Social Evolution

By Luka Nieto

karl marx social evolutionKarl Marx was right when he said that:

the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

Every power establishment eventually undergoes a downfall, of which the lower class takes advantage in order to improve their situation; in the most extreme cases, the action takes the form of a full-fledged revolution and in the not-so-extreme cases, they at least make themselves noticeable enough to make sure they are never again ignored.

The history of civilizations in their path to our pseudodemocracy (modern history) can be defined as a painful ‘stagnation-revolution-stagnation‘ cycle: generally, when revolutionaries take control, they represent the exponent of human liberties, but just in that time frame, just in their own context.

Nowadays, the “everything for the people, nothing by the people” disposition of the enlightened absolutism seems like a bad joke. However, if we take into account the historical web surrounding that one thread, we must admit it was an advancement that resulted in a slightly more enlightened society. This can mislead us to think that if absolutist monarchy had not made such a concession, maybe that very order would have endured for a much longer time, or maybe the shift towards liberalism would not have been so gradual, would it? But could monarchy even afford to not make such a concession? Of course not: cornered by dangerous new ideas, every power establishment ends up trying to adapt to them superficially, disguising the old and known with a shining fur to go by unnoticed, although later the plan backfires; that is precisely how we see enlightened despotism now and we can only conclude that people in the future will laugh at our concept of liberalism and democracy.

From primitive societies to capitalism, all have tried their best within their physical context, not accounting for ups and downs. That is the human propensity, as long as the environment allows it. In other words, it is not just that we ‘are’ better people or more civilized beings: the technical conditions have allowed us to be so. Were we left tomorrow without our essential facilities (tap water, electricity and transport for goods and people), faster than seems possible the inhabitants of the ‘developed nations’ would take up a new paradigm: chaos.

So yes, capitalist economy is an advancement, even with its current characterization that owes more to the monetary reforms on the mid-20th Century than to its original ideas. Although a case could be made that it is a perversion of what liberalism ‘could have been’, the idea of alternative ways will not be further entertained here, as the fact is, the average life of a human being has improved considerably throughout the last two hundred years, since the industrial revolution. We witnessed its effects on mechanization, medicine and methodical education; it is technical know-how, to a certain point carried out by capitalism, which has improved our lives. But capitalism, and indeed the monetary system in general too, can only take us up to a certain point.

Sure enough, we must not forget that while life expectancy in the Americas, Oceania and Europe (and even Asia to an extent) has raised considerably, in Africa the situation is still deplorable. Worse still, it does not show signs of improvement: taking a look at the current data, we will see we double the life expectancy of many South African nations. We double it. Trying to look for discrepancies of that level in other animals will result in a practically useless exercise and that is precisely why it is highly enlightening.

Why does this happen? Why is there still classic slavery in those poor countries and paid slavery in developed or developing countries?

A lot has been said about this, so we’d better not get deep into the immediate causes again and focus instead on the general problem: that kind of thing happens because the now-not-so-new capitalist model, once the prototype of the maximum freedom possible for humanity, has been obsolete for almost half a century now, therefrom the decay and need of ‘playing dirty’ to survive, just as a cornered animal. Even though the new technology is already here, the economic system is not up to date: clean and practically inexhaustible energy sources, more practical methods of agriculture, an almost entirely automated manufacturing sector (and soon the same will go for the services), more energy-efficient and faster means of transport for goods and people, instantaneous global communication, advancements in medicine (more than half of the major medical advancements have happened in the last hundred and fifty years), and the dawn of cybernation and nanotechnology.

The current political-economic model is already attempting to reconcile with it all and will keep trying to do so with what’s to come, but it will eventually fail. It won’t even be able to justify its very basis: the human employment in the production process, and therefore the concept of product ‘value’ mostly defined by the human time and work required in manufacturing. The mechanization of the industrial age substituted twenty men for just one driving a machine and the automation of the computer age is already substituting employees of all sectors for a few technicians -and no, those jobs will not come back.

If the eight-hour day was achieved with mechanization, what will then be achieved in the next day’s labourshrinking revolution, taking automation into account?

Even with the extremely consumerist practices of capitalism and its low efficiency when trying to synchronize production systems to avoid redundancy, the difference would be astronomical—but currently, the power establishment doesn’t give up in that respect. Still, what will happen when more efficient techniques are also applied? Exactly, the concept of employment and wages as the basis for economy will end up being obsolete. The monetary system—be it capitalism, communism or even anarchism in the form of barter transaction—will not be able to justify the necessity of paying for food and energy either, when its ability to make them in abundance is already beyond question. This way, scarcity— the third aspect taken into account to calculate ‘value’ in this system—decreases more and more alongside human time and work, until product value according to their own economic theory dangerously approximates to zero.

Hence, changes will happen. Either a painful revolution breaks out or capitalism will gradually adapt to these bio-social pressures until it destroys itself, just as enlightened absolutism did: conceding a place in the system for the new ideas. There will be a time when this junction will be important, decisive, but for the purpose of this text the difference is insignificant, as capitalism will collapse no matter what, alongside every monetary system and they will collapse under their own weight, thanks to the same practices that one day brought about a new prototype of human liberties.

The possibility of us killing each other before we follow the natural path described here, will not be brought up either, beyond this very annotation; not because it is an absurd proposition, but because it requires no further explanation: it is highly probable that cultural change will not be so fast as to outmatch the energy problem or the tensions among nuclear-armed nations. But even if that happened, the current system would fall—the difference is that, in stark contrast with the upcoming projection, it wouldn’t be replaced by other social paradigm. There would not be a society to speak of in the first place.

Having said that, how can you avoid the continuation of the ‘stagnation-revolution-stagnation’ cycle in the culture that emerges from the new techniques? How do you create a society that evolves accepting the little mutations, instead of standing up to them to eventually explode and succumb to the next logical step? How do you make it so that the very basis of society, with its culture and economy, stops the human trend of shifting the socio-economic model by dominating the ruling system? In short, how can we avoid an established system and arrive at an emergent system?

The answer is not particularly complex, but it is not easy to understand either if all these concepts aren’t already in your head somehow, changing your mind without you even noticing. The point is to organize these new techniques in a way that those pioneers in the forefront of social evolution cannot (and don’t want to) be leaders, but doers. Instead of leading the system in an overarching way, they do stuff to improve specific characteristics within it. Therefore, to avoid the stagnation of ideas at a social level, to avoid an established system, you simply cannot have a government as we know it; each and every individual governs or leads society by means of their input in technology and culture.

From technological and medical contributions to artistic and recreational ones, society arranges itself by ‘the little things’, as opposed to most modern theories of power. But at the same time, thanks to electronic communication and fast transportation, there is a possibility to connect society as a whole: even the product of the most insignificant participation is available to everyone in a decentralized but totally united network of computer systems and physical transport, instead of being left limited to a region or expand with exasperating and sometimes lethal slowness, as it happened in primitive societies and is still proposed in politics by certain kinds of anarchism and in social movements by off-grid ecovillages.

That is how you create an emergent society. Following the natural course of technology, communication among human beings is eased until a global interconnection is achieved, with which every individual knows perfectly that their contribution will help themselves, their family and everyone else and that the input of the rest of the world will follow the same path, uninterrupted by any government that would be unnecessary in this historical context. Not having an overarching power, in this system the only constant is change. The ‘stagnation-revolution-stagnation‘ cycle and the struggle between new and old ideas simply ceases to work and is naturally replaced by another paradigm: the social evolution in an emergent society.

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