Let us note that marx was educated in the early nineteenth century, and it should suspected that he had a somewhat limited view of world history compared to what we can see now.
Marx’s ‘stages of production’ theory’ posits for example a progression from feudalism to capitalism to communism. But this can’t really be right. None of these are ‘stages’ of history. Feudalism is a medieval subset, while capitalism has no real beginning in modern times: capitalism has been developing since the neolithic, its modern explosion is really connected with the industrial revolution and new forms of finance. But all of that existed in greek times, embryonically, perhaps, and that was centuries before ‘feudalism’, mostly again an occidental phenomenon. Marx’s views might have seemed logical in the early nineteenth century but now they are simply goofy. The whole system simply crashes on this point.
The left is still stuck in this misperception and it makes their views easy to challenge/refute. The left MUST abandon this nonsense and start over.
We have suggested a better way to periodize world history (based on a ultra-simplified version of the ‘eonic effect’):
World history shows a completely transparent sequence of periods, the era from Egypt/Sumer from 3000 BCE to about 600 BCE, from 600 BCE to 1800 AD and 1800 AD to some unknown future phase of civilization…You can slide these dates backward by several centuries, 3300 BCE, 900 BCE, 1500 AD and the result is about the same…and we suspect this list goes back into the neolithic…We see that ‘feudalism’ is stranded in the medieval stage of our second so-called epoch.
This is not dogma: you can periodize world history in many ways, but the above has many advantages. It is a basic ‘eonic effect’ or set of epochs. And historians over and over again instinctively adopt this periodization (though not always). It is handy to do it this way, that’s all. The so-called ‘eonic model’ (which is not a theory) can be put to the sidelines and/or used to clarify this periodization. But in the end it is empirical and ironically non-falsifiable because it is not a theory but three huge data files. And global civilization cascades out of this pattern, not forgetting the neolithic. For some reason world history seems to change gears around 3000 and 600 BCE and then around 1800 (really more like 1500 to 1800). One interesting result is that the ‘modern’ epoch is barely underway by any comparison with the ancient phases. A useful way to periodize modernity. And one that does not as such predict the end of its own epoch: we cant enclose the present in a deterministic system. We must be free to contradict such a system. In our approach that is the case. (in the eonic model we are probably exiting the whole set of epochs into a free future).
And you can simply study economic systems as they arise in this massive data set. The economies of ancient egypt/sumer, quite apart from many changes over time, don’t really fall into any of marx’s categories, the ‘oriental despotism’ category being inadequate to the varieties we see. We can’t produce a theory of this such as ‘historical materialism’ and must study each one empirically, a blessing in disguise.
The point here is that if feudalism and capitalism fail as world epochs we can’t expect ‘communism’ to arise teleologically from them. We reject marx’s theories, but much of this thinking is still useful: we can certainly look at class struggles or economic relations in our set of ’empirical epochs’ (taken in the rough). Marx may be right for a different reason: the capitalism we see now is about to destroy a whole planet, we need to develop a new system. But we better be ready to confront a whole series of alternate futures that current elites may concoct. If we think communism should come next we have to define it and make it come about. That’s the worst mistake of marx: he never defined what communism was to be yet predicted its inevitability, disastrous, he unwittingly left that to stalin, with lenin in left field replicating the tsarist secret police. If we declare that communism must be democracy, then the issue of lenin/stalin never arises. And people still say bolshevism was ‘communism’. It wasn’t. We can define a real version and eliminate stalin’s as not-in-slightest way communism. And so on. But there is no next epoch of communism as such. That was propaganda. Again in a logical way marx was right: if we assume axioms of fairness and equality we can derive a whole set of communisms and assess their viability as just systems, etc…And climate calamity pretty well suggests the need to take control of ‘capital’ before its lunatics destroy civilization.
In terms of our epochs there is a simple solution to the confusion: democracy does rise in terms of our epochs, for mysterious reason. Hegel sensed it and then spawned (not this fault) the whole morass of ‘end of history’ propaganda.
Whatever the case, democracy in the modern era is a definite center of gravity (until fascists take over and return us to a middle ages). Our problem is easily solved: communism must by definition be a democracy based on axioms of fairness (we need a more complex discussion, no doubt). We are saddled up and ready to go. And here marx was again very perceptive: capitalism has thwarted democracy: we must produce a ‘socialist/communist’ democracy.
If we say that we MUST move on, the reason is clear: you can’t expose the flaws of your theory to your enemies.
We should discuss this essay later: many define capitalism so that it is really a modern phenomenon. Or coincident with the end of slavery.
Our approach would be to consider continuous versus discrete stages with (relative) discontinuities, none of it quite making sense.
But consider again the case of greece (we pick greece because it is better documented, our statements might point to something far more general). Ancient greece had factories. period. with our without slavery, and no modern machines. And consider stock markets in their original form, groups of bidders in a public square trying to raise funds. The greeks had that too, surely. And probably the sumerians also.
So what is capitalism: our eonic model carefully distinguishes stream and sequence, continuous or discontinuous/sequence histories. But surely the history of capitalism is continuous all the way through, with greater or lesser realized versions. It looks like capitalism suddenly appears via a semi-discontinuous apparition in a new epoch at around the time of the french revolution. It doesn’t really work. Nonetheless it surely seemed like it to marx: the industrial revolution and capital finance did indeed seem to crystallize and that in eighteenth century. But it is not really a complete novelty and is more like an amplification of a continuous history. So we are really seeing is a series of capitalisms in continuous remorphings, capitalism 1, cap…2, etc….starting very early in world history.
(The eonic model shows the way to consider discontinuities in history, but this doesn’t apply to economic streams).