilization seeks acceptance for its picture of reality and its techniques for reaching individual and social goals. As each civilization declines and disintegrates, a multitude of counselors clamors for attention to a particular formula that will prove acceptable and workable in the existing emergent circumstances.
WORLDWIDE REVOLUTION DISRUPTS CIVILIZATION
Every organism, mechanism or social construct reaches a point in its life cycle at which its existing apparatus must be repaired, renovated and updated or scrapped, redesigned and replaced. Today western civilization in its totality faces that dilemma.
The culture pattern variously known as European, western or modern civilization, dating from the Crusades, has existed for about a thousand years, and spread across the planet. During that millennium western civilization has passed through a life cycle similar to that of its predecessors. According to Oswald Spengler’s historical perspective, a civilization passes through its life cycle in about a thousand years. If the Spenglerian assumption is in line with the course of history, western civilization should be in an advanced stage of decline and should eventually disappear as a decisive factor in world affairs.
Spengler’s argument is fully and floridly presented in The Decline of the West. The author offers a theory of history based on the existence of an arbitrary and rather mechanical life cycle. It includes a period of gestation, rise and expansion, a period of maturity and stability and a final period of decline and dissolution. Spengler believed that western civilization is in the grip of an irreversable decline.
The Spenglerian perspective is based on the assumption of a normal pattern in the growth and decline of civilizations. The normalcy on which Spengler based his assumption was disrupted around 1750 when a series of new dynamic factors entered the stream of modern social history:
I. Mankind gained access to immense stores of energy which supplemented human energy, the energies of domesticated animals and a miniscule use of water power and air power. To these traditional energy sources the revolution in science and technology has added steam, electricity, and the energy stored in the atom.
II. These new sources of energy were harnessed and directed through mechanical and chemical agencies that greatly extended human capacity to convert nature’s stored wealth into goods and services available for human consumption, and to develop a surplus of wealth and a release of manpower sufficient to build up a backlog of capital which, in its turn, produced goods and services with economic surpluses convertible into additional capital.
III. This revolution in the tempo of production and capital accumulation was parallelled by a like revolution in transportation and communication by land, water, and eventually by air and in space. Electricity played an essential part in the process by speeding communication and helping to put transportation on wheels.
IV. Building construction was also revolutionized—metals, concrete, glass and synthetics replaced wood and stone as the basic construction materials.
V. New energy sources and the new capital expanded the volume and variety of production far more rapidly than the increase in population and turned the resulting surplus into a technical apparatus that made possible mass production for a mass market.
VI. Mass production, transportation, construction and marketing ushered in an era of surplus that replaced the age of comparative scarcity with an age of rapidly increasing abundance.
Changes in the means of production play havoc with any established social pattern. The economic alteration that accompanied and followed the eighteenth and early nineteenth century transformation of western economy overturned various aspects of the western social structure:
1. Representative government
made its appearance and spread
2. Social services and social
security, previously reserved for
the elite, were provided for wider and wider circles of the
3. Changes in technology, advances in science, the replacement of landlords, clergymen and soldiers by businessmen and professionals, including the military, as the recognized leaders of the modern society, put social control in the hands of a new ruling bourgeois class;
4. The bourgeois revolution brought into existence two other classes: the industrial proletariat as an ally and/or an acceptable leader of the peasant masses of Europe. At the same time it enlarged the middle class to a point at which it was able to play a decisive role in the formulation and direction of social policy in industrialized communities.
5. Fragments of the industrial proletariat and the greatly enlarged middle class came together in an avowedly revolutionary movement: socialism-communism, which reached the power summit between 1910 and 1917.
6. The bourgeoisie countered
with a cold war aimed to exterminate
socialism-communism, using propaganda, petty
reform and armed intervention as its chief agencies.
7. The high birth rate, the prolongation of life and mass education provided society with a substantial body of skilled, experienced, socially conscious, alert citizens, increasingly aware of the historical changes through which they were living and determined to intervene whenever their well-being was threatened.
8. Extension and equalization
of opportunity opened the way
for an informed citizenry to express itself and defend its
9. Emerging planet-wide social consciousness spread an awareness that the concerns, plans and programs of any part of the human family are of vital importance to the whole of mankind.
Change is a universal force which operates in nature, in society, in man himself. At times it takes place so gradually that one day seems like another. At other times it operates with furious energy, turning things upside-down overnight. Such change, whether it takes place in nature or in society is revolutionary.
Rome’s demise as a world power was followed by centuries of quietude—The Dark Ages. These in turn yielded to a period of revolutionary change that found its early expression in the voyages and discoveries that spanned the earth after 1450. Three centuries later the rebirth of western humanity expressed itself in the industrial revolution that flooded across the planet and became an early stage of the planet-wide sweep that has played havoc with nature, turned the old society upside down and presently promises to produce a new society for a reborn human race.
World-wide revolution is the predominant force in the twentieth century. Its existence and some of its consequences have become an all-embracing theme for thought and discussion. They have put into the hands of present-day humanity the ideas, experiments and experiences needed for transforming nature, rebuilding social institutions and practices and opening the way for mankind to move confidently into a future replete with intriguing and exciting possibilities.
An excellent summary of this entire field is appearing in a six volume History of Mankind, sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Volume six of the history is titled The Twentieth Century. Particularly noteworthy is an Introduction of more than a hundred printed pages, Part I, The Development and Application of Scientific Knowledge, and Part II on The Transformation of Societies. Events surrounding the war of 1914-18 are correctly described as “a turning point in world history.” (Vol. VI p. 11)
World revolution is one aspect of present-day society. From our present vantage point we cannot tell how far it will go or what it will do to humanity and its present habitat.
Advances in science and technology have provided mankind with a new stage on which to go through a new act and speak a new piece. What effect will they have on the institutions and practices of western civilization? Have they rendered the forms and functions of civilization obsolete? Or can western civilization adapt itself or be adapted to the very difficult situation created by the revolution through which human society is presently passing? Can western civilization be reformed to meet the new historical situation created by the great revolution or must it be rejected and replaced?
If the institutions and practices of western civilization can be adjusted to meet the demands of the new situation created by the scientific, technological, political and cultural revolution, the reformed social apparatus may function in a new day that is dawning for the human family. If reform proves to be impossible, the apparatus of western civilization must be replaced by a social structure in keeping with the requirements of the new age inaugurated by the innovations introduced into the human culture pattern by the revolution of our time.
There is widespread recognition of the need to keep the structure of a society in harmony with necessary functions and updated to the consequences of probable or possible discovery and invention. This is no mean task as western experience during recent centuries has so clearly demonstrated. Power elites of feudal Europe neither anticipated nor prepared for the consequences of the industrial revolution. The result was the smash and clatter of the American and French Revolutions (1776 and 1789) and minor revolutionary shocks through the nineteenth century. Power elites in western Europe dealt with mass production and its consequent abundance of goods and services with mass marketing, social security and other crumbs of affluence scattered among the restless masses. But when the trade winds of the scientific and technological revolution blew in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Chinese Revolution of 1911 and the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Romanoff dictatorship was still ordering back the tide of social change and the dominant United States oligarchy cold-shouldered the Mexican Revolution, took sixteen years to recognize officially the Russian Soviets and waited twenty-three years after 1949 before they were even on speaking terms with the Chinese Communists.
For two centuries, new ideas, institutions and practices have followed discoveries and inventions as regularly as day follows night. The consequent flood of innovations that has swept through the West and across the planet in the past two generations has made drastic social change a matter of the utmost urgency. The only open questions concern the direction of the changes, their rapidity, and the success of the social system in adapting itself to the shattering effects of newly released social forces.
Social change can come with the rush and turmoil of revolution or the studied step-by-considered-step constancy of the conscious improvement of society by society. Two powerful social forces limit gradualness. One is human impatience. The other is the rapidity with which masses of people all over the planet are being informed of the good-life potential implicit in present-day western affluence.
Impatience is emotional rather than rational. It is a compound of human urges on one hand and on the other hand of the frustrations built up in individuals and populations attracted by new wants and frustrated by barriers of custom-habit; the carefully constructed apparatus of direction, division and restriction (the State, the Church, the communication media), and the potent class forces of the counter-revolution.
In every modern community the media of mass communication are broadcasting information regarding the widening consumer prospects created by the current revolution in science and technology. In every modern community there are eager, ambitious, hopeful individuals urging their fellow workers and fellow citizens to get moving toward the promised land of peace and plenty. In every community the bureaucracy, representing the more comfortable and secure elements of the population, is asking the less well placed class groups to “take it easy,” take “one step at a time,” and remember that “Rome was not built in a day.”
Conservatives, urging law and order under the status quo, have reason on their side. The movement of a technologically oriented community from monopoly capitalism into socialism-communism is without historical precedent and therefore largely experimental. Plans are tentative; there are shortages of materials and particularly of skills based on experience. Costly mistakes are made leading to delay until they can be corrected. The counter-revolution, abundantly financed by the forces of reaction, operates constantly, in critical situations almost always through the military, to preserve the “law and order” which are the prime forces behind its wealth and its power. In an untrod, untested area ignorance is a blank wall until it is pierced by ingenuity and innovation. There are many ways to miss a defined objective and only a few ways to reach it.
Cautious, experienced people, living comfortably, are inclined to let well enough alone. Restless, hopeful idealists are eager to reject, modify, improvise and replace.
Conservatives try to preserve both the structure and the traditional activities of a community on the plea that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Liberals (moderates) would preserve the structure but bring its activities up to date. Radicals would scrap the old and replace it with a new structure and new activities geared to the new possibilities and the new requirements.
Survival wars from 1914 to 1945 marked not only the end of Britain’s planetary domination but the termination of Europe’s planetary regency. The events of the period also loosened the bonds that had held western civilization together.
A social structure which includes imperial nuclei and colonial dependencies is constantly threatened by colonial unrest and revolt. Colonial revolt, endemic in every civilization, became epidemic after 1943. The path to independence had been blazed by North and South American colonials. It was followed after 1943 by the inhabitants of British, French, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Asia and Africa. The slogan of the independence movement was “self-determination.”
Before self-determination can operate there must be a “self” capable of making decisions and carrying them into practice. Identification of the “self,” or “nationhood” as it was called in this era, involved bitter domestic struggle, internal reorganization and consolidation. The process was typified in the British Colonies of North America between 1770 and 1789 which produced the United States of North America. Asians and Africans who gained their independence after 1945 faced a double problem: the establishment of nationhood, and regional consolidation.
The British colonies in North America won their independence as a loose confederation of sovereign states. After war’s-end in 1783, they were able to form a regional federation: the United States of North America. Despite their efforts, they were unable to include Canada, which was under strong French influence. British colonials in Asia and Africa after 1943 were less fortunate. After winning their independence as Indians or Burmese, they were unable to take the next step and organize a United States of Southern Asia.
The Bandung Conference (in 1955) of representatives from Asia and African countries failed to realize the hopes of its conveners. After prolonged deliberations it was able to go no further than the “five principles” of self-determination and co-existence, under which the independence of each participating nation was reaffirmed and each agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of its neighbors. The conference adjourned without establishing any form of organization or making provision for further meetings.
After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, hopes ran high for the establishment of a bloc of Latin American States, led by the elected president of Brazil, Joao Goulart, that might act as a bulwark against further “yankee aggression” in Latin America. In 1962 a military coup overthrew Goulart, drove him into exile, jailed and disenfranchised his supporters and lined up Brazil, largest and most populous nation of Latin America, solidly behind the Monroe Doctrine of United States supremacy in the Americas, implemented by Washington’s burgeoning “Pentagon diplomacy.”
African developments were even less fruitful than those in Asia and Latin America. Asians and Latin Americans generally had reached the level of self-identification necessary for statehood and national self-determination. Large parts of Africa living at pre-national levels of tribal identification, devoted their energies to the realization of nationhood. Their constitutions announced their frontiers and proclaimed their sovereignty, but inter-tribal rivalries and personal ambitions turned each new nation into a battle field for prestige and authority, with the military often making the final decisions.
Asians and Africans had won telling victories in their struggle to drive out their former imperial masters. When it came to the affirmative task of organizing responsible regional federations, their failure was dismal. Asia and Africa were regionally disunited. Former colonial people, still monitored by alien representatives of monopoly capitalism, were fragmented by the self-determination struggle into theoretically sovereign nations many of which lacked the experience and the local expertise which are the indispensible prerequisites of self-determination and of fruitful regional federation.
Another aspect of the world revolution produced more tangible results. The latter half of the nineteenth century brought into being a grass-roots movement of peoples demanding everything from petty reforms of administrative machinery to planned revolutionary transformations of the established monopoly capitalist structure. This movement crystallized as an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, pro-socialist national and international struggle. From the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848 until the beginnings of socialist construction in 1917, it was a movement of protest against poverty, unemployment, war, waste, inequality, exploitation. After 1917 it became a movement to end imperialism, war and exploitation and substitute a planet-wide social system that would give every human being a chance to play a meaningful part in utilizing nature, improving society and creating socialist women and men, capable of cooperating for the general welfare of mankind.
The Enlightenment had diminished ignorance, spread information and brought elementary education to the masses. Self-government had given people confidence in their ability to make the phrase “we, the people” a working formula for social improvement. The Industrial Revolution had converted millions of superstitious, frustrated peasants into craftsmen and professionals confident in their ability to use nature effectively, to advance their own interests and to improve society. These and secondary social forces laid the foundation for the social revolution that mushroomed across the planet during the opening years of the present century. The occasion for the revolution was four years of destructive war (1914-18) during which two rival gangs of imperialists led their dupes and victims to shed blood and destroy property in a struggle to decide which band of plunderers should exploit natural resources and labor power for its own advantage.
General war presented twentieth century man with a dilemma, an opportunity and a choice. Should he continue the grab-and-keep society that had flowered in Europe and elsewhere during the previous century, with its consequent poverty for the many, unemployment, exploitation and the power-struggle of the empires, or make a revolutionary change? As the stalemated war of 1914-18 with its frightful destruction of life and property continued year after year, the determination in favor of revolutionary change grew and crystalized.
David Lloyd George, Britain’s Prime Minister, put the situation into words presented to the Versailles Peace Conference on March 25, 1919: “The whole of Europe is filled with the spirit of revolution.... The whole existing order in its political, social and economic aspects is questioned by the masses of the population from one end of Europe to the other.” (Memorandum of Lloyd George to the Peace Conference, 1922 Cmd. 1614.)
Lloyd George proved a true prophet. Mass discontent and the spirit of revolt spread rapidly. Soldiers at the front mutinied. The armies of Tsarist Russia dissolved as the privates and officers alike returned to their homes, determined to stop war, end Romanoff tyranny and build a better life for the Russian people. To gain these results they replaced the Tsarist absolutism by local, regional and nationally elected people’s Soviets.
Before the War began in July, 1914, the socialist parties of Europe were divided between moderates who were willing to accept welfare-state reforms and allow the grab-and-keep structure of monopoly capitalism to continue in authority, and revolutionaries who demanded the abolition of capitalist imperialism and its replacement by socialism. European reformist socialists shouldered arms in July, 1914, and shot down their comrades across the frontiers. European revolutionary socialists, led by Lenin in Russia, Liebknecht in Germany and Jaures in France gained in strength as the war proceeded. Liebknecht and Jaures were assassinated. Lenin lived in exile until he went back to Russia and led the revolutionary forces that liquidated Tsarism in the closing months of 1917.
For the first time in the history of western civilization, a proletarian revolutionary force had established its authority over one of the most extensive and populous nations on the planet. For the first time a responsible government threatened to abandon the fundamental assumptions and principles of western civilization. Could this new “subversive” government survive in the merciless free-for-all in which western man was engaged? Could it not only survive but build up a social system which contradicted and condemned the underlying precepts of the West? In a word, could socialism be built in one country, surrounded by civilized monopoly capitalist powers?
Historical events have answered these questions in the affirmative. At this writing the Soviet Government has survived continuously for more than half a century. During that period it has transformed economically, politically and culturally backward portions of Europe and Asia into one of the most advanced areas on the planet.
Monopoly capitalist society assumes that productivity, wealth and fire-power, effectively co-ordinated under competent authority, will guarantee survival and perhaps win supremacy. Beginning its life in one of the backward areas of the planet, the Soviet Union has met all of these tests by converting itself into a first class world power. Its productivity is second only to that of the United States. In wealth it stands second among the nations. Its fire power has carried the Soviet Union to victory in civil and international war. Its ruling oligarchy—the Soviet Communist Party—has maintained its authority through the stresses of domestic strife and major international conflict. In terms accepted by the existing free-for-all West, the Soviet Union is an established world power.
Through the first three decades of its existence the Soviet Union was the only government avowedly engaged in building a socialist rival to monopoly capitalism and determined to replace capitalism as the dominant planet-wide social system. After 1943 it was joined by a dozen other European, Asian and American countries, dedicated like the Soviet Union to the task of building socialism. In addition to these dozen countries, several others such as India, Burma, Indonesia, Ceylon, Ghana and Libya, declared their intention of building socialism by legal, and gradual stages. Almost all of the countries busied with socialist construction were in East Europe and Asia. The countries building toward socialism were more widely scattered, but by and large they were Eurasian.
From 1919 to 1943 socialist construction was directed, at least in theory, by the Communist International with headquarters in Moscow—the “general staff of the World Revolution”. Under war pressure the Communist International was dissolved in 1943. No equally inclusive international socialist authority has since been established.
World revolution is not confined to the Old World of Africa—Asia—Europe. It is widely prevalent in the Americas where it can claim a certain priority. Outstanding among colonial uprisings of modern times was the rebellion of the British colonies of North America, from 1776 to 1783. Even more widespread was the rebellion of the Spanish, Portuguese and French colonies of Central and South America which spanned most of the nineteenth century and extended on into the twentieth. Russian Bolsheviks held the headlines on revolutionary activity from 1917 to 1943 but it should not be forgotten that one of the most prolonged and thorough-going revolutions of the present century gripped Mexico from 1910 to 1917. At the beginning of this period Mexico was a political semi-dependency of the United States. It was semi-feudal, with a large population of Amerindians and a pre-industrial economy. Foreign capitalists and entrepreneurs, including those from the United States, played a leading role in the country.
Mexico’s 1910-1917 revolution was prolonged. It was also radical, up-rooting many aspects of its old social pattern, speeding up the bourgeois revolution, and preparing the way for a Mexican form of populism and a Mexican foretaste of a proletarian revolution, initiated, led and manned by Mexicans.
Mexico’s revolution resulted in two important developments that have played a major role in socialist construction. Both contributions appeared in the Mexican Constitution of 1917, adopted eight months before the Russian Bolsheviks seized power in November.
The first contribution was a chapter on the rights of labor. Bourgeois constitutions had emphasized “civil” rights: the right to vote, trial by jury; freedom of speech, press, assembly; the right to go and come; the right to compensation when private property is taken for public purposes; the right to modify or replace the existing constitution. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 contained a detailed specification of the rights of labor, including proper working conditions, adequate compensation, education, health, social security. The Constitution also contained a crucial property provision: the natural resources of Mexico are the property of the Mexican people and cannot be alienated.
