Contemporary history

Notes from the Contemporary History course

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Lecture 2: At the Roots of Globalization

European colonialism, 1450-1750

Learning objectives:

  1. Reasons behind Europe’s expansionistic drive
  2. The conquer of the Americas and the making of an “Atlantic world”
  3. Europeans in Asia: a half-successful mission
  4. An early-modern world economy

Reasons behind Europe’s expansionistic drive


From the 16th to the 19th century, a new geopolitical system came into power; it was a global, spacial hierarchy atop which sat Europe.


One key point is the food production capacity in Europe’s moderate climate, where a fairly good immunity system came to be

The competition between monarchies and the interconnectedness of the State system helped keep a certain equilibrium

Europe’s seafaring technology (such as the caravel) improved its capacity to navigate in the oceans

There was a limit in demographic and agricultural growth due to the exhaustion of land, and thus the continent’s countries saw the need to expand

The birth of the merchant class actively sought out gold, which it found in the Americas and used to trade with Asia, bringing Europe to a position of economic power

Christian religion and a sense of missionary commitment proved Europeans to be more devout and radical, so to speak; the concept of ‘civilization’, for example, led to Europeans expanding towards other countries to ‘teach them’ to be civilized (one of the reasons for conquering the Americas)

The Renaissance and the birth of the sciences furthered the ideological aspect of Europe’s expansionistic views


Traders from the Red Sea and along the eastern African coast, plus the Indian Ocean, China and many other countries, took part in this seafaring ‘competition’

CHINA: the most economically/technologically advanced area of the world

1600-1500: Chinese seafaring to the Indian Ocean and the Arabic peninsula

1405-1433: Chinese admiral Zheng He led seven transoceanic expeditions to India, Arabic and Eastern Africa

China economically limited itself to its immediate surroundings for political and cultural reasons from the 16th century onwards

The conquer of the Americas and the making of an “Atlantic world”


Europeans first conquered the East and Atlantic islands, where they introduced systems of exploitation, such as plantation economy, which was then also employed in the Caribbeans and in South America. The discovery of the Americas brought about huge demographic changes; on one hand, it caused the dwindling of local/native population, and on another, it triggered a huge influx of people from Europe and Africa (slavery). The Iberian conquerers in Central and South America catalysed the defeat of previous political and social institutions, such as the Aztecs, as well as efforts of forced Christianisation. But one of the main aims of European colonisers manifests itself on an economical level:

  1. IMPORT from the Americas = tobacco, pumpkin, quinine, turkey, sweet potato, squash, avocado, pineapple, peppers, cassava, cacao bean, peanut, potato, tomato, corn, beans, vanilla
  2. EXPORT form Europe = coffee bean, peach, pear, olive, citrus fruits, banana, honeybee, sugar cane, grains, onion, livestock, turnip, grape, disease (smallpox, malaria, influenza, diphtheria, typhus, whooping, measles, cough)

As we can see, this exchange was not equal at all. Regarding colonialism, three types were present in the Ame ricas:

  1. PLANTATION COLONIES in the Caribbean area, the Eastern lowlands and Brazil (already introduced in the Eastern Atlantic islands by Iberian powers and European merchant societies linked to the aforementioned, such as Tuscany and Southern Italy)
  2. MIXED RACE COLONIES in Mexican and Peruvian highlands (minority of Spanish settlers, “mixed” marriage, mestizos)
  3. SETTLER COLONIES in Northern French and British colonies (80% majority of European origin because the original population was widely exterminate, killed through slave work or by diseases imported by the Europeans)

Europeans in Asia: a half-successful mission


Through expansion, Europe wanted to find ‘shortcuts’/other routes to commodities imported from Asia so as to not have to pay more for Asian products redirected to Europe from the Americas; an example of these efforts is Columbus’ journey to find a naval route to India, only to stumble upon America. These precious goods came through other routes, such as through the Suez Cana, Aleppo or Tripoli.

The Portuguese, for these same reasons, explored the western coast of Africa. Vasco de Gama sailed around Africa for the first time in 1498, establishing a sea route to India and penetrating the horn of Africa and the Ethiopian highlands to compete with the sea powers of the Ottoman Empire, sparking various sea battles in the Indian Ocean. Slowly, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and the Spaniards penetrated further east, creating sea routes around Africa.

This mission was only ‘half-successful’ because the situation in Asia was very different from the Americas. There were major empires with bigger territorial control, thus impeding Europe’s expansion and conquest. Success was seen only after the Industrial Revolution (1760-1820), when Europe successfully penetrated (partially) Indonesia, the Philippines and South East China, but Europe could never really occupy China or Japan (at a certain point in the 19th century, it remained the only country not occupied by Europeans). Even India was conquered by the British.

The culture of Asian countries shaped the way they saw the world and could not be so easily affected by futile attempts of forced Christianisation. Although these Asian religions were accepting and willing to hear them out, when Christians began claiming monopoly of deity and accusing them of idolatry, these brought on conflict between Europeans conquerers and Asians.

