Modern Transformation: Introduction


This book is dedicated to the people of South Sudan
in the hope that some of these ideas may be
useful as they develop their new nation.





Copyright © 



What is the modern transformation?

    Prior to the beginning of the Early-Modern Age, five hundred years ago, the world was a very different place. Governments were run by hereditary kings and queens who actually ruled. Titled aristocrats called knights and barons owned or controlled the tillable land. They extracted land tax or rent from the subordinate class of peasants who worked the soil and brought in the harvest. There was no democracy and no equality. Aristocratic rank gave a man power and authority, which was more important than money. 1

    This book tells the story of how the world has changed, and is changing, from traditional tribal and aristocrat-peasant forms of society to modern nation states with democratic governments and capitalist market economies. This modern transformation has happened or is happening everywhere. Today the world contains two hundred nation states. About thirty of them have completed the modern transformation and achieved democratic–market (first world) society. The rest are known as emerging or developing nations. The developing countries are still in the early, middle or late stage of the modern transformation and will develop into fully-modern democratic-market nation states around the end of this century. 2

    The modern transformation contains a lot of dislocation and violence. The traditional pattern of society is breaking down, while the modern pattern is still taking shape. The Islamic countries are currently in the middle of a peak period in their modern transformations. The result has included Islamic revolution, the Syrian Civil War, and a huge amount of anarchy, violence, and dictatorship. This book will explain the violence and why dictators are often a necessary part of the modern transformation. They are used in the interval after the last traditional ruler has lost power but before a successful elected government can be established. 3

How long is it?

    The modern transformation is the change from traditional society to fully-modern democratic-market society. This is not an event; it is a long and difficult process. When western Europe began the modern transformation five-hundred years ago, the pace was glacial, and the full transition was not completed until after World War II. The speed has increased each century since then. Today, countries like China and India are changing very rapidly, but these countries have already been engaged in the modern transformation for well over a century. The sheer size of this transition to fully-modern society will require at least three more generations even for these speedsters to finish the process. 4

    Americans have a difficult time understanding why it should take so long for other countries to complete the change to modern democratic society. That is because England was already more than a century into the modern transformation when the first settlers left to start the North American colonies in the early 1600s. These were some of the most modern people of their time. They were adventurous commoners, individuals and young families, who left most of their traditional baggage behind when they bordered ships for the "New World." The early American settlements evolved without aristocrats or family elders. The immigrants to the New World quickly developed a new way of life that was more modern than traditional. Because they never had a tribal or aristocratic society of their own, the North American colonists had a head start in the modern transformation. 5

    For most of the world, it was not that easy. Royalty or tribal chieftains ruled everywhere. The populations were immersed in traditional society. They had traditional aristocratic or tribal: leaders, economies, religions, and families. They could not just sail away, leave it all behind, and start fresh somewhere else. They were forced to continue to use the traditional institutions, while they slowly began to make incremental changes. People had no idea what was happening and no vision of the future to guide them. For most countries, the modern transformation was a much-slower step-by-step process. 6

    With the industrial revolution and modern technology, the speed of change has greatly increased. Emerging nations in Asia and Africa that began the modern transformation after World War II will complete it around the end of this century. From the beginning, the process has included: national rebellion, civil war, nation state formation, an industrial revolution, an oligarchic ruling class, and the development of modern political, economic, and social institutions. 7

What kinds of societies existed prior to the modern transformation?

    All countries were traditional societies when they began the modern transformation. That means some variation of tribal and/or aristocrat-peasant institutions. These are the kinds of societies that used to be ruled by kings, queens, and tribal chieftains (think "Game of Thrones" on the HBO network). 8

    The economic functions of food production and food distribution are the most important part of the mechanics of how societies work. Tribal society was based on a subsistence economy, where most people hunt, gather, herd, or grow their own food. The relatively small amount of distribution was handled by sharing or barter between family and neighbors. Aristocrat-peasant society was fed by a subordinate class of peasants who worked the land and delivered a substantial part of the harvest to their aristocratic lords, without being paid. This was a command distribution system. Before the modern transformation, all humans lived in either tribal or aristocrat-peasant society. 9

    The best place to observe the beginning of the modern transformation is in the villages. In an aristocrat-peasant agricultural village, if the peasant farmers pay their land tax in grain and seldom use hard cash, it is traditional society. When the peasants start selling a significant amount of their food production at urban markets and have money to spend, the modern transformation has begun. In a tribal village, if food is generally exchanged by sharing or barter, it is still traditional society. When households need a cash income because food is bought and sold, they have begun the modern transformation. As the economic changes continue, emerging nations become progressively more modern and less traditional. After a century or more of difficult and sometimes violent transformation, they will become fully-modern democratic-market nation states. 10

    The second most important part of the mechanics of how societies work is the political function. Tribal chiefdoms and aristocratic states were governed by the strongest; that usually meant the war leaders who commanded the most powerful armies. Kings and tribal chieftains used to be warriors. Their political authority came from the fact that they could defeat all challengers on the field of battle. 11

    Modern society depends on markets for food production and distribution, and works in a completely different way. Market economy societies need more stability. When it is time to choose a new leader, they cannot have all the candidates mobilize their forces and fight it out on the battlefield. Fully modern societies are run by democratic governments, chosen by the voters. The most difficult part of the modern transformation is the change from traditional "rule by the strongest" to modern "rule by the people." 12

    The change to a market economy form of society comes first. The use of markets for wide-scale food distribution then requires a much larger and more stable form of government. This requirement has been filled by the modern nation state. Establishing nation states, finding the borders, determining who will be included, who will be excluded, and who will form the governments have been the primary components of the modern transformation. It sounds simple enough, but it turns out that this simple program of establishing modern nations takes centuries to accomplish and has been responsible for most of the violence and warfare of the last five hundred years. 13

Why is it that historians and social scientists never talk about the modern transformation?

    The process of evolutionary and revolutionary social change has never happened faster than right now. The problem is that it is very much misunderstood. Historians and social scientists are all forced to specialize when they begin their academic careers. They are not allowed to work on any research project as large as the world-wide modern transformation, which has already been in progress for the last five hundred years. Academic scholars look at little pieces of the modern transformation in individual countries, but they do not attempt to study and understand the entire world-wide transition from traditional to modern society. Instead, there have been many other ideas that have mostly served to disguise the lessons of history. 14

    It used to be the Marxists who created the most error and confusion about what was happening in the world. More recently, old myths about the superiority of "Western Civilization" have returned to explain the violence and turmoil that we see on the nightly news. The “Clash of Civilizations” theory as presented by Samuel P. Huntington has become the conventional wisdom in the West about the international political problems of recent times. He presents a view that emphasizes the differences between Eastern and Western Civilizations and claims that this is a defining factor in many of the most difficult and violent issues of our world. 15

    Huntington's thesis is that non-Western cultures have always been inclined toward autocratic rule, which in modern times evolved into communism and dictatorship. His focus is on the differences between the totalitarian governments of Eastern Civilizations, and the much more liberal political and economic institutions of Europe and the West. The problems that Huntington believed to be caused by a clash of civilizations include the Cold War between communism and the "free world" and the violence that has broken out between militant Islamists and the West. In this book, you will find a new and very different explanation for communism, dictators, and revolutionary religious violence. They were and are a normal and natural part of the modern transformation in both the West and the East. 16

The Thesis

    It looks like there is an endpoint for the modern transformation. This is still a bit speculative, but I will make the case that it results in democratic-market society, which we know as the thirty or so first-world countries. 17

    My thesis is that today’s non-Western developing nations are halfway through the modern transformation using the same universal patterns of change that have already taken place in the Western world. Oriental countries started the transition to modern society much later than Europe, but they have been making a lot faster progress. Most developing nations will finish the modern transformation and arrive at democratic-market (first-world) society in the next few generations. 18

    China, Brazil, Egypt, and Iran are presently in the middle of the same modern transformation that western Europe has already completed. Almost everything the emerging and developing world is doing today has already been done, and we can look in the history books and see how it was done. This gives us the advantage of 20/20 hindsight. We are going to examine European history in order to understand how the transition to modern society works. Then, we will take that knowledge and use it to understand the developing world today. Believe me; the change from traditional to modern society is much more complicated than it seems like it should be. Toward the end, we will focus on the Arab Spring and the modern transformation in the Islamic world. 19


    Whatever else history may be, it is first and foremost a story. The difference is that here you will find not so much “his-story” as “their-story.” All of the people from the past are included, not just kings and other leaders. The present is also included. The story is so much more complete this way, and it comes out very different from anything that you have ever read before. 20

    The individual characters of history are important, but they are very well covered elsewhere. This story will focus on the mechanics of political, economic, family, religious, and military institutions. We will see how these different components of human society work together, change, and evolve. As that happens, new kinds of societies evolve along with them. All around the globe, developing nations are changing from traditional to modern. It is important for the world to understand this process. 21

    The end of the modern transformation will not be the end of history. Democratic-market society in its fully developed form is a relatively recent innovation. We do not know how it will continue to evolve from here. In some ways it looks promising, but clearly it also has many challenges. 22

    This book is an attempt to paint a very broad picture of history. We are going to cover a tremendous amount of material and do it very quickly. Most of the details have been left out. Many important historical events are mentioned only in passing. Readers who would like to fill in the picture with more information are encouraged to use any good internet search engine, where almost everything is available. 23

The Research Project

    I learned how to read on a set of children’s history books and have been addicted to reading history since the late 1950s. This book is the direct result of a specific research project that began fifty-one years ago at age twelve. 24

    It was the summer of 1963. My intention was to better understand the Cuban Missile Crisis, which had occurred the year before. The United States and the Soviet Union each had a different kind of society, a different form of government and economy. This seemed to be the underlying reason for the obvious high level of animosity between the two countries. Just out of curiosity, and my addiction to reading history, I posed the questions: How many different kinds of societies have there been throughout history, and when, why, and how do societies change from one kind to another? 25

The Data

    My definition of history was everything of relevance that had ever happened which could shed light on how societies functioned. History, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, and economics were all the same to me. Any book that described people, how they lived, and what they did was of interest. I think of all of them as history books even though many were written by explorers, journalists, and social scientists. 26

    I went everywhere in history, no boundaries. My objective was to examine the machinery of all the different societies. Fairly soon I was focusing on five basic aspects. How does the government work? How does the economy function? What was happening at home? What was the religious structure, and what was the military structure? I compared the political institutions of every society with those of every other society and looked for patterns. I did the same thing for the economy, family life, religion, and military. It was not long before distinct patterns began to emerge. 27

    This work was not easy. It was complicated, but it was doable. Questions would arise for which it was not possible to just go out and find the answers. It required patience and the slow accumulation of data about more and more societies. Quantity was the key, and diversity. I needed societies from all over the world and every period of history. 28

Analyzing the Data

    I was not trying to remember specific line items of data. After accumulating enough information to form a picture of how the people lived and how they were governed, I could remember that picture. The brain seems to be very well designed for storing images, and it seems to have its own image compare utility. The study began at a young age when my brain was still wiring itself. That might have helped. I was forming pictures and images of every society that the library had books about. My brain was storing them and comparing them to each other. Those societies that were similar in their political, economic, and social institutions were put in the same category. A composite picture began to emerge of different patterns or categories of societies. 29

Contradictory and Biased Data

    The project was moving along fairly well. Slowly but surely, I was working my way through every society that data was available for. Two major problems have continued to appear throughout the study. One is bad data. There are a lot of contradictions in the historical record. Some of these are quite natural and mostly have to do with the fact that different historians have different points of view. They look at the same society and see different things. This just requires some extra work to figure out how to meld the different descriptions of history into a single coherent picture. 30

    Contradictory data is a much more serious problem when it results from bias and prejudice. Some historians consciously or unconsciously portray their own society more affectionately, while others are described less fairly. Political, economic, and religious institutions are sometimes distorted by authors who present them in an especially positive or negative way. This is something that I could not accept or put up with. 31

    When comparing the institutions of different societies to each other, it is necessary to have all good data. This is the basic gi-go problem, garbage in—garbage out. When even a small amount of bad data is used for input, it can destroy any possibility of having a successful output. Fortunately, my experience has been that after collecting enough information from enough sources, the bad data tends to stick out, and then it can be eliminated from consideration. 32

Lack of Economic Data

    The second and largest problem with the data has been that most historians say little about the economy of the society they are describing. This is a really serious problem. Over the years, I began to realize the economy was the most important of the five topics being examined. It turns out that the most defining aspect of any given society is the mechanism they use for producing and distributing food. This is also the part of the story that historians most commonly leave out. It has required a lot of perseverance to find this data for most cultures. 33

Change From One Primary Pattern of Society to Another

    The original idea was not just to list the different kinds of societies. I also wanted to know how countries change from one kind to another. As a group of primary categories of societies emerged, changed, and finally stabilized—it became clear that many individual societies were actually intermediate forms. They were in the process of changing from one primary pattern to another. 34

    Tracking down this process of change was much more difficult than identifying the primary patterns of tribal, aristocrat-peasant, and democratic-market societies. The effort took a long time, but gradually, the pattern of "The Modern Transformation" began to emerge. It is very complicated and includes: extreme nationalism, religious zealotry, imperialism, an oligarchic ruling class, socialism, communism, fascism, Islamism, and much more. Following the modern transformation around the world to find out whether or not it was a universal pattern required decades. 35


    Along the way, I earned a BA in History and was admitted to graduate school at Michigan State University, but there were problems from the start. The professors insisted that I must choose a specialty and begin learning the languages needed for archival research. I told them that I was not there to become a specialist or do archival work and tried to explain my own research project to them. 36

    When they evicted me in 1978, one of them said: “Nobody does your kind of work. It is not possible to do it. If you persist in this endeavor, you will have no colleagues, no one to present your work to. No one will read it, and nothing will come of it.” This has turned out to be prophesy. Since then, I have tried a hundred times to interest History and Social Science academics in this work. Their universal response: "It is too broad; it is much too large a project; professional scholars must acquire their research from primary sources, not from history books; this is not my specialty." The academics are useless. If the world is ever going to find out about the "The Modern Transformation," it will have to be presented by the publishing industry. 37

Testing the Conclusions

    I have continued to accumulate and analyze data and to improve the ideas presented in this book. I have been testing these ideas by reading history books and news magazines, especially “The Economist.” For over forty years, I have been reading avidly about the developing world. All of their coups, civil wars, national rebellions, identity cleansings, borders wars, and political difficulties of every kind fit perfectly into the framework of the modern transformation that is described in this book. Their economic and political achievements, progress, and development also fit perfectly with these ideas. 38

    Isaac Newton claimed that his three laws of motion were universal because they worked for all bodies in motion, including everything from apples to planets. The reason I say that the modern transformation and other patterns of history described here are universal is because they fit all of the data, not just some of it, but all of it. In the last fifty years, I have read enough history to be able to make this claim. There is little actual data in this book. I used the absolute minimum that is required to illuminate my explanations. The data that has been used is mostly very basic and well known. I do not claim that this framework of history is accurate and important because it fits this data. I claim that these patterns and this framework fit all the data, and these are the most important Universal Patterns of History. 39

Ch. 1. Early-Stage Tribal Society

Author's note: The first eight chapters have been kept as short as possible. They each describe some important aspects of traditional society that are prerequisites in order to understand the modern transformation. Most readers already have some familiarity with this material. These practices and institutions were the defining core of tribal and aristocratic societies. 1

    From the beginning of our species over 200,000 years ago, to the end of the last ice age about 14,000 years ago, early humans roamed the land and seashores as hunter-gatherers. Even though tribal names and identities had probably not yet appeared, this is called “early-stage tribal society.” They developed new technologies and new procedures, left Africa, and populated the world. Despite their many advances and achievements, they retained the basic structure of small hunting bands. 2

Political Institutions

    Leadership existed but was a fairly diffuse concept with the more experienced elders, women and men, having the largest say. Unfortunately, we do not have direct data from tens of thousands of years ago. This information comes from anthropologists who studied early-stage tribal societies in the 20th century. 3

Economic Institutions

    Small bands of about five to fifteen individuals hunted together, gathered together, prepared the food together, ate together, and performed other tasks, as necessary, in a communal fashion. Economic exchange within the local group was done primarily by tribal sharing; they were mostly related to each other. Exchanges outside the band were done through both sharing and barter. This was an early and simple time; command economies and market distribution would evolve in the future. 4


    Family structure was fairly loose, probably because the question of who would inherit property was not yet a significant concern. The land and resources were the common property of everyone. 5

Gender-Specific Roles and Tradition

    One of the most important aspects of society that originated in this early stage and remained constant until recently was the development of gender-specific roles. Men did most of the hunting and women did most of the gathering. It also became traditional for women to do the daily drudge work of cooking, cleaning, clothes making, and child care. 6

    The role of tradition in human society cannot be overemphasized. Once a given pattern of behavior has developed, been used for thousands of years, and hardened into tradition, it is likely to continue until different circumstances force a change. The only reason that all human societies can be divided into just four primary categories is because of the strength of tradition. It acts to limit change. 7

    The traditional roles assigned to men and women in early-tribal times lasted through every kind of society until the recent development of democratic-market nation states. It has been the longest lasting universal social pattern in all of history. Significant change in gender roles has only come in the last few generations, and it is happening slowly. 8

Religious Institutions

    The religious leaders of tribal societies were shamans who could “communicate” with the spirit world. They used their powers for healing, to achieve a successful hunt, and to help unify the community with shared beliefs and value systems. 9

    Shamans also watched the sun, moon, and stars; noticed repeating patterns in their movements, and developed the concept of keeping track of time. The first calendars would eventually evolve from this effort. All of this represents a great deal of very useful work, both spiritual and practical. To a large extent, shamans were the intellectuals of tribal society. They were also the most important inspirational leaders. 10


    At this early stage, prior to the end of the last ice age, it is not yet appropriate to talk about military institutions. Tribal warriors would evolve in the future. There was certainly some amount of conflict but no evidence has been found for warrior chieftains or tribal armies. 11

    The ice age environment was extremely difficult. The human population was still very small. There was little need to fight over land and resources; that would come later. Because warriors were not yet dominant, indications are that women played a greater role in early-stage tribal leadership than would be the case at a later time. 12

Ch. 2. The Development of Agriculture

Economic Institutions

    About 12,500 BCE, as the last ice age was coming to an end, the Levant area of the eastern Mediterranean enjoyed an excellent climate. Grains and legumes grew naturally. Wild goats, sheep, cattle, and other game grazed the open forests and savannahs. The tribal people of the Natufian culture were able to stop wandering in search of food and build sedentary villages. For a few thousand years, they were just harvesting the grains, peas, and other plants that grew wild and hunting the animals. 1

    About 9000 BCE, the Natufian people started scattering seeds and early-Neolithic agriculture began. The villagers continued to improve their agricultural skills, tool making, building construction, and other crafts. Around 8500 BCE, goats and sheep were being domesticated, followed by cattle. Fired ceramic pottery appeared about 7000 BCE. Population was increasing, villages were expanding, and Neolithic culture was spreading. The 7th and 6th millennia continued to show the same trends. 2

    As far as it is possible to tell, the Neolithic villagers were still using the same basic communal forms as the early-stage tribal societies. The dominant form of economic distribution was tribal sharing. There were community granaries for storage. Most villages had large outdoor fire pits suitable for preparing community meals. 3

Political Institutions

    Leadership was probably provided by village elders and open discussion, similar to the earlier hunter-gathering populations. We do not have direct data about the political organization of early-stage tribal societies or the early Neolithic villages, but there are two things we do know. The first is that whatever leadership there may have been, it is invisible to the archaeologists. 4

    Lots of early Neolithic villages have been found and excavated. The experts can tell us a great deal about the tools, agriculture, pottery, construction techniques, and proportion of bones from wild or domesticated animals. At every excavation site, the archeologists have spent a lot of time trying to identify any particular house or building which might have been occupied by the community leader. They are looking for any sign of special status. So far, they have drawn a blank. The Neolithic villages must have had some kind of leaders or leading councils, but they cannot be identified from the physical remains. 5

    The second thing we know is that when the archaeologists begin to find definite evidence for leaders and a higher level of social organization, they are not clan leaders, tribal leaders, or village elders. The first leaders who can be positively identified are the priests who administered the earliest cities from a temple compound. 6

Military Institutions

    The archaeologists have also been searching for any evidence of organized warfare in this early-Neolithic stage of development. There was probably some amount of conflict. Spear points and arrow heads have been found in a few graves which may or may not have been hunting weapons. Only very rarely do excavations of the villages turn up anything that might possibly be interpreted as the foundations of defensive walls. Nothing has been found that would seem to indicate the remains of an early Neolithic village that has been sacked and looted. 7


    Aside from the increasing sophistication of stone tools, ceramics, agriculture, animal domestication, and other skilled crafts—the aspect of society that seems to be developing the fastest is religion. Shamans, nature spirits, and zoomorphic representations are well known features of tribal religion. Priests, gods, temples, and churches are the primary features of religion in aristocrat-peasant societies. Out of the many important distinctions between tribal society and aristocrat-peasant society, it was the new religious forms that began to develop first. 8

     A large out-door religious center at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey has been dated to about 9600 BCE, five centuries before the beginning of agriculture. This is the earliest large-scale stone structure ever found by archeologists. We cannot tell if this construction was organized by shamans or priests, but it demonstrates that religion was already becoming stronger and better organized even before the development of farming. 9

    In the 9th millennium, we start seeing the appearance of spiritual sanctuaries inside the agricultural villages. The skulls of bulls are found buried in walls, hanging on walls, or displayed with female figurines. The combination of bull skulls with horns, probably a male proto-divinity symbol, and female "Venus" figurines with enlarged breasts and abdomens, probably a female proto-divinity symbol, became more common and more widespread throughout the Neolithic period. 10

Potential for the Future

    What had happened in the Fertile Crescent was not just the development of agriculture. It was the development of cereal agriculture. This is an important distinction. Wheat, rice, barley, and most other cereal grains are left in the field until the kernel is dry. After threshing and winnowing, the grain can be stored for years without deteriorating. Peas, beans, and lentils were also some of the earliest crops. They too could be dried and stored for long periods. 11

    The ability to grow large amounts of food that could be accumulated and stored made possible an entirely “new pattern of society.” In the future there would be cities with large numbers of specialized workers who did not have to produce their own food. The possibilities were endless—writing, learning, economies of scale from mass production, and a great deal more. 12

    The technology was now in place to develop what we think of as “complex civilization.” The problem was that it would require an entirely new pattern of society. There would have to be a higher level of social organization with stronger leadership and some kind of mechanism for distributing the surplus food that agriculture made possible. 13

    It was the priests who would step forward and provide the leadership for the new form of organization that was necessary. This kind of change does not happen quickly. It would take thousands of years for the new pattern of society to evolve. 14

Ch. 3. Temple-Based Aristocrat-Peasant Society

Author’s note: When I use terms like aristocrat and peasant, it is on a universal basis. The reference is to all aristocrats and all peasants in the entire 6000 year history of aristocrat-peasant society, including: Asian, European, African, and American Civilizations. You have probably heard these terms before but usually from authors who were specialists. They describe aristocrats and peasants in a particular place and a particular time. This makes it possible for them to go into a fair amount of detail in their descriptions. The problem is that many of the details change from one society to another. I am concentrating on those aspects of aristocrat-peasant society that were universal patterns around the world for thousands of years. 1

    For over a century, the archaeologists have been digging in the ancient city mounds of Iraq. This was Mesopotamia, the Land of the Two Rivers: Tigris and Euphrates. At the bottom of the mounds were the foundations of small cities built around a temple complex. The earliest of these first cities have been dated to the second half of the 5th millennium BCE. We know that they were administrative, residential, and manufacturing centers linked to networks of hamlets, villages, and small towns. 2

Political Institutions

    The leaders and administrators of the first cities were priests and high priests. There were large granaries, workshops, storage rooms, workers’ housing, and high-status residential neighborhoods. This was the earliest beginning of complex civilization and aristocrat-peasant society. 3

    The Uruk culture (4200 – 3100 BCE) was clearly something new and different. This was no longer tribal society. Someone was in charge. Most people were being told what to do. It seems that the first aristocrats were priests and high priests. This should not come as a surprise. The most important requirements for the position of aristocrat are authority and the power to have commands obeyed. 4

    Shamans were probably the most powerful figures in tribal society because they could communicate with the spirit world. Now, even more powerful spirits called gods had emerged. The shamans had evolved into priests who could communicate with the gods. This gave them power and authority. 5

Economic Institutions

    Complex civilization requires large numbers of specialized workers. “Specialized workers” by definition means that they do not produce their own food. Someone else had to produce their food for them, and there had to be some kind of distribution system to take the food from the farmer and deliver it to the consumer. This had to be a very reliable system, one that was capable of delivering food every day to every specialized worker. This does not just happen. There had to be a specific mechanism to accomplish it. 6

    It seems that sometime in the 5th millennium BCE, the priests began to use their authority to collect food from the farmers. At first, they probably used this food to provide for themselves along with the workers and skilled craftsmen who built and maintained the temples. Over time, the temple administration began to issue food allotments to various people for various reasons. 7

    The priests also acquired the power to tax the farmers to refill the granaries. This new form of command-economy food distribution probably started out at a fairly low level and grew from there. When it got to the point where the farmers were turning over a substantial part of the harvest every year, they became peasant farmers. When the priests took delivery of a substantial portion of the harvest and used it to feed specialized workers, they became religious aristocrats. A new primary kind of society was up and running. 8

Different Kinds of Farmers

    In economic terms, we can say that there are basically four different kinds of farmers: subsistence farmers, communal farmers, peasant farmers, and market farmers. These four types are differentiated according to what happens to the food they grow. 9

    Subsistence farmers consumed most of the production within the family. Beyond that, there could be some left over which was bartered in exchange for other goods. Subsistence farmers, by themselves, were not able to support a complex civilization. 10

   The early Neolithic villagers were communal farmers. They lived together in villages, worked together in common fields, and shared the food. Some of them may have performed specialized tasks, like: making tools, producing pottery, and weaving cloth. They shared these products with their neighbors who shared food with them. This could work on a relatively small scale because everyone knew one another. They all lived together, and most of them were related to each other.  11

    The communal farming system could not be scaled-up to the size necessary for complex civilization. That would mean the village farmers would have to be willing to voluntarily share their food, in good years and in bad, with specialized workers whom they had never met and who did not directly contribute to the welfare of the village. Modern communism tried to organize this kind of economy, and it just does not work. Complex civilization with urban centers, large workshops, and many thousands of specialized workers required a new mechanism for food distribution that was specifically designed to meet its requirements. 12

Peasant Farmers

    The aristocrat-peasant system established a command economy for food distribution. Peasant farmers were specifically given the role of producing enough food to have a surplus, which could be used to support the specialized workers of the society. 13

    Every year, the peasants delivered a significant percentage of the production to their aristocratic lords, whether it was a good harvest or a poor harvest. The peasants were not paid for this food. This was not sharing; it was not barter, and it was not marketing. It has been called tax, rent, tribute, and many other terms, but they all mean essentially the same thing. It was a compulsory command-economy relationship that came to be governed by tradition. 14

    Aside from their job of producing food and delivering part of the harvest to their aristocratic lords, peasants were usually liable for a certain amount of forced labor. This is also called corvée labor. They had to maintain the roads, bridges, and water systems near their villages. The peasants were also required to provide unskilled labor for large construction projects, such as: ziggurats in Mesopotamia, pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, and jungle temples and palaces of the Maya. 15

Religious Aristocrats

    Leadership for this new pattern of society was provided by religious aristocrats. In this explanation of history, aristocrats are defined as an upper social class that dominated the political institutions of their society. They also collected food from their peasants and used it to maintain themselves and a significant number of specialized workers. The aristocrat-peasant command economy for food distribution was an important political and economic institution that dominated all complex societies until about 1500 CE and did not fade away completely until the late 20th century. 16

    The new highly-reliable food-distribution mechanism allowed economic activity to go far beyond anything that was possible in tribal society. The earliest form of writing was starting to appear. It mostly had to do with keeping track of economic activity. Everything was organized by priests and temple administrators. The land was owned by the Gods. Peasant farmers paid taxes in kind. Craftsmen were allocated to workshops and provided with rations. Labor gangs were assigned to building projects or sent out to the villages to help with the harvest. 17

    It was archaeologists who dug down to the earliest levels of the first cities and found the large temple compounds and the early economic documents that describe the distribution of food rations. They found the evidence, but they do not use it to describe an aristocrat-peasant command-economy for food distribution. I first identified aristocrats and peasants from more recent historical times and was curious as to how the system had originated. It started in Mesopotamia during the second half of the 5th millennium BCE. 18

Temple-Based Religious Aristocrats Around the World

    When the archaeologists say that priests and temples predate kings and palaces by a thousand years, this is not a major surprise. It just shows that religious aristocrats evolved prior to secular aristocrats. Religious authorities have been an important part of every complex society.  It was the priests and high-priests who organized the first cities and the first aristocrat-peasant command economy in Mesopotamia. Even more interesting, the same universal pattern seems to repeat everywhere else. 19

    The earliest cities in the Nile valley, about 3500 BCE, had temple complexes at their center and the same kind of aristocrat-peasant command economy. When the archaeologists dug down to the earliest layers of Indus Valley cities, they found similar temples that also controlled irrigated agricultural land. Greek and Roman temples had land and peasants. Inca, Maya, and Aztec temples had land and peasants. Christian and Buddhist monasteries were endowed with land that was worked by peasants. 20

    In the Americas, temples have been identified as the earliest large-scale stone structures in the Andes Civilization, starting early in the 3rd millennium BCE. The Mayan and Mesoamerican Civilizations also revolved around temples as far back as can be traced. Ancient Chinese temples were made of wood and have not survived. The earliest written evidence that we have for China is the oracle bones of the Shang dynasty (1700-1100 BCE). They tell us that the king was also the highest religious authority. 21

Divine Order of the Universe

    In every case, religion was tightly interwoven throughout the fabric of aristocrat-peasant societies. This is not just true for the early temple-based variation. It is also the case for all of the later aristocratic states ruled by princes, kings, and emperors. 22

    Every member of these civilizations had a fundamental understanding and acceptance of the “divine order of the universe.” Kings, emperors, priests, and high priests were the gods’ representatives on Earth. Everyone had a role to play in the “divine plan.” Kings ruled by “divine right.” The peasants knew they had been given the sacred job of tilling the soil and growing the food that the entire population depended on. Every group or caste knew how their role fit in with the “divine order.” 23

    Without the concept of “divine order,” it is difficult to imagine how the aristocrat-peasant form of society could ever have existed. In many ways the “divine order of the universe” or the “divine book” were similar to a “constitution” for the aristocrat-peasant world. 24

Ch. 4. The Great Environmental Divide

    Tribal society had no geographic or environmental constraints. If human beings could live in any given place, they could live there as clans and tribes. 1

    It was different for the new more complex kind of society. Peasant agriculture required land that was fertile enough to grow a substantial surplus of storable food. The majority of land on this planet is not capable of doing that, at least not with peasant technology. There was usually plenty of room for tribal people to live alongside aristocrat-peasant societies. 2

Fertile Crescent

    Peasants and aristocrats occupied the fertile land. Tribal herders and subsistence farmers occupied the marginal land. Even in the Fertile Crescent, there were many areas that could not grow grain successfully, but they could grow grass. 3

    Around 8500 BCE, sheep and goats were domesticated by the Neolithic villagers. After that, it is possible to identify the camps of nomadic herders. The consensus among archaeologists is that it was not the hunting and gathering tribes who took up herding. It was some of the settled agricultural people who returned to the wandering life with their flocks. 4

    Some tribes evolved to become primarily nomadic, roaming with their animals in search of pasture. Other clans were semi-nomadic. For half the year they stayed put while they planted and harvested a crop. The rest of the year they were on the move with their herds. Some were sedentary subsistence farmers. Between their crops and their animals they could get by, but they could not produce a reliable yearly surplus. 5

    Some tribes were still hunter-gatherers. At various times in various places, there were fish to be caught, honey and bird eggs to be collected, obsidian to be mined, clay to be turned into pottery, and many other niches for survival. We have to assume that all of these different groups, with their different strategies, were either regularly or occasionally trading their products with each other. Together they formed a giant, interrelated and symbiotic community. 6

    In the 5th millennium BCE, the new cities appeared. Aristocrat-peasant society had arrived, and the era of “state formation” was beginning. When we finally get written accounts in the 3rd millennium, it is clear that aristocratic rulers looked down on tribal populations. They were not peasants. It was difficult to collect tax from them. They were uncivilized and disruptive. This probably reflects the attitude of most aristocrats toward tribal “barbarians.” The reality was that for the tribes to succeed under the new conditions, they usually had to be smarter, faster, and tougher than either the aristocrats or the peasants. 7

British Isles

    Tribal land was not necessarily barren land. Ireland was an example of this. The Emerald Island was bright green, but most of it had thin soil and too much rain. Cereal crops were not able to dry completely in the field. The harvested grain could not be stored. It would mold. This made it impossible for the Irish to develop permanent cities with stable populations prior to modern times. There was a lot of vegetation, plenty of animals, and a lot of food, but provisions could not be accumulated and stored. The Irish had to spread out in order to remain close to their food supplies. The same was true for most of Wales, Cornwell, and Scotland. 8

    When a society is able to bring together large numbers of specialized workers in an urban environment having all of those talented professionals interacting with each other generation after generation creates a multiplier affect. The whole can become greater than the sum of its parts. 9

    Tribal people were no less capable as individual craftsmen and artists than the specialized workers of aristocratic-peasant states. Their problem was that tribes were mostly unable to assemble large numbers of specialized professionals together in one place because they had no way to feed them. Tribal people lived on land which was not capable of producing a reliable surplus of storable food that could support large cities. That was their only handicap, but it was a severe one. With no peasant villages and few urban centers, tribal societies were not able to produce and concentrate nearly as much wealth as aristocrat-peasant kingdoms. 10

Ch. 5. The First Kings and Tribal Chieftains

Royal Conquest Dynasties

    The first kings were war leaders. In fact, pretty much all kings have been war leaders. It is one of their primary distinguishing characteristics. The normal way that a new dynasty comes to power is by defeating all of its rivals for the throne. The way it stays in power is by continuing to defeat any challengers. For the most part being a king is all about being the most successful war leader. The size of the territory that monarchs ruled depended on how much land they could conquer, which is why I call them conquest dynasties. When looking for the first king, it makes sense to go looking for the first war. 1

    Around 3300 BCE, Naqada, Hierakonpolis, and Abydos were emerging city-states in the south of Egypt. They started fighting with each other over possession of land in the Nile Valley. The rulers of Naqada defeated their opponents and gained control over Upper Egypt. They went on to take control of Lower Egypt and became the first Pharaohs about 3000 BCE. We know this because archaeologists have found the royal precinct of the Naqada cemetery and the brick-lined tombs of their kings. The Egyptian pharaohs are the first royal conquest dynasty that can be clearly identified. 2

    In Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) we have much less data from tombs because the soil conditions were not good for preservation. In the middle Uruk period, about 3500 BCE, we find a glyptic image depicting armed men marching in file. (Earlier images of men with weapons appear to be hunting scenes.) From a century or so later we find images of captives being marched toward an imposing building or a “leader” figure. About the same time, some of the cities started building fortification walls. 3

    This certainly seems to indicate organized warfare. Were the Mesopotamian cities fighting battles with each other, which ones; who was winning; who were the leaders? We do not know. This seems rather strange. Victorious military commanders usually want everyone to know about their triumphant accomplishments. 4

    An early form of symbolic writing had already appeared in Mesopotamia. It could not yet accommodate narrative text but was widely used for economic record keeping and proof of ownership. If it could keep track of measures of grain and who owned them, it would seem like it could keep track of victories in battle and who won them. Yet, we have no such thing. Organized warfare seems to have been developing from about 3400 BCE, but we do not have hard evidence in Mesopotamia, as we do in Egypt. 5

    During the Early Dynastic period (2900-2350 BCE) Mesopotamian kings were definitely taking control of the city states. These kings probably evolved from earlier war leaders who were previously acting on behalf of the temple authorities. Some of these “generals” were able to take political control, establish royal dynasties, and fight each other to expand their territories. This is when the archaeologists start finding burned-black destruction layers as they excavate the ancient Iraqi city mounds. 6

Secular Warrior Aristocrats

    The early kings functioned as generals, but they still needed other experienced fighters as sub-commanders and lieutenants. A body of elite warriors and war leaders developed to assist the king and maintain his authority during peace or war. These elite fighters evolved into secular warrior aristocrats who usually had control over land and peasants of their own. Just like the religious aristocrats, these earls, counts, pashas, and mandarins collected food from their peasants and distributed it to specialized workers according to the traditions and customs of their locality. 7

    For thousands of years, kings and aristocrats ran the worlds governments. Historians tell us about their wars, their mistresses, and the intrigue of court life. What is seldom mentioned is that aristocrats, both warrior and religious, also administered the aristocrat-peasant food distribution system, which took the agricultural surplus produced by the peasants and distributed it to the non-food producers of the society. 8

Tribal Warrior Chieftains

    We know that during the historical period tribal people often fought wars with each other and often raided the villages and cities of the peasants and aristocrats. When did that get started? In Mesopotamia, we have little evidence for tribal war or raiding in the 4th millennium BCE, but it was definitely happening on a major scale in the 3rd millennium. We have Egyptian records that the first Pharaohs were fighting Nubians in the south by about 3000 BCE. 9

    The emergence of warfare did not lead to the development of a new primary pattern of society, but it changed both tribal and aristocrat-peasant societies, leading to important new variations. The concept of fighting and raiding spread outward in all directions, much like the diffusion of agriculture, only faster. 10