This second provision was inserted in the Mexican Constitution at a time when extensive concessions to develop Mexican resources had been handed out to North American and European capitalists. It was inserted in part because the social ownership and sharing of land and other natural resources has been one of the basic demands of the Socialist—Communist—Anarchist movements from their inception.
Monopoly capitalism depends primarily on the private ownership of the means of production, including natural resources. Capitalist opposition to socialism is not only a matter of theory. In practice the private ownership of natural resources enables the owner to charge rent to any and all users. Natural resources are sharply limited and usually localized. As population grows, demand for living space is intensified and rents rise. It is not an accident that the stretches of “black earth”, of copper, iron, petroleum, the precious metals, and the land occupied by Mexico City, London, New York and other population centers, poured a stream of wealth into the treasuries and augmented the power of their owners.
Effects of the insertion into the Mexican Constitution of the provision making natural resources “the property of the Mexican people” have been far-reaching. One socialist country after another has written into its constitution a provision that its natural wealth is the inalienable heritage of its people. This provision has two important results: it establishes natural resources as part of the public sector of the national economy; it also limits the possibility of handing out concessions to foreign exploiters, private or public.
During the opening years of the present century socialist parties and other forward looking organizations were demanding social ownership of natural resources, public utilities and other social means of production as the next logical step toward a more equitable distribution of wealth and income. There was a possibility that such revolutionary changes could be made under bourgeois law by exercising the right of eminent domain, upon the payment of reasonable compensation to former owners. At least in theory, the democratic majority in any bourgeois country could put an end to private enterprise capitalism and establish socialism by a constitutional amendment, legislative enactment, and a caretaker political apparatus to administer and supervise the transition.
Socialist parties were making “reformist” demands for better working and living conditions and “revolutionary” demands for changes in property and class relationships. Increased productivity and growing affluence made it possible for a progressive bourgeois state to meet the reformist demands, establishing a welfare state legally and constitutionally.
Under the bourgeois constitutions generally existing at the beginning of the present century, a popular majority could adopt necessary constitutional amendments, pass the necessary enabling laws and launch a program of socialist construction.
Such a program was part of the thinking of European and other socialist leaders during the opening years of the present century. Inspired and encouraged by the successes of socialist construction in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, middle of the road socialists proposed to move gradually and legally from capitalism to socialism.
Conservative socialists who were members of coalition governments in parts of Eurasia, described such welfare states as victories for socialism, despite the fact that they left the essentials of state power in bourgeois hands.
Between 1920 and 1950 the western world found itself in this essentially revolutionary situation: the world-wide revolution in science and technology had opened the way for the human race to turn its back on the limitations and inadequacies of civilization and advance to a new level of culture and human opportunity.
The impact of this revolutionary situation expressed itself at several levels:
1. Much of west and central Europe, important parts of North America, much of Australasia, important parts of East Asia and fringes of Africa had at least two generations of experience with some degree of affluence.
2. Scientifically and technologically maturing societies that had opted for socialism constitutionally and legally were engaged officially in socialist construction. These countries and peoples were located chiefly in Eurasia.
3. Former colonial and client dependencies of the nineteenth century empires struggling for
Page 109self-determination and statehood were entering a stage of affluence. These countries and peoples were mainly Afro-Asian. Some of them were located in Latin America.
4. Countries and peoples still under the political, economic and cultural umbrella of the formerly dominant empires were at different stages in the completion of the bourgeois revolution. Their ruling oligarchies—fascist or neo-fascist—were stubborn defenders of remnants and fragments of the nineteenth century bourgeois culture. Their stronghold was the Atlantic Community.
During the cold war years following 1945 each of these groups was undergoing the drastic social changes incident to the worldwide revolution of the period. Meanwhile mini-wars, civil and international, were fought in the Americas, Africa and Asia. By common consent conventional weapons were used and atomic weapons were kept in mothballs.
These experiences were highlighted in British Guyana and Cuba. British Guyana was a Crown Colony, with a London-appointed Governor and a small occupying force of British troops with an elected legislative assembly and a considerable measure of home rule.
Democratic socialists Cheddi and Janet Jagan helped to organize the Peoples Progressive Party of British Guyana. Twice Jagan won a popular electoral majority and was established as Prime Minister of the British Colony. His two periods of administrative responsibility were badgered and hectored by every reactionary force that could be mobilized inside and outside British Guyana, from the British appointed governor to the domestic and foreign business interests and the urban trade unions. Before a third election British and American governments, business and labor interests got together. Money was funnelled into the country through trade union connections. Protests were staged. Riots were organized. The electoral system under which the Peoples Progressive Party had won its victories was altered in London and Jagan was replaced by a system of proportional representation under which the P.P.P. was defeated and a new regime inaugurated.
Throughout the struggle the Peoples Progressive Party had insisted upon winning popular majorities as a basis for establishing socialism in the colony by democratic methods and legal means. Imperialist reactionaries from Britain’s Prime Minister and the President of the United States to the A.F. of L.-C.I.O. retorted: “No you don’t”, and backed up their veto with money, riots and guns. As a consequence of this counter-revolutionary conspiracy, the Peoples Progressive Party was forced out of office and an administration favorable to British, United States and native Guyanese capital was substituted.
A revolt was led by Fidel Castro and his associates against the Washington-backed Batista regime in Havana, Cuba. When Cuba was seized by United States armed forces during the Spanish-American War of 1898 much of the island was in the hands of anti-Spanish rebels who were demanding independence of Spain’s imperialist rule. Between 1898 and 1959 seven million Cubans enjoyed technical independence. Actually the island, located only 90 miles from Florida, was economically a United States colony and politically a Washington dependency, with United States armed forces stationed in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. After seizing power in 1959, Castro went to the United States seeking a market for Cuba’s chief export, sugar; a source of food supplies not produced in Cuba, and the manufactures necessary for the economic and social life of an essentially agricultural island.
Batista had emptied the Cuban treasury before he fled the island in 1959. Castro therefore needed loans to meet the immediate needs of the Cuban economy. He also sought to continue arrangements under which the chief market of Cuban sugar was in the United States. Castro was turned down cold. All doors, political and economic, were closed to him. As a revolutionary with left leanings he got the cold shoulder in New York as well as in Washington.
Faced by economic bankruptcy and political hostility in the West, Castro turned to the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. They bought his sugar on long term contracts; provided him with manufactures; extended loans. Under these economic and political conditions Castro’s Cuba had no choice. Of necessity it became a part of the socialist bloc, took over the property of Americans and other foreign investors, planned its economy and announced socialist goals, thus making the island of Cuba the only outpost of socialist construction in the Americas.
Socialists exercised authority in one country from 1917 until 1943. Thereafter the land area devoted to building socialism steadily increased. By the time China threw off imperialist leading strings and opted for socialist construction in 1949, a third of mankind was living on territory under nominally socialist control. Most of this territory was Asian. An important part lay in eastern Europe. Until 1917, effective control of the planet was held by a half-dozen empires headed by the British, who exercised authority over a quarter of the human race living on a quarter of the earth’s land area. After 1917 socialism mushroomed as a potential competing social system, challenging monopoly capitalism in Europe, replacing it in large sections of Asia and even threatening to destroy the foundations of western civilization.
“Action and reaction are equal and opposite” is an axiom of physical science which is also applicable in the social field. The sweep of world revolution and the growth of socialism-communism after 1945 called into being an opposing force of counter-revolution. The greater the successes of socialism, the more ardent and assiduous was the counter drive, aimed to modify, negate and, if possible, to destroy the revolution and restore the social system of imperialism-colonialism built by monopoly capitalism to its prerevolutionary status of planet-wide ascendancy.
Winston Churchill personified this counter revolutionary drive. It was he who proposed to “strangle the Bolshevik infant in its cradle”. The Peace Conferees, meeting in Versailles, heeded Lloyd George’s warning of March, 1919, and turned their attention to the urgent task of strangling socialism. Revolutionary beginnings in central Europe were stamped out. Funds were raised and arms were supplied to the anti-Bolshevik forces in European Russia and Siberia. At the height of the counter-Bolshevik crusade there were sixteen armies in Soviet Russia with the common aim of destroying Bolshevism and restoring the country to its previous status as one of the pillars of western civilization. This military phase of the counter-revolution lasted for four years. It failed. By 1922 the Soviet leaders were able to turn their energies to the task of rebuilding a devastated country while they planned and organized a socialist society.
Counter revolutionary forces failed to overthrow the Bolsheviks during the civil war of 1918-1921. They failed again when the Nazi armies swarmed into the Soviet Union in June, 1941. The years from 1941 to 1945 cost the Russians perhaps twenty million dead, six million dwelling units and immense damage to their economy and their social organization. When the war ended, responsible observers in the West predicted that if the Soviet power survived, decades must elapse before the country was back on its feet.
War destruction had played havoc with much of Europe. The Soviet Union was especially hard hit. Under the Marshall Plan billions of dollars of United States aid were poured into Britain, France, Belgium and West Germany. At the same time, the Soviet request for United States loans was refused categorically by President Truman. Alone and unaided the Soviet People repaired the extensive damage inflicted by the 1914-18 war, the Russian Civil War and the 1941 military invasion from the West, and went on with the task of socialist construction which the war had interrupted. Within five years—by 1950—the Bolsheviks were again on their feet, going strong, extending substantial aid to China and other professedly socialist countries and playing a crucial part in the struggle for disarmament and peace.
At war’s end in 1918 the Soviet Union was struggling to draw the first breath of socialist life. Three decades later, after expelling the Nazis, the Soviet Union was a sturdy giant of a nation standing head and shoulders above its nearest European competitors. During the interval, Soviet Russia was attacked, denounced, boycotted, encircled, invaded, ostracized as the leading figure in “an international communist conspiracy”. When the policy of intervention and invasion failed, the counter-revolutionaries turned to cold war.
Whether or not there was a “communist conspiracy” to overthrow capitalism, there was certainly an organized capitalist conspiracy to overthrow socialism-communism. Representatives of the chief capitalist empires made repeated attempts to subsidize anti-Bolshevik forces in the Soviet Union. From 1918 to 1921 and from 1941 to 1945 they used every available means, including military invasion, to overthrow the Soviet Union and stamp out the beginnings of socialist construction in Central and East Europe.
From the military invasions of the Soviet Union immediately following war’s end in 1918, western spokesmen, led by President Wilson, did their utmost to subsidize counter-revolution inside the Soviet Union, to send American and other armed forces into the country, to villify, denounce, boycott and handicap the Soviet Government. Sixteen years passed (1917-1933) before Washington extended diplomatic recognition to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. President Wilson did his best to keep the Soviet Union and Mexico, both under the control of revolutionary governments, out of the League of Nations.
After the 1936-1945 war Washington played the same role with regard to China, refusing for twenty-two years to recognize Socialist China diplomatically, leading the drive in the United Nations to exclude China from membership, although the United Nations Charter specified that China should be one of the permanent members of the Security Council. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles justified the policy of blacklisting and boycotting China by declaring that there was no such nation as China on the Asian mainland, only 650 million slaves, and that Chiang Kai Shek’s rump government on the island of Formosa was the “China” specified in the U.N. Charter.
Under the Truman Doctrine announced immediately after war’s end in 1945, the United States refused to tolerate any extension of socialism, whether by revolution from within or by invasion from without any country. This doctrine was applied to Greece, to Iran, to Guatemala, to Santo Domingo, to Chile. During the Korean War, which began in June, 1950, one of President Truman’s first directives ordered the United States Seventh (Pacific) Fleet to occupy the waters about Taiwan (Formosa), which was historically part of China.
In order to implement this anti-communist policy, Washington used a newly created international secret service, the Central Intelligence Agency or C.I.A., gave it an initial appropriation of $100,000,000 and turned it loose to spy, corrupt, undermine and overthrow governments that refused to accept or follow Washington’s leadership.
Between 1815 and 1914 the planet enjoyed a measure of peace and order. In the three decades between 1914 and 1945, two general wars, a plague of lesser wars, a general economic depression and a hurricane of revolutions scourged the planet. Meanwhile, the revolution in science and technology and its products penetrated almost every crack and cranny of human society.
Had the changes incidental to these rapid transformations been carefully planned and supervised, the disturbances in the ecology and the shocks to human society would have been less disturbing and upsetting. In the absence of any planet-wide authority, there could be neither general planning nor general supervision. There were warnings aplenty from liberals and radicals who were attempting to keep the situation in perspective, but such utterances failed to reach the great bulk of mankind.
Disturbing and upsetting products of the revolution in science and technology—the harnessing of steam, the internal combustion engine, the air plane, electronics, plastics, and the release of atomic energy—were used to mutilate, destroy and kill. During the half century that began in 1910, tens of millions were mobilized, fed, taught, armed, and led to the slaughter fields by the masters of western civilization in two long orgies of wholesale destruction and mass murder—1914-18 and 1936-1945. Energies and techniques that might have brought peace and plenty to the human family were used to set fire storms that incinerated property while it degraded humanity to the horrors of mass suicide.
In a very real sense these ghoulish results were the logical outcome of competitive nationalism armed and equipped with the technology produced during the two centuries of the great revolution. War is the most carefully planned, most elaborate and most intensive form of competition—the decisive climax of a life and death struggle for survival.
The great revolution had put into human hands almost infinite possibilities for utilizing nature and improving the social environment. With foresight, careful planning and skillful manipulation of forces and trends the cultivatable portions of the planetary land mass might have been turned into a garden of unending plenty dotted with marvelous city centers of light and learning.
In order to achieve such results it would have been necessary for the human family to coordinate its efforts around an agreed division of labor, share the goods and services produced and move from one level of affluence to a level of abundance.
Instead of joint efforts to achieve abundance and security, the most prosperous and most highly developed centers of western civilization consolidated their authority in sovereign states, surrounded by forbidding frontiers, armed them with the most destructive agencies that human imagination and ingenuity could devise, schooled the citizens of each nation in the suicidal formula: “might makes right; every nation for itself and woe betide the laggard and the loser.”
The logical ideology of such a formula was egomania, suspicion, fear and hatred. Its outcome was a competitive life and death struggle for wealth and power, with the nation or a bloc of nations as the units of competition. The struggle at its highest level involved occasional local wars and periodical general wars like those of 1914-18 and 1936-45.
Before the great revolution such struggles were waged chiefly with weapons wielded by human muscle power, supplemented with whatever animal power was available. Equipped with the products of the technological revolution, the struggle became a war of machines, powered by the energies of nature. Retail killing and destruction was replaced by mass murder and wholesale annihilation.
Given the assumptions, the practices and the institutions of civilization, the catastrophic losses of the present century could have been foretold and, with competent leadership and disciplined followership, could have been averted. But leadership was self-serving, shortsighted and for the most part untrained, while followership was split up into national and local segments, each following the suicidal doctrine of every nation for itself and the devil take the laggards.
Socialists-communists around the earth have spent a wealth of time and energy during several generations predicting the present revolutionary upset and preparing for it. They have been derided, denounced and persecuted for their efforts. Despite bitter opposition they have prepared for change, they accept change, they welcome it, because in change they see the only path to improvement and betterment.
They are learning to live with change and even to welcome it because the time of troubles through which their society is passing is warning them of the dangers they face. At the same time they are learning, bit by bit, of the spectacular achievements of the billion human beings in socialist-communist countries.
The majority of mankind has been unprepared for revolutionary change. When change came they resented it, maybe resisted it at the outset.
Those who have a vested interest in capitalist imperialism—the real backbone of the counter-revolution—join and support counter-revolutionary organizations and take part in counter-revolutionary activities.
Planners and organizers of the counter-revolution have the bourgeois state generally on their side and enjoy the backing of the bourgeois establishment, its organizations and its facilities. Since their object is defense, they have no constructive program. Instead they stumble, fumble and bungle as their system flounders into one disastrous crisis after another.
WESTERN CIVILIZATION ATTEMPTS SUICIDE (1914-1945)
Each bit of handiwork, each artifact, tool and machine is an expression of man’s wish and will. Each transcends nature and is an affirmation that takes its place in the vast storehouse of human culture.
Cities, the building blocks of civilization, not only transcend nature; they replace her. Up to a certain point man lived more or less consciously as a part of nature. Bit by bit and step by step man shifted from the stream, the glade, the tree and the cave to the hut, the village, the city, the nation, the empire, the civilization.
Early in this study I wrote of civilization as an experiment: an aspiration, a creative urge, a concept, a purpose, a unity of thought and act, a conscious sequence of related actions, a construct of multiplying complexity.
These terms, by and large, are constructive and, to a degree, creative. I might have written a parallel series of words associated with destructiviness. In every social situation construction and destruction are Siamese twins. One does not appear without the other. The same forces, the same implements, the same institutions and practices that construct can be used to destroy.
Through ages, men learned how to establish, maintain and perpetuate community and organize society. At every stage of the building process it was necessary to check, to question, to evaluate, unlearn, tear down, make a new start. Pushing up and tearing or wearing down is implicit in nature. It is an essential aspect of human society.
Each human being is a living example of production and destruction. Each generation repeats the affirmation, modifying it little or much in accord with circumstances.
Modification means purposeful change—partially or wholly abandoning the old and replacing it with something new. In the course of these changes the conservative elements in man and in society, voluntarily or under coercion, give up the old and learn how to use the new. The learning process is always more or less painful, especially to people past middle age.
The world-wide revolution resulted from a long-continued related series of affirmations, punctuated and interrupted by contradictions and conflicts.
Trends inherent in the world-wide revolution of 1750-1970 suggest a cycle that reached its high point at the turn of the century and began its downward course around 1900. The chief European empires were jointly and severally involved in the bitter struggle for survival and supremacy from 1870 onward. Until the outbreak of war in 1914, events followed an irregular course marked by the shifting relationships of Italy and the increased pressure from Germany for a showdown. The showdown was the war of 1914-18, continued in a second phase from 1936 to 1945.
Immediate political results of the showdown were victory for one side and defeat for the other side. Economic, sociological and ideological consequences were profound and far reaching. We noted some of them in the previous chapter.
UNESCO’s History of Mankind devotes its final volume six to the twentieth century. The authors note that the chief European powers emerged from the general war of 1914-18 “weakened in every way: in men and wealth, in the balance of their economies and the stability of their political structure and above all in their relation to other powers rising or beginning to rise in other parts of the world”. (Vol. VI p. 10.)
Aside from the victory-defeat relationship which led to political realignments during the post-war years, the essence of the experience is to be found in the UNESCO phrase “weakened in every way”. Another way of describing the experience is to state that the participants in this four year blood bath were “bled white.”
It is easy to be specific. In the course of the war sixty million people were mobilized. Most of these people stopped what they had been doing until mid-summer of 1914 and began an entirely new line of activity. Up to that point most of them had been living with their families, in their neighborhoods, going through a daily routine that included household cares, production or service work, the conduct of neighborhood affairs, the maintenance of normal livelihood activities, the upbringing of the new generation and perhaps most important of all, adaptation to a rapidly changing social situation.
The changes that took place in the summer of 1914 involved an almost complete reversal of purpose and direction. Up to that point Europeans were devoting a considerable proportion of their time to production and the maintenance of the normal life routine. At that point they left their homes, exchanged ordinary clothes for uniforms, laid down the implements of peace, picked up the weapons of war and prepared, under very expert leadership and direction, a series of mass movements designed to disrupt the ordinary life routine of other human beings on the other side of lines drawn on a map, but having little relation to customary life activity and even less to geography.