From an economic point of view, Europe had very little to offer to Asia and desired to acquire this foreign land’s exquisite goods. This changed, however, with the conquest of the Americas and the commencement of gold/silver-mining activities, which were used to buy spices/tea/goods in Asia and export them to Europe.

An early-modern World Economy


We can summarise the effects of Western colonial expansion as the creation of an early-modern world economy. The global exchange of goods and people (mainly under the control of Western European nations) provided Europeans with many commodities and improved the diets of Europeans and Asians thanks to the import of American crops (such as potato and corn). Worldwide financial and trade circuits were mostly under Western European control, and thanks to the printing press, a mass dissemination of information deluged the world.


Spain and Portugal lived through a period of trade wealth, concentrating on sea trade and mercantile activity, but many areas, such as Catalonia and the Netherlands, became decisive centres of manufacture under Spanish rule. The gravitational points of European trade, wealth and manufacture gradually shifted from the Mediterranean to North-western Europe.

While Sicily had one been described as a sort of ‘paradise on Earth’ for its wealth and climate, it became classified as a ‘peripheral area’ along with Central-Eastern Europe, and these areas specified in wheat cultivation and exportation for the wealthier nations of Western Europe. This warranted the development of new economic systems, such as ‘latifondi’. These weren’t a heritage of Medieval history, but were rather an effect of industrialisation and modernization.

Lecture 3: The Concept of ‘Europe’

Learning objectives:

  1. Is Europe a ‘continent’?
  2. Ancient ‘Europe’ and Modern ‘Europe’
  3. Christianitas and ‘Christian Europe’
  4. Enlightenment and the philosophies of history

Is Europe a ‘continent’?


Many scholars of geography believe that the geographical subdivision of the planet will always engage with political and geopolitical projects. Luiza Bialasiewicz writes:

“Region-building projects are fundamentally about the (powerful) making of spaces for political action. Every project of regional mapping or region building is nothing but a political project translated into space.”

There is no necessity in saying that Europe is a continent; it is merely an arbitrary subdivision of the Earth. The predecessors of the early 19th/18th century translated the ideology of their own present into spacial categories, such as continents. The continents of classical geography (the geography of the 19th century) were spaces derived from elements of a theological program (a playbook of world history that describes stages of human development from the past to the future) adapted to the Earth’s surface that catalysed a worldwide race of cultures; this means that the objective differences needed for distinguishing one continent from another were accompanied by different judgements of value.

This essentially means that claiming that Europe is a section of the Earth is arbitrary. The contradiction between the presumed objectivity of the scientific definition, the reference of ‘continent’ and the cutout of the landmass are striking; despite the lack of distance between continents, the lack of natural divisions and the presence of isthmuses, they are still divided. It is clear that Europe as a material concept is not a geographical concept.

Europe is NOT a continent. This means that the objective reality of Europe is something else: it’s a system of division, an abstract concept made up of myriads of references, an ideology that caused divisions based on philosophical speculations about history. It is history that makes geography, and not geography that makes history. Europe is a spacial metaphor of the meaning of history.

Ancient ‘Europe’ and Modern ‘Europe’


All history is contemporary history. The term ‘Europe’ comes from Ancient Greece, where it had great political and mythological significance and symbolised the opposition of the West (‘civilized’) to the East (‘barbaric’), referred to as ‘despotic’. The Greeks felt that they descended from the East, and this term contained an image of the self that was looked at through the eyes of an imaginary ‘other’; when we say we are the Westerners, we imagine that we are being looked at by someone east of us.

According to the myth, Europe was an ancient woman that never set foot on land that was considered European. Erodotus proclaimed that such a denomination would hardly make sense, but he overlooked the fact that what today many would call an identity needs to incorporate another to become effective.

After the end of Greek antiquity, for almost 1000 years, Europe’s mythological and political connotations were lost and the geographical one only partially drifted away from its original sites and became much larger. Geographically, Europe appears to have been referred to as a continental area that did not comprise its barbaric neighbours. It was later extended to the Peloponnese and its archipelagos, but never to Crete or Asia Minor (it remained the huge ‘other’).

With Asia, the Greeks meant Anatolia, the Middle East and Persia. Politically, the word ‘Europe’ referred to the world of the Pòlis, which was in opposition with the despotic systems of the Persian Empire; it was particularistic and an expression of Greek pride. The reason why the myth of Europe lost its political efficacy was attributed to the emergence of Alexander and the Roman Empire. Particularistic claims of Greek pride were hard to accept because of its disintegrative potential; empires must be inclusive because the opposite would destabilise the empire, and this was very true also when the Roman Empire became Christian.

This highlights one key difference between Ancient ‘Europe’ and Modern ‘Europe’: the Europe of pre-antiquity was particularistic, but from the Renaissance onwards, it was universalistic.

