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Stephen K. Sanderson


The work of Andre Gunder Frank and Barry Gills (Frank 1990, 1991a,b, 1995; Frank and Gills 1993, and in this volume; Gills and Frank 1991, 1992) on the 5,000-year world system is, I think, of exceptional importance. Although I was initially highly skeptical of many of their claims, I have gradually come to be convinced that they have put their finger on a historical phenomenon that has been badly neglected by scholars. I have come to be convinced, that is, by their contention that the commercialization of economic life was much more significant in the early historic societies and civilizations than has generally been thought, and, moreover, that there has been a long-term process of expansion in the commercialization of economic life over the last few millennia. In this chapter I want to develop this theme of expanding world commercialization and relate it to other evolutionary processes in world history, but first let me talk about two areas concerning which I continue to disagree with Frank and Gills.

One serious disagreement concerns their argument that it makes little sense to talk of distinct modes of production - 'feudal,' 'tributary,' 'capitalist,' etc. - and of historical transitions between these modes of production, especially of a transition from feudalism to capitalism. I think this is overdoing an otherwise very important argument. The time period considered by Frank and Gills is roughly that between 3000 BC and AD 1500. I call this period the agrarian epoch, and the societies and civilizations that prevailed during it have variously been called agrarian societies (Lenski 1970), agrarian-coercive societies (Collins 1990, 1992), traditional aristocratic empires (Kautsky 1982), and by Marxist-oriented scholars the tributary mode of production (Amin 1976; Wolf 1982). It has generally been argued that the most fundamental economic relationship in such societies was that whereby landlords extracted economic surplus from peasants through rent, taxation, labor services, or some combination of these. Landlords were the dominant economic dass, standing not only above peasants, but above merchants as well, at whom they looked down their noses and viewed as dirty money-grubbers who dared to dirty tiicii nands with the soil of commerce. Despite Frank and Gills's increasingly convincing demonstration of the importance of relations of economic exchange in the long agrarian epoch, I would still hold to the traditional


view that these relations were seldom dominant in that epoch. Except m a few instances, the exchange activities of merchants were strongly held in check by the dominant class, whose mode of generating wealth was quite different (i.e., it was a system of production-for-use rather than production-for-exchange). That great scholar of economic history, Max Weber (1981 [1927]), argued that various types of capitalism existed throughout world history but that they were distinct in several important ways from modern capitalism. For him, modern capitalism had six primary characteristics: (1) appropriation of the means of production as the property of autonomous private industrial enterprises; (2) the absence of irrational constraints on market exchange; (3) rational development of technology in the form of mechanization; (4) calculable law; (5) free labor; and (6) the general commercialization of economic life. I am almost certain that Frank and Gills would claim that Weber was wrong and that, indeed, all of these features were found in much earlier times. And they may be right - or at least mostly right, for I would demur with respect to Weber's sixth criterion, the general commercialization of economic life. Perhaps this is the truly critical difference between ancient and modern capitalism. Capitalist economic relations today pervade all economic and social life, but did they do so in earlier millennia? I think it would be very difficult to show that to be the case.

But there is another related point that needs to be made. Recognition of the subordination throughout the agrarian epoch of capitalist relations to tributary relations is extremely important, I think, if we are to understand a central feature of that epoch: the relatively slow rate of social evolution that occurred during it. Given the accelerating pace of social evolution between the Neolithic Revolution, which began about 10,000 years ago and introduced agriculture and settled village life, and the rise of civilization and the state, which began some 5,000 years ago and introduced a-muth more complex and elaborate form of social life, we should have expected such an accelerating trend to continue. At least this would be true if we were simply making a simple extrapolation from a historical trend. But such an accelerating trend did not continue, and the pace of social evolution shifted toward a much slower rhythm. And why? Because the economic and political power of agrarian ruling classes hemmed in the activities of merchants because they saw them as a threat to their own economic position and social status. The agrarian ruling classes had a vested interest in maintaining traditional economic relations. Had this not been the case - that is, had merchants been given much greater freedom of maneuver - then I think we would have seen a much more rapidly developing process of world commercialization throughout the agrarian epoch. That epoch would have come to an end much sooner, and thus we would have seen the emergence of the modern world at a much earlier point in history.

