The Course of Human History: Economic Growth, Social Process, and Civilization

The Course of Human History: Economic Growth, Social Process, and Civilization

The Course of Human History: Economic Growth, Social Process, and Civilization

The Course of Human History: Economic Growth, Social Process, and Civilization

Synopsis

This text explores four major features of human society in their ecological and historical context: the origins of priests and organised religion; the rise of military men in an agrarian society; economic expansion and growth; and civilising and decivilising trends over time.

Excerpt

These essays offer routes to world history that are rarely traveled by historians. They are high mountain roads, from which one can see great distances. The authors call these broad vistas "long-term historical processes." The essays are the product of an unusual collaboration--a seminar on "Very Long-Term Economic and Social Processes," taught jointly at the University of Exeter by Stephen Mennell (now of University College Dublin), Johan Goudsblom (University of Amsterdam), and Eric Jones (University of Melbourne). Johan Goudsblom and Stephen Mennell are sociologists, influenced by the historical sociology of Norbert Elias. With Elias they revisit and revive the great traditions of Victorian social evolutionists Herbert Spencer, Edward B. Tylor, and Sir Henry Sumner Maine, and the historical sociology of Max Weber, all of whom pointed a way to world history a century ago.

Johan Goudsblom, who has previously written in Fire and Civilization about one of the most formative developments in human history, here discusses agrarian regimes from the neolithic revolution to the modern era. The dominant social process of these regimes, Goudsblom argues, is to create first priests and organized religion and then soldiers and military regimes. Skipping across millennia, he urges us to be guided by "phaseology" as well as chronology but to be warned that dominant trends often produce countertrends.

Stephen Mennell deals directly with the work of Norbert Elias. He explores the utility of Elias's notions of "civilizing" and "decivilizing" processes for an understanding of world history. While Elias concentrates on European, especially French, history, Mennell offers a framework for comparing these long-term social processes in European and Asian history.

The third author, Eric Jones, is an economist and economic historian, already familiar to world historians for such works as The European Miracle and Growth Recurring. In the latter work and the essays here, Jones suggests a new paradigm of economic history. Instead of marking all history from the vantage point of the Western Industrial . . .

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