Christianitas and Christian Europe


To the dominant theology of the following centuries (Christianity), the imaginary geographical centre of the world remained Jerusalem, partly inhabited by ‘heathens’ at the time. Europe was a geographical category distinguished from the concept of Christianity.

In the late Middle Ages, it was a vague geographical reference and was replaced by the recurrent use of ‘Christianitas’. In later sources, Europe was described as Christianity’s ‘last refuge’. During the early Renaissance, the myth of Europe became more popular than it had been for a millennium, but at the time of the Crusades (1095-1286) the term ‘European armies’ were unheard of and substituted by ‘Christian armies’. The people who came in to invade the ‘Christian’ lands were referred to the Franks; nobody spoke of Europeans.

‘Europe’ as a concept was recovered by Humanists (powerful men in the Church, such as Nicholas of Kues and Pope Pius II) in the 15th century, when these individuals introduced the term ‘Christian Europe’ (not seen before) and applied it to the past, such as when speaking about the Middle Ages (although in the Middle Ages this term was not known). Antique concepts (the opposition between West and East/Civil and Barbaric/Free and Despotic) were recovered, and this further confirmed the Western historical affiliation to the East (like when Alighieri remarked that the origins of the West lie in the East) also regarding the origins of Christianity (in Asia) and its troubled coexistence with Islam, the youngest branch of the same Abrahamic family tree. This sense of familiarity was rendered visceral both positively and negatively compared to the neutrality of before. The extreme north that we now consider Europe was not considered Europe at the time, and these ideologies mentioned before were nothing new; the Humanists merely took the Antique’s concept of Europe and transposed it to modern times.


In early-modern geography, Europe extended to the Atlantic coast, while its borders to the North and to the East were not clear; it was radically different from the Greeks’ concept. It corresponded to the geographical macro-areas assigned in the early Middle Ages, when the mythological and political connotations of Europe had already faded. In cartography, the passage from Antiquity to Christianitas and from Medieval and Modern/Secularised Europe was radical and featured nonexistent Eastern borders due to political dispute until the 19th century, when a geographical consensus was reached and it coincided with the Ural mountains and rivers. Another consensus was reached in the 20th century regarding the decision of marking the border of Europe and Asia along the Caucasus Crest. Up until the 13th century, stylised mapping subordinated Europe geographically to Asia because this guarded the Garden of Eden and was regarded as the landmark of the beginning and the end of history.

The extension of seafaring caused a 90-degree rotation of the world map; modern geography set Europe at the top of the world and maps of these kind entrenched the new hierarchy of space into people’s minds thanks to the printing press. This was at odds with the spherical nature of the Earth, and thus also these modern maps did not reflect the best geographical knowledge of that age, but rather the peoples’ conception of the world in which they lived (Eurocentric and ‘superior’).

We can see how the Greeks’ exceptionalism was completely lost and was replaced by European superiority ensconced in Christian superiority, according to which only followers of that religion knew the whole truth of the world. However, this same Christianity was not Eurocentric, as not even the Pope had a problem with affiliating the religion with Jerusalem. The new, unprecedented aspect of modern Europe, as a consequence, was the translation of the typically Christian sense of history into a new space metaphor, a hallmark of Eurocentrism.


Therefore, the radical innovation that the Renaissance operated was the melting of Christianitas into ‘Europe’. This made of the term a geographical expression of the moral commitment to a universal mission; Christianity injected the belief that human history is a theological process of the salvation of humanity and assumed a universalistic stance (this is why 15th-century Europe had universalistic intentions) due to a new territorial disposition of power and sovereignty (the Ottoman expansion, etc.).

The same sense of mission was secularized through a diverse narrative of redemption which can be summarised as ‘neologism of civilization’. Europeans were charged by history by planting in Africa and Asia the principles of civilization, human rights, progress and illumination of Europe, as previously had been the dissemination of the ‘word of the Lord’. The very concept that history has a meaning is at the core of that philosophy, even in its most atheist versions. The scholars and philosophers and important figures of Europe competed to come up with the most authentic representation of Europe, the truest and interpretation of the purpose of history.


There are many parallels between these two classes of theology; while the promise of the heavens (represented as an ascent to the kingdom of heaven to reunite with God) was present in Theology, it was replaced, in Secular Theology, by the promise of progress towards a society, placing humanity in God’s throne, so to speak, finally disclosing the true nature of mankind.

The meaning of history switched from transcendence to immanence, and humanity became based on hopes for the future and the belief that men and women can change the world for the better. The driving forces of history were humanised, and humanity was seen as an actor that could turn it all upside-down; for Karl Löwith, this is not the case, as the very postulated history might have a meaning is what distinguishes a Western philosophy of history: philosophers of this kind believe that history only has a meaning if there is some transcendent purpose beyond actual facts. But history is merely a movement of time, the purpose is its goal. It is not enough to replace God with humanity; the realisation of true humanity clearly echoes monotheistic eschatology. Humanity offers no conception of the immanence, but likewise points to the transcendence of historical purpose.

