Civilization and Beyond - Learning From History
by Scott Nearing
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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 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.



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 of Europe, N.Y.: Holt, 1918. 2 vols.

Adams, Brooks, The Law of Civilization and Decay, N.Y.: Knopf, 1943.

Adams, Brooks, The New Empire, N.Y.: MacMillian, 1902.

Adams, George B., Civilization During the Middle Ages, N.Y.: Scribners, 1914.

Albanes, Ricardo C, La Civilizacion y el Communismo Marxista, Habana: Cultural S.A., 1937.

Ashley, Percy W., Europe from Waterloo to Sarajero, N.Y.: Knopf, 1926.

Baikie, James, The Life of the Ancient East, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1923.

Ballester Escalas, Rafael, Historia de la Civilizaciones, Barcelona: Gasso, 1961.

Balmes, Jaime Luciano, La Civilizacion, Barcelona: Lopez Lansas, 1922.

Barnes, Harry E., A Social History of the Western World, N.Y.: Appleton, 1921.

——, A Survey of Western Civilization, N.Y.: Crowall, 1947.

Bell, Clive, Civilization, an Essay, London: Chatto and Windus, 1928.

Blackmar, Frank W., History of Human Society, N.Y.: Scribners, 1926.

Bornet-Perrier, Paul, L'Unite Humaine, Paris: Alcan, 1931.

Bose, Pramatha, Epochs of Civilization, Calcutta: Newman, 1913.

Breasted, James H., A History of Egypt, London: Hodder and Stoughten, 1921.

Brier, Royce, Western World, Garden City: Doubleday, 1946.

Briere, Yves de la, Grands Imperialismes Contemporaires, Anvers: Association des Licencees de St. Ignace, 1925.

Brodeur, Arthur G., The Pageant of Civilization, N.Y.: McBride, 1931.

Brown, Lawrence R., The Might of the West, NY.: Obolensky, 1963.

Bruce, Maurice, The Shaping of the Modern World 1870-1914, N.Y.: Random House, 1958.

Brugmans, Hendrik, Les Origines de la Civilization, Liege: Georges Thone, 1958.

Bryce, James, Holy Roman Empire, London: MacMillan, 1903.

Burns, Edward M., Western Civilizations, Their History and Their Culture, N.Y.: Norton, 1968. 2 vols.

Burns, Emile, Imperialism, London: Labor Research Department, 1927.

Callot, Emile, Civilization et Civilizations, Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1954.

Casson, Stanley, Progress and Catastrophe, London: Hamilton, 1937.

Chapot, Victor, The Roman World, London: Paul, 1928.

Childe, V. Gordon, New Light on the Most Ancient East, London: Kegan Paul, 1934.

Clough, Shepard B., Basic Values of Western Civilization, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1960.

Clough, Shepard B., Rise and Fall of Civilization, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1957.

Crozier, John B., Civilization and Progress, London: Longmans, 1892.

Cunningham, William, Western Civilization, Cambridge: University Press, 1900.

Demangeon, Albert, Le Declin de l'Europe, Paris: Payot, 1920.

Dorpsch, Alfons, Economic and Social Foundations of Western Civilization, N.Y.: Harcourt, 1937.

Douglas, Sholto O.G., A Theory of Civilization, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1914.

Elias, Norbert, Uber den Prozess der Zivilisation, Basel: Falken, 1939.

Farrington, Benjamin, Science and Politics in the Ancient World, London: Allen and Unwin, 1939.

Fischer, Eric, Passing of the European Age, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1943.

Fleiweiling, Ralph T., The Survival of Western Culture, N.Y.: Harper, 1943.

Forrest, J.D., Development of Western Civilization, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1907.

Fougeres, Gustav and others, Les Premiers Civilisations, Paris: Alcan, 1926.

Frank, Tenney, Economic History of Rome, Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1927. 2nd ed.

Frank, Tenney, Roman Imperialism, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1914.

Freud, Sigmund, Civilization and its Discontents, N.Y.: Norton, 1961.

Friedell, Egon, A Culture History of the Modern World, N.Y.: Knopf, 1930.

Friedjung, Heinrich, Das Zeitalter des Imperialismus, Berlin: Neufeld und Henius, 1914. 3 vols.

Georg, Eugen, The Adventure of Mankind, N.Y.: Dutton, 1931.

