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Jonathan Friedman

Probing the concrete structures of global systems

In the mid-1970s when we suggested that there were important similarities in the properties of world systems, we were met by a barrage of disbelief. This was a reflex of the times. It was not the reaction of the cultural relativists as such, but of a generation that cultivated the difference between 'the West and the Rest,' on the chasm separating modern capitalism from precapitalist societies. The idea that there was similarity, much less continuity, between the ancient and modern world systems, was considered not only false but also reactionary. Since then things have changed, especially among those who have worked extensively within the world systemic framework. Frank and Gills (1993, this volume) have recently argued for a continuity in the world system in which the major changes are geographical centers of accumulation rather than the basic structures. Chase-Dunn and Hall (1997, this volume) and others have argued that there are different world systems that can be compared with respect to a number of common variables. Frank and Gills have concentrated on what I would call commercial civilizations while Chase-Dunn and Hall have incorporated kinship based and other non-commercial systems in their analysis. Our own argument is in one respect closer to Frank and Gills insofar as we see a strong systemic continuity in world systemic history. But we also recognize that there are important structural transformations as well, even if the latter do not change the basic parameters of the system. The kind of analysis we have used is similar to that of the recent work of Arrighi (1994). The analysis of Hong Kong as a kind of Genoa of East Asia and Singapore as a kind of Venice conveys important insights into the state of the contemporary world. It focuses on differences within similarities in order to highlight precisely those issues that can be linked to the relation between systemic continuity and historical specificity. Below I offer two examples where an argument can be made for continuity where it has been systematically denied in standard discussions.

One area that has been inadequately discussed concerns similarities in economic organization. While Frank and Gills have argued for world system continuity, they have concentrated on far more abstract phenomena such as cycles of expansion and contraction. But there is more that can be said. There is source Material concerning the organization of ownership, control over labor and the


production process that allows a more concrete description of the actual structures of the Classical Greek economy. Phenomena related to class and ethnicity can also be elicited in varying degrees from several of the early periods.

The structures of the 'ancient' economy

In an earlier discussion (Ekholm and Friedman 1982) we suggested that much of the debate concerning the ancient economy, whether modernist versus primitivist or formalist versus substantivist, was based on a reductionist understanding of capitalism. While Weber at least tried to argue for the existence of an ancient capitalism different in character from the modern, reconciling the primitivism of Bucher (1893) with the modernism ofMeyer (1910), this is not the case with the later discussions especially the total dismissal by Finley (1973) of the work of historians such as Rostovtzef (1926, 1941). The original discussion concerned the degree to which the ancient economy was based on the self-sufficient household rather than a more integrated market. Weber argued that the household was clearly a central element in the economy of the ancient world but that there were also vast developments of a capitalist type, from commercial production to banking and international trade. He claimed that capitalism of a certain kind flourished and was even dominant in certain periods of antiquity, which he defines as including most of Old World civilizations up to the end of the Roman Empire. While insisting that some forms of production such as the ergasterion approached capitalist production, there were basic differences between ancient capitalism as a whole and the capitalism of today. The former he characterized as political and rentier capitalism as opposed to the modern entrepreneurial form based on rational production for the market using wage labor. While some historians such as Rostovtzeff and Frank have gone as far as to argue for the existence of large-scale industrial enterprise, there is stronger evidence for a number of smaller workshops that produced for the market. Now even real capitalists existed in Mediterranean Antiquity, but they were marginal: 'Capitalist entrepreneurs, not to be confused with gentlemen renders, generally enjoyed only a rather precarious social position in antiquity' (Finley 1973:43). Ancient capitalism was based on rent-taking, on tax farming, speculation, the hiring out of slaves and their sale, with phenomena such as Greek ergasteria and Roman latifundia as mere tendencies toward modern capitalism.

The differentiation of capitalism into different species is based on a model which includes many elements but is dependent on a static characterization of an ideal type nature. The capitalist is the defining specificity of capitalism. Rent-takers are not true capitalists in this argument and thus we can more fully understand the interpretation of the relation between capitalism and the Protestant ethic. The view offered here is not based on personal motivation, but on the structured conditions of existence of economic reproduction. Such conditions include a situation in which there is a commercialized world in which many important objects are commodities, in which social reproduction is dependent upon commercial transactions. Whether or not one is a true capitalist is not the


issue. Marx, for example, made much of the contradictory combination within the capitalist process of fictitious versus real accumulation of capital. Modern, or perhaps, postmodern capitalism is based on rent-taking rather than real production for profit. It is estimated that world financial markets, increasing at a logarithmic rate, may be triple the size of the GDPs of the world's richest states by 2000. Does this mean that we have entered a new system, that we have gone beyond capitalism or returned to ancient capitalism? To assume that the goal of capitalists is production is an easily falsifiable proposition. In the logic of capitalist reproduction what is crucial is the transformation of money into more money and the reason for this is that the conditions of capitalist reproduction depend on the existence of credit which is the starting point of capitalist accumulation. This does not mean that there are not vast differences between the real organization of social reproductive processes in the various historical and geographical loci of Antiquity, but that there are a number of structural conditions that are at issue and not the motives of the actors involved. Dutch development of industrial textile manufacture was very much based on household production, and Donald Trump's motives are closer to the patrician than the 'true Protestant capitalist.'

