The Laws of History

The Laws of History

The Laws of History

The Laws of History

Synopsis

Building on his previous work in The Dynamic Society and The Ephemeral Civilization, Graeme Donald Snooks lays bare the forces driving human society from its earliest beginnings to its present stage of evolution and examines why previous attempts to discern these laws have failed.

Excerpt

Since the sixteenth century the scholarly community in the West has accepted the existence of scientific laws of nature. Over the past four centuries modern science has been preoccupied with the discovery and practical application of these laws. This has revolutionized both the natural sciences and human civilization.

While the human sciences have also made rapid progress during this time, their results have been less remarkable. They have been unable to account for the forces underlying the changing fortunes of human society despite the heroic attempts of some of the greatest intellects produced by the human race over the past three millennia. We need only recall the efforts of Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, Marx, H.T. Buckle, and J.S. Mill. There are many more. The modern response is to accept this heroic failure as evidence that there are no universal laws governing human society—that the laws of history exist only in the imaginations of visionaries. Postmodernists are even prepared to make the defeatist and unscientific claim that there is no objective reality.

But what is the reason for expecting the human sciences to differ from the natural sciences? If we are unable to imagine a physical world operating in the absence of the laws of nature, how is it possible to imagine social systems operating without the laws of history? The counterfactual world to the one in which viable dynamic societies exist is the one in which everything is the outcome of a great cosmic lottery. Just as there could be no universe without physical laws, there could be no civilization without historical laws. Surely the intellectual giants of the past are not well matched by the defeatists of the present.

This book takes the radical position that, as social systems are not fundamentally different from physical systems, laws of history must exist. They only remain to be discovered. This book, therefore, is concerned not only with why the great law-seeking expeditions of the past failed, but how a new expedition might succeed. Only those willing to abandon the defeatist stance of contemporary scepticism will feel comfortable during this odyssey. As Henry Buckle, one of historicism’s greatest explorers, wrote in 1861 about his own attempt to discover the laws of history: ‘he who undertakes it will meet with little sympathy, and will find few to help him’. In this respect, nothing has changed during the past century.

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