Execution of this purpose involved a mass movement from the home territory into that occupied by the “enemy”. If the enemy resisted he must be forced to do the will of the invaders. Instead of cooperating in a joint effort to maintain and improve the general welfare, uniformed, armed, expertly-led masses began beating up each other, until one side gave in and cried “enough.”
Plans for war had been drawn and redrawn for years, for decades. Elaborate preparations had been made. Destructive weapons had been designed and built. Transport had been provided, food stored. Defensive preparations had also been made in the form of fortifications so placed as to obstruct or prevent “the enemy” from crossing the “frontier”.
When sport-lovers go from home for a day to play a competition in another city or province, they go, play the game and then go back home to continue the ordinary life routine. In the case of the project we are now considering they left home in July, 1914 and returned months or years later. Many never got back home because they were killed in battle or died of wounds; many were “missing”; they disappeared.
If casualties in the 1914-18 war had been numbered in dozens, or scores or even in hundreds, the communities from which they came could have gone on without them—handicapped perhaps but not seriously disrupted. But when they were numbered in thousands and tens of thousands it was a quite different story. Actually, they were numbered in millions.
Mobilized to carry on the war were 42.2 million on the Allied side. On the side of the Central Powers, 22.8 millions. The total: 65 million. 12 million of those mobilized were Russian, 11 million were Germans, 8.4 million were French, 8 million were from the British Empire. From Austro-Hungary came 7.8 million, from Italy, 5.6 million. Turkey furnished 2.9 million, Bulgaria 1.2 million; 4.4 million came from the United States; 0.8 million from Japan. Lesser numbers came from other countries.
Except for Spain, the largest contributions of war conscripts came from the countries with the largest populations. With the exception of Spain, all of the great powers of Europe provided the “cannon fodder”; the human beings which Europe’s “great powers” assembled to take part in this profligate orgy of mass murder which went on for more than four years, from July 1914 until November 1918.
Body count reports and “estimates” give the total number of human beings murdered in the four year period as 8,538,315. (The legal definition of “murder” is killing, not accidentally but with the intention of taking life.)
This figure of 8.5 million murdered human adults, most of them in the prime of life, refers to the murdered bodies that were recovered and disposed of. In addition there were “prisoners” and “missing.”
As the 1914-18 war proceeded it became less a series of combats between human beings; more and more it was a war of machines such as battleships, tanks, big guns and by war’s end, of airplanes. Human beings drew up the plans, made the blueprints, shifted the gears, pushed the buttons. Their efforts were supplemented and multiplied by the killing power of physics, chemistry and mechanics brought to the task of wholesale murder, which produced 8.5 million dead human bodies.
“Prisoners and missing” accounted for 7,750,000 additional human beings. Many of them were torn to shreds and smithereens by the gigantic concentration of mechanical and explosive power, designed, constructed and transported to the European battlefields for the express purpose of carrying on this month-long and year-long collective endeavor to take as much life as possible and destroy as much property as possible while war declarations authorized and legalized mass murder and wholesale destruction.
Not all victims of the hideous 1914-18 blood bath were killed. “Wound casualties” numbered 12.8 million among the Allies; 8.4 million among the boys, young men and adults mobilized by the Central Powers. Some of the wounded were crippled for life. Some were less severely injured, but all 22.2 million were more or less severely handicapped when they stood up to face the rigors of civilian life at war’s end. All were denied the possibility of living normal, productive, creative, satisfying lives.
Wars are fought on battlefields. In the war of 1914-18 many of the battlefields included villages, towns, cities. These complex institutions, occupied by men, women and children were smashed and burned wholesale.
The figures which I have used in listing the 1914-18 war losses were compiled by the United States War Department. They are more or less accurate, but they underline the fact that for years on end the centers of western civilization concentrated their energies and devoted every means at their disposal to cripple or destroy fellow human beings and their habitations.
When we read of the destruction of the Roman Empire we console and perhaps try to fool ourselves by saying that the immense network of civilization which the Romans and their Greek associates spread across Eurasia and Africa during the historical period that began about 700 B.C. was destroyed by hordes of migrating “barbarians.” When we turn to our own civilization, however, there are no barbarian hordes to take the blame. The wholesale destruction which took place in Europe from 1914 to 1918 and which was repeated and multiplied during the wars of 1936-1945 was carried on officially by spokesmen for the most advanced, most highly developed, most civilized countries of the western world.
We have been using the word “murder” to describe the wholesale slaughter of Europeans by Europeans that took place from 1914 to 1918 and from 1936 to 1945. The word “murder” is inaccurate. The Europeans who carried on the wholesale destruction and mass murder during the two most general wars of modern times were committing murder in one sense. In quite another sense they were engaged in collective suicide. Europeans were blotting out the life and well-being of fellow Europeans. When the process came to a temporary halt in 1945 every European participant in the struggle was weaker in human potential and poorer in economic means than they were when the war began.
Arnold Toynbee describes the entire episode as the “down grading” of Europe. He might have added two words and reported “the down grading of Europe by Europeans”, as a glaring example of large scale, long continued, deliberate self-destruction.
Fundamental social changes were bound to follow the revolutionary technical transformations that took place during the world-wide revolution of 1750-1970. Changes may be made in various ways. Some are slow and relatively painless, particularly when they extend over generations; other changes are so rapid that they are agonizingly painful. Involuntary changes, made under outside pressure are almost always painful. World-wide revolution, under the best of conditions, promises to be painful. When it comes from alien sources, and is under forced pressure, the costs are almost sure to be excessively high.
This brings us face to face with one of the most important problems facing mankind at the present moment. Given the worldwide revolution of the past two centuries, what changes—political, economic, sociological and ideological—must be made to prepare the way for the new society and shift the family from the old homestead to the new apartment with a minimum of pain and a maximum of satisfaction?
TALKING PEACE AND WAGING WAR
Blatant contradictions disorganized human life after war’s end in 1945. In the crucial area of war and peace three groups were bidding for attention: dedicated peace partisans (peacenicks); nationalist enthusiasts waging wars of liberation; and massive semi-official and official nationalistic groups busily preparing for the next big war.
Occasionally these groups joined hands on “hot” issues. Generally they were far apart. Often they were in active opposition.
Dedicated peace advocates were an important factor in this post-war period. They had been vocal and influential in July, 1914 immediately before the outbreak of the first general war. They had continued to play an active role between the first and second general wars. In the autumn of 1972 the World Peace Council called together a peace assembly in Moscow representing significant elements from 143 countries. The largest single element in the World Peace Council was the Socialist bloc, headed by the Soviet Union.
Peace advocates mobilized wide public support for the “no more war” movement that developed during the closing months of the 1914-18 war; for the Briand-Kellogg Treaty of 1928 which renounced war as an instrument of policy; for the effort to secure general disarmament that resulted in the General Disarmament Conference of 1933 and for the United Nations Charter of 1945.
Official declarations in favor of disarmament and peace had been paralleled by the organization of unofficial peace committees and societies in western Europe, in the Americas and in the socialist countries.
Peace efforts had been strengthened by the outbreak of local wars—between India and Pakistan, between Israel and the Arab League; by wars of independence and liberation in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Africa.
Much of the public backing for the peacenicks came from student groups in official and private high schools, colleges and universities.
Nationalist liberation movements were active in settled communities such as Ireland and Canada’s Province of Quebec. There were less established movements in newly liberated restless ex-colonies and remaining colonies of the chief European empires, of Japan and of the United States. The widely advertised World Peace Council turned more and more from general advocacy of peace, such as the Stockholm Peace Petition, to the support of liberation movements among colonials and supressed minor nationalities.
Preparations for another general war were expanded and intensified as the competitive struggle for oil and other natural resources mounted. By the end of the 1960’s total arms expenditures of the chief powers were running at $200 billion per year. In 1973 the total reached $225 billion.
There was much general talk about peace, but the most insistent note sounded for a high level of spending on armaments. Britain’s Prime Minister Heath voiced a sentiment vigorously promulgated by every representative of national security “British interests come first”.
Confusion was heightened by the presence of men who faced all three ways: talking peace, waging small wars and preparing for the next big one. In February, 1974 in his State of the Union message to the U.S. Congress, President Nixon spoke of “our goal of building a structure of lasting peace in the world.” At the same moment the Washington administration was feeding the fires of war in South East Asia and asking the United States Congress to increase 1975 U.S.A. defense appropriations from $80 billion to $90 billion per year.
When war ended in 1945 there was a planet-wide sigh of relief and a devout hope that after so many years of local and general wars, the time had come for western man to take a long decisive step in the direction of peace. The United Nations Charter expressed this hope to end the use of war as an instrument of policy.
Since the period of general social relaxation usually known as the Dark Ages was superceded by the multiple innovations of the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the scientific-technical developments of the 1750-1970 Revolution, man the dreamer, inventor, designer, planner, architect and engineer has modified many aspects of nature and transformed the social environment.
Until the Reformation and the Renaissance, European ruling oligarchies in territories along the Mediterranean and throughout western Europe were able to perpetuate their privileges and preserve the life styles of an agricultural-feudal society. Improvements in navigation and the growth of trade, commerce and industry opened the way for the bourgeois revolution with its rapid growth of cities and the parallel increase of wealth, income, and living standards among the newly-enriched businessmen and their associates and dependents.
Social changes in feudal Europe had been gradual. The dynamism implicit in the bourgeois revolution escalated the rate of social change with corresponding modifications in the pattern of European political, economic and cultural institutions and practices.
In the early stages of the transformation the awareness of change was limited to a minority of city dwellers. To the rural illiterate majority, change was a closed book. A great social gulf separated the feudal countryside from the growing centers of trade, commerce and industry. Bourgeois life processes narrowed and gradually bridged the gulf. Differences between city and country living persisted, but the stark contrast between city abundance of goods and services and their virtual absence from the common life of the countryside grew less and less marked as the proportion of the total population living in the countryside declined with the trek to cities and their suburbs.
Europeans living for the most part in a pre-civilized rural environment passed through generations of illiterate unawareness of the social process through which European life was expanding. The rapid extension of industry and commerce after 1750 (the bourgeois revolution) completed the transformation of a rural, semi-feudal west and central Europe into a continent of town and city dwellers devoting their lives to pursuits unknown to their immediate forebears. In this new Europe the countryside played a decreasing role, as food supplies and raw materials came increasingly from less developed parts of eastern Europe or from the colonies which were opened up by the planet-wide trade and commerce promoted by the aggressive expansion of the European empires.
Most Europeans, satisfied with the axiom “old fashions please me best” were stand-patters in the early stages of this transformation. As the conversion of Europe from feudal status to urban dynamism continued, however, an ever larger part of the population became aware of the change through which their society was passing. With the Renaissance and the Enlightenment inert unawareness gave place to enthusiastic propaganda in the writings of pamphleteers, essayists, poets, novelists and social reformers who set the intellectual tone for the new society.
In a very real sense, the bourgeois Europe which emerged after 1750 was something new under the sun. Large elements of the population, previously engaged in producing and consuming the bare necessaries of food, shelter and clothing were increasingly engaged in trades and professions and rendering services unknown to the feudal countryside. As the expansion of western civilization continued, entire European nations like the Low Countries, England and Germany turned to trade, commerce, industry, leaving only a dwindling minority engaged in agricultural pursuits. The change was speeded by the revolution in science and technology.
Changes in economic and social relations are paralleled by corresponding alterations in the total way of living. Western civilization was, in its entirety, a cultural departure from the pattern of any preceding experiment with civilization because of the drastic changes that the revolution in science and technology had introduced into human society.
Throughout the life-cycle of western civilization minor and major alterations have been made in its structure and its function. Some of the earlier political changes were part and parcel of the bourgeois revolution. They included:
1. The abolition of absolute monarchies and hereditary aristocracies and their replacement by limited monarchies and republics with various types of representative and popular governments selected by ballot.
2. The replacement of personal tyrannies and autocracies by written constitutions and laws passed by elected parliaments.
3. Replacement of war as the sport of kings and the chief instrument of policy makers, by negotiation, diplomacy, and treaties which became the core of existing “international law.”
4. Arbitrary national sovereignty was supplemented by more or less permanent alliances and by the formal international organizations such as the Universal Postal Union, the World Court and the League of Nations.
5. Regional Associations were organized; the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; the Organization of American States and the Organization for European Unity.
6. Disarmament conferences were held. General peace treaties were signed like the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact of 1928 and the United Nations Charter.
7. Two major efforts were made to establish a general confederation of nations and empires—the League of Nations in 1919 and the United Nations a quarter of a century later. Both the League of Nations and the United Nations proved to be feeble and ineffectual efforts to bridge the gulf between limited national sovereignty and planet-wide order and peace. But they were tentative steps in the direction of a federation of the world and they did mark a notable advance from the chaos and conflict incident to the planet-wide expansion of the European empires toward more stable economic and social conditions and more orderly international relationships.
Paralleling these changes in the political life of western civilization there have been a number of drastic economic reforms. One was the abolition of chattel slavery. A second was the replacement of serfdom and peonage by free labor receiving fixed wages and salaries. A third change was the division of large feudal estates and other concentrated landed properties into small units owned and operated by working farmers. A fourth change was the establishment of free trade areas within and among sovereign states. A fifth innovation was the transfer of individually operated and family businesses into associations and corporations with limited liability and widespread ownership by bond and stockholders. Sixth, trade unions and consumers’ cooperatives were recognized and legalized. Seventh, legal provisions were made for social security against accident, sickness, unemployment, old age. Minimum incomes were guaranteed. Eighth, many steps were taken toward public or social ownership of the means of production, including land and other natural resources. Ninth, repeated governmental efforts were made to deal with the inflation that attends prolonged exhausting wars. These efforts included the regulation of credit and debt and the substitution of new currencies for old ones that had been hopelessly devalued.
Political and economic changes in the life-patterns of western civilization have been accompanied by far-reaching cultural reforms such as the provision of free public education; the emancipation of women; the provision of public recreation facilities; popularized culture through information, the drama, music, literature, art; equalizing opportunity and facilitating movement up and down the ladder of recognition, approval, disapproval.
Political reforms of western civilization date from the Reformation and the Renaissance. Economic reforms were speeded by the industrial revolution. Together they are often described as the bourgeois revolution, which resulted in the power shift from landlords, ecclesiastics and knights in armor to businessmen, protected and assisted by the state, the church, channels of information and propaganda, the police and other armed forces. Cultural reforms accompanied the reforms in politics and economics.
Underlying the changes and supplementing reforms were improvements in the means of communication and transportation; the discovery and use of new sources of energy and the changes in production and merchandizing which have played so vital a role in the transition from a skimpy economy of scarcity to an open-handed economy of abundance, extravagance and conspicuous waste.
Through all of the political, economic and social changes made in the structure and function of western civilization its basic activities have remained unchanged. The nuclei of civilized life have been cities concerned primarily with trade, commerce, industry, finance—planned, organized and administered by businessmen, their professional and technical associates and assistants. In practice, city centers of wealth and power have expanded, using the military as the readiest means of implementing policy. They have occupied and garrisoned the foreign territory brought under their control. At home and abroad they have exploited nature, men and other animals in their interest and for their profit. The trading cities of medieval Europe, the emerging nations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the colonizing empires of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the industrial European empires of the nineteenth century devoted their energies increasingly to expanding into new territory, occupying and exploiting it, and fighting the wars which pock-marked the ceaseless struggle for pelf and power. In short, they continued to build up the institutions and to follow the practices of civilized peoples. This has been true of the millennium that began with the crusades and has hastened the rise of western civilization and its extension to planet-wide proportions.
Similar conclusions can be drawn from the life stories of the score or more of civilizations that rose, flourished and sank into inconsequence during the previous five thousand years.
Each civilization has had its own habitat, its own life pattern. Each has had its own languages, laws, traditions and customs. But despite such local differences, all of the civilizations have had in common those characteristics which justify their inclusion in the family of civilizations.
Anyone who wishes to test the accuracy of these generalizations may be satisfied by reading and observing the events that began with the wars between Japan, China and Russia, the Spanish American War, the Boer War, and the revolts in Cuba, China and the Philippines, all of which took place between 1895 and 1905. The present century opened in a period of critical struggle between empires, within empires and between imperial centers and colonial dependencies. These preliminary skirmishes led up to two general wars in 1914-1918 and 1936-1945, accompanied and followed by a score of minor wars and a planet-wide rash of civil wars and wars of independence waged by peoples of the erstwhile colonies.
Three johnnie-come-lately empires played star-roles in the drama: Germany, the United States and Japan. The histories of all three countries from 1870 to 1950 provide ample support for the contention that the central theme of western civilization, as of its predecessors, is a competitive struggle for wealth and power, aimed at expansion and exploitation, using war and the threat of war as instruments of policy.
Even under the pressures generated by the innovations and the political and economic changes of the current world wide revolution, the principle objectives of civilization have remained constant: geographical expansion; military, economic and cultural occupation; exploitation of the newly acquired territories and peoples. Each civilization has built up and maintained a professional military apparatus and used it as the final arbiter in the determination of domestic and foreign policy.
The means used to achieve these objectives have varied from time to time and from place to place. The basic pattern of civilization has appeared, disappeared and reappeared.
Each civilization has made heroic efforts to reform itself when submerged in a time of troubles that made its institutions and its practices intolerable to those in power or those groups and classes which had grown so desperate under its exploitation and oppression that they preferred death to continuance of the established order.
Each civilization has made its contribution, retaining its essential form while modifying its practices to meet the requirements of particular situations. Western civilization is no exception to this general rule.
Following the all but universal principle that “action and reaction tend to be equal and opposite,” subjugated, occupied peoples revolt against “foreign” occupation and exploitation. Again western civilization is no exception, as the movements for independence and self-determination that followed the 1946 post-war collapse of the European empires clearly showed.
Reaction against western civilization went beyond revolt to include the rejection of the obsolete concepts, forms and practices inherent in civilization. Rejection has been accompanied and followed by proposals for replacing civilization by concepts, forms and practices more in keeping with the social relations and situations resulting from the current world revolution.
Most reforms of civilization have been attempted during the life of western civilization because during that era both the structure and functioning of civilization have been called into question. In no civilization (Egypt, Rome or the modern West) have the essential principles of civilization been seriously modified. Again and again, during the times of trouble that marked the breakdown of successive civilizations, particular institutions were rejected but civilization as a way of life has been accepted and re-established in the course of each new cycle.
During previous cycles the breakdown of a civilization had been followed by a period of rest and recuperation before the beginning of the next experiment. The breakdown of western civilization, a negative reaction, has been accompanied by a planet-wide drive to replace the concepts, forms and practices of civilization by the concepts, forms and practices of socialism-communism.
Socialism-communism as a way of life for nations and continents is a new experiment on the planet earth. Heretofore there have been small groups—families, tribes and sects—that have adopted and followed cooperation as a way of life, but widespread planned cooperation on a national or continental scale is a novelty.
As a result of these changes, conflict-torn and fragmenting western civilization found itself divided into three factional groups:
I. Corporate business organized domestically and internationally to preserve and extend its wealth and power. Big business interests, their dependents and backers were concentrated chiefly in West Europe and North America. Their network of interests and controls was planet-wide. Literally they were the backbone of western civilization.