The post-Polanyi generation has been more ideological in their treatment of this subject. They tend to claim that it is simply wrong, even absurd, to speak of capitalism in any other than the modern world. Love, in an interesting critique, argues that 'taxation and payment of rents in kind became far more important than market exchange as the means of wealth accumulation as Rome's economy expanded' (Love 1991:64). But there is a serious problem with the argument:

But the question remains as to how such rents and income could have been accumulated outside market processes ... There seems to be no way the bulk of the income derived directly from slave-worked latifundia could be valorized under the conditions obtaining in Roman times apart from market exchange. (Love 1991:65)

His discussion of Finley's analysis of the rationality of Roman large-scale agriculture is also important. Finley tries to demonstrate the non-capitalist nature of the Roman economy by concentrating on what he conceives as the basically non-economic and irrational methods of calculation involved. He insists on the 'very large non-economic element in the preference ... Investment in land in short was never in Antiquity a matter of systematic, calculated policy' (Finley 1973:116-17). Cato's discourse on agricultural economics is accused of incompetence, as if this were proof of the non-existence of capitalism. Love replies that 'even though Cato's methods of cost accounting are rudimentary, his general approach is by no means lacking rationality from an economic point of view' (Love 1991:96).

The nature of the arguments against the so-called modernist position are quite astonishing. Aside from the clearly ideological opposition involved there is a strongly reductionist characterization of the issue. This may be partly the result of the misapprehension of capitalism itself, its translation into a state of mind, a cultural essence. This seems to seriously hamper ordinary scientific discussion.


This can be illustrated by the famous issue of the so-called 'world market' for Roman terra-cotta lamps and its demise. Rostovtzeff's model of the expansion and contraction of the Roman economy is more advanced than it is often made out to be. It is one that shows the way in which central production and export centers are out-competed by their own market zones as the latter resort to import substitution. This has become a major issue in the discussion of world systems dynamics, the rise of East Asian economies, the product cycle. Roztovtzeff argued that the factories of northern Italy achieved something close to a monopoly of such lamps or at least that they were exported throughout the Mediterranean and that this monopoly was lost in the second century because the lamps were increasingly produced locally throughout the larger region. Harris (1979) argues that the evidence does not confirm this thesis although he supports the evidence for the cycle of expansion and contraction. He states this on the grounds that Italian production was not more productive, and that transport costs ought to have made such widespread trade uneconomical. The lamps might have been forgeries, but the evidence of a 'shipwreck in the Galearics which contained a hundred Bild-lampen under the mark C. Clodius' (Love 1991:126) contradicts this very weak argument which criticizes the original thesis on the grounds that it didn't have to happen that way (even if it did). This kind of argument is clearly influenced by a more general ideological positioning.

My conclusion here is that the treatment of capitalism in the critique is a reductionist position in which capitalism is a kind of behavior rather than a set of objective structures that establish conditions within which strategies can be formed. It is in this sense that one can argue for the existence of a capitalist Antiquity. Because the conditions of existence in these societies were dependent upon the control of abstract wealth-which was converted into more wealth by tax farming, speculation, trade and, less often than in the contemporary world, production.

Greek capitalism

In order to illustrate the above argument I have chosen to use a well known ' 'modernist' historian of the Ancient World and to model some of his material into j an argument for continuity. While it might be retorted that one should be using 1 more recent material, there is to my knowledge little that can be added empirically to either refute or support this material. Indeed, some of the most recent and quite cautious discussions are most insistent on the commercial nature of the Greek economy by the fifth century BC (Descat 1995).

There is substantial evidence that Classical Attica was a heavily capitalized | central place for manufacturing and commerce. By the sixth century there were permanent workshops in pottery, cheap metal goods and leather goods. These shops replaced the former household-based production mat dominated previously. The pottery industry was divided into two sorts of work, pot making and pot painting. The potters were generally owners while the painters were wandering artisans who sought employment. The potters were citizens of Attica while the


painters were either metics or slaves. Master potters were often quite wealthy. The workshops increased in size diroughout the century reaching ten to twenty painters per shop, usually slaves. Production was essentially Amenian while export was controlled by lonians. In the fifth century mere is increasing differentiation of labor and forms of production. There were still independent craftsmen, small workshops and large ergasteria. Employment could be either full or part time.

Weaving is anomer activity that was freed from the domestic (feminine) sphere. There was specialized production of cheap domes for slaves as well as production of very expensive goods. 'The population of Megara earned most of their income by producing cheap clothing for slaves' (Heichelheim 1958:99). Domestic production still accounted for most domestic doming, but there was a movement toward market specialization.

The largest ergasteria of the period were those connected to the leather trade and their main source of demand was the military. The structure of production and payment is revealing of the capitalized nature of the production process which is organized as a putting-out system. Thus an ergasteria owner would hire a hegemon or supervisor who in turn might take on ten slaves all of whom were separate earners. On average the slaves got two obols a day and the hegemon got three. But the entire process was based on the sale of products by the producers, i.e. the slaves. The 'wage' was thus a deduction from the total earnings which were paid up the hierarchy from slaves to the owner. The structure is illustrated in Figure 6.1.