What then of Frank and Gills's claim that there was nothing especially distinctive or important about the sixteenth century - that what happened then was simply a quantitative extension of a world historical process that had been going on for millennia rather than a qualitative shift to something novel? I think it is a serious mistake to underrate what happened after the sixteenth century. There


was indeed something distinctive about that period, and human society did begin to undergo a fundamental transformation at this time. There was a huge acceleration of the intensity of commercial activity and the shift to a mode of production in which capitalism became the dominant activity for the very first time. A truly 'world-transforming' capitalism was coming into being and it would set in motion processes never seen before in the world. There is indeed something vital about the sixteenth century that has to be explained.

Let me point to one economic phenomenon and three non-economic phenomena strongly suggestive of a major sixteenth-century social transformation. On the economic plane, perhaps the most significant event of the sixteenth century was the beginnings of European colonization, led, of course, by Portugal and Spain. Colonialism, of course, had existed at other times and places in world history, but never on quite such a scale, and the colonizers and the colonized were never quite at such a geographical distance from each other. This form of colonialism soon became by far the most important form of colonialism the world had ever seen, and involved large parts of the African continent as well. The Portuguese established plantation agriculture in what we now know as Brazil, and drew their labor supply in the form of slaves imported into Brazil from West Africa. The Spaniards made limited use of slavery, but they did reorganize the tributary forms of production found in their primary colonies (what we today call Mexico and Peru) so as to make themselves the primary beneficiaries. Clearly such a form of colonialism had to signal the beginnings of a dramatic economic shift.

But on various non-economic planes there were major shifts occurring as well. The sixteenth century marked the beginning of the first national states throughout western Europe (Tilly 1990). In the time period between AD 1000 and 1500 there was nothing even approaching a national state, a large centrally-coordinated state highly identified with a particular nationality, what today we call, for example, England, or France, or Germany. And, of course, during this period England, France, and Germany did not yet exist. These regions and many others were divided into hundreds of smaller states, and Europe was characterized by an 'enormous fragmentation of sovereignty' (Tilly 1990). There were perhaps as many as 500 states within the boundaries of Europe. In the Italian peninsula there were roughly 200 to 300 independent city-states, and in what is now southern Germany there were sixty-nine free cities and numerous bishropics, duchies, and principalities. What a contrast with the present, where there are, or at least were before the Eastern European nationalist movements of the early 1990s, only twenty-five to twenty-eight sovereign European states (Tilly 1990).

According to Tilly, the national states of Europe formed as a result of the strong concentration of both capital and military might. The new national states beginning to evolve in the sixteenth century were massive structures compared to most of their predecessors. Huge state bureaucracies were built, and these bureaucracies were devoted to both economic and military activities. They played a large role in managing and guiding the economy and making war against other national states. Large standing armies were now created to replace the relatively


small private armies characteristic of feudalism. This was politics and military might on a scale never seen before in Europe, and it was clearly a product of the sixteenth century.

There was also a gigantic burst of scientific activity occurring precisely in this ' period (Merton 1970 [1938]; Bernal 1971; Huff 1993). The seventeenth century is usually taken as marking the European Scientific Revolution, but clearly important scientific developments were occurring in the century before the seventeenth. In 1543 Copernicus overturned the geocentric view of the universe with his heliocentric view. Copernicus's work inspired Tycho Brahe who then inspired Johannes Kepler. In the seventeenth century itself came the enormous accomplishments ofGalileo and, of course, Isaac Newton. It was during this time that we find the beginnings of the institutionalization of science, as indicated by the founding of the first scientific societies, the Royal Society of London and the Royal Academy of France. Robert Wuthnow (1980) has shown that there was a very close correlation between the importance of a nation in Wallerstein's world-economy and the development of scientific activity.