II. Builders of socialism-communism, an alternative and rival life pattern, have been concentrated in East Europe and Asia. The socialists-communists occupied a minority position in most of the countries dominated by big business. Their program called for the replacement of capitalist competition and conflict by a cooperating, planned, planet-wide society operated for service rather than for profit.
III. A third segment, made up largely of nations and peoples located in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who up to war’s end in 1945 had been colonies or dependencies of the big business directed empires. Since 1945 they have become increasingly independent and self-determining.
The three-fold division of the planet was determined in part by the age-old ideas, principles and practices of civilized peoples during the past six thousand years. In part, it was the outcome of the planet-wide revolution of 1750-1970. It was likewise the result of the wars, revolutions and independence movements that have upset and realigned the world since 1776. Under the impact of these forces human society was being unmade, re-examined and remade.
By comparison with its own beginnings and with its predecessors, western civilization has made many changes in its political, economic and sociological way of life. It has also developed national and regional variants of its overall pattern.
Despite these changes, and with the possible exception of its very large and significant socialist-communist sector, the West has retained the structural and functional features of previous civilizations: urban nuclei supporting themselves by trade, commerce and finance; expansion up to and beyond the point of no return; the life and death power struggle within and between its constituent peoples, nations and empires; the use of war as the final arbiter in these struggles; the rise of the military to a position of supremacy in policy making and public administration; an all-pervasive pattern of exploitation within the urban nuclei and between rival provincial factions; speculation in the necessaries of life; the growth of overhead costs far beyond the increase of production and of income; the degradation of currency; multiple taxation; the abuse of credit; inflation, unemployment and chronic hard times.
Western civilization differs from its predecessors in one crucial respect: it is planet-wide. Previous civilizations known to history have been limited by oceans, deserts and other geographical barriers. The revolution in communication and transportation has by-passed geographic barriers.
The French saying “the more things change the more they remain the same” finds ample justification in the story of western civilization and its predecessors. In one instance after another, for at least six thousand years, civilizations have been built up to summits of wealth and power. Then, on the downward sweep of the cycle, they have declined, decayed and been dumped on the scrap heap of history. No two of these cycles were exactly alike. Each cycle was a social experiment that followed a well marked path. There were variations, innovations, deviations from the norm, but institutions and practices were strikingly similar. In this broad sense, and despite minor departures, the life patterns of civilization have appeared, disappeared and reappeared with close similarity in structure and function.
Western civilization has had a life cycle of approximately a thousand years. During that millennium it has undergone many changes—political, economic, sociological, ideological. Throughout these changes its basic characteristics have remained; have appeared and reappeared. In the 1970’s western civilization retains the essential features which justify us in describing it as a civilization.
The great revolution which began about 1750 and has increased in breadth and depth throughout the past two centuries had led to vital changes in structure and functioning, particularly of the West but generally in the entirety of human society. So far-reaching are these changes, and so deep running, that human society, particularly in the West, has outgrown or is outgrowing the life pattern evolved by civilizations during the past four or five millenia. As a consequence, geographical expansion by the time-honored method of grab-and-keep has become more difficult, far more expensive in manpower and material wealth and is in growing disrepute among a sizeable minority of individuals and social groups, even in the centers of western civilization. It is in notable disfavor among the former colonies and dependencies of the European empires.
At the same time, war as a means of achieving social ends has fallen into greater and greater disrepute. War costs, measured in terms of human well-being and welfare had soared to fantastic heights before 1945. The devastation, during that year, of two moderate sized cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was a foretaste of the increasingly bleak chances of human survival with the stockpiling of nuclear weapons far more destructive than the fission bombs used on the two Japanese cities.
Under the conditions prevailing before the great revolution, competitive struggle between nations and empires, expanding as a result of victory in war, had ceased to be a practicable means of gaining, holding and increasing wealth and power. If the costs of the international power struggle exceeded the gains, there were no longer victors who won and vanquished who lost. Instead, everybody lost as the entire social structure was wrenched, dislocated, wracked and down-graded. Certainly this seemed to be the plain-as-day lesson of the two general wars and the flurry of minor wars which swept the earth after 1910.
Expansion through armed struggle no longer paid its way. It was the obvious lesson stressed by J.A. Hobson and Nicolai Lenin in their respective studies of imperialism (1903 and 1916). It was the theme of Norman Angel’s Great Illusion. It was summarized by Arnold Toynbee’s War and Civilization.
If the costs of expansion exceeded the income, the outcome of expansion would be dismemberment for the vanquished and bankruptcy for the victors. Indeed, this formula generalises the experience of the survival struggles during the war years which began in 1911. I summarized the experience in The Twilight of Empire(1929).
The catastrophic economic breakdown during the Great Depression of 1929-1938, the spectacular and fateful rise of Hitlerism in Germany after 1927, the destructive Civil War in Spain from 1936 to 1939, followed immediately by the war devastations of 1939-45 were part and parcel of the same picture. The same may be said for the revolt of the colonial peoples, downgrading all European “victors” in the war of 1914-18, and the social revolutions following 1945 that shook up the planetary power structure and opened the way for socialist-communist forces to begin socialist construction in one country after another.
Some European states had become super-states, armed to the teeth, surrounded with their satellites, dependencies and colonies. They expanded, exploited and battled as they played the absorbing and ruinous game of “Beggar My Neighbor”. Politically and economically the struggle reached and passed its high point between 1914 and 1945. The subsequent years have revealed the aftermath—a down-graded Europe and an ascendant Asia.
Empire building has been made prohibitively expensive by the revolution in science and technology; if the human family is to survive in anything like its present numbers, a way must be found to end the use of war as a means of attaining social objectives. New techniques, chiefly non-competitive, must be discovered and employed in the maintenance of social relations.
Not only must war be abandoned as a means of achieving social objectives, but exploitation of nature and man must be superceded by a planet-wide life style that conserves natural wealth and shifts the center of economic endeavor from competition to cooperation.
Abandonment of war as an instrument of policy and the renunciation of exploitation of man by man and nation by nation as a means of enrichment would put an end to the scandalous and corrosive extremes of riches and poverty that have cursed every civilization of which we have a written record.
Western civilization, like its predecessors, had consisted of rival nations and empires competing for living-space, wealth, position, expanding territorially as they exploited nature and available labor power for the advantage of the few.
Civilization as a life style, built around the competitive struggle for wealth and power, using war as an instrument of policy and multiplying the techniques of expansion and exploitation, has had a series of experimental tryouts already under way at the dawn of written history. Under no circumstances has civilization proved to be wholly rewarding and satisfying. The current revolution in science and technology has rendered civilization unreformable as well as obsolete.
The structure or pattern of civilization has divided western civilization into separate parts that benefit by separateness and profit from conflict. The result is a typical example of a self-destroying life style struggling through an impasse from which there is no escape save through a third fratricidal war.
Today civilization is a bad buy, especially for young people starting out in life. Civilization still has its advantages for those who have lived actively, achieved many of their material objectives and retired to spend their declining years in a well-feathered nest. For some privileged young people, willing to settle for comfort and conformity, civilization offers the leisure to learn, and an opportunity to test themselves out against a big field of ardent competitors. But for energetic, forward-looking, idealistic young people, the opportunities offered by western civilization are deemed inconsequential, trivial and in the long run, inadequate. For them, the game is not worth the candle.
Today civilization is a bad buy for two reasons. The first is that antisocial, predatory, exploitive and parasitic elements are unfortunately and unnecessarily prominent in the lives of all civilized peoples, including the present West. The second reason is the arrogant, self-righteous, peremptory, bragging, bullying, dictatorial approaches adopted by civilized people in their dealings with those who live on the fringes or outside the pale of civilization. The first reason is an inescapable consequence of the political, economic, ideological and sociological assumptions of the civilizing process. The second reason is inherent in the methods used by civilized peoples in their dealing with the uncivilized majority of humanity.
TEN BUILDING BLOCKS FOR A NEW WORLD
In the previous chapter I argued that we are marking time in a fool’s paradise while western civilization slips backward and downward toward dissolution and oblivion. Like many of its predecessors, our civilization seems to have exhausted its capacity to create, progress, advance. Instead it is disintegrating and breaking up in our current time of troubles.
In an earlier epoch of human history civilization helped to bridge the wide gap between man the victim and plaything of nature, and man as the user, director and, to a limited degree, the coordinator of natural forces. Today questions of our demise or our survival and advance are pressing and urgent.
Civilization has played an important role in the social history of mankind during the several thousand years when segments of the human family have turned their backs on barbarism, regrouped their forces, revamped their patterns of association and experimented with the more complicated, specialized and integrated life pattern of civilization. These experiments have paralleled or followed one another, separated by shorter or longer ages of rest and recuperation. Each epoch of civilization has contributed ideas, artifacts and institutions to the sum total of human culture. This has been the case with past civilizations. It is true of western civilization.
Civilization, like other aspects of human culture, is never static but always dynamic. It changes constantly, waxing and waning. It develops, expands and contracts. It reaches out toward universality, then breaks down and dissolves into a welter of conflicting regional and local interest groups. These changes are the outcome of hard-nosed experience. They are related to alterations in ideas, outlooks and purposes. They are often associated with technical discoveries and inventions. They come and go in more or less clearly defined cycles. They are influenced by deep running political, economic and social forces and trends.
Each civilization matures into forms and develops functions and institutions that tend to consolidate and crystallize in well defined social patterns and habit grooves in which two forces oppose each other: one force is status—preserving that which is; the other force is change—that which tends to become or is becoming.
Status and change confront each other at all social levels. During periods of rapid social change they take the center of the stage and dominate the drama.
The planet-wide revolution of 1750-1970 is an outstanding example of rapid change. The current opposition of status and change has pushed other aspects of social life into second place and has made the social status of yesterday outmoded today and obsolete tomorrow.
The disintegration of western civilization (indicated by its 1910-1975 time of troubles) is having profound effects on western man. The effects are physical, mental, energenic and moral for individuals. Socially they find expression in vandalism, hooliganism, major crime, in the break-up of the family; in alienation, inertia, boredom; in laxity, indiscipline; loss of faith, weakness or absence of purpose. Most serious of all, perhaps, western peoples are learning to ignore principle, live for the moment, satisfy their already sated appetites and pay little or no attention to the future. These attitudes are widespread in the western world of the 1970’s, particularly among the young. These effects, on the whole negative, are offset by a number of positive factors. Human beings are curious and imaginative. They are also ingenious, inventive and intuitive. All of these attributes are assets when dealing with the future and the unknown.
In a previous generation, preceding the war of 1914-18, a very large part of the West was under the influence of the Christian church, which promised good things in the hereafter. During the ensuing years of military conflict, planned destruction and wholesale murder, another considerable part of the West, both socialist and liberal, was promising security, comfort and convenience here and now. The influence of the Christian church on life style, even among its own membership, has declined in the past half century. Affluent monopoly capitalism, meanwhile, has provided the rich, the middle class and important numbers of
There is nothing surprising about this development. Many trained, experienced observers have been predicting it. Youth, idealism, aspiration, optimism, ambition—cannot be satisfied with status in any form. They want to live, to achieve, to face difficulties, to overcome dangers, to express themselves, to create. They are not content merely to arrive at physical affluence. Affluence and social security cannot satisfy. They merely sharpen the appetite for a continuance of the life journey, on the best terms permitted by the current time of troubles.
Among the members of the post-war generation, this ambitious, perceptive elite is aware of two disturbing and compelling realities. The first is the peril to mankind implicit in a continuance along its present disaster course of war, with its inescapable counterpart, social dissolution. The second is the possibility that out of the wreckage and rubble of an outmoded cultural pattern, a mature, chastened, more experienced, more consciously purposive generation will arise, possessing the wit to see the necessity of creative advance, and the wisdom to guide the pioneers of humanity along the difficult and dangerous path that they must follow if they are to reach the land of purpose and promise.
Current frustrating experience with the breakdown of western civilization, coupled with historical precedents, confront the present generation of mankind with a compelling challenge and a unique, precious opportunity. The challenge arises out of experiments with particular civilizations and with civilization as a way of life. Our analysis of this situation leads to only one possible conclusion: Repeated experiments with civilization unmask it as a way, not of life, but as a cycle of rise, expansion, maturity, decline and certain death.
The challenge is emphasized by the failure of reforms and reformers of civilization to make changes in structure and function sufficient to meet the challenge of the birth-maturity-death cycle. Nor has it been possible for western civilization to take advantage of the drastic changes and challenges arising out of the current world revolution.
Man’s top negative priority at the present moment is to reject the wiles, the temptations, the mortal conflicts and the annihilative destruction which have disrupted and decimated civilized society during the past six thousand years and reached their apex in the Great Revolution of 1750-1970. These experiences prove beyond the shadow of doubt that this pattern of human collective life is inadequate to meet the present and future needs of the human family.
Man’s top positive priority is the present-day occupancy of the planet Earth by 3,700 million human beings who wish to survive, to utilize and conserve the natural habitat and to improve the social environment. Within narrow limits, almost all members of the human family want to live and to help other humans to do likewise. Multitudes of human beings, particularly among the youth, want to enjoy outward looking, satisfying, productive, creative lives. They also want those near and dear to do the same thing.
What steps must they take in order to realize their hope and fulfill their aspirations?
Broadly speaking, they must pick their way warily through the maze of artifacts, gadgets and gimmicks produced by human ingenuity during the current world revolution. Most of them are superficial and time consuming. A few are fundamental. They are of the utmost importance as implements to human advance. Taking what advantage they can of recent innovations, avoiding dead-ends and illusion leading to rainbows, the more sensitive and more competent segments of mankind must close ranks and move upward and onward to a new level of culture. The chief instrument available for such an enterprise is the twentieth century version of the political state. The bourgeois revolution was achieved through the developing, evolving political state. The political state is the binding force that held scattered fragments of the human family together during the stresses and strains of the current revolution in science and technology. It is the political state that must be depended upon to resist the fragmentating forces of a disintegrating western civilization, to preserve the social structure and administer human society through the transition from civilization into the structure and functioning of the new social order which is presently supplanting civilization.
Through Europe’s transition from feudalism to capitalism, the feudal state, here and there, step by step, was replaced by the bourgeois state as the chief structural building block of western civilization. The bourgeois revolution, in various parts of Europe, lasted for several centuries; the process was well under way by 1450. As lately as 1945 feudal pockets remained in Eastern Europe.
An even more profound transformation of European society is made in the course of the Great Revolution of 1750-1970. The transformation is in its early stages. During the process, the political life of Europe-in-transition will be administered by the political institutions of the bourgeois state, together with the closely related state patterns of socialism-communism which have come into being during the present century.
During this transition the bourgeois state itself has evolved. At the outset it was a revolutionary force devoting its energies to the elimination of feudal institutions and practices and replacing them by the institutions and practices needed for the advancement of bourgeois interests.
Today the bourgeois state is a bulwark of conservatism; devoting its energies to the preservation of bourgeois forms and practices and doing its utmost to fulfill its counter-revolutionary role of resisting and, if possible, destroying the institutions and practices needed to replace the political institutions and practices of civilization by the new institutions required to move mankind from the outmoded lifestyle of civilization to a lifestyle beyond and above that to which humanity has become adapted during the now obsolete epoch of civilization.
At the same time, the socialist-communist variant of the bourgeois state pattern is providing the framework within which the institutions and practices needed for the transition from civilization to a newer and more universal social order are being matured. At the next stage in the birth process, the institutions and practices necessary for upbuilding the social order that will replace civilization are being worked out in theory and embodied in experimental practice.
In practice, an accurate distinction must be made between the conservative bourgeois state, the temporary transitional state and the universal socialist-communist state that will shepherd humanity along the difficult and dangerous path of the political life pattern beyond civilization. In theory such distinctions are needed as part of the scaffolding within which the social pattern of beyond-civilization will be constructed.
Like most decisive epochs of human history, the revolution through which we are passing has had both a negative and a positive aspect. In Chapter 11 I wrote about one of its destructive aspects—the extreme destructivity of two periods of general war. At this point, I would like to list ten positive contributions made by the same revolution toward the development of a social life style that is offering itself as an alternative to civilization.
1. NEW SOURCES OF ENERGY. Up to 1750 human beings had the energy of the human body plus the energy of domestic animals. They used wind to turn mills and sail ships and water to turn crude wheels. They also burned various things, particularly vegetable fibres, to produce heat. During the revolution they have learned to use steam, electricity and chemical explosives. Recently they have learned to use the energy in the atom, to use water power extensively and, to a slight extent, the energy of the sun and the tides.
2. The revolution has taught people who previously feared CHANGE, to welcome change and take full advantage of discoveries and inventions that modified nature and profoundly altered human society.
3. Among the INVENTIONS were the extensive use of the wheel for movement on land, the use of steam engines and electric motors for moving, manufacturing and transportation and the use of electricity for communication.
4. INCREASED HUMAN MOBILITY on land and water, and, more recently, in the air and, still more recently, in outer space. Easy and rapid movement, and almost instantaneous communication brought people together in towns and cities, built up trade in goods and services, increased speed of communications and enabled people living at a distance from one another to keep in close touch, bringing human enterprises and human beings into continuing contact. Human life, thought and action were coordinated. Increased mobility UNIFIED HUMAN SOCIETY.
5. RESEARCH is now an accepted aspect of all phases of human life and activity. Research is a recognized occupation. Research teams solve problems, map the paths of enterprise. We are learning first to think, then, only after careful study, decide on courses of action and follow them through.
6. The field of inquiry and research covered the entire range of human experience. Information, resulting from research, provided the subject matter of new sciences. In the new fields new skills were developed and new professions built up. The members of this new TECHNOLOGICAL INTELLIGENTSIA, added to the learned professions, created a large group who expected and enjoyed affluent living conditions.
7. SPREADING AFFLUENCE increased the number of families that enjoyed abundance of goods and services, comforts and luxuries mass produced and offered in a mass market, lifting people out of scarcity by growing abundance. Scarcity ceased to restrain. Instead, people learned the values of RESTRAINT, ECONOMY, FRUGALITY, SIMPLICITY.
8. Increase in size and complexity called into being a new profession. MANAGEMENT with the necessary PLANNING, BUDGETING, COST KEEPING.
9. Large numbers of well-fed, housed, educated and aware human beings created the possibility of arousing, mobilizing and utilizing people—especially young people—to take part in voluntary group projects, co-operate and create. Such experiences developed SOCIAL AWARENESS and led to LARGE SCALE MASS ACTION.
10. People growing up in affluence, living above the rigors of poverty, asked questions about themselves, their society and the universe in which they lived. They learned that they and their fellows had not only the five accepted “senses,” but additional senses with corresponding experiences. This opened their eyes to the possibility of additional or extra senses, opening the immense field of “EXTRA SENSORY PERCEPTION,” E.S.P.
These ten areas, opening up largely during the years of the great revolution are “new wine” which cannot be contained in the old wine skins. They raise questions and open up vistas which transcend the narrower confines of civilization. They are among the materials and facilities out of which a new world is coming into existence.
