NOAH’S RAINBOW SERPENT – observations by Ian MacDougall

The Fourth Transition

Posted in History by Ian MacDougall on January 26th, 2009

Norman Mailer once wrote something, in an article picked up by The Sydney Morning Herald, that I found arresting: “My long experience with human nature – I’m 80 years old now – suggests that it is possible that fascism, not democracy, is the natural state.” [0]

Mailer was a novelist, and his business was being provocative. The Naked and the Dead (1948), based on his experience serving in the US Army in the Pacific, was just so. In the context of the times, it made his reputation. I found his article, like his novel, to be food for considerable worthwhile thought. After the thinking, I decided he was wrong.

However, he was very usefully wrong. The resulting perspective on the last 10,000 years of human history set out below covers the major transitions in humanity’s economic base: agricultural, industrial and cybernetic, each of which in turn brought distinctive and dramatic social consequences. It is highly probable that we are now commencing a fourth transition, one as transforming as any of the previous three. Karl Marx got many things right in social analysis, and the class struggle central to his philosophy remains embedded in the modern political division between Labor and the conservatives, left and right. Capitalist societies around the world may well start tearing themselves and each other apart, but whatever new ways there will be in future political and economic organisation, a socialism based on centralisation of economic decision making will almost certainly not be one of them.

The ‘natural state’ which humans seem to gravitate to, both while they are in and when they get beyond the pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer band, is not Mailer’s pessimistic fascism but a more generalised order of which fascism is but an extreme example. That order is hierarchy, its most stable form being a pyramid of competence, or as Denis Dutton describes it, a reverse dominance hierarchy:

 

“…a human reverse dominance hierarchy is something that is led by an individual at the top who by dint of skill, talent or knowledge, or maybe just force of personality, becomes the corporal, the staff sergeant, the team captain, the platoon leader or the chairman, and the rest of the guys go along with it. It’s called a reverse dominance hierarchy because the leader needs the co-operation of the led.” [4]

Stalin’s Russia, in which the supreme leader’s main area of competence was in overseeing the control apparatus of a police state, was the most outstanding example in all history of a pure dominance hierarchy.

Across the stages of social order from the hunter-gatherer hierarchy we see a tension between power based on experience and ability, and one based on inheritance. Tribal chieftains were leaders in both war and peace, and a process of natural selection must have weeded out the incompetents. A transfer of power by simple inheritance, typically from father to eldest son, arguably minimised disputes over succession, but often at the expense of quality in leadership. Nobody likes obeying orders from a fool, no matter how well the fool is connected. People naturally follow those they have greatest confidence in, and will only follow a fool if the alternative is something worse, like summary execution. That for example, was the choice presented to British soldiers unlucky enough to be under the command of Field Marshal Douglas Haig, (1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC) in the First World War, and to German airmen under Hermann Goering in the Second. (The Scottish historian Norman Stone described Haig as the greatest of Scottish generals, since he killed the highest number of English soldiers at any front in history.)

The transition from the egalitarian social organisation of hunter-gatherers to more elaborate and uneven hierarchical distribution of power can be seen in the agricultural communities of Melanesians in the islands of the Western Pacific. Chiefs and Grand Chiefs must be treated with the greatest respect, their housing traditionally is superior and set well apart from the rest of the village, and one does not simply call at their front door for a friendly chat, as one might do with people lower down the ladder. These fishermen-gardeners have a way to go, and clearly models originating in the expanses of the continental landmasses will have only limited application for them, but further economic development will bring more elaborate division of labour and more aloof hierarchy. They are on their way to feudalism.

Whether they can circumvent that stage and plunge straight into capitalism is an open question. The current situation in Niugini suggests not.

Agriculture developed because it consolidated food supply around plants and animals that were themselves in process of rapid domestication. The division of labour in agricultural societies gave rise to villages, towns and cities, and the required defence abilities produced systems of marked ranking and social stratification, underpinned in the consciousness of the participants by elaborate religious justifications. In Europe there developed what we know as feudalism and in Asia, Oriental despotism. In both, hierarchy of rank and privilege became the basis both of social order and military organisation. But the bedrock of agriculture, villages, towns, cities, systems of marked ranking and social stratification, together with their elaborate religious justifications, was a fundamental physical law known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The creation of order out of wilderness: fields, harvests in granaries, paved roads, and villages of mud-brick houses, requires work to bring about an entropy reduction, or reduction in disorder. Left to itself the order will go into reverse: houses will decay and the fields go wild with a multitude of species instead of a mere few desirable ones. Thus if work has to be done, and especially repetitive tasks involving great muscular exertion, then one either does it oneself, or organises for one or more others to do it. One man can command a fortress, but he cannot build it on his own. Hierarchy follows, as night follows day. Thus in time, the castles on the Rhine and the Great Wall of China.