    Tribal societies needed stronger leadership to defend themselves, retain access to grazing land, and develop the ability to raid villages and cities. The men became warriors, and warrior chieftains began to dominate tribal leadership. As manliness and fighting skills became more important, the position and authority of women receded into the background. 11

Earliest Tribal Chiefdoms

    When you go back through history looking for tribal chiefdoms, both the highly militarized and the somewhat more peaceful variety, it is just amazing. There were thousands of them. They were nearly everywhere. The Kurgan people of the Eurasian steppe were warrior chiefdoms. Roman authors have left us numerous descriptions of Celtic, Germanic, Balkan, Syrian, and African chiefdoms. Chinese chronicles describe Asian chiefdoms. Many of the Hill Tribes of southern and southeastern Asia remained warrior chiefdoms into the second half of the 20th century. They were on almost every continent; Africa, North America, and South America were overrun with them. The only inhabited place where anthropologists have not identified warrior chieftains and tribal armies is Australia. 12

    We do not know when the first warrior tribal chiefdom evolved. It might have been long before the first temple-based cities. Or, it could be that once the first cities were established and became wealthy, it stimulated some tribal leaders into thinking of ways to seize some of that wealth. As far as what we can fully document, the first warrior chiefdoms and organized tribal raiding may have originated in the Nile Valley either in Upper Egypt or Nubia sometime in the 4th millennium BCE. 13

    There is evidence from graves in Varna Bulgaria that may indicate tribal chiefdoms as early as the mid 5th millennium BCE. The archeologists keep digging, and new evidence for early tribal warfare may turn up in the Balkans, the Zagros Mountains of Iran, or somewhere else. 14

The Change from Tribal Chiefdoms to Aristocrat-Peasant States

    Warrior chieftains were strong military leaders. They often had a special war-band of elite fighters, but most of the able-bodied tribesmen were also considered to be warriors. The chieftains could mobilize the labor of the tribe to build hill-forts or fortified towns. They probably organized the work force for numerous special production activities, such as weapons, armor, and ammunition. The chieftains may have also organized the production of food and used tribal sharing to ensure that everyone was fed, especially the families of their elite warriors. 15

    This is starting to sound similar to many aristocrat-peasant societies, but there were still important differences. In a tribal chiefdom most men were warriors, not peasants. There was a fairly clear distinction between the two. Peasants grew grain and were usually discouraged from carrying or training with weapons. Beyond that, chiefdoms generally did not have the literacy, urban culture, and formal administration that was highly visible in aristocratic states. 16

    After aristocrat-peasant society and warfare evolved, they spread outward through a process of diffusion. Tribal leaders became stronger and developed into chieftains. Where the environment allowed, tribal subsistence farmers developed their agricultural skills to the point where they could produce a surplus of grain and other foods. By this time, most of the tribesmen were concentrating more on farming and less on the warrior skills of hunting and raiding. As this trend continued, a corps of elite warriors emerged that began to monopolize the military function. 17

    Over time, tribal farmers became peasant farmers. Tribal chieftains became kings, and elite warriors became aristocrats. Tribal shamans were turning into priests and religious aristocrats. In the middle of this change, the society was some combination of both tribal chiefdom and aristocratic state. This process of development can be observed in the second half of first millennium CE, when the Pagan tribes of northern Europe evolved into aristocratic-peasant societies. The adoption of Christianity was also part of the process. 18

Ch. 6. Standard-Form Aristocrat-Peasant Society

    By the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE, we have all of the standard elements that would make up aristocrat-peasant society for the next four thousand years. There were monarchs, religious and secular aristocrats, peasants, specialized workers, a command economy, markets, and merchants. The following general description is intended to include all aristocrat-peasant societies from about 2500 BCE to about 1500 CE. 1

Political Institutions

    Kings were originally war leaders. They used their military authority to assume sovereign control of the society, but they knew just how important the religious function was. It was very common for the king to also appropriate a large share of religious authority. In traditional societies, secular and religious leadership were essentially two different sides of the same coin. If they did not work together, it was likely to cause trouble. 2

    In the modern English-speaking and Western-European worlds, we are used to thinking of the religious and secular aspects of society as being two separate things. A large part of the reason for this is that the Pope and the Vatican managed to enforce a fairly tight monopoly over religious affairs. Western European kings and aristocrats governed the secular side, while the popes, bishops, priests, and monks dealt with the spiritual requirements. These two groups had to work closely with each other to keep the system operating. This rather awkward separation of church and state was an unusual situation and seldom happened in most aristocratic kingdoms. 3

    Outside of Catholic Europe, it was fairly normal to have priest-kings and god-emperors. In Egypt, the Pharaoh was certainly a war leader and a king, but he was also a “living god.” The Chinese emperor was the “Son of Heaven,” who ruled as long as he held the “Mandate of Heaven.” Many of the Roman emperors were also considered to be at least semi-divine. Then there was Alexander the Great, “son of Zeus,” and the “god kings” of the Andean, Mayan, and Mesoamerican civilizations. 4

Royal Dynasties

    The aristocratic state was based on the “divine order of the universe” and on the military power of the king, but it was also based on the family. It was not so much individual kings and aristocrats who ruled, it was aristocratic families called dynasties. 5

    “The king is dead; long live the king.” We do not know if this expression went back to the very beginning or not, but it might. As long as the queen performed her job of providing an heir, there would always be a new king. If there was no legitimate crown prince, there was still probably someone in the family who could succeed to the throne and continue the dynasty. If that did not happen and the old dynasty passed away, other aristocratic families would compete with each other to become the next royal dynasty. 6

    The general rule was that the toughest aristocrat, with the most support and the strongest army, would become the new king. In some cases this competition was mostly political. The candidates lobbied for support, built coalitions, and ran power-plays on each other—often by contracting marriage alliances. Sometimes it was a straightforward military competition, as in the English "War of the Roses." The candidates mobilized their forces and hacked away at each other until the decision went to the last one standing. 7

     Sometimes the royal wives and mother got involved, and it became even more complicated. In especially difficult succession struggles, the killing and anarchy went on for decades to the great detriment of society. Times like this reinforced the general understanding that a strong king was a necessary component of the aristocratic state. 8

    Aristocrat-peasant kingdoms were class-based societies. There was an upper class of aristocrats and a lower class of peasants and commoners. The king was the CEO, but no individual could rule a society by himself. The upper-level, mid-level, and lower-level aristocrats—secular and religious—can be thought of as his management team. 9

Feudal or Imperial Bureaucratic

    It is possible to describe two different variations of aristocrat-peasant states with different management systems. The first one is sometimes called an imperial-bureaucratic state. In this model, the central government has its own bureaucracy that reaches out and taxes most peasant villages directly. The Chinese Empire was the primary example of this, but it also included the Roman Empire, Pharaonic Egypt, and many others. 10

    In the imperial-bureaucratic model, the peripheral areas were fairly weak while massive amounts of resources poured into the center. The emperor and the central government had much more authority because they had their own officials throughout the provinces. Lower-level aristocrats were essentially landlords who may have had lots of land, peasants, wealth, and status, but they were not the most powerful force in their district. That would have been the official appointed by the imperial government. 11

    The second variation is often called the feudal model. The most prominent examples were medieval Europe and Japan. In a feudal society, the provincial and district aristocrats were the government in their own areas. These dukes, counts, and daimyo swore fealty to their monarch or shogun and recognized his authority, but this did not overly infringe on their own authority to rule their duchies, counties, and prefectures. 12

    Feudal kings did not have a large bureaucracy, and they did not have the right to go into most villages and tax the peasants directly. This left much more of the society’s authority and resources in the hands of the upper and mid-level aristocrats. The power of the throne was greatly diminished. 13

    It is much easier to describe these two variations of aristocrat-peasant society on paper than to find them in practice. It was very common for both of these models to be mixed together in the same society. Even the Chinese and Roman empires had some feudal aristocrats whose families were powerful enough to dominate their local areas. Powerful regional aristocrats were much more common at times when the imperial authority was weak. Some medieval European monarchs and Japanese shoguns were powerful enough to impose their authority and taxes out in the provinces. The Persian, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires had combinations of both imperial bureaucratic and feudal authority systems. 14

    When Samuel Huntington is describing pre-modern Western Civilization, he is referring to feudal aristocrat-peasant society as it existed in medieval Europe. When he describes Eastern Civilization, he is mostly referring to the imperial bureaucratic model of aristocratic society as it existed in China. In reality, both types of aristocrat-peasant society can be found in Eastern and in Western history. 15


    In all aristocrat-peasant societies, everyone had a rank which determined how much power and authority they could wield. Individuals might get their rank through direct appointment by the king, but that was rare. Most of the time, rank was inherited from the family that you were born into. If you were born the oldest son of an aristocratic family, then you could expect to inherit your father’s title. You could also expect to inherit the land and peasants that went with the title. Pauper aristocrats were of little use to anyone. They needed both the authority and the resources that were required to do the job. 16

    It was not just different levels of aristocrats who had different rank. In many places, there were two or three different kinds of peasants with different levels of obligation. Some were legally attached to the land, which they worked as serfs; others had more individual freedom. 17

    Among craftsmen, there were masters, journeymen, and apprentices. There were masters and servants everywhere. Even commoners were able to have servants; that usually included the right to abuse the servants. The clergy had a special status of their own. Even the lowest holy-man could often demand the privileges of clerical rank. At the very bottom of the pecking-order were the slaves. In aristocratic society, pretty much everything about your life depended on your rank. For the most part, rank was much more important than money. 18

Family Relationships

    Since rank was extremely important and was usually inherited from the family, aristocrat-peasant society led to significant changes in family structure. The concept of legitimate birth became very important. Marriage developed into a much more formal institution. An illegitimate child was much less likely to be able to inherit the family land, peasants, and title. 19

    The question of who a son or daughter was allowed to marry also became very important. If the betrothed was of higher status, the rank of the entire family might increase. A spouse of lower status could lead to a decrease in the family’s position. Arranged marriages became normal in most aristocratic states. This was especially true for the upper class, but it also became customary for many peasants and commoners. Rank and inheritance were much too important for anything to be left to chance. 20

    Aristocrat-peasant society was so authoritarian in nature that even within the family everyone knew exactly where they ranked. The father was the head of the family. The wife was subordinate to her husband. This rule was considered so important that it was usually written directly into the “divine order of the universe.” Fully-modern society runs by different rules which do not require the submission of anyone, but the subordination of women had four thousand years to harden into tradition. This has made it extremely difficult to break with that tradition in modern times. 21

Economic Institutions

    In all human societies from the very beginning right through to the present day, people have traded goods and services with each other in an informal semi-reciprocal way that fades back and forth between sharing and barter. This tribal form of economy could not support cities and complex civilization. 22

    The early temple-administered cities developed a new command-economy system for food distribution with peasant farmers paying a land tax in kind to support religious aristocrats and specialized workers. The kings took over the command system more or less intact, added secular warrior aristocrats, and continued using and expanding it. 23

    The command economy worked just fine within the area administered by the aristocratic governments. Monarchs and aristocrats also began to show off their wealth and power through the lavish display of exotic luxury products, often from foreign lands. This led to an exponential increase in external commerce. Originally this foreign trade was done through some kind of reciprocal barter exchange. 24

    Between 3500 and 2500 BCE, commercial trade continued to increase, diversify, and evolve into something close to what can be called market exchange. By the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE, aristocrats and merchants appear to have been engaged in large-scale buying and selling. Pretty much everything, including food and wine, could be bought where it was plentiful, shipped to where it was scarce, and sold for a profit by anyone with the means. The commercial market system expanded and contracted throughout the four thousand year history of standard aristocrat-peasant society. 25

    By definition, a market exchange is voluntary. That is why marketing did not replace the aristocrat-peasant command economy for food distribution. In a year with bad weather and bad harvests, the aristocrats and non-food producers still had to eat. They could not rely on a voluntary market system based on supply and demand for their food. Market commerce in commodities and luxury goods continued to grow and develop. It was used alongside the command economy for the remaining history of aristocrat-peasant society, but it was not like the all-purpose market economy in modern nation states. 26

The Staff-of-Life

    Grain provided the primary ingredient for bread, porridge, gruel, and beer. It was the staff-of-life. In some areas, peasant farmers occasionally sold some of their harvest into the market system, but that would have been a small percentage of the total. Most of the grain in the wholesale market was originally sold by aristocrats, who acquired it from their peasants through the ubiquitous land tax that was collected in kind. The aristocrats received other more perishable types of food also, but the dried storable staff-of-life was the most important. The aristocrats consumed much of this food within their own households and distributed the rest to non-food producers in many different ways. Bread was often provided to workers; goods and services were purchased with grain, and it was sold to merchants for cash or credit that was used to buy other things. 27

    The Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires sometimes used tax farmers to collect the surplus grain from the peasants. The highest bidder got the contract, and then his men squeezed the peasants for as much as they could get. Most of the grain was sold and the imperial treasury paid in cash. In many aristocrat-peasant societies, the land tax and the market system worked in tandem to accomplish the job of food distribution. 28

    In every city in the ancient world, it was possible to buy grain. We have written accounts giving us prices. Historians can go to their sources and find many details about the market economy. They can also find data about the command economy, but for some reason or another, this aspect of aristocrat-peasant society is generally ignored. Historians know about the command economy, but they do not fully understand it, and they tend not to write about it. This is a mistake. The entire aristocratic governing system existed because it was necessary for the command economy. When the world changed to a market economy for food distribution, the aristocratic class—secular and religious—became superfluous and would have to go. 29

    Aristocrats and the command economy played a very important role in history. For thousands of years, they were necessary for food distribution to cities in complex civilizations. Markets alone would not have been able to do the job. Historians should explain what happened and give credit where credit is due. 30

Conflict and Military Institutions

    The word “aristocrat” comes from the Greek derivation of an ancient word that designated the elite warriors of Indo-European tribal society. As a general rule most historians have normally thought of aristocrats as elite fighters and leaders of men, which they were. That is how most aristocrats thought of themselves. 31

    The aristocrat-peasant system and the command economy had already evolved under the leadership of the priests. Then the “age of warfare” began. The men who were especially good at fighting and leading other men in battle used their military skills to take charge of the government and of the command economy, especially the land taxes paid by the peasants. 32

    In Europe, these warriors continued to call themselves “aristocrats,” which is why I use that term when describing the aristocrat-peasant command economy. They also continued to be elite fighters and continued to lead men in battle. Aristocrat-peasant societies were regularly engaged in warfare. There were wars to see who would be king. As soon as that was settled, there would be rebellions to replace the king. Monarchs fought each other over territory and cities. Lesser aristocrats fought over the possession of villages and peasants. 33

    As a general rule the more land, villages, and cities that an aristocrat controlled the higher his rank. More land and villages could be obtained through a good marriage, a grant from the king, or war. There was a high level of competition in all three possibilities for advancement. In traditional society, people worked just as hard to increase their rank as they do today to increase their wealth. 34


    Most aspects of aristocratic society were governed by tradition. Peasants performed their work in the fields and delivered a portion of the harvest to their lords because of tradition more than coercion. Even the king was very often constrained by tradition. His relations with the upper nobility tended to harden into a set pattern. Their relationship with the lesser nobility tended to do the same. Religion and family values have had their traditional rules, patterns, and structures in all societies. 35

    When natural or outside forces led to rapid change, the aristocratic state was usually flexible enough to accommodate it. If a tougher enemy army appeared and conquered the kingdom, there would be a new conquest dynasty, which might lead to a new set of traditions. Under a strong monarch, the kingdom may grow larger. With a weak king, it might become smaller. The basic structure was flexible enough to take all of this in stride. Much of the time population increased; sometimes it decreased. Usually there was a slow increase in knowledge and technology but not always. There could be spurts of progress but also reversals and declines. Aristocrat-peasant societies could sometimes look highly cyclical in character. 36

Athenian Democracy

    This explanation of history has stated that up until five hundred years ago, all complex civilizations depended on the aristocrat-peasant command economy and aristocratic states. Some readers are probably wondering: “What about the Greeks? What about Athenian democracy?” 37

    Greek terrain was extremely rocky and hilly. There were relatively few areas where it was possible to plow fields and grow grain. In the 1st millennium BCE, however, large amounts of grain could be purchased and shipped to Greece by boat. The rocky hillsides that were useless for growing cereal crops could be used for growing olive trees and grape vines. Wine and olive oil could be shipped out in exchange for grain. 38

    The new society that appeared at the end of the Greek Dark Age in the 9th century BCE depended on this trade. Some of the Greek city-states, like Sparta and Thebes, remained primarily aristocrat-peasant, but Athens and many others developed into market-economy societies. The mechanics of how their market economy worked was in many ways similar to our own. Markets stimulate creativity, learning, and innovation. The Athenians learned to produce high-quality ceramics and metal trade goods. 39

    An urbanized market-economy society does not like to be ruled by aristocrats. The Athenians threw off a large part of the aristocratic structure which was pretty much universal at the time. The result was an extremely precocious society that was developing in many ways along modern lines. 40

    This does not mean that classical Athens could have existed without aristocrat-peasant society. Most of the grain that the Greeks purchased from Egypt, Sicily, the Pontic (Black Sea) region, or anywhere else was originally collected by aristocratic landowners. The Athenians may not have had their own aristocrat-peasant command economy, but they very much depended on foreigners, who were aristocrats, to accumulate large supplies of grain and have it waiting at the docks to trade for Greek wine and luxury products. 41

Ch. 7. Summary of Traditional Society

    We have just completed a quick survey of the tribal and aristocrat-peasant universal patterns of history. They are many thousands of years old, and together they make up the traditional group of societies. The modern transformation and democratic-market patterns are new; they have originated in the last five hundred years. Combined, they make up the modern group of societies. This can be illustrated with a very simple taxonomic chart. 1

Mixed Tribal and Aristocratic Patterns

    It might be easier to observe and understand tribal and aristocrat-peasant societies if they had remained completely separate. History is more complicated than that. Tribal people and aristocratic states lived alongside each other for six thousand years. There were contacts, trade, and even some intermarriage between them. 2

    Tribal people lived on land that was ill-suited for cereal agriculture. Because of this, they could not assimilate the full pattern of aristocrat-peasant society, where peasant villages provided reliable, storable food for aristocrats, specialized workers, and cities. But tribal populations could, and did, adopt many aristocratic institutions. 3

    For thousands of years there have been tribal kings who ruled in tribal courts, sometimes from a palace built of stone, sometimes from a city of tents. As always, such kings found ways to collect taxes from their own people and from trade. Raiding was a source of income for many of them. 4

    There were also tribal barons who were essentially chieftains but had adopted a more prestigious sounding aristocratic title. Tribal aristocrats often functioned as the heads of extensive and intertwined patron-client relationship networks. In some cultures, there were tribal priests who functioned in many ways like religious aristocrats. 5

    These more sophisticated tribal societies usually lived in close proximity to aristocratic states. The Scots and Irish had plenty of experience with tribal chieftains and druids, but they also had barons, priests, bishops, and kings. Through all of this religious and political change, they still retained the essence of tribal society. The reason is because most of their land was not suited for growing grain. 6

The Great Eurasian Steppe

    In his book When Asia Was the World, Stewart Gordon describes two kinds of traditional Asian societies that were not strictly tribal but were not entirely aristocrat-peasant either. One of these includes the kingdoms that were created by strong, tribal leaders on or near the great Eurasian steppe. These “temporary” kingdoms were formed largely by Turkish, Iranian, or Mongolian warlords through conquest and lasted for some number of generations. 7

    Some of these kingdoms contained mostly tribal populations who became wealthy through a combination of trading and raiding. Their increased income was used to support tribal aristocrats, merchants, priests, monasteries, and a level of civilization not normally found in tribal society. 8

    Some of the steppe warlords were able to conquer agricultural lands with Chinese, Indian, or Iranian peasants. This could result in a tribal kingdom with a tribal dynasty and a half tribal and half peasant population. Many of these kingdoms were formed, but most of them came and went without leaving much more than a few stone foundations. 9

Indian Ocean Trading States

    Gordon also describes the large number of trading emirates, sultanates, and principalities that ringed the Indian Ocean. There were a wide variety of these. Most of them did not have large stretches of cropland with an aristocrat-peasant social structure. Being in a tropical environment, fruits and vegetables grew in profusion. The most productive form of cereal agriculture, paddy rice, was widely available. Fishing and seafood provided much of the protein. 10

    Distribution included every known mechanism. There was sharing among extended families that produced both food and commercial crops, such as spice, sugar, and tropical woods. There were command economy systems—where slaves, indentured servants, or debt peonage provided the field labor. And, there were market farmers and fishermen who sold their production. 11

    Governments were run by hereditary ruling dynasties. After the conversion to Islam, Koranic scholars took over much of the judicial function. Taxes were collected as a quota of the commercial crops produced. Tariffs were imposed on the merchants. 12

    These maritime trading states around the Indian Ocean are the most difficult that I have found in terms of placing them somewhere within my taxonomic chart. Because food grew all year around in the tropics, having large granaries full of dried storable grain was not nearly as important as in temperate climates. That is why it was not necessary to institutionalize the formal aristocrat-peasant relationship and command economy. My tendency is to put these trading principalities under tribal society, but I am open to other suggestions. 13

Traditional Economic Institutions

    There was a great deal of variation in the economies of traditional societies, but tribal and aristocratic-peasant mechanisms can be universally identified. There was always some amount of hunting, fishing, and gathering. Marginal land everywhere supported a wide variety of subsistence farmers and herders. 14

    After cereal-farming technology arrived and became efficient enough to produce a surplus, the suitable land was worked by peasants. They turned over most of the surplus production to their aristocratic lords. Because a single province often contained both fertile and marginal land in the same general area, tribal and aristocrat-peasant institutions were sometimes jumbled together. 15

    Traditional society engaged in all three primary mechanism of economic distribution. Tribal sharing and barter have been retained and used by every kind of society and are still in use among family and friends today. The aristocrat-peasant command economy for food distribution can be identified, in one form or another, in all the more complex traditional societies on any continent. Market distribution was also a common feature in the last four thousand years of traditional society. All kinds of products were bought and sold, especially prestige items for the elites. Grain was often sold, but usually after it was collected from peasants by the aristocrat-controlled command economy. 16

Commercial Activity in Traditional Societies

    There were large differences in the amount of merchant activity in traditional societies. Industry and commerce existed in most aristocratic states and tribal areas. The production and trade of commercial goods could increase the prosperity and connectivity of any society. Unfortunately, there were few economists around who could explain how it all worked and what measures should be taken to protect and encourage commerce. 17

    Some kings had good instincts for the right way to promote and tax trade and industry; others did not. The largest and most competitive market economies in the traditional world usually belonged to the largest and strongest empires, including: Persia, China, and Rome. In general, the imperial bureaucratic system of organization seems to have been more market friendly than feudalism. 18

Market Distribution of Food

    Mostly when discussing traditional business activity, we are not talking about housewives going shopping to buy the family’s daily food from the farmers who produced it. This did happen for some of the population in many towns and cities, but overall, it covered a very low percentage of the total food consumed. There were, however, a few times and places when this modern style of commerce increased and flourished. 19

    Song Dynasty China developed a system where the farmers were encouraged to sell their production at city markets. Taxes were collected in monetary form from all producers and distributors of economic goods. Modern-style market distribution seems to have worked quite well in the metropolitan regions of eastern China. The economy boomed, population increased, and prosperity spread, especially in the 11th and 12th centuries, but it did not last. Population and prosperity declined steeply during the wars of the Mongol conquest in the 1200s. 20

    There was a huge amount of variation in the 200,000 year history of traditional society. There was a large amount of variation on any given continent. Despite these differences, a close look at any traditional society will reveal characteristic tribal and/or aristocrat-peasant social mechanisms in their political, economic, family, religious, and military institutions. 21

    One economic feature that seldom appeared in traditional society was large numbers of people who earned a regular salary and used it to purchase their day-to-day food, clothing, and shelter. Most people were peasants, subsistence farmers, or herders who produced their own food. The women usually made the clothes for their families. Everyone worked together to construct their housing. The modern way of life where most people earn a salary and purchase their daily necessities was almost unknown in traditional times. 22

    In order for large numbers of people to be able to purchase their food, every day, large quantities of reasonably priced food would have had to be available for sale, every day. Traditional society did not work that way. There was usually a hunger season every year. Bad weather caused famines that could last more than a year. During these times, food was not for sale. It was more precious than money. With a few limited exceptions, markets were not used as the primary form of food distribution in traditional societies. That would be the first thing to change in the modern transformation. 23

Rule by the Strongest

    Ever since the origin of organized warfare, traditional societies were ruled by the strongest men available. This usually meant the leaders who were able to mobilize and command the largest armies. Might made right. Kings and tribal chieftains ruled their territories with a strong hand. Aristocratic and tribal dynasties continued to govern until they crumbled from within or were overpowered by a rival with a stronger army, or sometimes a stealthier assassin. 24

    One of the most difficult adjustments that all societies are required to make during the modern transformation is the change from “rule by the strongest” to “rule of the people.” Traditional societies were governed by kings, aristocrats, and tribal chieftains. Modern governments are elected by ordinary common citizens. 25

    There is a huge gap between these two different kinds of political institutions. It takes many generations for most countries to make the transition. During the modern transformation, dictators are often used to fill the void after the last ruling monarch is deposed and before a successful elected government can be organized, more about that later. 26

Ch. 8. The Beginning of the End for Aristocrat-Peasant Society

Change From Peasant Farmers to Market Farmers

    About nine hundred years ago in western Europe, population was expanding, and the cities were growing. Manorial agriculture was having trouble keeping up with demand. The feudal aristocrat-peasant system that was in use was not capable of providing enough surplus food for the growing urban population. The aristocrats mostly lived in their castles and manor houses out in the countryside. They often fed a hundred or more people every day in their “great halls.” European peasant agriculture was not very productive. It had been doing fine feeding the aristocrats, their servants and support structure, and a few small towns, but there was little food left over for urban growth. The expanding cities were hungry. 1

    The peasants—especially in the Netherlands, northern France, England, and the Rhineland—began looking for new ways to produce and deliver the necessary food. By about 1100, there were some barely perceptible signs of change. Some peasants were showing up less often to perform their required labor service on the lord’s demesne. This meant that they were fined in the manor courts, but they used the time to increase production on their own land allotment and took the extra food into town and sold it. They used the cash income to pay the manor-court fines and still made a profit. 2

    More fundamental changes also began to appear. Some peasants made arrangements with their local lord whereby they enclosed a portion of the common fields, grew whatever they chose, sold it, and used some of the cash proceeds to pay rent. The rigid manorial system was relaxed. Peasants were slowly allowed more freedom to experiment with new crops and practices. 3

    An idea was tried. It might have succeeded for a few years or a few generations, but then it did not seem to work anymore for at least one of the parties, the peasant or the aristocrat. So then they would fight and bicker about it for a while. We have court records for some of the cases. After that, they would come up with another idea and try again. They were looking for new ways to divide the land and allow peasants to rent, lease, or sharecrop in some manner that would be more productive. They needed to find extra incentive for the peasants to work harder and work smarter. There were numerous problems with the market based reforms, but they continued for one important reason; more food was produced, and sold in the towns and cities. 4

    In the past—rank, birth, and tradition were the dominant factors of human life. Peasants plowed, planted, and harvested the same way that their fathers and grandfathers had. Most people did as they were told by family elders or by men of superior rank. Now, individual peasants were examining their own work and looking for ways to make it more productive. This was not rocket science. You cannot get any more practical and down to earth than looking for better ways to plow, plant, and harvest, but it was still revolutionary. 5

    The peasants were responding to market signals. They were examining prices, looking for better paying crops, and using the varying soil and drainage conditions of their fields to the best advantage. The peasant farmers were slowly learning to make their own decisions based on the profit motive. As part of that process, some of them were learning to read and do basic arithmetic. 6

Slow Spread of the Market Format

    It was largely the better off peasants and the lowest level of the aristocracy, knights and squires, who began the process of agricultural transformation. Merchants, artisans, financiers, and others were also drawn in. The great plague (1347-1348) gave the peasants more bargaining power, which helped to accelerate the market reforms and spread them more widely among the remaining population. 7

    On the production side of the equation, it was a slow, continuous, and complicated process. On the distribution side of the equation, there was a major change that was gradual but more distinct. The peasants were selling an increasing amount of food to the towns and cities. Wholesale and retail networks were slowly developing along with transportation infrastructure. Investors and money lenders were needed to provide capital. Blacksmiths and other craftsmen were producing better plows, tools, and implements. The concept of market incentives had been introduced at the lower level of society, and it was spreading. 8

Complacency at the Top

    The change was so gradual that it almost went unnoticed. The chronicles and other written sources say little about this very slow agricultural evolution. Most historians have never realized its significance, but this was the earliest beginning of the process that would lead directly to the modern world. 9

   The lower level aristocrats, the ones who were closest to the peasants, were also drawn into the agricultural revolution. They too were trying to maximize their income. At the same time, they were slowly changing from armored knights into landed gentry and essentially becoming businessmen. For most of the medieval period, it was considered demeaning for aristocrats to engage in trade, but at the lowest level that was beginning to change. 10

    It was mostly the lower and mid-levels of society that began adapting to market conditions. The kings, dukes, bishops, and counts were too busy fighting each other and exercising their privileges of rank to worry about markets becoming a threat to their authority. What they wanted was more cash revenue from their agents and overseers, and they were getting it. 11

    This was the earliest beginning of the modern transformation. Monarchs and upper-level aristocrats had no idea that the transition to a market economy would eventually require the elimination or sidelining of their rank and privileges. They could not imagine a world that was not run by kings and aristocrats. They were the war leaders. What other force could possibly become strong enough to displace them? Royalty and the high nobility were quite happy to receive their increasing revenues without bothering about the details. 12

    The cities continued to expand, and the price of food remained high. The Dutch began buying increasing amounts of grain from the eastern Baltic region and shipping it to western Europe. Peasants and gentry continued their market-oriented reforms. Production, trade, and wealth of all kinds were increasing. New silver mines were opened in southern Germany, which allowed the money supply to keep pace. 13

Conflict and Military Institutions

    The military structure of society was also changing. The levy of feudal knights was no longer as useful as before. Kings were looking for more flexibility on the battlefield and could achieve this by hiring mercenary soldiers, which cost money. The introduction of cannon and firearms increased this trend and cost more money. The cities were growing larger, more productive, and more important. The kings were giving them royal charters and taxing them. Money was flowing further and faster. 14

    The lower-level feudal knights were becoming gentry, investors, and businessmen. The higher-level bishops, dukes, and counts were more often becoming embroiled in conflicts with the commercial cities, which were trying to achieve greater independence from provincial aristocratic authority. By about 1500, economic growth in western Europe was advancing faster than the feudal-aristocratic structure could handle. 15

    Classical Athens, the Roman Republic, Song Dynasty China, and Renaissance Italy had also reached the point where they were ready to change to a more market oriented form of society. The process of change was begun, but it was not completed, and they mostly returned to aristocratic norms. This time it was different. Led by the Netherlands, western Europe pressed forward and began the development of modern society. 16

The Weakness of European Feudal Institutions

    People have often wondered why Europe was the first part of the world to begin the modern transformation. The answer to that question probably has a lot to do with the weakness of medieval feudal governments. The upper-level and mid-level aristocrats swore allegiance to their sovereign king but ran their duchies and counties pretty much as they saw fit. A large amount of local government was administered by the Church; bishops governed many of the cities. 17

    All of these different levels of aristocrats, secular and religious, were more or less in constant competition with each other. The size and shape of their territories were flexible. They were always looking for ways to usurp the land and revenue of their neighbors. This led to constant conflict. The medieval European feudal system was government by institutionalized anarchy. The developing market forces and the merchant class were able to play off the different aristocrats against each other. The kings were not strong enough to lay down the law and control the situation. 18

    It was different in ancient Persia, Athens, Rome, and China. These societies had much stronger imperial governments with large armies, which could and did sack any commercial city that refused to submit to the emperor's authority. The Greek city states, including Athens, were conquered by Philip of Macedon along with his teenage son, Alexander the Great. Their liberty and freedom to choose their own form of government came to a sudden end.  In early republican Rome, the largest landowning families united together to form the Roman Senate. This institution worked hard and successfully to preserve their aristocratic privileges and dominance over their serfs from being eroded from below. The development of grain markets for the peasants in relatively passive Song Dynasty China came to an end during the Mongol wars of the 1260s. 19

    If the Mongols had conquered Europe, it probably would have put an end to modern development there as well. The modern transformation began in western Europe right under the noses of feudal monarchs and aristocrats, but they were slow to understand the significance of what was happening and too weak to stop it. 20

Ch. 9. Introduction to the Modern Transformation

    We are finally arriving at the primary purpose for writing this book, the modern transformation. Many scholars already have the concept of a “modern revolution” that is amorphous and without structure. It is generally believed that each country has, or is, developing modern society in its own highly variable way. This concept is actually quite false. It is true that no two modern transformations are identical, but they are all doing the same job, the change from traditional to fully-modern society. They all follow a similar pattern and structure. When a country begins the modern transformation, it enters modern society. After completing the long and difficult modern transformation, it becomes a democratic-market nation state.  1

Changes That Will Have to Be Accomplished

    The purpose of having the modern transformation in my taxonomic chart is so that all developing countries can be placed in this separate category. All of these societies are undergoing the same process of transition from tribal and aristocratic patterns to fully-modern democratic-market nation states, and they are all doing it in pretty much the same way. 2

    The modern transformation requires more than just a complete restructuring of economic and political institutions. Family relationships, religious institutions, military organization, and much more would also have to change. All countries started this transition when they were still ninety percent traditional. They remain in the modern transformation until they are about ninety-five percent modern. 3

    One of the most amazing things is how slowly all of this happens. When looking back at the modern transformation with the hindsight of history, it is possible to see it as a coherent but lengthy process with a beginning, middle, and end. The people who actually lived through it had much less understanding about what was happening to them. They could only witness a small part of the modern transformation in their lifetime, which was not enough to know what it was all about. Half of the world is still in the middle stage of the transition to modern society today, and they do not understand the process either. 4

Change to a Cash Economy

    Pretty much everywhere, the first part of the modern transformation was the change from an aristocrat-peasant command economy, or a subsistence economy, to a more market oriented food distribution system. As the cash economy began to increase, the peasants were selling more of their production into a larger and more complex market system. Increasing numbers of consumers required a cash income in order to purchase their daily food. People needed jobs. This led to the continuation of the agricultural revolution, a capitalist market economy, an industrial revolution, and the development of modern nation states. 5

    Western Europe began the change to a cash economy in medieval times, but it proceeded so slowly that it took four centuries to arrive at a takeoff point, about 1500. Eastern Europe and the rest of the world did not get started until after the French Revolution (1800). Some remote tribal areas did not begin to make the change to a cash economy for food distribution until after World War II. 6

Political Change

    As markets became the dominant form of exchange, the power of the traditional warrior aristocrats, which was based on their control of the command economy, began to erode. At the same time, government was becoming more important. It had to grow larger in order to establish the legal and physical infrastructure required by the developing market economy. A new form of government was going to be needed. After a long evolutionary and revolutionary process, this would eventually result in nation states and modern democracy. 7


    It was the early priests who organized the first aristocrat-peasant command economy over six thousand years ago. The “divine order of the universe” was a prominent and essential part of all traditional social patterns. The modern transformation would result in major changes to the “divine order” and the religious institutions of society. 8


    Traditional society featured the traditional family. This usually included a tight knit extended family. The nuclear family was an integral part of the larger extended clan. The second half of the modern transformation would bring major changes. The extended family would become less important as individuals moved to the cities in search of work. The result would be an entirely different lifestyle, with much greater independence for nuclear families and individuals. 9

    The role of women within the family structure also begins to change. As with everything else in the modern transformation, these changes begin slowly and then accelerate at different rates and times in different countries. In the last two generations, families in the Western world have changed almost beyond recognition. Fertility has declined and marriage has become a very different and much-looser institution. In the 21st century, it is becoming clear that these changes are also happening in the developing world. 10


    The traditional form of military organization has also undergone major changes. The aristocrats stopped doing the fighting at the beginning of the modern transformation but retained their command authority through the first half of the transition process. The actual fighting was taken over by the common citizens. Evolutionary changes in weapons, tactics, and the art of soldiering would become important in determining the progress of the modern transformation. 11

The Rate of Change

    The process of change from traditional to modern society is gigantic. It requires many stages before completion. For each stage, change often does not become final until the old generation, which grew up using the old ways, is replaced by a new generation, who grow up using the new ideas. When you analyze the entire modern transformation from beginning to end, it seems to be happening in slow motion. That is because this change has been taking place in historical time, which is much slower than human time. 12

    When western Europe began the modern transformation five hundred years ago, the pace was glacial. The speed has increased each century since then. Today, countries like China, India, and Brazil are changing very rapidly, but these countries have already been engaged in the modern transformation for well over a century. The sheer size of this transition to fully-modern society will require at least two more generations even for these speedsters to complete the process. 13

    Americans have a difficult time understanding why it should take so long for other countries to complete the change to modern society. That is because England was already more than a century into the modern transformation when the first settlers left to start the American colonies. These were some of the most modern people of their time. They were adventurous commoners—individuals and small families. They left most of their traditional baggage behind when they bordered ships for the new world. The early American settlements developed without aristocrats or traditional family elders. The immigrants to the New World quickly developed a new way of life that was more modern than traditional. 14

    In the rest of the world, it was not that easy. They were immersed in traditional society. They had traditional aristocratic or tribal rulers, economies, religions, and families. They could not just sail away, leave it all behind, and start fresh somewhere else. They were forced to continue to use the traditional institutions, while they slowly began to make incremental changes. They had no idea what was happening and no vision of the future to guide them. For most countries, the modern transformation had to be a slow step-by-step incremental process. 15