MOVING TOWARD WORLD FEDERATION
One of man’s earliest collective experiences is summed up in the saying: United we stand; divided we fall.
United we survive and prosper. Divided we quarrel, fight and sooner or later break up into smaller sovereign competing groups. If human beings wish to utilize nature or to enjoy the advantages of collective action and group life they must get together and stay together.
This necessity for collective action has appeared and reappeared all through written history. It is one of the most important lessons of present-day human experience. It holds for families, neighborhoods, villages, cities, nations, for mankind as a whole. It is joint action for the general welfare.
The principle of collective action has been recognized and put into practice during the ten centuries that span the rise of western civilization—put into practice up to a certain point—the nation or the empire. Beyond that point, collective action has taken two forms: competition and conflict, including war, and coordination or cooperation under agreement, contract or treaty.
Among the outstanding results of the great revolution, improvement in communication and transportation have brought humans into contact with one another on an increasingly extensive scale, reaching its high water mark in planet-wide networks of trade, travel, migration and diplomacy, leading up to the One World which was so much in the foreground of public discussions between the two general wars of 1914 and 1939.
Much has been written on the subject. I contributed by two bits in The Next Step, a book published in 1922 and United World, published in 1945. Perhaps the most critical failure of western civilization was its inability or unwillingness to take that next step during the decisive years that followed the Hague Conference of 1899.
In listing the Ten Building Blocks for a New World (Chapter 13 of this book) I began with world federation because in terms of the public life of the earth around 1900, the planet was divided into two alliances of nations and empires—the Allies, headed by Great Britain and the Central Powers, headed by Germany.
Instead of cooperating to gain their declared objectives of peace, prosperity and progress these two power blocs engaged in an armament race from 1903 to 1914, leading up to general war in 1914, with a second general war between the rivals in 1939.
When I was organizing Part II of this study (A Social Analysis of Civilization) I had to decide whether to begin with economics or politics. As an economist I was inclined to put economics first, but since the study centered on civilization, and since all known civilizations were not groupings of economic subdivisions but aggregates of nations, empires and their dependencies, and since the expansion of civilization has consisted in enlarging the geographical area of the civilization in question, I decided to begin with politics. As the study has progressed I have seen no reason for reversing the choice.
On the contrary, since I began collecting data for this study at the time of the first general war, I have watched the unfolding political struggle for economic and cultural objectives with the increasing conviction that politics is the primary focus, with economic forces always in play, but usually in the background, leaving the center of the stage to politics.
This is another way of saying that the present-day world is divided primarily into political nation states rather than into areas of economic function. Always, economics is important. But, at least superficially, political considerations are in the foreground to clinch decisions. A time may come when economists or sociologists occupy the central offices where primary decisions are made. That time has not yet arrived. In so far as the present generation is concerned, politics is in the foreground. The politicians make the crucial announcements and sign the key documents.
Therefore our survey of the Steps Beyond Civilization begins with politics. Our attention centers on the political aspects of World Federation with economic considerations present and always operating, but not dominating the crucial decisions.
For better or worse, in 1975 and the years immediately succeeding, we will be living on a planet divided into some 140 politically sovereign states. In view of the widespread pressure toward self-determination, the number of sovereign states has increased considerably, especially since war’s end in 1945.
Presumably the principal “united we stand” applies to those 140 sovereign states.
Sovereignty includes the right of self determination—putting the interests of one particular state above the interests of the entire family of nations—the part before the whole. Here is a contradiction and a possible conflict of interest. Britain’s Prime Minister Heath, like many another spokesman in his position, summed up the issue in the pithy phrase: “British interests come first.”
If the French, Italian, Japanese and other prime ministers take a similar stand, implied by the principle of sovereignty, situations are bound to arise in which the interests of two or more nations clash, opening the way for conflicts at many levels: differences of interpretation, negotiations in the course of which concessions may be made by both parties. The differences may be settled by diplomats sitting around conference tables or by armies on the battlefield.
With 140 sovereign states on the planet, the probability of conflict would seem to be overwhelming. As a matter of daily experience such confrontations and conflicts do occur. Most of them are handled by negotiation. A few lead to armed struggle.
Since 140 sovereign states exist on one earth, means must be found that will enable them to co-exist, if possible, without conflict, and certainly without military conflict. The means generally relied upon today for dealing with such problems is negotiation between representatives of all parties at interest. At the national level this would mean negotiations between representatives of the involved governments.
Negotiations between representatives of various governments are always going on—dealing with political, economic and cultural issues. Within each nation such negotiations are conducted between spokesmen for various government departments. Internationally they are conducted by representatives of various governments working through their diplomatic or consular services. Within each nation and between nations confrontations may be settled by negotiation. At each level they may result in armed conflict.
Governments exist to deal with conflicts and, where possible, to resolve them before they reach the shooting stage. This is notably true in domestic affairs because there are usually public officials charged with the duty of dealing with problems. Internationally, unless there is an international agency such as the Universal Postal Union of the Organization of American States, the issue must be settled by special representatives of the parties.
The argument for a world government begins with the assumption that means should exist to deal with international issues before they reach an acute stage. Such means exist within each local government. Similar arrangements should exist at the international level to deal with issues that arise between governments.
The political core of a social stage beyond civilization will be a planet-wide, international, regional and local network of institutions, integrated, coordinated and administered on the federal principle: local affairs controlled locally; regional affairs controlled regionally; international affairs controlled by a planet-wide political authority. Such a relationship would imply states rights for the local authority; regional rights for the regional authority, and full awareness in the central authority of the possibility, at this juncture, of establishing order, justice and mercy on the planetary level—in our present terminology, a “world government.”
Basic to this federal structure would be the Jeffersonian assumption: “That government governs best which governs least”, with an amendment: “provided that the authority in question governs sufficiently to establish and maintain physical health, social decency, order, justice and mercy in reasonable proportions throughout the area subject to its jurisdiction”.
At each level, local, national, regional and planetary, there will be committees, councils or other authorities with full responsibility for the conduct of public administration at the local, the national, the regional and the planetary or international level.
Currently the federal principle is widely established at local and national levels. Attempts are being made in various regions to effectuate stable authorities at the regional level, such as the United States of North America or the United States of Mexico. There has been much talk of planet-wide government established by one wealthy and militarily powerful nation over its peers, or by a voluntary association with its peers. Institutions established thus far: League of Nations, The United Nations, The World Court, the Universal Postal Union, have fallen far short of stable, planet-wide, all inclusive political authority.
At the moment there are 122 states which are members of the United Nations. There are perhaps an additional score of nations which have applied for membership or which might be accepted if they made an application. Accept this rounded figure, and we have perhaps 140 nations or potential nations on the planet. Some are long established and stable. Other nations are new-born, with small populations, few resources and minimal means of defense or offense. By and large this is the family of nations which might be coordinated into an effective world authority which would be responsible for order, decency and peace in a federally coordinated world.
World authority, to be effective and reasonably stable, must be equipped with sufficient delegated powers to maintain orderly and decent relations between its members, establish peace, and carry out policies necessary to provide and promote ecological and sociological welfare. To achieve such results it must have a built-in balance between central authority and local-regional self-determination. It must also enjoy sufficient elbow-room to provide for social change and for consistent social improvement.
The goal of world government, as of any political enterprise that pretends to represent human needs, will be social stability, security, efficiency of service, and enlarged opportunities for citizens to speak and act for themselves, directly or through their representatives, at all levels. Politics is the theory and practice of the possible in any given situation. Executives and administrators in Los Angeles, London and Tokyo or in the United States, Britain and Japan will deal with public transportation, public education and public law and order in terms of general principles such as those stated in the opening sentences of this paragraph. They will also face specific situations arising out of climate, access to raw materials, custom, habit and other ecological and cultural factors which differ profoundly from continent to continent, nation to nation, city to city and district to district in the same nation.
Human communities have sought and found different means of dealing with the problems of community administration. At one extreme of social administration are various types of arbitrary, personal dictatorships. The Greeks called them tyrannies—arbitrary rule by individuals or small groups subject only to their own decisions.
At the other extreme are social groups that arrive at decisions as the outcome of discussion in which all group members may take part. Group decisions may require unanimity or they may be the outcome of voting, with a majority or plurality vote carrying with it the right and duty to put decisions into effect as part of the public life of the community.
Various forms of government have been established locally and regionally. At the level of a civilization, the government has been established almost universally as the outcome of armed struggle and military conquest, and has been exercised through the use of armed force in the hands of armed minorities.
A century without general war, 1815 to 1914, led to a widespread balance-of-power assumption that planet-wide peace and prosperity could be established and maintained by preserving a balance between the armed forces of individual nations or alliances. Hence there need be no more general wars fought for survival or supremacy.
The bitter struggle for markets, raw materials and colonies that followed the French-German War of 1870 developed into an armament race after 1899. From the Hague Peace Conference of 1899 to the outbreak of general war in 1914, desperate efforts were made to maintain the power-balance and avert a general war. The failure of these efforts proved the ineffectiveness of the balance-of-power formula.
Today it is generally taken for granted that a balance of power between armed nations is no guarantee of peace and order. It is also taken for granted that frivolous talk like that of an “American Century” after 1945 has no justification in the light of present-day history. As matters now stand neither a balance between rival armed powers, nor the domination of the planet by any one power can be relied upon to maintain world order and keep world peace.
Forms of self-government and representative government developed during the bourgeois revolution and advocated and partially applied during the proletarian up-surge, are being continued or are reappearing during the current struggle for power and prestige at the planetary level. As the planet approaches one world technologically, there is an increasing possibility of a planetary political federation, directed by a world governmental apparatus.
INTEGRATING A WORLD ECONOMY
Repeated efforts have been made to establish large-scale, widely ranging economies. This was the case during Egyptian and Phoenician civilizations. It was certainly true of the economy of the Roman Empire and of Roman civilization.
Such efforts faced drastic limitations. The most formidable was the narrow margin of surplus produced by hand labor in the forests, on the fields and in the workshops, operated, in the main, with hand tools, with minor inputs of energy supplied by domestic animals and with the small amounts derived from wind and moving water.
Two further limitations existed. First, as each civilization matured its leaders and policy makers ceased to labor on the land or in the workshops, preferring to keep their hands and clothes clean, to free themselves from irksome demanding toil and devote themselves to tasks more befitting “gentlefolk.” This was notably true of landlords as a class. It was also true of the richer traders, merchants and moneylenders, particularly of the third and fourth generations.
Expansion of empires and the civilizations which they developed entailed military operations. Military operations, in their turn, produced war-captives, who must earn their keep and, if possible, something more. Sold in the market to the highest bidder, war captives and their descendants became chattel slaves. As civilizations were expanded by conquest and matured by struggle, they developed some type of forced labor to balance the increased parasitism of the masters and the growing numbers who were called upon to produce “services” rather than material goods.
Certain areas of civilized economies were taken over by the public authorities. Planning and building of cities and their ports, of highways, including bridges, of viaducts, aqueducts, of drainages for the cities, of public buildings. The construction of defenses, including city walls, were partly or wholly public enterprises. Temples and tombs for the mighty were often in the same category.
Maintenance of large elaborate households by political leaders, and in later periods of empire building, by the successful merchants and technicians, led to the employment of many servants, including subordinate members and relatives of the elite.
Much necessary labor was performed by members of each household. The resulting economy was therefore fragmented at the household level with virtually all of the energy supplied by human beings and domestic animals.
As each civilization developed its pattern of forced labor, including the labor of war captives, it launched the deadly competition between freemen and slaves which almost inevitably ended in favor of the slaves, who were housed and fed by the masters and who could operate at overhead costs lower than those involved in the hiring of wage or salaried workers.
Land ownership tended to center in the political-military leaders, the temples and, as each civilization matured, in the hands of its bourgeoisie.
Integrating such economies proved to be a difficult, arduous task, well beyond the powers of the average political, military or hereditary leader. In a very real sense, the problems of management were extremely personal and correspondingly concentrated in the hands of skillful acquisitors. Nowhere was the impact of the 1750-1970 revolution more far reaching than in the area of management.
Economic activities, in the course of the great revolution, had less and less connection with the homestead, and except for a tiny minority of the personnel, had no connection with the family of the owner-operator. The seat of the family—the home—continued to exist, but on a far more restricted basis. Arts and crafts moved from the household into the workshop, where they expanded both in extent and in complexity. Domestic tasks were associated with hand labor and simple tools. The great revolution filled the workshop with the ancestors of present day machinery, but with a prodigious difference. In the early step from home workshop to factory, hand tools in plenty were being used in the workshops. As “modernization” progressed, hand tools were replaced by specialized machines.
The implements of specialization—the machine building tools and the machine tools themselves—were housed in forests of associated workshops. The mechanics of specialization sprawled over acres and square miles of factory floor space. Nowhere were the results of the great revolution more in evidence than in the vast difference between the workshop attached to the house of the early industrialist and the forest of chimneys and stacks, and the acres and square miles of floorspace in present-day industrial establishments, with their personnel numbered in thousands and the capital invested in plant and equipment running into the millions or billions of dollars.
Two centuries of the great revolution have given present-day industrial society a capital plant the like of which has never existed on the planet in any historical period. After two hundred years of meteoric development, it exists today on a planet-wide scale and at a level of all-pervasive dominance undreamed of even up to the middle of the last century.
Modern industry “plants”—steel plants, cement plants, open pit mines, textile plants, machine tool plants, auto plants, rubber factories, oil refineries—not only occupy extensive acreage per plant, but the same interests and corporate managements operate dozens of plants in widely separated geographical areas and produce a great variety of goods and services. An experienced observer feels entirely at home in any industrial center, on any continent. In Detroit, in Dusseldorf, in Osaka, in Shanghai, in Bombay, the architecture of the plants is essentially the same, the machines in the widely separated plants bear a striking resemblance to one another, and the problems of management are similar.
Unit plants and their coordinated managements in the aggregate compose the present-day world economy. They are the essence of its being. They occupy the skyline and dominate the economic life of modern industrial society. They are the units which make up the sum-total of modern industry which, in its turn, is the bony structure around which have grown the sinews and muscle of present-day planetary economy.
Modern state structure goes back through the half dozen centuries during which it has been developing. Its ancestors may be met with in the history of previous civilizations.
Modern industrial structure on the other hand is something essentially new under the sun—newly imagined, designed, constructed, productive. It has no ancestry before 1750 because its essential building unit—the modern machine—did not exist previous to that date.
In the last chapter we dealt with the growth of states into empires and the aggregation of empires into civilizations with the possibility that the existing states could be welded into a world federation. One of the chief obstacles to such a development is the centuries of conflict during which modern nations have been built up and the strong bonds of nationalism have been established as a means of holding divergent groups of people in line by particular oligarchies operating in particular civilizations.
On the economic level such difficulties are minimal. The process of coordination and consolidation was far advanced before the end of the last century. The practice of integration—joining productive units in functional sequences—was also accepted and followed, with little regard for political or cultural considerations. The result has been an economic integration which has developed inside the chief industrial nations and across national boundaries.
Despite political obstacles, economic integration has proceeded with giant strides, especially during the past hundred years. Under a well developed world political federation the world economy could be integrated and used to provide the necessaries, conveniences and minimal comforts for the entire human family. There are nationalistic obstacles to political federation. Economic integration is an obvious must and a logical outcome of the industrial integration that has gone on so swiftly during the great revolution of 1750-1970.
When we talk about integrating the world economy we are dealing with a problem which no previous civilization has faced because no previous civilization had machines or the social and cultural institutions which have grouped themselves around the ultra-modern machine phenomena.
World economy in 1975 includes three essential elements: the planet earth and its resources; the institutional structure of modern society; and human beings with their diverse concepts and skills which provide its motive force. These three factors, land, capital equipment, and human energy, are the three-fold apparatus upon which 3.7 billion human beings depend for the goods and services which sustain them from day to day and year to year.
At an earlier period this economic apparatus centered around the land and its cultivation (agriculture). Since the onset of the great revolution the goods and services have come increasingly from a factory-office centered occupational apparatus. When we consider the integration of the world economy, it is this industrialized, modern economy that we have chiefly in mind. No previous civilization faced such a problem. There are no real precedents upon which we can rely. We must go forward, if we do go forward, experimenting with problems which face the human family for the first time.
The integration of planetary economy in 1975 is a total, or unitary, problem. It is not a problem of one continent, of one nation or empire, of one racial or cultural group. It is a problem which the human family faces as a human family, occupying our planet Earth. It is our capital equipment. It is the success with which we apply our know-how to the earth, using our capital equipment and our skills, producing the goods and services upon which our physical existence depends. We rise or fall, sink or swim in terms of our own capacities, our own abilities to adapt ourselves to historical circumstances which will determine the conditions of life on the earth. Indeed, our decisions and consequent actions may determine our own extinction or survival.
Planetary economy will aim to provide the means of livelihood for its constituents along six lines: to conserve the human heritage of natural resources, using them sparingly and, where possible, adding to them; to produce and distribute those goods and services which are needed to maintain health and provide for social decency; to produce and distribute goods and services honestly, efficiently and economically; to assure simple necessaries for all, including dependents, defectives and delinquents; to give high priority to local self-sufficiency; to maintain enough central economic authority to guarantee adequate goods and services to successive generations of the planetary population.
An effective world government, therefore, must adopt and administer an economic program designed to: (a) Utilize and conserve natural resources, making them available, on a just basis, for the use of successive generations; (b) End involuntary poverty and insecurity and the exploitation of man by man and of one social group by another social group; (c) Make necessary public services generally available on equal terms, to all mankind; and (d) Guarantee equal opportunity to earth-dwellers based on the greatest good to the greatest number.
Feeding, clothing, housing and educating an agricultural village was a prime consideration at an early stage in social history. Providing the necessaries and amenities of life in a commercial-industrial city occupied the attention of city fathers as a consequence of the shift from agriculture to trade and commerce as the principle source of livelihood. Caring for the physical, physiological and cultural needs of populations in the United States, Britain, Japan and other growing commercial-industrial nations presented difficult challenges. The organization, expansion, defense and improvement of the American, British, Japanese and any other contemporary empire, posed even larger and more complex problems which have nagged mankind during recent generations. Recently, the planet-wide revolution of 1750-1970 has brought the entire human family with 3,700 million members isolated in 140 different nations, face to face with political, economic and social problems on a planet-wide scale. These problems are planet-wide in their dimensions. Measures designed for their solution must be equally planet-wide.
Villages, cities, regions and nations have learned, often the hard way, how to think, plan and act in terms of their own interests, or, more concretely, in the interest of their owners, masters and exploiters. It is with politics and economics of this planet-wide level that we of the present generation are particularly concerned.
Dwellers in western Europe and North America have to deal with the politics and economics of monopoly capitalism. Its central offices are generally located in particular countries—Britain, Holland, France, Germany, where big business enterprises had their beginnings and from which representatives of oil, steel, textile, motor and banking enterprises spilled over into the territory of their competitors as well as into the “third world” of erstwhile colonies and other dependencies.
Monopoly capitalism has made no real effort to organize a functioning world economy. On the contrary, it has established, maintained and consolidated centers of economic interests and activities at the national level. In theory and in practice the bourgeois-dominated planet is divided into economic and political states and spheres of influence, each equipped with the separatist institutions of political sovereignty.