Finally, let me take note of one more major social transformation that occurred in the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformation. In a major work on the Reformation, Lewis W. Spitz (1985) dates it from 1517 to 1559. And where was the Reformation concentrated? The ideas of the leading reformers, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, were adopted most vigorously in regions where mercantile activity was prominent, and it was the merchant class above all others that promoted Reformationist ideas. Lutheranism was adopted in a number of German states and also in Denmark and Sweden, and Anglicanism was adopted in England (Swanson 1967). Calvinism or Zwinglianism came to be adopted in a number of Swiss cantons, in two German states, and in Bohemia, the United Provinces {Netherlands), Hungary, Transylvania, and Lowland Scotland (Swan-son 1967). The social class most hostile to the Reformation was the feudal nobility, and where its power was greatest - that is, in less capitalistically advanced regions of Europe - Catholicism remained strongly entrenched. The most prominent of the states remaining Catholic were France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Highland Scotland, Poland, and the Italian states of Venice and Florence (Swanson 1967).

Let me now turn to Frank and Gills's claim that virtually all analyses of the development of the modern world have been crippled by a Eurocentric perspective (see, especially, Frank and Gills in this volume, and Frank 1995). The charge really consists of two parts. First, it is claimed that much of Asia was, economically speaking, at least on a par with Europe in the centuries before 1500, and in some ways even more economically advanced. Then this claim is coupled with the assertion mat there was nothing especially distinctive about Europe, no particular qualities it had that distinguished it from the rest of the world, nothing that gave it some sort of special dynamic that uniquely set it apart.

The first charge, I am prepared to say, seems basically true. Frank and Gills have marshaled a great deal of evidence to show that economic commercialism was pervasive in Asia in the centuries preceeding 1500. Indeed, in a famous book Mark Elvin (1973) has shown that during the period of the Sung Dynasty


(960-1275), China had the world's most advanced economy and was possibly poised on the brink of the world's first industrial revolution, and William McNeill (1982) has shown that in the period between AD 1000 and 1500 a very high level of commercial activity had been reached on a world level. J.M. Blaut (1993), whom Frank cites copiously, has also put together a great deal of evidence to indicate the substantial amount of economic development and economic vitality of the non-European world before AD 1500. So, if we were simply to extrapolate from the economic trends of the half-millennium before 1500, there would be no overpowering reason to predict that, after 1500, Europe would undergo a massive capitalist takeoff and leave Asia and the rest of the world far behind. But that is just what it did, and this leads me to conclude that Frank and Gills's second claim, the claim that there was nothing distinctive about Europe, is false. Europe was distinctive; it had a number of social attributes generally not present elsewhere. Yet I must immediately qualify this point: Europe was distinctive, but it was not unique, for there was one other civilization that had the very same special qualities that Europe had. This was Japan. And we cannot fail to notice that, by the end of its Tokugawa period (1868), Japan was a society with an enormously high level of commercialism - I would call Japan at this time an essentially capitalist society -and was the most economically developed society outside of Europe. Nor can we fail to notice that Japan is today an advanced industrial capitalist society far ahead of the rest of Asia - indeed, sociological light years ahead of most of it - and soon to become the world's number one economic power. Europe and Japan were distinctive civilizations that had special qualities uniquely conducive to the development of a very advanced form of capitalism. What were these qualities? Let me suggest four.

Size Japan and two of the three leading capitalist countries of early modern Europe, England and the Netherlands, were small, and as such contrasted markedly with such Asian societies as China and India, which were large empires. Large geographical size creates problems of communication and transportation that smaller states do not have. Moreover, it is costly to maintain a large state because resources are drained away that could be used more directly for economic development. I think there is a parallel situation with large Asian societies like China and India. They were simply so big that obstacles were put in the way of economic development. In Asia Japan's much smaller size gave her a decided advantage.

