4. Governance and societal evolution
4.7. About the institutions of governance
4.1 to 4.6 were devolved to the 25 interactions and feedback loops between the most determinant parameters shaping individual and societal life. These interactions constitute the backbone of an analytical framework that helps to analyze and to understand the working of societies and how to operate them the most efficiently. I completed a succinct analysis of these 25 interactions in 4.6. It reads like a “philosophy of life and societal governance” that is being derived from one initial axiom which says that the life of species is given by the play, or the dance, between their two polarities: societies (assemblings) and individuals (particles). The knowledge, about the operation of their polarity-plays, acts like a handle that reveals the future.
So How did I build this analytical framework?
After analysis of,
1. the process of societal knowledge acquisition throughout history (Book 2. Chapter 1)
2. the formation of individual consciousness (Book 2. Chapter 2)
3. societal evolution through the evolution of worldviews as a result of memetic mutations ,(Book 2. Chapter 3)
I concluded that societies and individuals are the 2 polarities of any species and that their inter-play is what gives its substance to a species’ life.
I then reasoned and induced the 5 most determinant factors giving their substance to these 2 polarities and discovered the following:
By crossing the 5 determinant pillars of societies with the 5 individual necessities I determined the 25 interactions and feedback-loops that form the substance of the 'individual/society polarity-play' which is the life of species.
At the term of my succinct analysis 5 principles emerged from these 25 interactions:
1. Knowledge is at the core of a harmonious societal life. Societies need thus to reserve a special status to the men of knowledge or the sages among them. They are the ones who know the best path forward for the group. But what I call men of knowledge or sages are not to be confused with modern intellectuals or scientists. The knowledge of the sage is holistic while the knowledge of the scientist and the intellectual is specialized and necessarily limited to a fragment of the whole. The knowledge of the sage relates to the big picture view and addresses the well-being of the species. This is what motivates the sage in his quest to acquire knowledge and this means that the sage is concerned first and foremost by the well-being of the individuals and their society. In contrast, as mentioned in “1.3.7. Science is not a societal approximation of reality”, the knowings of scientists and intellectuals address the functioning of parts of the whole. Such knowledge will then help capital to generate more profits. Being formed at the bottom of a deep silo, without any regard for the knowledge developed in the other silos, the best outcome has often only a very limited impact on the deep structure of reality. But side-effects often develop months or years later that will plague the existence of living species and eventually the existence of humanity. The knowledge developed initially is the culprit of these side-effects but it is nevertheless rarely correlated to them.
2. Modernity separated the knowledge contained in the traditional worldview in its constitutive parts:
We are confronted here with the observation that the separation of knowledge that resulted in “the triad science – philosophy – arts” concluded, by the end of High-Modernity, with philosophical nothingness and dead arts that posture now as commodities. Remains science churning out functional knowledge at the bottom of its deep silos of specialization where the scientists are slowly but surely losing their minds. See “Science transformed into a tool of capital”. Specialized sciences lost contact with what really matters: the life of the human species, the well being of the individuals and their societies.
The men of knowledge and sages have now to reunite the separated pieces of the knowledge tree in one narrative that all citizens can share as the worldview of their society. A shared worldview is what solidifies societal cohesion which is critical to generate harmony between the individuals and their society.
3. knowledge has to be pragmatic. As I wrote in “Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.6.3. pragmatism versus ideology”: “It is my contention that those systems of knowledge formation, whose application offer the best outcome in term of generating the most pleasant life for their individual citizens while simultaneously ensuring the highest probability of reproducing their societies over the long haul, are the most pragmatic among any systems of knowledge. In that sense pragmatism appears as the optimum form of knowledge”. For the individuals a pragmatic worldview means knowledge that is directly usable and improves their daily lives. For societies pragmatism means that improvements in the individuals daily lives will help to solidify their cohesion. A comparison of worldviews, on this measure, gives very uneven societal results. See “1.6.3. pragmatism versus ideology”. China’s traditional worldview appears very pragmatic while Modernity can only be characterized as an ideological worldview that inflicts unnecessary sufferings on humanity and all the other living species.
