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II. A Theory of Disintegration Print
 

"Freedom or death" is the cry of suppressed people throughout history. "Interdependence or death" is the realistic truth.
   "Freedom or death" is the cry still heard from the unsophisticated but "politically correct" masses. That "interdependence or death" is a precondition for their own lives, requires a deep understanding that has not yet reached them.
   This follows from my "monotheistic theory of power", as presented in an earlier paper with the modest subtitle 10.000 years in 10 pages.
   In it I said that our cultural history can be understood as if a hegelian World Spirit tried to minimize the fraction A/P. "A" stands for the Active Adrenalinomaniacs, or the male leaders of our world who, driven by their juices, always compete with and try to win over their closest competitors. "P" stands for the copulating Passive Population.
   The "A:s" compete as if they were in a tennis tournament. By eliminating each other one single Wimbledon winner is likely to emerge. "A" thus tends towards 1. If the result of "P":s copulation grows in the same way as cancer cells, the population explosion will soon go towards infinity, ° The end result is likely to become one single world ruler who has subordinated global population inside one single integrated world society.
   Or, expressed in symbols, I claim that history can be written as if the World Spirit tried to:q

 

Samuel P. Huntington's Clash of Civilizations comes, for instance, very close to the penultimate step in my vision of the future. (Foreign Affairs 1993.)
   Why is it so? Answer: because integration is a precondition for large scale division of labour. And large scale division of labour, that is, increasing interdependence, is a precondition for the survival of more than some ten million hunters and gatherers, foraging in wild nature.
   Freedom, in the sense of being dependent upon nobody else, is the antithesis of life-giving integration. Thus, "freedom or death" should properly, in the modern world with billions of inhabitants, be changed into "freedom and death". That is the lesson that the remnants of the Soviet empire is now experiencing. It is also what Western Europe may experience within a few decades if the old enemies follow the Yugoslav path instead of integrating into a firm European Union.
   Not having understood this, poor humanity has unconsciously used violence and warfare to achieve these two "integration preconditions" for the survival of our children.
   In spite of all unnecessary death, we may thus claim that we live in the best of all possible worlds, given Man's (lack of) intelligence.
   Such is my basic idea. That it is horrible does not necessarily make it false.

II:2 Reality as disintegration

Your theory must be mistaken. Just look around you. What you see is hardly anything but DISintegration. Reality consists of disintegration, much more than integration.
   That is an almost inevitable objection to my theory of power. And it may be justified if you take a short term view; say, the normal vision of a three-generation century.
   People rarely see the reality of integration because in the short run of our own life spans disintegration is, indeed, the overriding fact of life.
   Gibbon's famous book on "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" was first published in the same year, 1776, in which Adam Smith laid one foundation for the understanding of long-term integration. The Roman Empire fell to pieces some 1500 years ago; as did the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires after the first world war and the British and French after the second.
   Political reality since 1989 has been dominated by the end of the Cold War. When the external enemy disappeared, the Soviet Empire fell to pieces. Several pieces are becoming even smaller. Yugoslavia has split into fractions in a violent fratricide. Czechoslovakia has split peacefully.
   In the West we see similar tendencies in Quebec in Canada, in the Basque and Catalan provinces of Spain, in Corsica in France, in Flanders and Wallonia in Belgium, as well as in the drive for independent power in the German L‰nder, providing a model for much talk about a "Europe of the Regions". We also see this inside the United States, where a "politically correct" multiculturalism tends to create a potentially disastrous "disuniting of America". Many small ethnic and other groups in the USA now spit upon the idea of a "melting pot" that could weld everything together into one big integrated political unit. The lowest, but not least important form of disintegration is in "the first society", that of man and woman jointly giving protection to their offspring in a harsh world.
   The European Union seems to be an idea of the elite, not least the commercial elite, dragging the uncomprehending and reluctant masses along at a snail's pace.
   Certainly for most men and women, reality, from the fall of the Soviet Empire to the dissolution of the family, seems to consist much more of disintegration than integration.
   That, however, does not prove my theory wrong. Only that a different time-scale is necessary for understanding the long term trends of world history, summarized by my little formula, minimize A/P.