CONCLUSION: the theological conception of history summarises in itself the hallmark of European ideology; they simply assume that history DOES have a meaning and don’t ask themselves if it truly does. They believe that it’s the duty of Europeans to point out the wrongdoings of the past and lead the world in the right direction, and it is through this ideology that Europeans are able to divide the world in good and evil. This is the cause of the hierarchical organization of the world, according to Europe, and of the classification of geographical areas into ‘backwards’ or ‘progressive’ through anthropological parameter; this concept legitimises European expansion and colonisation.

Lecture 4: European timeline, 1776-1914

Learning objectives:

  1. Factors of European worldwide dominance</u>
  2. Critics of Eurocentrism</u>
  3. Synthesis of European timeline events: the wave of revolutions in Europe</u>
  4. Synthesis of European timeline events: new nations States in Europe</u>

Factors of European worldwide dominance


The period between the late 18th century and the early 19th century was the climax of European power. The Industrial Revolution played a big part of the latter by assuring Europe unprecedented dominance all over the world; some of the explanations for this are:

Moderate climates favoured agriculture, cheap raw materials and energy availability

Europe learned the know-how of manufacture from India and China and came to rise high above every other area on Earth

Europe had a particular predisposition for scientific discovery and pragmatic ethics

The competition between the political entities in Europe brought about motivation for being better than their enemies, leading to benefits for everyone

Critics of Eurocentrism


There were many similarities between Europe and other areas on Earth; for example, around the 1750’s, China, India, Japan and the Middle East also had market-oriented agricultural production, wealthy merchants, savings for investment, free markets and skilled handicraft industries. Moreover, the level of living standards were not much behind Europe and there was demographic growth, as well as birth control. At the time, China and India produced 57% of the world manufacturing output, while Europe/America only produced 27%. Great Britain (and other European countries) only stole the know-how and then made protectionist policies.

But Europe had something that Asia didn’t: colonies. This served for the accumulation for capital to start industries, and this came mainly from precious metals that permitted trade with Asia. Also Africa’s raw materials were stolen through slave labour, allowing Europe to sore above all other continents. The plantation system that was at the core of European expansion in the Americas may have modelled and pioneered patterns of economic activity that became central to industrial production. Exposure to these new patterns of production and marketing arguably assisted European businessmen in developing an industrial factory-based system that operated in a similar manner.

Synthesis of European Timeline Events:

The wave of revolutions in Europe


After the French Revolution, Napoleon had tried to conquer continental Europe in order to reform and unite Europe under French guidance. He was defeated in 1814 and then definitely 1815 at Waterloo, and the settlement of the various peace treaties (such as the Congress of Vienna) lasted one whole year. The political map of Europe was redefined; this peace plan was overseen by England, Russia, Prussia and Austria with the purpose of maintaining peace in Europe and to fend off political revolutions, constitutional movements and republicanism, while the Ottoman Empire was completely excluded from the treaties. The political purpose of the treaty was successful until the unification of Germany and Italy, while peace was maintained for almost 40 years until the Crimean war in the 1850’s, in which for the first time France, England and the Ottoman Empire fought against the Czarist Empire.


After the settlement of a conservative system with the Congress of Vienna, many liberal movements and protests bubbled to the surface. The first occurred in 1820, when soldiers (which were to be sent to South America to fight the protests and the independence movement in the colonies) revolted and forced the government to reinstate the former liberal constitution of Càdiz. This sparked liberal constitutional movements in Portugal and Southern Italy (where the figure of Guglielmo Pepe was prominent) and strengthened International solidarity between liberal movements. Furthermore, it provoked the Decembrist revolt in 1825.

The next wave of revolutionary upheavals started in France (1830-1831), where the dissatisfaction of the bourgeoisie caused them to revolt against their particularly reactionary monarch, who had imposed restrictions on political participation. He stepped down and was substituted by another monarch who was more inclined to stick to some liberal traditions and granted wider political participation.

This signal was received in Poland and in Belgium. The area of Warsaw, which had been an independent state under Napoleon, was re-established as an autonomous entity under the ultimate sovereignty of the Czar, who once appeared to share liberal ideals but proved the opposite . The Polish became dissatisfied with his rule and revolted, and after months of successful protests, the Czarist troops crushed them.

The third major upheaval of the 1830’s took place in Belgium, which had been incorporated into the Dutch monarchy by the Congress of Vienna. The Netherlands had had a diverse selection of rulers and were a major centre of industrialisation. The population of Belgium didn’t feel that it was represented in the Dutch state and successfully revolted for independence. This sparked smaller (unsuccessful) revolutions in Italian and German areas.


The most significant wave of revolutions occurred in 1848/1849, and the only areas that were not involved were the Iberian peninsula, Northern Britain, the Scandinavian countries, the Tsarist Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The main claims regarded constitutions, national unification and independence, and involved unfulfilled promises exacerbated by the Congress of Vienna.