Measuring the Progress of Change

    At the beginning of the modern transformations, the country is still ninety percent traditional. It looks very similar to the tribal or aristocrat-peasant society that it recently was. The difference is that the market economy has taken over more of the food distribution function. Commerce is increasing in general and political institutions are beginning to change in response. The society has become ten percent modern and has begun the modern transformation. 16

    The only thing that is stable and continuous during the modern revolution is change. At first the society is ninety percent traditional and ten percent modern. Then it is eighty percent traditional and twenty percent modern, then seventy percent to thirty percent, etc. etc. At ninety percent modern and ten percent traditional, it is still in the transition phase. When a country is well past ninety percent modern, has completed all of the violent parts of the revolutionary process, and has a fully-developed economy and democracy, it graduates to democratic-market (first-world) status. 17

    It is not possible to accurately calculate the percentage that a society is traditional or modern; at least I was unable to do so. There are just too many variables. Instead, we have to settle for approximations. 18

    I look for percentage numbers that would be low in traditional societies and high in fully-modern nation states. For example: What percent of the total population purchases most of their food through a market system? What percent of the population has a meaningful voice in government? What percent has access to a good education? At the start of the modern transformation, these are usually fairly low numbers, often around five to ten percent. The approximate values increase throughout the modern transformation and will be in the ninety-five percent range when they graduate to democratic-market society. It is sometimes possible to take an average for this kind of data and use it to follow a country's progress through the modern transformation 19

The End of the Modern Transformation

    What happened in western Europe was that peasant farmers had become market farmers. The aristocrat-peasant relationship was no longer the dominant factor in food production and distribution. The market economy was taking control. It would require an entirely new pattern of society. There would have to be some form of bureaucratic government that was capable of overseeing and regulating a market economy. In countries like England and France, the royal governments slowly began moving in this direction, but they could accomplish just so much. 20

    In order to achieve its full potential, the market economy would eventually have to be managed for the benefit of everyone. This is the reason for the development of the modern nation state. The ordinary common citizens, the producers and consumers, would have to be enabled and empowered to regulate and control the government and the economy themselves. This would require revolution. "Rule by the strongest" would have to be replaced with real democracy, "rule by the people." 21

    Some readers may disagree with the idea that the modern transformation will ever be over. It is certainly true that human societies will always change and evolve. However, when a modern nation state has achieved real democracy and a fully functioning capitalist economy, it becomes democratic-market society. The change from traditional to fully-modern society has been completed. Changes that continue will be further evolution within the democratic-market category of societies. At some time in the future there may be enough accumulated variations to say that another new and different primary kind of society has emerged. 22

Writing About the Modern Transformation

    In the earlier description of social change in Mesopotamia where the first cities evolved, the details were left out. This is mostly because we do not know the details. With the small amount of random data that has been dug up by archaeologists, it is difficult enough just to piece together the simplest possible general description of the origin of complex civilization more than six thousand years ago. 23

    The modern transformation is different. It has happened within the last five hundred years. We have excellent historical documentation for nearly all of it. Now the problem is data overload. 24

    Providing a full description of the modern transformation in just one country would require a thousand pages. There are about two hundred nation states in the modern world. A full description of the modern revolution in all of them will be available some day, but it will require thousands of historians working for many generations to write it. I am going to try my best to give you some idea of the scale and complexity of the world-wide modern transformation, but the subject is much too large for any one person to provide a complete analysis. 25

Ch. 10. Early-Stage Modern Transformation

    When scholars are researching the problems of post-World War II developing nations, they seldom spend much time looking at the 16th and 17th centuries. Early-modern Europe seems too distant to be relevant in current discussions about democracy, dictatorship, and economic development in the 21st century, but that is when traditional society began to change into modern society. When scholars ignore the first stage of the modern transformation in Europe, approximately 1500 to 1820, they are leaving out the most difficult and chaotic part of a lengthy process. In most modern transformations, the violence, chaos, and anarchy are heavily concentrated in the early and middle stages of the process. 1

    For the last sixty years, scholars have been following the progress of modern development in the emerging world. They compare these events to what they think is the beginning of modern development in Europe, starting around the end of the French Revolution. This means that they have been comparing the second half of the modern transformation in western Europe to the early stage of the same process in the developing nations of the 20th century. 2

    This has led to more confusion than enlightenment. It is usually necessary to look at the entire length of a process in order to fully comprehend what is happening. That is why I date the beginning of the modern transformation to the early 16th century. Academic scholars are much too specialized. They want to understand the change from autocratic government to democracy in places like Egypt, but they do not want to start their research at the beginning of the modernization process, five hundred years ago. Taking shortcuts with history is seldom the path to understanding. 3

The Disintegration of Medieval Institutions

    By about 1500, the urbanization of western Europe had continued to the point where it was causing real problems. Much of the growing urban population no longer depended on aristocrats for their food, which was now purchased through a market economy. The city burgers were becoming more and more frustrated by the tribute demands of the local nobility. They wanted to cut these lesser aristocrats out of the loop and pay taxes only to the king or in Germany to the powerful dukes. 4

    During the medieval period, the European aristocrats often set up toll gates on the roads that went through their lands. Anyone with a wagon load of commercial goods was charged a toll. This was also a major problem on the Rhine and other rivers. Strong kings tried to restrict this practice, but most medieval monarchs did not have the tools to enforce their writ everywhere. The barons were used to getting away with highway robbery. 5

    The cities were especially exasperated when toll gates were used to stop farmers who were headed to town with wagonloads of produce to sell. This not only raised the price of food, it impeded the flow. Towns, merchants, peasants, and almost everyone demanded that the king alone should tax and control commerce. This was just one of the reasons why royal authority was increasing and lesser aristocrats were in decline. 6

    For centuries the medieval European monarchs had been forced to defend their rule against the plots and rebellions of the over-mighty feudal nobility. Now, with money raised from the cities, they could use hired troops and cannon to knock down the castles of rebellious barons and put a stop to the low-level fighting among the local aristocracy. Those nobles who craved advancement were mostly forced to seek positions at court, doing the bidding of the king. Western Europe had entered the “Age of Absolutism.” Kings were turning into something similar to modern dictators. 7

Monarchy, Church, and Aristocracy

    Throughout the medieval period, Europe had been governed by the troika of monarchy, church, and aristocracy. Now the kings were growing stronger, partly because the royal governments were the obvious authority for regulating and taxing the emerging market economy. The aristocracy was growing weaker. Their power had traditionally been based on their military prowess and authority over the peasantry. Both of these were in terminal decline. 8

    The Catholic Church would suffer massive trauma. The “divine order” of traditional society was coming apart. Religious unrest had been increasing during the 15th century and would lead to the Protestant Reformation. The massive political, economic, and religious power of the Vatican would be broken. Europe would end up with many religions and freedom of conscience for individuals to choose among them. 9

    The kings would last long enough to lead or at least observe many of these changes, but eventually they too would come crashing down. Change would continue until the monarchs and aristocrats were retired and modern democratic nation states were established. 10

The Netherlands: The First Nation State

    In the mid 16th century, medieval society was coming apart in much of western Europe. Peasant rebellion in Germany was crushed, but it was followed by religious warfare that kept popping up at various intensities throughout the region. The Catholic Habsburg dynasty of Spain was looking for ways to tax the prospering cities of the Netherlands more effectively. Dutch patriots were joining the Protestant movement and were using Christian fundamentalist religious ideology to promote what was essentially the first modern “national liberation front.” 11

    The national rebellion of The Netherlands against the Spanish crown was a savage affair known as The Eighty Years War (1568-1648). It is often described as a religious war between the Dutch Protestants and their Catholic overlords, but there was much more to it than that. 12

    The Netherlands were the most urbanized and market-oriented part of western Europe. They were ready to begin the development of modern society, but there was no precedent for such a thing. No one had the slightest idea how to become modern or what was happening to them. It was all very complicated. There were political, religious, national, and economic issues involved. 13

    The people of the Netherlands fought against their Spanish rulers, but they also fought with each other. At any given time, different leaders had different programs and groups of supporters. Factionalism is common in all societies but is at its worst during the modern transformation, when there are so many different issues to argue about. Religion, politics, ethnicity, and economic class identity routinely become intertwined during the revolutionary period. 14

    Halfway through the Eighty Years War for independence, about 1600, the United Provinces of the Netherlands was born. This was the world’s first modern nation state, and it quickly became the first high-growth “tiger economy.” The recipe for its development included patriotism, heroics, and self-sacrifice—but it also included savage warfare, religious cleansing, and the slaughter of innocent populations. This pattern is still visible in the revolutionary experience of most nations. The modern transformation started out using excessive amounts of violence. Unfortunately, it has continued along the same path right through to the present day. 15

England: The Second Nation State

    In the 17th century, the focal point of the modern transformation moved across the English Channel to Britain. The Tudor dynasty had already destroyed the power of the Papist Church and chopped back the traditional authority of the top aristocratic families. The Stuart kings intended to rule as absolute monarchs like the Tudors before them. That was not to be. The times were changing. 16

    Parliament was beginning the long process of evolving into a modern government. It was demanding more power, especially over budgets and the regulation of the market economy. This led to civil war, the beheading of Charles I, and the acquisition of power by the first revolutionary dictator, Oliver Cromwell. All of this was accompanied by a huge amount of religious bickering and violence. 17

    During the English Civil War, it was not possible to separate the political and religious motivations of the participants. The Anglican Church, created by Henry VIII, was a hierarchical organization with the king and his bishops in command. As a general rule the more conservative faction of the English population supported the monarch and a more officially hierarchical church structure. 18

    The revolutionary faction supported Parliamentary rule and a looser fundamentalist Protestant religious structure that emphasized a personal relationship between God and the individual. This form of religion came from below, from the common people. There were no bishops or hierarchy of control. The people read their own bibles and developed their own relationship with God. The Protestants had a different “divine order of the universe” than the Anglican Church or the traditional Catholic religion. All of this was extremely violent and very revolutionary. 19

    The British Parliament was not actually a revolutionary organization. It was made up mostly of aristocrats and gentry. However, when it took up arms against the king, all of the many different revolutionary factions joined in. This was a political and economic battle, but none of them had ever fought modern political battles before. As a result, many of the participants stated their case in religious terms, which was a type of discussion they were much more familiar with. 20

    After the defeat of the royal army and the execution of Charles I in 1649, Parliament was still not ready to govern. Cromwell had no other choice except to rule as a military dictator. He slowly began the development of modern government in England. Through it all, there was a large amount of social chaos, including Levelers, Diggers, various messianic cults, and invasions of Ireland and Scotland. 21

    The “divine order” of the old society had come apart. No one knew what would replace it. After Cromwell’s death, the legitimate royal heir, Charles II, was restored to the throne in 1660, and many people believed that the revolutionary chaos was over. Not so, the modern transformation would continue for another three centuries, although usually as a quieter more evolutionary process. 22

The Enlightenment

    Toward the end of the 17th century, the European intellectuals were starting to catch on that something important was happening. They began questioning the outdated aristocratic institutions, religious and secular, and started talking about the “rights of the common man.” The intellectual movement known as the “Enlightenment” did not start the modern transformation, but it added greatly to its coherence. The Enlightenment philosophers helped to develop the idea that common citizens could form their own government without the need for kings and aristocrats. 23

The American Revolution

    In the 1770s, these ideas began to resonate in the English colonies of North America. The colonial merchants and tobacco planters were unhappy with the mercantilist economic regulations imposed by London. They started an independence movement, led a successful war against the British, and wrote a new constitution for the United States of America. 24

    For the first time a government was formed without the aid of aristocrats. Traditionally, the new American government has been called a “democracy.” The word should be used with a qualifier. It was early democracy or a democracy in the process of development. Indians, slaves, and women were not able to vote. There were property requirements in some states even for white males. This was not real democracy, “rule by the people,” but it was a start. 25

The French Revolution

    The modern transformation in western Europe, including France, began about 1500. Almost three centuries later in the 1780s, there appeared to be very little change in the French political institutions. The economy had changed, becoming much more market oriented. Social conditions in and around the cities had changed. Intellectual opinion, led by the Enlightenment, had changed. But the king still ruled from his throne. Bishops were still religious aristocrats with vast civil powers. The nobility remained dominant in rural society, and in remote areas, peasant life seemed remarkably old fashioned. 26

    There are many different parts to the modern transformation: political, economic, religious, social, military, and more. They do not necessarily change in lockstep with each other. Sometimes, an important part of the revolutionary process was lagging behind. When this became a serious problem, something would happen to restore equilibrium. 27

    The modern transformation in France was out of balance. It was time for political and religious change to catch up. The result was a major series of waves of revolutionary violence that crashed through French society between 1789 and 1795. The nobility, the church, and the monarchy were all hit extremely hard. Thousands of aristocrats and Catholic clerics were sent to the guillotine, along with the king and queen. Any good history of the period will give you details about the events that triggered each wave of executions. The details are important, but the real cause of the revolutionary violence was the modern transformation. 28

    After six years of mob violence, assassinations, and executions, passions began to cool. Napoleon Bonaparte gradually assumed control, consolidated the revolution, and led the revolutionary army on campaigns of conquest through the aristocratic states of Europe. After losing an entire army in Russia, the military dictator who tried to turn himself into an emperor was defeated by the resurgent aristocratic forces. There was a strong conservative reaction in France and all of Europe. By 1818, it appeared that the French revolution had been a bloody failure. 29

    In history, appearances are often deceptive. The reality was that the revolution had triumphed. The conservative reaction would be temporary. The Catholic Church had been forced to come to terms with revolutionary France and would never regain its previous power. The émigré aristocrats returned to their estates, demanded the restoration of their ancient privileges, and were met with stubborn noncompliance. The restored king, Louis XVIII, managed to hold his royalist government together with a certain amount of compromise until his death in 1824. His brother, Charles X, was an ultra-royalist who did not believe in compromise. He was forced to abdicate in 1830. 30

    The modern transformation would continue in France, and its pace would increase, but the guillotine was no longer used as a revolutionary tool. The group that had benefited most from the revolutionary experience in France, Europe, and the Americas was the capitalist business class. 31

The Rise of the Oligarchic Class

    In all four of the revolutions just described—the Netherlands, Great Britain, the United States, and France—the main point of the revolutionary activity was to remove or decrease the power of the “ancien régime.” Ruling monarchs and aristocrats were replaced by oligarchic governments that were more responsive to the local business community. 32

    These revolutions were led by the gentry and the upper levels of the commoner class. Most of the foot soldiers were young men of the lower class who had little to lose and hoped to improve their condition. The successful business elements who led these revolutions would evolve into a new “oligarchic ruling class.” You will hear a lot more about the oligarchic elite as this book continues. Think of them as the group of wealthy and powerful families that usually dominate the upper levels of business and government during the modern transformation. This includes both early-modern Europe and the developing world today. 33

    The first stage of the modern transformation is the beginning of a long and difficult process. In western Europe it lasted from 1500 to about 1820, and covered the end of medieval government and society and the early beginning of the nation state. Middle –stage modern transformation includes an industrial revolution, the continued development of the nation state, and the rise of the oligarchic ruling class. For the rest of this discussion, I will use the terms “modern transformation,” “modern revolution,” and “oligarchic society” interchangeably. They all refer to the long period of transition from traditional society to fully-modern democratic-market nation states. 34

Ch. 11. Nation States

    It is amazing how quickly the world has changed from traditional tribes and monarchies to nation states. In 1500 there was no such thing. The Netherlands became the first about 1600. By the late 20th century, nearly all the land on Earth, with the exception of the Antarctic, was recognized as belonging to one nation state or another. 1

    Never before in history has change of this magnitude happened so quickly, but then never before has there been as much incentive. During the five hundred years since the modern transformation began, world population has risen from 425 million to over seven billion, and food production has more than kept up. The production of wealth and the quality of life have skyrocketed far beyond anything that tribesmen, peasants, or even aristocrats could have ever imagined. 2

    It is common for scholars to give the primary credit for these changes to an increase in the rate of technology development. That is true, but there is a reason for the much faster rate of improving technology. It is the triumph of the market economy and the new nation-state structure that is able to promote growth and development, while regulating the markets for the benefit of everyone. 3

Political and Economic Interdependence

    The nation-state government has a huge role to play in creating the conditions that are necessary for a high-performance industrial economy. There has to be a reliable form of money, and there needs to be the right amount of it, not too much and not too little. There has to be a standardization of business procedures starting with weights and measures but going on to include: taxes, contracts, liability law, criminal prosecution, and more. Business people, who are expected to invest their money and effort, must have some assurance that the fruits of their labor will not be stolen from them. Nation-state governments must enforce the rule of law to protect both the citizens and their livelihood. All of these political requirements can be performed well, and the economy will thrive, or they can be done poorly, and there will be difficulties. 4

    A well-functioning market economy can be a beautiful thing. Millions of people are all going about their business, doing their own work, and yet everything is coordinated, everything fits together. When the government does its job of setting up and maintaining the necessary legal and physical infrastructure, the invisible hand of the market will take over and do all of the organization and coordination required to make sure that the production of goods and services runs like clockwork. 5

    The market economy cannot do the job all by itself. The government cannot do it alone either. When the invisible hand of the market and a competent government work together, along with a healthy well-educated population, prosperity will follow for almost everyone. These conditions can be achieved by any country on any continent, but it takes time. 6


    The downside to this extraordinary economic and political transformation is that the process of nation-state formation often produces a large amount of violence, including: border war, ethnic cleansing, imperial war, and national rebellion. The high level of warfare has also increased the rate of technology development. There are many reasons why this massive reorganization of the world’s political, economic, and social institutions has been so violent. 7

    There are two hundred nation states in the world today. Most of them do not have the same borders and populations as the aristocratic conquest states or tribal entities that preceded them. The process of establishing these nations, determining their borders, deciding who would be included in the population, who would be excluded, and who would run the government has been the largest cause of violence during the modern transformation. Identity cleansings, border wars, civil wars, and national rebellions are all part of the larger process of nationalism, the creation and development of nation states.  8

Border Wars

    Aristocratic states were flexible organizations based on the land possessed by their royal conquest dynasties or feudal lords at any given time. Modern nation states are different. They require fixed borders, which ideally should include populations that have something to unite them: language, kinship, religion, or geography. Finding the new borders has often been a violent process. France and Germany hold the world record for border wars. There were the wars they fought with each other, which included the two World Wars, and the wars they fought with all of their other neighbors. It would require a team of historians just to add up all of the violence that occurred before the contours of France and Germany finally stabilized. 9

    A majority of modern nations have used some amount of violence as part of establishing or expanding their boundaries. There are nearly a hundred countries whose shapes were primarily defined by their colonial rulers. After independence, many of these countries still had border wars or skirmishes with their neighbors. Establishing limits and dividing lines has always been a difficult process. 10

    Since 1948, Israel has had numerous border wars, hundreds of skirmishes, and the process has not been completed yet. We still do not know what Israel’s final shape will be, and whether or not there will be a Palestinian nation state. So far the evidence suggests that national borders stabilize over time, but it can take a long time, and a lot of bloodshed. We do not know how many more border wars will be required before the process has been completed worldwide. 11

Identity Cleansing

    In the development of nation states, it is common for a dominant population to insist that their borders include land which is inhabited by a smaller less-powerful identity group, while excluding the people of that group. This is done by removing them from their land, either one way, or another. Identity cleansing has happened to a greater or lesser extent in a majority of modern transformations. The last chapter covered the beginning of the modern revolution in the Netherlands, Great Britain, the United States, and France—the first four nation states. All of them included episodes of identity cleansing. 12

    In the 16th century, the Netherlands were divided in half by a major war with Spain for political, economic, and religious freedom. It was only the “Northern Provinces” that were able to defend themselves from Spanish armies and achieve independence. During the Eighty Years War (1568-1648), the northerners cleansed out that part of their population who remained Catholic. The Spanish governed provinces in the south, which eventually became Belgium, cleansed the Protestant “heretics” from their midst. 13

    From the 1640s to the 1750s, the emerging English-controlled nation state of Great Britain cleansed Papist Irish and Highland Scots. Within a few years of arriving in North America in the early 1600s, the American colonists began cleansing the First Nations. This official policy continued for two and a half centuries until nearly the entire native-Indian population of the United States was destroyed. In the 1690s, the French cleansed their Huguenot Protestant community. During the height of revolutionary violence in the 1790s, it was the Catholic clergy who went to the guillotine. 14

    This is usually called religious or ethnic cleansing, but the problem is not really religion or ethnicity. Sometimes it is mountain people versus flatlanders or civilization versus tribals. People have always formed group identities for many different reasons. 15

    The problem of different identity groups fighting battles with each other to see who will form the next government is just as common. Cleansings and battles between different ethnic and sectarian factions over who will govern are still happening, as with the Sunnis, Shia, Kurds, and others in Iraq and the numerous identity groups in Syria and Afghanistan. This kind of violence will continue for a few more generations until all countries have progressed into the final stage of the modern transformation, which is usually more peaceful. 16

National Rebellion

    More than half of all the nation states in the world today were created through a process that included national rebellion. The Dutch rebelled against the Spanish Empire, and the Americans rebelled against the British Empire. Italians rebelled against both French and Austrian rule. The modern transformation has included a huge amount of national rebellion, culminating in the great disintegration of empires after World War II. In recent times, southern Sudan has been in rebellion against the north and Kashmir against India. The breakups of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were caused by national rebellions. 17

    These kinds of rebellions have often been extremely violent, especially the methods used by governments to repress them. The violence sometimes has a way of bouncing back and forth between insurgents and national security forces, while escalating with every reverberation. Half of all national rebellions have failed, as did the Confederate States of America and the Tamil rebellion in Sri Lanka. 18

    Since the modern transformation began, there have been hundreds of attempted national rebellions, and over a hundred that have succeeded in forming independent nation states. The use of violent rebellion in the formation of new nations will continue for another generation, but on a much lower scale. Developing governments are gradually becoming more pluralistic and willing to recognize the rights of minority identity groups. The need for violent rebellion seems to be decreasing. In some countries the same objective can be accomplished peacefully, as in Czechoslovakia. 19

Social Revolution

    Nationalism can be blamed for a majority of the violence stemming from the modern transformation but not all of it. Other parts of the revolutionary experience have also contributed. Two different kinds of social revolution were, and are, major parts of the modern transformation. When the modern revolution began, the first order of business was to reduce or destroy the power of the secular and religious hereditary aristocracy, followed by the king. In western Europe, it required centuries of rebellion and revolution to complete this job. 20

    As the official hereditary rule of the titled nobility diminished, the remaining aristocrats were absorbed into a new oligarchic ruling class which developed to govern the emerging nation states. The first successful business entrepreneurs become very wealthy in the developing capitalist market economy. The first successful political families also become rich and powerful. It was inevitable that the wealthy business elite would begin to intermarry with the powerful political families. In pretty much every modern transformation, this has led to the development of an oligarchic ruling class that controls both the capitalist economy and the nation-state government. 21

    That completes step one of the social revolutionary experience, removing the aristocrats and monarchs from power, and allows the country to continue on to step two. The end result of the modern transformation is democratic-market society where the nation is governed by all the people, not just a political class of ruling elites. Step two of the social revolution requires ending the monopoly of political power enjoyed by the oligarchic ruling class and distributing it more evenly to all citizens. This is usually the second most violent part of the modern transformation. 22

    The problem with the oligarchic ruling class is not that it forms to begin with. Wealthy oligarchs are needed to kick start modern industrial and commercial development. The problem is that the first successful pioneers of modern business and government quite often monopolize the nation's wealth and political power, and pass the monopoly on to their children. Most of the population becomes part of a large working class, which has little choice but to accept whatever menial jobs and low pay that are available. The ordinary common citizens become more and more dissatisfied. If the oligarchs refuse to compromise with the working class and share their wealth and political power, it will lead to revolutionary class struggle. Socialism, communism, fascism, and Islamic fundamentalism evolved to lead much of this second-stage social-revolutionary battle. We will observe how this process began in western Europe in the next chapter. 23

    About half of all modern nations used to be primarily tribal in structure. Many of these countries did not begin the modern transformation until after World War II. They are in the process of changing tribal leaders into national politicians. Arab countries, African countries, Afghanistan, and Island nations around the world are still working out how to do this. The modern transformation in tribal cultures appears to be just as violent as it has been in aristocrat-peasant societies, but there has always been a lot of variation. Mongolia is an example of a tribal population that is making good progress through the modern transformation without having a civil war. 24


    With all of the above listed reasons for violence, most developing countries had, and still have, periodic waves of street fighting, assassinations, gun-powder plots, rebellions, class conflicts, border wars, and identity cleansings. You would think this would be enough violence, but not for western Europe. They just had to add world conquest into the mix. 25

    Imperialism was an important factor in all aristocrat-peasant societies of the last five-thousand years. It was universally accepted that conquering your neighbors, taking their wealth, and forcing them to work for you as peasants or slaves was an honorable thing to do. If you could go farther and conquer large empires as Persia, Rome, and China did—so much the better. 26

    By 1500, Europeans had learned how to go much farther by sea. Their growing commercial and maritime strength gave them the ability to launch overseas expeditions in search of trade. They were also looking for weaker people who could be conquered and exploited. Today, we think of this as being evil. In traditional and early-modern times, it was just normal standard-operating-procedure. Soon the Spanish were looting the New World of its gold and silver. The Portuguese were using their stronger ships and heavier cannon to return from the Indies with fortunes in spice and exotic products. Early-modern imperialism took off from there. 27

    The western Europeans were well practiced at war. Their military technology was constantly improving. Their financial technology was also increasing. Early-modern warfare required soldiers, ships, and weapons—but more than anything else—it required money. As their modern capitalist economy continued to develop, Europeans were able to mobilize more money through the bond markets and more of everything else that was needed for conquest. 28

    The modern transformation was making Europe more modern and more powerful, while the rest of the world continued using aristocratic and tribal institutions. By the 19th century, the combination of a maritime commercial economy, financial markets, and modern weapons gave the western Europeans the capability to conquer most of the world. It was not long before the imperialists were doing more fighting with each other over colonies than fighting with the natives. Whoever was winning, European imperialism continued to expand. 29

Worst Case Scenario

    Overall, nationalism has been the largest single cause of violence during the world-wide modern transformation. That includes: border war, identity cleansing, and national rebellion. Social revolution has been the second largest cause of violence. This starts with rebellion against aristocrats, monarchs, or colonial masters in the first stage of the modern transformation. The result is an oligarchic ruling class that dominates both the government and the economy. After the industrial revolution has begun, this usually leads to some degree of class struggle where the working class tries to diminish the power of the oligarchic elites. The result can range from a relatively mild case of socialism to extreme forms of communism, fascism, or Islamic fundamentalism. 30

    The worst case scenario occurs when these two main causes of violence happen at the same time and become entangled with each other. In central and eastern Europe during the second half of the 19th century, serfdom was coming to an end, the industrial revolution was beginning, and a working-class proletariat was emerging. All of this was happening prior to the development of nation states. The conquest dynasties of the German Kaiser, Austro-Hungarian Emperor, and the Russian Czar still ruled the entire region. When those monarchs came crashing down at the end of World War I, it was time to redraw the borders for all of central and eastern Europe.  31

    The three most difficult and violent problems of the modern transformation—nationalism, social revolution, and imperialism—all came to an apocalyptic crescendo in the first half of the 20th century. It was not Kaisers, Czars, Fuhrers, fascists, and communists who caused the two World Wars. It was the modern transformation that caused the downfall of the Czar and the Kaiser, the rise of communism and fascism, and the creation of a dozen new nation states. As a result, border wars, national rebellions, identity cleansings, social revolution, and imperial conquest all merged into two gigantic episodes of violence that are known as World War I and World War II. We will take a closer look at central and eastern Europe in Chapters 14 and 16. 32

    Something similar to this worst case scenario is happening today in the Arab world. Egypt is the only Arab country that has traditionally had a strong national identity. Egyptians have been Egyptians for five thousand years. Most of the rest of the Arabs have traditionally used religion and tribe as the basis of their identity and group loyalty. After World War II and the colonial independence movements, the Arab world was divided into nation states based largely on boundaries left over from the European imperialists. 33

    In central Europe at the end of World War I, an argument started about who was and who was not a Pole, where exactly the boundaries of Poland should be, or if there really needed to be a Poland at all. Germany and Russia did not see any reason for having a Poland. It was going to take another World War and a Cold War to find the answers to those questions. There are similar problems in the Arab world today. No one knows exactly what a Syrian is. They know Sunnis, Alawites, Druze, Christians, Kurds, Ismailis, Turkmen, and Armenians, which are some of the identity groups that live within the borders of Syria, but what is a Syrian? Is it necessary to have a Syria at all? If there is going to be a Syria, who should be in charge, the Alawites? Maybe there should be a universal caliphate to rule all of the Faithful, but that just brings up the questions: who is included in "the Faithful," and who should be caliph? 34

    In traditional times, the various candidates for leadership would mobilize their forces and fight it out until the last one standing became the new ruler. That is essentially the way central and eastern Europe tried to answer their questions about nationality in the 20th century. Just keep fighting until a winner emerges. That is how it was decided who would inhabit, and who would rule, the United States of America. This has been a common solution to the problems of nationalism and social revolution throughout the five hundred year history of the modern transformation, but it generates a lot of bloodshed and suffering. There have also been other, wiser solutions. Sometimes after just a moderate amount of fighting, the various identity groups have found that compromise can lead to more successful and peaceful ways to define and rule their emerging nation state. The Japanese pro-modern nationalists, daimyo, and samurai fought a number of small-scale battles over these issues, and then found other ways to work things out, Chapter 13. 35

    One thing we know for certain is that everyone has to eat. In the modern world, this requires a market economy where people can buy food, which requires a nation state to regulate the markets and keep the economy functioning. Whether the modern transformation in Syria or any other country uses a lot of violence, or a much smaller amount, the end result will still be a democratic-market nation state. We will take a closer look at the Arab world in Chapter 19. 36

Good Guys and Bad Guys

    The above sections of this chapter clearly state that the modern transformation is the universal cause for border war, identity cleansing, national rebellion, and social revolution in developing countries. When we watch the television news, we can see these events happening in real time. In the summer of 2014, there is a small-scale border war taking place in eastern Ukraine. Religious cleansing is being carried out by the new Islamic Caliphate around Mosul in northern Iraq. The Israelis and Palestinians are killing each other again in and around Gaza. 37

    The reporters who cover these stories do not explain that these are ordinary average border wars and identity cleansings that commonly happen during early and middle-stage modern transformation. What a boring story that would be. Their editors want heart-wrenching human drama about good guys, bad guys, evil deeds, and heroes who save the day. 38

    As a result, we get stories about the "bad guy," Vladimir Putin, who in his lust for power and glory is orchestrating death and destruction in an attempt to recreate the Czarist and Soviet empire. The problem is: if Vladimir Putin was more like Abraham Lincoln, it would not be small-scale border fighting. The entire Russian army would be advancing across the Ukraine killing everyone who tried to oppose them. The way Americans write the story: Abraham Lincoln was the "good guy" because he fought a massive war to reunite "their country," and did not stop until the job was completed. Vladimir Putin is the "bad guy" because he is willing to use violence to reunite the two largest parts of "his country." 39

    The latest turn of events in the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars has seen the rise of an aggressive Islamic "Caliphate" that is cleansing Shia Muslims, Christians, and Yazidi—a surviving offshoot of the ancient Zoroastrian religion. Reporters and commentators go on and on about evil jihadi terrorists and man's inhumanity to man. When the American frontiersmen spent two and a half centuries cleansing "heathen savages," the cleansers were considered to be the "good guys" and the victims were the "bad guys." 40

    Jews and Palestinians are two different identity groups who are fighting over the same piece of land. The Israeli Likud government describes Hamas as the worst form of Satanic evil. The Palestinians feel exactly the same about Likud. The reality is that Likud and Hamas are identical to the extent that they are both at the hardline most-violent extreme of the political spectrum. Likud refuses any form of compromise and regularly kills large numbers of Palestinians with airstrikes and artillery, but in the American media, they are the "good guys." Hamas is fighting as hard as they can for freedom from Israeli oppression, and has repeatedly stated that they would be willing to compromise and accept a two state solution. The European media now considers the Palestinians to be the "good guys" and Binyamin Netanyahu to be the "bad guy." 41

    History scholars have followed the journalists down the same dead-end path. Most of their work is biographical and most of it is about "good guys and bad guys." Everything that happens is attributed to the leaders and rulers. If good things happened, then the leaders were "good guys." If bad things happened, they were "bad guys." Most history stories are either about local heroes or foreign villains. 42

    There are two primary reasons for putting the focus of history almost entirely on rulers and other elites, to the exclusion of ordinary common citizens and their economic requirements. One is that history scholars are supposed to use primary sources, which is much easier to do if you focus on the leaders; the archives are filled with biographical data about rulers and other important powerful people. Second, readers like gossipy stories about royalty, national heroes, founding fathers, villainous dictators, and the rich and powerful. 43

    The result of all this journalism, commentary, and history that puts most of the focus on leaders is a gross misrepresentation of what is actually happening in the world. Dictators, radical imams, and warlords are blamed as the root cause of the violence in developing countries. It is just not true. Dictators and other leaders are caught up in the violence and forced to find ways to respond to it, just like everyone else. The actual cause of all the border war, identity cleansing, class struggle, and general mayhem is the modern transformation, the change from traditional to modern society all around the world. 44

An End to the Violence

    It was obvious from the beginning that this new nation-state form of society was just as violent and prone to warfare as the aristocratic conquest dynasties of the past. Many people worry that this is still the case. A deeper analysis gives us reason for hope. Identity cleansing, borders wars, national rebellion, and social revolution are problems that show up prominently in the early and middle-stage of the modern transformation. They tend to taper off toward the end. 45

    Imperialism was smashed by two climactic World Wars in the 20th century. All of the major empires have been dismantled. The only attempt at imperial conquest in recent times was by Saddam Hussein, and his aggressions were as much border wars as imperial wars. In any case, his fate is unlikely to tempt others into similar ventures. 46

    The early development of nation states is clearly a violent process. Since many countries are still in the middle stage of the modern transformation, there is a lot of violence that is still happening, but there is also hope for the future. Since the end of World War II, the pace of the modern transformation has greatly increased. Real progress has been and is being made. The next three generations should see a slow but substantial decline in the amount of revolutionary violence around the world. If developing countries have a better understanding about what the modern transformation is, and how it works, the violence may be reduced even faster. 47

Ch. 12. Middle-Stage Modern Transformation and Oligarchic Society

    During the earliest part of the modern transformation in western Europe, agriculture was leading the change to modern society. Prices had remained high. Farmers who had managed to gain ownership of land, or at least long-term leases, were prospering along with the gentry. Skilled craftsmen and merchants were also doing well from increased demand. Thomas Jefferson and some of the other Enlightenment philosophers were even talking about free republics dominated by independent farmers, artisans, and merchants, but that turned out not to be the direction history was going. 1

    In one sense, the French Revolution was the end of an era. Up to this point, the largest revolutionary battles had been fought mostly between the aristocrats of the “ancien régime” and the rising power of the “nouveau riche” merchant class. This kind of revolutionary struggle continued in various places around the world into the 20th century, but on a declining scale. For the last two centuries, the largest revolutionary battles have been waged primarily over the issues of nationalism and second-stage social revolution, the struggle to limit the political and economic power of the oligarchic ruling class. 2

Traditional Commerce and Industry

    Many traditional societies had a group of families that could be called “merchant oligarchs.” These people were important inside the business community, but they were not anywhere close to the rank and social level of the royalty and aristocratic rulers. This began to change after the start of the modern transformation. 3

    The concept of trying to maximize profit turned out to be infectious. It could be applied to more than just agriculture. In traditional societies, most industrial production was controlled by the guilds. We do not know when or where the first craft guilds originated, but they were already old when Rome was young. In the cities of the aristocrat-peasant world, most crafts were organized into guilds that were multi-function social organizations. They also regulated the terms of trade. The system of masters, journeymen, and apprentices was enforced by the guilds. The prices for standard items were set by the guilds. The quality of materials and workmanship was specified by the guilds. Most important, no outside competition was allowed. 4

    It was all very complicated, but the guilds were essentially trying to enforce tradition and stability. Disruptive factors like competitive pricing, innovation, and supply and demand were minimized as much as possible. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the guilds were still able to maintain their restrictive practices, but it was getting harder. In the middle of the 18th century, the guilds lost control and the industrial revolution began. All of the agricultural, religious, and political changes made by the modern transformation up to this point were just a preliminary performance. 5

Industrial Revolution

    Scientific research was generally not a feature of traditional societies. It had a tendency to come into conflict with the “divine order of the universe” and draw the ire of the clergy. After the Protestant Reformation, this was no longer a major problem in northern Europe. The growing market economy was looking for new ideas and better technology. Modern science began to evolve and grow along with it. As with all the other changes, this fusion of markets and technology started out slowly and gradually picked up speed. 6

    In the first decades of the 19th century, all of the necessary ingredients were coming together. There were nation-state governments, which were ready and able to develop the physical and legal infrastructure that was necessary to take the market economy to a new level. Science was making sufficient progress to begin a technological revolution on a scale never before imagined. The financial sector had been developing to keep pace; stock markets and investment banks were in place and capable of mobilizing vast amounts of capital. Successful imperial expeditions had brought a still increasing bounty of gold, silver, and expanding markets for European goods. 7