II:3 The slowness of integration

The careful reader of my theory will have observed the following lines: "History can be seen as an elimination contest, like in tennis. If 100.000 adrenalin-stuffed males played one round every 1.000 years for the passed 10.000 years, we would now be down to less than 200 members or would-be-members of the political elimination game...". I also showed that these figures are approximately realistic for the integration process of some 100.000 family kingdoms, when agriculture started, into the present 200 or so nations, led by adrenalinomaniacs who want voices in the United Nations.
   If integration was a linear process, each round of successful integration took about a thousand years. The process, however, is mainly related to the development of our technical instruments. This is is clearly exponential. In the beginning integration was very slow; today it is much faster.
   Just look at Italy for one example. Around 1510 Machiavelli badly wanted to unify his nation in defence against hostile surroundings. Cavour and Garibaldi achieved that 350 years later. But in the 1990's Italian union is still not very firm. The eternal question of poverty in the Mezzogiorno remains unsolved. New political parties in the north want to rid themselves of it by dividing the nation.
   The traditions from the Roman Empire, 350 years of pious wishes, and 130 years of formal union have not been enough to cement the Italian society.
   How ridiculous, then, do the wishes of the German and European peoples appear, wanting quickly to resolve German reunification and European Union! Patience, lots of it, will be required!
   A basic rate of integration does exist. But it it extremly slow. Thus few people see it.

II:4 Integration is conquest

Why is integration so slow?
   Let me suggest four answers: it is resisted as conquest; it is resisted as slavery; it is resisted as unnatural; and for optimal results evolution needs much time.
   A simple answer is that all integration is conquest and conquest is normally resisted, in warfare as well as in love.
   It is well know that humanity has developed from many small, poor, but independent social units, to fewer, bigger, richer, but ever more interdependent societies.
   This description implies three basic forms of integration.
   First we have external conquest, normally undertaken by warfare and violent suppression of one society by another. We may call this extensive integration, as it increases the area dominated by the adrenalinomaniac in charge of the victorious unit. Commonly this is thought of as a political process, whereby one nation conquers another. It may, however, also be an economic advance, by which one multinational company conquers the markets of another, or buys up the other so its area of economic domination becomes more extensive.
   Secondly, we have conquest within the bigger and formally sovereign units created by extensive integration.
   In the context of our economies being interwoven across national borders, we may speak about intensive international integration. In the context of our standards of living depending on the unification of many working units in a big domestic division of labour, we may speak of an intensive national integration.
   Any one of these three forms of integration, taken far enough, may cause the other two to happen. But, and this is a politically important thesis to which I will return in II:10, intensive integration of both sorts are historically necessary if we want to feed a growing population, "P". Extensive integration towards one single world ruler, or "A", may both lead and follow, but is not logically necessary for the economic results to materialize. Neither does extensive integration alone guarantee economic progress, as the Soviet Empire well has demonstrated.
   All three forms of integration imply conquest. All three are resisted by those who feel suppressed by the process. Greece wanted to get rid of Turkish domination, Hungary of Austrian, India of British, Indo-China of French, Indonesia of Dutch, Congo or Zaire of Belgian, Eastern Europe and Central Asia of Russian, feminists of men, and so on ad infinitum.
   Now, after the end of the Cold War, both Western Europe and Japan would like to get rid of the United States domination of their international political lives. As they can only do so by developing their own strong atomic weapons, these disintegration tendencies are particularly noxious to human survival.
   The first reason why integration is such a tremendously slow process is that it involves conquest. The resulting feelings of having been conquered and suppressed remain alive for generations. They can be overcome, but very very slowly and only if the original acts of aggressive conquest are transformed into mutual solidarity between the conquerer and the conquered.
   Which is not a very easy proposition to realize!

II:5 Work is slavery

One specific aspect of intensive integration is slavery. As Orlando Patterson has shown, this was the choice for prisoners of war, since history began. The alternative was death.
   Throughout civilization bondage in one form or another has been the destiny of most men and women. Today it takes the form of disciplined wage work. The threat of unemployment and misery is the whip.
   When integration occurs, the defeated people usually get the worst jobs. If the conquest leads to even greater division of labour within a hierarchical organization, the defeated people will be pushed down to the bottom. The conquistadores will sit at the top.
   This situation will be resented. The more resented it is, the greater the danger of attempts at revolution or other forms of disintegration.
   We will return to the subject of work, laziness, and the labour market in later essays, I hope.

II:6 Society is unnatural

We, the voting public in democratic societies, normally lament our situation. Our leaders are a bunch of crooks, if not simply stupid power-seekers. Taxes are always too high, however little you pay. Tax money is always misspent. And so on.
   Sure, everything is always better in our dreams. But we should start to appreciate how extremely difficult it is to keep big societies together. If it is in our human nature to live in small, relatively independent societies ñ as we have done for hundreds of thousands of years ñ big ones in which all members are thourougly interdependent may be seen as unnatural.
   On average it has taken about a thousand years to find a stable form for another step in the integration chain. In every generation of every century integrated societies have been threatened by disintegration, even collapse.
   Realistic political philosophers have understood this situation. It has forced them to advocate severe tactics by leaders who want to preserve their social units. From Machiavelli and his ruthlessly cynical advice to the Princes of this world, via Hobbes and Spinoza, to Morgenthau, it was realized that self-preservation of society requires, to speak with Spinoza, that "men should be free to discuss even the laws, short of inciting to sedition".
   Today the world is full of talk of sedition. Will the realist school once more suggest to the leaders that some harsh, disciplining measures are necessary? Or is an economic depression with high unemployment a sufficiently disciplining whip? Or will we need the much discussed external enemy again, to appreciate the value of well integrated and stable societies?
   These are some important questions as we approach the third millennium after Christ.