Geography Japan and the leading capitalist countries of northwest Europe were located on large bodies of water that allowed them to give predominance to maritime rather than overland trade. Samir Amin (1991) has noted that the societies containing the greatest amount of protocapitalism in the long agrarian era tended to be those in which maritime trade was characteristic. It is noteworthy that the protocapitalism of China tended to be located along its southern coast, and that the great Indian Ocean trade linking the Mediterranean and East Asia between the rise of Islam in the seventh century and the beginnings of early


modern Europe was indeed centered precisely there - in the Indian Ocean (Chaudhuri 1985). And where was the greatest economic development in late medieval Europe concentrated but in the city-states of Italy on the Mediterranean. The presence of maritime trade by itself determines nothing, but it is a very important precondition for capitalist development.

Climate Europe and Japan both had temperate climates. This is important when we recognize that the bulk of the world colonized by Europe had tropical or subtropical climates. These regions were most suitable for the development of the kinds of peripheral economic activities - production of raw materials for export using forced labor - European states wanted to pursue in those zones. An important reason for the economic success of British setder colonies like the United States, Canada, and Australia was the fact that the settlers were inhabiting regions remarkably similar to western Europe (Crosby 1986). Most of North America and Australia had climates poorly suited to peripheral economic activities (the southern United States is the exception that proves the rule: its warm climate was suitable for plantation agriculture, and it was peripheralized). Japan may have escaped peripheralization by Europe at least partly because of its climate or its distant northerly location. In any event, it was not climatologically suited for peripheral development.

Political structure Europe and Japan had the only true feudal regimes in world history. As Perry Anderson (1974a) has stressed, feudalism is a highly decentralized politico-economic system, one mat rests on the 'parcellization of sovereignty' The significance of the feudal experiences of Europe and Japan lies in the substantial freedom they gave to their merchant classes to operate economically. There, is widespread agreement that large bureaucratic empires stifle mercantile activity because it-is a threat to the tributary mode through which the state extracts surplus. Europe and Japan were strikingly different from the rest of the agrarian world. Their high levels of political decentralization meant that mercantile activities could not be controlled to the extent they were in large bureaucratic states. Anderson (1974a, 1974b) has called attention to the freedom of the towns in medieval Europe and Japan, and their remarkably independent role within the total economies of these societes. Likewise, Norman Jacobs (1958) has stressed the remarkable freedom and independence of Japanese merchants in contrast to me tight control of merchants in China. Indeed, it was not just that the Japanese merchants enjoyed considerable economic freedom, but that the whole conception of the importance of mercantile activity was distinctive in Europe and Japan. The freedom given to merchants may well be the most important of the four preconditions that helped push Europe and Japan forward as the first societies to undergo a capitalist revolution.

In conclusion, the development of modern capitalism in Europe and Japan cannot be attributed merely to such diings as luck or geopolitical shifts within a larger world system. Europe and Japan had qualities that uniquely favored their


capitalist development. And notice how such an argument escapes the charge of Eurocentrism. It was not a matter of Europe alone making the transition to the modern world, for a major Asian society did the same, and largely under its own impetus.


I would now like to turn my attention away from criticizing Frank and Gills and direct the discussion toward what I regard as their extremely important positive contributions. As indicated earlier, Frank and Gills have convinced me that economic commercialism was far more important at a far earlier date in world history than we have usually thought. But their most important point - at least for my main concern, which is the understanding of long-term social evolution has to do with their claim for the gradual expansion of the level of commercialism throughout the world in the last five millennia. Let me add my own two cents worth to this claim.

What I refer to as a process of expanding world commercialization can be measured in terms of the growth of processes of economic exchange within particular societies or civilizations, and especially in terms of growth in the size and density of trade networks between societies. It is possible to mark off three major stages in this process of expanding world commercialization (McNeill 1982; Curtin 1984). The first stage begins around 2000 BC and ends around 200 BC. During this phase trade was largely local or, at best, regional in scope. By 200 BC there emerged the first truly worldwide trade with me establishment of a trade axis that ran all the way from China to the Mediterranean. After about AD 1000 there was another big leap forward in which trade networks expanded and deepened, especially in the period between 1250 and 1350.