    Along with the above ingredients, the population of western Europe had been developing, learning, and practicing market economics for the last five centuries. The textile industry had already pioneered the evolution of modern factories. Everything was ready, and it happened, the development of "heavy industry." At the beginning of the 19th century, they were still sailing around in wooden ships lit with candles. At the beginning of the 20th century, they were building HMS Dreadnought and the Titanic. It was like the difference between night and day. 8

    In the mid 19th century, the price of food was declining, and agriculture was no longer in a position to lead the modern transformation. Thomas Jefferson’s dream of republics dominated by independent farmers was not going to happen. In fact, it was completely forgotten that the process of modernization was first initiated when European peasants began transforming themselves into market farmers. 9

    Large-scale economic enterprise and heavy industry became the future of the modern transformation. Once again, it started out slowly. The technology evolved in increments. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were finding ways to apply more power to the production process. The Dutch were using windmills and the English were using watermills. Powered looms and other kinds of machinery began to perform more of the work instead of skilled handworkers. In the early 1800s, steam power became widely available. The increments of change became larger. Railroads were appearing. In the 1860s, the first steel mills were being developed. 10

Oligarchic Ruling Class

    Master craftsmen and smalltime entrepreneurs could build a blacksmith shop or a small ironworks, but they could not build railroads and steel mills, at least not by themselves. A huge amount of investment capital was needed, and a lot of it was lost pursuing ideas that were not yet ready. Wealthy merchants, gentry, aristocrats, banks, and governments became sources of capital. Governments were also needed to help organize transportation infrastructure and provide permits. You can’t just put up a steel mill or an oil refinery without having some kind of official authorization. 11

    As the capitalist market economy increased and became the dominate mechanism for economic exchange, the merchant class expanded and grew richer. At first, this put them in conflict with the aristocrats who were still trying to defend their prerogative to rule. As the modern transformation continued and aristocratic status suffered an inevitable decline, the titled nobility found that intermarriage with commoners was not such a bad idea after all, as long as they were wealthy. 12

    After the Napoleonic wars, despite the conservative reaction, times had changed. It was sort of like the aristocrats throughout Europe had come to the conclusion that: If you cannot beat them, you might as well join them. By the mid 19th century, aristocrats in large numbers began to intermarry with the wealthy commercial families. The merger of the two groups created a strong unified oligarchic ruling class, which inherited the political power of the aristocrats and the commercial power of the new capitalists. 13

    A new kind of elite ruling class was forming. It was based on talent, education, and money. If you were born into one of the wealthy families, then you had access to the education and the money. All you had to contribute was at least a moderate level of competence. If you were born into a working-class family, it was very difficult to rise by talent alone. Once again, the accident of birth pretty much determined one’s position in society. 14

    The resulting oligarchic ruling class was not the same thing as the previous aristocratic class, but it was similar. Just like the aristocrats, oligarchs were a family based institution. The elite families usually worked together to dominate early-modern society. Many large companies were family owned. Today, oligarchic governments are often dominated by family political dynasties. 15

    In the 19th century, the oligarchic elites were the only people with access to a university education. They still owned vast tracts of farmland with peasant renters. They owned the banks, large businesses, and commercial real-estate. They also retained many of the old aristocratic titles, which still carried some weight. Since the new oligarchic ruling class absorbed the remaining titled aristocrats, they dominated the army officer corps and controlled most upper-level government positions. The new institution of electoral politics required money, and the oligarchs controlled the money. Most politicians were oligarchs or were funded by them. 16

    Not all oligarchs were at the center of wealth and power. Aside from the few at the top, most of them were mid-level or lower-level political and business leaders. In medieval times, knights and squires were not even close to being on a par with the grand dukes and barons, but they were still a necessary and important part of the aristocratic class. During the modern transformation, the oligarchic class also needs lower level leaders who are part of the ruling team. 17

    It has always been common for different oligarchic families to form factions and compete with each other for the highest levels of political power. For the most part, however, oligarchs saw themselves as being on the same side. They lived in the same neighborhoods, went to the same schools, shared the same interests, and considered each other to be suitable marriage partners. They tended to avoid competition in business affairs. That would reduce profits. 18

    In other parts of the world, oligarchs evolved along similar lines, as in: Japan, Turkey, India, Egypt, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, and most developing nations. Latin America has been dominated by its own form of oligarchy ever since its conquest by the Spanish and Portuguese. Sub-Saharan Africa never had aristocrats, but after independence, some families became successful in business, while others became successful in politics. These families intermarried and again have produced an elite ruling class. 19

    Communist revolution was specifically designed to destroy the oligarchic ruling class, but a generation after most such revolutions, the communist rulers and their extended families were starting to look a lot like privileged oligarchs themselves. Since the Soviet Union crumbled, most of the resulting countries are still ruled by oligarchs who are once again capitalist. The Chinese Communist leadership has also evolved into an oligarchic ruling class. 20

    There is something very natural in the concept of a relatively small group of powerful families that own or control most of the society’s wealth and political power generation after generation. The top families often changed, sometimes slowly, sometimes more rapidly, but there were always elite families. They exercised an inordinate degree of power and influence through most of the modern transformation. The concept of a ruling class and a subordinate class was just too basic and too ingrained to change quickly. 21

    The new form of class-based oligarchic society was, and is, capable of lasting for centuries, as in western Europe and Latin America. The oligarchs could use their wealth to maintain their political power and use their political power to maintain their wealth. It was not a matter of anyone being evil. In the 19th century, it was entirely natural for the oligarchs to think of themselves as a ruling class very much like the aristocrats. 22

    With the advent of large-scale industry, the average common workers found themselves right back at the bottom of the pile again. In the large corporations that began to dominate modern economies, there were layers of owners, investors, managers, engineers, supervisors, and at the very bottom—the workers. Once again farmers and workers found themselves outranked and subordinated to the elites of the society. 23

    Farmers, laborers, and craftsmen evolved into a large impoverished working class that included most of the population. There was also a small middle class made up of educated professionals and small business owners. Nobody knew that they were headed toward a future where society would be dominated by a large middle class that included a majority of the population. In the 19th century, no one could even imagine such a thing. 24

    The formation of an oligarchic elite has been pretty-much universal in the middle stage of the modern transformation. The oligarchs pioneered the development of heavy industry and large scale commercial capitalism, and made large amounts of money doing so. The important question is not so much how the oligarchic ruling class comes to power, but how they eventually give up their monopoly and begin to share wealth and political power with the working class. In later chapters, we will observe that this can be done relatively peacefully through compromise and economic development. Or, it can be done violently, through various kinds of social revolution, including: communism (extreme socialism), fascism (extreme nationalism), and extremist religious fundamentalism. 25

Political Institutions

    In middle-stage modern transformation, political institutions are almost always controlled by the oligarchic ruling class, but the actual form of government was, and is, highly variable. In western Europe, the absolute monarchs began a long transition from autocratic rule to constitutional reform. Elected parliaments slowly and incrementally began to acquire a share of political power. 26

    In some countries, there was a lengthy period after the last king had been dethroned when they were trying, but failing, to establish successful elected government. Military dictators and political strongmen, like Napoleon III in France, have often been required to fill the vacuum and prevent anarchy. 27

    There have been many different kinds of dictators. Some, like Oliver Cromwell, did a relatively good job of keeping order and helping their countries to get through the revolutionary chaos of the modern transformation. But dictators have always been a chancy proposition. Some have created more problems than they solved. In many developing countries, there have been periods of time when no government was able to keep order and anarchy prevailed. 28

Early Democracy

    European feudal government was originally a joint effort between the monarch, church, and aristocracy. When there were important matters to discuss, the king called together a great council or a parliament, which included the clergy and nobility, to debate the issues and make decisions. The British were the first to take this traditional great council and turn it into a functional, elected parliamentary government. This was a slow evolutionary process that required many centuries. 29

    By the early 1700s, English royalty were becoming ceremonial heads of state, while the House of Lords and the House of Commons were taking over and jointly exercising governmental authority. Members of the House of Commons were elected to office, which made the United Kingdom the first successful elected nation-state government. This was early democracy. Property owners could vote; the electorate was less than five percent of the population. Up until the middle of the 19th century, this form of government was evolving to allow members of the oligarchic ruling class to choose the government leaders. No one imagined that it would ever develop to the point of universal suffrage, which would eventually allow the ordinary common people to dominate elections and control the government. From the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, the United States and the United Kingdom led the way in turning early democracy into real democracy, "rule by the people." 30

    Some countries got off to an early start and made good progress toward elected government. Other countries got off to a late start and have made slow progress. It is not a race. Developing a successful modern economy will eventually require the empowerment of all citizens. Democracy will follow as a natural result. It is up to the people of each country to decide for themselves when and how they will implement democratic reforms. 31

    Since World War II, the English speaking nations have associated democracy with peace, prosperity, and good government. Dictators have been equated with evil deeds like: aggression, conquest, and ethnic cleansing. This is not actually true. The British instigated dozens of wars to conquer the largest empire known to history, one quarter of the world's land and population. They engaged in ethnic cleansing on an epic scale in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and large parts of Africa, where they were still enlarging "whites only" areas in the 1950s. While they were doing all of this conquest and ethnic cleansing, they were also leading the way in developing modern democracy. When you look closely at the actual data of history, it is not possible to say that democracy, especially early democracy, is virtuous by definition, while dictatorship is always evil. A larger discussion of dictators can be found in Chapter 18. 32

Economic Institutions

    The economies of middle-stage oligarchic societies are also highly variable. In the mid 19th century, it was usually a laissez-faire market economy. In the 20th century, there was a great deal more diversity. This included everything from economic anarchy through various levels of government regulation to socialism, fascism, or communism, where the government controls the economy. 33

    During the modern transformation, the market economy starts off at a relatively low level. Then the agricultural and industrial revolutions kick in, but they run at different speeds in different countries. Progress depends on many factors, including how ready the people are for the modern world and how well the government promotes education and economic development. The first countries to build wealthy industrial economies thought that they were smarter than the rest. There are many variables in the equation, but some kind of “national intelligence quotient” is not one of them. 34

    There was, and is, a basic “Catch-22” for most middle-stage developing countries. They are now using a capitalist market economy. With better education and improving technology, the country will have higher productivity, which means they can create and enjoy more wealth. The catch is: it is the working class that actually creates most of the wealth. In order to increase productivity, it is the workers who have to be educated. As that happens, they are no longer willing to remain an impoverished, subordinate class. They begin to demand higher wages, more respect, and a voice in government. 35


    European socialism started out in the 18th century as a utopian back to the land agricultural movement. This never gained much traction. In the 19th century, socialism morphed into a multi-structured effort to improve conditions for the working class, including: health, education, labor union organization, and political action. As more power shifted to elected legislatures and political reforms slowly moved toward universal manhood suffrage, socialist political parties received an increasing number of votes. 36

    There was a huge amount of revolutionary anti-capitalist rhetoric in these socialist organizations. It is easy to identify why. Early capitalist enterprises were usually run like sweat shops. Workers, some of them children, toiled for twelve hours per day under dangerous and vile conditions. Pay was barely enough to keep a family fed. Living conditions in unheated walk-up tenements varied from bad to worse. Injuries and unemployment were common. 37

    At the same time, the rich capitalists thought that their workers were well off. They compared the factory conditions and worker’s housing to the plight of landless agricultural laborers living in hovels in rural areas and congratulated themselves as great humanitarians. We can call this “Charles Dickens society,” because he portrayed it so well in David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and many other novels. The working class slums that he described existed, and continue to exist, in most middle-stage oligarchic, developing countries. 38

Standard Pattern of Economic Development

    Modern, economic enterprise requires three things: capital, management, and labor. In the beginning, capital was in short supply, and therefore according to the law of supply and demand, it was well rewarded. Underemployed labor was abundant and therefore received low pay. In the early stage, government did not have the revenue or the expertise to do much about any of this. 39

    After a century or so of growth and development, the economy would have a much better balance. There would be more capital, more and bigger companies, more jobs, and more competition for labor. Pay and working conditions would improve. The government would have more revenue for health, education, and safety-net programs. Entrepreneurial workers would be starting businesses of their own. 40

    With the 20/20 hindsight of history, we can now see that this pattern of modern economic development is fairly universal. Economists call it a “virtuous circle.” In the 19th century, no one could see it. No one had the slightest clue. In any case, this pattern of development did not happen all by itself. It required constant pressure from the working class to make it happen. Socialist organizations provided much of the leadership needed to achieve this improvement in working conditions. 41


    In middle-stage modern transformation, family structure was beginning to change, but it was a slow process. Women’s rights seem to have been something of a lagging indicator. During oligarchic society, arranged marriages began to decline and women had more say in choosing a husband.  During the second half of the modern transformation, women were exercising more freedom in both public and personal matters. Rank was not as important as it used to be, but husbands were often slow to get that message. 42

    Toward the end of the 19th century, women's liberation movements in Britain and the United States began demanding legal equality and the right to vote. It was a long hard-fought battle. In England, the suffragettes achieved voting rights in 1918; it became standard for American women in 1920. Progress continued slowly. In the Western world, universities and professions were not fully opened to women on an equal basis until the end of the modern transformation and beginning of democratic-market society in the 1960s. Many developing countries today are making much better progress. 43

    The most dramatic change in families during middle-stage modern transformation was an increase in the number of children. The basic elements of modern public health were starting to be implemented. Child mortality was beginning to decline while birthrates remained high. The result was a population explosion. Surplus agricultural families were moving from the rural areas to the cities looking for work. Their new life in the working class slums was very different from their previous experience in the country. Mass migration from rural to urban areas is a major feature of the modern transformation. 44


    Religion is a very complicated subject, and I do not claim to understand everything about it. One thing which is clear is that the “divine order of the universe” and religious orthodoxy undergo major changes during the modern transformation. 45

    Many traditional societies tried to enforce a fairly uniform religious orthodoxy. They felt that it was best to have only one “divine order.” When the modern transformation starts, religious orthodoxy begins to break down. Preachers appeared with new messages, and people were offered choices. Quite often, one of the more popular choices was a fundamentalist return to their original religious roots. 46

    The Christian fundamentalist Protestant movement spread across half of Europe in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. More recently, it has been gathering momentum in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of Asia. Hindu fundamentalism has appeared in India, and Islamic fundamentalism has become a major force in the Muslim world. These evangelical and fundamentalist movements are not identical. There are wide differences between them, but also many similarities. One characteristic element is that their primary strength comes from the ordinary common citizens, especially those with ambition to get ahead in life. They also have a tendency to believe that the ruling class has lost its way and fallen into sin. 47

    This message has often resonated with members of the large working class and the small middle class who were unhappy with the wealth and corruption of the oligarchic ruling class, and were looking for change. These fundamentalist religious movements have often become a major force promoting the modern transformation. The Dissenters of 18th century England practically invented the industrial revolution. Political, economic, and social revolution have often been preached from the pulpit. 48

Revolution, Religion, and Violence

    In traditional society, religion was used as an explanation and motivation for almost everything. This usually continued through at least the first half of the modern transformation. In many cases, the ordinary people had not yet become politically active. Because of this, if you wanted to draw a crowd and promote political and social revolution, one of the best ways to do so was to wrap your message in religious rhetoric. In much of the Arab world, authoritarian regimes have been on high alert to stamp out any hint of political dissidence. When political speech is prohibited, but preaching the teachings of the Prophet is allowed, it is no surprise that the Islamic religion has gotten thoroughly entangled with the political, economic, and social aspects of the modern transformation. 49

    In some countries religion has also been a large part of nationalism; the modern nation state was defined in whole or in part by religion. Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are the most prominent examples of this, but it has happened to a lesser extent in the Netherlands, Ireland, Poland, India, Japan, and many other countries. 50

    The day that Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five thesis to the church door in 1517 is considered by many historians to be one of the defining moments of early-modern Europe. The mixture of religious fundamentalism along with all the other political, economic, and national-identity problems has been a volatile and dangerous combination since the beginning of the modern transformation five hundred years ago. 51

    The Protestant Reformation included a huge amount of religious warfare and general violence. Religion became thoroughly entangled with rebellion and political assassination in the Netherlands, France, Germany, England, Scotland, and Ireland, all of which resulted in massive amounts of violence. The rest of Europe had similar problems with religion and revolution but to a lesser degree. For the last two generations, we have been seeing the same combination of religious militants and political violence in the Islamic world. 52

    I cannot explain how and why this mixture of religion and the modern transformation contains the seeds of savage violence that can readily include car bombs and suicide vests. One thing that is clear is that the problem extends much wider than the Islamic world. Any attempt to research the issue of fundamentalist religious militancy should concentrate more on understanding the modern transformation than on religious doctrine. 53

Conflict and Military Institutions

    Creating nation states has usually been a process that includes war, either national rebellion or a civil war. Then, there were border wars, efforts at national expansion, maybe some identity cleansing, and in the old days, imperial conquest. Early and middle-stage oligarchic societies generally had, and still have, a lot of violence and military activity. 54

    There were many reasons for these wars. Emerging nation states were in the formative stage. Borders were being determined, and there was booty to be gained. In the 16th century, the English fought a piratical naval war in the Caribbean to seize a share of the new-world gold and silver from Spanish treasure fleets. They had a civil war at home, fought many battles with the Irish and Scots, and then began to conquer their overseas empire. The British also participated in numerous wars across the channel in Europe. Early and middle-stage developing nations were just as eager to fight as their aristocratic ancestors. 55

    The problem was not just with the governments. In traditional society, aristocrats were the warriors, which meant they were in charge. Peasants and commoners were usually not supposed to carry or use weapons. During the modern transformation, this distinction comes to an end. Many young men believed that violence could help them to get ahead in the world. Even the lowest commoner, if he was tough enough, could get a gun and set out to find a better life. Some of these men were willing recruits for the army. Others preferred to operate as freelancers. There were armed mobs arguing politics in the streets, company bulls assaulting union strikers, criminal gangs fighting openly for control, and various groups of armed adventurers and religious militants. 56

    Only a very few middle-stage oligarchic governments were strong enough to maintain the rule of law most of the time. When Horace Greeley advised Americans to “go west” to seek their fortune, he did not intend that they should go unarmed. There were, and are, a lot of guns and a lot of violence in most developing countries during the modern transformation. 57

Destroy the Old, Make Way for the New

    Conflict and warfare have always been an important part of the modern revolution, especially in Europe. The violence started with the Wars of Religion and the Eighty Years War for Dutch Independence in the 16th century. There were more Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years War, the English Civil War, and the border wars of Louis XIV in the 17th century. The 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries had even more war. It just went on and on. 58

    Warfare is a destructive process, but usually new shoots are able to grow from the ruins. That is what was happening. Layer after layer of traditional society was swept away by regular bouts of warfare and violence. Local and provincial aristocratic dynasties went down by the hundreds. The way people worshiped was radically changed. The requirement for more and better weaponry supported the development of industry and technology. 59

    Huge amounts of everything old were destroyed in these wars. Just as much was deliberately abandoned because it was not helping to achieve victory fast enough. Victory required modernity. Lots of European aristocrats found that out when Napoleon and his army came calling. Aristocrats all over the world discovered it when the European imperialists arrived. “Strong nations conquer, and weak nations suffer” was a common expression of the time. The more modern a country was, the stronger it was. With the development of heavy industry and modern armaments, the wars became larger and deadlier. This process culminated in the first half of the 20th century with two gigantic World Wars. 60

    Over the last fifty years, the Western world has been watching the endemic violence in emerging and developing countries on the television news and wondering why people are behaving so badly. Deep down, Americans and western Europeans know that their own countries had even more violence back in the years when they were emerging and developing nations. For some reason however, Westerners ignore their own history and see the violence in today’s developing world as some kind of monstrous aberration. They do not make the connection to the universal modern transformation. This is because the historians have never properly described and explained the modern transformation. 61

    The emerging-nation violence that we have been watching on television includes: border wars, identity cleansings, political repression, and religious warriors. The Arab world is currently going through a lengthy period of intense revolutionary violence, especially in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. This is the same general kind of violence that featured heavily in the modern transformations of the Western world starting five centuries ago. The only difference is that now it is happening in the rest of the world. The overall level of violence diminishes greatly during the last stage of the modern transformation. In the second half of this century, the world will be much more peaceful. 62

Ch. 13. Early Modern Transformation Beyond Europe

    Italy, Portugal, and Spain had participated in the early modern transformation of the 16th century, and they had even helped to set the stage for it in the 15th century. Then, they seem to have slept through the 17th and 18th centuries with very little forward progress. This kind of delay has been common in the modern transformation, especially the early stage. 1

    Latin America was conquered by Spanish and Portuguese adventurers who were among the most modern people of their time. The way their colonies developed, however, with a white ruling class, African slaves, a native population that was held in bondage, and a mixed race working class was not conducive to modern development. 2

    The French revolutionary armies under Napoleon brought the modern transformation to eastern Europe and re-awakened it in southern Europe and Latin America. The combined effect of the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution also began to shake other cultures out of their traditional habits. 3

Modern Change Promoted by Aristocratic Governments

    European colonies and possessions had been spreading around the globe for some time. Native people were forced to deal with that, but they had not previously responded with modern transformations of their own. Until the 19th century, the non-European world retained its tribal and aristocrat-peasant societies, but that was starting to change. 4

    The modern transformation spread outward from western Europe in all directions through a process of diffusion. As the modern transformation began to penetrate Asia and Africa, change was often initiated from the top of the society. The Ottoman Turks could see for themselves that Europeans had become much stronger militarily, and they wanted to catch up. Napoleon’s adventures in Egypt served to emphasize the degree of disparity between Western and Eastern capabilities. The Ottomans reequipped their army with Western weapons, uniforms, and training. These were improvements, but not enough to stem the relative decline. 5

    The Ottomans began looking at social and economic reforms. Printing presses were established to disseminate modern knowledge and ideas. Schools, colleges, and universities were opened. Modern industry was supported. Even political reforms were tried. The first Ottoman Parliament, a consultative body, opened in 1882. All of this was progress, but it did not come close to putting the Turks on an equal footing with the Europeans. An independent administration under Muhammad Ali Pasha was trying similar reforms in Egypt with similar results. 6

    The Ottoman Empire was trying to become modern through reforms and activities promoted by the government. This was a common response around the world to a realization by traditional aristocratic states that something new, powerful, and important was happening in western Europe. Peter the Great had tried the same kind of reforms in Russia at the beginning of the 18th century. This form of change, instituted from the top, was a prominent part of many modern transformations in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. 7

    In the 19th century, the top down approach to modern development was tried, to a greater or lesser extent, by aristocratic dynasties in the Ottoman Empire, Persia, and India. The problem was that the new schools, economic opportunities, and political reforms were mostly for the elite of the population. They usually did not penetrate down to the mass of the peasantry and the common people. The diffusion of modern society in this way was slow, vague, hesitant, and mostly for the well-off. 8

Real Change Starts From Below

    The top down approach can get things started, but the modern revolution is all about the common people. When the ordinary people, peasants and commoners, are set loose to compete with each other in a market environment that is when the modern transformation starts to gain momentum. Anything else is just a preliminary exercise. The real beginning of the modern transformation happens when a society starts using markets as the primary mechanism for the distribution of food. For as long as the majority of people are peasants or subsistence farmers, modern development will make little progress. 9

Modern Transformation in Japan

    After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, a century and a half of civil war came to an end in Japan. The Tokugawa shogunate pacified Japan and made it a much more unified and centralized aristocratic state. Their intention was to rebuild and strengthen the aristocrat-peasant command-economy relationship. On paper, that is what they did, but there were large unintended consequences. 10

Economic Development

    With peace and strong government, there was a general increase in travel, trade, and prosperity. Population was growing, cities were expanding, and more land was brought into production as paddy fields. There was a long slow increase in market commerce. Transportation infrastructure and wholesale markets were being developed.  Previously there were different kinds of economic exchange that had to do with a person's rank and responsibilities. Now it was all becoming just a matter of money. The Shogunate (upper-level aristocrats), Daimyo (mid-level aristocrats), and Samurai (lower-level aristocrats) were all trying to acquire as much of the rice harvest as possible to sell to the expanding market towns and cities. The peasants were trying to produce enough so that they had some rice left over to sell for themselves. It was becoming a whole new world, dominated by money and market commerce. 11

    The development of the market economy in Tokugawa Japan started from a low level and happened slowly. No one had planned it. Everyone with any kind of power tried to prevent it, or at least control it. The growth of markets was disruptive. Peasants sometimes abandoned their land because rent and taxes owed to the aristocrats were too high. They could make more money in some other trade. There were recurring famines: partly because population was growing faster than food production, partly because of weather, and partly because of general economic dislocation. 12

    The economic changes in Japan were just as chaotic and confusing as when European peasants were originally in the process of becoming market farmers. At the beginning of the 19th century, two different kinds of economy were fighting with each other and causing disruption. One was the traditional feudal aristocrat-peasant command economy, and the other was a modern market economy. If the more efficient market system was going to prevail, it would require an entirely new form of government and society. 13

Conflict and Political Controversy

    As the 19th century began, there was no indication that Japan was preparing for the fastest change ever from feudal aristocratic society to a modern constitutional democracy. The Tokugawa shoguns had tried to isolate Japan from foreign influence and disruption. There was too much chaos and confusion within the domestic society already. But the Japanese leaders knew about the European imperialists who were approaching their Islands. Russian fur traders and fishermen were appearing from the north. The British were making a move on China from the south, which led to the Opium War (1840-1842). The Japanese were stunned at how quickly and easily the mighty Chinese Empire was defeated and humiliated by a country from the other side of the world. 14

    Japan's samurai and daimyo military aristocracy had been watching the threat of European imperialism since the beginning of the century. Some of the daimyo had been importing and testing examples of western artillery and were surprised at the rapid progress being made. The Japanese aristocratic houses had spent a large amount of time and effort in petty conflict with each other over land, peasants, and rank. A large number of samurai were beginning to realize that this was getting them nowhere, except further behind the Europeans in military capability. 15

    In the mid 19th century, ship technology was advancing at a rapid pace. Steam engines were being fitted; hulls were changing from wood, to iron, to steel. The samurai watched as European fleets landed armies on the Chinese coast. The Japanese aristocrats debated among themselves what to do. The conservatives resisted change. The modernizers believed that Japan should engage with the foreigners and learn the secrets of their military strength. 16

The Arrival of the Americans

    In 1853, when a heavily armed navel squadron from the United States arrived in Tokyo Bay and demanded to negotiate a commercial treaty, the shogun's government was powerless to expel them. Many samurai and some daimyo had already begun to realize that isolation could no longer defend Japan from the modern world. They were ready to investigate the new kind of government, economy, and social mechanisms that gave these Westerners their strength. 17

    A most extraordinary series of events quickly followed. Treaties between Japan and the West were signed in 1858, which led to economic chaos, anarchy, and small-scale civil war. There was a lot of confusing rhetoric, but much of the discussion was done the old fashioned way, out on the battlefield. The modernizing daimyo and samurai won these small civil wars with their newly organized artillery and rifle regiments. The defeated shogun resigned in 1867. 18

    In 1868, the modernizing daimyo and samurai organized the Meiji Restoration and became the power behind the new nation-state government. The emperor was just sixteen years old, but that did not matter. He was a member of the ancient imperial dynasty, and a living symbol of the unity and eternity of the Japanese nation. That is why the ancient imperial dynasty was so important. The emperors did not make governmental decisions. The Japanese were still working out how the new nation-state government would be organized. 19

Political Revolution and Evolution

    The original modernizing daimyo and samurai from the 1850s and 60s had become the power behind the throne. They had organized the Meiji Restoration and still remained in control. In the 1870s, the aristocratic ranks of daimyo and samurai were officially abolished. Japanese leaders toured the West to understand what was happening, and what they were up against. A democratic constitution was adopted in 1889, although only a few percent of the population were eligible to vote. The first session of the newly elected Japanese Diet opened in 1890. Universal education was quickly adopted. 20

    In a single generation, the feudal-aristocratic government was disbanded and a new democratic government was established. At least that is the way it looked on paper. In reality it is not that easy. Traditional societies, including Japan's, were governed by the strongest, the military aristocracy. It is not possible to go from "rule by the strongest" to "rule by the people" in a single generation. 21
    Democracy in Japan started out as a weak appendage to royal government, just as it did in Europe. Military officers and descendants of aristocrats remained the real power in Tokyo until 1945. They had originally pushed for modernization in order to acquire the industrial capability they needed to defend Japan from the European imperialists. Then they used the new weapons for imperial conquest of their own. 22

Industrial Development

    The new nation-state government worked hard to promote modern industry. Steel mills, steam power, and battleships were at the top of a long list of requirements. Prior to the Meiji Restoration, there had been two different kinds of economy: the old feudal command system and the emerging market economy. After the Meiji Restoration, the aristocrat-peasant command economy was quickly ended. The capitalist market economy grew by leaps and bounds. 23

    Unlike most emerging nation states, Japan was well prepared economically and socially for the modern transformation. The daimyo and samurai may have been conflicted about ending feudal society, but the peasants and townspeople were absolutely in favor. They were already familiar with modern commercial methods. When local aristocratic interference was removed, the capitalist market economy flourished. 24

    The government encouraged heavy industry with laws, funding, and tariffs. Farmers were taxed to help provide the necessary revenue. Light industry roared ahead on its own. A fairly standard oligarchic society and economy quickly developed. Trading and manufacturing companies like Mitsui and Mitsubishi had good political connections, which helped them to grow into zaibatsu and dominate the economy. The industrial working class turned to socialism to agitate for their political and economic rights. Universal male suffrage became law in 1925. Nationalism was the most important political force. Socialism was a distant second. For the most part, the military remained in overall control of the government.  25

Military Conflict

    In most modern transformations, questions about national identity are a major source of violence. This was not an issue in Japan, where nearly everyone was ethnically and linguistically Japanese. Their biggest problem was that as a small island nation with few resources, they thought it was necessary to conquer a large empire in order to be successful in the modern world. We now know that this was not correct. In the 1970s, Japan became the world's second largest economy without the need to conquer anything. 26

    Japan would complete the modern transformation in record time, just over a century, but it was a very violent period. World War II was a devastating experience for the Japanese nation, but it completely destroyed and discredited the military leaders who had been running the government since time immemorial. This made it possible for Japan to complete the modern transformation and arrive at democratic-market society.  27

Modern Transformation Begins at Home

    Conventional history says that Western style government and economy was first brought to Japan by Commodore Perry in 1853, and then forced upon Japan by the United States after World War II. According to my view of history, Western society is just another name for modern society, and modern society develops on its own timetable according to its own universal rules and patterns. 28

    The increase of market commerce starting in early Tokugawa Japan was primarily a homegrown evolutionary process. Japan began developing a more modern economy in the 1600s. Two centuries later, when Commodore Perry arrived, there had not yet been any modern political reforms. After the American squadron appeared, the modern transformation went into high gear and political change happened faster than anywhere else. The Americans were the trigger, not the cause. Japan took a very standard path through the modern transformation, which is propelled by causes of its own. 29

Diffusion of Modern Society Through Imperialism

   The western Europeans were the first to begin the modern transformation and the first to develop modern weaponry. As was normal for the time, they used this capability to conquer or control pretty much everyone else. By the end of World War I, almost the entire planet was ruled by imperialists. 30

    The Europeans claimed that they were bringing the benefits of modern civilization to the heathen world. That was an exaggeration. Non-European societies suffered major population losses as a result of being conquered. There were often epidemics from introduced diseases and famines caused by the disruption of the traditional economies. 31

    After seizing the accumulated wealth of the conquered populations, the imperialists often went on to develop plantations and mines that were capable of producing a steady stream of income. Native workers were trained in production techniques and administrative skills to keep the commodities flowing. This kind of colonial development was seldom self-sustainable. Less than one percent of the population was educated enough to manage the production, transportation, and marketing requirements of modern commerce. When the colonies became independent after World War II, this group was too small to establish stable nation-state governments and maintain the legal and physical infrastructure that is necessary for productive enterprise. 32

Independence and the Modern Transformation

    During and after the struggle for independence in the 20th century, there was usually a large amount of anarchy and chaos. Local warlords fought over possession of any productive enterprise. The mines, plantations, and other left-over assets of the colonial economy were seldom capable of sustaining themselves and becoming the foundation of modern development. For the most part, modern industry was going to have to emerge all over again from the beginning. 33

    The best place to observe the real beginning of the modern transformation is in the villages. If the peasants pay their land tax in kind and do not use hard cash, it is traditional society. When the peasants start selling their production for cash and have money to spend, the modern transformation has begun. In a tribal village, if food is mostly exchanged by sharing or barter, it is still traditional society. When households need a cash income because food is now bought and sold, the tribal population has begun the modern transformation. 34

    Most non-European aristocrat-peasant societies began this village-level change to a market economy in the 19th century. For many tribal societies, the change to a cash economy did not happen until the 20th century. After World War II, a majority of the one hundred newly independent nations would have to start the modern transformation mostly from the beginning. 35

Ch. 14. The Modern Transformation In Central and Eastern Europe

    In the 16th and 17th centuries, as the modern transformation was beginning in western Europe, aristocrat-peasant society became more firmly established in central and eastern Europe. Peasants were tied more tightly to the land, and serfdom became a more onerous legal status. Polish, Ruthenian, and other Slavic aristocrats were increasing their land holdings and turning into the "Magnates" who would run much of eastern Europe up until the 20th century. 1

    The mid-level magnates were gaining more control over the land, peasants, and harvests. The Slavic kings were declining in power, except the Russian Czars who were becoming absolute monarchs. In the 17th and 18th centuries, most of Slavic and Baltic eastern Europe fell under the control of three powerful empires: Austrian, Prussian, and Russian. The Polish, Czech, Lithuanian, and Hungarian magnates were still there, and they still owned or controlled the land and peasants, but they governed alongside German and Russian aristocrats. The Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled the southern portion of the Slavic world in the Balkan Peninsula. 2

The Origin of Future Identity Group Issues

    Large parts of central and eastern Europe had an international cosmopolitan atmosphere. Aristocrats of different nationalities ruled together and intermarried. The educated elite were multi-lingual and studied in all the great universities of Europe. Germans were found in many professional services and dominated the trade in high-end merchandise. Slavic peasants still worked the land and provided most of the wealth that supported the ruling structure. For many of the elite, it was an ideal world, but the modern transformation was arriving, and everything was going to change. 3

    A very serious nationalities problem was developing. As the Polish, Ruthenian, and other Slavic magnates sold increasing amounts of grain to the Dutch through the Baltic trade, they had more money to spend on luxury products. Germans had been filtering eastward for centuries. A network of German towns had developed with merchants and skilled workers who performed many functions, especially the supply of finely crafted merchandise for the aristocrats. There were also numerous colonies of German farmers. 4

    One of the reasons for the growth of German-speaking towns in the east was that Germans were not serfs. They could find work in the commercial cities. The same was true for the Jews. The grain trade from east to west was continuing to increase. Money was flowing and business was growing. The majority of labor that should have been available for economic development was the Slavic peasantry, but they were still bound to the land. In the 19th century, German emigration to the east was happening faster than ever before to meet the demand for skilled workers. 5

The French Revolution in the East

    The French Revolution was the death knell for serfdom and old-fashioned aristocrat-peasant society throughout Europe, although that was not at all clear at the time. In the west, the last remnants of the official, legal, subordinate status of the peasantry were removed during or shortly after the revolution and the Napoleonic wars. In the east, the arrival of the "French Revolutionary Army" was the beginning of the process of liberating the peasant population. The transition from serfdom to freedom happened much faster in the east than in the west, but it was still a chaotic process that continued for most of the 19th century. (Readers who would like more information are encouraged to enter "the end of serfdom in Europe" into any internet search engine.) 6

    The French revolution put the modern transformation into gear in central and eastern Europe, but as usual, the early progress was slow and hesitant. The Austrian Emperor, the Czar, and the King of Prussia had finally defeated Napoleon and were determined to retain the political status quo, absolute monarchy by "divine right," and they cooperated with each other to that end. The monarchs were leery of any kind of change, but economic development was hard to stop, and it meant more wealth and more taxes for the governments. The conservative reaction that set in after the Napoleonic wars inhibited political change, but an economic, social, and intellectual awakening was in progress. 7

Economic Change

    In the 1830s and 40s, the Prussians began laying railroad track and extended it into their eastern territories. Modern development began to accelerate. The Austrians and Russians were forced into building railroads in order to keep up. The three empires may have been cooperating with each other, but none of them was willing to fall behind in military capability. Soon, it was becoming clear to the imperial rulers that they had to have modern industry in order to have a modern army. Strategic requirements finally forced all of them to rush headlong into the development of heavy industry. 8

    Modern development had been slower in the Slavic east, but it was getting ready for takeoff. Between 1807 and 1861, the serfs were granted legal freedom. This was partly the result of agitation and rebellion from below. But heavy industry required lots of industrial workers, and the only choice was to free the peasants. 9

    In the second half of the 19th century, economic development began to explode across central and eastern Europe. Peasant farmers became market farmers. Productivity rose steadily and excess labor was simultaneously released for industrial growth. Markets and capital were available, and manufacturing began to take off. In some ways this was similar to modern industrial development in China since 1980, but the overall situation was very different. 10

German Unification

    Germany was not yet a unified nation, but it was still beginning to take the lead in European technology and industrial development, especially: steel mills, chemicals, and electricity. In the revolutionary year of 1848, liberal groups in the western German states had pushed for unification under a Prussian or Austrian king, with a constitution and an elected legislature. This initiative failed because the conservative absolute monarchs from these two powerful eastern states would not accept any limitations on their authority. But, the surge of modern development that was already taking place demanded some kind of political response. 11