Politically the task of setting up a competent world government has not been seriously taken in hand. The same may be said for the organization of a planned, organized, supervised planetary economy. So far as we know, such world economic institutions and practices cannot exist in the chaos of one hundred forty sovereign states, each exercising authority over its economy, each with its own program for growth and expansion, and putting its claims for wealth and power above peace, order, justice, and mercy for the entire human family.
General economic practice throughout the 1450-1970 experiments with nation building, empire building, competitive struggle and sporadic efforts at world conquest, occupation and exploitation have crossed national boundary lines as a matter of necessity. It could not be otherwise, because no nation has been able to reach the cultural level of civilization on a basis of economic self-containment. Primitive agriculture can maintain a high degree of self sufficiency. City populations abandon self-sufficiency and adopt the principles of expansion, occupation and utilization of foreign territory and exploitation of resources and manpower, at home and abroad.
As western civilization has matured, power struggles at the top, conquest, occupation and exploitation have come more and more to the fore until, in the era of monopoly capitalism, they dominate the field. In this period of human history nothing less than the just sharing of available goods and services will implement the principle of “to each according to his need”.
Monopoly capitalism, throughout its entire history, has tended to function internationally, moving across frontiers in search of raw materials, markets, and fields of profitable investment. Inter-group trade has been carried on between and through “foreign” markets, cities and states. Not only has the flag followed the investor, but the investor has used governmental agencies, including the military, to protect economic interests, promote them and expand them. Early in their history, western nations subsidized private organizations like the Dutch East India Company and the British Hudson Bay Company and authorized them to exercise quasi-public authority. International banking and insurance paralleled international trade.
Western civilization, from its earliest beginnings in foreign business relations and ideological adventures like the Crusades, has spilled across national frontiers in its search for adventure, for experience, for information, for pelf and power. A part of the expansionist drive was “strictly business” in character. Another part—international conferences, public and private; tourism; the export of artifacts and of information, were promoted by mixed motives, from missionary zeal for the propagation of The Faith to international business for profit, public and private.
One of the most spectacular aspects of European expansion during modern times has been the growth of production and trade; the rapid increase in “foreign” investment; and governmental efforts to tie together geographically and ethnically remote places and peoples into neat bundles tagged Spanish Empire, British Empire, French Empire, Russian Empire. Nineteenth and early twentieth century history centered around such international experiments and included inter-state build-ups like the European Common Market and the Organization of American States.
War losses and emergency spending incident to warfare led to large scale financial assistance from one government to another. Such transactions are not confined to recent times, but during the war years from 1914 to 1945 they reached fantastic proportions. The United States foreign aid program alone, following the war of 1939-45, involved grants and loans of $125,060 million dollars from July 1, 1945 to December 31, 1970 (Statistical Abstract 1971 p. 958). Similar grants and loans were made by other countries to their allies and associates. These examples illustrate the build-up of an extensive international relationship that has been an integral aspect of the 1750-1970 world revolution.
Throughout this experience two parallel forces have been at work. One was the effort to establish a stable, renewable and self-renewing social environment. The other was the effort to adapt and remake man (human nature) to fit into the rapidly changing social environment and to expand and deepen relations with nature.
Sociology, the science and art of staying together in more or less permanent social groups, thus becomes the theory and practice of association. Politics and economics are specialized aspects of association. Political relations, economic relations and other aspects of association make up the overall field of the human community or human society.
Groups of human beings are brought together and held together by various means, among which communication is outstanding. At every level, from the local to the general or universal, and in every aspect of politics, economics and other forms of association, human beings communicate.
One function of planetary association involves the establishment and maintenance of a network of planetary communication. Locally, nationally, regionally, and internationally the channels or means of communication have been extensively developed.
Devices designed to reproduce and elaborate oral and written communication blanket the planet so extensively that the individual and family privacy enjoyed by human beings before the middle of the last century has literally ceased to exist. In its place is a communications network that operates twenty-four hours in the day and seven days in the week. By a move of the hand and a flick of a switch everybody can be in touch with anybody and anybody with everybody almost everywhere.
Channels of communication, trade and travel keep members of the human race constantly in touch with one another. Except for the solitary, living alone in the wilderness (urban or rural) there is no hiding place. Mechanisms supplementing man’s five senses, see, feel, hear and report everything.
Facility in communication provides a wealth of information. Using available means of human communication, a central planetary authority can inform, alert and arouse the entire human family with its 3,700 million members. Socially minded, it could announce and initiate the measures necessary to maintain peace and order through conformity to a common program of social action. Coordinating, integrating and administering the channels of communication at the planetary level will be a primary responsibility of any planet-wide economic program.
Planetary government will be responsible for establishing, maintaining and improving a network of communication and education designed to ensure both uniformity and diversity in the human population. The revolution in science and technology has been particularly noteworthy in the field of communication, extending from the family to the entire human race; from the home telephone, the morning newspaper, the phonograph, radio and television to regular mail delivery, the printing press, the camera, lithography, the typewriter, tele-communication, the computer, public address systems and the various devices for overhearing and recording that produce more or less permanent records of casual vocal expressions.
Planet-wide communication in the 1970’s provides an example of the transformation from economic localism to economic worldism during recent times. By its very nature, communication tends to involve all four corners of the planet. In that sense, communication tends to become unique. It is not a real exception, however. Through communication channels, knowledge concerning every aspect of man’s economy, from agriculture to commerce and finance, crosses frontiers almost automatically, strengthening, deepening and integrating planet-wide economy.
A planet-wide economy will not be designed, planned and coordinated as a result of either military conquest or political expansion and predation. Rather, it will be a public enterprise of the entire human family, operated by a world government in the public interest for the social service and well-being of mankind.
The worldwide revolution of 1750-1970 provides the economic basis for a planet-wide society—for One World. The real danger—that any local or regional war may grow into another general war in which nuclear weapons are used—provides reason aplenty to put the whole before the part and, in the pursuit of general human welfare, to federate the political life of the human family, following the many steps toward worldism already taken by various aspects of its economy.
CONSERVING OUR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
Beyond civilization we will conserve, share, beautify and, if possible, improve the earth, which is our physical base of operations.
The earth is an irregular sphere, one of a number of planets circling the sun, from which we get light, heat and radiation. The earth has a shell or crust made of various minerals. Two-thirds of its surface is water of various depths up to six miles. Above the surface is an atmosphere, some twenty miles thick, composed of various gases, dust particles and water vapor. Operating throughout the earth there are vibrations of different wave lengths.
As a whole the earth is a going concern that carries out its daily, seasonal, yearly business of providing a home for an immense variety of forces; for living forms, in the earth, on the earth, in the water and in the air. The earth and its attributes are the common host or mother of us all.
Some of earth’s inhabitants are “alive”. Many of the living forms move about—and reproduce themselves, passing through a life cycle from birth to death.
Some among the living forms cluster together into more or less permanent groups which develop social relationships including communities in which individuals are born, live and die.
Speaking in metaphors, the sun is the common father of us all, providing us with light and heat, the earth is the common mother of us all, providing us with sustenance. We living beings, progeny of sun and earth, pass through a span or cycle of earthly existence—helping one another, ignoring one another, jostling one another, annoying and even killing and devouring one another.
This is a roundabout way of saying that nature, human beings and human society are part and parcel of a total relationship which includes the planet earth, the solar system and an immense range of celestia which includes minute particles of celestial dust, like our earth, and majestic assemblies of celestial notables like the Island Universe of which we are unnumbered and barely noticed particles.
At some point in this vast assemblage, actually before the assemblage came into existence, there were responsible, animating forces in play. There was also the responsibility for the use or exercise of the operating forces. We humans are a product of those forces. We also share in their functioning. Consequently we share in the responsibility which is associated with their exercise.
It is the task of philosophy to designate the responsibility; to describe it, measure it and perhaps to assign it. At any rate, we find ourselves in a position where certain things are expected of us, perhaps even required of us as members of the human family and/or of the human family as a functioning whole.
It is entirely possible that, instead of overlooking, ignoring, bickering, quarreling and periodically maiming and killing each other wholesale, we humans should be devoting our energies, emotions, thoughts and plans to furthering the larger purpose of which the earth and its inhabitants are small segments. In a word, that we humans should be acting as a responsible part of a functioning whole engaged in the vast enterprise of being and becoming.
Whatever our ultimate tasks may be, our immediate problem is three-fold: (1) To make the earth the fittest possible living place for all of its inhabitants; (2) to organize human society in the way best calculated to achieve that objective; and (3) to make every reasonable effort to prepare ourselves to play a meaningful part in this cosmic drama to which we have been assigned.
Item (1) is the theme of this chapter, item (2) is the theme of Chapter 17. Item (3) is the theme of Chapter 18.
Passing beyond civilization we will attempt to conserve, share, beautify and if possible to improve our earth.
Our first task is to make the earth the fittest possible place for ALL of its inhabitants. In a way that is a simple assignment, but its implementation will take us into every nook and corner of the land, water, air, radiational field, and every other aspect of the planet, including the weather.
When we say ALL forms and phases of life we mean all. All microscopic life, all lichens and mosses, all vegetation on land, in the water, in the air. All insects, all birds, all fish, all quadrupeds. All two legged animals. All centipedes and all those in between.
All forms of life have been assigned to our earth for a purpose, or have made a place for themselves in the vast scheme of things or are clinging parasitically to life after their assignments have been fulfilled or as their usefulness is drawing to a close.
In a broad sense, that which lives on the earth, including mankind, has a right or an opportunity to be here, living to the utmost of its always limited capacity. How limited? Limited by the similar rights of all other forms and aspects of life. In a word life on the earth—each life and all life—is a shared opportunity.
Doubtless there are planners, regulators and arbitrators whose task it is to decide, at any particular moment, who shall survive and who shall perish. Actually we humans perform a part of that function every time we thin out a forest, weed a garden, select our seed or teach a class. At one stage of life we are the judges, at another stage we are the judged, performing multiple tasks that must be fulfilled during each moment of each day and each year.
In our Island Universe this earth is small. But in each backyard, on each acre or square mile of earth, decisions may be made or are being made that determine survival, utility, order, beauty. The results of those decisions appear constantly in the life all about us.
We have all been in homes where neatness, usefulness and good taste abound. We have been in villages and towns where the same conditions prevailed. On the other hand, we have been in situations that can be described only by the words littered, disorderly, chaotic. We have also seen neat orderly homes in disorderly, slovenly neighborhoods. Much depends upon who makes the decisions and whether the plans that are carried into effect promote or obstruct the ultimate purpose.
At the moment, we have the satisfaction of orderly, beautiful neighborhoods at the same time that we are surrounded by a disorderly, littered, chaotic international battleground.
The earth with its oceans and its atmosphere is a storehouse containing many if not most of the essentials for survival, growth and development, for mankind as well as a multitude of other life forms. Perhaps its most valuable single asset from the human viewpoint is its topsoil. Topsoil plus light, air and moisture provide the elements necessary for producing vegetation. Vegetation, in its turn, furnishes the nourishment on which animals thrive.
At the top of our priority list for the well-being of the earth stands the injunction: conserve and build topsoil.
Topsoil is lost through erosion—wind erosion, water erosion, erosion through over cropping. It is held in place by stones, grasses, and the roots of shrubs and trees. Untouched by human hands, on the prairies and in the forests, topsoil is deepened year by year as winter frosts break up soft rocks, as dead grasses, leaves, twigs break down into humus, to become part of the topsoil and provide the nourishment for a new round of vegetation.
Topsoil is renewable, replaceable. Lost through cropping and erosion, it may be rebuilt and deepened by natural processes. In temperate climates with normal rain and snowfall, the topsoil of grasslands or a forest may be deepened year by year and century by century. Topsoil may also be deepened by dust storms that pick up particles of humus from dry lands and carry them to moister areas.
Through a carefully controlled sequence, semi-desert lands planted first to grasses and then to shrubs and trees can be protected against wind erosion. As vegetation flourishes it increases dew formation and rainfall. Plant roots prevent runoff and retain the water in gulleys and low places. Evaporation builds up moisture content in the atmosphere. Water vapor forms drops and falls in rain or snow.
Foresighted husbandry not only prevents erosion but, practiced on a sufficiently broad scale, increases air moisture and modifies climate—the weather.
We are less fortunate with some of the critically important minerals that make up the earth crust.
During early centuries in the history of western civilization adventurers and prospectors concentrated on the precious metals. The voyagers and discoverers who sailed fifteenth century seas were seeking supplies of gold, silver and precious stones that could be cut and converted into the highly prized jewels adorning the crowns and scepters of the mighty.
Production at that stage meant agriculture, with side occupations such as hunting, fishing, weaving, tanning, pottery, thatching and peat cutting, in the all but continuous countryside. There was a very little mining, but outside of the commercial towns and the growing capital cities people made their living by taking care of domestic animals and tilling the soil. Between seed time and harvest they tightened their belts and prayed the Powers that Be for a bountiful yield. If it came they feasted. If the crop failed they struggled to survive on the narrow margin between hunger and starvation.
If they saw any money it was likely to be copper, with perhaps an occasional piece of silver. Gold was for the rich, of whom at that period there were precious few, even among the owners of land and the wielders of power.
Country folk barely scratched the surface of the earth. Roads were wheel tracks in the mud. Bridges were fords that became more or less impassable with high water.
These assertions sound strange and romantic to the modern beneficiaries of asphalt and reinforced concrete. They were the lot of most Europeans and North Americans when our great grandfathers and great grandmothers were in their prime.
What has made the difference between their use of the earth and ours? Chiefly, the newly tapped sources of energy and the wide variety of minerals—whose names were unknown except to scholars and scientists before 1750. It is the new sources of energy and the only recently utilized metals that have made the difference.
Farm land can be used and abused many times before its productive possibilities are exhausted. Even then, with foresight, technical proficiency, the investment of labor and capital, agricultural land can be restored to fertility. Iron ore, tin, copper and tungsten are extracted from the earth, refined, put to some use or wasted as the case may be, but they are gone. They may be replaced by other minerals. Through geological ages they may redeposited in the earth’s crust. But to all intents and purposes, they are finished.
It is a source of pride to promoters and propagandists for the status quo that western man has removed more metals and minerals from the earth’s crust in the past two hundred years than his predecessors removed during the previous two thousand years. It is also a source of danger, because the possibilities of taking those particular minerals from that particular cubic foot of the earth are ended.
Replaceable natural resources such as soil fertility, grasses and trees can be restored and reproduced. Irreplaceable natural resources are exhausted by one use. In so far as they are concerned, that part of the earth’s crust has been impoverished—made poorer.
Wasted through neglect and careless use, squandered in the senseless destruction of war, the earth is still a rich treasure house for its multitudinous forms of life. Its remaining treasures can be carefully conserved. Such replaceable resources as topsoil, vegetation and water can be husbanded. Oceans, mountains and, deserts can be dealt with as we proceed with our programs for the most economical use of the natural resources that remain to us.
Western man is presently emerging from a boisterous era of invention, discovery, of multiplying productivity and corresponding waste of irreplaceable natural resources-temporarily justified by “national security” and “war emergency.” The temporary loss of replaceable reserves and the permanent loss of irreplaceable resources is none the less tragic, no matter how urgent the immediate cause for their consumption.
At this stage in the history of earth’s conservation, when so much is waiting to be done, if each family, each village and town, each city state and nation will do its bit to conserve, plan, shape, utilize, beautify, improve what remains of the natural environment, the results will be impressive enough to justify the time and means devoted to the enterprise.
Wherever we go with our plea for the foresighted and economical use of the earth and its remaining resources, we are met with the question: “But what can I do?” The answer is simple. Find your place in the nearest team working to utilize, conserve, and, where possible, enlarge the natural wealth of the planet. If no such team exists, join with your neighbors in organizing one. Take seriously your assignment to use the part of the earth with which you are in contact intelligently, economically, wisely.
Whether you are a novice or a professional, a homesteader or a longtime resident, be sure that each contact you make with the earth enlarges its possibilities of utility, order, beauty.
This crusade to save and utilize the earth as the common mother of so many forms of life must be carefully planned and well organized through successive generations. Men have spent far too much time and energy in destroying. The time has come when they must conserve, plan, shape, utilize, beautify, improve.
If the energies now going into business, sport, social events, frivolities, make-believe and the deliberate destruction of waste and war could be directed to planning, utilizing, beautifying on the circumferences and at the centers of population concentrations, immense forward strides could be taken in a single generation.
The planet still has immense, unused or little used reserves of natural resources. The old order is slipping, floundering, wasting. Civilization has told the best of its story and is busy writing its epitaph. The revolution of 1750-1970 provides the opportunity for a new beginning. The place is here. The time is now. Let us conserve, beautify, share, utilize and, in so far as possible, improve our natural surroundings.
REVAMPING THE SOCIAL LIFE OF THE PLANET
Beyond civilization we could develop a sociology-a cluster of associations, institutions, outlooks, purposes and practices designed to revamp the social life of the planet in much the same way and with the same general outlook with which we approach the political, economic, sociological and ideological problems arising from the presence, on the planet Earth, of some 3,700 million different human beings.
There are at least two approaches to the sociological aspects of our planet-wide, coordinated society. One way is that with which nature’s cyclism has made us familiar—the “day” of manifestation (activity) and the “night” of rest (recuperation, restoration and renewal). This might be described as a natural, gradual evolutionary way.
The other way is based on creative intervention which shortcuts evolutionary gradualism in the same way that a great leap shortcuts many ordinary steps.
Perhaps the conception can be illustrated in a most effective way by the alternative presented during the great revolution of 1750-1970. At the beginning of this epoch man walked the earth literally, except when he sailed on the water or used the horse or some other swift animal to travel by land. In the course of the great revolution mankind has learned to move his body at speeds which sometimes exceed the movement of sound, on the land, on the water, through the air and into space. He has done this short-cutting by revolutionary changes in types of energy coming from outside his physical body. In another sphere—communication devices—man has stepped up the movement of his emotions and thoughts and his creative imagination beyond the speed of light.
This analogy is not complete, nor is it wholly convincing. But the great revolution in science and technology, applied in the field of social science can quite conceivably provide humanity with the means of short-cutting the normal or “natural” processes in sociology as it has already short-cutted the normal or “natural” process in human transportation and communication.
As long as human beings accept the normal, traditional, “natural” principles of association and group action, humanity will continue on the tread-mill of civilization with its long established cycles of beginning, expansion, exploitation, maturity, conflict, decline and extermination.
This aspect of planetary sociology may be illustrated by the rise and decline of total membership in the human family. We know that Roman civilization passed through a completed cycle of population expansion to an optimum, followed by a catastrophic population decline. Western civilization has been experiencing a population expansion or explosion that can be measured with a moderate degree of statistical accuracy. Planetary human population doubled from 500 million in 1650 to 1000 million in 1850. Between 1850 and 1950 population more than doubled (from 1000 million to 2,500 million). In 1975 the human population of the earth is close to 3,700 million.
An essential aspect of world government will be a population program designed to adjust social structure and planning to the means of production and to make generally available to all humans and, where possible, all living things, the results of invention, discovery and experience with affluence, general security and wide variations of vocational and avocational choice. In practice such a program would include the planned utilization and conservation of nature and the conscious improvement of society by society.