II:7 Evolutionary trial and error

On a deeper level there may be an evolutionary explanation for the slowness of integration and the failure of most of our attempts.
   If Man is looked upon as a normal animal, with speech, tools and institution-building capacity added, he is subject to normal evolutionary laws.
   At least from a human point of view, evolution is always slow and never stable. The "fitness" of all other animals is judged by the criterion of "reproductive success". If we accept the same for Man, we have been enormously "fit"! What, then, is a truly "fit" integration?
   We have two alternative ways of looking at the process of integration, hinging upon who is to be considered an instrument for whom.
   History can be seen as a continuous duel between adrenalinomaniac males. Their different societies can be considered as instruments for their individual success. Society is the sword with which one power-hungry leader tries to beat the other.
   The members of society might be seen as the children of the leader, transporting his genes into the next generation. The dueller who has the strongest sword will have the greatest reproductive success.
   Alternatively, a leader may be seen as the instrument for the survival of his society. The weak masses need a strong man who, like Saint George, can wield a big sword against all the dangers of life. The genes of the group with the strongest leader will survive. It is the "fittest".
   From an evolutionary point of view, it does not matter much which of these two perspectives is chosen. What does matter is that the evolutionary process, also in the cultural field of human instruments and institution-building, is an extremely slow and erratic process. Social mutations are rarely perfect. They have to be tested, tested again, and retested before we come close to anything approaching perfection.
   Possibly the slowness of integration and the historical ubiquity of disintegration is nothing but the testing process of the World Spirit, in search of an institutional melÈe to feed more and more of our genes in an ever better way?
   Evolution is never stable. It has no end. As long as life exists, spontaneous mutations will occur. Adaptions are always necessary. Tendencies to disintegrate may be warning signals that an institutional balance, once reached, is not good enough for different circumstances.
   Then one question arises: must we fight it out with ever new duels, with ever new bloodshed, or have we become wise or self-conscious enough to manage peaceful change through adequate compromise?
   This is probably the pertinent question with regard to our present difficulties after the Cold War.
   Have we become wise enough peacefully to manage the cultural evolution process? Or will we remain its violent (Yugo-)slaves, with possible ABC-extinction as a likely result?

II:8 The future of civilization

The slowness of integration and the ubiquity of disintegration are historical facts. But what is likely to happen, if we just continue our old ways? Let me suggest three answers: a new Dark Age, ABC-extinction, or a new leadership of multinational managers.
   "At stake, one could argue, is the future of civilization itself. The struggle for civilization has always been a struggle for unity, universality, ecumenism. ...These periods have been succeeded in turn by periods of fragmentation, factional strife, and relative barbarism..." (Commentary, July 1993.)
   So argues a worried observer of today's fragmentation, Patrick Glynn. The Greek and Roman civilizations were follwed by disintegration in the Dark Ages. Charlemagne tried to revive Roman unity but failed. Feudalism and baronial wars took over. The Renaissance lifted us up again. It was crushed by the religious wars following the Reformation. Back came the Enlightenment and the l9th-century Concert of Europe, lasting until the long European civil war between 1914 and 1945.
   Patrick Glynn asks if the present fragmentation or disintegration is a warning of a new period of relative barbarism, a new Dark Age. In my terminology: are we facing a new, violent testing period before the next evolutionary step in a global integration chain?

II:9 Can 60 years equal three millennia?

A new period of barbarism would be especially lamentable for the five billion defenseless children due to be born in the next two generations. Hundreds of millions, possibly billions would suffer unnecessary deaths.
   Leading demographers tell us that humanity will double in about sixty years. Before the year 2050 we will have added equally many individuals to the living human stock as we did between the birth of Christ and today.
   Culture, K, can be seen as the sum total of all the instruments Homo Sapiens has created to achieve his, so far, enormous reproductive success. It can also be seen as growing in response to the increasing pressure upon the limited resources of nature, R, on our finite planet.(Or, in symbolic terms, K=f(P/R))
   If that is correct, we should expect a period of extremely fast cultural changes, driven by population growth on an already environmentally threatened globe.
   There might be as many technological changes during the next sixty years as there were in total from the invention of the wheel until today; as many institutional changes as from the laws of Hammurabi until today; as many changes in values as from Buddha and Jesus until today. And probably weapons will "improve" equally.
   In fact, we are about to sqeeze three thousand years of human history into a mere sixty. Or, expressed differently, the Greek and Roman civilizations, the Dark Ages, Charlemagne, feudalism, the Renaissance, the Reformation, Enlightenment and two world wars might be repeated within the next sixty years! No wonder we feel a bit disoriented, not to say dizzy!
   "If history teaches us anything, it is that when 'P' goes up, 'A' goes down" in my formula for the behaviour of the World Spirit. If population doubles in sixty years, the conclusion is that instead of fragmenting, the nations of the world should try to integrate even faster. If the number of sovereign adrenalinomaniac leaders, "A", has fallen from several tens of thousands of small "family kings" to 200 or so sovereign presidents, when "P" has gone up from, say, one hundred million to five billion, to me it seems more than likely that we must approach One World, when "P" goes from five to ten billion.
   A disintegration process, combined with the diffusion of the ABC-weapons, seems to me to be the most irresponsible behaviour mankind can engage in right now.
   What we need, it seems, is as much integration in the next sixty years as we have had over the past three thousand!
   What is more, and even more difficult, we should reach it with enlightenment and compromise as the major instruments. Because ABC-wars have become too dangerous for our reproductive success.