    Part of the problem was that Europe was becoming modern starting in the west and slowly moving east. The German Rhineland and Westphalia bordered on the Netherlands, where modern development was strongest in the early centuries. They were part of the western European nexus of trade and cultural development that began the modern transformation. Prussia and Austria, the largest and most powerful German states with their own royal dynasties were centered in eastern Germany and looked toward the Slavic east for trade and expansion. 12

    The dozens of separate independent German states were mostly spectators as the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, British, and French had conquered half the planet. In the mid 19th century, it was becoming obvious that as soon as the separate German states united into a single nation, they would be the largest and most powerful country in Europe. Germans did not want to remain on the sidelines, while the Western imperialists were getting all the glory and seizing the lions' share of the world's wealth. 13

    It was Otto Von Bismarck, the Chancellor of Prussia, who found a way to break the impasse. Prussia had always devoted most of its income to military spending. Now, the income was larger, the technology was superior, and the Prussian Army marched into battle. Bismarck carefully planned and won two short wars, the first against Austria in 1866, and the second against France in 1871. The first steel artillery ever manufactured was made by Krupp and used to defeat the French. In the process, Germany was unified, with Keiser Wilhelm I as absolute monarch. 14

The Peak Of European Imperial Power and Glory

    During the last quarter of the 19th century, the major powers of western Europe, Britain and France, were at the height of imperial power and glory with their large overseas empires. The Netherlands was still receiving a steady flow of wealth from its centuries-old East-Indies Empire, which is now Indonesia. 15

    The “Scramble for Africa” was on. The Portuguese, British, and French had already staked out most of the continent. The Belgian king had taken possession of the Belgian Congo, and was getting an increasing flow of wealth from palm oil, rubber, and other tropical products. Germans and Italians had only recently become unified nation states. They were in a hurry to grab whatever was left. Wealth from colonial possessions around the world was being shipped back to Europe in ever larger quantities. The quickly-modernizing Japanese were beginning their adventures in Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan, which would turn into an Asian empire. 16

    How was this possible? The change to modern society was growing in momentum. Modern societies are nation states, not colonies or conquering empires. History is often deceptive. The world was indeed on its way to modern nation states, but it was going to take a detour first. Western Europe had a head start in the modern transformation. They were more modern, and therefore more powerful, than the rest of the world. In the 19th century, it became relatively easy for the West, with their new steamships and machineguns, to defeat and control the traditional aristocratic and tribal societies in Asia and Africa; so that is what they did. 17

    The Western countries who were leading the imperialist charge were no longer run by kings and queens; they were governed by the oligarchic ruling class. These elite families saw imperialism primarily as a business proposition, but the older aristocratic concept of the “Glory of Conquest” also played a role. Heavy industry was growing by leaps and bounds. Technology continued to advance. Railroads, steamships, steel mills, and electricity were in the process of changing the world forever. Imperialism was still expanding, and the European oligarchic ruling class was at the peak of its power and glory. 18

Socialism in the West

    Large-scale heavy industry implies a large work force, which was becoming the industrial proletariat. The socialist labor movement had been growing in size and strength. Heavy industry, which brought large numbers of workers together in one place, made it easier to organize larger trade unions that could exercise greater power. When "industrial action" shut down a railroad or a blast furnace, it cost the owners big money. The same was true for any capital intensive industry. 19

    The oligarchic ruling class had two ways to respond to the growing militancy of the labor unions. First, they tried to beat the strikers into submission, but that caused resentment and generally did not work very well. The second approach was to negotiate with the unions and compromise on pay and working conditions. Over the long run, negotiation and compromise worked much better. 20

    After the French Revolution, royal authority was declining in western Europe, and early democracy was starting to spread. In the mid 19th century, legislative assemblies were becoming more common and more powerful. The oligarchic ruling class was in charge, but voting rights were slowly being extended. Public schools were appearing. The working class was becoming more educated and more vocal. As the century continued, the oligarchic ruling class was still there, but the balance of power was starting to shift. By the 1890s, socialist political parties were becoming a major force in politics. 21

    The growth of democracy was accepted slowly and grudgingly by the western-European elite, but without the need for more guillotines, violent revolution, or civil war. During the French Revolution, they had been there and done that. Everyone still remembered, and no one wanted to repeat the experience. The working class in Great Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands would establish their right to majority rule at home not by fighting their own oligarchic ruling class but by defeating the Germans in two massive World Wars. 22

Nationalism, Identity Issues, and Violence in Eastern Europe

    Nationalism is usually the largest cause of violence in the modern transformation. It includes: identity cleansings, national rebellions, and attempts at national expansion, such as border wars and imperial wars. For centuries, central and eastern Europe had been dominated by Austrian, Prussian, Russian, and Ottoman conquest dynasties. Now the modern transformation was going to retire all of these monarchs. Slavic Europe would be divided and re-divided into modern nation states. It would be a long and bloody process, and there was nothing that anyone could do to prevent it. Many people helped to make the violence a lot worse than it needed to be. 23

    Ethnic tensions between Slavic nationalists and their German rulers were nothing new in central Europe. When modern economic development began in the mid 19th century, there was a distinct change in this kind of conflict. In the past, it had been led by the aristocrats. In the future, it would be led by the ordinary citizens. The Slavic people could be ruled by German, Russian, and Turkish imperial governments as long as most of them were peasants. When they stopped being peasants, they became Serbs, Romanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, and Croats. 24

Early Development of Communism

    Conflict between the working class and the oligarchic ruling class is often the second most violent part of the modern transformation. Class conflicts between workers and oligarchs have sometimes been settled with a minimum of violence and other times with a maximum of violence, which is what was going to happened in central and eastern Europe. 25

    The newly recruited factory workers were often treated like industrial peasants by the new factory owners. Physical punishment was used to enforce discipline, much like the old days when they were serfs. The workers quickly turned to socialism to agitate for better pay and working conditions. The German and Russian emperors and oligarchs who ruled Slavic Europe maintained a hardline stance in opposition to the socialist agenda. Negotiation and compromise often failed. Labor disputes went unresolved. The socialists became more militant. State security forces used violence and repression against Slavic strikers and union leaders. The workers began considering an extreme form of revolutionary socialism called communism. 26

    Toward the end of the 19th century, socialism was evolving in two different directions. The mainstream labor-union leaders and socialist politicians, despite their anti-capitalist rhetoric, were negotiating with big business and accepting compromises to get reforms implemented in a slow step by step process. This led to the separation of a smaller group of hardliners who became revolutionary communists. The “Bolsheviks” were not up for compromise. They wanted the destruction of capitalism and the oligarchic ruling class. Communism was an extreme solution, and it had many problems, but it was clearly part of the modern transformation. Its job was to do battle with the oligarchic ruling class on behalf of the industrial working class. 27

    In western Europe, a majority of the socialist workers and capitalist business owners favored compromise and moderation, which led to negotiations and incremental improvements in pay and working conditions. In central Europe, the situation was more difficult. The mostly German ruling structure was less willing to compromise with the Slavic working class. The result was more friction and a more even split between the number of moderate socialists and hardline communists. In Russian eastern Europe, the autocratic czarist government and the Russian oligarchs were even less willing to compromise with the unions over pay and empowerment issues. The result was communism. 28

The Rate of Change

    The aristocrats of central and eastern Europe had retained control of their peasants for too long. Then, as soon as they were released from serfdom, the development of heavy industry began. It was all much too abrupt. In western Europe, it had taken many centuries for the peasants to slowly free themselves. Then there had been more centuries of adjustment before heavy industry began to dominate the economy. In the east, it all happened at once, with medieval German and Russian conquest dynasties in control of the governments as absolute monarchs. The two most difficult problems of early-stage and middle-stage modern transformation, nationalism and class conflict, were occurring simultaneously. The result would be two massive World Wars. 29

World War I

    At the beginning of the 20th century, the traditional conquest dynasties—Hohenzollern, Habsburg, and Romanov—still reigned in Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, but they were under fire from all sides. Nationalists, socialists, communists, anarchists, and Slavic rebels of every kind were trying to take them down. The assassination of members of the royal families was a real and constant danger. Most of the plots failed, but some succeeded. 30

    One of the largest problems was the threat of national rebellion and nation-state formation by the Slavs. In the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was in decline. Serbs, Romanians, and Bulgarians were establishing nation states of their own. Czechs, Croats, and Poles were dreaming of rebelling against German, Austrian, and Russian imperial control, and establishing nation states for themselves. The problem of Slavic nationalism continued to increase through the 19th century. In the early 20th century, it was the primary reason why the German Kaiser and Austrian Emperor felt that it was necessary to take forceful military action to deal with an accumulation of issues. This would lead to conflict with Russia. The Czar was providing aid and support to Serbia, which in turn was secretly supporting Slavic nationalist movements that were opposed to German and Austrian imperial rule. 31

    There were also opportunities to be grasped. The German and Austrian ruling class believed that if the Western powers could continue to conquer and add to their imperial wealth and glory, then the Germanic powers could do the same. The difference was that unlike Britain and France, Germany and Austria were not so much interested in overseas conquests. The Germans wanted to tighten their grip on the Slavic territories that were already in their possession, and to seize control of the parts of Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states that belonged to Russia. It was time to show the Slavic rebels and the socialist politicians who was boss. 32

    In the early 20th century, the Germans knew that industrially and militarily they were more powerful than the Russians. They also knew that the Russians were catching up. If the Germans and Austrians wanted to enforce their will on Slavic central and eastern Europe, the time to do it was soon.  The Austro-Hungarians, with German backing, began closing in on the Bosnians and the Serbian state. 33

    The assassination of the Austrian Archduke and heir to the throne in Sarajevo by Serbian nationalists was the last straw and provided a suitable provocation for war. Austria-Hungary issued a severe ultimatum that the Serbs could not accept. The Russians were allied to the Serbs, and the Czar would not back down. All of these monarchs had been educated since childhood to believe that the worst thing in the world was to be a weak king. Their top diplomats were proud of the great power alliances they had woven. 34

    World War I began because of a combination of all the reasons why the modern transformation is so violent. The German, Austrian, and Russian Emperors were fighting to hold on to their crowns, extend their borders, destroy the Slavic nationalists, and to become great Germanic or Russian national heroes in their own right. First and foremost, kings and emperors have always been war leaders. They knew that war was a gamble, but they were ready to risk it. A victorious war would restore the power of their thrones, which was slowly slipping away. The Slavic nationalists and the socialists could then be humbled; the anarchists, communists, and all other “evil plotters” could be wiped out. All that was required was a glorious victory in a major war, but it was not to be. 35

    When the smoke cleared, all of the monarchs had lost, which is rather amazing since they were fighting each other. The Czar was the first to fall (1917), then the Kaiser and Hapsburg Emperor (1918), followed by the Ottoman Sultan (1921) and the King of Italy (1922). It was the nationalists, socialists, communists, and fascists who were triumphant. 36

    World War I is often misunderstood because people wonder why the German Kaiser, the Austrian Emperor, and the Russian Czar started such a horrific conflict. What could they possibly have to gain that would be worth such destruction? This is the wrong question. The modern transformation was slowly taking their thrones away from them, and they all knew it. The kings were fighting for victory in order to hold on to the power and prestige needed to continue their rule as absolute monarchs by "divine right" and to pass it on to the next generation. This was a sacred duty for royalty everywhere, but it was a hopeless cause. The emperors deliberately chose war in an effort to maintain their “divine right” to rule. As a result, they lost everything. 37

    France entered World War I partly because of long-standing border issues with the Prussians in Alsace-Lorrain, but mostly because they would not allow Germans to conquer and control all of central and eastern Europe. The English were in agreement with this view. In order to maintain the "balance of power," the British and French would not allow the Germanic empires to rule all of Slavic Europe. They would fight two World Wars to prevent it. 38

Revolutionary Change in the East

    World War I was extremely revolutionary. The great imperial dynasties that had controlled central and eastern Europe for the last three centuries were gone. They were replaced by over a dozen newly-created nation states, whose boundaries were drawn at the post-war Versailles Conference. The elite oligarchic families were still there, except in the new Soviet Union, but they had suffered greatly in the process of losing the war. Much of their wealth and property were gone, along with most of the special status and the ancient mystique that had accrued to them as a well-born well-educated semi-official ruling class. 39

    The wealthy oligarchs had been the ruling class all right, and they had led their empires straight into total disaster. They had dominated industry but failed to provide enough weapons and ammunition for victory. They had dominated the army officer corps, especially the ranks of general and field marshal, but failed to win enough battles. The feeling among the people was that the ex-ruling class was a bunch of losers. They were no longer powerful enough to dominate the governments of the new nation states in most of central and eastern Europe. 40

Evolutionary Change in the West

    Surprisingly enough, there was a lot of the same attitude in western Europe. Britain and France were victorious, but not in a glorious way. During the war, there had been a serious mismatch between the weapons in use and the battlefield tactics employed by the commanding generals, who were mostly from the elite ruling class. For years, the generals had persisted in lining up their working-class soldiers and marching them straight into the barbed-wire, minefields, and machineguns of the enemy—where they were slaughtered by the millions. This was not considered to be an acceptable way to win a war. 41

    The workers and farmers were the heroes of World War I, and everybody knew it. They had gone into the factories and worked twelve hour shifts to produce the weapons needed for victory. Their sons had entered the ranks in their millions and assaulted across the minefields and barbed-wire and eventually won the blood-soaked victory. 42

    After the war, the ruling oligarchs were mostly still in charge in the west, but only just barely. They too had lost a huge amount of the traditional prestige and mystique, which they had always relied on to justify their authority. Socialism became a much stronger political force. In western Europe, real democracy "rule by the people" was starting to solidify. The greatest source of empowerment for the working class in Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, and Germany was the blood sacrifice that was freely offered by their young men as they fought two World Wars to defend their nations. 43

Early Democracy in Central Europe

    In the 1920s and 30s, the newly-created national republics of central Europe were trying to establish successful elected governments, but that was not working very well. A large number of political factions were vying for power. There were nationalists and extreme nationalists, socialists and extreme socialists, communists, monarchists, and even a few liberal democrats. All of these different factions were vying for votes and trying to put together coalition governments, but they were new at electoral politics, and it was just too difficult for them. 44

    The old elite families were unable to govern, and the elected politicians were unable to govern. That left two choices: either some kind of strongman-dictator or anarchy. Some countries had a military strongman like Pilsudski in Poland and Ataturk in Turkey; others had fascist dictators like Italy and Germany. The Soviet Union had a communist dictator. There was also plenty of anarchy. By far the two largest political movements were the nationalists and the socialists. 45


    It was probably inevitable that some party would come along and claim to be nationalist and socialist. They would wrap themselves in the flag, proclaim the greatness of the nation, have total sympathy and support for the working class, and blame all problems on foreigners or evil “others,” like Jews and Gypsies. They would govern for the exclusive benefit of all true sons and daughters of the glorious fatherland. 46

    Remember, this was still the age of imperial power and glory. The British ruled a quarter of the world. The French ruled nearly a tenth. In order for the fatherland to be truly glorious, it must have a strong army, lebensraum, and an empire. Also, they must do away with the weak, squabbling, petty politicians. This was the program of the National Socialists, and it drew widespread support. 47

    Fascism has been demonized ever since the start of World War II. Originally in the 1920s and 30s, it had been a reaction against socialism and communism. The socialist movement belonged mostly to the urban working class, especially those engaged in heavy industry. On average, this was only about a quarter of the population. A majority of the people were small farmers, craftsmen, or petty traders of one kind or another. Many of them were opposed to the socialist agenda, and opposed to the remnants of the oligarchic ruling class. 48

    Fascism, as it developed in Italy, Germany, Hungary, and Spain was originally intended to appeal to these quite ordinary farmers and workers, but it also had strong militaristic tendencies. It was a time of extraordinary anarchy and chaos. The Austrian, German, Russian, and Ottoman Empires had just disintegrated. The newly formed nation states were highly unstable. Most of them wanted to rectify their borders by taking territory from one or more of their neighbors. Nationalism and militarism were the dominate emotions of the time. 49

    The fascist political parties promised maximum support for heavy industry, a strong military, and an aggressive foreign policy. In central Europe during the 1920s and 30s, this was a winning political program and even attracted support from many of the socialists and remnants of the oligarchic ruling class. In Europe during the inter-war years, fascism and socialism were the two largest political movements; communism and liberal democracy were third and fourth. 50

Border War, Identity Cleansing, and Genocide

    The Germans have taken a lot of criticism since the Second World War for the genocide of Jews and their ruthless cleansing of Poles and other Slavs. This criticism is just, but it tends to overlook the fact that a majority of the two hundred nation states have engaged in similar forms of behavior. Identity cleansings, national expansion by conquest, and the brutal repression of national rebellions were, and are, common features of the modern transformation almost everywhere. Germans believed that because they were late in creating and developing a unified nation, it was necessary to take extreme measures to catch up. 51

    In the 1920s and 30s, central Europe was the cradle of a dozen new-born nation states, few of which were content with the borders that had been drawn for them by the Western allies at the Versailles Conference. It was impossible to draw boundaries that would put all Germans in Germany, all Poles in Poland, and all of the other three dozen identity groups in their own unitary nation state. The populations were too intermixed. No one could draw borderlines that the different nationalities would agree on. Tension and low-level conflicts were common. Extreme nationalism was increasing. Warfare could break out at any time. 52

    The Germans were especially unhappy with their new borders that were drawn at the Versailles Peace Conference, mostly by the French and British. Since Austria had been shorn of its Slavic provinces, it should be part of Germany. The Sudetenland was clearly German; what was it doing in a newly-created Czechoslovakia? Five million Germans were now living in Poland. How could that be? Every German knew that it should be the other way around. It was the Poles who should be living under German government. 53

    There were another five million Germans scattered across eastern Europe from the Baltic States to the Volga River. Most of them lived in German speaking towns and farming communities. When nation states are being formed, where the borders should be and who will rule who are the most difficult questions. Needless to say, the Germans had different answers for these questions than the Slavs. The Germans also had different answers than what the British and French had written into the Versailles Peace Treaty. This is absolutely normal standard-operating-procedure for the modern transformation. 54

    The Germans were well aware of how the English had treated the Irish and the Americans had cleansed their native Indians. In the 1930s, the Boers and English were evicting the Bantu from large areas of South Africa to create "whites only" zones. The Turks and Kurds had recently slaughtered over half a million Armenians. The Germans could not see how their plans for cleansing the Poles and exterminating the Jews were anything out of the ordinary. 55

     An extreme form of social Darwinism had been raging for half a century. It was able to justify all of these tragedies by citing the natural process of “survival of the fittest,” which somehow was turned into a policy of eradicating those who were deemed to be unfit. The Germans did not originate these ideas or start this form of behavior, but they did carry it out on a larger and better organized scale than anyone else. 56

    The problem is that identity cleansings and related massacres are still continuing. In 2012, a thousand Uzbeks were killed in Kyrgyzstan. In Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslim minority is presently being cleansed from their land by Burmese Buddhists. Palestinians are still living in refugee camps after being cleansed from their homes in 1949. If the world is ever going to solve this problem, it must first understand the reason for ethnic and religious violence. The cause is firmly rooted in the modern transformation. Identity cleansings and related problems are sometimes accentuated by dictators, but they are caused by nationalism, the process of creating and developing a nation state. In South Sudan, the world's newest country, the Dinka and Nuer tribal groups are currently dealing with the same difficult and explosive issues of where the borders should be and who should be in charge. 57

The Second World War

    Nationalism and socialism were two of the most important factors in Europe’s modern transformation. That is still true for much of the rest of the world today. The modern transformation also includes: border wars, identity cleansings, national rebellions, social revolution, and imperialism. It is no surprise that all of these things were ubiquitous in central and eastern Europe. They led directly to World War II, just as they had been the cause of the First World War twenty-five years earlier. 58

    The American public has an even greater misunderstanding about World War II than most historical events. That is because popular history on the topic is actually recycled war propaganda. You have heard the expression: “The victors write the history.” That is what happened. No one talks about the real causes of World War II; they only talk about Adolph Hitler. The popular story is all about the titanic struggle between good and evil, between democracy and dictatorship. World War II was not about good guys versus bad guys, or democracy versus dictators. From beginning to end, World War II was all about the modern transformation: nationalism, socialism, border wars, identity cleansings, imperialism, etc. 59

    In 1100 pages, William Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) does an excellent job of describing what happened. He never mentions the modern transformation. He could not identify it by focusing on central and eastern Europe in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, but if you read his book, you will find that all of his data and arguments are a perfect fit for the modern transformation that is described here. 60

Evolution of Military Tactics

    The Second World War was extremely revolutionary. Once again, just as in World War I, it was the working-class men and women who were the heroes. In earlier European wars, the rank and file soldiers were formed into disciplined lines and marched into battle by their officers. It was the generals and the officer corps who then took credit for whatever success was achieved. The American Civil War and World War I demonstrated that parade-ground formations were no longer feasible. The organized lines of advancing infantry were obliterated by modern weapons. 61

    World War II was fought with small unit tactics. Soldiers dressed in camouflage, operated in small groups, and tried to stay hidden as they approached the enemy. If the enemy machine gunners could not see them, then neither could their own commanding officers. In the most successful armies, the men fought their own battles under the leadership of their sergeants. Millions of these self-reliant modern soldiers were necessary. They were drafted from every segment of society. Most of them, and the best of them, were the sons of farmers and the working class. 62

Post-War Completion of the Modern Transformation

    At home, it was the working class and the farmers who produced everything needed for victory. Everyone knew that it was not the wealthy social elite who had won the war. It was mostly the ordinary common citizens. The returning soldiers, sailors, and marines were welcomed home as the heroes that they were. After World War II, the entire population of the most developed nation states, including the working class, took control of their countries, essentially by right of conquest. Democratic-market society was the result. 63

    It was not just the common men who had won the Second World War. In the major victorious countries, women played an important role in fighting the war and a huge role on the home front producing the material needed for war. In the occupied countries of Europe, women shouldered most of the work that kept society functioning. 64

    Tradition dies hard. After the war, most men expected them to return to their familiar domestic roles, but the women had other plans. It was not that they were granted liberation; they demanded it and took it. As that happened, their nations’ productivity increased faster than ever before. Women proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that modern nations are much stronger and more capable when they are allowed to contribute their full potential. 65

    The concept of a ruling class and a subordinate class had dominated human society since the 4th millennium BCE. But now, the aristocrat-peasant system had been ended long ago. The resulting oligarchic ruling class had been under continuous attack by nationalists, socialists, anarchists, communists, and other assorted revolutionaries for over a century. The class system had suffered grievous wounds in the trenches of World War I. It finally expired in the foxholes of World War II. 66

    After the war, it took another generation to assimilate and adjust to the new reality. In the United States, this time was used by the "Civil Rights Movement" to clear up the last remaining major fault with American democracy. African Americans had worked just as hard, and when given a chance, they had fought just as courageously as anyone else. On the battlefields of World War II and Korea, black Americans earned the respect which resulted in the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the mid 1960s. The legal equality of the races was finally established. For the first time, the United States met all the requirements to be a fully-modern democratic-market society. 67

    In Europe, the generation between 1945 and 1965 was used to dismantle the British, French, Dutch, and Belgian Empires. At the same time a majority of the working class were assimilating into the middle class. The 1960s saw the development of real democracy and the birth of democratic-market society. The entire body of ordinary common citizens took control of the most modern nation states. It is now pretty clear that this was the beginning of a new “primary pattern” of society. 68

    Even the losers of the war—Germany, Italy, and Japan—were able to participate in this revolutionary development. Their ordinary, common citizens had worked and fought much harder than anyone could possibly expect. The extreme militarists and imperialists who had led them into war were thoroughly discredited. After the occupation and reconstruction, they became democratic-market societies. 69

The Disintegration of Imperialism

    Germany and Japan had tried to establish a new wave of imperialism. They failed on such a spectacular scale that it destroyed the entire concepts of conquest and empire. The British, French, Dutch, and other imperial nations had no intention of allowing independence for their colonies prior to the war. After the war, they were left with no other choice. 70

    The entire ruling structure of western Europe had shifted, and the ordinary people were taking control. They had no desire to waste their countries’ resources fighting the national rebellions that were endemic in most of the colonies. Between 1946 and 1966, a hundred new nation states became independent, half of them in Africa, and they all began the modern transformation. 71

    World War II was one of the most important events in all of history. The ancient concept that it was right and proper for powerful countries to conquer their neighbors and take their wealth was destroyed. A hundred newly independent nations emerged. Just as important, a new democratic-market, primary kind of society was born. The ordinary common people took control of the most modern nation states. Real democracy "rule by the people" was the result. 72

How Did All This Happen

    Socialism and the Women’s Movement were important factors in completing the development of fully-modern democratic-market society. The prevalence and intensity of war seems to have been equally important. The World Wars wiped out a huge amount of left over baggage from traditional society and allowed fully-modern democratic-market nation states to flourish. 73

    Of course there are many other reasons for the completion of the modern transformation besides working-class solidarity, women’s liberation, and the destruction of traditional institutions through war. The two most important driving forces are the increased productivity of the market economy, and the individual freedom that is required in order for the market system to work properly. These are the real reasons why the modern transformation is happening everywhere and why change continues until the requirements of democratic-market society are met. 74

Ch. 15. Democratic-Market Society

    According to my definitions, democratic-market “first world” society has only existed since the mid 1960s. It is still an infant, and only thirty countries can be included in this category. At about seventy percent modern and thirty percent traditional, countries move from middle to late-stage modern transformation. At some point above ninety percent modern, they become democratic-market nation states. 1

    We do not yet know how long this new kind of social structure might last, how it will evolve, or how successful it will become. The small amount that we do know is still impressive, and its future looks bright. It is fairly obvious that democratic-market nation states are the end point of the modern transformation. Western Europe, where the modern revolution began, still accounts for a majority of this kind of society, but it is clearly expanding throughout the entire world. 2

    In this taxonomy, there are a number of requirements for graduating from oligarchic to democratic-market society. Most important, all of the major tasks of the modern transformation that tend to be the most violent must be over and done with. There can be no more coups, revolutions, civil wars, identity cleansings, border wars, imperial wars, or attempts at conquest of any kind. All of the various identity groups that live within the borders of the nation must enjoy full rights of citizenship and equal status before the law. Most of the population needs to be educated and capable of participating in the market economy. The democratic government must have already proven that it can regulate the economy successfully enough for a majority of the population to enjoy a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Countries that have achieved this level of political and economic success are fully-modern democratic-market societies. Countries that have made great progress in moving towards these goals, but have not yet fully accomplished them, are late-stage oligarchic societies. 3

Political Institutions

    The political institutions of fully-modern societies are very similar. They are all nation states with strong governments that enforce the rule of law. There are executive, legislative, and judicial branches. They have bureaucratic departments that oversee the nation’s money, commerce, justice, agriculture, education, health, and other important aspects of modern life. 4

    Fully-modern nations have fair and open democratic elections with educated voters who are responsible for the outcome. All citizens, without exception, are encouraged to vote and participate in political life. This does not mean that first-world countries have governments that are always wise and successful. Voters are not omniscient. They like expensive government services, but they do not like paying taxes. This can cause serious problems. 5

    In democratic-market nation states, a majority of the population is part of the large middle class. The epic struggle between the oligarchic ruling class and the socialist working class is over, and the middle class has won. They are in command of the country’s political and economic institutions and their future development. Modern economies, governments, and populations are extremely complicated. There is a lot that can go wrong. Voters and politicians sometimes divide into competing factions that prefer to bicker and argue rather than work together to solve the nation’s problems. No form of government is perfect, including modern democracy. 6

Economic Regulation

    Democratic-market nation states all have government-regulated market-based economies. The government defines the playing field and establishes the rules. The markets guide the day to day activities of the players and determine the winners and losers. The entire population is encouraged to participate at whatever level they are able to achieve. When there is a problem like inflation, unemployment, shortage of credit, or too much wealth going to too few people—it is up to the government, in coordination with business, to find a solution. (That is easy for me to say. It is a lot harder to accomplish in the real world.) 7

    The political advisor, James Carville, put it very succinctly: “It’s the economy, stupid.”  It is the government’s job to regulate the economy, but that is an extremely complicated task, and no one knows exactly how to accomplish it. Different industries work in different ways and need different rules. The systems needed to oversee Wall Street banks are very different from those needed to regulate deep-sea oil drilling. In each case there is a large amount of work that needs to be done, and it has to be done right or bad things will happen. The regulatory agencies need competent staff with the authority and ability to watch over economic activity, enforce the rules, and not get in the way. This is essentially the same job that umpires and referees are expected to perform on the playing field. 8

    Over time—markets change, people change, and circumstances change. Rules that worked well twenty years ago may be completely out of date today. The regulators are often behind the curve and trying to catch up. If they do a poor job, the entire country will suffer, and the politicians will get the blame. If they do a good job, the country will prosper, and business will take the credit. 9

    I have examined the interface between government and the economy in every society that I could find data for. This interface and interaction is always there. It does not matter whether it is a tribal, aristocrat-peasant, modern transformation, or democratic-market society. When the leaders get together to debate and make decisions, more than half the time, they are talking about economic issues. 10

    The question might be: Is it time to pack up everything and move the flocks to greener pasture, and if so, what direction should we go? Or, the question on the table could be: Since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers two days ago, the entire financial system seems to be collapsing; what do we do now? In every society, there is no way to keep the government separate from the economy. In democratic-market nation states, the interface between government and the economy is massively larger and more complicated than ever before. 11

    There would be a much higher likelihood of successful economic regulation if voters understood the subject better and demanded more competence and better results from their regulatory agencies. Markets that are not well regulated will be manipulated. 12

Social Programs

    Social programs are another aspect of the government interface with the economy. Police officers and firefighters are not there just to protect the public. They are also necessary to protect the market economy. Modern nations also fund public education, pensions, and healthcare programs that benefit both the economy and the people. The problem is that such programs can become very expensive, and they have to be paid for with taxes. 13

    In democratic-market society, it is not possible to separate the capitalist market economy from either government regulation or social programs. They all work together to feed the population and allow as much comfort and prosperity as can be achieved. It is up to the voters and the politicians to decide what economic regulations are needed and which social programs should be funded. Bureaucrats are hired to perform the work. Voters and politicians have to remember that there is no free lunch. Social programs have to be paid for by taxes collected from business and the people. 14

Economic Problems

    It has been demonstrated in many different countries that a well-regulated market economy can produce enough wealth to provide a job and a comfortable life for nearly everyone. We are now seeing that even fully-modern countries like the United States and the European Community can also suffer from extended unemployment and poverty. Industrial power centers can turn into “rust belts.” It is not easy running a high-speed modern economy. There will always be problems and some decades will be more prosperous than others. Sometimes businesses are able to revitalize themselves. Sometimes poor government regulation allows distortions to build up and cause problems for the entire economy. 15

    Most people believe that the primary purpose of a democratic nation-state government is security and defense. It may have been true in the chaotic early years when nations were being established and borders were being determined. Today, the violence is mostly over and done with. It is time for politicians and government bureaucrats to realize that their primary job is to develop and maintain the legal and physical infrastructure needed for a successful market economy. If there is a long-term problem with growth and unemployment, it is up to government and business leaders to find a solution. It is the job of economists to help by proposing useful ideas. 16

Family Structure

    There are huge changes to family structure in first-world societies. The problem is that with only two generations of data, we do not know to what extent these changes are real and permanent or possibly just an overreaction that will be moderated in the future. 17

    Life in traditional societies and most of the oligarchic transition period was based around the family. In tribal society, the family was life itself. Without the combined effort of the extended family working together, survival was questionable. In aristocrat-peasant society, individuals usually inherited their rank from their families. Aristocrats could often recite their ancestry going back a dozen generations or more. Most children grew up to perform the same work as their parents. They depended on family connections, cooperation, and solidarity. All of this is much reduced in democratic-market society. 18

    Not so long ago, it physically required at least one man and one woman to run a household. There was just too much work to do. There was a division of labor that was unchanged since the beginning of time. Now, with modern kitchens, store-bought clothes, and labor-saving devices for cleaning and other chores, it is possible for an individual to live alone successfully. It is no longer a necessity that families live together. 19

    The extended family was the first to break up under modern pressures for labor mobility. As people left their hometowns in search of work, promotion, or a sunnier climate—they lost track of aunts, uncles, and cousins. 20

    It turns out that women have just as much talent for modern office work and most other jobs as men. As they began developing their own careers and single life has become possible, even the nuclear family seems to be breaking up. Divorce has become common. Having children without a marriage has become common. Single parent households, step-mothers, step-fathers, and step-siblings have all become common. At this point, we do not even know the full implications of the changes that have already happened. We have no idea what direction the family will go in the future. 21

    One result is that the birthrate has been declining. If the present low level continues, first-world countries will have smaller and older populations. As developing countries complete the modern transformation and turn into democratic-market societies, the population of the entire planet may eventually begin to decrease. How that will work out, or when, is anybody’s guess. 22


    Religion in democratic-market society is highly diverse and fairly flexible. Overall, there is less spirituality than in traditional society, but religion is still important. No one seems to be able to tell first-world populations what to believe. Various religions and preachers display their services, and the people pick and choose between them. There is no longer any such thing as religious coercion or a crime of heresy. 23

    With both the family and religion in decline, it appears that modern society is primarily focused on making money and spending money. That leaves us looking pretty shallow compared to earlier cultures. 24

    When people change from one kind of society to another, it is not just their economic and political behavior that changes. They also develop new ways of thinking about the world. This is a long, slow process that can last for many generations. One of the many such changes in fully-modern society is a new attitude toward life. 25

    It used to be that life was cheap. Half of all infants did not live to maturity. For those that survived childhood, life was often nasty, brutish, and short. Death was all around. Spirits, angels, saints, and deities were everywhere. In traditional society, the transition from physical existence to spiritual existence was not necessarily believed to be a bad thing. In democratic-market society, life is considered to be more precious. Most people want to live well into old age. 26

Conflict and Military Institutions

    Attitudes toward killing have also changed. It used to be that the leaders of most societies were chosen from the best warriors. Aristocrats, by definition, were elite fighters and war leaders. Tribal chieftains were often equally experienced killers. Attacking other people, killing them, enslaving them, taking their wealth and their resources used to be common practice. For the most part, these activities are no longer performed by fully-modern nation states. 27

    Some people believe there will be war when modern countries run out of natural resources and attempt to conquer more. If that happens, my definition of democratic-market society will have to be revised. Nothing is more expensive than modern war. The chosen victims will fight for all they are worth. Unlike aristocratic states, modern nation states, even the smaller and weaker ones, do not accept being conquered. Resistance and guerrilla war would continue indefinitely. Conquering resources would be much more expensive than buying them. It is unlikely to become a major problem. 28

    Most first-world countries have seriously reduced their military capability. They occasionally send small contingents to participate in some war for training purposes, but this is usually controversial and disapproved of by many voters. The United States is an exception to this rule. Americans came out of World War I believing that war was a bad thing. They demobilized their military capability, and 23 years later, they were Pearl Harbored. 29

    After World War II, the entire country was resolved to maintain a strong military for the purpose of policing the world. Americans wanted to make sure that evil dictators would never again be able to rape and pillage innocent populations. War propaganda was turned into history. In the future, dictators were not to be appeased. They were to be stopped. 30

Ch. 16. Communism and Why It Has Been So Misunderstood

Post War Dilemma

    At the end of World War II, there were two things that were happening, and one thing that was not happening, all of which were very important. First, the United States decided to maintain a large military capability that could stop evil dictators. More specifically, it was determined to stop communism. 1

    Second, the Age of Imperialism was breaking up. A hundred new nation states in Asia, Africa, and Islands around the world were in the process of achieving independence. All of these countries immediately began the modern transformation, mostly from the beginning. Few of the newly emerging nations had monarchs who could help lead the early stage of the revolutionary process. Most of their royal dynasties had not survived the colonial era. 2

    Only a very few of the emerging states were able to quickly organize elected governments that could rule successfully. Americans believed that the only thing necessary to have democracy was to hold an election. This was just not true. It was a myth. Anarchy or authoritarian rule were the only options for most of the newly independent nations, and many had a series of dictators. At the same time, the modern transformation was unchanged since it had first begun in western Europe four and a half centuries earlier. There were a lot of identity cleansings, civil wars, national rebellions, border wars, social revolution, nationalism, socialism, and communism. 3

    So, there were dictators, some of them communist, in control of the new nations, and they were doing all of the nasty, violent things that are part of the modern transformation. The United States was pledged to stop this kind of rogue violence, especially communism. Clearly, there was going to be trouble. 4

    The third important thing, the one that was not happening, is that historians and social scientists were not able to identify the modern transformation. In 1946, there were no fully-modern democratic-market societies. Scholars knew that the world was changing, but they could not yet identify the complete process, analyze, and understand it. 5

The Real Reason for Communism

    The 20/20 hindsight of history was not available in 1946. They could not know that communism was just an overreaction against the oligarchic ruling class, its form of command economy was incapable of success, and it could only have a limited lifetime. Now we have the historical perspective that is necessary in order to understand what happened. 6

    The Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and a few other countries used communism as part of their modern revolutions to help overthrow their ancien régimes, imperial masters, oligarchs, class systems, religious aristocrats, and a tremendous amount of baggage left over from their traditional societies. These are exactly the same jobs that the modern transformation performs in every country, communist or not. 7

What Was Understood

    It would be useful here to look back and see where scholarship went off track. I am referring primarily to American academy, but also to a lesser extent, all English language scholarship. Toward the end of the 19th century, many historians had a pretty good grasp of the modern transformation up to that time. They understood that western Europe had changed away from medieval society, which featured monarchs, aristocrats, and peasants. They had developed a new form of capitalist market-economy nation state. 8

    Western Europe was also moving toward democratic government. It was believed that the Americans had gotten the jump on them in this regard. Because it never had aristocrats, the United States developed democracy much faster than Europe and used the unspoiled natural wealth of an entire continent to perfect the new form of capitalist-democratic society. 9