These were mostly successful, but there were also fault lines between revolutionaries; this was a sign that the social, political and economic landscape of Europe had changed a lot, and the main fault was between moderate liberals (who were for constitutional monarchy) and democrats/republicans/socialist forces, and between the bourgeoisie (more allied with socialists and democrats) and the political manifestations of the proletarian movement. A third fault line was the alternative between the two main goals: political participation and nationalism (violent and was considered more important than ever). Some examples are the division between Hungarians and Croats during the 1848 revolution or the one between Germans and Czechs. So it became increasingly clear that revolutionaries, at the notion of a fork in the road of decisions, preferred to ally with conservative/moderate forces because the nation was more important than political participation.

The creation of more nation States in the coming decades was a consequence of the realisation that, although some revolts were quieted, they could never be quashed completely in the long run.

Synthesis of European Timeline Events:

New nation States in Europe (1832-1878)


The Greek movement (1830’s) took place in a period of strong international solidarity and coincided with the upheavals in Spain and Russia. It was a strong cultural movement, and after it was ended successfully, there were two other movements that attracted intellectual attention: the Polish movement and the Italian movement (the ‘Risorgimento’).

National statehood was the main features of European development between the French Revolution and World War one, also known as the ‘long 19th century’. The most important developments were German and Italian national unification as these substituted a great number of small ‘buffer states’ developed by the Congress of Vienna to create a sort of geopolitic equilibrium, while another great development was the retreat of the Ottoman Empire from the Balkans.

Lecture 5: The Concept of ‘Industrial Revolution’

Learning objectives:

  1. Subdivisions of the economy
  2. Historical definitions of ‘industry’
  3. Industry ‘proper’ and handicraft
  4. Structural change in a long-term perspective
  5. Industrialisation: definition and geographical diffusion

Subdivisions of the economy

The Industrial Revolution that triggered a process of industrialisation, which brought about structural change within our economy, such as the transformation of the various economic sectors. These are, respectively, :

  1. PRIMARY SECTOR: The processes of extraction of raw materials which regard mining, electricity, agriculture (the most important sector), fishing and hunting
  2. SECONDARY SECTOR: The transformation of raw materials into tangible goods; includes heavy industry and manufacturing industry (includes handicraft and follows a factorial system)
  3. TERTIARY SECTOR: This sector regards the distribution of these tangible goods and the production of intangible goods, that is:
    • trade
    • transportation
    • information
    • financial services
    • social services
    • personal services

These structures disgorged into production systems (such as, to name a few, feudalism, trading, and the specialisation of certain areas in different sectors of production) that would feed the political and social nucleus of civilization (major corporations and political leaders, who benefit greatly from economic systems that favour capitalism).

The crux of political power remained agriculture (the Primary Sector) until the Industrial Revolution. It was then that the Secondary Sector gained the upper hand over the Primary Sector in terms of both production and work force; this triggered a major change in our essence as human beings. Worldwide consumption of energy accelerated in an incredible manner (entropy), consuming our planet’s energy reserves in a way that negatively impacted its ecosystems and would also affect us later on.

Historical definitions of ‘Industry’

In order to understand the meaning of the word and render its meaning homogeneous so as to reach a unitary definition, it would be wise to take a look at its historic connotations first.

Historically, ‘industry’ was a rather generic word; in latin, it meant ‘being committed to/working on something’. Today, the word has differing denotations:

  1. Indicates the aggregate of manufacturing/the selection of technically productive enterprises in a particular field (e.g.: ‘the automobile industry’)
  2. Indicates any general business activity or commercial enterprise (e.g.: ‘the Italian tourist industry’)
  3. Indicates trade or manufacture in general (e.g.: ‘the rise of industry in Africa’)

We are also confronted with different linguistic traditions as well:

  1. In English tradition, with the term ‘industry’, people meant the mining industry and all activities pertaining to the Secondary Sector
  2. In Italian tradition, on the other hand, ‘industria’ didn’t only regard mining and the Secondary Sector, but also many other services
  3. Finally, in German tradition, ‘industrie’ referred to mining and the mechanised part of the Secondary Sector (handicraft was not considered an industry)</u>

The generic word ‘industry’ (that comes from latin) is conditioned by the fact that the first industrial activities of the revolution developed in Sectors that were not regulated by trade/handicraft organizations. One example is the cotton industry, which became the most important sector in the textile industry and was not regulated by any corporation.

Industry ‘proper’ and Handicraft

The reason it is crucial to dwell on the German distinction of industry is due to the fact that this distinction became particularly meaningful because of Karl Marx, as this was at the core of his analysis of economy in ‘The Capitol’.

At the centre of handicraft-based production, we can find the workshop-like activities and traditional manufacture, in which there is a mass production of tangible products via handicraft production. The tools used are manual tools and instruments handled by the workers themselves, and thus mass production is significantly limited.

At the centre of industries, however, is a sort of factory system characterized by the mechanisation of production that replaces muscle/mental work, which permits mass production on a much larger scale than in handicraft-based production.

