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 known forerunners.
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 contents.
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.
A Social Analysis of Civilization
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.