archive: historical materialism and the eonic effect
June 26th, 2017 ·
Our critiques of marxism from yesterday invoke a reiteration of our take on the eonic effect. If we critique historical materialism it seems equally controversial to promote the so-called ‘eonic model’. But there is a difference: historical materialism is not believable anymore despite the obsessive clinging of marxists to its tenets. The issue of the eonic effect is completely different: it is not a theory about history,
if only because the data for that is incomplete, but a set of observations about the clustering of fast and slow advances visible in world history. We can gladly challenge a critic to refute any theory about this but the situation remains the same: the evidence is there for a non-random pattern that suggests a dynamic, some kind of directionality, etc…
Only a stance of willful ignorance can really defeat this strategy. Unfortunately, the general current of historical dogmatism is indeed obstinately and willfully blind to the evidence out in the open of something stunningly strange about world history. It would be nice if we could use the term ‘punctuated equilibrium’ here, but the term has already been subjected to sophistical bad theory.
But that very statement is a hint about what we are dealing with, no more than a hint.
We can simply do an end run here, first, as noted, by inviting refutation, with a chuckle, and next by using the model here (not the same as a theory) as an outline of history in a series of epochs, whatever that means, and dealing consistently in an empirical approach with that outline itself as a stand in for a dynamical argument. It is a foolproof strategy in a way. Here the issue of economic systems can be put into perspective by considering the element of free agency as fundamental. Our model enforces this because the interaction of some kind of epochal transition process clearly shows the ‘punk eek’ effect of a system in discontinuous action lapsing back into the action of such free agents. We can see that the evidence of a dynamic is only secondarily about economic systems. And that could liberate a
postmarxist left to a better consideration of culture and politics. The attempt to fixate world history in the scheme of economic fundamentalism backfired for the left and created if anything a more severe fixation on capitalism.
As an example of what we mean consider the evidence of discontinuous
action in the Greek archaic. No matter how hard you try, conventional
historians will prove willfully blind to the Axial Age.
But we can point empirically to the inexplicable massive clustering of
rapid innovation in the ‘axial’
interval of ancient Greece, noting in
the process its
spooky correlation in synchrony with events in ancient
Israel/Canaan, India, China, etc…You can refute the eonic model all you please but you can’t do away
with such evidence, whatever it means.
And we can see empirically that the world system in the wake of the massive advances of a new epoch enters into decline and medievalization. We can then point to the sudden rise of modernity as a similar transformation initiating a new era, precisely what everyone is actually doing without knowing why.
We need to see that capitalism is not driving either ancient or modern history. It may come to dominate the situation but if so we must move to relieve its distortions. We are free agents able to fix this situation and are not required to submit to the playing out of an economic situation in the name of