4. knowledge acquisition is the highest societal ideal. It cultivates the self, in the minds of the men of knowledge, and the self abhors the worship of the ego that is responsible for projecting illusions in the minds. The individual self clears the mind and helps to increase the levels of one’s consciousness about the hidden truths in oneself and in the reality of the world. So by taking the ego out of the equation the self succeeds to free the mind from any sickly transformation through emotional attachment. Furthermore, as indicated in “Discovering ourselves in a mirror”, knowledge acquisition provides answers as to what actions are procuring pleasure and pain. These answers then allow the individuals to maximize pleasure in their lives while minimizing pain. This directly strengthens the perception in the minds of the individuals that knowledge is important and this is the prerequisite for societies to act and organize societal systems of knowledge acquisition.
5. humans don't have god-like powers to create their destiny outside of the systemic reality given by the universe. While consciousness evolves and helps us to generate new knowings the fact of the matter remains that these knowings concern no more than parcels of the systemic reality that encompasses life. As such these knowings at best are relative knowings. This is why we so often discover later on that the actions, and productions based on such knowings, are eventually producing negative side-effects that our consciousness missed to forecast. Such side-effects result from the non-compatibility of our actions and productions with the properties of our ‘super-sets’. We have seen earlier that the individual urge for change is pushing for the application of new knowings but the risks accompanying their premature application can be fatal for societies as is being suggested by historical examples of societal collapses. That’s why the principle of societal conservation has always to prime the individual urge for change. Societies have indeed to protect their citizens and themselves and they do this by putting prudence at the core of decision making.
In the vision of life, derived from the 25 interactions cited here above, knowledge acquisition plays the leading role and this is confirmed by the historical reality of all societies. Knowledge is what gives meaning to life, and what structures its societal unfolding, as it is being perceived by the mind. This vision of life materializes without any need for an intervention of power; in other words the men of knowledge produce answers that are the best adapted to the context of their society and these answers can then be put in application in a variety of different ways that do not necessarily require the intervention of power. But the fact is that men of power monopolize the political decision making process and do not tolerate any alternative. Various holders of societal power will contest that other forms of decision making exist at all. But the fact of the matter is that they have an interest in preserving the institutions of power that generate their personal incomes. As such their opinions are interested and can be no match for knowledge.
It has furthermore been observed that throughout history knowledge is always called to the rescue to fashion the optimal institution of governance in any given societal context. So not only is the institutional set-up being conceived by the men of knowledge their answers have also to be adapted to the given context which implies that there is no "best in town" institution of governance that fits all contexts. In other words institutions have to emerge out of the context of their society and can't be imposed from the outside. A string of recent Western interventions to impose democracy on third countries is attesting that any attempt to circumvent this natural law always ends in tears.
Here under I'll examine the emergence of Western and Chinese institutions of governance out of their particular context; democracy versus knowledge. It is my hope that my presentation about governance and societal evolution shall help silence, in the minds of my readers, the hubristic belief in the exceptionalism of Western democracy. As I wrote just before "there is no 'best in town' institution of governance that fits all contexts. In other words institutions can't be imposed from the outside; they have to emerge out of the context of their society ".
4.7.1. About the emergence and development of Western institutions of governance
Book 1 of "From Modernity to After-Modernity" was about the history of societal evolution and more particularly the evolution of the European context that opened the path to Modernity. In other words most of the 400 pages of that book relate to the historical evolution of Western Europe. I will thus not repeat what I already examined there and limit this presentation to a sketch of that evolution that should serve as a base of comparison with my presentation about the emergence and development of China's institutions:
Such a context was specific to Western Europe and is found nowhere else. This is why I posit that imposing that model in radically different contexts is an heresy that must necessarily backfire.
When the mass-market emerged as a result of industrial mass production it gradually became apparent in the eyes of capital holders that to maximize their returns they had to find a way to maximize the potential buying power of their customers. This was established in two steps:
The massification of the market meant that everybody got the right to chose to buy the products of one's liking. By the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th centuries, socialist parties organized the labor force to demand higher salaries which fitted with Henry Ford’s idea to expand the volume bought by each buyer. The trade-unions’ organizing role of the working class rapidly took a more political tone. They called for a representation of the working class in the political decision making process just as the burghers had done earlier to increase their own representation.