As can be seen here, the process of reproduction is entirely dependent upon the circulation of liquid income. Even slaves are not slaves in the meaning culled from the plantation variety in which owners do not pay independent wages but simply supply those goods necessary for the reproduction of the work force. Here the slaves were independent producers and sellers of their products and they kept a portion of the proceeds for themselves. That portion was predetermined by the owner of capital and was thus similar in most respects to a wage. This seems to be the main form of productive organization in Athens from the fifth century on. There are, however, interesting variations on this that demonstrate the extremes to which commoditization could be taken. In me silver mining industry some labor was contract but most was slave. The latter were either owned directly or

Figure 6.1. Greek capitalist structure.


rented to a third party. This arrangement was referred to as apophora. A mining contractor would both lease mines from the state (the sole owner of mines), and labor from private slave owners. The organization was similar to the above in the sense that the slaves were independent operators who paid their contractors and owners rather than being paid by them. Slave rental was a large and lucrative sector in this period. Some of the more wealthy senators could lease out up to one thousand slaves. Here my use of the word 'capitalist' in Figure 6.1 might be contested, since this is not the model industrial entrepreneur, and the activity is closer to the putting-out model of the preindustrial period. And even if the production process itself took place in extensions of domestic units, what is important here is the fact that it occurs within the matrix of the circulation of liquid capital. It is as such a commercialized process. The fact mat slaves are rented out and that they function as independent operators who pay a rent themselves to their owners, that they themselves may rent their own slaves in the same or other activities does not contradict the existence of capitalism but, on the contrary, is evidence of an intensively capitalized social reality. Slavery is not opposed to the market but entirely enmeshed in commercial activities. And slaveowners can be seen as the major employers of the era just as Manpower has become the largest American employer in this period of increasing dominance of 'rent-seeking' financial capital.

There is evidence of a credit market as well as substantial speculation in Classical Athens, which reinforces the idea that money could be used as capital. This, of course, supports Weber's understanding of ancient capitalism. Aristode reporting about Thales of Miletus in the sixth century:

Thales used his knowledge of the weather to discover one winter Uiat a rich oil harvest would follow that year. So he bought up all the oil mills in Miletus and Chios for very little and obtained a large profit by fixing the price for milling during harvest time, an early capitalist monopolist. (Heichelheim 1958:102)

Among the other industries of scale reported, besides pottery, are brick making, terra-cotta figurines, wood-, ivory- and stone-working, and lamps. There were dockers, shipwrights, wagon-builders, wheel-wrights, yoke-, cabinet- and coffin-makers. There were also charcoal burners and pitch producers in the forests. Demosthenes is said to have had twenty slaves in furniture workshops and thirty slaves in knife and sword production. These are described well enough to be able to understand their economic structure:

Furniture workshop:

Twenty slaves at a cost of 200 drachmas each = 4,000 drachmas Income = 1,200 drachmas/year = 1 obol/man/day

The work was organized by fixed production quotas:


Cutlery workshop:

Twenty-two to thirty-three slaves at about 500-600 drachmas each = about 18,000 drachmas

Income = about 3,000 drachmas/year

These workshops did not usually oudast the lives of their owners. Capital was personal for the most part, especially in the workshop sector. This argues against me establishment of abstract corporate structures that oudived those actually engaged in diem.

Land ownership was a central aspect of the political and to a lesser extent the economic structure of Attica. Unlike Sparta, Thessaly and Sicily where aristocrats were large estate owners, Attica was characterized by small holdings. But it is noteworthy that by the start of the fourth century 25 per cent of the citizens did not own land and there was a development of large estates, mostly olive plantations (some with a thousand or more slaves) but also vineyards worked by a mixture of slave and free labor on the basic ergasteria model. Heichelheim (1958) suggests that this change is due to the commercial accumulation in the economy which leads to a distortion in land ownership. A certain Phenippos purchased more than 390 hectares which he put into the production of barley and wine. He had seven slaves, six donkeys and two spans of oxen, eighty-six ploughed fields, ten vineyards and 294 fruit trees. His investment was 215,000 drachmas. His gross income was 31,700 drachmas per year and it is estimated that his profit was nine and one half per cent. Even agriculture, then, is capitalized in this period.

Attica's most famous economic sector was silver, almough theire were other products such as mercury, cinnabar, ocher and lead. There were between 3,000 and 5,000 workers in this sector. The mining districts were state owned but were let out to citizens and metics. There were two forms of rent: a flat percentage of the proceeds, or joint venture operations with contractors. At the time of Themistocles the income from the leases totaled approximately 100 talents which was divided among the citizens, but later earmarked for construction of warships and, after 483 for other state requirements. Contracts were for three years and a twenty-fourth share of the yields of new fields also went to the state. In Ulis area large fortunes were amassed, up to 200 talents (Heichelheim 1958:119).

The history of class structure in Attica as well as the later development of Rome display important similarities with respect to dynamics of commercial capitalism. In Attica as in Rome a former division between a state class of patricians who control much of the land and a large class of free small holders leads to a struggle in which the state is separated from the upper class and turned into a more general representative organ of the whole society, and politics intervenes directly in problems of wealth and land distribution. But the structure of upper class including large landowners and capitalists, a middle class of medium land holders and a class of poor and landless remains the general structure of these societies. Much of this is reminiscent of descriptions of early modern and modern Western industrial societies. Colonies were founded systematically with the 'Intention of bringing poorer classes of Rome to medium wealth which was the main


aim of contemporary Athenian democracy also' (Heichelheim 1958:123). There was even a middle class ideal in the classical period and this class was very active in politics.

Population categories and the State

The Athenian polity had a clear sense of its own identity and a rather strong internal control over the well-being of its population, but this population was restricted to its own members, its citizens. There is a free population of foreign non-citizens from as early as the seventh century.

