History and Epochal Transitions? problems with ‘stages of production’ theory
Like a Cheshire cat the ‘eonic effect’ fades into shimmering background as an empirical series of epochal transitions replaces it, and stages of production theory…
September 26th, 2018 ·
History and epochal transitions? March 26th, 2018 ·
The legacy of Marxism contains a rich load of potential tools but is marred by the confusions of theory that beset Marx (and Engels) and rendered their work overall a contradictory package in practice.
Instead of historical materialism and/or dialectical materialism we have suggested a simple historical outline with modernity a sort of epochal transition (starting in the early modern) as the crucial focus. The progression of economic epochs in Marx is simply not correct as a long range perspective will clearly show: capitalism is gestating from the Neolithic and feudalism in many forms is recurrent. The Middle Ages aren’t really feudal, as such. So the whole scheme is a puzzle until we recast the whole problem.
We can inject our eonic model, but that might be controversial so we can simply map out a set of epochal intervals obvious to the naked eye.
(the preface of the paleo/neolithic)
the phase of onset of the State, Sumer, Egypt and era from ca. 3000 BCE onwards
the so-called Axial Age and its succession as an epoch, and this enforces a discipline of balanced study from Greece/Rome across Eurasia to China
the rise of the modern world from fifteenth to the eighteenth century…
We can try to interpret this pattern, or we can just take it empirically as a kind of punctuated series, wary of theories save as a descriptive category of development or civilizational evolution (wary of the term evolution, it just means what it means in conversational lingo).
In this context we can analyze class, economy, and technology empirically as histories or chronicles. Note that we add technological history as separate category: the onset of capitalism is often confused with the industrial (technological) revolution of the eighteenth century.
We can certainly focus on a working class analysis of these various eras and/or look at the whole in terms of multiple classes and posit the motion toward a universal class. But let us note that a working class dynamic is going to be incomplete: there is a double motion, the onset of the State as one kind of freedom and then almost dialectically a motion against the state as the birth of democracy. We note the resemblance of the democratic and the working class strain.
We should note that ‘feudalism’ is really an ideological version of the idea of caste that
so dominates India: the Aryan cast logic is simply a variant in the occidental middle ages. We can see then that overall the sudden amplification of capitalism in the industrial revolution period looks like the onset of a new epoch of economy, but surely to a close look we can see that that is not true.
We can resolve the question by seeing that democracy can’t be fully realized or the State truly fulfilled until we unite the working class, or better the gestating universal class into a common realization, viz. with a communist democracy…
We have both availed ourselves of a theme of proletarian ideology, Marxism, and escaped its rigid formulation which can obstruct clarity.
Let us note then that capitalism is developing at all stages of history even if it suddenly becomes a dominant factor in modernity. We can see that capitalism as economy and technology almost because an independent factor in history, but that’s not the same as saying it is a stage of history.
Let us recommend a closer look at the eonic model but without having to take it in full as another theory. But, all in all, we can see that an empirical approach can free us from the confusions that haunt Marxist ideas about inexorable stages of economic history.
The working class formulation is so classic and to the point we can work with that, but the idea of a ‘universal class’, which is really a variant of the individuality of all men given by the great religions, can be an equally valuable approach. We can easily change gears between the two concepts, also mindful that the class interests of the working class can’t be made an absolute: the nature of the state and its evolution into democracy and two separate issues, reaching their conclusion in their unification.
Another issue is the question of slavery: it is increasingly clear, although not certain, that slavery is never any kind of necessary stage in history, because it didn’t really exist at the birth of agriculture or the State: it appears to be a disease of civilization that grows progressively worse in the era after the rise of State Sumer/Egypt. Thus, it appears that
the Pyramids, at first, were constructed by free labor as a sort of military draft.
The dread disease of slavery is really related to emerging capitalism in an obvious sense, and overtakes the State in the later phase of our first epoch???
Whatever the case we cannot ascribe any necessary status to slavery: if the great pyramids were initiated by free labor the arguments for the inevitability of slavery as a stage (suspiciously lurking in Marx) collapse at once.