Feudalism was elaborated upon until, in an ironic European twist, an urban-based class of traders, tradespeople, merchants, manufacturers and professionals, which over several hundred years had developed within the shelter it provided, rebelled against its absolutist and aristocratic political structures, and its hierarchies’ self-favour in distribution of wealth. In the aftermath, feudal estates started turning into capitalist farms, there to be bought and sold like the produce off them. At around the same time (in the mid-Eighteenth Century) that same class of people who had been revolutionising society began what we now call the Industrial Revolution, in which the energy of fossil fuels progressively displaced animal and human muscle power from many tasks.

The changed social relations of the successful bourgeois and industrial revolutions also extended the Agricultural Revolution, industrialising agriculture. Feudal revivals and new feudal ventures became impossible, even in the colonies. The project sponsored in 1853 by such notables as WC Wentworth and John Macarthur, which would have set up a ‘bunyip’ aristocracy in Australia, became rapidly mired in popular ridicule, rather than admired with solemn popular respect. However, in Queensland a plantation aristocracy working slave labour did begin to develop in the 1880s in the cane-growing coastal areas such as the Cairns district, and lasted until 1900, using indentured or kidnapped (‘blackbirded’) Melanesian labour from the nearby Pacific islands, chiefly the Solomons (modern Vanuatu). [2.1] Arguably, these were the first Melanesians to experience feudalism. But the experiment terminated well before it brought forth an Ancien Regime on the French model. The closest colonial or transplanted approximation, the Deep South of the US, collapsed in the Civil War of 1861-65.

In 1989, when I.M. Pei’s Glass Pyramid was installed in the courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris, [2.2] 200 years after that building was transformed into one of the great art museums of the world by the revolutionaries of 1789, it was not without its critics. They focused on the dissonance between the original ornate building from the period of high feudalism of France and the glass pyramid somewhere between New Age and Pharaonic Egypt. But to my mind, both buildings sit well together, the original palace as one of the Ancien Regime’s most outrageous (which rage came out in 1789) creations, and the pyramid as a summary comment on the structure of the regime itself.

In feudal society, a man of whatever rank gave service to his liege or patron. As a member of a hierarchically organised society, in return he received in return certain benefits, chiefly protection from the lord’s enemies, but also from the lord himself. The hierarchy of feudalism was arguably the greatest chain-letter protection racket yet devised, and to escape from it one had to have tradeable skills, such as those of the international brotherhood of cathedral-building stonemasons, the mercenaries and romanticised ‘knights errant’ in the feudal wars of Europe, or of the ronin samurai of feudal Japan in the period 1185-1868. Sometimes whole companies of men would serve as ‘free lances’. One modern survival of this is the Pope’s company of Swiss Guards.

To be without either a patron or a means of independent livelihood left one vulnerable. The only social security any individual had was as now: that provided by other people. But whatever largesse they produced was collected and redistributed on terms dictated by the aristocracy. Translating this to the context of a modern feudal society, we can see its importance. After the Americans defeated the Iraqi Army in 2003, their administrator Paul Bremer disbanded it, leaving 300,000 trained soldiers with no patron, social security or independent means of support. Many turned to banditry, or sold their services to warlords, as in the glory days of European or Asiatic feudalism. Many today, faced with the choice of serving a patron or trying to survive out there in the remorseless market, happily choose the patron.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809), who lived on the cusp of time between collapsing feudalism and rising capitalist liberal democracy, made this observation:

To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho’ himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in Kings, is that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving mankind an ASS FOR A LION. (Common Sense, 1776)

Transmission of office of leadership by inheritance avoided many a bloody squabble over succession, but not all. However, inheritance of office came with its own problems. Nothing gives better insight into the times than the fact that Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense became a best-seller, running to half a million copies. It was revolutionary because it was seen by so many as being so right. Paine’s challenge to the rights of birth was a crowbar in the biggest crack running in European feudalism, because life was at the time getting steadily worse for the growing mass comprising the lower orders and at the same time top heavy with privilege and conspicuous consumption of the elite. Principles that had given Europe the more equitable society as depicted by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales had disappeared. The social hierarchy involved all its people according to well understood and accepted principles of commons and nobility, which were based on worthiness in the sight of God: inheritance of title, estates and domains, and the granting and receipt of patronage. But aristocrats, visibly distinguished from commoners through their exclusive right to wear colourful clothes rather than the dyeless homespun of the commoners, had been from the outset in competition with each other over place in the order, as reflected by grandeur of castles, estates and palaces, numbers of retainers, and ability to bestow patronage.