This class took over much of the business in the economic sectors of trade, banking, commerce and craftsmanship wherever the local polls citizens were not sufficiently numerous to make competition with them unprofitable. (Heichelheim 1958:126)

The social status of this group increased from the sixth to the fifth centuries. The general term for them all was katoikountes and included several categories. The metekoi or metics refers only to those foreigners who had won the right to permanent settlement and thus had a legal position in the polis. This was achieved by paying the metoikion tax. The isoteles were an even more privileged group who had the right to buy land in Attica. To this group can be added other common freemen and ex-slaves. They formed 70 to 80 per cent of the free population dealing with trade, banking and crafts (Heichelheim 1958:127). If there was a division of occupations it can be described as follows:





Mine Owners

State Officials

Members of the Military




Intellectual Services

'Only primary production, agriculture, mining, and all polis jobs were as a rule, protected by the polis... against intruding non-citizens' (Heichelheim 1958:127).

By the fifth century citizens were becoming a dwindling portion of the work force. This was the result of the influx of slaves. At the end of the fifth century building records at Erechtheum reveal that only twenty out of seventy-one workers were citizens (French 1964:147).

State financing is interesting in the polis. There is no internal income or property tax. Taxes are primarily indirect: customs, sales tax, transport tax and a tax on weights. These taxes primarily affected the metic professions. Instead there was the system of 'voluntary gifts or liturgies. These were divided up into the following:

1 Sitesis - a contribution to grain and flour provisioning

2 Choregia - payment for seats in the Theater

3 Gymnasiarchiai - contributions for gymnasium festivals and expenses


4 Lampadarchia - contributions to torch races

5 Hieraperiodos - payments for religious processions

There were also exceptional liturgies:

1 Trierarchia - large contributions to warship construction

2 Proeisphora - large contributions to public construction in Athens

Liturgy was no mere potlatch. It was required, and rich citizens were expected to bear most of the burden. The backside of generosity was the antidosis. 'A citizen not willing to pay liturgy had to make his property at the disposal of any citizens willing to take over and pay the liturgy' (Heichelheim 1958:135).

State finances were an enormous problem in the later period when the Athenian League was at war. Other mechanisms used were external tribute, loans from non-citizens, from foreign states or from temples. Compulsory loans from citizens were also a possibility. Most of this activity has the character of fund raising. There were special taxes levied during the Peloponnesian War and special contributions could be demanded for specific purposes. This structure is in sharp contrast to the empires to the east, but gradually a centralized system of state financing emerged first with Cimon and Demosthenes and was firmly established by the Hellenistic regimes. 'Before Alexander's time the fiscal monopoly was obviously made use of only as an occasional way out to cover deficits in the budgets of the classical polis' (Heichelheim 1958:142).

The welfare function, however limited, of the state exists throughout this era and is present in Athens as well as in Rome. Pericles gave jobs to the poor in state building projects and windfall profits from the mines were also distributed downward. Rome, of course, is famous for inventing the dole, subsidized food prices and free meals. These practices were much criticized and discussed as well.

The effects of long cyclical change

In the general model of the commercialized global system, there is a cyclical process leading from a highly productive center in expansion, with relatively low costs of reproduction, to a gradual reversal in which the center loses its competitive edge as a result of its own success and its social effects. The Classical Greek economy also demonstrates the typical cyclical problems of capitalism, rising prices and costs of living, the export of capital and decreasing trade advantages. From the sixth to the fourth century prices were up, interest was down and wages were stable to lower, while in Mesopotamia everything went up. In the fourth century Greece became more expensive than its surroundings. Buying power decreased from 414 to 336 by 400 per cent. In the fifth century the minimum wage at Attica was 2 obols per day and for steady work, 120 drachmas per year. Consumption was as follows:

Grain food - 20 drachmas per year


Other foods - 20 drachmas per year

Clothing - 10 drachmas per year

This left seventy drachmas over in ideal conditions of full-time work and is equal to a half year of employment. It was not uncommon for laborers to buy slaves with this money. But in the fourth century there was an increase in the number of polis, 'all too independent and small polls units for Greece' (Heichlheim 1958:34), and the power of Attica declined. The minimum wage by this time was 180 drachmas per year but costs had increased:

Grain food - 45 drachmas per year

Other food - 45 drachmas per year

Clothing - 30 drachmas per year

This led to a decline in living standards, a freeing of slaves to obtain interest, and emigration/colonization, and it continued through the Hellenistic period. The famous Attic pottery was meeting heavy competition from the Black Sea. 'Not long ago the elder members of the upper classes abandoned the luxury of wearing linen garments and binding their hair in a bun held together with a golden clasp' (Thucydides in Will et al. 1961:159).

There is then evidence that there are similar kinds of processes at work in historical world systems. While the structures of capitalist reproduction were not identical to those of the modern capitalist world, they clearly belong to the same family of structures. And it might well be argued that they were subject to similar laws of accumulation of wealth, of crisis and decline.

