The Ephemeral Civilization: Exploding the Myth of Social Evolution

The Ephemeral Civilization: Exploding the Myth of Social Evolution

The Ephemeral Civilization: Exploding the Myth of Social Evolution

The Ephemeral Civilization: Exploding the Myth of Social Evolution


The Ephemeral Civilization is an astonishing intellectual feat in which Snooks develops an original and ground-breaking analysis of changing sociopolitical forms over the past 3,000 years.


Civilization is like a river. Walking along its banks we are drawn compulsively to the river’s sparkling, ever-changing surface, with its noisy progressions, its sudden directional changes, its unexpected reversals, and its slow descent into the wild chaos of the great ocean. To begin again anew. Watching from a safe distance we are fascinated by the abundance of life swarming in and around this vibrant surface. Its brilliant ephemeral display distracts us from the river’s hidden depths. We are beguiled into believing that some superficial principle of movement is at work. Only those who wade into its depths discover that powerful, hidden undercurrents, rarely betraying their silent presence, are responsible for the constantly changing surface patterns. the ephemeral surface display has deep eternal origins. Those who wish to negotiate those waters ignore its silent forces at their peril.

Human society must be dealt with at two levels. the sparkling ephemeral forms of civilization are driven not by superficial happenings but by deeper eternal forces. These eternal forces have been examined in my recent book The Dynamic Society (1996). Here we will see how the deeper forces of life generate the ever-changing institutional forms of civilization, and will understand why the Ephemeral Civilization is not the outcome of a superficial principle of motion such as social evolution. Social evolution is no more than a myth—a myth that is challenged in this book.

Once again I wish to acknowledge the important contribution to our knowledge of human society made by thousands of historians in this and earlier generations. These people, who devote their lives to reconstructing the details of our past, rarely receive the wider recognition they deserve. It needs to be said that, without their valuable work, books of this nature could never be written. Unfortunately only a fraction of these scholars can be recorded in the References at the end of this book.

More specifically I wish to thank Gary Magee for reading the entire type-script and making many valuable suggestions, Adrian Snooks for his helpful comments on the Greek and Roman studies (Chapters 6 and 8) in Part ii, my wife Loma Graham for her perceptive comments on the book’s structure . . .

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