Peasant revolts were as old as feudalism itself, but were always easily crushed due to the peasantry’s rural isolation and difficulties of organisation as compared with the aristocracy’s. In the classic formulation of Karl Marx regarding the French peasantry in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte:

The small-holding peasants form an enormous mass whose members live in similar conditions but without entering into manifold relations with each other. Their mode of production isolates them from one another instead of bringing them into mutual intercourse. The isolation is furthered by France’s poor means of communication and the poverty of the peasants. Their field of production, the small holding, permits no division of labor in its cultivation, no application of science, and therefore no multifariousness of development, no diversity of talent, no wealth of social relationships. Each individual peasant family is almost self-sufficient, directly produces most of its consumer needs, and thus acquires its means of life more through an exchange with nature than in intercourse with society. A small holding, the peasant and his family; beside it another small holding, another peasant and another family. A few score of these constitute a village, and a few score villages constitute a department. Thus the great mass of the French nation is formed by the simple addition of homologous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes. [5]

The history of the ‘third world’ in the Twentieth Century proved Marx somewhat pessimistic on the subject of the initiative and power of the peasantry to relieve itself of oppression. A peasantry led by town bourgeois like an Oliver Cromwell, a Citizen Robespierre, middle class radicals like Lenin, Gandhi, Mao, Ho Chi Minh or Castro, or a peasant-born soldier like Chu Teh was capable of overturning a lot of order, particularly since that order tended to tear itself apart in wars rather similar to those of the gangs of Chicago.

In its earliest phase, before the bourgeois began to opt out, there was no land or man without a lord above him. The King’s liege was God, and he ruled by God’s grace and grant of divine right, thus extending the social hierarchy all the way to the highest rank in Heaven. The Christian Church dovetailed into this system, being in many ways a parallel and rival to the power of states, and owning much land, the prevailing form of wealth. Suzerains, moreover, could be individuals or collectives. While bishops were commonly aristocrats by birth and lords in their own right, monasticism offered the lowly a way to a slice of the action, becoming to feudalism what the joint stock company was to the later capitalism. The catch was that on their departure for the next life, the unmarried and perhaps celibate clerics, monks and nuns, lacking legitimate offspring, would pass any and all of their accumulated property to the Church.

In the subsequent European epoch of capitalism, wealth was synonymous with money, and readily convertible to it. Inherited privilege steadily gave way to a combination of monetary ‘worth’ and individual achievement. Inherited right to state power was replaced by that conferred by popular suffrage, though this varied from country to country. The power of aristocrats across Europe declined as a result of the 1789 revolution in France and the subsequent Napoleonic wars. The mutual obligations of lords and serfs, though grossly lopsided in the later stages of feudalism, were replaced by an every-man-for-himself capitalist society in which alternative forms and assurances of social security were slow to develop. The mutual support of the tribe had been replaced by that of the common people mediated by their lord, and he was (slowly or abruptly, but inexorably) replaced as mediator by the market. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that movements like fascism and communism both achieved power out of the chaos following the defeat of the imperial Central Powers in World War 1. German fascism came to be sold to the demoralised populace as a path of (industrialised) return to the imagined glories, values, beliefs and social solidarity of early Germanic feudalism.

Representative democracy in the 19th and the first half of the 20th Century tended not to replicate itself. The colonial powers of Europe, whose own democracy was variable, ran autocratic regimes in all their colonies.

Feudal societies were also open to attack by pre-feudal tribesmen, such as the Central European ‘barbarians’ who brought down the later Roman Empire and by the Mongols in the 12th and 13th Centuries. While advanced capitalist societies today are in no way threatened by the surviving hunter-gatherers of the world, feudal societies such as those of Iraq and Afghanistan have an internal conservative resilience that does not succumb easily before the war machines of the modern capitalist states.