As I mentioned here above the particular context of China’s entry into Modernity (size, speed) is not appropriate for such a Western model of representation. Furthermore China has also its own cultural and historical context to deal with. In all of history and among all countries on earth China is the country that has had, by far, the longest exposure to a shared worldview (animism+) and to a societal system based on the centrality of knowledge that, under stability or under chaos, successfully ensured the life continuity of its nation through the management of a huge bureaucracy (5). One might start to think about how Western arrogance and exceptionalism are measuring on the Chinese scale of time...
4.7.2. About the emergence and development of China's institutions of governance
I have already approached subjects that are related to China's form of governance in the following posts:
Book 1. History: Why and how China and the West took different paths in the formation of their worldviews:
"06. From Modernity to After-Modernity . The axioms of civilizations (Part 1)". (About the transition from tribal non-power societies to power societies in the Middle-East and Europe).
"07. From Modernity to After-Modernity. The axioms of civilizations (Part 2)". (About how different physical contexts, in the Middle-East and China, generate the emergence of different kinds of power societies).
"08. From Modernity to After-Modernity. The axioms of civilizations (Part 3)". (About how the axioms founding the worldviews of China and the West emerged and how they are so pole apart that an understanding between the citizens of these 2 civilizations is perceived as a near impossibility).
Book 2. Theory: in each chapter of this book I give a theoretical understanding of the different fields that participate in shaping societal evolution and I compare how the Chinese ways diverge from the Western ways.
Chapter 1. societal knowledge formation
Chapter 2. increasing individual consciousness
Chapter 3. the evolution of societal worldviews
Chapter 4. societal governance.
The following chapters relate more particularly to our subject:
"Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.3.4. The civilization of China = animism+". About the evolution of the role of the men of knowledge from animist men of knowledge to sages to the mandarins of power societies.
"Chapter 4. Governance and societal evolution. 4.6.3. Societal reproduction – Individual communion. 2. China unified its early kingdoms along the Yellow River some 3000 years BC "
The transition in China, from ‘tribes-animism’ to ‘empire-animism+’, was an organic process of evolution that starkly differentiates with the rupture observed at each stage of societal evolution in Europe.
To grasp this complex matter it is necessary, it seems to me, to start with a presentation of the factors that were differentiating the experience of animism in China from that of the Middle-East. There, in my mind, lays the source of the bifurcation in their paths that materialized in their unique worldviews and how they approach differently the working of their power societies.
A. Physical context
I described the difference, during pre-empire times, between the Chinese and Middle-Eastern context in “Book 1. 2.3. Why such a stark differentiation between East and West?” and “Book 2. 1.3.4. The civilization of China = animism+. Continuity over the long haul” where I wrote:
“We have seen that the specific geographic conditions of China favored continuity of thought:
The stark contrast between the context of China and the context of the Middle-East is an eye-opener. The Middle-East was a narrow strip of land where Europe, Asia and Africa came into contact. This immediately evokes the idea of passage and traffic from one area to the other. Such traffic inevitably forces dialog, discussion, and exchanges between different views.”
Map by NASA borrowed from the excellent collection of
historical maps by tsiosophy.com/world-maps/
and rearranged by laodan
The 2 black circles on this 2nd map visualize the differences mentioned here above:
The observed differences in size, location, and agriculture potential of these civilizational centers necessarily resulted in shaping strong differences on the path of their societal evolution:
One might think that isolation limits the scope of innovation while interactions stimulate it due to the increased competition between the societal actors. Is this not one of the foundational tenets of economic science and biological evolution theory? When comparing civilizations China appears nonetheless to contradict this rule. It is a civilization that fostered one of the most refined worldview, culture, and theory of State management in conditions of chaos. And it is still alive and well after 5000 years. No other civilization comes close to such a description. China escaped the pitfalls of rupture and continuity brought it strait to old age. But, if competition was no the driver of China, what was it?
Along the whole path, from tribes to Early-Kingdoms to empire, China had the opportunity to grow incrementally and without ruptures. So the richness of its worldview and culture has to be understood as the maturation of its observations of the natural cycles over a very very long timespan. In such a developmental process it is cooperation that has ensured the richness of the observations and their maturation. Competition appears more like it was putting the brakes episodically on that process by refusing certain change for example. Once a system opens itself to the outside it attracts the competition of its societies and its individuals. By and large China had the chance to operate in a closed system since tribal times and this, in finale, is what allowed for cooperation to outpace competition.