Philip Curtin (1984) has described some of the basic characteristics of the worldwide trade network that was in effect between 200 BC and AD 1000 (cf. Chaudhuri 1985). As he notes, during this period trade became regularized between the Red Sea/Persian Gulf region and India, between India and South-east Asia, and between Southeast Asia and both China and Japan. In the middle Han period, Chinese merchants traveled to the west through central Asia and established an overland trade route between East Asia and Europe. Chinese trade with India had become extensive by the first century AD, and Chinese goods were being sold widely in the Roman empire. During Roman times trade between India and the Mediterranean was carried on through three different routes: an overland route through Parthia, the Persian Gulf combined with an overland route, and the Red Sea combined with an overland route to Egypt or some part of the Fertile Crescent region. Maritime trade flourished in the South China Sea and the Bay of Bengal, with Canton being an important port for trade to the south.

William McNeill (1982) has described what he regards as a new and major burst of world commercialization beginning around AD 1000, and centering heavily on China. It was during this time that China had by far its greatest burst of economic activity prior to modern times, one that lags behind only late


medieval Europe and Tokugawa Japan in scale and scope. Mark Elvin (1973) has referred to this as an 'economic revolution,' most of which occurred during the period of the Sung dynasty (AD 960-1275). Elvin sees the Sung economic revolution as involving agriculture, water transport, money and credit, industry, and trade (both domestic and foreign). Elvin argues that improvements in agriculture gave China by the thirteenth century the most sophisticated agricultural system in the world, and one that provided a foundation for major thrusts forward in commercial activity. Commercial activity was also greatly aided by improvements in water transport. These improvements involved both the construction of better sailing vessels on the one hand and the building of canals and removal of natural obstacles to navigation in streams and rivers on the other. Industry nourished, especially the production of steel and iron. The economy became much more monetized. There was a much greater volume of money in circulation, and the money economy even penetrated into peasant villages. Foreign trade, especially with Southeast Asia and Japan, flourished. Markets proliferated and became hierarchically organized. At this time China was the world's most economically advanced society, and many observers have suggested that it was on the brink of the world's first industrial revolution. McNeill sees the enormous economic growth in Sung China as part of a larger picture of world commercialization. As he says, 'China's rapid evolution towards market-regulated behavior in the centuries on cither side of the year 1000 tipped a critical balance in world history' (1982:25).

Janet Abu-Lughod (1989) has picked up the story where McNeill left it. She describes in great detail for the period 1250-1350 the structure and operation of a vast worldwide trade network from western Europe to East Asia. This huge network contained eight overlapping subsystems that can be categorized into three larger circuits centering on western Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. Abu-Lughod refuses to be drawn into a discussion of whether this system was 'capitalistic' or not, but she does claim that it provided the basis for the development of modern capitalism after about 1500.

Additional corroboration for the notion of expanding world commercialization throughout the agrarian era comes from research on trends in world urbanization. Using data compiled by Tertius Chandler (1987), David Wilkinson (1992a, 1993a) has shown that urbanization is a striking trend in world history. Of course, commercialization and urbanization cannot be strictly equated, but it is likely that urbanization is more a function of increasing commercialization than of anything else. Cities may grow and expand to fulfill important political functions, of course, and certainly for various other reasons, but commercialization seems to be the main driving force behind urbanization (Bairoch 1988). It is clear that urbanization has been a striking feature of agrarian social evolution over a period of nearly 4,000 years. A particularly large leap in urbanization occurred in the period between 650 BC and 430 BC. During this period the number of cities of 30,000 or more inhabitants increased from twenty to fifty-one, and the total population represented by these cities increased from 894,000 to 2,877,000, a more than threefold increase. There was another major


urbanization spurt between 430 BC and AD 100, during which the number of cities of 30,000 or more inhabitants increased from fifty-one to at least seventy-five, and also during which the total population of these cities expanded from 2,877,000 to 5,181,000, an 80 per cent increase. This period is essentially the same period that McNeill and Curtin refer to as involving the emergence of the first truly long-distance trade network between East Asia and the Mediterranean.