Israel remains to this day an intractable source of trouble because it was founded as an act of colonisation by the victorious capitalist powers of the two succeeding major wars of the Twentieth Century. It was not a colonisation that intruded upon hunter-gatherers, as happened in Australia and the Americas, but upon an already operating feudal society. Islamism represents a quite powerful reaction to this, yet is an already futile attempt to revive collapsing feudal social relations and project them renewed into the post-feudal age. For this reason it is most aptly described as Islamic fascism.

A zoological analogy: every member of the Class Reptilia alive today, every lizard, snake, crocodile, monitor and turtle, is a dinosaur in waiting. Its chance would come if only the mammals and maybe the birds would get out of the way. In the same manner, every leader of a local teenage gang, higher order gangster or drug ‘baron’ is a Charlemagne, Harold the Great, Richard Coeur de Leon (or more likely, Ivan the Terrible) couchant. Though they manage to do quite nicely in a strong liberal capitalist environment, such people cannot hope to go rampant and transcend it. Only where liberalism is weak or non-existent can they do so as, for example, in certain parts of Central America.

Imperialism won for the metropolitan countries practising it unprecedented sources of wealth in markets and raw materials, enabling assaults on peoples still in the tribal or feudal stages. Empire began in the Ancient World, and in Europe following the collapse of Rome, began anew with the expedition of Columbus to the Americas in 1492, which departed from the Iberian Peninsula, the region of feudal Europe with the strongest maritime development. Understandably, in the parts of the Americas conquered by the then-dominant Spanish and Portuguese, the new societies set up were on the feudal model, which later quite easily became military dictatorships. Military organisation and ranks, which began in ancient times, fitted well with the later feudal hierarchies, and any feudal society at peace was easily switched to a war footing without dislocation or reorganisation.

European imperialism led Europe into an arms race and the two great wars of the Twentieth Century. Communist rebels gained control of the defeated Russian Empire in 1917, of Yugoslavia in 1946, China in 1949, Vietnam in the period 1954-75 and Cuba in 1959. These last four social revolutions are, I believe, best understood as a reaction of feudal peoples against external imperialism. They were not what their leaders claimed them to be (workers’ and peasants’ states arising out of proletarian and peasant revolutions), but rather a new form of pyramidal hierarchy applied to an industrialising context, consequent everywhere upon the fact that they replaced in each country not a fully fledged capitalist social order, but a decadent and vulnerable feudal one. Joseph Stalin and other Soviet communist leaders presided over one such example of an industrialising ‘workers’ feudalism’. What they created was claimed as the next stage of social organisation beyond capitalism in the Marxist of sequence tribalism – feudalism – capitalism – socialism – communism. What actually occurred was that wage workers each now had the choice of one big company for which to work for wages, instead of one of a number of much smaller companies. Stalin finished his life in 1953 as the most powerful man who ever lived, and after a history of state repression and corruption rivalled only by Nazi Germany’s, and perhaps even exceeding it, the system he created collapsed in 1989. What emerged, unsurprisingly, was a gangster-capitalism.

The original October 1917 Revolution in the Russian Empire was actually a military coup, distinct from most others of the genre by originating in the lower rather than the upper ranks of the army. A destructive civil war ensued, ensuring that whatever emerged from it, the least likely was a liberal democracy. To their credit, the insurrectionary Bolshevik leadership of the time made a sincere effort to flatten the social pyramid of feudal privilege widely taken for granted in Russia, abolishing secrecy of government and diplomacy and paying themselves at the rate accorded skilled industrial workers, albeit for performance of self-chosen tasks. Had they extended that principle of payment and work progressively to the population at large, the outcome for the USSR might have been markedly different. Given what came under Stalin, it could hardly have been worse.

The ‘Second Industrial Revolution’, starting in the mid Twentieth Century, saw automatic systems and computers take over the control functions of both blue and white collar workers in industrialised countries. Also called the Cybernetic Revolution, it combined the power of the machine with the skill, patience and contented repetitiveness of the machine. Like the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions before, it was driven by the rewards and savings in time, energy and money to those in positions to make decisions regarding use of such systems. Surprisingly little industrial or political opposition to it was attempted, unlike the case of the Industrial Revolution where the (commonly misunderstood) ‘Luddite’ movement of machine-wrecking craft workers made its appearance. In the corporate capitalist environments where computerisation was introduced there was hierarchy of power like feudalism. But corporations and companies are inevitably ant-heaps, with personnel and shareholders coming and going, while the corporate entity continues until absorbed into another in the process of capital concentration.