Social planning at the planetary level could deal chiefly with large national or regional groupings, more or less divergent in viewpoint but conscious of the necessity for bringing local and regional groups together in order to secure common agreement and to take part in directed joint actions. Such efforts must aim at sufficient cohesion to provide for normal social function at all levels; sufficient permissiveness to allow for a measure of self-determination at all levels; sufficient authority to carry on production and distribution at all levels, and sufficient libertarianism to tolerate discussion and opposition at all levels, with a maximum degree of self sufficiency and self-determination at all levels.
Nowhere is the need for social planning more in evidence than in the sphere of human population. In the early years of the present twentieth century, the human population was doubling in about 50 years (from 1500 million in 1900 to 2500 million in 1950, from 1,900 million in 1925 to 3,800 million in 1975). Had this rate of growth continued for another hundred years the planet’s fertile acres would have been fully occupied by jostling crowds with standing-room only signs in the more desirable living spaces. Japan, the United States, several countries of West Europe and China have launched campaigns to reduce net population increase to one percent per year or less.
A culture level, to be effective in the present predicament of a human race (oscillating uneasily between the possibility of social advance and the probability of recession into another Dark Age of ignorance, superstition and social stagnation), must include certain essential elements. First and foremost, it must be planet-wide. Given planetary unification by communication, transportation, travel, migration, trade and commerce, and cultural interchange, one world has become a factual reality. World oneness is laced by contradictions, confrontations, conflicts; by traditional, customary, habitual, ideological, legal, and national barriers of greater or lesser rigidity. Despite these divisive forces, our need to function in terms of planetary oneness is so great that the term “citizens of the world” not only makes sense, but is accepted and even flaunted in the face of tough restrictions and hard nosed nationalism.
Segments of humanity that are ready and willing to sign up as world citizens already enjoy world consciousness, carrying world passports; and are experimenting with various aspects of worldist thinking, contact, organization. They are ready and willing to take part in a multitude of planetary experiments in world-wide human association.
The great revolution of 1750-1970 has made two notable contributions to the institutions of western civilization. In the field of politics it has contributed the nation state. In the field of economics it has contributed industrialization with its twin sociological consequence, mechanization and urbanization.
Machines and cities are the Siamese twins of the modern age. They are also the twin forces that helped to push the nation state into its strategic position of sovereign independence.
Nationalism today is a unifying force inside the frontiers of the 140 nations that presently litter and clutter the earth. Beyond each frontier, however, nationalism has become one of the most divisive sources of misunderstanding, controversy, disruption and conflict presently cursing mankind. In the exercise of their sovereignty the oligarchs who make policy and direct procedure in each sovereign state put national interests first. On a planet which currently hosts 140 sovereign states this policy of putting the interests of the part before the interests of the whole results in controversy, conflict, and may result in collective self-destruction.
It is reassuring and encouraging to compare the rise of nationalism and Europeanism during the past thousand years with the rise of planetism and worldism from 1450 to 1970. The development of nationalism and Europeanism is still incomplete, but the drive in that direction has thus far survived the fragmenting forces of self-determination and political independence which have played so vital a role in human society since the beginning of the present century. Europeanization is still a dream rather than a reality. The forces of regionalism, nationalism, and separatism still dominate European life. But the ideology and techniques of Europeanization are widely recognized, accepted and put into practice. The development of worldism seems to be following a parallel course.
Consequently, wisdom, foresight, and the acceptance of change as a major factor in all social relationships seem to justify our assumption that sooner or later man’s survival on the planet will depend on a degree of worldist thinking, association and institutionalism that will guarantee the preservation of order and decency at the planetary level.
Since conformity implies and involves a will to diversity, measures to establish and maintain order and peace would include the widest possible latitude and the utmost effort to encourage the greatest possible diversity at regional, national and local levels. Thus diversity would become a virtue in much the same sense that conformity became a virtue in bourgeois Europe toward the end of the last century and in North America during the Joseph MacCarthy period. Through the past dozen years American youth has reversed the trend, adopting a permissiveness under which the sky is the limit in language, clothing, sexual conduct and professional choice and behavior.
Non-conformity is all very well as protest against super-conformity, but it fails utterly to meet the basic need of the 1970’s for a mass movement away from the institutions and practices of civilization, plus a disciplined and purposive mass determination to assume attitudes, adopt practices and establish institutions leading beyond civilization to a world culture pattern which insists upon conformity up to a point necessary for survival and social advance, and beyond that point, a diversity—including recognized and organized opposition at the planetary center. At the same time there must be a degree of regional and local diversity that will provide for the utmost independence, self-confidence, self-expression and regional and local self-determination compatible with the basic principle: to each in accordance with need.
Beyond civilization, matters of general concern will take precedence at the same time that matters of regional and local concerns will be dealt with regionally and locally. In such a society individuals and communities at all levels will be schooled and experienced in self-discipline and prepared to follow conduct patterns that emphasize the principle: live and help others to live to the fullest and the utmost.
Beyond civilization lies the recognition and practice of the principle that the welfare of the whole takes precedence over the demands of any of its parts. At the same time, each part or segment of the social whole has specific rights that the directors of the whole are bound to recognize, respect, defend and implement.
Such results can be achieved under a social pattern aimed at respect for life—all life; the preservation and improvement of the conditions under which the good life can be lived by all members of each community as well as by the human family as a whole. If human society is to be preserved and progressively improved it must encourage individuals and cherish institutions whose responsibility and duty it is to stimulate self-criticism to a point that will make survival and social improvement the first charge on community life—from the locality, through the region to the whole human family.
Should self-discipline and self-criticism falter, militant minorities must urge and initiate those revolutionary changes which are necessary for the health and well-being of any ailing human community. This is one of the contradictions that faces every human enterprise, including the human race itself.
Cyclic renewal or regeneration is one aspect of life on our Island Universe. The principle operates in the life cell, and from the cell on up and out, to the more extended and extensive aspects of life and being. The course is well marked and increasingly understood. Alternatively, humanity can put its creative imagination to work; plan, organize, prepare and by a carefully designed, revolutionary technique take a great leap onto another culture level, establishing other norms beyond those currently accepted by civilized peoples.
“Beyond civilization” lifestyles are being planfully introduced in order to save humankind from impending disaster. In that sense, they are emergency measures. Developmentally, they are being designed as a planned replacement of the life style current in the matured centers of western civilization.
Under such conditions the habit patterns of civilizations could be deliberately abandoned or superceded by life styles more appropriate to the institutions and practices of human beings prepared to live and able to live and develop in a community which is establishing itself on a level beyond civilization.
Let no reader retort: Old things are best; old ways are most secure; beware of the errors of human judgment, the lures and wiles of human imaginings, the reckless enthusiasm of inexperience; the machinations and subversions of the counter-revolution.
Whether he will or no, man has already advanced far along the path that leads beyond the culture level of civilization into a culture pattern which includes new means of association and new social institutions. The most obvious examples of the universal pattern which the human race has been developing during the present epoch are to be found in the “one world” consequences of the planet-wide revolution in science and technology.
Planetary fragmentation which accompanied the dissolution of Roman civilization divided and sub-divided mankind into unnumbered self-contained segments: families, tribes, classes, villages, cities, kingdoms, principalities, nations, empires. They were separated from one another by geographic, ethnic, ideological and political barriers which were intensified by tradition, custom, migration, and the competitive struggles among the elite for pelf and power. Ignorance and superstition played a major role in the decentralizing process. Conflicts at various levels led to further social segmentation and isolation of autonomous social groups.
In the backwardness of those Dark Ages—curiosity, fellow feeling, mass migration, the spirit of adventure, trade, travel and the need for common action to master nature and repel enemies—broke down barriers and created fields of mutual interest and general well-being, reversing the trend toward fragmentation and replacing it by a trend toward universality which reached its high point during the closing years of the nineteenth century. The slogan of this movement was “United we stand, divided we fall. The bell which tolls for one, tolls for all. When one benefits all benefit. Peace, progress and prosperity promote general welfare.”
Two general wars in 1914-18 and 1939-45, brought pre-meditated, deliberated suffering, hardships and death to multitudes. Each war led to a clamor for peace and order that resulted in a World Court, The League of Nations and the United Nations. The efforts at planet-wide united action for peace and disarmament were paralleled and supplemented by the growth of specialized public services for communication, travel, scientific interchange, arms limitation. They were further augmented by a spectacular expansion of trade, travel, capital investment and scientific research and interchange.
Events since war’s end in 1945 have marked out the steps which the human race might take in the immediate future to deal with the new problems arising out of the world revolution of 1750-1970 and to stabilize human life on the planet.
Step 1. Revise the United Nations
Charter to make all citizens
of member nations also citizens of the United Nations
and therefore under its direct jurisdiction.
Step 2. Delegate to the United
Nations authority to levy taxes
or otherwise provide its own income.
Step 3. Call a planet-wide convention of delegates from all nations, authorized to draft a world federal constitution and submit it for ratification by all member states.
Step 4. When approved by two thirds of the states represented at the constitutional convention the constitution so adopted would became the basis for world law and the administration of world affairs.
Step 5. Inaugurate a world government that would be responsible for maintaining and promoting peace, order, stability, justice, equality of opportunity and general welfare at the international level.
Heretofore, the nearest approach to a universal state has been an empire like that of Egypt or Rome built by conquest and maintained by military authority exercised by the imperial nucleus over its associated and subordinated territories. The universal state described above would be an association of sovereign states, each delegating a sufficient measure of its sovereignty to enable the World Federation to act as a responsible planet-wide government.
The probable consequences of these five forward steps have been summarized by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos (Only One World N.Y. Nostrom 1972 pages 28-29). “In every case the needed steps take us away from division, from single shot interventions, separatist tendencies and driving ambitions and greeds. We have to grasp and foster more fully the truly integrative aspects of science. We have to revise our economic management of incomes, of environments, of cities. We have to place what is useable in nationalism within the framework of a political world order that is morally and socially responsible as well as physically one.”
Up to this point in social history, critical situations have usually been dealt with on the battlefield. Might measured right. The victors carried the day, won the right to exploit their defeated rivals and weaker neighbors. The result was planet-wide political chaos, and an economic free-for-all, in which political power and economic superiority bestowed upon their possessors the right to plunder and exploit geographic areas limited only by existing means of communication and transportation. At no known point in social history were conquerors and exploiters able to unify the earth politically and exploit its total economic resources.
A planned, stabilized future for humanity will be assured when the earth is governed much as cities, states, nations and empires have been governed in the past and the present, but with one essential difference. At no known past time have all human beings been represented in a government authorized to make and enforce world law. In the absence of law, chaos and armed conflicts have determined the course of human affairs. Under a recognized world federal government, world law will bring, for the first time, the practical possibility of a law and order determined by and for the human population and charged with the responsibility for establishing and maintaining planetary public policy.
World law will be only one aspect of the new situation that will result from the establishment of a planned, stabilized future for humanity. Other aspects of the new society will include:
1. Shaping the future of nature on and in the planet, with all of its potential riches.
2. Perhaps also taking a hand in determining the future of other celestial bodies making up our solar system.
3. Shaping human society, the man-made and man-remade human heritage that plays so vital a role in determining the course of human life—individual and social.
4. Shaping and guiding man—the gregarious, imaginative, venturesome, productive—destructive, creative animal.
5. Building up in human society respect (reverence) for being, respect for life with its multitudinous variations of opportunity for individual and social activity.
6. Arousing interest and dedicating time, thought and energy to the new science and new arts grouped together under the title Futurology.
7. Having a hand in perpetuating and shaping one segment of our expanding universe in accord with the Cult of Excellence: good, better, and best ever! This is an exciting, constructive, long-range project worthy of the attention and devotion of any being, even the most ambitious and omniscient.
8. Aiming at the Truth—the workability, improvement and the perfectability of our planet Earth as a recognized, accepted and essential part of our planetary chain and of our Island Universe.
MAN COULD CHANGE HUMAN NATURE
Man could conserve natural resources; he could remake human society. But man himself? There, perhaps, is the root of the problem we are discussing.
Can man change himself? Can he change human nature? Could human beings as we know them be transformed sufficiently to live and survive under the life-style that replaces civilization?
In our universe as we know it today, from the least to the greatest, from the most minute to the most extensive, change is one of the basic principles of existence. Nature changes. Human society changes. Changes in nature and in society are paralleled by changes in man himself—changes in outlooks and purposes, changes in ways of feeling, thinking and acting.
Human beings have lived under the aegis of tradition, custom, habit—thinking and acting “normally” and “naturally” in ways accepted by their forebears and followed by them with little or no regard for reason, foresight, or creative imagination. Rudiments of all three capacities were known to exist in human beings. On the whole, the status quo has been preferred; innovation frowned upon and innovators discouraged, denounced, reviled and sometimes even put to death.
In the field of natural science revolutionary short-cutting through the use of man’s creative imagination has been widely used. The great revolution is one aspect of the anticipated result. Similar revolutionary short-cutting in the field of social science and social technology is bound to produce a “new man” in the same way that similar practices have remodeled, regenerated and renewed man’s relations with nature, and his theories and practices of association.
Despite efforts of the Establishment to impose conformity, non-conforming individuals continued to be born and to grow up as deviants, misfits and intentional non-conformists. Some of these rebels against the established social order left home, joined the army or went to sea. Others stayed at home, bided their time and, when opportunity offered, joined with like-minded fellows in organized underground opposition or open rebellion against the status quo.
History reports the existence of such dissident individuals and social groups and movements in one civilization after another.
In a very real sense any invention, discovery or innovation in any field of human thought or action, if widely accepted or adopted automatically, becomes a revolt against the status quo. Our experience with innovation during two centuries of the great revolution gives us every reason to suppose that the flow of scientific and technical invention and discovery will continue for an indefinite period into our future. On the whole the evidence suggests increase rather than decrease of innovation and therefore of change.
A time of troubles such as that through which western civilization is now passing offers individuals and social groups unique opportunities to play significant roles in shaping the course of events. In every human population there are individuals who are dissatisfied with the status quo and prefer change to status. For such individuals a time of social troubles is a holiday.
There is also an ever-renewing social group for whom a time of troubles presents a challenge and an opportunity—the young people of the on-coming generation.
Adults are generally conditioned and shaped by the social situation into which they were born and in which they matured. Young people are passing through the conditioning process. They are undergoing the process of rapid change.
Young people in their teens and early twenties stand, usually hesitant, on the threshold of life. They are bursting with energy, eager, hopeful, anxious to enter the stream of adult activity. Inexperienced, they under-estimate the difficulties, taking up any line of activity that promises quick results. They are impressionable and generally seeking “a good life.”
Such resources of energy and idealism exist in every generation and reappear as the generations follow one another. Youth groups have played active roles in one country after another where opportunities were restricted by the establishment and revolutionary propagandists painted a rosy future. Political nationalism in the eighteenth century and economic and social emancipation in the nineteenth century mobilized high school and college age youth in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.
It is folly to assert that human nature is a given and unalterable quantity in every social situation and that since “you cannot change human nature” intentional social changes are out of the question. The facts are otherwise:
1. There is a wide diversity in human beings ranging from herculean physical strength to pitiable weakness; from the mental power of genius to the nonentity of imbecility; from outstanding and unquestionable talent in arts and letters to illiteracy and clumsy inefficiency. This wide diversity in human capacity is one of the outstanding features of human nature, recorded again and again in history and encountered in all human aggregates.
2. There is a period in human life when the habit patterns of childhood are exchanged for the habit patterns of adulthood. At this turning point, youth is likely to follow dynamic and purposeful leadership.
3. There is a wide diversity in social situations, from rock-ribbed stability, to entire communities teetering on the brink or plunging over the brink into the maelstrom of revolution. Such diverse situations have existed again and again during the 1750-1970 revolutionary epoch.
4. When a revolutionary situation develops, a revolutionary leader well-established in a community trembling on the brink of a revolutionary overturn may seize the reins of power and establish a regime founded on opposition principles, dedicated to another set of principles and practices. When such a revolutionary coup is successful the bells of history have tolled for the older order and the trumpets of victory have sounded for the new society.
5. The intensity and the direction of the social changes which radiate out from the climax of a revolutionary situation and the consequent, subsequent attempts at counter-revolution, are the outcome of active, purposive intervention by all of the social groups present at the center of revolutionary activity.
The current shift from a laissez-faire economy ("letting nature take her course"), to a planned, managed, controlled economy is a precedent which gives us a foretaste of what will lie ahead when a planet-wide federal government undertakes the planning, direction and management of a planet-wide economy and society.
The outcome cannot be determined in advance. Unexpected situations will arise, the resolution of which will shape the fate, present and future, of mankind. In a very real sense, our eggs are all in one basket—the Earth. Our future, for generations to come, may be determined by the decisions we are making or the social policy we are initiating at the present moment.
Large scale research and experiment should go a long way toward developing the skills required by competent and successful planetary leadership. Political experiments like the United States of North America or the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics or the League of Nations or the United Nations, the planet-wide search for petroleum or the joint scientific efforts that went into the splitting of the atom, have given us opportunities to develop the science and art of planet-wide leadership.
Behind and beyond our training courses—our formal educational system (which should be in the front rank of our priorities)—we could train apprentices in every occupational field, selecting the most apt, the most eager, the seemingly best qualified and giving them every opportunity to try out their skills and improve their qualifications in their chosen fields of endeavor.
Aspirants for any occupational assignment would divide themselves into three groups: those who feel that they have chosen wisely, find themselves in congenial surrounds and want to spend coming years in the occupation of their choice; those who are uncertain and still unable to decide upon the field of their life activity; and third, those who have chosen badly, are dissatisfied with the occupational groove in which they find themselves and who are ready to move into another field at the first opportunity.
The well adjusted will constitute the elite of their chosen occupations, learning its skills and joining with other well satisfied professionals in passing on their enthusiasm and knowledge to the next generation of aspirants for inclusion in the same production teams. The undecided should be the object of special attention. They have entered an occupational field on an experimental basis and should be advised and helped during the experimental period when they are deciding to make a go of it or to try for something more congenial or at least more acceptable.
Misfits who have made a wrong choice and who have no clear call to stay where they are should be advised and helped to find more congenial occupational surroundings.
We may think and experiment with this selective process as though it was easy and probably final. Nothing could be further from the reality. Even the best adjusted have moments of uncertainty and indecision about their occupational futures. The less adjusted spend a part of their lives looking around for a more attractive field.
In every field, some of the best adjusted go as far as their interests and capacities carry them and then shift over into other occupations which, in turn, offer them more chances to employ their talents to greater advantage.
In every field of human endeavor individuals come and go. They should stay where they seem to be useful and go when their usefulness is decreasing or coming to an end.
Balance between status and change is as desirable for the individual as it is for the group. The decision to stay or go should remain open to the endless round of individuals who comprise any working team. The existence of such flexibility is limited, however, by the need to maintain a working force of interested, alert, eager individuals—skilled, adjusted and disciplined in group endeavor and achievement.
We are describing the unending process of selection which goes on from hour to hour and day to day in any well ordered social group. Every group has its fields of endeavor, its goals and its scale of priorities. Individuals come and go. The group carries on. Excellence in group performance depends upon its competence in selecting, training and coordinating its endeavors.