With these facts at hand, it is possible to say that capitalism is based on wage labour and capital investment and was pre-existent to industrial production methods. The only differences introduced by the Industrial Revolution were:

  1. A segmentation of the labour process that made labourers interchangeable and expanded the labour market
  2. The allowance of scales of production that enumerated huge investment with regards to production

In this way, industrialisation did not create capitalism, but it helped it become one of the key elements of modern industrial production. In fact, capitalism, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is the following:

An economic, political, and social system in which property, business, and industry are privately owned and directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organizations and people.

Structural change in a long-term perspective

Over the course of a 150 years, what began as an Industrial Revolution that expanded from England to other parts of the world became a major catalyst that completely changed the economic structure of the world. The Secondary Sector prevailed in Europe and North America over the Primary Sector, but even after the completion of the Industrial process, structural change continued along lines that led to the pronunciation of the following sentence by French scholar Jean Fourastiè:

“Nothing will be less industrial than the civilization borne of the Industrial Revolution.”

What does this mean? This quote refers to the fact that the Tertiary Sector had already overpowered the Secondary Sector in the 1950’s; this phenomenon was especially striking in the United States of America, a country which paved the path to explosive tertiary development in every other nation. The services sector became more compelling than the industrial sector in terms of production, and the same is then also true in terms of employment. This means that the generation born during the Industrial Revolution later veered towards an expansion of the services sector instead of the industrial sector, which is what Fourastiè had indicated with his aforementioned quote.

Industrialisation: definition and geographic diffusion

The Industrial Revolution marks the kick-off of a gradual and unhindered course of Industrialisation; this term indicates a great structural change of our economy which leads to our production sectors to lean more towards Secondary and Tertiary production Sectors. The exact date of commencement of Industrialisation in a nation is hard to pinpoint and not quite meaningful on a larger scale, but a handy way of specifying the duration of this process is to observe when it has ended and when the country’s industry has matured. This is defined by two parameters: industrial production and employment. Industrialisation is completed only when industrial production prevails over agricultural production and is further confirmed when industrial employment prevails over agricultural employment. These parameters are used to compare Nation States in order to analyse what might catalyse such changes and how one country/geographical area influences another.

Lecture 6: The Industrial Revolution in Europe


Learning objectives:

  1. The Characteristics of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain
  2. Belgium and Switzerland: a comparison
  3. French industrialisation in comparison with the British case
  4. Railroads and universal banking: features of German industrialisation
  5. Industrial regions in Italy, Spain, the Hapsburg and the Czarist Monarchies
  6. Industrialisation in the USA</u>
  7. Overview: Wealth, capitalism, urbanisation and demographic development

The Characteristics of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain

The main factors of Britain’s economic process/Industrialisation are very diverse:

  1. Colonialism (the colonies provided raw materials and changed the mentality of the British nobility), mercantile capitalism and overseas trade
  2. Corporate enterprise and stock exchange
  3. Agricultural improvement, enclosures and land circulation
  4. Political systems (a ‘liberal climate’ was present in Great Britain at that time, which was great for investment and market-oriented economic sectors and granted political participation for the nobility and the upper class) and mercantilism (very important for building up a mercantile fleet)
  5. The mentality of the nobility (they became increasingly enterprise-oriented and adopted a capitalistic mentality)
  6. The adoption of free trade policies during the 18th century, which was convenient for them because they were the main trading power
  7. State institutions were also very important (the monarchy controlled the currency, which was homogeneous throughout the kingdom and created optimal circumstances for a stable monetary system; protectionist measures were also taken sometimes to boost Britain’s own production, such as with the textile industry)
  8. Monetary stability and the banking system that spread from the city to the countryside (agriculture became market-oriented and the agricultural industry dwindled into enterprises that served external markets, such as trade, and investments were made towards the agricultural sector through money obtained with primitive accumulation, which comes from other sectors; this distinguished Britain from continental Europe, where the nobility didn’t even think of investing their money is ‘bourgeois’ enterprises; the banking system delivered the capital for these investments)
  9. Proto-industry and technological innovation
  10. Transport systems and the development of infrastructure
  11. Economic geography of Britain (very important because the layers of iron and minerals were close to the seaports, which made the cost of these raw materials quite low; this was a huge advantage compared to France, where coal was imported at a higher price due to a timber shortage; coal was originally a resource used only in emergency situations)

Belgium and Switzerland: a comparison

The first two countries in Europe that completed the Industrialisation process were Belgium and Switzerland, and although they are small, both are proof of the dynamics of regional specialisation (certain areas in Belgium, for example, specialised in the cotton manufacturing industry, another is a coal district, while yet another is an expert in the wood and textile industry in the east).