Continuities in modes of cultural identification

Another area in which there are significant parallels between different eras of world system development concerns cultural identity. It has often been assumed that the kinds of ethnic integration and multiculturalism that are so ardently discussed today date from the emergence of the modern nation-state. A broader comparative approach reveals that this is not at all the case. While the modern nation-state may indeed be a historically specific kind of cultural organization, there is evidence of similar tendencies in the city states of the past. And while multiethnic empires may have been common in the past, the structures involved have their parallels in modern imperial structures as well. I am, however, not taking a universalist position, that ethnicity is the same throughout history and the world over. On the contrary there are fundamentally different ways of organizing membership in culturally defined categories in different social orders (Friedman 1994:34). The argument here is that commercial civilizations tend to produce similar modes of identification so that the historical continuity of the forms of ethnicity and multiethnicity are products of the nature of commercial world systems themselves. In order to grasp the kinds of phenomena that I wish to compare I shall focus first on


cultural processes in the modern world system and then argue for historical parallels.

Multiethnicity in history

The argument that multiethnic societies have been the rule rather than the exception in history (McNeill 1986) is, of course, true, but this is because the history of the world has been the history of empires and segmentary states, and such social organizations, however multiethnic, were also ethnic hierarchies. It is, perhaps, the latter aspect of such societies that is the secret of their relative ethnic peace (Horowitz 1985). Significant, from our point of view, is that multiethnicity is a phenomenon that emerges and disappears and not merely a type of organization. Thus, the emergence of the Hellenistic empires was a movement from a city-state national ideology to a cosmopolitan and multiethnic ideology. The same transformation characterizes the movement from the Roman Republic to the Empire and it is clearly reflected in a whole series of changes. The emergence of the Cynics provided an entire discourse, interestingly postmodern in character, for this shift.

disavowing all social institutions, including marriage and property. They recognized only the world as a socially relevant fact. And in the world all men were equal - whether rich or poor, Greek or barbarian, citizen or foreigner. However, since the Cynics surmised that most men were also fools, and therefore incapable of using their freedom and equality to full individual advantage, they had to conclude that only the wise could actually be cosmopolites and make the world their city. (Bozeman 1994:103)

The Ciceronian system of education based on the cultivation of Roman virtues was transformed by the time of Augustus to one more accommodating of the empire, in which all were to be citizens of Rome and where there was even a growing fear of the foreigners to which we shall return below. As communities that practice homogeneity expand into empires they also move toward a hierarchical heterogeneity. But as the latter begins to decline, the heterogeneity begins to assert itself as a political force. This takes us to the central theme of this discussion, the relation between cycles of expansion and contraction in global hegemonies and the forms of transnational or trans-state relations.

Global processes and equifinality

All of these variations, and even discontinuities, in the way in which populations can be integrated, in the way cultural differences are maintained, does not necessarily help us in accounting for the issues outlined in the title of this chapter. Part of the reason for this is that they pertain primarily to the global systemic and as such are products of a dominant commercial and urban organized central zone. While there may be vastly different forms of cultural integration in the peripheries


of such situations, we have limited ourselves here to the commercialized central zones themselves. Global processes can, as we shall argue here, produce similar kinds of effects because they are of a more general nature than those of particular cultural organizations. It is for this reason that we use the verbal forms below rather than nominal forms, accentuating the processural rather than the structural aspects of the phenomena under consideration. There is no transnationalization without nation-states, it might be argued, or at least with some comparatively interesting type of organization, such as the city states and empires which date back to antiquity. But trans-polity phenomena and even social relations are comparable phenomena of a certain level of generality. Ethnification is a more serious issue, for while it may be organized in different terms, i.e. segmentary and inclusive vs. essentialist and exclusive, the practice of identification and differentiation can lead to similar violent outcomes. However, it might also be argued that it is logical for essentialization to accompany ethnification no matter what the social and cultural conditions. The claim that ethnicity is a product of modernity is only true if by ethnicity we mean a form of cultural identity that is basically essentialist, homogenizing and exclusive in all conditions including peace. The idea that the individual is an X because he contains the substance (blood) of X may well be typically modern, but it is also the case that stereo-typification in conditions of conflict is practically universal (Levi-Strauss 1952). Disorder is, of course, a universal, along with many of the forms that it takes such as social fragmentation, individual crisis, new collective identifications, and what we have referred to as ethnification. When a social arena becomes disordered by crisis, its particular reactions vary as a result of its variable constitution. Among the tribal and chiefly societies of highland Burma and Assam a series of phenomena are unleashed by crisis (often endogenousTy generated), including headhunting, witchcraft, the appearance of were-tigers, anti-fertility-anti-chiefly movements and revolts. Such phenomena may invert the entire workings of former expansive societies in astonishing ways (Friedman 1979/1998). Phenomena such as 'cargo cults' and witchcraft epidemics (Ekholm-Friedman 1993) are widespread reactions to crisis in societies organized primarily by kinship. But cannibalism and ethnic and 'tribal' warfare are also very common and often related to the above. Now while these are surely quite specific local forms of action, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that they are not so specific as has usually been assumed. Societies in crisis are often societies in which people 'cannibalize' one another in various ways, in which hate and fear rampage through the arenas of daily life and sow the seeds for violent conflict. So rather than argue for the existence of entirely different phenomena I would rather suggest that there are interesting family resemblances at work.

The social, political and cultural parameters of decline

The decline of hegemonic zones is accompanied by a general process of regional economic decline, increasing stratification, sociocultural fragmentation, mass migration and a general increase in social disorder. It should be stressed here that disorder is not limited to the central zones themselves, but may be especially


severe in those dependent peripheries that are not the targets of outward moving capital. Thus, most of Africa, parts of western and Central Asia are among the most unstable. The collapse of the Soviet empire has produced the same kind of extreme and violent disorder. It is also accompanied, as we said by increasing globalization, not just in economic terms but also in terms of the formation of global elites and elite .global consciousness. I suggest how these factors are connected in a systematic way in Figure 6.2.

