History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The eonic model vs economic interpretations of history

March 14th, 2009 · No Comments

One of the traps of Marx’s theory (and of many capitalist historical theorists) is the obsessive over-emphasis on the economic factor in history. Marx’s ‘historical materialism’ is a variant of the ‘economic interpretation of history’. It is claimed that economics drives history, or historical evolution.
Economic life is certainly a dominating concern! But this approach to historical theory is misguided, and unwitting traps us in the very process that constitutes a form of domination. The resolution is simple: to see that economies are human creations, and that changes are possible at any time.
That would seem obvious. But nothing is obvious anymore in an age of scientism, mathematical models, confused Darwinism, and historical materialist causal mania, which denies the power to make changes in the name of theory, postulating some ‘revolution’ to come as a dynamic of liberation.
As theory it was always a hopeless mess.
The eonic model provides something much simpler, and more coherent.
Here’s the selection (not online):
2.5.6 Econostream, Technostream,…and Eonic Sequence
We need to begin to distinguish between technological, economic, and ‘eonic’ evolution. We can see by direct correlation that technological evolution proceeds in many cases outside the eonic sequence, and economies are universal or omnipresent factors of culture. The rise of the modern world is confusing because it is the climax of a long development, and mixes technological and economic breakthroughs in a more abstract cultural evolution that sets the framework. That is our eonic effect, and it transcends economic and technological histories. The three separate components suddenly come together in a tremendous climax. The point is that macro-history in our sense doesn’t control these other sequences. It influences them where they overlap, but, by and large, they are human sources. A man can create something, innovate with a new technology, but that can happen at any time. Technological discovery can happen anywhere, anytime. And economic behavior stretches over vast areas, and occurs at all times. But the eonic sequence is carefully concentrated in its effects. In fact it seems to act by a minimum principle. Suppose you had a limited amount of energy to interact with civilizations, and you wish to act on the whole set of them. How would you do that? The eonic effect shows, amazingly, one way to do that. Pick a set of hotspots, act briefly, hope for good diffusion, and make sure the next time you interact that it is not in the same place, but not to far away to have to start over.
The Greek Axial by comparison Separating these different components can be done by considering the comparison of the modern transition and the Greek Axial. The structure of the two transitions is roughly the same, yet in the first case we do not see the emergence of capitalism, the printing press, or the technological explosion of modern science.
The eonic sequence is different from the random activity of economies, it stands in relation to a larger pattern. Economies are large fields of economic free agents. Economic activity spreads over a large area, occurs continuously, has its own history. Its dynamic is different. All these things can overlap, interact, but essentially they are different processes. Note that ‘something like capitalism’ is almost present from the beginning of world history, since Paleolithic man starting trading in obsidian. But the intersection, overlap, of ‘econostream’ and ‘eonic sequence’ can sometimes produce a dramatic effect. The Industrial Revolution is a good example. The eonic sequence generates a new form of capitalism. But, from then on the result proceeds as econostream. This approach resolves, by the way, the severe confusions that caused Marxists to tie their heads in knots with incorrect theories. There is something broader than the evolution of economic systems.
In general, in our distinction of ‘eonic determination’ and ‘free action’, technical innovation is a function of the discoverer’s abilities, hence falls into our category, ‘free action’. It doesn’t really need that ‘extra’ from the eonic effect. In a similar way, economies spread out over large areas, indeed globally. These, therefore, also fall into the category ‘free action’. It may of course happen that econostream, technostream, and eonic sequence overlap briefly with spectacular results. A good example is the Industrial Revolution, and one reason we tend to take it as the generator of modernity, but that won’t work.
The truly foundational advances, especially the most elusive cultural ones, tend to be clustered, and, no doubt because they are energy intensive, intermittent. These, and consider for example the case of ancient Greece, tend to be non-randomly distributed, hence are something more than ‘free action’. We assign them to our (undefined, save by periodization and geographical focus) ‘eonic determination’. We cannot avoid this distinction if we see that the innate abilities of members of particular cultural streams are probably evenly distributed in every generation, while periods of great advance are non-random, indeed in a sequential pattern. We see at once why people are puzzled by the Gutenberg Revolution, and the Chinese inventions of gunpowder, printing, the compass. The field of technical innovation can occur at random, hence to the most technically savvy. The flow of these innovations into the eonic sequence supercharges that sequence, but doesn’t cause it. We will note later the strong resemblance of the Greek transition, so-called, to the rise of the modern. Note that the first had none of this technology, while the second surged even further with them.
There is more to history than economics then. Historical materialism, left or right, was a great idea, but it is misleading us. The reason is that while economic activity can obviously influence society, the superstructure, its action is dependent on the social evolution of institutions to make it work at all. The modern world is often said to be a ‘capitalist age’, but that is not really the case, in the sense of a fixed stage of history, in the Marxist sequence. The rise of the modern, the transition, after all, was mercantilist. What we call capitalism suddenly crystallized near our ‘divide’. The general change of culture was very open ended. So far from being the teleological outcome of economic stages of history, the new capitalism is an ad hoc outcome whose effects required and received immediate challenge from the left.

Tags: Critique of Evolutionary Economy · Third Edition · World History and The Eonic Effect

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