B. Worldview and cultural context
Animist knowledge acquisition is a process that was completed in 2 stages:
My rendering in "Spirit-Twins" of this second stage, about the retreats of the men of knowledge from their tribes, was sketchy at best. It has nevertheless played an essential role in the special path China took during its transition from tribes to Early-Kingdoms and then to empire. So I will now expand my presentation of that notion.
Tribal acquisition of knowledge was facilitated by ingesting hallucinogenic substances that varied according to the geographic locales. Siberian shaman, Vedic men of knowledge in India, the Zoroastrians in Persia and the Indian Tantric Buddhists were using the mushroom “amanita Muscaria” to expand their horizons. The Indian Tantric Buddhists were a branch of Vajrayana Buddhism which was adopted by Tibetans who then inherited the knowledge about the use of that same mushroom. From there its use was transmitted to Mongolia, China and from China the use expanded to Korea and Japan.
Observing the state of trance of their man of knowledge, during feasts or during sessions of health assistance to the sick, the tribesmen understood that his knowledge was acquired through sessions akin to mind torture. So being perceived as accepting such a torture in the service of the group must have generated a lot of gratitude, for the man of knowledge, which explains why he was exempted from all labor chores while nevertheless being supplied with all he needed. When the men of knowledge’s practice is being presented in these terms we better understand that the whole tribal knowledge acquisition process was creating a separation between the men of knowledge from his fellow tribesmen. They needed him so they had much respect for him but they felt different and he felt also different from them. So the common man avoided to socialize with the man of knowledge outside of moments of need of his knowledge rendering service. The following citation by Ives Boileau In “Wu and Shaman” indicates that this social estrangement of the men of knowledge from the citizens reproduced till the imperial era: “Overall, the text of the Yili seems to imply that the Wu was not welcome in human dwellings”. The Yili is a more recent title given to the Confucian Classic “The book of Etiquette and Rites” which was compiled between the 5th and 2nd century BC.
The communication, in tribal societies between the men of knowledge and the citizens, was thus limited – to the acquisition of remedies or divinations when they felt in need – and to the feasts where the man of knowledge officiated as producer of the show in charge of the stage, decoration, the programming of the music and dances, and the initiation of trances.
All in all it has been observed in various locations around the world that the men of knowledge spent their lives on the margin of their tribes, on mountains or in forests, where they felt more at ease practicing with their apprentices or with their counterparts and friends of neighboring tribes. The fact of the matter is that the men of knowledge kept a close contact with their peers and they organized regular retreats from their tribes.
These retreats focused on:
What was at stake, in the belief system of animism, with those spirit-twins was no less than reaching a stage of "universal consciousness" or "seeing with the eyes of the universe". Reaching universal consciousness was seen as the highest accomplishment of a man of knowledge. But the choice was not the man of knowledge's choice. It was considered that, in very rare occurrences, spirit-twins took possession of the minds of a couple of men of knowledge one male and one female and helped them develop the knowledge, the sensitivity, and the practice of "seeing with the eyes of the universe".
Animist apprenticeship was secret and the acquisition of a universal consciousness was even more secret. We know that such a practice existed but, to my knowledge, no information has ever transpired and nothing serious has ever been published on the subject. One of the things we know is that this animist practice was later transferred into early religious systems. The Vedas called this stage of consciousness "Pure Consciousness" or a human awareness that is one with universal consciousness, the Mayans called it "Conscious Co-Creation", the Incas called its holders "Teachers of all others", etc... So it seems as if, in empires all over the earth, this animist notion of "universal consciousness" perdured in one form or another.