World urbanization suffered a setback between AD 100 and 500, but this setback was only minimal and temporary. By AD 800, the total population of the largest cities (5,237,000) had regained the level achieved in AD 100. It took longer for the number of large cities to return to the level reached in AD 100 - there were seventy such cities in AD 1000 and seventy-five or more cities in AD 1300 -but not that much longer. Moreover, after AD 1000 the scale of world urbanization was clearly very large and continuing to grow, and, as already noted, the period after AD 1000 has been seen by McNeill and Curtin as involving another major leap in world trade networks.

Wilkinson has also constructed maps that show in a very graphic way the extent of world commercialization between 2250 BC and AD 1500. These maps clearly show that not only was there a major increase in the size and number of large cities, but also that the linkages between these cities grew and deepened dramatically over this period. For the most part, these linkages would have been commercial in nature. There can be no serious doubt that the scope and density of world trade increased enormously throughout this period.

Frank and Gills see the process of expanding world commercialization - which they refer to as a process of capital accumulation - as the central developmental process of world history, and one that is needed in order to explain developments in the non-economic spheres of agrarian societies. This is my view as well. Expanding world commercialization was a world transforming phenomenon. And I would argue that it was to a large extent an autonomous process in its own right, driven by the desires of merchants for greater wealth and economic power. Moreover, I believe that this process was absolutely critical to the development of modern capitalism after the sixteenth century. Some scholars, such as Eric L. Jones (1988), speak of the rise of modern capitalism as some sort of miracle' or gigantic 'historical accident.' But there was nothing miraculous or accidental about it. It required a long gestation period of very slow growth over many millennia because of the peculiar position of merchants and commercialism in the social structures of agrarian societies. As we know, agrarian societies were dominated by landlords who looked down their noses at merchants. Landlords kept merchants in their place, yet merchants were useful - indeed, in many ways necessary - to landlords. They could be taxed, and they were the source of the luxury goods that landlords sought. Therefore, although they had to be controlled closely, they could not be controlled too closely. And this gave merchants a certain degree of leverage to expand the scale of their operations surely if slowly. And expand those operations they did, such that in time their economic power and the scale of their activity on a world level had built up to the point where it constituted


a 'critical mass' responsible for triggering a massive capitalist takeoff after the sixteenth century. The birth of modern capitalism required a slow evolutionary process of the buildup of dense and extensive networks of world trade. Frank and Gills have pointed us in the direction of acknowleging this world historical process. But to acknowledge it is only a beginning. We need to study it closely with an eye to many questions. What was the extent to which earlier forms of capitalism were 'rationalized' in Max Weber's sense? Were ancient merchants profit maxi-mizers? What was the importance of financial arrangements in earlier forms of capitalism? What was the relationship between technological advance and commercial expansion? What role did the state play in ancient capitalism? These and no doubt many other important questions remain to be answered.

Although Frank and Gills appear justified in stressing expanding world commercialization as the central developmental process of world history, they say little or nothing about how this process related to developmental processes occurring within the non-economic sectors of agrarian societies. I see four other evolutionary processes in the agrarian epoch that loom especially important. The first and perhaps most obvious of these was population growth, which I suspect played a major role in the commercial expansion of the world. As populations grew and the size and density of urban areas expanded, the size of markets increased proportionately, as did the availability of workers and of various resources necessary to industrial production. During the long agrarian epoch that we are discussing, population grew steadily, although there were periods of population decline during the time around the collapse of the Roman Empire, and again in the fourteenth century AD. Between 3000 and 1000 BC world population remained relatively small, increasing from fourteen to sixty-two million. However, after the latter date world population began to grow to considerable size, and in many areas population densities increased markedly. From sixty-two million in 1000 BC, world population increased to 110 million by 600 BC and to 257 million by AD 200. After a decline during the second half of the first millennium AD, population began to grow again, reaching 400 million by AD 1200 and 461 million by AD 1500. World population exploded after this time (Livi-Bacci 1992; Eckhardt 1992).