An English immigrant and industrialist, John Cockerill, was the one who introduced mechanised textile production in Wallonia, close to a nearby wool district, which is an example of interregional dynamics within the Industrial process. Cockerill soon came to be a huge, vertically-integrated corporation that stressed the importance of the coal industry, the steel industry and the engineering industry, which, in the first half of the 19th century, emerged as the biggest producer of machine tools, locomotives and steam engines in Europe. European engineers aided the dispersion of this knowledge in other countries, and soon the entire continent was following in Belgium’s footsteps.

Furthermore, in the Boring region in Belgium, the coal mines in the plains needed huge investments. The first common pump was imported from Britain in the early 18th century, and due to a huge need of capital, the royal institutions and the banks in Belgium formed the Societè General in order to become stock owners of coal mines (and later on also of some iron industries). This was the first time banks were directly involved in industry, and this was one of the major differences between Belgium and Great Britain. For the first time, financing and banking in continental Europe adopted a critical role.

Belgium, however, was a place of imitation and where many British and French entrepreneurs immigrated, and was, quite literally, a ‘photo copy’ of the British industry.

Switzerland was divided into regions like Belgium and also included a watch-making industry and a pharmaceutical industry (traces of which we can still see until today). But regarding private entrepreneurship and liberalism, nothing here was similar to Great Britain; the Swiss industrialisation process occurred without smoke and big industrial towns, differently from Britain. The textile machines were the same as in every other nation, but they were driven by turbines and water wheels (thanks to the water rushing down from the mountains), which gave Switzerland an advantage in the production of electrotechnical industries. These industries were based in rural sites, and thus the workers were owners of small lands that were also part-time farmers. The landscape hardly resembled that of a typical industrialised country because Switzerland had been able to both preserve its delicate ecosystems and grant jobs to small labourers in the countryside.

This all together is proof that machine tools, and not the steam engine, are at the core of the Industrial Revolution.

French industrialisation in comparison with the British case

France, along with Russia, was the most populated European country in the 18th century, and was also the culturally and technologically most developed country in the continent. It was a sort of ‘America’ of the 18th century, and so this begs the question: why did France ‘lose’ to Great Britain in the 19th century? Why was Great Britain the pioneer of Industrialisation, and not France?

Up to the French Revolution, the country seemed to have the best preconditions:

  1. Corporate entrepreneurship (in the glass, gas, chemicals, and sugar industries)
  2. More science-oriented innovations
  3. Seemed fitter to lead the Second Industrial revolution thanks to its corporate entrepreneurship
  4. Had the best infrastructure and lands in Europe, while Britain was quite poor because the State did not intervene in these sectors

It was due to the Napoleonic era that French industrial development came to a stand-still and came to lag behind Britain during the Industrial Revolution, and the European market was so protected that technological innovation was practically null. Some comparative disadvantages (although greatly exaggerated by French scholars) are:

  1. Loss of colonies
  2. Less export-oriented
  3. The presence of familial capitalism in the textile and iron industry
  4. The nobility’s conservative views
  5. The emergence of a Peasantry middle-class ownership of land after the Slow Revolution</u> (does not favour population growth, leading to slow demographic growth listed in point number 7)
  6. Inability of French agricultural and industrial producers to meet the growing worldwide competition for markets after the fall of Napoleon (although inventions like the Jacquard loom defy this fact)
  7. Slow demographic growth (people migrated to towns an industrial demand diminished)
  8. Weaker banking system (Liòn was the only industrialised city and banks were only concentrated there; banks mostly invested in real estate and agriculture, which were main sources of instability that contributed to these banks’ crash)
  9. The economic geography of French territory (the location of coal mines and iron mines diverged, and there were no rivers in between; especially before the creation of rail-roads, the integration between the two sectors could not occur)

The lack of heritage of innovation during the First Industrial Revolution consequently led to France’s backwardness during the Second.

Railroads and universal banking: features of German industrialisation

As a Nation State, Germany did not exist before 1871, but in economic history, it is convenient to speak of it as a pre-existent region.

The German states differed greatly with regards to the banking sector and the various monetary systems and was actually quite backward compared to Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean (e.g.: the use of paper money was not widespread yet). However, Germany sped up its industrialisation in the 1840’s/50’s, but it was during the 1870’s/90’s (the Second Industrial revolution, where the chemical industry and the sugar industry were trademarks of German industrialisation) that incredible dynamics emerged. There was no single leading industry in Germany during the First Industrial Revolution, but railroad-building could be considered as such.

Railroads are what coal is mainly used for, and thus increased the demand for coal was greatly increased and the possibility of transporting it (as well as raw materials) from place to place at a reasonable cost emerged. Iron and steel were used to actually construct railroad tracks, and therefore those industries were exploited as well. The engineering industry was also boosted by the introduction of railroads and appeared in small towns in which engineers learned the know-how of industrialisation in French (thanks to the work of John Cockerill).

Given that Germany was not liberal, but conservative, and that traditional handicraft corporations were not completely dismantled, there was a prominent presence of high-quality work force in the engineering industry as well, which produced amazing German engines that they could then export at soaring prices.

