Foundations of History

Structures in the Foundation of History

  1. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/19/civilization-and-evolution/
  2. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/19/civiliztion-and-teleology/
  3. http://darwiniana.com/2011/05/19/rise-of-the-neolithic/

These three pieces from Darwiniana.com require some attention. They all illustrate issues, it appears to me, that need to be dealt with in order to better traverse the terrain of “History” as a subject.

(1) So “civilizational” evolution is the same as that which produced human beings to begin with? … An interesting notion, but it begs the question, then, what’s meant by the world “EVOLUTION?” Is it a trans-historical dynamic of the natural world playing itself out in deep time? Or, it is more accurately applied to the development of distinct systems in historical sequences? That’s the question that needs to be asked …The word is somewhat shady since the commonly accepted, funded, definition necessarily ties it in with genetics and biological descent … Therefore, what we could use here are three new terms in a revised epistemology of evolutionary change –>  A) For the dynamic of biological change, B) for the development of generalized systems in lieu of the “E”-word, and for, C) trans-historical, trans-systemic change over areas of space and time. … That’s what would help to have here to avoid these confusions.  (Any suggestions?) …

(2) “Evolution” and “Teleology”: Fine idea, but let’s define the playing field. Is this ‘TELEOLOGY’ more related to human affairs, natural process, or some element of ‘consciousness’ <or what have you> necessarily producing or eliciting ‘sapience’ and self-‘motion’ or ‘direction’ out of natural systems? … See the problem here? It all seems to be pointing to an ‘artificer‘ or manner of ‘artifice’ where the deus-ex-machina of living organisms and then humankind are pulled (or drawn) ‘out of the works’, as if by the hand of design or a designer. That the dilemma here, because it makes it look like some sort of GAIA/god/ or collective consciousness-function in nature is doing it … That’s bound to draw skepticism … If there is going to be TELELOGY here, what’s it entail and what its’ functional’ makeup? Or, in lieu of calling our macro-dynamic “teleology”, what’s it to be named or designated as? That would go a long way in clarifying this issue over teleo-‘mechanism’ in historical evolution.

(3) “Rise of Civilization” question: religion, physical factors, and the causality issue. … Traditional historiography posited contributing factors like agriculture, citification, et al, led to the rise of civilizations. Now the claim’s being advanced that religious impulse in the Neolithic period in fact gave rise to Civilization. There is a resonance in such an idea I would agree, and I would more than endorse a macro-historic interpretation where Civilization “jumps” as it were with the synchronization of religion and many of these other factors. However, in order to get clear on what it is that happened and in fact what “civilization” here is in the first place, I think it’s important to understand the manifold meaning of the term. Two biggies about this: ‘civilization’, as ‘complex-societal-structure’ & a ‘system of meaning’, (aka a ‘culture’) isn’t really an entity in itself; it’s more like a network between human communities. That couldn’t have come about without an integrating web of interlocking linkages over trade and communications routes (ala Andre Gunder Frank’s 5,000 Year Old World System)(though actually I’d be more willing to call it an 8,000 Year Old Worldwide World System to tie it in with the integration that was already taking place in the final millennia of the Neolithic). In any case, “Civilization” as such can be seen to emerge with the first pulling-together of this Afro-Eurasian World System. For more information on this, readers here are encouraged to reference the writings of world system historian and historical sociologist/economist Andre Gunder Frank at http://www.rrojasdatabank.info/agfrank/.

With that said, I believe we have a better view into this issue of the “Rise of Civilization” than without these considerations in play.  The point is, if “History” seems to be shadowy, you try to illuminate it.

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2 Responses to Foundations of History

  1. John Landon says:

    Thanks for the links here. I think that the question of evolution in history is hard for many to grasp, but is essential for seeing the context of the emergence of civilization.

  2. I’d agree with you on this: “history” and “evolution” are a packaged deal. You can’t understand “history” but for “evolution,” and you can understand “evolution” but for the temporal sequencing of “history.” Re: “civilization”, AGF’s thoughts on it are interesting. He didn’t believe in distinct entities called “civilizations”, but as for there being (‘civilizational’?) nodes in World System History, he seemed amenable with the idea of such junctures in human communications and trade networks. As that’s the case, maybe it’s time to revisit ‘civilizations’ sociologically to determine just what these units in historical events actually are/were, to apply a better term for the concept …

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