We have suggested a need for a broader view of history that can embrace history descriptively in its immense variety of categories. An additional strategy is open to anyone who can use the eonic effect/model as a substitute for ‘theories’ of history.
But the eonic effect is likely too strange for most and/or strikes the student as some exotic new form of speculative theory. That is not the case but we can foresee the worst and produce an ultra simple version of that model as a simple outline of history. Marx was big on ‘epochs’ of history. But his division into: …feudalism, capitalism, communism is fallacious from the start.
Actually the eonic effect produces the most obvious progression of epochs in a way that we already use, and one that is easily extended in the light of the revolution in archaeology: our cultural history is based on the massive set of innovations in proximate antiquity in the period after roughly 900 BCE, with a center of gravity aroundd 600 BCE plus a few centuries to indicate the onset of a new era of history: we see the Greek period of flowering, the birth of the Roman Republic, the Israel phenomenon and the birth of monotheism, the Buddhist ‘hindu reformation’ and the onset of a new world religion, and in China a huge flowering with tangible outcomes such as Confucianism and Taoism.
This new era tends to displace the earlier civilizations of Egypt, and Mesopotamia and we have a cultural matrix that stretches all the way to the onset of the modern world. The latter clearly indicates the same thing all over again and the explosion of modernity clearly indicates the onset of some kind of new era. That is the way we take it, although traditionalists tend to confuse the issue and denigrate modernity as some kind of deviation. But on the whole the new era of modernity suggests itself overwhelmingly.
That gives us one epoch of proximate antiquity and the onset of a new era in modernity.
The findings of archaeology have extended our knowledge backward and we can see that there is clearly an era prior to proximate antiquity in the civilizations arising in the wake of Sumer and Egypt whose sudden take offs around the period of 3000 BCE or so. As we examine this sudden transition we see in fact a third epoch prior to the two we see more clearly: the epoch of greater antiquity, and the legacy of dynastic Egypt and early Sumer. We don’t see the same parallelism in this period for a simple reason: China, India, Greece, and Rome, etc, are still untouched and begin to enter the sphere of higher civilization as the result of diffusion from the core area of the Middle East. While these produce their own cultures and innovations they are clearly direct descendants of Sumer and Egypt. Additional complexities no doubt enter here, but that picture makes sense of the data.
So we have three epochs, the third being one in which we are immersed.
Presto: we have an empirical map of a set of three epochs of world history. We can see that this is the way we take history, almost, if we can begin to study the details and it shows the real meaning of feudalism as the ‘middle part’ of the epoch of proximate antiquity. Taking feudalism as an epoch in itself was always misleading: it is the middle of something and the result of the decline from the high point of the start of the era of proximate antiquity onward.
The issue of capitalism is also given a new perspective: to equate capitalism with modernity is surely wrong. The forms of early capitalism are already present in the antiquity and we can see in early ancient Greece the equivalents of ‘primitive’ capitalism, and that because the greeks invented history and describe their own. But primitive capitalism was surely very real in the earlier epoch of the Mesopotamian world. Capitalism is an economic category and doesn’t really describe the broader forms of culture. We need broader categories that indicate that a culture has a multiplicity of factors beyond the economic.
But wait, this ultra simple framework (which doesn’t even need the idea of epochs, although the interval indicated are more than real) immediately suggests an extension. Why would this history start with Egypt and Sumer and then after their ‘real’ beginnings in the Neolithic? The answer is simple: we suspect that our epochs stretch backward into the Neolithic. Any student of the Neolithic can see the outlines of two or more earlier eras: the agricultural revolution around 8000 BCE and a secondary Neolithic around the middle of the sixth millennium BCE, and this emerging at first out of the Middle East, once again. Unfortunately our evidence thins out and we might do better to be wary of generalization, taking our suspicions however into account as a probable more complicated picture. Note that with the invention of writing we begin to get records at the level of centuries, and then decades and instantly the later progression of epochs stands out: look at the early history of Greece at the dawn of our ‘second’ epoch: consider how much we know is due to its historical record. Suppose we had no records of that history at the level of centuries: we would know almost nothing of what happened. So we see the problem with the Neolithic: we suspect but aren’t quite sure our phenomenon includes the Neolithic. But we can see that Sumer (and Egypt to some extent) has an earlier source in the preceding era prior to the 3000 explosion. And so on.
So, by simple inspection we have a usefully outline of world history with or without the Neolithic and the result is much better than a theory of history. The question of modernity is still a bit ambiguous. But almost every student of the subject has had the feeling this was the onset of a new era. Whether it is or not that’s the way we take it and look at the medieval period as receding into the past.
This is all we need to recast the issue of socialism and communism: we see that they are innovations or strong amplifications of the early modern. We don’t need end of history ideologies or theories of epochs. Instead we simply see that we are realizing modernity and that’s its innovations (or reinventions of things from antiquity lost in the middle ages) include a new form of capitalism, an immense technological revolution, and the parallel emergence of democracy, socialism, communism.
We have thus a more robust version of socialist history based not on a theory of economic epochs but on the cultural emergence of modernity taken factually as a set of cultural not just economic principles and as occurring in the dawn of the revolutionary transition to the modern world.
The conclusion suddenly becomes obvious: the modern world is moving to integrate the modern social transformation with the forms of new kinds of economy, along with much else. Let us note the huge achievement (or reachievement) of democracy in modern times. It is a simple deduction to see that socialism and democracy are part of the same trend of innovation and in that context the critique of Marx, his theories aside, of the way capitalism distorted democracy became an element of the search for a modern social construct that was liberated from the capitalist runway market phenomenon that within two centuries has put the whole planet at risk.
We can see that this kind of simple chronicle approach produces a much better and better founded world history than the ponderous attempts at theory.
We can try to create a theory of our own here, but we will find that the complexity is still great, the data insufficient and a host of other problems: for starters our empirical eonic effect is enough.