Slavery as a disease of civilization…and then capitalism?

Decoding World History ED 1_6dcdx

The film Spartacus is a reminder of something discussed in Decoding World History: slavery was a disease of civilization and doesn’t appear at the dawn of higher civilization in Sumer and early Egypt. We have images in mind of slaves building pyramids but at the start they were patriotic draftees. The exact history of slavery is not clear, but the modern world of abolition reminds of the now obvious: all the world done in work done in world history could have been done without slavery which has no teleological anything behind it while the issue of higher civilization itself is part of a larger macroevolution. It is surely false to say that slavery could only be overcome by the industrial revolution. The Christian world replaced slavery up to point but created a world along the lines of the code of Manu, peasant, lords, warriors, priests, with slavery still extant yet modulated in the medieval fantasy of Christians. In the core transitional zone of the  modern transition abolition was roughly the case, but then capitalism starts a regression and in the frontier zones, e.g. America, the disease makes a comeback.

If the pyramids were originally constructed by free citizens the point is clear enough. History has two levels and in Athens we see the birth of eleutheria/democracy even as slavery is growing cancerous in the occident to the point of the terminal depravity of Rome. We note this strange set of layers and be mindful that our liberation in the future is being prepared now, and in fact already exists, even as civilization seems to be passing into another endemic disease. But we don’t have option of waiting two millennia for liberation from capitalism. Socialists arose at the dawn of capitalism and sounded the warning: do it now at the birth of capitalism. So far no such chance.
Unfortunately, we don’t quite have a sufficient database for world history to fully explore such questions. Yet slavery reminds us that most of history is a series of mistakes, deviations, and immense delusion. Higher civilization emerges and slowly but surely begins to deviate into slavery (the origin in some accounts is from prisoners of war) and this becomes endemic to the point that the era of Rome and its passing republic is a tragedy of history. It is no accident that a movement of liberation in the form of religion emerges at this point. But Christianity is a very ambiguous entity in this regard and very soon is part of the problem: no Spartacus there.
One can recommend a close study of the eonic model to come to see something unnerving: homo sapiens invented slavery as a disease of civilization and was unable to extricate himself from that without external macro processes, the eonic model and its transitions. It is again no accident that slavery is abolished directly in the period of the modern transition, and close to its divide point. The model discusses the divide point ca. the generation around 1800 and here we see an immense cluster of revolutionary potentials, the French Revolution, feminism a divide bullseye, the American democratic start, capitalism/industrialization, and notably the abolitionist movement, and then the rise of socialism and world of Marx/Engels. And much much more. Some mysterious macro effect is directly associated with the passage from slavery. It is as if civilization can actually get underway, finally. But a new problem arises: capitalist exploitation and the capture of the state by capitalists. Although the issue of capitalism is different from slavery we should see the resemblance and take the warning that capitalism against protest from various versions of the left is becoming endemic in civilization in a mixed set of pluses and minuses, but as a dominant new disease of civilization, even in concert with its benefits. In the final analysis, the minuses are in danger of coming to the fore and we see that capitalism is becoming a danger to civilization itself. The rise of the spectrum of the left we should note is also a macro-eonic effect and the resolution of the capitalist issue at its core remains to be solved. But so far capitalism has moved to destroy the left, so far. Figures like Marx, and the early socialists, are world-historical in their core relevance. The core of his generation’s gestation of the modern left is also a macro effect. Man has to be taught class struggle. In any case, we must as we pass further and further from the modern transition be mindful of degenerating capitalism becoming endemic. It may simply end in chaos, and if the Bolsonaro’s can simply declare war against the Amazon basin then we see an endgame. But the point here is that while the issue of capitalism was ambiguous from the start it is also cursed from the start with a jeckyl/hyde fate as its malevolent forms turn like slavery into a disease of civilization. It is hard to see how the modern brand of endemic capitalism can be overcome, but it may be doomed to self-destruction.

Source: 60 years of Spartacus • International Socialism – 1848+: The End(s) of History

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