What Was Not Understood

    As far as American scholars were concerned, that was it, end of story. You could not get any more modern than a capitalist market economy and a democratic government. The problem was that the Europeans were going on and on about this socialism stuff. It had a terrible sounding rhetoric about the evils of capitalism and the expropriation of the means of production. Americans had the mildest oligarchic experience of any major country. They were proud of their capitalists and did not want to expropriate anything from any of them. The United States did not understand this socialism “thing” that was happening in Europe. 10

    At the beginning of the 20th century, it was getting worse. Extreme socialists were turning into hardline revolutionary communists, who demanded the overthrow of capitalism, democracy, and the entire new form of modern society. After World War I, communists seized control of Russia and were waging pitched battles in the streets of Europe. Americans were horrified. They did not understand this atheist-socialist-communist conspiracy to destroy modern society. Some thought that it was the “spawn of Satan.” 11

The Explanation

    With 20/20 hindsight, it is much easier to see what was going on. Most of Europe had a far more difficult oligarchic experience than the USA. The capitalist exploitation of workers was much more severe, especially in central and eastern Europe. When the workers complained, they were often hammered into the ground by the state security forces under the command of the same oligarchic ruling class that owned the factories and everything else. The modern transformation had turned into class war. When a war starts, some people are more gung-ho and eager to fight than others. This was the group of workers who became communists. They were being killed in the streets by the overwhelming power of the oligarchs and the state police, and they were ready to escalate the class war. 12

World War II and the Illusion of Strength

    Americans consoled themselves with the belief that communism would not work very well and would probably die a natural death. Then, during World War II, the Soviet communist economy produced more and better tanks than the United States. Everyone thought that the Russians were beaten, but they came roaring back with a brand new army and crushed the might of the Wehrmacht. It was great that the Soviets were able to contribute so much toward defeating Germany. Americans, however, were horrified that communism had turned out to be so capable and productive, and that it was spreading to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. 13

The Reality of Weakness

    The problem with all communist economies is a lack of incentive. Under capitalism, if you produce something, you get to sell it. Under communism, if you produce something, you get to share it. This is very crippling for production, and it pretty much ensures that communist countries will not become wealthy consumer societies. There is no incentive for anyone to work hard to produce quality merchandize. 14

    In 1941, lack of incentive was not a problem for the Soviet Union. The entire German army had attacked and was killing Russians by the millions. The Russian people had no choice but to produce guns, ammunition, and tanks as fast as they could. The German army provided all of the incentive that was needed. Between 1939 and 1945, the Soviet Union performed almost as great a miracle of production as the American "arsenal of democracy." The German blitzkrieg was coming straight at them, and the Soviet population produced an amazing sixty-five thousand main-battle tanks under the most difficult conditions imaginable. At Stalingrad in 1942, T34s were driven off the factory floor and straight into combat. 15

    The incredible wartime achievements of the Soviet economy were much more a testament to the hard work and determination of the people than to the efficiency of the economic system. Communist industry peaked in World War II. No communist economy would ever be that productive again. The problem was, in 1946, nobody knew it. No one had the slightest idea. A hundred emerging and developing nations were in awe of the mighty Soviet economy that could accomplish such miracles. The United States and many other countries were in fear of such an amazing performance. The truth was that it only happened because of the war, and it would never happen again. 16

Post-War Communism in Central Europe

    The Soviet army ended World War II in Europe by taking Berlin in May 1945. This left the Russians in occupation of all of central and eastern Europe. The countries that had been part of the Czarist Empire were reabsorbed into the Soviet Union. The Slavic nations of central Europe had communist governments imposed on them by the Soviet occupying army, which silenced any form of dissent or free political expression. 17

    The United States and the Western alliance were outraged and convinced themselves that Soviet communism was an aggressive force that was intent on conquering the world for totalitarian dictatorship. This assumption was not true. The Soviets were certainly guilty of much bad behavior. They took sever revenge on Germans and every Slavic country and company that had done business with the Germans during the war. 18

    The charge of trying to conquer Europe and the world for communism, however, was not true. We have to remember that this was still the same central Europe that had been a cauldron of nationalism, socialism, communism, and fascism before the war. The Germans had failed to impose their solutions, but the Slavic countries still had numerous border disputes and serious political problems of their own. 19

    In 1945, half or nearly half of the Slavic central-European population favored communist government. Half or nearly half of the people were violently opposed to communist government. These kinds of political issues combined with ethnic conflict, border disputes, and large piles of surplus weapons were a recipe for disaster. These were the same problems that had caused World War II in the first place. Without some kind of extremely strong deterrent, more violence would have broken out. 20

    The Soviets new full well just how dangerous the political situation in central Europe was. The last thing they wanted was to have communist versus anti-communist political violence and civil war. They clamped down hard. Every country had to have a communist government. No country could rebel against their communist government, and no borders could be changed. That was the prime directive, and the Soviets enforced it absolutely for over forty years. The result was peace. 21

    From 1945 to 1989 the Slavic nations of central Europe were forced to live next to each other in peace. During that time, they got used to their borders and grew more comfortable with their ethnic minority populations. After the inevitable collapse of communism, most of the countries in central Europe were able to continue living in peace with each other. The exception was Yugoslavia, which came apart in a brutal civil war in the 1990s. 22


    English language scholars did not understand the modern transformation, and they did not understand communism and its role in the modern transformation. This was part of the reason for the Cold War. Beyond that, in 1946, the American and Soviet military commands remained stuck in war mode. They each saw an enemy in front of them and were determined to prevail. Central Europe, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, and many other countries paid most of the price. 23

    The modern transformation requires many different kinds of revolution. One of them is social revolution to reduce the power of the oligarchic ruling class. Using communism to wipe out the oligarchs entirely may have been overkill, but no one has ever known how to do the modern revolution just right. Paranoia, overreaction, and the use of too much violence have always been very common. Communism was the strongest form of revolution available. That is why some countries used it as part of their modern transformation. When it ceased to be useful to them, they had market reforms and brought back capitalism. 24

    In October 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis was playing on television screens across America, everyone thought that the fight between the "free world" and communism was the same thing as the eternal struggle between good and evil. Communism and capitalist democracy were clearly opposites. If one was right, the other had to be wrong. It turns out that there was right and wrong on both sides. 25

    In the study of history, it has often been my experience that forces which seem to be contradictory to each other are actually working in cooperation. Socialism and communism existed to oppose the monopoly of political and economic power enjoyed by the oligarchic ruling class and to bolster the political power of the working class. From the beginning, communism was a temporary solution to a temporary problem. It was part of the modern transformation that would eventually lead to democratic-market society. 26

The Modern Transformation in China

     The Chinese imperial bureaucratic system of government went back over two thousand years. It was the most successful aristocrat-peasant state known to history. It was very large, very old, and had a huge resistance to change. Chinese traditional culture used an aristocrat-peasant command economy. It also had a powerful imperial bureaucratic government. The modern transformation in China would continue to use both of these traditional economic and political institutions in a somewhat modified form. 27

    When the rude European upstarts first appeared on their shores, the Chinese tried to ignore them. With the Anglo-Chinese “Opium War” of 1840, this was no longer possible. The war was a disaster, and the Chinese wound up paying the British to stop attacking them. This was not a good idea. Europe was just arriving at the peak period of imperialism. Soon, the French appeared on the Chinese coast to join the English in pillage and ransom. By the end of the century—German, Russian, Austrian, Italian, American, and Japanese armies had appeared. Most of them acquired loot, payoffs, and commercial concessions. Attacking China had become the world’s favorite outdoor sport. 28

    The imperial dynasty was unable to resist and incapable of reform, but finally in the last quarter of the 19th century, China was stirring. Intellectuals and independent reformers began to address the problems, but the country was so large, with so much inertia, that nothing could be achieved quickly. Sun Yat-sen and the other reformers were swamped by the magnitude of the job, and China descended into the Warlord Period. In the 1930s, the Japanese made it a major focus for imperial conquest. 29

    After World War II and a full century of degradation, the Chinese people had had enough. It was time for China to rebuild itself as a powerful modern nation state, capable of self-defense. The Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek had proven itself to be incapable of fighting the Japanese and defending China. They were thrown out. The communists had fought the Japanese more effectively. They were put in charge. Most foreigners were expelled. 30

    The communists began a complete redesign and rebuild of the entire Chinese society. Mao Zedong became the new emperor and used that authority to dismantle the old imperial system. Landlordism was ended with more than enough violence to ensure that it would never rise again. The peasants were regimented into communes that had both farmland and factories, along with schools and clinics. They were taught modern ways, and anyone who showed talent was given extra training. 31

    The cities had industrial communes. Everyone worked very hard. The top down method of organization gave Mao and the communist authorities a high degree of control over the direction of the revolution, but it also had its problems. There were failures, inefficiencies, and famines. The Chinese people buried their dead, learned many lessons, and pressed onward. They were determined to become a fully-capable modern nation. 32

    In the 1960s, Mao became disappointed with intellectuals, teachers, party officials, and bureaucrats. They reminded him of the ancient and venerated “scholar-official class,” who were exempt from physical labor and put themselves above the people. The “Cultural Revolution” was instigated to deal with that. China now has a new generation of intellectuals, engineers, and research scientists with different training. Their poetry and calligraphy are not much, but they are willing to get their hands dirty in the fields and factories helping to develop new technology for agriculture and industry. 33

    By the time of Mao’s death in 1976, the “old China” was a thing of the past, but the “new China” was not yet anything special. In 1979, as an experiment, Deng Shao-ping and the communist leadership tried some market reforms. Production increased. They tried some more market reforms. Production increased again, and companies began developing new technology. The communists figured they were on to something. The rest is history, or is becoming history. 34

    Forward progress through the modern transformation is often accomplished by trial and error. There are many requirements that have to be completed during the transition from traditional to modern society. It is very common for this work to be done either one way, or another. The Chinese use the expression: "crossing the river by feeling the stones." The communist command economy could accomplish only so much, so the Chinese moved on to a capitalist market economy. Eventually they will also require a democratic government. 35

    Of about two dozen countries that experimented with communism, China seems to have gotten the most benefit from the experience. It was an extreme and violent revolutionary strategy, but the Chinese were in a hurry. They used communism to unify the nation, destroy the aristocratic landlord class, and humble the aristocratic scholar-official class. While doing this, they were also preparing the common people for modern development. After raising a new generation of modern workers, they began switching to a market economy in 1979. Since then their progress has been extremely rapid, although there is much left to do. 36

    Since the communists took over in 1949, China has had the fastest and most organized modern transformation of any large country. The communists worked hard and deserve much credit, but it was really the Chinese people who accomplished this amazing performance. I do not know of any other population who could have done it. In the 1950s and 60s, the Americans were bitterly arguing with each other over who lost China. The argument was silly. The Chinese were not lost. They were finding their own path to democratic-market society. 37

    When the Communist Dynasty in China loses the “Mandate of Heaven,” legitimacy will pass to a Democratic Dynasty. I do not know when or how, but it will happen. The fully-modern pattern of society demands it. The Chinese people will decide how and when the change to democracy takes place. The rest of the world does not need to worry about it. After the completion of the modern transformation sometime around the middle of this century, it will still be Chinese culture and Oriental Civilization, but it will also be fully-modern democratic-market society. When the last communist dictator hands power to the first elected president, it will be clear that communism was a revolutionary tool used by China as a legitimate part of the modern transformation. 38

Ch. 17. Introduction to the Islamic World

    This book is all about the modern transformation, the change from traditional to fully modern society all around the world. Some readers may have wondered why it starts off with a description of the origin and operation of tribal society. The reason is that, in the last forty years, the most difficult problems and the highest level of revolutionary violence have been happening in countries whose traditional form of society was mostly tribal. This includes about half of all the countries in the modern world. 1

    The modern transformation began five hundred years ago in the aristocrat-peasant states of western Europe. It spread through North America, central and eastern Europe, into the Ottoman Empire and Latin America, and then around the world to Japan, Persia, India, China, Korea, and Vietnam. The majority of these countries have not yet completed the modern revolution, but they are well into the second half which is a lot less violent. These are countries with a largely aristocrat-peasant heritage. They led the way for the modern transformation. Now, the countries with a mostly tribal past are following along the same path. It has always been a very difficult and violent journey. 2

Law of the Desert

    There is a huge swath of desert and semi-desert land that starts on the Atlantic coast of North Africa and runs across the continent into the Middle East and on through central Asia. Desert has always been a difficult environment for human society. The population was so thin and so mobile that it was usually impossible to have fixed government institutions that could maintain any kind of rule of law. “Law of the Desert” was the usual result. The toughest tribal warriors mounted on their best horses or camels could pretty much raid anywhere, commit any atrocity, and disappear back into the desert. There was little that kings or governments could do to stop it. 3

    We are talking about tribal warrior chiefdoms or sheikdoms. This was the most violent kind of human society. They raided the settled communities and each other, taking anything of value including the women. These were people who knew that their fate was not in their own hands. They could not control the rain or the sandstorms. They could not stop the raids or the blood feuds. It was a difficult life. 4

Islam and Sharia

    In the 7th century, the Islamic religion appeared in Arabia. It was developed by desert tribes for desert conditions. Since their fate was not in their own hands, it must rest in the hands of God. This was a very fatalistic outlook which permeated the new religion. 5

    Islam included its own legal code. This was not just some new religious law imposed by religious leaders. It was also a codification of the practices that had evolved among the desert tribes because they seemed to be the best fit for desert conditions. Since secular government was most conspicuous by its absence, Sharia included criminal and commercial law as well as family and religious law. The ulema (judges) were essentially scholars who studied and interpreted Sharia law as it had been revealed through the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. 6

    The Islamic religion very quickly brought unity to the Arab tribes and launched them on an extraordinary campaign of imperial conquest. Arab armies rode west all the way to Morocco and east to the borders of China, spreading the Muslim religion across the vast swath of desert and semi-desert geography. This included Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, and the Indus Valley with their irrigated fields and aristocrat-peasant societies. Islamic merchants and Sufi missionaries also converted the trading principalities that ringed the Indian Ocean to their religion. A new Islamic civilization developed with a mixture of tribal, long-distance mercantile, and aristocratic institutions. 7

The Islamic Golden Age

   There was an amazing fusion between the highly-mobile tribal culture of the desert Arabs, the aristocrat-peasant societies of the ancient agricultural river valleys, and the maritime trading states of the Indian Ocean. There were great cities, ancient learning, huge irrigated valleys, trade routes, and tribal people who were accustomed to long journeys. All of these ingredients were combined together and unified by the Islamic religion under a single set of laws. Religion, trade, scholars, technology, and ideas flowed back and forth from Spain and Morocco through Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, and Central Asia. Local rulers often competed with each other to attract the best religious scholars, linguists, mathematicians, poets, and scientists. 8

    From the late 8th century through the mid 13th century was a golden age for Islamic civilization. Commerce, technology, and learning were also made available to Europe through Spain and Italy. This was important in pulling medieval Europe out of the Dark Age and helping to put it on the path to modern development. The cross fertilization of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia was a wonderful thing, but it was still traditional society. Islamic cities were fed mostly by peasants from the surrounding area who continued to deliver a portion of the harvest without being paid. 9

Political Institutions

    The ruling governments were conquest dynasties. Some of them were fairly stable for two or three centuries although the majority did not survive that long. Rulers came and went depending on who won the last battle. This did not always create as much difficulty as it might have. The victor would become the new emir or sultan but the defeated family was not always executed. Sometimes the new ruler would be married into the old dynasty and carry on his reign as a legitimate successor with a minimum of disruption. Many governmental functions were administered through the Sharia law code. This was supervised by Islamic scholars who were interpreting God’s law, which could not be changed by the rulers. 10

Conflict and Military Institutions

    In the wide-open spaces of this arid Islamic world, the only effective military organization was large numbers of horse archers. The Arabs originally conquered from horseback and ruled by right of conquest. Over time, the Arabs assimilated to a grater or lesser extent with Berbers, Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis, and Iranians—whose elite families became part of the aristocratic ruling class. The battles over leadership were relatively modest in size. Violence was generally kept to an acceptable level. 11

    Asia also had other horse tribes, especially Turks and Mongols. Seljuk Turks appeared in the 11th century and gradually seized control of western Asia from Iran to Palestine. This was done in a relatively chivalrous way in moderate size battles between armed horsemen. The peasants and commoners were mostly left to go about their business as before. The new Seljuk rulers assimilated to the Islamic ruling structure and the golden age continued. 12

    When the Mongols appeared in the 13th century, it was a different story. Persia and Mesopotamia were devastated. Major cities and agricultural villages suffered alike. In a few generations, Islamic civilization was even able to assimilate and tame the Mongols, but it never regained its former glory. There were many reasons for this, including long term issues of desertification and salt build-up on irrigated land. The golden age was over. 13

    Around 1500, Ottoman Turks were seizing control of the western half of the Islamic world, and the Moguls were conquering a large part of the eastern half. There was just enough room left in between for the Safavid dynasty to flourish in Persia. Until the 1700s, these were powerful and wealthy dynasties, but it was not the same as before. Trade, travel, and scholarship were all in decline. After 1700, political decay set in. Out in the provincial areas, local warlords fought for control. 14

The Modern Transformation

    The modern transformation originated in Europe when peasant farmers were set free to use new methods to increase food production in a market environment. They learned new skills, developed new technology, and increased yields. Other forms of production took notice and began the same process of development. This modern transformation began slowly and took a long time to mature; the end result is democratic-market society. 15

     The peasant farmers of the Islamic world were unlikely to develop into market farmers on their own. In the irrigated river valleys with lots of sun, they were already getting much higher yields than European peasants could hope to achieve. In the large areas of dry-land farming, the success of the cereal crop was not under the farmer’s control. Market incentives were not the issue; everything depended on the rain. The peasants and commoners of the Islamic world were not going to achieve economic independence, create more wealth, and leverage that productive capability into a route to political power. They were not going to be the original innovators who would pioneer modern development. 16

    In the 19th century, Islamic leaders from Turkey to India tried to promote industry and introduce modern reforms. There was some success but not on a major scale. The fatalistic attitude of the traditional tribes may have been a factor. These very conservative people were not major innovators. They were used to rolling with the punches and trying to survive. 17

    The ancient ways would continue. Power would remain in the hands of whoever had the most capable army. At the end of the 19th century, that was the European imperialists. Most of the Islamic world came under the imperial dominance of Britain, France, and Russia. The modern transformation would not begin in earnest until after World War II.  18

Ch. 18. The West and the Rest

    The two hundred nation-states in today’s world have made, or are making, the same journey from traditional society to modern society. Some have had an easier time of it than others. It is sort of like two hundred rafts, canoes, and inner tubes going down the same large river rapids. They all have similar starting and ending points, but very different things can happen to them along the way. 1

    Some small countries, such as Switzerland, Slovenia, and Singapore, have managed to keep their heads down and get through the modern transformation without too much trouble. It is usually more difficult for larger states. 2

The New-World West

    The modern transformations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand fall into a special category. These countries were settled by British and other European emigrants who boarded ships and sailed away leaving the "Old World" and its traditional institutions behind. They were headed for "New Worlds," where they could start new lives, using new rules. 3

    All of the colonies that eventually became the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand were originally settled by British or French commoners who were among the most modern people of their time. They were looking for new land that was not already owned by aristocrats or gentry. They used ethnic cleansing to push aside the tribal inhabitants and the land was theirs. These colonies changed from traditional society to early-modern society as the population changed from native to European. 4

    Most of the immigrants to the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand came to build a new future with their own hard work. At first there were a few British aristocrats to run the colonial governments, but they were relatively easy to remove.
Most of the immigrants were commoners who shared a rough social equality and could set about developing market economies and democratic institutions on that basis. 5

    All four of these immigrant nations had some conflict between an emerging oligarchic ruling class and the working class majority at the end of the 19th century, but it was relatively minor compared to the class war in most of the rest of the world. The wide-open frontiers in North America, Australia, and New Zealand could not be controlled and monopolized by a rich and powerful oligarchic ruling class as usually happened in the more densely-populated Old-World countries. By the time wealthy oligarchs like J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller became so powerful that they needed to be controlled, democratic institutions had already evolved to the point where most of the battles could be fought in the voting booths rather than on the streets. Government regulation, labor unions, and trust-busting politicians were able to deal with the oligarchic elite without the need for wide-scale violent revolutionary activity.  6

Modern Transformation in the United States

     Of these four countries, the United States had the most difficult time in completing its modern transformation. It required a revolutionary war to boot out the British (1776-1781) and about three hundred Indian wars (1610-1898) to cleanse out the First Nations. There was a border war with Mexico (1846-1848) to fulfill its “Manifest Destiny” of annexing everything from the Atlantic to the Pacific. By far the biggest problem was slavery. 7

    The American South became sidetracked onto a tangent that was quite common in the 17th and 18th centuries. In many areas with warm climates, African slaves were used as plantation labor to raise crops that mostly could not be grown in Europe. It was a modern business in the sense that these were cash crops grown for market distribution to make a profit: sugar, tobacco, cotton, and many others. It was a traditional business because slavery was from the past. It is not compatible with modern democratic institutions. 8

    The problem was that the South was comfortable with their plantation society. They were making good money off of slavery, and they did not want to give it up. This was, and is, fairly common in the modern transformation. Countries sometimes find themselves in a comfortable niche but one that holds them back from the full development of modern society. This situation is not sustainable. It might last for a few generations, but it has to come apart eventually. In this case, it was causing so many problems for the dis-United States that a Civil War (1861-1865) was required. 9

Rules for Democratic-Market Society

    Slavery was abolished, but that did not end the problem. A poisonous atmosphere of racism and prejudice remained. White Americans did not want to acknowledge the social and legal equality of "Black Americans" and "Brown Americans." They had already killed off nearly all of the "Red Americans." After the Chinese began to arrive for the California gold rush, "Yellow Americans" were treated just as badly as Black Americans.  10

    The idea of the innate superiority of white European racial stock caused massive problems in the 19th and 20th centuries. Americans created huge difficulties for themselves by believing this myth. British, French, and Germans have gotten themselves into just as much trouble because of it. This kind of behavior is quite normal for the modern transformation. People often cause problems for themselves, their country, and their economy because of a reluctance to give up traditional beliefs and behaviors even when it is obvious that they no longer have a place in the modern world. 11

    In order for democratic-market society to work well, the government and the people must follow the necessary rules. Market decisions need to be based on factors like price, quality, reputation, and supply and demand. If people use bogus criteria when making market decisions, like racial mythology or ethnic and religious favoritism, it leads to friction and distortions in the market machinery. This is something like throwing sand into a gear box. 12

    Democracy “rule by the people” also has its own set of rules and requirements. Disenfranchising various identity groups based on their skin color, ethnicity, religion, tribe, or any other criteria breaks these rules. This kind of distortion in the political machinery leads to a continuous series of problems. Identity-group issues have to be sorted out before a country can claim to have achieved fully-modern democratic-market society. That is why the modern transformation takes so long. 13

Completion of the Modern Transformation

    It was not until a century after the Civil War that Americans began to solve their racism problem. It happened when returning African-American and Latino veterans from World War II and Korea refused to accept the continuation of Jim Crow laws and voting restraints. It was not until at least the mid 1960s when the Voting Rights Act was passed that the United States could be called a fully-modern democratic-market society. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand also matured into democratic-market nation states after the war and the return home of large numbers of victorious veterans. The entire populations of these four countries fought the war together. That includes all social classes, all identity groups, men, women, everyone; they were all in it together. The result was fully-modern democratic-market society. 14

The Modern Transformation in Israel

    Israel is another country where a modern population of European emigrants pushed aside a much weaker traditional population and created their own nation. In the late 1940s, there was a tremendous amount of sympathy for the survivors of the Holocaust among all the victors of World War II who had helped to liberate the concentration camps. The Jews were adamant that they must have a national homeland of their own. The Western allies, the Soviet Union, and everyone who saw what had happened supported this project. 15

    The Jews smuggled themselves into Palestine. They did all of their own organizing and fighting. They scrounged up most of their weapons. The United States, Britain, and France did not have the heart to stop them. They and the Soviet Union allowed just enough war surplus equipment through for the Jews to prevail over the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors. 16

    The infant state of Israel had little difficulty creating a successful democratic government and a capitalist market economy from the very beginning. The Western nations, especially the United States, were very impressed with this achievement. Americans quickly developed a close bond and alliance with this new Western-oriented nation. Israel was considered to be a wonderful example of what free people could accomplish if they establish a democracy and a market economy. 17

    This was the late 1940s, just after World War II. A hundred newly emerging nations were in the process of becoming independent from the imploding European empires. It was also the early years of the Cold War against communism. Americans thought of Israel as an example to all emerging countries in terms of what democracy and capitalism could accomplish. 18

    In reality, Israel was a special case. Its founding population had already experienced a century of modern transformation while living in Europe, and they were familiar with an industrial economy. They were then ripped from their homes, had all of their property confiscated, and sent to concentration camps (1939-1945). The survivors of this experience arrived on the shores of the “Promised Land” with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They had no remaining baggage of traditional society. There were no ruling lineages, no aristocrats, no oligarchs, and no tribal big men. These survivors, men and women, fought together as equals to create their new nation state and had little trouble ruling it together as equals using democratic institutions. 19

    Overall, the modern transformation for the Jews was one of the most difficult and violent that any nation has ever experienced, but the worst of it happened in Europe and in the Nazi death camps. By the time they arrived in Palestine, the Jews knew that they were there to build a modern democratic homeland. Unfortunately, the creation of Israel has left the Palestinians in a very difficult situation. It also began the development of a serious problem between the United States and the Arab world. We will return to these issues in the next chapter. 20

The Clash of Civilizations Thesis

    We have just completed a review of the modern transformation in the West. There is a school of history which believes that “Western Civilization” has always contained the seeds of modern democratic-market society. They like to focus on Athenian Democracy, the Roman Republic, the Magna Carta, and the weakness of feudal European kings to support the idea that Western Civilization has always featured a more open society based on individual liberty. In contrast, they look at Eastern Civilization and see little aside from "absolute despotism." 21

    Unfortunately, this myth about Western Civilization is not just an intellectual argument. There are a huge number of Americans who believe that Western society and modern society are one and the same thing. They think that the West developed modern society easily and naturally. Oriental (non-Western) cultures and civilizations are believed to be incompatible with democracy and free enterprise. This is the viewpoint that was promulgated by Samuel Huntington in his 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations. 22

    According to these ideas, the Oriental nations will never arrive at modern democratic-market society on their own. They must be coaxed and cajoled into developing democracy by the West. The Cold War between communism and the West and the present blood feud between the United States and Islamist militants are believed to be part of the “Clash of Civilizations.” It is thought that these conflicts are the inevitable result of inherent differences between Eastern and Western civilizations. 23

Universal Patterns of the Modern Transformation

    A more systematic examination of the historical record leads to a very different conclusion. The rest of the world started the modern transformation three hundred years or more after western Europe, but they have been following pretty much the same violent path. The primary difference is that the Oriental world is moving through the experience much more quickly than the Europeans. 24

    The Japanese developed modern industry and technology in order to ensure their survival in the face of European imperial aggression. Then they used this new source of power for imperial conquest of their own. World War II destroyed imperialism, militarism, and the oligarchic ruling class. This left Japan free to develop fully-modern democratic-market society. All of this happened in a way that was similar to the modern revolution in Europe, but much faster. The details were different, but the pattern was the same. 25

    Western Europe began the modern transformation and pioneered most of the universal patterns that have since been used by the rest of the world to establish and develop nation states. This includes religious fundamentalism, national rebellion, identity cleansing, civil war, border war, class war, and revolutionary socialism. 26

    Since its beginning in Europe five hundred years ago, the modern transformation has featured peasants, commoners, kings, aristocrats, an industrial revolution, an oligarchic ruling class, politicians, government meltdown, anarchy, coups, dictators, and confusion of every kind. We still see the same things in modern transformations all over the world today. 27

    Aside from the special circumstances found in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel, it has always been very difficult to get a democratic legislature up and governing for the first time. After defeating the royalist forces in 1646, Cromwell really wanted Parliament to take over and govern Britain, but it couldn’t. All they did was argue, mostly about religion and who should have which offices. This kind of hesitation involving democratic institutions has been very common throughout the modern transformation. It has appeared in England, France, Germany, and around the world. Today’s parliament in Iraq is getting off to the same slow start. 28

Variations in the Universal Patterns

    One difference between the West and the Rest is that the West began the modern transformation long before the development of heavy industry in the 19th century. The early engineering work that led to the industrial revolution was mostly done by common artisans and mechanics. It began in Europe in the 18th century and then continued in Europe and North America in the 19th century. 29

    By the second half of the century, some of these early industrialists were making real money. The technology that they were developing was at the stage where it needed massive amounts of capital. That is when the oligarchic ruling class moved in and took over. The workers who had actually built and operated the new machinery found themselves at the bottom of the pile again. At least they knew what to do about that. They fought back. 30

    The oligarchic ruling class has often become selfish and corrupt to the point where another revolutionary struggle is required to reduce or remove its power. This stage of the modern transformation was not needed in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Israel, but they are exceptions to the rule. It has been a primary feature of the modern transformation in most of the other two hundred nation states. 31

    In western Europe, the oligarchs controlled the governments and were able to manipulate the rules of capitalism to line their own pockets. The workers turned to socialism which developed an anti-capitalist ideology. The great struggle between the socialist working class and the oligarchic ruling class was on. This contest continued until after World War II. 32

    In the rest of the world, it happened somewhat differently. The development of heavy industry in the mid 19th century got their attention. The Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires—along with many other aristocratic states—wanted railroads, steel mills, and other such wonders for themselves. They began importing the new industrial technology any way they could. Sometimes they set up state owned companies. Sometimes they helped finance their own merchants and aristocrats to develop modern industries. 33

Oligarchic Society: Similar but Different

    In the non-western world, modern industry was brought in by the top of the society. It was mostly not developed by the common people as in western Europe and North America. Rich and powerful families changed themselves from merchants and aristocrats into oligarchs by starting new industrial enterprises with state encouragement and financial help. They often began by bringing in foreign engineers and technicians. Local workers were given the minimum training needed to do their specific jobs. 34

    This leadership from the top approach meant that most of the workers were essentially industrial peasants. They had few rights, little education, and no political power. In the early stage, the workers often had no idea what was happening or what they could do about it. Socialism was imported along with heavy industry, and it often became a revolutionary ideology for the new working class, but it also became a tool of the governing class. 35

    The more socialist a country is, the more control the government has over the economy. Powerful political leaders often like to have more control. It does not matter if they are monarchs, dictators, or elected politicians. When we look at socialism in Venezuela for example, are we seeing a revolutionary ideology for the benefit of the working class, or are we seeing a mechanism for the late Hugo Chavez and his successors to increase their power and authority? 36

    In half of today’s developing countries, the ordinary common people have never had any political power. Almost every aspect of modern society comes from above. Capitalism and modern industry were introduced either by the imperialists or post-independence ruling elites. Elections, if they exist, are organized and controlled by the dominant oligarchs. Education policy is written by the elite. Labor unions are controlled by political bosses. Socialism may be the platform of one elite political faction; free enterprise may be the battle cry of another. Almost everything on almost every level is controlled by a dominant upper class. 37

Working Class versus Oligarchic Ruling Class

    Just as in Charles Dickens’ time, modern oligarchs believe that they are great patriots and humanitarians. The wealthy families think of themselves as hard-working nation builders who are developing modern government and industry for the benefit of everyone. In the long term, this is partly true. In the short term, most of the wealth and power are monopolized by the oligarchs. 38

    How does the working class demand their rights? It is certainly a difficult question.
The answer is that the modern transformations in the developing world will be completed either one way, or another, just like it was done in the West. 39

    In the most favorable scenario, the working class is able to adjust to the new conditions. Their children get an education and begin to work their way up the promotion ladder. Economic growth opens up the economy to more diversity and competition. As the working class becomes more educated, productive, and prosperous, their political clout increases.  This can lead to a slow, steady, and fairly peaceful modern transformation. Scandinavia is an example. 40

    If the oligarchs are too greedy, too corrupt, and too successful at monopolizing economic and political power, there will be a lot more drama. For as long as the society is out of balance because of an over-mighty oligarchic ruling class, the common people will pick and choose among the various revolutionary programs that are offered to them. Experience shows that some of the insurgent organizations will be based around nationalism, some will use socialism, and others will have a religious ideology. 41

    The fascists used extreme nationalism, militarism, and conquest as themes to organize around. The communists used socialism and focused on the industrial proletariat in Europe and peasant farmers in Asia. The Protestants of early-modern Europe and the Islamists today use religion as a focus for revolutionary change. If the common people are satisfied with the progress being made, there will be less support for insurgent political factions. If a majority of the people feel trapped and unhappy, there will be more support for militant revolutionary organizations. 42

    Forward progress through the modern transformation will be made either one way or the other, relatively peacefully or relatively violently. If the country comes apart in a massive civil war—as did England, France, the United States, and Syria—the violence and killing are more likely to speed up the modern transformation than slow it down. 43

    Since the beginning five hundred years ago, the modern transformation has never been under anyone’s control. It just happens. The transition to modern society has its own motive forces and its own rules and requirements. In order for modern society to work correctly and continue to produce more wealth generation after generation, it must have a well-regulated market economy and a successful democratic government. There is no way to get around these imperatives. The modern transformation will continue until these conditions are met. 44


    Another difference between the West and the Rest has to do with the number of dictators. Americans developed a strong animosity toward dictators during World War II. According to American propaganda, the war was started by three dictators—Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo—for no reason aside from their lust for power. In American minds, dictators have been identified as the incarnation of evil. 45

    Dictators appeared in the early centuries of the modern transformation in western Europe, but not very many of them. In contrast since World War II, Latin America, Asia, and Africa have had dictators by the hundreds. In recent times, many of these dictators have organized and won elections: surprise, surprise. That usually does not much change the way they run their governments. 46

    The “Clash of Civilizations” school believes this is a major distinction and a serious problem for the non-Western world. They think that Oriental cultures have always used autocratic rule. It is sometimes called "oriental despotism." Dictators are thought to be a modern manifestation of this traditional pattern. In actuality, the number of dictators required has a lot more to do with the circumstances of any given modern transformation than whether it happened in the east or the west.  47

    If the common citizens were always capable of ruling themselves through democratic elections, there would have been few if any dictators. A problem regularly occurs when a country is first moving from traditional rulers to modern politicians. It is normal for the last royal dynasty to lose power before the population is able to get effective democracy up and running. This often requires dictators to fill in the gap, sometimes for more than one generation. It is not a permanent condition. 48

Aristocrats and Royalty Instead of Dictators

    When the modern transformation started in western Europe five hundred years ago, there were monarchs and aristocrats everywhere. Many of these were the major players who constituted the “ancien régime.” There were also a large number of lower level aristocrats who, as usual, were happy to rebel against and overthrow their superiors. The national rebellion of the Netherlands against the King of Spain was largely carried out under the leadership of the Princes of Orange. The Dutch did not need dictators because they had local aristocrats who were able to lead the rebellion. 49

    A large part of the religious warfare of the period was led by Protestant mid-level aristocrats going against the Catholic monarchs and upper-level aristocrats. Warlords and dictators were not needed. Titled aristocrats were available to lead almost any kind of armed uprising during the early-stage modern transformation in Europe. 50

    One of the most powerful and despotic revolutionary dictators known to history was England’s King Henry VIII. He used just as much violence to destroy the traditional Catholic religion in England as Stalin did to destroy the traditional Orthodox Church in Russia. And it was not just because he wanted a divorce. Absolute monarchs in England and France provided strong and sometimes brutal leadership for the early modern transformation. They managed to stop most of the petty feuds and local turf battles between the lesser aristocrats and began to establish secular bureaucratic governments. 51

    A large part of the early agenda of the modern transformation in western Europe was carried out under this kind of aristocratic and royal leadership without any need for dictators. The absolute monarchs of early-modern Europe played a role that was similar in many ways to the dictators of Asian and African developing countries in the 20th century. 52

    There were also generals like Oliver Cromwell and Napoleon Bonaparte who did fit the modern pattern of a military dictator. After Cromwell died and Napoleon was defeated, they were replaced by legitimate crown princes who were installed on the throne. If the royal families were not still available, England and France would have needed more dictators. 53

    In today’s developing world, there are not many monarchs and rebellious aristocrats around to lead the early and middle stages of the modern transformation. They mostly did not survive the colonial era. This has left the non-Western world in need of more warlords to lead rebellions and more dictators to maintain functioning governments. 54

Military Dictators

    In many developing countries, the military is the most cohesive and disciplined force available. The officer corps is educated and knows how to get things done. The violence and anarchy of the modern transformation often threaten to overwhelm the ability of the oligarchic ruling class to maintain order. When this happens, it has become common for a group of military officers to seize power and establish control. 55

    Traditional societies were ruled by the strongest. That usually meant whoever controlled the most powerful army. When emerging elected governments fail, the most obvious thing to do is to fall back on the strongest available leaders. The resulting military government might be headed by a council of officers or a single individual. It may last a few years or a few decades. Their job is to establish order, get the economy going, and continue modern development. It has regularly happened that one of the ruling officers who has charisma and ambition takes control as a dictator. 56

    Dictatorship has a way of developing according to its own rules. The trusted allies of the dictator—usually family, friends, and fellow military officers—become increasingly powerful. Commercial opportunities open up to them. They grow richer and join the oligarchic ruling class. At the same time, anarchy and violence must be quelled. In the absence of effective legal institutions, this is usually done by repression. 57