Every social group has its hard corps of trained and tested veterans. Also it has its problem of aging. The apprentice of yesterday becomes the experienced, skilled operator of today. Tomorrow brings retirement for those who have reached the age limit of service and who as a matter of group routine are replaced by newcomers. In the course of this cycle the directors of the group have their opportunity to improve the level of group efficiency by phasing out the old and incorporating the new.
The range of capacity, from perception and facility to ineptitude and incompetence, holds for the new generation as it did for the old. The tone and performance level of each group is determined by the effectiveness of this selective process.
At some point it becomes necessary to inquire into the biologic aspects of any social enterprise. We are doing our utmost to select and educate and train the fit. Are we producing potential fitness?
Long experience has taught us that we cannot produce a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Eugenics emerges as an important aspect of every long term group endeavor. Qualities and capacities are handed on from parent to offspring. Are we reproducing fitness or unfitness?
As we move beyond civilization onto a more mature and more complicated culture level, we may have a workable system of social priorities, but does our oncoming stream of manpower have the interest, the imagination, the competence, the sense of social responsibility and the staying power necessary to arouse in a series of generations the will and determination to carry out social policy?
Are the oncoming generations able and willing to shoulder the loads of clearing out the rubbish accumulated through ten centuries of western civilization, make effective use of science, technology and available human capacity and move onward and forward to new levels of social achievement?
We could develop a corps of socially responsible technicians as we have developed a corps of competent scientists and technicians in the field of natural science. In each field priorities are constantly changing. Each field is called upon to meet the changes by making corresponding changes in its personnel, its education and its apprenticeships.
In addition to formal schooling and apprenticeship we have a vast network for the distribution of information and the formation of public opinion. The printing press, the camera and other means of communication determine the levels of information and the willingness of the public to keep abreast of the shifting social scene.
A social structure resembles every other human meeting place—it tends to accumulate dead wood. There are two answers to this problem: periodic housecleaning, without fear or favor, together with careful scrutiny of the apprentices and other newcomers in the field.
Every social group has its quota of defectives and delinquents—biological and social, physical, mental, emotional. Here the critical problem is where to draw the line. Perhaps the best general answer is to measure productiveness, including those who make a net contribution, including those whose presence is desirable and excluding undesirables. Again this involves periodic housecleanings.
Throughout the past two centuries mankind has been confronted by an epoch-making, many sided development—the great revolution of 1750-1970. As I write, the great revolution is modifying the structure and functioning of human society and, consequently, the forces which condition, shape and, in large measure, determine the directions and channels in which humanity lives, moves and has its being.
The great revolution is changing man’s relation to nature, to the structure and function of human society and the ways in which men think, feel, act and live. The great revolution has shifted the human living place from rural to urban, replaced a large measure of self-employment by wagery, lifted large segments of mankind out of scarcity into abundance, led to widespread migrations across Europe and from continent to continent, expanded nations and built empires. In the course of these developments Europe became the center of world economic, political and cultural affairs, held the position briefly and lost it in the course of two general, suicidal wars.
Speaking broadly, such a period in the life of any society may be described as a revolutionary situation—one in which changes are made frequently, rapidly and with far reaching consequences. In a word, the existing social pattern is in process of being turned over, turned upside down, transformed by forces which seem to operate according to their own principles and often quite independently of human intention or intervention.
Our society—western civilization—is undergoing a revolution. People born into a rapidly changing society are often tempted and sometimes compelled to play significant roles in the revolutionary process. Unconsciously or consciously, unwilling and unwitting or deliberately and purposefully they are revolutionaries.
Among the participants in the revolutionary process, the far-seeing, imaginative, perceptive and mature develop into purposive revolutionaries. In the course of a series of political, economic and cultural revolutions like those which played so fateful a part in China between 1899 and 1969, an entire generation is born, grows up and, in larger part, retires from active life or dies off.
Long continued cultural changes play a part in local history. They have an equally important role in the lives of neighboring nations and peoples. With present means of communication, transportation and travel, the influence of revolutionary events such as those in China from 1899 to the present day may be profound.
The bourgeois revolution from 1750 to 1840 centered largely in West Europe and the Americas. In scope it was economic, political, cultural. The Chinese and other revolutions of the present period, beginning with the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the Chinese Revolution of 1911, are once more transforming the economic, political and cultural life of mankind.
UNESCO’s History of Mankind (Harper and Row), particularly its Volume 6 titled The Twentieth Century, presents voluminous comments from a wide range of qualified scientists and commentators on the changes associated with the great revolution of 1750-1970.
The economic, political and cultural life of the majority of human beings has been modified by the events comprising the great revolution. Its influence has been, and continues to be, planet-wide. Consciously or unconsciously, human beings have been brought into contact with influences that are transforming them as they revolutionize human society.
Western man and his way of life have been primarily responsible for this great revolution. The changes brought about in the human life pattern in the course of the great revolution have created a new world—in structure, in function, in outlook, in stepped-up capacity for even more spectacular changes in the future.
Instead of regarding human beings and human society as unchangeable and sacred we must regard both as a part of our social problem: taking the steps necessary to reach and occupy the highest possible levels of social and individual health and effectiveness. We can and should make every effort to improve human society. We should be equally concerned to improve man and his nature.
MAN COULD BREAK OUT OF THE AGE-LONG PRISON HOUSE OF CIVILIZATION AND ENTER A NEW WORLD
We humans have been living for ages with various lifestyles—as hunters and fishermen, as herdsmen, as cultivators of the soil, as craftsmen, as traders and merchants, as professionals, as exploiters, as parasites, wreckers and plunderers. On the whole, our energies have been spent in relatively small, self-sufficient groups, staying close to nature, as a part of nature.
Occasionally we have turned from this “natural” way of life, to build towns and cities, experimenting with large scale mass enterprises and expanded aggregates of population, wealth and centralized authority to which we have given the name of civilizations.
These civilizations, in their turn, have passed through a recognizable life cycle—the cycle of growing, developing, maturing, aging, breaking up and disappearing. One aspect of their civilized life was the keeping of records. Another aspect was building with baked clay and stone. Baked clay, some metals and stone, have withstood the wear and tear of time, sheltered in the temples and tombs which we are uncovering, deciphering, translating.
While engaged in these scholarly pursuits, our variant of the pattern—western civilization—has been passing through the customary life cycle. If we read the signs correctly, western civilization reached the high point in its cycle toward the end of the last century. Since then, for seventy-five years, it has been on the decline.
If we accept the cycle of civilization as one of the facts or sequences presented to us by history, we may continue to pass submissively through the successive stages of decline until western civilization is liquidated by the same forces that wiped out preceding civilizations. This would be the normal course of a cycle of civilization as it appears in recorded history.
Need we follow this course? Must we follow it?
History answers “yes” and also “no.”
History answers “yes”—the record to date reads that way.
But the record of history also shows that men have repeatedly interfered and intervened in the historical process by discovery and invention. The historical record is subject to change. Man is not entirely free. Neither is he helplessly bound on the wheel of necessity, presently known as civilization.
In Chapter 10 we listed a number of discoveries and inventions which have greatly increased man’s control over his own destiny. As these innovations are embodied in the life styles of planet-wide human society, there is every likelihood that men can deal with the future almost as comprehensibly as they now deal with the past. Those who take this position argue that humanity has reached a point at which it may break out of the present cycle of civilization and begin a new cycle which will correspond with the possibilities brought to mankind during the great revolution of 1750-1970.
The idea is not new. It has appeared repeatedly in various forms: individual withdrawal from the world and its troubles to live solitary, perfected, sin-free existences; the formulation of plans for utopian or ideal communities; the establishment of such communities—apart from the workday world; revolutionary mass movements away from the current time of social troubles into a more workable, more acceptable, more basically productive and fundamentally creative life style.
Hermits and reclusive monastic life need not concern us here. They are to be found in many parts of the existing society. They live their lives apart from the main currents of human life. We may make the same comment, with slight modifications, on intentional communities organized within the bounds of surrounding civilizations. They meet the needs of exceptional individuals who find the existing order intolerable and who wish to move at once into a more congenial community life. Intentional communities founded to demonstrate particular social or economic theories usually are short-lived, covering, at best, one or two generations.
Intentional communities organized around ethical or social principles are more enduring, lasting through generations and sometimes through centuries. During their existence they may have considerable influence on the communities of which they are a part. At best they parallel the life of the civilization against which they protest, while they share its problems. Religiously oriented intentional communities may be found today in many of the countries composing western civilization.
What concerns us here is the split of western civilization into two broadly divergent groups: capitalism and socialism-communism.
Capitalism, in its present monopoly form, is the outcome of a thousand years of development. Throughout its existence it has been politically and economically competitive. The vehicle of political competition began as the nation, then continued as the empire. Economically, the vehicle of competition has become the profit-seeking business corporation, backed politically and often subsidized economically by the nation or empire.
As western civilization has developed, nations and empires have tended to form more or less permanent alliances. Business corporations likewise have tended to establish conglomerates which include widely divergent businesses, some limited to one nation or empire, some international.
Historically, the present-day business community developed out of a segmented European feudal society as a protest against political restrictions. Its early key-note was laissez-faire—freedom of businessmen to make economic policy and accumulate profits. The practical outcome of laissez-faire economy has been monopoly or finance capitalism functioning through the sovereign state or empire.
Marxian socialism-communism, organized and developed largely since 1848, has grown up as a rebellion against monopoly capitalism. At it matured, after revolutions in Mexico, China, Tsarist Russia and East Europe, it became an alternative and even a competitive life style. Marxism has been, at least in theory, cooperative rather than competitive. Its objective has been not private profit but a higher standard of economic and social life for exploited masses of the business community and of the Third World. Capitalism has had as its slogan “Every man for himself”. The slogan of Marxism is “Serve the whole people”.
Until 1917 Marxism was a body of social theory and a program of specific political demands. In the period from 1848 to 1917 Marxism operated through minority political parties organized in each nation, but linked together internationally in loose federations, except during the brief existence of the Communist International from 1919 to 1943.
Beginning with the Russian Revolution of 1917, Marxism became a basic state doctrine, first in the Soviet Union and subsequently in more than a dozen other nations of East Europe and Asia. The area of Marxist influence, as expressed in socialist construction, spread slowly from 1917 to 1943 and rapidly during and immediately after the war of 1936-1945.
Today about a billion human beings live in countries of East Europe and Asia calling themselves socialist-communist. A second billion human beings live chiefly in West Europe, the Americas and Australasia calling themselves capitalist. A third billion, the remaining segment of mankind, living chiefly in Africa, Asia and Latin America make up the “Third World,” most of which consists of former colonies and dependencies of the 19th century empires.
At the beginning of the great revolution in 1750 the planet was occupied by the European empires, their colonies and dependencies, with a segment under the control of the crumbling Chinese and Turkish empires. The ensuing two centuries witnessed a political, economic and social transformation that reached across every continent.
The revolutionary process is far from complete in 1975. Capitalism and Marxism are still pitted against each other—ideologically, politically, culturally. The Marxians form a revolutionary front. Capitalists retort with counter-revolution. Nation by nation the third world is taking sides.
The capitalist world is suffering from the rise and fall of the business cycle, from inflation and unemployment, from the scourge of militarism; from the exhaustion of two general wars in one generation; from absence of any positive common program or commonly accepted means of administering public affairs; from its failure to provide its young people with a satisfactory reason for existence, and from the fatal malady of fragmentation which is the logical counterpart of every major effort at coordination, consolidation and unification. Western civilization, despite repeated efforts, was never able to establish the kind of superficial unity that marked the high point in the Egyptian and Roman civilizations. The stresses and strains of the current great revolution have introduced into western civilization new disintegrative forces of which the capitalist-Marxist confrontation is the most extensive, divisive and decisive.
The Marxist world, in its spectacular rise during less than a century, offers the only workable alternative to declining and disintegrating western civilization. It presents an alternative theoretical program for dealing with the transition from the built-in competitiveness of western civilization to the built-in cooperativeness of a planned, coordinated, federated socialist-communist world order.
The Soviet Union and its East European socialist neighbors have survived the wars of 1914 and 1936; have survived the capitalist conspiracy to strangle infant Marxism in its cradle. In a remarkably brief period the Soviet Union has moved from a position of cultural backwardness to become the number two nation in productivity and perhaps even number one in fire power.
Today Asia’s active development of several variants of Marxism is defended against any repetition of Hitler’s 1941 drive to the East by the massive land barrier of the Soviet Union and its East European Marxist associates.
On the west, Asia is protected by the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean against the determined efforts of the Washington government to check the spread of Marxism. Washington’s current effort to become The Pacific power and also The Asian power have been blocked and perhaps thwarted by the defeat of General MacArthur and his international forces in the Korean War of 1950-53, and by the unanticipated and unbelievable resistance mounted by the peoples of South East Asia against the repeated efforts made by Washington to replace the French imperial presence there after its overwhelming defeat in 1954.
The decisive political developments in South and East Asia following war’s end in 1945 were first, the expulsion of the British, French and Dutch from their military strongholds in the area; second, the spectacular unification of China and its rapid advance from inferiority and political inconsequence to a place among the three major world powers; third, the meteoric comeback of Japan after its unconditional surrender in 1945; and fourth, the failure of the costly effort mounted by Washington after 1954 to establish itself in a position from which it could dominate the Pacific Ocean and East Asia.
So much we may learn from history. Turning from the past and looking at the trends of the immediate future, it seems likely that Marxism will continue for at least some years to be the dominant force in Asia. Furthermore, the Marxian presence in Asia will include both the Soviet Union in Northern Asia and China in South Asia. Both countries are unquestionably stabilized economically and viable politically. Both are headed away from capitalist imperialism. Both are moving toward Marxian forms of socialism-communism.
The wars in South East Asia after the expulsion of the French in 1954 were organized, financed and armed primarily by the Washington government. They were avowedly aimed at the up-rooting of Marxism from the area. They not only failed in their main objective but they gave the Soviet Union and the Chinese a chance to pit their advisers, technicians and military equipment against that of the United States as the major capitalist contender in the area. This phase of the counter-revolutionary drive to reestablish monopoly capitalism and imperialism in the Far East thus far has met with decisive and humiliating defeat.
This defeat marks the end of the capitalist occupation of Far Asia. It also opens the way for the Marxists to demonstrate the workability of socialism-communism as a lifestyle for Asians and, presumably, for other segments of the Third World.
Success of the Marxists in maintaining and extending their presence in Asia will make it politically and culturally possible for them to take five essential steps:
First, to extend the developing pattern of collective responsibility and collective action around the earth as rapidly as possible. If such an extension proves feasible, it should give Marxism a real priority in stabilizing the economy and building up the political vigor of the Far East.
Second, organized counter-revolution could be liquidated and revolutionaries, willing to take on the responsibility, could be provided with necessary authority, leadership and equipment.
Third, moving along with the formulation and fulfillment of carefully developed plans for socialist construction in all of its ramifications, to close the door gradually, step by considered step, on exploitation and profiteering. In their places, well-laid plans could be drawn up for developing a people’s socialist-communist economy in the more backward areas of Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Fourth, the new economy could be federated as it was established and stabilized, with special attention to the need for a maximum of local self help to balance against pressures toward bureaucracy and the development of overhead costs.
Fifth, with one eye on its need for integration into a socialist-communist collective planetary economy, the other eye must be kept on the planetary chain of which the earth is an essential part.
Life is a process operating through the linking of causes and their effects. This is as true of social life as it is of individual life. Reviewing history we check man’s past actions and learn by so doing. Turning to the future we plan and prepare to set in motion that conglomerate of causes (plans) best calculated to assure a good life individually, socially, cosmically—with a strong emphasis on the time honored sequence: good, better, best.
It is our opportunity, our destiny, and our responsibility to keep on living, constructing, creating. We must live, not die. We must not stop. We must go on.
By such steps we humans could by-pass the restrictions and limitations imposed on human creative genius by the structure and function of civilization. In its place we could elaborate a substitute inter-planetary culture in which a chastened, improved, rejuvenated humanity could play a creative role, in accordance with our capacities and our destiny as an integral part of the joint enterprise to which our sun furnishes light, warmth and vibrant energy. We have latent among us the talent and genius necessary to play such a part. Do we also have the imagination, courage and daring to accept the challenge and take our post of duty in the team that is directing the expansion of our expanding universe?
Among the books consulted in preparation of this essay on civilization as a social institution, UNESCO History of Mankind holds first place. The authors describe the work as “the first global history, planned and executed from an international viewpoint”. The subtitle of the six volumes is “Cultural and Scientific Development”.
The work is published under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization by an International Commission presided over by Professor Pauls E. deBerredo Carneiro of Brazil. The Commission consists of 23 members, mostly academicians from 23 countries. The commission also has a corresponding membership of 93 drawn chiefly from the academic personnel of 42 countries.
Textual material for the History of Mankind was prepared and edited by hundreds of experts in the widely ranging fields covered by the History. Final approval of the text came from the Commission. In cases where there were differences of opinion or of interpretation, varying and opposing points of view are presented.
The History of Mankind is in six volumes.
I. Prehistory and The Beginnings of Civilization.
II. The Ancient World.
III. The World A.D. 400 to A.D. 1300.
IV. The World A.D. 1300 to the End of the Eighteenth Century.
V. The World in the Nineteenth Century.
VI. The Twentieth Century. All but the first volume of the History deal with the epoch during which civilization has played a fateful role in world affairs.
Professor Arnold J. Toynbee’s ten volume Study of History is concerned chiefly with the rise and decline of those civilizations which have left a noteworthy historical record. His emphasis is geographical and political rather than cultural and social. The same thing may be said of other histories of civilization. They stress personalities, nations and empires.
There are few books which approach the study of civilization as a stage or level of human culture. Among them are:
Abbott, Wilbur C, The Expansion
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Albanes, Ricardo C, La Civilizacion
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Ashley, Percy W., Europe from
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Ballester Escalas, Rafael, Historia
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Balmes, Jaime Luciano, La Civilizacion,
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Barnes, Harry E., A Social History
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——, A Survey of Western Civilization, N.Y.: Crowall, 1947.
Bell, Clive, Civilization, an
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Blackmar, Frank W., History of
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Bornet-Perrier, Paul, L’Unite Humaine, Paris: Alcan, 1931.
Bose, Pramatha, Epochs of Civilization, Calcutta: Newman, 1913.
Breasted, James H., A History
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Brier, Royce, Western World, Garden City: Doubleday, 1946.
Briere, Yves de la, Grands Imperialismes
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Brodeur, Arthur G., The Pageant
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Brown, Lawrence R., The Might
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Bruce, Maurice, The Shaping of
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Brugmans, Hendrik, Les Origines
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Bryce, James, Holy Roman Empire, London: MacMillan, 1903.
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Burns, Emile, Imperialism,
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Casson, Stanley, Progress and
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Chapot, Victor, The Roman World, London: Paul, 1928.
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Clough, Shepard B., Rise and
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Crozier, John B., Civilization
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Cunningham, William, Western
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Demangeon, Albert, Le Declin de l’Europe, Paris: Payot, 1920.
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Glotz, Gustav, Aegean Civilization, N.Y.: Knopf, 1925.
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Haas, William, What Is Civilization,
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