Each of the three major revolutions in humanity’s economic base so far considered has had enormous social effects, so much so that return to the preceding economy and base was rendered impossible. We 6.6 billion inhabitants of this planet cannot return to our distant ancestors’ hunter-gatherer stage with its stone and wooden technology, nor to the stage dominated by agriculture, with power supplied directly by human and animal muscle, by wind for shipping, and by wind and water for industrial mills. If a nuclear war or comet impact did no more than supply a massive electromagnetic pulse to blow out all the circuitry of computers and other electronic devices, the modern economic world would come to a standstill, probably with terrible consequences. Electronic data storage and record-keeping underpins government and commerce: banking, finance, insurance, transport and communications everywhere, and there are simply not enough clerks or paper and pens in the world to take over should computers for whatever reason leave off, nor, I guess, personnel to run the industrial plants that are presently under automated control.

All of the previous mode transitions were incentive driven: the next immediate step to increased bounty, benefit and profits was easily seen from the preceding one. Though driven by the carrot rather than the stick, what those who each added their bit to the larger unfolding change did not see were the very long-term consequences. Those hunter-gatherers who increased their food supplies by clearing weeds away from desirable plants were oblivious to one logical consequence of that activity: castles and crusades. Nor did a pair of bicycle mechanics known to their locality as the Wright brothers realise in their time that beyond their flying machine project lay anything like the Boeing Corporation, the US Strategic Air Command, NASA and the European Space Agency. Likewise, while Tom Paine only had limited forward vision towards the modern world, his was undoubtedly better than that enjoyed by King Louis the Sixteenth of France, during those halcyon days when he still had his head connected to the rest of him.

The last Revolution is the one we are now starting, and it is driven not by the carrot, but by the sticks of climate change on the one hand and impending resource and fossil fuel exhaustion on the other. Like the Agricultural, Industrial and Cybernetic Revolutions before it, what I choose to call here the Sustainability Revolution implies enormous social consequences, impossible to foresee in detail from this vantage point in time.

In the Agricultural Revolution, progressive influence was exerted upon the ecological systems limiting human populations. Once humanity was dependent on diets based on domesticated animals and plants there was no going back to hunter-gathering. In the Industrial Revolution, our not-so-distant ancestors began tapping into the energy stored in huge natural deposits of carbon and its compounds, in turn derived from fossilised remains of plants and ecosystems that flourished tens to hundreds of millions of years previously. The factory system evolved to make elaborate products in a series of relatively simple steps, learnable by the peasants migrating to the cities. In the Cybernetic Revolution, we humans broke through the limitations of our own awareness and attention spans to create simplified brain analogues (a computer being to this point a high-speed electronic moron) that could process information millions of times faster and store huge volumes of it in memory devices, themselves ever diminishing in size and unit cost.

The Agricultural Revolution made feudalism possible, and feudalism made capitalism possible; the Industrial revolution made joint-stock and corporate capitalism not just possible, but necessary, while at the same time rendering a return to feudalism impossible. The Cybernetic Revolution has given us production and marketing on a global scale, and has involved the overwhelming majority of the world’s people in production for the markets and purchase for consumption from them. This in turn has involved the destruction of ever increasing areas of forest and other wilderness, and the increasing combustion fossil fuels mined out of sedimentary deposits laid down in the 300 million year interval between the rise of the land plants and the demise of the dinosaurs. It has also consolidated what James Burnham called the ‘Managerial Revolution’, with an executive layer in a position to determine what proportion of the social product it shall award unto itself, following the precedent set by the feudal aristocracy.

In the latest revolution, we are taking control of the Earth’s climate, and at the same time looking for sustainable energy alternatives, because we have to: because we have almost certainly if unintentionally caused the climate to go dangerously out of balance and to approach ever closer to runaway change, and because there is no staying with the existing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We have to bring the international air to a previous, lower concentration, while sustaining the present growing world population. In the process, we will possibly learn how to fine tune the planetary climate to suit ourselves, making it warmer or cooler to order, though not necessarily overnight. Putting it simply, we are adding the latest to our historic series of mode transitions, without which all previous examples will cease to have any meaning for us; because if we do not, the agriculture, industry and information transmission they revolutionised will become seriously impaired, or impossible.