    Sometimes, a military government is run by the entire officer corps, as in Burma and some Arab countries. Generals are appointed to the top police and security positions, and as provincial governors. The army and air force own large industrial empires. Officers with business talent increase in rank and in wealth. In many developing countries, over half of the oligarchic ruling class is made up of serving or retired military officers. 58

    Sometimes a military government is better able to maintain order than any other option. Sometimes the military becomes too comfortable with their wealth and power. When it is time to return political leadership to civilian authorities, they become reluctant. Power and wealth are just as seductive for the military as anyone else. 59

Dictators Range from Useful to Really Bad

    Some dictators have managed to navigate through all of the difficulties and leave office with a country that is in better shape than when they started. Some dictators make little progress at actually solving the country's problems but at least provide an interval of stability. Sometimes the dictator forgets what century he is living in and starts thinking of himself as the rightful king. Some even try to start a dynasty that will live on after they are gone. Napoleon was the first modern military dictator to attempt this. It failed for him and most others who have tried it since. 60

    There have been useful dictators, mediocre dictators, and bad dictators. Some of them start out being useful and degenerate from there. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Some have started out ferociously eliminating all opponents, but once they gain control actually put it to some good use. Most dictators were, or are, working hard to hold on to power for a wide variety of reasons, but they do not have nearly as much control as most people think. 61

Dictatorship and the Oligarchic Ruling Class

    No one man can run an entire country all by himself. That was true for kings, and it is true for presidents, prime ministers, and also for dictators. Most dictators have about the same relative share of power as was traditionally exercised by strong kings. Monarchs were always surrounded by a number of powerful nobles; other important aristocrats held regional authority in the provinces. In a similar way, modern dictators are always surrounded by top level oligarchs who share power and responsibility. Lesser oligarchs around the country also have important roles to play. Together they make up the oligarchic ruling class. 62

    The modern transformation begins with the change to a market economy. People need a cash income to buy food and other necessities. This means that they need jobs, modern development, and economic growth. Large amounts of legal and physical infrastructure are needed to support the market economy. All of this requires active government leadership. The traditional rulers—monarchs, aristocrats, and chieftains—cannot survive intact through this change to modern society. There are economic, political, social, family, religious, and military changes for the society to endure. No country can get everything right the first time. There is a lengthy process of trial and error which will last for over a century. It used to take quite a bit longer. 63

    Traditional leaders cannot complete the modern transformation, but it is their job to get the process started. At some point, they will lose their legitimacy and be replaced by oligarchs, dictators, and elected politicians. This process often includes a great deal of anarchy, violence, and social collapse. Out of all the tasks that have to be accomplished, the modern transformation does not care which jobs are done by which kind of leadership. The only thing the modern revolution cares about is that the entire list be accomplished either one way, or another. If monarchs cannot do the job, and elected politicians cannot do the job, then dictators will do the job. If it cannot be done this generation, then it will be done next generation. One way or another, every part of the modern transformation will be completed. 64

    Americans should discard their World War II propaganda view of dictators. It was not true when it was first devised as war propaganda, and it is not true today. Dictators do not seize control of a country just to satisfy their lust for power. They have important roles to play in the modern transformation.  65

Ch. 19 The Modern Transformation in the Islamic World

The Imperial Age

    There was a wide variety of European imperialism in the Islamic world at the end of World War II. The French had colonized the coast of Algeria with more than a million immigrants, the Pieds-Noirs. This area had been officially annexed by France, which was supposed to be a permanent arrangement. After the war, the French were withdrawing from Syria and Lebanon but were still trying to retain their colonial possessions in Tunis and Morocco, along with Algeria. 1

British Hegemony

    The British imperial presence in the Islamic world was complicated. Since the 19th century, Egypt and the Suez Canal were the most important transportation hub and military base of the entire empire. The British army had occupied Egypt in 1882 and defeated a nationalist revolt of the Egyptian army. The English formed an unequal alliance with the Egyptian royal dynasty that jointly ruled the country until after World War II. The British were the power behind the throne. The Egyptian people knew what was going on, and they did not like it, which is why the British tried to operate in the background as much as possible. 2

    The English did not want to rule Egypt. They just wanted to control the Suez Canal and establish as many military bases as needed. Their purpose was to ensure the free flow of men, ships, cargoes, and business dealings through Egypt and on to Arabia, Persia, India, China, and British East Africa. In exchange for the use of all necessary facilities, the British paid a substantial rent to the Egyptian royal government. The main thing that they did not want was to have any major problems with popular nationalist revolutionary movements. 3

    The English did not want to run the day to day affairs of Iran and Iraq either. They just wanted to control the oil and have compliant local governments that would keep order and accept British hegemony. These countries were technically independent under the rule of royal dynasties that had been chosen by the English. The problem was that these monarchs did not have much support among their own people. 4

    The British also had close relationships with the hereditary rulers of the small Emirates and Principalities on the Gulf coast of the Arabian Peninsula and with the King of Jordan. These dynasties had wider support from their populations and were much more secure. 5

Emerging Nation States

    The French were adamant that their Algerian colony was an inseparable part of France. The English maintained that their areas of influence consisted of independent nations who were friendly allies of the British Empire. Other Islamic countries were achieving a much more robust form of independence and national sovereignty. Turkey and Saudi Arabia had never come under the control of Europeans. Syria and Lebanon became fully independent in 1946, Pakistan in 1947, and Indonesia in 1949. 6


    Despite these early signs of progress toward independence, renewed European imperialism was still a major preoccupation in the Arab world during the late 1940s. Jewish refugees from Europe had just seized control of Palestine with the support of Europeans and Americans. The Arab states had sent their armies to prevent this, but without success. 7

    The Arab forces were equipped and trained with modern weapons, but had no combat experience against modern opponents. They were not yet ready for the challenge and were defeated by the Jews. The creation of Israel placed a new and aggressive colony of European immigrants on Arab soil and demonstrated the inability of Arab armies to do anything to stop it. This had very troubling implications for the entire region. 8

Time to Become Modern

    It was time for the emerging Islamic nations to become fully-sovereign with the capability of self-defense. As of 1949, they were not anywhere close. Most of the Islamic world was still eighty to ninety percent traditional. There were peasants, aristocrats, Bedouin, and tribal clans everywhere. Native governments were run either by hereditary dynasties or coalitions of aristocrats, merchants, and tribal leaders. About a third of the people were coming to depend on a mostly-market economy for their daily food. The rest were still producing much of their own sustenance by farming and herding. Only a small percentage of the population could read, write, and cipher. Whether they were colonies, independent nations, or some kind of half and half compromise, the Islamic world was only 10-20 percent modern. That was about to change. 9


    After the fiasco of the 1947-48 war with Israel, the Egyptian royal dynasty was losing status and becoming even more unpopular with the people. The monarchy was part of the past, part of the colonial era. It was closely associated with the British. The Egyptian people wanted a strong new government and a program of modernization, but they were not yet ready to accomplish these things by themselves. 10

    In 1952, the Egyptian army had seen enough. The Free Officers movement took over the government and sent the king into exile. Leadership of the revolution was soon consolidated by Col. Gamal Nasser. The monarchy was ended, and aristocratic titles were abolished. The revolutionary government enacted land reform programs, literacy policies, and national development plans. There was a lot of economic planning and a lot of socialism. Housing projects were built by government agencies. Public money was channeled into heavy industry. 11

    The Russians were promoting socialism, and the Americans were promoting capitalism. Many Islamic countries did not see any reason to limit themselves to one or the other. Why not use both? Private industry was often encouraged, but sometimes it was nationalized. The Egyptian economy, like many in the Arab world, developed with both private and state owned enterprises. 12

    Nasser was an anti-imperialist ever since his teenage years. He quickly forced all British troops out of Egypt. This was done peacefully by agreeing that the civilian Suez Canal Company could continue to operate the canal and remain under British and French ownership. 13

    Nasser was becoming a nationalist hero to the entire Arab people. It was a role that he reveled in. He began sending aid and encouragement to the anti-French freedom fighters in Algeria and supported a wide variety of Arab national causes. He also joined the Nonaligned Movement with Josip Tito from Yugoslavia and Jawaharlal Nehru from India. This was a group of developing nations that refused to participate in the Cold War or join any of the communist or anti-communist alliances of the time. 14

    The Americans were not especially reassured by this declaration of neutrality. In September 1955, Nasser turned to the Soviets for a large purchase of tanks and weaponry. The United States had declined to sell weapons to Egypt because they were obviously intended for use against Israel. Nasser had also recognized the communist government of China. All of this greatly offended John Foster Dulles, the cold warrior who ran American foreign policy. He often took the attitude that if other countries were not with the U.S., then they were against the U.S. 15

Suez Incident

    Nasser was mostly pro-Egypt. He wanted to strengthen and modernize the country as quickly as possible. The Aswan High Dam had been under discussion for decades. It was designed to control the Nile, extend irrigation, and generate massive amounts of electricity. Nasser threw his full weight behind this project and sought financing and support from the United States and the World Bank. In July 1956, the Americans cancelled engineering and financial support for the Aswan dam. One week later, Egyptian troops seized the Suez Canal. 16

    The British and French were absolutely incensed at this treachery. They plotted with Israel to invade Egypt and recover the canal. This was a doomed project because the Suez passage was a series of waterways that could not possibly be kept open to merchant shipping in the face of Egyptian military opposition. The British, French, and Israelis launched their attack anyway to the surprise of the United States. 17

    The Americans were livid. Their allies had done something stupid which was denounced around the world as a return to imperialism. In 1956, the entire world was intimately familiar with imperialism, and they did not like it. The apex of world-wide imperial conquest had come just twelve years earlier at the height of World War II. Americans had fought that war in the name of defeating imperial aggression. 18

    The Nonaligned Movement was aghast at this renewed imperial effort by Britain and France and gave full support to Egypt. Emerging nations all over the planet lined up behind Egypt. The Soviets and the Chinese were delighted with this unexpected turn of events. They loudly denounced Western imperialism and proclaimed their support for Egypt. 19

    It was an impossible situation. The American president, Dwight Eisenhower, went to work behind the scenes and forced the British, French, and Israelis into a cease fire after just one week of fighting and then demanded that they return home. The British and French sheepishly withdrew. The Israelis destroyed everything in the Sinai on their way out. 20

Nationalism Triumphant

    Gamal Nasser and the Egyptians had won their gamble. They had nationalized the Suez Canal, stood up to the imperialists, and gotten away with it. The Arab world went wild. In 1956, they had a lot to celebrate. Morocco and Tunisia had negotiated their independence from France early in the year. Egypt’s victory over the imperialists came a few months later. The different Arab insurgencies and emerging nations were inspiring each other and feeding off of each other’s success. Pan-Arab nationalism became the big idea of the time. Egypt and President Nasser were the natural leaders of this movement. 21

    In 1957, most of Malaysia became independent from Great Britain. Revolutionary fervor continued to spread in the Arab world. The French-Algerian war continued as attack and retaliation reverberated back and forth between the insurgents and security forces. 22

    In 1958, a brutal military coup in Iraq ended the monarchy with the deaths of the royal family. Iraq has had one of the most violent modern transformations of any in the Islamic world. This probably has a lot to do with the traditional rule by a minority Sunni identity group over a majority Shia population. The melding of different ethnic and religious identity groups into unified nation states has often been the largest source of violent death in the modern transformation. Many parts of the world are still in the process of dealing with this extremely difficult problem. 23

    Sudan is an example of the kind of violence that centers around identity group disputes. South Sudan has recently succeeded in achieving independence from the North after more than twenty years of civil war and two million deaths. The province of Darfur has also had a very difficult experience with hundreds of thousands of casualties and refugees. Identity group conflict has shown up to a greater or lesser extent in the modern transformation of nearly all Islamic countries. 24


    Syria had been ruled by Ottoman Turks for centuries until the end of World War I. Between the wars, the French had tried to consolidate their imperial rule and began some modernization efforts. During this time, Syrian provincial leadership was still provided by local aristocrats and old-time merchant oligarchs. In rural areas, daily life had changed little in the last thousand years. There were Bedouin, subsistence farmers, peasant farmers, craftsmen, and landlords. 25

    Syria also had different ethnic and tribal communities and a number of religious sects. This was important because most people's primary loyalty was to their local community, which might be Sunni, Christian, Alawite, Druse, Kurdish, or some other identity group. The nation state of Syria was a new concept. It was going to take some time for the Syrian people to get used to it, and make it their own. 26

    From the 1930s to 1971, Syria averaged a military coup every few years by a different group of officers with a different political agenda. This was early-stage modern transformation. The Syrian people were not yet ready for democracy. In 1956, pan-Arab nationalism swept the country. In 1958, Egypt and Syria joined together to form the United Arab Republic. Nasser was the president of this new confederation, and he ran it his way. The Syrians soon tired of the experiment, cancelled the union in 1961, and went back to having regular coups. 27

    Despite the extreme political instability, there were land reform programs, education programs, and economic development policies. Change was constant but erratic. It was going to take more than one or two generations to modernize Syria. In the forty years from 1971 to 2011, the country was much more stable with just two dictators, Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar. Now, the Arab Spring has turned into full-scale civil war. 28

The Problem of Israel

    One of the biggest problems for the Arab world was Israel and what to do about it. The Jews had seized much of Palestine, cleansed the Palestinian people, and continued to bring in more immigrants to occupy the land. The Palestinians never stopped fighting back. Low level guerrilla warfare was the best they could manage, but they kept at it. 29

    The Arab nations were caught in a serious bind. The Jews expected them to prevent Palestinian militants from attacking across their borders into Israel. It was not possible for the Arab countries to comply with this demand. The Arab people are like first cousins. They speak the same language and mostly have the same religions and culture. It was not possible to expect them to sit back and watch as one of their own was destroyed by a group of infidel Europeans. It was even less realistic to expect them to cooperate with that destruction. 30

    The Americans and British are also first cousins. Suppose that in the early stage of World War II, the Germans had insisted that Americans cease all shipments of military equipment to the British. What if they further demanded that all American borders and ports must be patrolled to prevent any contraband from slipping past? The United States could not possibly have accepted such requirements. It would have meant war. The Israeli demands for the Arab countries to abandon their Palestinian cousins could not be accepted either. 31

    The Arab countries could not and would not participate in the destruction of the Palestinian nation. This meant there would have to be war. The Israelis had made that quite clear with their 1956 invasion of Sinai. Egypt and Syria turned to the Soviet Union for arms because they could not get them from the West. The Americans were totally focused on the Cold War and their anti-communist machinations. Any country that got into bed with the Soviets became an enemy in American eyes. Thus began the long downhill slide of Arab-American relations that has continued to the present day. 32

    In 1962, the Algerians won their long struggle for independence from France. The Arab-Israeli Six Day War of 1967 was a major victory for Israel and a resounding defeat for Egypt and Syria, but it did not solve the primary problem. Jewish occupation of Arab land continued to increase, and human justice for the Palestinians continued to decline. In 1969, Libyan army officers led by Muammar Gaddafi sent King Idris into exile and abolished the monarchy. In the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the Egyptians fought better and regained some of their honor, but it was still an Israeli victory. 33

Situation Report after One Generation

    By the early 1970s, a generation had passed since the Egyptian revolution of 1952. During that time, there was a huge amount of economic, political, and social change in the Islamic world. Agriculture was not yet fully modern, but peasants were much less common, except in Pakistan. Subsistence farmers and herders were rapidly decreasing. A majority of people depended on a market or semi-market economy for their daily meals. Literacy in the more advanced Islamic nations was approaching forty percent. There was still a tremendous amount of modern transformation left to do, but much of the Islamic world was graduating from the first stage to the middle stage of the process. 34

Republic versus Kingdom

    Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Algeria, Libya, and Yemen were republics and generally considered to be revolutionary, highly nationalist, socialist, and anti-Western. Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, and the Gulf States were still ruled by traditional hereditary conquest dynasties. These Kingdoms and Emirates had not had revolutions, dictators, or military coups. They were considered to be capitalist and friends of the West. 35

    In reality, most of the differences between these two groups of nations were on the surface. It was the similarities that ran deep. The most revolutionary and the most reactionary Arab nations were not that much different from each other. The traditional monarchs could not afford to be seen as old fashioned and behind the times. They too sponsored land reform, education, and industrial development. Both monarchies and republics were entering middle-stage modern transformation and oligarchic society. The elite ruling class controlled most of the wealth and power. The working class was impoverished and unhappy. 36

Conflict, Repression, and Civil War

    In the 1970s, the Islamic world was thirty to forty percent modern, but that means it was also sixty to seventy percent traditional. Nearly all of the countries were still run by autocratic rulers. Some of these leaders were kings, some were dictators, and some were presidents who were very difficult to distinguish from dictators. Nearly all of them used some amount of political repression to maintain themselves in power. Monarchs have always had dungeons and torture chambers to teach rebels a lesson. Dictators and presidents often used the same methods. 37

    Lebanon did not have a monarch, dictator, or strong president. The result was fifteen years of civil war from 1975 to 1990, about 150,000 dead, and many times that number of injuries. 38

    In a majority of developing countries, generals and other military officers have become a significant component of the oligarchic ruling class. Middle-stage modern transformation is often just as violent as the early stage. The oligarchs are clearly becoming richer, and everyone else seems to be getting poorer in comparison. Jealousy erupts. Most people feel that the world is unfair, and they are getting a raw deal. Violence breaks out on a regular basis. The army and security police are required to restore order. Generals become very important people. 39

    When there are numerous different identity groups—as in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria—the problem is often magnified. Would-be leaders appeal to various factions in an effort to gain power. At this stage of development, when factional leaders are fighting each other for political power, their followers often meet in the streets to fight it out with real weapons. Strong national leaders try to prevent this through military crackdowns, and by controlling the media and all political discussion. Would-be leaders and other troublemakers are often thrown in jail or made to disappear. There is less civil war that way. 40

    Repression in the name of stability is sometimes better than civil war, but it can lead to an even more entrenched and powerful oligarchic ruling class and even more jealousy. As has been nearly universal everywhere, the Islamic people did not like the impoverished working class existence that they were confronted with upon entering middle-stage modern transformation and oligarchic society. The question was: what to do about it? 41

The Western Model of Development

    The problem was that middle-stage modern transformation is no picnic. It was Charles Dickens oligarchic society. By the 1970s, oil money had started to appear in a big way in the Islamic world. The families that had economic or political power were prospering and showing off their wealth. They were also merging together into a fairly standard oligarchic ruling class. Most of the population had become a typical impoverished working class: with low wages, not enough education, and too few prospects for advancement. The long struggle between the working class and the oligarchic ruling class was getting under way. 42

    The Arab nations had wanted to become modern. They had established Western-style governments with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. These governments had worked hard to develop modern market economies. When there were not enough entrepreneurs and local expertise, the state helped to provide finance and support for industrial enterprise. 43

    This was the Western model of development. The result was a bad case of oligarchic society. As far as the common people were concerned, this new form of society did not seem to be working. The Islamic people knew that it would take time to become fully modern, but they wanted to hurry the process along. Maybe the Western model of development was not the best solution for the Muslim world. 44

    Revolutionary socialism was an alternative that had also been developed in Europe and used widely in China and Southeast Asia. This model was not available in the Middle East as a revolutionary ideology to use against the oligarchic governments, because they had already adopted large parts of it. The managers of state-owned socialized enterprises did not seem to be much more considerate of their workers than the capitalists. Socialism was not going to provide a way to unite the working class in opposition to the oligarchic ruling class. 45

    In some countries, extreme nationalism was used as a revolutionary force to overthrow entrenched oligarchs. That would not work in the Muslim world of the 1970s either. The governments had already co-opted nationalism as well. No one was better at waving the flag than Nasser, Gaddafi, and the other leaders who had already taken over in the 1950s and 60s. 46

Islamic Model

    In order to lead a successful revolution, you need a revolutionary ideology that can be sold to a majority of the population. A solution to the problem was available. This is the Islamic world that we are talking about. In the 1970s, they began to develop the idea of revolutionary Islam. It seemed to be a perfect fit. It was a local solution to a Middle Eastern problem. 47

    The problem was the oligarchic ruling class, including both civilian and military elites. They were too greedy, too powerful, and too corrupt. The new-fangled secular judicial system was also corrupt. It was letting the rich and powerful get away with all kinds of villainy. It was sinful. Many of the people who were most outraged by the new oligarchic society were religious conservatives. 48

    Fundamentalist Islamic theology has always existed, but in the past, it was most commonly found in the desert tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. In the last quarter of the 20th century, it exploded across the Islamic world. Many Western scholars seem to think that this is a conservative backward-looking religious movement. To me, it looks like a normal part of, and reaction to, the modern transformation that propels nation states into the modern world. 49

    The Islamist political movement that began to develop in the 1970s was extremely diverse. In many ways, it was more revolutionary than religious. Many of the rebels cared more about politics, economics, and social injustice than they did about piety, but they found it useful to wrap their revolutionary message in religious rhetoric. This was just good politics. The revolutionaries were trying to get a majority of the common people on their side. An appeal to Islamic solidarity had a better chance of working than any other strategy.  50

    In the 16th and 17th centuries, revolutionaries in western Europe used Christian fundamentalism as an important part of their modern transformations, which resulted in the extreme violence of the Protestant Reformation. In both early-modern Europe and the Islamic Middle East of today, the religious reform leaders who developed the revolutionary ideas originated from below. They came from the common people and preached their message to dissenters who were unhappy with the structure and organization of society. The Islamic world has been burning with the same revolutionary religious zealotry as early Protestant Europe. 51

Muslim Brotherhood

    The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928. They were a prototype for the hundreds of Islamist organizations that have evolved since then. In their literature, the Brothers describe a vision of the Islamic Golden Age reborn. The Caliphate will rise again. Muslims will be united under a single religious-based leadership. God’s law, Sharia, will provide peace and justice for all believers. Piety will be universal, and the land will flow with bounty for all, etc. etc. 52

    This kind of rhetoric is similar to Ronald Reagan’s “Shining City on a Hill” speech. It is designed to evoke visions of a glorious future that would include all of the best parts handed down in romantic stories from the past. This style of visionary rhetoric can be good propaganda, but it is not serious policy. Ronald Reagan had no intention of building a shining city on a hill. The Muslim Brotherhood is not going to reestablish the Caliphate either. 53

    Westerners who are concerned about a universal Islamic Caliphate do not have to worry. It was only in the first few generations of Islamic history that there was a single Caliph who ruled all of the faithful. Pan-Arab nationalism was a really big idea in the 1950s. Egypt and Syria merged to form the United Arab Republic. At first, it was thought that other Arab nations would join with them. In reality, the merger was impractical and only lasted three years. Modern economies and societies are regulated and governed by nation states, not universal Caliphates. 54

    If the Muslim Brotherhood is not there to reestablish the Caliphate, why does it exist, why is it so popular, and why have so many other groups been organized along similar lines? There is certainly a very conservative streak in the Muslim population. Change is often difficult, and it is hard to break with tradition, but this is not the primary reason for the Islamist revolutionary-political movement. 55

The Struggle Against Imperialism

     When the Muslim Brothers were formed, the Islamic world was overrun with European imperialists. Their powerful armies and navies could go almost anywhere and take almost anything, which is exactly what was happening. The Brotherhood was originally founded to oppose European imperialism and prevent Western ideas from corrupting traditional Islamic culture. 56

    At that time, in the 1920s, the Arab people could not imagine forming powerful modern nation states of their own. Instead, they fantasized about a reborn Caliphate that would sweep away the infidel European imperialists. This was an understandable dream, not a practical program. As soon as they were able, the Islamic people went to work rapidly building modern nation states. 57

    One difficulty is that foreign nations have continued to try to influence and dominate the Muslim countries, especially in the oil-rich Middle East. It is no longer imperialism. It is now thought of as great powers defending their interests in a very strategic part of the world. The Islamic people are not impressed with this distinction. For them, foreign infidels who want to control their governments and their oil are “haram” forbidden. The traditional ideology of the Muslim Brothers and similar organizations is well suited for the purpose of attacking foreign interlopers. That is one reason why it has continued in use. 58

The Oligarchic Ruling Class

    The primary reason for the explosive growth of Islamic revolution in the mid 1970s was the increasing wealth and power of the oligarchic ruling class. The price of crude oil shot up from three dollars a barrel in 1970 to forty dollars a barrel in 1980. Money was pouring into the Islamic world. The rich and powerful elite, including generals and military officers, were shoveling it into their own pockets and Swiss bank accounts. The religious-based ideas, especially the Sharia law code espoused by the Muslim Brothers, provided a perfect platform for attacking the rich and corrupt oligarchic ruling class. This is exactly what they proceeded to do. The Islamic working class supported this program. 59

    The Islamic revolutionaries probably have no idea that their attacks on the secular governments over the last two generations are part of the modern transformation which will result in democratic-market society. Nearly all participants in the modern transformation have had no idea that any such thing exists. All that is necessary is for the transition to continue either one way, or another. If the the oligarchic ruling class is too strong because it is made up of the combined officer corps of the military services and the wealthy business class, then there is a serious problem. If religious revolutionaries take on the fight to break up this oligarchic coalition, then they are part of the modern transformation, whether they know it or not. 60

    Who exactly constitutes this oligarchic ruling class? The highest-level oligarchs are the royal dynasties with their many thousands of royal princes, along with ministers, generals, and other palace favorites. Then there are all the dictators and autocratic presidents of the Arab republics, along with their families, their wives families, the top generals, and all the close associates who help them to remain in power. These republican rulers are similar in many respects to the royalty but without their traditional dynastic legitimacy. 61

    Mid-level oligarchs include all of the people who are connected closely enough to the upper strata to have their trust and be given important jobs in government and the economy. Power flows along the lines of personal and family relationships. Connections mean everything. Crony capitalism is the name of the game. Mid-level oligarchs, including military officers, have good connections, which allow them to succeed in business, government, or both. 62

    Lower-level oligarchs are usually the people responsible for security and stability in the provinces and rural districts. They often come from local families of some stature who managed to back the winning side in politics. They were rewarded with lower-level positions of power, which means that they, along with their relatives and friends, are able to succeed in small and midsized business operations. All of these different strata work together to make up the oligarchic ruling class. 63

Class War in the Arab World

    The common people in the Arab world were even more impatient with their ruling oligarchs than usual. Most of the money came from oil. The oil had been nationalized. It was the property of the state, which should mean everyone. Somehow, a small percentage of the population, who already had wealth and power, was able to accumulate most of the oil money for themselves. The common people were angry. They wanted someone to do something about this outrage. The Islamists stepped forward to take on the fight. Nobody planned it that way; it just happened. 64

    The role that was performed in Europe by socialist organizations is being played in the Muslim world by Islamist organizations. There were dozens of different kinds of socialist groups in Europe, ranging from peaceful to militant. They ran schools, clinics, welfare programs, and benevolent associations for the working class. They also did battle with monarchs and the oligarchic ruling class. There are dozens of different kinds of Islamist organizations in the Muslim world, ranging from peaceful to militant. They run schools, welfare programs, hospitals, and friendly societies for the working class. They also do battle with dictators, monarchs, and the oligarchic ruling class. The similarities are numerous. The primary difference is that the socialists in Europe were not big on religion, and the Islamists are. 65

American Response

    The United States government, with its CIA and tens of thousands of security experts, still does not understand the modern transformation. More specifically, they do not understand the oligarchic ruling class, which has been a primary feature in most developing countries during their modern transformation. Socialism and communism developed in Europe, Asia, and Latin America to do battle with the oligarchs on behalf of the working class. Americans never understood that, probably because their own oligarchs at the end of the 19th century were not dominant enough to require a violent revolutionary response.  66

    The Americans never understood revolutionary socialism in Europe, and they have not been able to understand Islamism in the Muslim world either. It is all just a normal, natural part of the modern transformation having to do with the class struggle between the common people and the oligarchic elites. 67

    Americans were surprised and dismayed by this new form of religious-based revolution. They did not like it any better than communism. The assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 by the Islamists after he made peace with Israel was a real shock for Washington. The American government focused on the Israeli connection, but Sadat was also under attack for the increasing corruption of his administration. When autocratic rulers began to ask the United States for assistance against the Islamist threat, the Americans were happy to oblige. 68

Counter-Revolutionary Violence by Arab Governments

    The monarchs, dictators, presidents, generals, and lesser oligarchs who ruled the Islamic world knew right away that the Islamist revolutionary movement meant trouble. They tried to placate the religious hardliners and buy them off with new mosques and official positions. This worked for some of the extremist clerics but not for others. Repression, including torture and execution, was the second line of defense. That did not work either. The mixture of religion and politics can lead to fanaticism. Many militant Islamists have gloried in their own martyrdom. Many more have stepped forward to replace their fallen heroes. The more repression was used against the Islamist threat, the faster their movement grew and the more violent their attacks became. 69

    The dictators who have been ruling much of the Arab world are a tough-as-nails bunch of guys. Many of them clawed their way up through a very turbulent and violent political process with dead bodies buried along the trail. They know that other would-be rulers are out there trying to do the same thing. The leaders who have already come to power do not want to become the dead bodies that the next generation will climb over to obtain power. In the old days, it was the toughest warriors and the sneakiest assassins who rose to the top of tribal and aristocratic society. It is a tradition that is only slowly coming to an end. 70

    The monarchs, presidents, dictators, and their minions began a major effort to stifle any kind of rebellion. Political dissidents were imprisoned or worse. This program of repression silenced nearly all opposition, except from one source. True-believers who know that God is on their side do not fear death. The militant Islamists were able to continue the battle against the dictators and the oligarchic ruling class after all other forms of opposition had been eliminated. 71

Source of the Violence

    For the last thirty years, most of the revolutionary violence in the Muslim world has come from the Islamist movement. Imams and other religious leaders have been instrumental in recruiting suicide soldiers and bomb makers. This has led the Western world to believe that the Islamic religion is the source of the violence. This looks like an open and shut case, but it is actually a misunderstanding. 72

    About a century ago, central and eastern Europe were reaching a peak period of violence and confusion in their modern transformations. In this case, it was nationalist, fascist, and communist who were organizing the violence. The result was two World Wars and a Cold War. The Muslim world is currently at a peak period of violence and confusion. In the Middle East it appears to be preachers and religious leaders who are orchestrating the violence. In both of these cases the actual source of the violence was the modern transformation and the entire population. 73

    In traditional society, might made right. Peasants and commoners were not supposed to have weapons. During the modern transformation, the old restrictions break down. Large numbers of impoverished young men search out weapons and training in the belief that it is the best way to get ahead in the world. Many of these eager young men are also looking for leadership and a cause to fight for. They are tired of being poor and powerless. They are tired of the village or small town where they grew up. They want to go out into the world and become a man of means and respect. They are willing to risk death to follow this ambition. 74

    During peak periods of the modern transformation, there are always angry young men who are eager to be recruited for violence. There are always would-be leaders with the money and guns to arm them. There are always enemies to be attacked. Who is responsible for the violence? Is it the leaders who do the recruiting and training or the young men who are looking for weapons and leadership? It is sort of like asking which comes first, the chicken or the egg. 75

The United States Enters the Quagmire

    There were many reasons why the United States was eager to jump into the cauldron of Islamic revolution. First, they wanted to increase their influence with the Arab governments and eject the Russians from as many countries as possible. Second, wealthy oligarchs were a target of the Islamist revolutionaries. These people were also business partners of the Americans, who thought of them simply as capitalist entrepreneurs. Americans have often fought to defend capitalism around the world, especially from radical bomb-throwing revolutionaries. Third, the Islamists vowed to destroy Israel, another fantasy objective of the Arabs. The Americans wanted to protect their primary ally in the Middle East. 76

    Throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s—the Americans, their CIA, and the Pentagon continued to be drawn into the Middle East. They helped to negotiate and maintain the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. They also provided technology assistance to the intelligence and security services of any countries that requested it. Some of this is public knowledge such as aid in computerizing identity cards and finger print files. Most of what was done is still classified. Helping the monarchs and dictators to destroy militant jihadist organizations did not bother the Americans at all. They never imagined that suicide bombers would eventually retaliate with major attacks against the mainland United States. 77

    The Americans have always claimed to be the champions of democracy, rule by the people. Here is an example where the common people were in rebellion against kings, dictators, and oligarchic elites. Instead of siding with the majority of common citizens, the Americans joined the battle against the Islamists on the side of the autocrats and wealthy elites without having even the slightest idea what they were getting themselves into. The CIA helped the Middle Eastern security services to imprison, torture, and execute the revolutionary religious militants without realizing that the militants had the support of the working-class population. Then the Americans wondered why the Arab Street had turned against them. 78

Islamic Revolution: Iran

    The first major success for revolutionary Islam was in Iran. The people had been trying to depose the Shah for over a generation. In the mid 1970s, the Ayatollah Khomeini launched a call for Iran to return to its religious roots and throw out the Westernized monarch and his American backers. This program of religious revolution was extremely effective. A large majority of the Iranian people came out in support. The Shah left for exile in 1979. Thousands of the wealthiest elite oligarchic families lost their positions of power. 79

    The Islamic revolution was a major advance for the modern transformation in Iran. A semi-democracy was established that managed most government functions under the oversight of a supreme religious council. After the revolution, there was much more political and economic opportunity for the common people than under the Shah. 80

    The Americans were not impressed with Islamic revolution and have remained implacable enemies of Iran to this day. During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the United States assisted Saddam Hussein in his efforts to defeat Iran and seize its oil rich province of Khuzestan. This assistance continued despite the Iraqi use of chemical weapons in their attacks. Iran might not be working so hard to develop nuclear technology today, if the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other countries had not helped Saddam Hussein attack their soldiers and cities with nerve gas thirty years ago. 81


    The king of Afghanistan was deposed in 1973. The country has been in a very chaotic early-stage modern transformation ever since. Afghanistan was essentially a large collection of tribal warrior chiefdoms. The central government in Kabul never had much control over the numerous mountain valleys and arid plains. The country was very traditional, mostly illiterate, and had no significant source of legal income. 82

    The Afghans lived next door to the Soviet Union. The Russians seemed to have built a powerful modern nation on communism. Some Afghans imagined doing the same thing. Their communist party seized control in 1978 and began a program of extreme reform that led to open hostility between the new central government and thousands of tribal and village leaders. The brutality and insensitivity of the communist revolutionary program quickly led to an armed revolt of the very conservative tribal population. Things got ugly. Communist officials and Russians were attacked by insurgents. In 1979, a Soviet Army was sent to help the communist government defeat the rebellion. 83

    The Americans could not resist the opportunity to oppose the Russians. They provided large amounts of aid to the Afghan mujahideen. The Americans also worked to recruit and equip Arab militants, including Osama bin Laden, to help defeat communism. This was accomplished in the early 1990s. The result was a militant Islamic Afghanistan and a base of organized and trained Arab jihadists who formed al-Qaeda. 84

Osama bin Laden

    Osama bin Laden had grown up in a very rich and well connected Saudi family. He was privy to all the gossip about the sins and corruption of the Saudi oligarchic ruling class from an early age. 85

    Islamic history contains a wealth of stories about rich and powerful dynasties that fell into decay because of sloth, corruption, and the sins that money could buy. This caused all kinds of trouble, but many of these stories had a happy ending because a religious figure appeared to reform the dynasty and return the country to piety and contentment. Osama bin Laden saw himself as this type of reform leader. He joined the American anti-communist holy war in Afghanistan to fight for Islam against a heretical government, but also to gain respect and prestige at home. He envisioned that his biggest political battles would be in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. 86

    In 1990, Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait in a surprise invasion. Many of the militant Islamists saw this as an opportunity. Osama bin Laden was riding high after his victory in Afghanistan. He pleaded with the Saudi government to be allowed to raise an army of Islamist volunteers to liberate Kuwait. Bin Laden was sure that with the military and financial backing of Saudi Arabia and air support from the Americans, he could achieve another victory. The Saudis did not even consider this proposal. They were well aware that if Osama bin Laden managed to pull this off with his own Islamic volunteer army, he might then be in a position to overthrow the Saudi royal family and take control of the country. 87

    Kuwait did not like the idea either. It worried them that after being liberated from the Iraqis, they might be annexed by Saudi Arabia or taken over by bin Laden’s Islamist movement. The Kuwaitis and the Saudis both agreed that it would be much better to invite the Americans to defeat Iraq. The United States was allowed to establish numerous military bases on the Arabian Peninsula and brought in large contingents of their army, navy, and air force. The Iraqis were quickly evicted from Kuwait. The Americans did not pursue them to Baghdad and depose Saddam Hussein. After the war, the Americans retained many of their new bases and kept attacking Iraqi forces from the air. 88

    Osama bin Laden was extremely disappointed. He had been rejected by the Arab governments who chose to rely on the Americans instead. From then on, he saw the oligarchic elites as not only corrupt but also traitors who sold out the Arab people for American gold. They had allowed infidels to establish military control over the sacred soil of the Arabian Peninsula. Bin Laden continued his struggle with the Arab governments, and also declared a blood feud with the Americans. 89

American Policy

    In the 1990s, the United States was busy fighting extremism throughout the Islamic world. It was the autocratic governments and the oligarchs who felt threatened by the Islamist movement. Americans worked with them to destroy the radical revolutionary organizations. The problem was that no matter how many of the extremists were jailed or killed, the movement continued to grow and expand. Revolutionary organizations have always had a tendency to split into factions: some of which are more moderate and others more violent. 90

    The Americans did not understand the situation. They were certain that the problem was caused by a limited number of religious fanatics. They had the data right in front of them. This organization was led by so and so and had a thousand members. That one had a few hundred disciples. This other one, which claimed credit for some recent bombing, was just a few dozen altogether. How hard could it be to defeat these crazy extremists? The Americans completely misjudged what they were up against. 91

