Tuesday, January 08, 2008


A Universal Basis for Science and Religion, Part 8, The Industrial Revolution (1500-1950)

A Universal Basis for Science and Religion, Part 8, The Industrial Revolution (1500-1950)

When Roman Civilization collapsed there was no longer a civil service to bring back status symbols from far places. Individual traders replaced them, and they got rich. This wasn't entirely satisfactory because the status symbols only worked for the descendants of the warlords of the middle ages, which left the traders and bankers rich but still common.

Calvin solved this problem. He invented a new kind of aristocracy, the Elect, who were directly appointed by God over the heads of the existing social and religious hierarchy. The sign of being elect was God-given prosperity, so Calvinism became a religion of upward-mobility for the middle-class through the acquisition of money. This process continued for the next few centuries.

The traders had taken advantage of the new technology of sailing ships and traded junk or cheap hardware for status symbols. The planters used the technology of slavery on big plantations to become the new establishment. In North America they fought a war to get out from under the old aristocracy.

Meanwhile, english mechanics like Sam Slater had brought over textile machinery and adapted it to New England's water power and, later, steam. These industrialists made machinery that could be operated by women and children and got very rich. In the American Civil War they broke the power of the southern planters and became the establishment.

By the turn of the century they were building mansions in Newport and marrying their daughters to impoverished european aristocrats and they left their factories to be run by the clerks and mechanics. By the World Wars they had been replaced by the corporate and government bureaucracy. They also used the G. I. Bill to turn a generation of potential workers into junior bureaucrats who aped their betters by conspicuously consuming imitation status symbols.

By 1950 it was clear that there weren't enough resources to waste the way the bureaucrats of Western Civilization were wasting them, so there was a concerted effort to prevent the external proletariat and the internal proletariat of women and people of color from being upwardly mobile. Western Civilization became more and more closed to immigrants (now stigmatized as "illegal"), and wars and dictatorships were encouraged among undeveloped countries. In the mideast the rebellion against this repression stimulated fundamental Islam, and in Latin America it stimulated revolutionary movements. In both areas certain groups were able to use oil resources to become difficult to exterminate.

It is not clear whether the U. S. elections of 2008, which will probably end with a president who is female or a person of color, will serve to provide a solution to the world crisis in class conflict and waste of resources, which are closely connected. There is a significant chance that there will be no solution short of the decline and fall of Western Civilization. The decadence of the existing establishment, and the resurgence of religious fundamentalism among the internal proletariat are certainly symptoms of a collapse; but it is possible that the enthusiasm of young entrants into politics who recognize the potential for disaster of the status quo will provide time to find a future that will be based on global egalitarianism and ecological responsibility. That may not be possible without first experiencing a complete collapse of Western Civilization, but there is no theoretical reason for it to be impossible.

Right now it seems unlikely because there is no religion, or even political ideology, which advocates global egalitarianism and ecological responsibility. Even the "Green" parties that advocate environmental conservation do so within a context that maintains the status difference between the western establishment and the external proletariat. There are no parties or religions that advocate egalitarianism except in symbolic terms (e.g., elections) and in giving the internal and external proletariats equal opportunity to be exploited. Again, it is possible for egalitarian ideologies or religions to be invented, but there isn't enough motivation for that to happen.

So it may well be that an ideology or religion of global egalitarianism and global ecological responsibility will not be invented until it is necessary, for instance as a rallying cry for the next "Creative Minority" to meet the challenge of rebuilding a civilization on the ruins of the present one. Only when the cooperative effort of all the talent and resources of the world is necessary for our species to survive will it be likely for that kind of religion/ideology to become popular.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?