Disorder and fragmentation

The following discussion is based on modern conditions and is only then developed backwards in time. It is meant to suggest certain possibilities of comparative analysis rather than being their result.

The decentralization of capital accumulation creates disorder in abandoned areas. This in its turn leads to downward mobility and the economic crisis generates serious identity problems. The decline of modernism is closely related to the impossibility of maintaining a future orientation based on the liberation from the past, from tradition and an investment in the new, in change and both personal

Figure 6.2 The process of disordering in hegemonic decline.


and social development. In this decline, there is a turn to roots, to ethnicity and other collective identities, whether ethnic or religious that replace the vacuum left by a receding modernist identity. This re-rooting is the resonating base of cultural politics and political fragmentation that spread throughout the hegemonic center. This takes the following forms:

Indigenization Where there are indigenous populations within the state territories, these begin to reinstate their traditions and to claim their indigenous rights. The fourth world movements have become a global phenomenon, institutionalized via United Nations organs such as the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. The demography of this phenomenon is significant. The population of North American Indians more than doubled from 1970 to 1980. Most of this was re-identification. Five new tribes appeared during the same period.

Nationalisation The nation-states of Europe have become increasingly ethnic over the past fifteen years, moving from a formal citizenship/modernist identity to one based on historicized roots. This has been documented via the rapid increase in consumption of historical literature. In France, the Middle Ages, the Celts and everything that preceded the modern state were highest on the list from the late 1970s on. Much of this has an indigenous quality to it, especially where there is no competition from other indigenous populations. The so-called 'New Right' movements in France, Italy and Germany harbor ideologies that are similar to fourth world ideologies. They are anti-universalist, anti-imperialist, against universal religions and exceedingly multiculturalist. Thus Jean de Benoist, spokesman for the French New Right states,

Given this situation, we see reasons for hope only in the affirmation of collective singularities, the spiritual re-appropriation of heritages, the clear awareness of roots and specific cultures . .. We are counting on the breakup of the singular model, whether this occurs in the rebirth of regional languages, the affirmation of ethnic minorities or in phenomena as diverse as decolonization . . . [whether in the] affirmation of being black, the political pluralism of Third World countries, the rebirdi of a Latin American civilization, the resurgence of an Islamic culture etc. (cited in Piccone 1994)

Regionalism Sub-national regions have been on the rise since the mid-1970s. After several decades during which it was assumed that assimilation was the general solution to ethnic problems, when social scientists calculated how many generations it would take for ethnic minority groups to disappear into larger national populations, the 1970s came as a surprise to many (Esman 1977). The weakening of the national projects of Europe became increasingly evident, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany, Occitania, Catalonia, today supplemented by the Lega Nord and a European-wide lobby organization for the advancement of the interests of a Europe of Regions rather than nation-states. In the former empire to the east, me


break-up of larger units is rampant and violent in Central Asia and soudiern Europe.

Immigrant ethnification The optimism with respect to regional identities in Europe was identical to assimilationist/integrationist predictions with regard to immigrant minorities, especially in the United States. What seemed to be a trend toward integration was broken and reversed in the late 1960s when multiedinicity of Black and then Red power movements were supported at both grass roots and elite levels (the Ford Foundation was heavily involved in ethnic community local control projects). Today this has become a major state interventionist project in many Western countries at the same time as identity politics has led to what some have called 'culture wars' in which the very unity of the nation-state, its very existence is questioned. The question of the diasporization process is simply the ethnification of transnational connections, so that communication, social relations and economics become organized and even institutionalized across boundaries rather than immigrant groups becoming transformed into separate minorities. Diasporization is simply the ethnification of the immigration process. It is unlike other processes of fragmentation because it structures itself in global terms, being both subnational and transnational.

The process of fragmentation has not been a particularly peaceful one. In 1993, for example, there were fifty-two major violent conflicts in the world in forty-two countries, the most severe conflicts being in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Africa. Half of these conflicts had been under way for more than a decade (UNRISD 1995:15). This is very different than the previous decades of the Cold War when there was a simpler division and a much stronger degree of control in the world system.

All but five of the twenty-three wars being fought in 1994 arc based on communal rivalries and ethnic challenges to states. About three-quarters of the world's refugees, estimated at nearly 27 million people, are in flight from or have been displaced by these and other ethnic conflicts. (Gurr 1994:350)

Globalization, class and elite formation

Globalization in institutional terms entails the formation of international 'communities,' however loosely knit, that share common interests. There is an interesting, and still to be researched, connection between the larger transformation of the global system and the emergence of new cosmopolitan elites. The aspect of that transformation, which seems most interesting, is the increasing portion of the world economy that is collected in the form of public and private funds, primarily based on tax moneys from Western countries. UN organizations (especially UNESCO), EU funds and other similar organizations (primarily nationally based) form what might be called global pork barrels that finance institutions, consultancies, etc. that pay enormous tax-free salaries to globalized bureaucrats


and consultants and which join in the ranks of other elites, those of the international media and culture industries (we might add international sports to this, i.e. the Olympic Committee). These elites are very different from former industrial capitalist elites, not least because many of them are not owners of production but are what might be called 'pork barrel' elites. Robert Reich's (1992) characterization of this new class as 'symbolic analysts' who in Lasch's words 'live in a world of abstract concepts and symbols, ranging from stock market quotations to the images produced by Hollywood and Madison Avenue.' In Lasch's terms, 'They have more in common with their counterparts in Brussels or Hong Kong than with the masses of Americans not yet plugged into the network of global communications' (Lasch 1995:35). This is still an emergent phenomenon. In economic terms it might be part of a general shift of capital from productive to unproductive investment, to the general increase in fictitious accumulation in the old cores of the world system.

