Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Technology, Psychology, and Crises: Does World History Have a Psychological Dimension?

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Technology, Psychology, and Crises: Does World History Have a Psychological Dimension?

Article excerpt

Abstract

Data about the victims of social violence in different cultures and historical epochs are provided by wars, political repressions, and everyday violence. Rough calculations demonstrate that while demographic densities and the technical capacity for mutual destruction have increased throughout the millennia, the violent death rate - the quantity of deliberate killings per capita per time unit - has been decreasing. The resulting downward trend appears highly non-linear, dramatic, and mediated by man-made catastrophes, but still, in the long term, progressive. Obviously, some perfecting mechanism of cultural aggression-retention has compensated for technological developments; among those mechanisms was economic development. This issue is explored using the pattern of techno-humanitarian balance.

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2008.0005

Pages: 55-80

By: Nazaretyan, Akop P.

Themes: Historical Psychology

Keywords: Historical Psychology, Technology, Psychology, and Crises: Does World History Have a Psychological Dimension?

History is the progress of moral tasks. Not doings, but just the tasks, which mankind's collective might put before any certain person. The tasks were more and more difficult, almost impracticable; nonetheless, they have been fulfilled - otherwise, all should have fallen to pieces long ago (Pomerants, 1991, p. 59).

"After the notion of progress was basically discredited, no one dared to ask what mattered for the history of humankind as a whole", - said William McNeill in his interview to the newspaper "Historically Speaking" (Vol. IV, N 2, Nov., 2002) on his and his son's forthcoming book (McNeill & McNeill, 2003). Still, the author indicated and welcomed the growing interest in global retrospection among both professional historians and the interdisciplinary scientific community.

In this article, we expound on some cross-disciplinary results carried out lately by the Russian scientists. Insights from archeology, comparative history, social psychology, cultural anthropology, ecology and biology have been synthesized. A synergetic (i.e. chaos-theory) view of society as a sustainable non-equilibrium system and of culture as a complex anti-entropy mechanism served for data integration.

The research was mainly aimed at the practical tasks of ecological and geopolitical strategy, however its results acquired additional meaning in Big (Universal) History context (Christian, 1991, 2004; Spier, 1996; Nazaretyan, 1991, 2004, 2005b). Trying to discover common mechanisms and causal links, certain regularities are noted that may throw new light on two points thoroughly discussed in historical sociology. The first point is whether or not "panhuman history" may be reasonably construed; the second is whether or not there may be singled out anything like "laws of history".

In chaos-theory terms, human history is the story of one "self-similar" system, which exists on a scale of a million or so years and has been successively transforming itself to maintain sustainability. Retrospective analytical procedures have shown at least five mainstreams of consecutive global transformations: increases of world population, of technological power, of organizational complexity, and of mental information capacity, and perfection of cultural regulation mechanisms.

The first three mainstreams are inferred as "empirical generalizations" that are easily illustrated with figures. The fourth and the fifth require particular arguments (Nazaretyan, 2004). It is argued that the continuation and perfection of cultural regulation mechanisms is in conformity with developing instrumental intelligence.

The hypothesis of techno-humanitarian balance

Zoologists have gathered substantial evidence concerning ethological balance: that is, the more powerful species' natural killing power, the stronger the inhibition of intra-species aggression. …

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