From the Stern Report of 2006:

The risks of the worst impacts of climate change can be substantially reduced if greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere can be stabilised between 450 and 550ppm CO2 equivalent (CO2e). The current level is 430ppm CO2e today, and it is rising at more than 2ppm each year. Stabilisation in this range would require emissions to be at least 25% below current levels by 2050, and perhaps much more.

Ultimately, stabilisation – at whatever level – requires that annual emissions be brought down to more than 80% below current levels.

This is a major challenge, but sustained long-term action can achieve it at costs that are low in comparison to the risks of inaction. Central estimates of the annual costs of achieving stabilisation between 500 and 550ppm CO2e are around 1% of global GDP, if we start to take strong action now.

Costs could be even lower than that if there are major gains in efficiency, or if the strong co-benefits, for example from reduced air pollution, are measured. Costs will be higher if innovation in low-carbon technologies is slower than expected, or if policy-makers fail to make the most of economic instruments that allow emissions to be reduced whenever, wherever and however it is cheapest to do so.

It would already be very difficult and costly to aim to stabilise at 450ppm CO2e. If we delay, the opportunity to stabilise at 500-550ppm CO2e may slip away. [3]

Like it or not, we are already into the Sustainability Revolution. How we manage it will likely be a life and death matter for literally billions of human individuals, and for a large proportion of the million or so species on the surface of this planet. So far, the short term economic advantages to certain groups and individuals have lain behind denial or deliberate ignorance on the matter, though this becomes increasingly difficult to maintain in the face of popular acceptance of international climate control measures such as Kyoto, as expressed for example, in the 2007 federal election in Australia. Sir Nicholas Stern has stated in the same report that “climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen,” which is to say that the market mechanism has not only failed so far to correct it, its unregulated operation is the source of the problem, and is only making it worse.

Some likely consequences for Australia:

1. Coal will run down as a major export earner, and ‘carbon capture and storage’ (CCS) will not be able to save it, arriving either too late in proven form and on the necessary scale, or not at all.

2. The reduction in export income and therefore imports will have to be made up by import-replacement industries.

3. Massive public and private investment in natural carbon capture by plants (eg forests) will be necessary as a national contribution to global reduction of atmospheric CO2 concentration.

4. Steel, cement and road tar will become significantly more expensive, although technology exists for use of natural gas as a reducing agent in iron smelting.

5. The development of a popular consciousness reminiscent of that of the dark days of 1942 is likely: we are all in this together; there are no individual solutions; private (and particularly opulent) consumption must be adjusted downwards for the common good, particularly as revisions of the climate change scenario indicate that disaster is increasingly possible if not imminent.

6. Just as the received wisdom of feudal society was inappropriate for capitalism, that of the next, post-capitalist stage will be at least as different again. The present assumptions about what might be termed ‘human nature’ will be as appropriate as the idea that everyone has a station in life pre-ordained by God.

7. Marxian socialism sought to rein in the economic anarchy and free-for-all of capitalism by centralising economic power and decision making. At the same time it sought to decentralise political power. These two proved incompatible, and everywhere it was instituted, socialism was a combination of centralised economic and political power. Such centralisation is incompatible with individual autonomy, freedom and with democracy in the organic sense of the term.

8. The characteristics of the next social phase will largely be determined by the context: a global life-threatening crisis requiring global solutions. Capitalism will survive, but subsumed and incorporated into the next social phase. Wealth and power have been coupled through the whole history of civilisation to date. It is hard to see this situation changing much in future.

Hunter-gatherer economies still exist, and stone tools are still produced, but for the market. Feudalism also still exists, based on pastoral and farming economies, with the attendant technology, but it is integrated to some extent with the global market economy. Each stage of technical and economic development has produced pressure for considerable change in social relationships. While there is a possibility that climate change may not be a life and death issue for humanity, it is certainly seen as such by an increasing number. The changes it will likely involve in the productive base are likely to make for interesting times in future.

NOTES & LINKS

[0] http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/02/27/1046064162690.html

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolithic_Revolution

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s806276.htm

[2.1] http://www.cairnsmuseum.org.au/multicultural.htm

[2.2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louvre

[3] http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/3/2/Summary_of_Conclusions.pdf

[4] http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23358497-27702,00.html

[5] http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch07.htm )

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