A second major evolutionary process was political growth. Rein Taagepera (1978) has studied changes in the size of agrarian empires over approximately the last 5,000 years. He shows that there has been a significant increase in empire size during this time and marks out three phases of empire growth. The first phase begins with the rise of the very first states around 3000 BC. Before this time there were no political units with a size greater than 0.1 square megameters (one square megameter = 386,000 square miles). During the first phase of empire building the single largest agrarian empire seemed to maintain a size of at least 0.15 square megameters and to have at least occasionally attained a size of about 1.3 square megameters. A second phase of empire building was inaugurated around 600 BC. After this time the single largest empire was never smaller than 2.3 square megameters, and the maximum imperial size attained was 24 square megameters. More detailed calculations using Taagepera's data (Eckhardt 1992) show the size


of the world's largest empire for a given date, plus the total size of all the world's empires added together. In 600 BC the world's largest empire (Persia) had a size of 5.5 square megameters, and the total size of all the world's empires was 7.85 square megameters. By AD 600 the size of the world's largest empire (Mesopotamia) had increased to 9 square megameters, and the total size of all the world's empires was 18 square megameters. In AD 1200 the relevant figures are 25.2 square megameters for the world's largest empire (Central Asia), and 32.7 square megameters for all the world's empires. After the decline of the Mongols, there was a dip by AD 1500 in empire size to 12.2 for the largest empire (Europe), and to 24.2 for all the world's empires. But this was because the Mongol empire was so extraordinarily huge, and the overall trend throughout this long period was clearly toward bigger empires and more of them spread over a larger part of the globe.

Taagepera believes that the increase in empire size during the second phase of political growth (600 BC-AD 1600) probably resulted from increasing sophistication in the art of power delegation, especially through impersonal bureaucratic roles rather than personal relationships. But it is also likely that the size increase was made possible by important developments in the areas of transportation and communication, as Taagepera himself notes. Empires could not become effectively larger until the means were available for controlling and integrating much larger areas.

Taagepera sees a third phase of empire growth beginning around AD 1600 with the emergence of the modern capitalist world. However, this phase is beyond the time period considered by this paper.

It is interesting to note that Taagepera's date for a sudden surge in the size of agrarian empires (600 BC) corresponds closely to the date given earlier for the emergence of a worldwide trade axis (200 BC). The two are undoubtedly causally related, for as E.L. Jones (1988) has argued, truly long-distance trade networks only became possible with the rise of very large empires. Only empires of that size had developed the technology of communication and transportation needed to facilitate worldwide trade.

As empires have grown throughout world history there has been a corresponding increase in the amount of power available to agrarian states. Although rejecting an evolutionary view of world history, Michael Mann (1986) nonetheless notes that there has been a long-term, cumulative, and unidirectional increase in power over the past 5,000 years. Indeed, Mann argues that the increase in power capacity has been so large that it is difficult to embrace in the same category agrarian societies early in the agrarian epoch and agrarian societies late in that epoch.