    The Arab people had come to the conclusion that there was a conspiracy in progress. They believed that the Americans were in league with the Arab autocrats and oligarchs to control their governments, control their oil, suppress their opposition to Israel, and leave the common people with nothing. These ideas were exaggerated and only partly true, but they are typical of the paranoia that often appears during the modern transformation. After witnessing the behavior of the Americans, half of the Arab population came to believe this conspiracy theory and supported the Islamists as they turned their attacks against the United States. 92

September 11, 2001

    On September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda launched their major attack on New York and Washington. The Americans went ballistic. The media went crazy talking about the cowardly and contemptible Islamist monsters who slaughtered thousands of innocent Americans for no other reason than the glory of jihad. 93

    There was not a single minute of discussion about what the United States might have done to stir up this kind of trouble. All that the commentators were doing was making a bad situation worse. Most Americans became convinced that a small group of evil Islamists wanted to kill them, and the rest of the Arabs seemed to be cheering them on. Nothing good could come of this. 94

    The American government and the Pentagon knew they were going to go someplace and kill Arabs; the question was where? The attack had been led and carried out mostly by Saudi Arabians and Egyptians, but the Americans could not come up with a realistic plan to invade these countries. Instead they chose Afghanistan, where bin Laden was hiding, and Iraq. It was always easy to justify an attack against Saddam Hussein 95

    In both of these countries, the Americans became bogged down in civil war and identity group problems that they did not understand. This is exactly what Osama bin Laden had hoped to achieve. He knew that the more Muslims the Americans killed, the more they would be rejected by the Islamic world. 96


    During the modern transformation, most countries have issues. Iraq had numerous serious problems. Wherever Americans see a dictator, they assume that he is responsible for all the country’s troubles. The neo-conservatives in Washington thought that all they had to do was remove Saddam Hussein, hold an election, and Iraq would develop into a modern democracy. They were wrong. The process is seldom that easy. Iraq was a powder keg. Saddam was trying to hold it together, but he was not solving any of the fundamental problems. When the Americans arrived and removed his heavy hand of repression, the country blew apart. 97

    The Sunni-Shia divide has existed in Islam ever since the first generation after the Prophet. The Sunnis have been dominant in most Muslim countries. They have regularly treated Shia communities a lot like the Americans used to treat black people. This Sunni-Shia identity group problem is something like landmines strewn around the modern transformation in the Muslim world. 98

    We have no idea to what extent this problem will turn violent again in the future. The next two decades are probably the time of greatest danger. It could become the kind of problem that gets worse before it gets better. Eventually the Sunnis and Shia will have to come to terms with each other and settle their differences. That will be a requirement for Islamic countries in order to become fully-modern democratic-market societies. 99

American Policy

    The blood feud between the United States and the Islamists is still continuing with no sign of a slow down from either party. The Americans think of themselves as the world’s only remaining superpower. They see it as their right, and indeed their duty, to police the world in an effort to reduce the worst extremes of violence and governmental oppression. The problem is that they also have interests of their own, especially in the Middle East. 100

    The Americans have some vague idea that they need to maintain a strong military presence in the Middle East to make sure nothing bad happens to all the oil. Their alliance with Israel is based partly on the Judeo-Christian Bible, partly on a common Western democratic-capitalist view of the world, and partly on the fact that it helps both countries maintain a stronger military presence. All of this makes perfect sense to the Americans. 101

The Islamist Perspective

    The Arab militants see the situation differently. The Palestinians are one of the most oppressed populations on the planet today. They are being cruelly deprived of their land and their freedom by the Israelis, with the full and complete support of the Americans. The Arabs do not see the United States as a superpower protecting right and justice around the world. They seem to be mostly protecting the Jews. 102

    The Arabs also have a problem with America’s determination to oversee the security of their oil. The oil is contained inside the pores of rock buried thousands of feet underground, where nothing bad can happen to it. Each country controls the wells, pumps, and pipelines that bring it to the surface and make it available to the markets. The highest bidder gets the oil. The Arabs welcome foreigners who come in peace to do business. When foreign infidels arrive with their armies, navies, and CIAs to “protect” the security of their oil, the Arabs see a problem. 103

    A century ago, the British imperialist in the Middle East did not want to govern Egypt and the other Arab countries directly. They just wanted to have a military presence to secure the trade route to India and maintain overall control. The Arab people did not want infidel British imperialists to have overall control of their countries. The Muslim Brothers developed Islamist ideas specifically to fight back against European occupation. In the 21st century, the Islamists do not want the United States to have overall control of their countries either. 104

The Islamist Movement and Violence

    The Muslim Brotherhood was originally founded to oppose European imperialism, and to prevent Western influences from corrupting the Arab people. The early Brothers had nothing against modernity. They encouraged their own members to become doctors and engineers. They wanted the Arab people to become strong and modern but also to retain Islamic culture and not become creatures of the imperialists. 105

    Violence played a significant role in the Muslim Brotherhood from the beginning. At the height of British imperialism in the 1920s and 30s, Egypt was a very violent place. There were secret societies by the dozen. Most of them had a nationalist agenda and were trying to assassinate British officials and members of the Egyptian royal family. Security police used any form of brutality that might help them uncover the plots and insurgencies. 106

    In 1948, the Muslim Brothers launched a violent campaign to depose the Egyptian royal family and evict their British allies. The Brotherhood was banned and repressed by the security police. Both sides engaged in a cycle of assassinations. Army officers finally removed the king in 1952. Gamal Nasser took control and followed a primarily secular and Western path of development. The Brothers were banned again. 107

    In the 1970s, there was an explosion of Islamist groups as they began to wage battle against the monarchs, dictators, and oligarchic ruling class. This work was widely appreciated and supported by the working class majority. These kinds of historical events and processes have a way of becoming complicated. Most of the mainstream Islamist organizations have engaged in political violence to some extent. There have also been many splinter groups that have contributed even more violence. 108

    Once the Islamist ideas of religious based revolution had become popular, they were adopted by all kinds of fringe organizations. When a big bandwagon really starts to roll, many different people jump on board for the ride. All modern transformations have had their share of nefarious characters who try to take advantage of the chaos and violence for one purpose or another. The Muslim world is no exception to this rule. Islamist ideas and rhetoric have been adopted by numerous petty warlords for their own reasons. Some of these militant leaders terrorize various identity groups, such as was done by the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. Others use their bomb makers and gunmen mostly for robbery, kidnapping, and extortion. This kind of confusing static is part of the background violence in all modern transformations. 109

    Some of the warlords who use Islamic rhetoric have few principles and little purpose beyond self-aggrandizement. Others are engaged in tribal, ethnic, or sectarian blood feuds. That is not a reason for indicting the entire religious revolutionary movement. The mainstream Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood are clearly an important part of the modern transformation in the Islamic world. Most of their leaders are educated professionals, who are looking forward to a better life for their children. 110

    The Arab and Iranian people see a great deal of similarity between the British and French imperialists a century ago and the Americans today. The Islamists are still there and still fighting against kings, dictators, corrupt oligarchs, and domination by foreign infidels. The blood feud between the Islamists and the Americans is a long way from being over. 111

Arab Spring

    The modern transformation in the Islamic Middle East is not waiting around for the outcome. It still has a lot of work to do. In December 2010, the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and quickly spread to Egypt and the rest of the Arab world. 112

    A new generation that was born after 1970 has been heard from. These are the first Arabs to grow up in a world that was becoming more modern than traditional. It is also a larger and better educated generation than any of its predecessors. The modern transformation takes time. Much of the progress is made as new generations mature and begin to influence society. Something similar happened in the West when the post-war "baby boom" generation began to come of age in the 1960s and 70s. 113

    The younger Arabs in their 20s and 30s are tired of the old fashioned monarchs and dictators. This is the first time that large numbers of middle-class and working-class students are graduating from college. They want change. They want more freedom and better jobs, and they are willing to go out and risk their lives to obtain these things. They are also not locked into the extremist mindset that reached its peak a decade earlier. 114

    One problem is that twenty and thirty year olds cannot establish and run a government all by themselves. They started the Arab Spring, but it was only when the Muslim Brothers, labor unions, and huge numbers of common citizens showed up at the demonstrations that dictators began to fall. If democratic governments are going to be successful, they will continue to need the support of all of these people. 115

    Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya are presently trying to write new constitutions and set up elected governments, which will actually rule the country. It is extremely challenging to do this for the first time. There will be problems, factions, and disagreements. The Arab countries have a large number of difficult issues to solve. If the new governments patiently go about the process of finding workable compromises and solutions, their authority will develop successfully. If they get bogged down in power struggles between economic classes or in arguments about Israel, religion, and who gets which office, there will be serious problems. The countries that fail to establish successful elected government will just have to try again at a later time. 116

Future of the Islamic Revolution

    In the Egyptian elections of 2012, most of the votes went to Islamist candidates. This was a major disappointment in the West where it is generally believed that Islamists want to return to medieval society. I do not claim to have the inside track on what the Egyptian Brotherhood or the Salafist parties are thinking, but one thing is certain. The modern transformation in Egypt and the Islamic world is accelerating; there is no possibility of going back to medieval society. 117

    The Arab Spring was begun by disappointed young people who have an education but very few employment opportunities. This is one of the first problems that needs to be solved. Many developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America have become successful at getting modern business and industry up and running. The Arab world has fallen behind in this regard. Aside from oil and gas production, the market economy has not yet been able to achieve takeoff. 118

    The Egyptian people need jobs, and there is plenty of work that needs to be done, but the magic of the markets is just not happening. Crony capitalism, poor regulation, and a corrupt judicial system are a large part of the problem. The Middle East is awash in money. Egypt is the largest, best educated, and most stable of the Arab countries. It should be, and some day will be, a land of economic opportunity. Right now, job creation is being held back because the government has not yet been able to provide the legal and physical infrastructure needed by the market economy. 119

    Developing a successful modern economy is a long and complicated process. It required most of the 20th century for the world to learn for certain that communism could not do it. Still, it was an experiment that had to be tried and a lesson that had to be learned. The new governments in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya will need to take measures to open up their economies to all citizens. Free enterprise and economic opportunity do not just happen. They require effective government regulation and enforcement. If this is done successfully, there will be an economic boom in the Arab world. 120

Family and Religious Issues

    The election of governments does not mean that the modern transformation is over. There are still ethnic and sectarian identity issues that will take time to resolve. More education and economic development are required. There will also be changes in both religious and family institutions. These will become more modern and less restrictive. 121

    It is easy to understand that a lot of men might say: “You can change the government, and you can change the economy, but if you mess with my family, there will be trouble.” This is a very normal human reaction. Women’s roles and family relationships are already changing in the Islamic world. It is part of going from traditional to modern society. These kinds of changes take time. 122

Identity Group Problems: Sunni and Shia

    There are two major problems with the modern transformation that no Islamic country will be able to solve on its own. The Sunni-Shia sectarian divide is as large as the entire Muslim world. It goes back thirteen hundred years in history and is so convoluted and endemic to Islamic society that few Westerners have any chance of fully understanding it. 123

    Identity-group problems tend to be the most violent part of the modern transformation. The Holocaust of the Jews was an identity group issue. The destruction of the Armenians in Turkey, the brutally violent breakup of Yugoslavia, the Hutu and Tutsis in Rwanda, and the cleansing of the American First Nations were all identity-group problems. Clearly, it is easy for this kind of violence to get totally out of control. 124

    Violence between Sunni and Shia identity groups has been increasing for the last generation. It has already led to half a million fatalities in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Bombings and brutality are happening across the Islamic world. In the Persian Gulf region, really serious Sunni-Shia problems have been kept hidden by repression, while they soak in large pools of crude oil. This is a recipe for disaster if there ever was one. When violence erupts, it is usually the innocent bystanders who are in the greatest danger. 125

     Iran is the largest and most powerful, predominantly Shia nation. Its post-revolution Islamic government has tried to act as a champion for oppressed Shia communities everywhere. This effort has caused increasing tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia. There has been no attempt by anyone to solve the problems or reduce the tension. The United Nations does not seem to be doing anything to alleviate or even analyze this extremely difficult Sunni-Shia identity group issue. 126

Israel and Palestinians

    What to do about Israel is another problem that the newly-elected Arab governments will not be able to solve by themselves. The plight of the Palestinians is still an open sore for the entire Islamic world, especially the Arabs. The Palestinians need a homeland of their own just as much as the Jews do. It is nonsense to say: “Let them go live in the Jordanian desert,” or “they can live in Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon with the other Arabs.” This is not a solution. The last thing any of the Arab countries need is another quarrelsome identity group that has its own loyalty and agenda. 127

    The Israeli-Palestinian problem is a direct result of World War II and the Holocaust. That was seventy years ago. The conflict has been eating away at the Middle East for this entire period of time. It has caused a huge and ongoing amount of disruption. It has made all of the other problems that are a normal and natural part of the modern transformation much more difficult. 128

    It is not right for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to continue endlessly under the present circumstances. The Arab countries are already going to have a difficult time establishing successful democratic governments. Voters will want to elect strong decisive leaders. Under the present circumstances, no Arab politician will want to run on a platform of friendship with Israel. The Arab-Israeli conflict may be on the verge of becoming much more complicated. This would not be a good thing. 129

    The finest birthday present the rest of the world could possibly give to the new Arab governments would be a successful, permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would also be the finest gift that the Americans and Israelis could give to each other and to themselves. 130

    To send the Palestinians off to wander in the wilderness is not a solution. For the last decade, some people have been talking about a unitary state made up of Jews and Palestinians. This does not seem to be workable either. The two identity groups do not like each other and often go about killing each other. Having them live together is unlikely to be a successful permanent solution to the problem. 131

Define the Borders

    Robert Frost wrote: “Good fences make good neighbors.” This idea has worked in other places. With some effort from both parties, it should succeed here. Ever since the conflict began, there has been talk of a two-state solution. This idea did not and probably could not have worked in the first few decades after the creation of Israel. The wounds were too raw, and the animosity was too great. 132

    The problems have festered since then, but the two sides have also had time to adjust. The new reality is that Israel is a fact, and it is not going anywhere. Also, the Palestinians are a nation. They are not going to dissipate, and they need a homeland. The two-state solution seems to be the only idea that offers a feasible permanent resolution of the problem. 133

    The Palestinians have been trying to negotiate acceptable borders for two separate countries. The Jews have so far refused to take these negotiations seriously. They have never offered the Palestinians anything that even remotely resembles a workable sovereign nation state. The United States has enabled this obstructionism by maintaining full support for Israel despite its refusal to negotiate in good faith. It is long past time for this charade to end. Since no one else has offered a map showing a permanent two-state solution to the conflict, I have taken the liberty of drawing up a possible example. 134



Ch. 20 Conclusion

Market Distribution

    The world has come a long way since the modern transformation began five hundred years ago. Land tax collected from peasant farmers is no longer the primary mechanism for feeding city populations. The aristocrat-peasant command economy for food distribution was vitally important to all civilized people just a few centuries past. Now it is a faded memory. There are still some remnants of the old peasant system in South Asia, but the world has moved on. 1

    Tribal hunting and gathering, along with subsistence farming and herding, can still be found scattered across various parts of the planet, usually the least fertile and most inaccessible parts. The people involved are a very small and declining portion of the total population. 2

    Today, over ninety percent of the world’s food is produced by market farmers. They use high-yield seeds, fertilizer, pesticide, and machinery. Productivity is ten times higher than could be achieved by subsistence or peasant farmers. Without any question or doubt, markets have taken control of the world’s food supply. 3

    In the old days, women used to make clothes for the family. In rural areas, which used to include 90% of the population, people built their own homes. Today, almost everyone is wearing store-bought clothes. Most people now live in professionally constructed housing. Food, clothing, and shelter are the necessities of life. We no longer obtain them in the traditional way. We purchase them with cash or credit through a regulated market economy. 4

Cash Income

    When people depend on markets for their food, clothing, and shelter, they need a cash income. They have to have jobs and a paycheck. This is not just some of the people; it is every family, every household. It is not just some of the time; it is every day, every week. At least three billion paying jobs are required to sustain the world’s population. Every year, more new jobs are necessary. The mass production of employment opportunities does not happen all by itself. It requires both the market economy and the active support of a strong and capable government. 5

    Everybody knows about the big economic changes and the growing dominance of markets all around the world. Most people, however, do not seem to realize that this is the primary reason for all of the political and social change, which has accompanied the rise of the capitalist market economy. The entire modern transformation became necessary because of the change to market distribution of food, clothing, and shelter. There has to be a strong and capable government to regulate, promote, and protect the market economy. An active and successful government is mandatory, not optional. 6

Nation States

    Nation states were established to protect and regulate the markets. This brought up the issues of where the borders should be and who would be included as citizens. These have been much more difficult problems than might be expected. Various and sundry identity groups have often fought tooth and claw with each other to decide these issues. The most horrific of the killing grounds were the “Bloodlands” of central and eastern Europe in the first half of the 20th century. 7

    Quite frankly, the market economy does not care how much bloodshed is needed to meet its requirements. Tasks like establishing a workable nation, defining its borders, and determining who will be accepted as citizens can be done either peacefully or violently. It is all the same to the modern transformation. 8

    Israelis and Palestinians have been disputing the issues of borders and citizenship for the last seventy years without solving them. In the meantime, they just keep killing each other, which causes all kinds of problems for the rest of the world. This has been common behavior throughout the modern transformation. Nation-state formation was no easier in the past than it is today. It was especially difficult for Germany, Russia, Poland, Belarus, and the Ukraine, where it led directly to the Holocaust, a deliberately engineered famine, and two World Wars. 9

Form of Government

    Next, there is the issue of who should govern the new nation states. Traditional leaders usually begin the process of national development, but they can take it just so far. The entire point of the modern transformation is to replace hereditary royal dynasties, aristocrats, and tribal chieftains with modern nation-state governments that will regulate the economy for the benefit of everyone. This will eventually require democracy. 10

    At some point, the people will take control of the government. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the modern transformation, the people are mostly illiterate. They have no idea how to control the money supply and regulate the market economy, nor do they have the authority that is needed. Traditional society was ruled by the strongest. It usually takes a long time to leave that behind and institute “rule by the people.” 11

    When the modern transformation began in western Europe, change happened slowly. It took almost three hundred years just to get from the beginning of the process, about 1500, to the French Revolution in 1789. After Napoleon, the speed of change increased, but it required another century and a half, and two world wars, for western Europe to achieve fully-modern democratic-market society. 12

    The modern transformation is moving along much faster now, but it is still a difficult and violent process. There is never a time when the sky parts and the voice of God announces that a new era is at hand and the people must change to a nation-state government with elected leaders. The people have to work all of this out for themselves, usually by trial and error. 13

    Societies evolve slowly and incrementally. The primary reason why they did things the traditional way was because it worked. They cannot just change to democracy and a modern industrial economy without first laying the necessary foundations, or it will not work. Education, urbanization, industrialization, and the rule of law are prerequisites that have to be in place for fully-modern society to function successfully. 14

Oligarchic Ruling Class

    In the early stage of most modern transformations, the job of organizing business and government was taken up by a newly-forming oligarchic ruling class. This class was made up of the traditional elite families from the past and/or the new blood who managed to succeed in the emerging market economy or the new national government. These families had a combination of wealth, power, and education. They were the only people with the capital and capability to organize large-scale business activity. So they did, and they succeeded, which is no surprise because they had little or no competition. 15

    The lawyers, engineers, and administrators of the elite, educated class were the people most capable of organizing a successful national government and providing the legal and physical infrastructure needed for a growing economy. So they did that job as well. Business and government both fell into the hands of the same small group of educated families who formed the oligarchic ruling class. This was not an evil conspiracy; it was just a natural development. It was the early stage of a long process. 16

    In some countries, the oligarchs did their job of kick-starting modern development and then slowly faded into the background. In other countries, the oligarchic ruling class became entrenched and resisted giving up their monopoly of wealth and power. When this happened, a battle was likely to develop between the ruling elites and the common people. This could turn out to be a relatively moderate war of words, or it could turn really nasty, like the communist revolutions in Russia and China or the civil war in Syria. Almost every developing country over the last five hundred years has witnessed some version of this struggle between the mass of the people and the ruling elite. 17

Evolutionary Change the Easy Way

    When it is time for the oligarchic ruling class to give up their monopoly of wealth and power, it does not mean they have to become poor and powerless. At some point in the modern transformation, the oligarchs begin to see the writing on the wall. The working class and the middle class are demanding a greater share of the nation’s income and political authority. If the elite accept these demands and compromise with them, the country can progress in a reasonably peaceful fashion. 18

    In this scenario, lower-level and mid-level oligarchs join the growing middle class. Upper-level oligarchs become ordinary rich capitalists. In order for all of this to happen, someone has to run a competent government and regulate the economy well enough to have consistent growth. In western Europe, the educated elite families continued to do most of this work as ultimate power was slowly transferred to the voters. The two world wars were a major factor in the triumph of real democracy. 19

Revolutionary Change the Hard Way

    The lessons from history are clear. When the time comes, the oligarchs can begin to break up their monopoly and share power with the rest of the population, or they can go down fighting. Unfortunately, the situation is often complicated by ethnic, religious, and tribal identity issues. It would be much easier if developing countries could solve these problems one at a time, but they tend to become entangled together, as in Iraq and Syria. This is when the violence is most likely to get out of control. 20

    Sometimes, identity group conflicts or class conflicts become disruptive to the point where a dictator is required to restore order so the economy can function. Some dictators retire after doing their job. In other countries, dictators are needed for more than one generation. Some dictators actually solve problems, others do not. Sometimes, dictators become the problem and have to be forced to leave. 21

    There are a lot of variables in the modern transformation. Many requirements are accomplished either one way, or another. Many solutions are found by trial and error. Leaders who make too many errors will eventually be forced out, and their replacements will try a different path. 22


    Ultimately, the entire population—working class, middle class, and wealthy—will take control of the government. This is necessary because in fully-modern society the “will of the people” is the only source of legitimacy. This step often takes quite a long time. It usually does not happen until the ordinary people are ready to shoulder the responsibility. 23

    We do not know exactly how to define when the people are ready to govern, and when they are not. It gets complicated. Some identity groups may be more ready than others. Sometimes, the young are ready while their elders hold back. Each national population has to sort it all out for themselves. When the united body of the citizenry is ready to take power and demands to take power, there is no force that can deny them. If the people have not yet taken control of their government, it is either because they are not united, or they are not ready. 24

Misunderstanding the Modern Transformation

    In Asia, Africa, and Islands around the world, a hundred newly-formed nation states emerged from the great disintegration of empires after World War II. Along with the Latin American countries, they made up the “third world” of developing nations. Most of these countries were starting the modern transformation from a low level. 25

    In the second half of the 20th century, change was happening fast in these emerging nations, but most Western observers failed to see that real progress was being made. It all looked like a bloody mess of war, anarchy, coups, dictators, identity cleansings, repression, rebellion, and general mayhem. Actually, it was early and middle-stage modern transformation. Underneath all of the chaos, modern nation states were being forged. 26

    With all the socialism, fascism, communism, Islamism, and the multitude of warlords and dictators, many Westerners came to believe that the third world did not want to be modern capitalist democracies. Some Americans began thinking about the Biblical Apocalypse which prophesied war, anarchy, and chaos in the “End Times.” Some scholars looked for differences between Western and Eastern Civilizations to explain the obvious dichotomy between the first and the third worlds. 27

Not Understanding History

    By the second half of the 20th century, the Western countries had whitewashed or forgotten the worst of the violence in their own transition to modern society. Almost no one bothered to read the long and detailed scholarly accounts of warfare, slaughter, and chaos that accompanied the early and middle stages of the modern transformations in the Western world. 28

    Those who read history at all usually read the abridged versions written by popular historians, where they find mostly romantic stories. No one made the connection between the religious and revolutionary violence in early-modern Europe, the cleansing of the First Nations from the United States, and similar kinds of chaos in the third world during the second half of the 20th century. No one understood that it was all part of the same universal modern transformation, which included the two world wars. 29

The Victors Write the History

    After the Second World War, the Americans developed a new “world view” that was based on their wartime propaganda. The United States and the British Empire had just sent ten million men overseas to fight and defeat fascist imperial aggression. It had been a massively huge endeavor. The entire populations had participated in one way or another. Now, the war was won, and the fighting men were coming home. 30

    The American and British people wanted to celebrate their great achievement. Everything that had just happened in the war was part of the modern transformation. But no one knew about that. No historians had unraveled and explained the modern transformation. The absence of understanding allowed the mass media free reign to make up pretty much any story they chose to explain the recent war, the Holocaust, fascism, communism, dictators, and all the violence that had engulfed the world, and which seemed to be continuing on a slightly lesser scale. 31

    The story that the Americans and British came up with to explain all of these things was a simple continuation of their wartime propaganda. The war had been a titanic battle between good and evil. The "forces of evil", in the shape of totalitarian dictators like Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, Mussolini, Mao, Khrushchev, and others, were determined to conquer the world. The righteous powers of good, led by the United States and the British, had already won a major victory, but there were still more evil dictators out there, especially the communists, and they were still trying to conquer the world. 32

The Fight Against Communist Revolution

    Based on their wartime propaganda, Americans believed that dictators hated democracy and the free-enterprise market economy. With their charisma, oratory, state-controlled media, and gulags, the totalitarian dictators were thought to have brainwashed their populations into believing that democracy and capitalism were the source of evil. The dictators were building large armies with modern weapons. They were supposedly training their brainwashed populations to attack the "free world." Clearly, the "Great Crusade" was not over. Americans, British, and the Western alliance believed that they had no other choice but to continue the fight against the communist totalitarian foe. 33

    This post-war myth about the United States leading a world-wide battle for freedom and democracy against totalitarianism and dictatorship was never true. It was recycled World War II propaganda. The communist takeover of China in 1949 was not a victory for evil totalitarianism, as the media described it in the Western world. It was a legitimate part of the modern transformation in China. The Cold War was essentially fought against a nonexistent enemy. Communism was real enough. It was an extreme form of revolution that was used by a few countries as part of their transition from traditional society to democratic-market society. It was not an attempt by the "forces of evil" to conquer the world for "dictatorship and totalitarianism." 34

The Fight Against Islamic Revolution

    When Islamic revolution began to develop in the 1970s, Americans once again had no idea what was actually happening. All of the coups, dictators, rebellion and repression in the Islamic world were and are a normal part of the modern transformation, just like almost everywhere else. 35

    The Muslim Brotherhood had originally been founded to oppose European imperialism. This "Islamic liberation front," just like the national liberation fronts in all the other colonial states, was also part of the modern transformation. As the oligarchic ruling class coalesced in the 1970s, the Islamist movement evolved to lead popular rebellions against monarchs, dictators, crony capitalism, and the elite ruling structure. 36

    The most effective way for this peoples’ rebellion to gain support was to attack the sinful and corrupt oligarchic ruling class on the basis of traditional Islamic values and Sharia law. The Americans did not understand any of this. What they focused on was the violence. When religious extremists were assassinating the Egyptian president and blowing up car bombs designed to kill the highest number of people, Americans saw them as another variation of the "forces of evil", just like the fascist and communist dictators. 37

    The Western world naturally believed that these religious fanatics had to be opposed. They were recruiting suicide bombers, strapping them into vests or cars filled with explosives, and sending them out to kill people. On the face of it, this is clearly abhorrent behavior which must be opposed by the civilized nations of the world. What the Americans and their Western allies did not understand was the mechanics of the modern transformation. 38

    The change from traditional to modern society is a progression that often includes a large amount of violence. A lot of the killing is perpetrated by governments as in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but a lot of it is also perpetrated by the people themselves, as it was on the American frontier or during the Protestant Reformation. England, France, the United States and many other countries have had brutal civil wars where violence was committed by both organized armies and small groups of common citizens. The same kind of violence is now happening in the Islamic world. 39

    The Americans did not understand any of this. Their post-war mythology claimed that the "forces of evil" were using violence of every kind to attack capitalism and democracy around the world. When jihadists and suicide bombers appeared spouting traditional Islamic rhetoric, the Americans were appalled. It never occurred to them that these “terrorists” are actually part of the transition to modern democracy. 40

    The Americans and their Western allies believed that the Islamists were a retrograde movement who were using violence to force their societies to go backward in time. The Americans were wrong. The Islamists do not want to return to peasant agriculture and nomadic herding. They fully intend to move forward into the modern world. They just want to do it in their own way, and as usual, they are a bit confused about the details.  Everything that is happening is part of the modern transformation that will inevitably lead to democratic-market society. 41

The War Against Terrorism

    This misunderstanding between the West and the Islamist movement has turned into the "War Against Terrorism,” which has been in progress since September 11, 2001. Washington regularly insists that this war is against terrorism, not against the Muslim religion. The problem is that the “terrorism” is just part of the normal violence that is usually associated with the transition to modern society. The Islamic world cannot proceed through the modern transformation without violence any more than the thirteen American colonies could. 42

    All Western countries have their own national heroes who would have been called “terrorists” by their opponents. Today, they use the word “terrorist” to describe warlords and revolutionary leaders in the developing world. This is not a useful approach to present day problems. The American military campaign to stamp out Islamic terrorism is based on a series of accumulated misunderstandings. The United States is only creating unnecessary enemies, as it did in Vietnam. There is no possibility of victory. 43

The Fallacy of Heroes and Villains

    American commentators seem to think that establishing democracy is a pure process, untainted by violence, and it can only be accomplished by heroes who are pure of heart. This is nonsense. One reason why the American colonists wanted their own government was to enable them to push westward and seize the Indian lands, which the British had banned. Democracy is an inevitable part of the transition to modern society. It is established for practical reasons, not for idealism. All developing nations are headed in that direction. Dictators, rebellion, and violence are a normal part of the process. 44

    History writers like to tell stories about epic events and grand rulers who were either heroes or villains. "The fate of the nation is at stake. Will the local hero be able to defeat the foreign villain?" These are the same kinds of action themes that fiction writers and Hollywood like to use. 45

    It is true that grand themes and epic battles are important to history, but most of the story is actually rather ordinary. Changing the entire world from rule by kings and aristocrats to rule by politicians is certainly an extraordinary feat that included epic struggles with heroism and villainy beyond measure. There were lots of good guys and lots of bad guys, but that was not why the opposing sides were fighting each other. In real history, you never have all the good guys on one side fighting for truth and justice, while all the bad guys are on the other side fighting for totalitarian dictatorship. History books that are written with lots of heroes and villains make good stories but poor history. The violence was happening because traditional society was already disintegrating and modern society was just beginning to emerge. 46

Causality in History

    The “First Law of History” is the law of cause and effect, which states that the cause precedes the effect. The modern transformation in every country is one long chain of historical events that are all linked to each other through the relationship of cause and effect. 47

    The first cause is the change to a market economy for food distribution. This sends ripples out in all directions. The ripples generate multiple effects, many of which turn into causes for multiple new effects. The progression of ripples and social change goes on for generation after generation until the modern transformation is complete. This entire book is the story of a single chain of cause and effect that began with the rise of cities six thousand years ago and the need to feed them. 48

    Individual leaders have a role in determining the details in these long chains of linked historical events, but they are not especially important to the final outcome. Thousands of leaders, great and small, will be involved before a country completes the modern transformation. They each do their part. Whatever requirements are left unfilled by one administration will have to be completed by another. The end result will be democracy. Monarchs, aristocrats, tribal and religious leaders, warlords, dictators, and politicians all have roles to play in getting there. 49

    The final outcome, democratic-market society, is determined by the needs of the market economy. The modern transformation in total is made up of billions of tiny little steps. Individual decisions made by everyone in the population are the primary causal factors. 50

Like Water Flows Downstream

    In some respects, the modern transformation is similar to the way that water flows downstream. Human efforts can guide and channel the water as it flows, and leaders can take credit for the accomplishment. The water, however, if left to itself, will go downstream anyway. There have been many thousands of really important historical figures who have contributed to the modern transformation. It is perfectly alright for us to revere their memory and cheer their accomplishments. George Washington is a personal favorite of mine. But, the thirteen colonies would have developed into a democratic nation state even if Washington had never been born; although it would have been a longer and more difficult process. 51

    Socialism evolved in Europe with an anti-capitalist ideology. According to their rhetoric, the socialists were going to "expropriate the means of production." This only actually occurred in a handful of communist nations. In other countries, which have had many socialist governments, no such thing has happened. Most socialist governments have led their countries downstream along the path of modern transformation to capitalist democratic-market nation states, even when their rhetoric claimed the opposite. We know this because we have 20/20 hindsight for Europe, where it has happened. A century ago, we would not have known it, and if someone tried to explain it to us, we would have been doubtful. 52

    In the 21st century, the Islamists seem to be at war with the Western world in general and the United States in particular. Most Americans believe that their country's intervention in the Middle East was and is necessary because aggressive out-of-control Islamic terrorism is a danger to the entire world. They believe that the United States was innocently going about its business of policing the world, when it was savagely attacked by evil terrorists. This book has been written to try and explain how complicated the world can be. Propaganda is very simple and always the same. The "home team heroes" are the good guys; the "evil opponents" are the bad guys. History is much more complicated than that. Militant Islamists are not simply terrorists, and the Americans are not nearly so much the heroic defenders of democracy as they claim. 53

Completion of the Modern Transformation

    The world-wide modern transformation is a long way from completion, but most of the violence is concentrated in the early and middle stages of the process. The 20th century saw the peak of war and brutality. No other part of the world has used nearly as much violence as Europe. 54

    In the next two generations, most nations will have completed the hardest parts of the modern transformation: nationalism, economic development, and the rise of the middle class. In the third and final stage of the transition, the remaining tasks will primarily be concerned with consolidating democracy and spreading modern development across the more remote regions of the country. 55

    The total amount of world-wide violence has been decreasing since the end of World War II. This trend should continue. By the middle of this century, the violence associated with the modern transformation will have declined to much lower levels. By the end of the century, the entire change from traditional to fully-modern democratic-market society will be nearly complete. 56

Suggested Reading

The most recent history is at the top of this list. The further you move down the list, the older the history

Pisani, Elizabeth. Indonesia Etc. Exploring The Improbable Nation. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014

Mazzetti, Mark. The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the End of the Earth. New York: The Penguin Press, 2013.

Bishara, Marawan. The Invisible Arab. New York: Nation Books, 2012.

Cope, Tim. On the Trail of Genghis Khan An Epic Journey Through The Land Of The Nomads. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Morrison, Dan. The Black Nile. New York: Viking, 2010.

Isby, David. Afghanistan Graveyard of Empires. New York: Pegasus Books, 2010.

Joel, Brinkley. Cambodia’s Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land. New York, NY: Public Affairs, 2011.

French, Howard W. A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

McGowan, William. Only Man Is Vile: The Tragedy of Sri Lanka. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991.

Jager, Sheila Miyoshi. Brothers At War: The Unending Conflict in Korea. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013

Cowell, Alan. Killing the Wizards: Wars of Power and Freedom from Zaire to South Africa. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

Finnegan, William. A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire In The Lake. New York: Random House, Inc., 1972.

Dietrich, Craig. People’s China: A Brief History.  New York: Oxford University Press. 1994.

Leckie, Robert. Strong Men Armed. New York: Random House, Inc., 1969.

Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1960.

DVD Video. The Fall of Eagles. BBC miniseries, 1974.

Margret McMillan. The War That Ended Peace: The Road To 1914. New York: Random House, Inc., 2013.

Thomas Pakenham. The Scramble for Africa. New York: Random House, Inc., 1991.

Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1970.

Briedis, Laimonas. Vilnius: City of Strangers. New York: Central European University Press, 2008.

Lindemann, Albert S. A History of European Socialism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983.

Diesbach, Ghislain. Secrets of the Gotha: Private Lives of the Royal Families in Europe. Barnes & Noble, 1993.

James, Lawrence. The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.

Furet, Francois. Revolutionary France 1770-1880. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992.

Kandell, Jonathan, La Capital: The Biography of Mexico City. New York: Random House, Inc., 1988.

Shy, John. A People Numerous and Armed. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, Revised Edition, 1993.

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Bunker Hill A City, a Siege, a Revolution. New York: Viking, 2013

Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India. Oxford University Press, 1977.

Holorenshaw, Henry. The Levellers and the English Revolution. New York: Howard Fertig, Inc., 1971.

Fraser, Antonia. Cromwell: The Lord Protector. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1973.

Stone, Lawrence. The Crisis of the Aristocracy 1558-1641.  Lawrence Stone, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965.

Israel, Jonathan I. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

Meyer, G. J. The Tudors: the complete story of England’s most notorious dynasty. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010.

Boxer, Charles R. The Portuguese Seaborn Empire: 1415-1825. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969.

Halecki, Oscar. A History of Poland. New Edition, New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1993.

Gordon, Stewart. When Asia Was the World. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2008.

Cameron, Euan ed. Early Modern Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Hourani, Albert. A History of the Arab Peoples. New York: MJF Books, 1991.

Gies, Frances and Joseph. Life in a Medieval Village. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990.

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

DVD Video. Oliver, Neil. A History of Scotland. BBC, 2010.

Fletcher, Richard. Bloodfeud: Murder and Revenge in Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Wells, Peter S. Barbarians to Angels. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008.

MacManus, Seumas. The Story of the Irish Race. New York: Random House, 1990.

DVD Video. Hughes, Bettany. Athens: The dawn of Democracy. PBS Home Video, 2007.

Rothman, Mitchell S. ed. Uruk Mesopotamia & Its Neighbors. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 2001.

Crawford, Harriet. Sumer and the Sumerians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Cauvin, Jacques. The Birth of the Gods and the Origin of Agriculture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Vlahos, Olivia. Far Eastern Beginnings. New York: The Viking Press, 1976.