II:10 The Wisdom of the World Spirit?

Possibly the World Spirit is thinking about getting rid of the rather irritating Homo Sapiens.
   Three leading Nordic intellectuals have come to this conclusion, as did Richard Gott in Nature May 27, 1993. The latter showed, on extremely speculative grounds, of course, that it is possible to estimate the "natural" future of our species at between 200.000 and 8 million years. But if we continue to misbehave as we do now, we may only have twelve years to go!
   A Swedish professor of human ecology, Bengt Hubendick, echoing Euripides' 2400 year old pessimism, has pointed out that if Man is too troublesome for Nature, Nature will get rid of this nuisance, as of millions of other species already gone. The leading post-war literary intellectual in Sweden, Olof Lagercrantz, predicted mankind's self-inflicted demise around the corner, as an inevitable fact. "For the world I belong to, I have no hope. The ruin is built into the system because every cry of warning is at once ridiculized and thus rendered innocuous." His friend and Ludwig Wittgenstein's literary inheritor, George Henrik von Wright in Finland, agreed, adding that such a fate would not be more important to Nature than "a pipe full of tobacco" is to him.
   Possibly the World Spirit is balancing our existence. But perhaps He is only playing with the actors. He may be fed up and tired with politicians, wanting to see new and more dynamic men in the lead.
   There is one hypothesis that may put the present disintegration tendencies in a good light. The World Spirit may know what He is doing. He may, after all, let us live in the best of all possible worlds, given our human (lack of) intelligence.
   It is possible that He needs a new type of collaborator, successfully to achieve the next stage of reproductive success.
   My hypothesis is that the managers of multinational companies will take over from politicians as the true leaders of the world in the next two generations, when we will have to create one world market if we want to feed twice as many fellow men.
   This idea is related to point II:4 above, that extensive political integration may not be stricly necessary for the minimization of A/P.
   Politicians are narrow-minded. They are limited in their thinking and acting by the nation, the narrow interests of their voting public, and by ideas of national sovereignty. Because of that they may be too slow for the taste of the World Spirit in peacefully uniting the present 200 sovereign nations into one efficient world economy.
   The managers of the multinational companies, on the contrary, are already thinking globally. For a couple of generations they have been educating their leaders to jump national borders and adapt to circumstances in almost any part of the world. What is more, in their quest for expansion and conquests ó at which they are equal to the politicians ó this group of adrenalinomaniacs has been culturally conditioned to find non-violent solutions to conflicts.
   One added advantage may arise when we clarify the meaning of "one world" or one Active Adrenalinomaniac at the top of the world pyramid. One world does not necessarily mean one nation with one sovereign president or prime minister. It could be one world market, in which the division of labour could be extremely detailed and thus efficient enough to provide food and other necessities to another five billion human beings. Thus, nations could remain, in even greater numbers.
   Then, for instance, the one single "A" may become one of the major bankers of the world, such as the head of Deutsche Bank. He will certainly become extremely powerful in financial and even political matters. But he will know that his actions will be constrained by thousands of financial managers, moving their capital in response to his actions on an anonymous market. He will never become as dangerously powerful as a single world political dictator.
   When world political units split at the same time as multinational companies continue with mergers and take-overs, a shift in relative power is bound to take place. The political units become relatively weaker, the economic units relatively stronger. The way ahead for multinational leaders to unify the globe into one single world market will become smoother.
   From these three points of view - training to overcome national borders, non-violent solutions to unavoidable conflicts, and limitations of power - the managers of multinational companies and banks may, in the next millennium, become better instruments than politicians for the World Spirit in his efforts to minimize A/P.
   Is that possibly the deepest rationale for the present political fragmentation and disintegration tendencies in our world?

Gunnar Adler-Karlsson. ©

 

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