What is interesting here is that there seem to be a relatively coherent identity that has emerged in these elites. It combines a rather self-assured and superior cosmopolitanism with a model of hybridity, border-crossing and multiculturalism (even if there is much inconsistency in this). The cosmopolitanism of the elite is not modernistic, it is not devoid of cultural identification. On the contrary, it is postmodernist in its attempt to encompass the world's cultures in its own self-definition. This elitism distances itself from 'the people' who represent 'the national,' the unsophisticated, the 'racist,' and expresses loyalty to humanity rather than to its own fellow citizens, or if to its own citizens, to immigrants above nationals. This is a particular cultural structure of cosmopolitanism that has numerous historical parallels. Most recently the Free Masons harbored a similar cultural identity (Knight 1985; van der Fiji 1998). The urban upper middle class has become one of the principal focal points of this development. Sennett's 1970 The Uses of Disorder is an important discussion of this cosmopolitan multicultural-ity. The urbane, cosmopolitan and multicultural is well expressed in CNN's advertising. One well-known advertisement shows a series of images: an Australian Aborigine, a Tuareg nomad, several northern Europeans, Asians all to a nostalgic theme. All are part of the larger humanity of the CNN family. What is interesting about Sennett, as about CNN, is the normative aspect of their representations. The cosmopolitan multicultural world is a model of how things ought to be and it is part of a concerted struggle against the reactionary rural, and essentialist-nationalist 'people.' Similarly the wave of discourses on cultural hybridity (Garcia Canclini 1995; S. Hall 1996; Gilroy 1993) consist of the analysis of cultural elites and their discourses. World music may be taken up as an example of hybridization, but in spite of the name of this popular genre, a closer examination reveals that it is a metropolitan product and that it is a media industry creation rather than a street phenomenon. In other words, it can be argued that the ideology of hybridity is primarily an elitist discourse in a world that is otherwise engaged in the opposite; the drawing of boundaries to be defended, not just from land or region to land and region but from street to street. Hybridization and balkanization are two simultaneous processes of the global shift in hegemony.


The question of cultural continuity in global systems

Can the above discussion be linked backward in time? I have suggested that there are numerous general characteristics of global systems that ought to be expressed in the historical material. Taking the question of hegemonic shift as a situational type discussed at the start of this chapter we can offer the following parallels:

Ethntfication In both the Hellenistic decline and the Roman decline there is an increase in ethnic and religious identification. This is complicated by the fact that the cycles of growth and decline are different in Ancient and Modern world systems. The Hellenistic expansion was part of the decline of the civilization of the city-state system. Athens and the other cities declined economically and politically, having exported a large part of its total production (producers = capital), and the emergence of Macedon (perhaps the first nation-state), led to a rapid expansion into the Middle East and Central Asia, colonization and the formation of a Greek elite diaspora that imported its goods as well as its culture in the form of Greek academies, the Paidaiea, and maintained a strong diasporic elite identity for the most part, at least at the start of the expansion period. Later on this dominance weakened and the Greek colonists were replaced by what appears to be a local class who practiced a kind of mestizo or hybrid identity. These were the so-called Hellenists who led the differentiation of the Greek expansion into a number of separate 'provinces' more or less autonomous and where the hybridization created new local traditions. They were a class who,

in varying degrees, lived a life that straddled these two cultures and in many ways constituted the bridge between them ... Whereas the native populations in the Near East identified themselves mainly with their traditional heritages (hence Ptolemy was regarded as a Pharaoh), and the Greek stratum identified mostly with the Greek tradition (viewing Ptolemy as a Macedonian, or a Greek god such as Dionysus), the Hellenists created something between these two worlds. Their ideas of the state were thus a mixture of eastern and western concepts of statehood and nationality. For them the Hellenistic king was neither a Greek institution nor an eastern one. They lived in a world of religious syncretism and attempted to find the equivalents for Greek gods in the various pantheons available in the ancient Near East. Thus Toth became Hermes, Osiris became Dionysus, and Melkart, Hercules. In Egypt this group was even associated with the worship of a completely new Hellenistic deity called Serapis. (Mendels 1992:22)

Now these hybridizing classes may have more in common with the rising classes in Western colonial regimes than with a postmodern phenomenon, as I have suggested. But then, it is here that we may find the continuity between the colonial


and the 'postcolonial,' as the latter is expressed in the current cultural studies literature. Here we should not, of course, expect exact parallels, but the similarities may indeed be due to certain common historical structural processes. The hybrid ideologies of the present owe much to and are in dialogue with mestizo and similar identities in the late-colonial and 'postcolonial' world. The Hellenistic expansion produced similar processes of identification, but it is not clear in the material I have seen whether the colonial and postcolonial are related in the same way. One aspect of this relation can be found in the cosmopolitan identity of the Macedonian rulers and their successors. In the expansion period itself there was a great emphasis placed in Greek ideals, the establishment of academies:

The Greeks, for the sake of making civilization meaningful to the majority, had clung to the polls as the cornerstone of their political existence, in the conviction that any greater political community would not adequately contain the kind of life that they had found to be most worth living. (Bozeman 1994:101)

But the formation of the Hellenistic world was the formation of a highly stratified existence in which only the elite participated in the new cosmopolitan culture and where the ideal of social unity had all but disappeared.