Glotz, Gustav, Aegean Civilization, N.Y.: Knopf, 1925.

Goddard, Edward H. and Gibbons, P.A., Civilization or Civilizations, London: Constable, 1926.

Gollwitzer, Heinz, Europe in the Age of Imperialism, N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace, 1969.

Goshal, Kumar, People in Colonies, N.Y.: Sheridan House, 1948.

Grigg, Edward W.M., The Greatest Experiment in History, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1924.

Guizot, F.P., Histoire de la Civilisation en Europe, N.Y.: Appleton, 1938.

Gupta, N.K., The March of Civilization, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1959.

Haas, William, What Is Civilization, London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Hankins, Frank H., The Racial Basis of Civilization, N.Y.: Knopf, 1926.

Harris, George, Civilization Considered as a Science, London: Bell and Daldy, 1872.

Heard, Gerald, The Source of Civilization, London: Cape, 1935.

Hertzler, G.O., The Social Thought of the Ancient Civilizations, N.Y.: McGraw Hill, 1938.

Hubbard, Arthur J., The Fate of Empires, London: Longmans, 1913.

Innes, Harold B., Empire and Communication, Oxford: Clarendon, 1950.

Louis, Paul, Ancient Rome at Work, N.Y.: Knopf, 1927.

Lowie, Robert H., Are We Civilized? N.Y.: Harcourt Brace, 1929.

Lubbock, John, The Origin of Civilization, London: Longmans, 1875.

McCabe, Joseph, The Evolution of Civilization, London: Watts, 1921.

Majewski, Erasme de, La Theorie de l'Homme et de la Civilisation, Paris: Le Soudier, 1911.

———, La Science de la Civilisation, Paris: Alcan, 1908.

Maritain, Jacques, Twilight of Civilization, N.Y.: Sheed and Ward, 1943.

Marshak, Alexander, The Roots of Civilization, N.Y.: McGraw Hill, 1972.

Marvin, F.S. ed., The Unity of Western Civilization, London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Means, Philip A., Ancient Civilizations of the Andes, N.Y.: Scribners, 1931.

Moraze, Charles, Essai sur la Civilisation d'Occident, Paris: Colin, 1950.

Moret, A. and Davy, G., From Tribe to Empire, N.Y.: Knopf, 1926.

Morgan, L.H., Ancient Society, N.Y.: Holt, 1907.

Morris, Charles, Civilization: An Historical Review of Its Elements, Chicago: Griggs, 1890.

Mumford, Lewis, Technics and Civilization, N.Y.: Harcourt Brace, 1934.

Pendell, Elmer, The Next Civilization, Dallas: Royal, 1970.

Quigley, Carroll, The Evolution of Civilizations, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1961.

Randall, Henry J., The Creative Centuries, N.Y.: Longmans, 1944.

Rod, Edouard, L'Imperialisme, Paris: Revue des Deux Mondes, 1907.

Rostovtzeff, Mikhail I., Economic and Social History of the Roman Empire, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926.

Schneider, Hermann, The History of World Civilization, N.Y.: Harcourt Brace, 1932. 2 vols.

Schumpter, Joseph, Zur Soziologiedes Imperialismus, Tubingen: Mohr, 1919.

Schrecker, Paul, Work and History, Princeton: University of Princeton Press, 1948.

Schweitzer, Albert, The Philosophy of Civilization, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1949.

Seignobos, Charles, The Rise of European Civilization, N.Y.: Knopf, 1938.

Sellery, George C., The Founding of Western Civilization, N.Y.: Harper, 1929.

Spengler, Oswald, Decline of the West, N.Y.: Knopf, 1928.

Swain, Edgar S., A History of World Civilization, N.Y.: McGraw Hill, 1938.

Toynbee, Arnold J., A Study of History, N.Y.: Oxford, 10 vols.

UNESCO, Scientific and Cultural History of Mankind, N.Y.: Harper and Row, 6 vols.

Walker, C.C., The Biology of Civilization, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1930.

Walsh, Correa Moylan, The Climax of Civilization, N.Y.: Sturgis, 1917.

Wells, H.G., The Salvaging of Civilization, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1922.

Widney, Joseph, Civilizations, their Diseases and Rebuilding, Los Angeles: Pacific Publishing Co., 1937.

Zimmern, Alfred E., Greek Commonwealth, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1911.


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