The retreats of the men of knowledge from their tribes, often took place inside caves or deep inside forests. They were seen as ritual ceremonies during which the men of knowledge and their apprentices sharpened their knowledge base as well as their practices. These ceremonies were also high moments of "artistic creation". But we have to be cautious about the fact that the term artistic creation is a modern term. What was going on had during these ceremonies had nothing to do with our contemporary understanding about the arts. What we call arts, visual – music – dance, for the shaman represented no more than methods used to:
Those "soul-twin men of knowledge" who succeeded with the help of their spirit-twins to reach a universal consciousness were considered by their fellow men of knowledge as the true sages among them and were called soul-flames or flames. Unfortunately these terms have been recuperated by new age charlatans to characterize exceptional amorous relationships that attract them followers and income. To avoid any confusion with these new age heresies I have been thinking about changing the terminology in my presentation. But I finally decided to leave things as they are because a change of terminology is unmistakably going to cause even more confusion.
A man of knowledge who was reaching universal consciousness gained the respect of all men of knowledge inside the whole known territory. This, I think, is what has originated the expression "all under heaven" or "Tian Xia" that somehow means "all the population under heaven within the known territory ".
Everywhere on earth such retreats by the men of knowledge from their tribes consolidated such notion of the whole known territory (all under heaven). They were also seen as an opportunity to focus on knowledge which means that they were unifying the belief systems within the territory and simultaneously they were an opportunity to participate in the rituals to venerate the knowledge of the sage men of knowledge.
So during Late tribal societies and their transition to Early-Kingdoms the men of knowledge started developing a knowledge about:
With the eradication of tribes and their knowledge base in Western Europe that knowledge was completely lost. I have not had the opportunity yet to inquire what happened in the TriContinent-Area; this will eventually be be the subject of a future research. In China that knowledge got further refined to form the core understanding upon which rested the expansion of the Chinese nation and the centralized structuring of their societal governance.
1. See "The axioms of Civilization 1".
2. Violent eradication of animist beliefs, all their ritualistic visual signs, and its knowledge base. See "Origin Mythology": " 'Animism' was common among the European and Asian cultures of pre-historic Eurasia and persisted into relatively recent times in some parts, until it ultimately came into conflict with Christianity. Many of the ancient European cultures, such as the Celts, the Huns, those of the Scandinavians, and many others, believed in a common tie between the "animal" and "human" world. Indeed for many there was no separation at all. This is one reason why the wearing of animal hides was a common ritual practice among the so-called "barbarian" tribes of Europe.
It was precisely this belief in the unity of the human and animal world that that was seen as "pagan" and primitive by later Christians of the Roman Empire and post-imperial Romanized societies. The belief that humans and the animal world are united has been one of the major beliefs that Christians have worked to stamp out over the past two Milena of Christian expansionism. First throughout Europe, and then throughout North and South America, Christians have come into conflict with cultures that viewed humans as having descended, in some form, either spiritually or bodily, from animals. In every case Christians have fought intensely for the past 2,000 years to eradicate the belief that humans and animals have a close relationship."
3. During the dark ages the only literate individuals were the monks and priests and the administration of power could not do without them so the nobility was somehow the captive of the religious authority. See "Wikipedia": "The cultural influence of the Church has been vast. Church scholars preserved literacy in Western Europe following the Fall of Rome. During the Middle-Ages, the Church rose to replace the Roman Empire as the unifying force in Europe. The cathedrals of that age remain among the most iconic feats of architecture produced by Western Civilization. Many of Europe's Universities were also founded by the church at that time. Many historians state that universities and cathedral schools were a continuation of the interest in learning promoted by monasteries."
4. the rise of cities, the crusades, and the resulting long distance trade. See " From Modernity to After-Modernity. Book 1. Early-Modernity. 1.2. From plunder to long distance trade ".
5. Continuity in China. See "Chapter 1. About the formation of human knowledge. 1.3.4. The civilization of China = animism+. Knowledge formation and power".
"Scholars were the men of knowledge and they were offered to act as the men of power. Knowledge and power have always been closely intertwined in China. Power societies kept that principle alive and this resulted in a growing knowledge base that was specialized:
386-581: Northern dynasties (chiefly Xianbei and Xiongnu or Hun peoples)
907-1125 Liao (Khitan people)
1115-1234 Jin1 (Jurchen people)
1206-1368 Yuan (Mongol people)
1616-1911 Qing (Manchu people)”
in non-Chinese dynasties
Check also the discussion of this question on Quora
6. "World History/Ancient Civilizations" a wikibook
7. Nile River basin.