The disparity between cultural and political developments in the Hellenistic Age resulted partly because the common culture, with all its glittering attractiveness, had not - in its historically most decisive period -actually reached sufficient depth in human consciousness. It was consequently unable to geuJ gray the moral forces necessary to restrain war and support peace and unity. Indeed, wars were fought more bitterly and treaties broken more frequendy than during any previous period of world history. This international society was perhaps further prevented from developing the moral strength that would have enabled it to survive because it was socially divided. While theoretically accessible to individuals from all civilizations and races, the culture in all its cosmopolitan richness, was in practice open and meaningful only to the educated: the men who spoke Greek, and who liked to live the urban life that Greek culture had so eloquently advertised. (Bozeman 1994:100-1)

The Cynic philosophers, as other schools such as Epicureans that emerge in this period, have been described in terms of a reaction to the failure of the city state as a political and moral institution. The Cynics, especially, might be compared to postmodernists in their combination of cultural relativism and elitist cosmopolitanism. What is significant is mat the later Hellenistic elites were no longer Greek and that the Greek homeland was in continuous decline throughout the period. Rome is a clearer parallel. Here the export of capital begins


explosively with the formation of empire. The civic 'national' culture of Rome is replaced by a cosmopolitan orientation. This transition, which affected a transformation in the Roman legal code, the concept of citizenry and the entire cultural edifice of the formerly hegemonic Roman world view is a clear expression of the disintegration of hegemonic position in an empire in which the decentralization of capital occurred from the very start.

Italy's privileged position in the commonwealth over which Augustus had watched so jealously was dius gradually weakened. It was abolished by Hadrian (A.D. 117-137) - himself a provincial from Spain - who regarded the Empire as one indivisible state, rather man a conglomeration of cwitates, and was therefore impatient with any national or local particularism, whether expressed in Jewish uprisings in Palestine or in Roman conceit in Italy. The development culminated in 212 with Caracalla's promulgation of the Constitutio Antonia, under the terms of which all freeborn inhabitants of the Empire were granted Roman citizenship. (Bozeman 1994:179)

It is this kind of transformation that was so much debated in the early years of the century, when Roman history was seen as a mirror of the contemporary world:

The immediate result of this complete revolution in me relations of nationality was certainly far from pleasing. Italy swarmed with Greeks, Syrians, Phoenicians, Jews, Egyptians, while the provinces swarmed with Romans;

sharply defined national peculiarities everywhere came into mutual contact, and were visibly worn off; it seemed as if nothing was to be left behind but the general impress of utilitarianism. What the Latin character gained in diffusion it lost in freshness; especially in Rome itself, where the middle class disappeared the soonest and most entirely, and nothing was left but the grandees and the beggars, both in an equal measure cosmopolitan. (Mommsen 1911)

But this is not merely a twentieth century interpretation of the ancient world. It is also present in the increasing xenophobia of the imperial period. Seneca writing to his mother says,

Of this crowd the greater part have no country; from their own free towns and colonies, in a word, from the whole globe, they are congregated. Some are bought by ambition, some by the call of public duty, or by reason of some mission, others by luxury which seeks a harbor rich and commodious for vices, others by the eager pursuit of liberal studies, others by shows, etc. (In Frank 1916, cited in Kagan (ed.) 1992:47)


This is a Roman empire in which there is mass immigration, where according to some studies the population of the city is substantially more than 50 per cent of foreign extraction (Frank 1916 claims over lBO per cent), in which the literature is described as 'hybrid' (Rand 1975, vol 12:571). The decentralization of the Roman economy led eventually to the transformation of Rome into a capital of imperial consumption, but not production, to a series of financial crises and to the fragmentation of the empire itself.


My goal here has been to try and bring global systemic analysis down to more concrete situations and processes where the argument might be accessible in almost ethnographic terms. I have suggested, following the accumulated work of ancient historians and other interested scholars, that the organization of production and exchange can be interpreted in terms of relations that are not worlds apart from the modern world system. That slavery in Classical Greece is a complex affair involving wage, interest and profit in an elaborate market system that appears to have had cyclical properties of expansion and contraction. This was, in other words, a form of capitalism that is not so different than the more obvious varieties of the modern world. The purpose of exploring this example is to balance the tendency to relegate the discussion of continuity and discontinuity to categories such as city size over time and other population statistics, evidence of expansion and contraction etc. While these macro indicators are indeed important and interesting, the ultimate goal must be to link them to the dynamics of the systems involved, vx.. to processes of social reproduction that involve relations of exchange, production, exploitation accumulation and power. These are all strategies and relations that are culturally specific as well, which is why I find it necessary to explore the more unusual cultural aspects of the system, the forms of social integration, relations of ethnicity and ethnification and the relation between cultural politics and political economic processes. In the latter examples I think it is possible to argue for continuity as well and, in spite of obvious differences, for a strong family resemblance in the dynamics of cultural identity.


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