Accompanying and closely intertwined with political growth was a third major evolutionary process, that of technological advance. The expansion of technological capacity has had important consequences for economic subsistence, economic exchange, and military force. Clearly one of the most important inventions during the agrarian epoch was iron smelting. Iron ore deposits were discovered by the Hittites of Asia Minor sometime around 1800 BC, and soon thereafter the Hittites invented a technique for smelting. After about 1200 BC this technique came to be widely diffused throughout the agrarian world (Lenski 1970), and


iron came to be used for weapons and tools. Lenski (1970) regards its effects on tool production as so important that he distinguishes between simple agrarian societies, which have no iron tools, and advanced agrarian societies, which do. The significance of the development of iron tools has been caught by R.J. Forbes (1954:592-93), who has said that the effect of the introduction of iron was gradually to extend and cheapen production. Iron ores were widely distributed and readily available; iron tools were cheaper and more efficient than those made of bronze. They rendered possible the clearing of forests, the drainage of marshes, and the improvement of cultivation upon a very much wider scale. Thus iron ... greatly reinforced man's equipment for dealing with the forces of nature.

Iron also made a major contribution to military technology in the form of the sword (Deny and Williams 1961).

There was a wide range of other important technological developments of course. Among the most important we may list the catapult, the crossbow, gunpowder, the chariot, heavy cavalries, the naval galley, irrigation systems, the spoked wheel on fixed axle, wet-soil plowing, open-sea navigation, printing, the horseshoe, a workable harness for horses, the stirrup, the wood-turning lathe, the auger, the screw, the wheelbarrow, the rotary fan for ventilation, the clock, the spinning wheel, the magnet, water-powered mills, and windmills (Lenski 1970; Mann 1986). As can be seen from the list, some of these involved military techniques, but most of them involved economic production and exchange. .,

Technological change during the agrarian epoch occurred in many parts of the world, and a good many things were probably invented more than once (Ronan and Needham 1978). However, much of the technological change that occurred in the West was of Eastern, especially Chinese, origin. Among the many inventions acquired by the West from China may be listed: piston bellows, the draw-loom, silk handling machinery, the wheelbarrow, an efficient harness for draft animals, the crossbow, iron casting, the segmental arch bridge, the iron-chain suspension bridge, the canal pound-lock, nautical construction principles, gunpowder, firearms, the magnetic compass, paper, printing, and porcelain (Ronan and Needham 1978). Many of these inventions were made by the Chinese a millennium or more before their acquisition by the West.

A final evolutionary process in the agrarian world occurred within the ideological realm. In the first millennium BC, and especially in the sixth century BC, we see two dramatic ideological developments: enormously important achievements in philosophy, especially among the Greeks, and the rise of most of the major world religions. This period has been called by a number of scholars the Axial Age (Jaspers 1953; Eisenstadt 1986). During it we find the emergence of Confucius and Lao-tse in China, the Upanishads and Buddha in India, Zarathustra in Iran, the Old Testament prophets in Palestine, and such Greek scholars as Homer, Plato, and Thucydides Jaspers 1953).


Were the events of the Axial Age independent occurrences in all three regions -China, India, and the West? Jaspers argues vigorously for such a view, but with our increasing recognition of the world-systemic links between these civilizations such a view seems difficult to support. Indeed, a work of historical fiction (Vidal 1981) suggests substantial intercommunication between the Axial Age regions. And what were the causes of the Axial Age phenomena? It is impossible not to notice that the Axial Age corresponds almost exactly in time with Taagepera's date for a major leap forward in the size of political empires (600 BC), and very closely to the beginnings of a truly worldwide trade axis. Were these political and economic developments driving the ideological developments of the Axial Age? Such a view is extremely tempting.

By way of conclusion, it may be useful to consider these five historical trends in their larger context. Anthony Giddens (1984) and Michael Mann (1986), arguing against evolutionary interpretations of world history, have claimed that human history is not a 'world growth story' But it seems to me that that is exactly what it is: a world-historical evolutionary process operating simultaneously on the economic, demographic, political, technological, and ideological planes of human society. There is no question but that the major developments on all these planes were dynamically interrelated. Are Frank and GUIs right to suggest that it was the economic developments that were driving the others? I think they arc. Like them, I too embrace a strongly materialist view of historical change. But the whole process cries out for much more extended study, and undoubtedly such study will reveal that all five processes were mutually interdependent even if the economic element was dominant.


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