Railroads integrated the regional and local markets into the national market, boosting many other branches of the industry and rendering the nation’s economy more or less homogeneous. A huge amount of capital, however, was needed in the creation of railroads, and the way Germany was able to accumulate enough capital to do so was by building off the joint stock banks (this became a feature of German industrialisation). These banks were not specialised and they were spread throughout the entire territory, not limiting themselves to nobility. Banks became a sort of public institution that had great influence on new industrial projects (like steel works) and integrated finance and industry.

Industrial regions in Italy, Spain, the Hapsburg and the Czarist Monarchies

The aforementioned countries weren’t the only ones who hit their peak of Industrialisation before World War One:

  1. In Spain (Catalonia), there was an old industrial region that participated in the first wave of Industrialisation and, thanks to its widespread textile manufacturing, was fully industrialised by 1900
  2. In Italy, Piedmont and Lombardy had flourished as industrial regions during the first wave and were also fully industrialised by 1900; meanwhile, Liguria industrialised as a maritime terminal of the industrial heartland, while major industrial sites opened in Veneto (wool), Tuscany (metallurgy, engineering) and a few other regions
  3. The Hapsburg Empire, on the other hand, featured old industrial textile regions in Bohemia and central Austria (where an important metallurgical and engineering industry also bloomed), as well as Vorarlberg; two other important areas are Budapest (home of the electrotechnical industry) and Trieste (featured shipyards)
  4. Finally, the Russian Empire only showed a great effort in industrialisation after 1880 in an explosion of state railroads, the birth of a national coal, iron and steel industry, and the creation of important industries in major urban areas such as Moscow, St. Petersburg and Poland; this, along with the foundation of foreign banks and tax exemptions for foreign capital, assured that by 1905 the Empire would boast 2 million factory workers, thus making it a strong industrial country, but not an industrialised one

Industrialisation in the USA


The preconditions of this industrial development were very diverse; the USA had a large population, and thus the domestic market size was bigger than that of European countries. What was even more important was that the USA was abundant in capital goods while Europe had to scramble to its colonies in order to obtain raw materials. This made a huge difference: the wage level in the USA was high (due to lack of competition), as well as the demand for consumer goods. In Europe, on the other hand, low wages favoured industrialisation but limited the demand of the working classes.

While Europe sought out technological innovation to save capital input, all the technological efforts were destined to save labour in the USA, and not capital. Building cheap cars at the assembly line in America was completely feasible due to the copiousness of raw materials, and so the rationalisation of consumer goods industry in Europe lagged until the 1950’s (where a process of ‘Americanisation’ accurate, during which the economic trajectory in Europe changed as well; an example of this shift is how the wage levels equalised during the great migrations from Europe to America). Marketing was a key element in the United States’ economy, while it was inconsequential in Europe (regarding the production and advertisement of consumer goods).


GDP per capita is the most common measure of average productivity of a country. In the 1500’s, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, India and China were pretty much at the same level until the mid 17th century. After 1650, northern Europe took the lead (especially Britain and the Netherlands), while the Asian countries fell behind. India and China became poor countries, while only Japan was able to start its industrialisation process after the 1850’s; India and China only started to recover after 1980.

Overview: Wealth, capitalism, urbanisation, and demographic development

The leading industries during the Industrial Industry were:

  1. 1760-1840: textiles, coal, iron, steam engine
  2. 1840-1880: railways, steamships
  3. 1880-1920: chemicals, steel, electricity, internal combustion motors, automobiles

The effects on wealth and economic growth were:

  1. An increase in productivity through mechanisation in the cotton industry from 1750 to 1825
  2. An increase in productivity in the iron industry in Great Britain from 1790 to 1860
  3. An increase in income per capita, especially in Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the USA

With regards to population growth, Europe swelled from 150 million to 400 million inhabitants during the time frame between 1750 and 1900. Along with this, urban population expanded from 17% to 54% between 1801 and 1891, while the principle of the market was extended to the whole of the economy; labour became a commodity and urbanisation and the market deeply transformed social structures and mentalities.

Lecture 7: The American Revolution of 1776

Learning objectives:

  1. Puritan eschatology
  2. The conflict between the British crown and its American colonies
  3. The Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the Constitution of 1787
  4. Slavery before and after Independence
  5. Westward expansion and native population
  6. Democratic representation and social structure

Puritan eschatology

American colonies were only founded by its conquerers in the 17th century, and the political, cultural and religious beliefs that would be present there were brought in by settlers from Europe (in particular, Great Britain), a continent riddled with religious and political conflict.

One crucial group of settlers was the Puritans, who organised themselves in the form of joint stock companies; very often, the governors of States (such as John Winthrop, Massachusetts’ first governor) were also the heads of these companies, and thus these companies were comprised of a political, spiritual and entrepreneurial elite. Their ethos was close to protestantism and eschatology, and their main aim was to build a ‘new England’/a ‘new Zion’ in the colonies.

Another important ideology present in the colonies derives from John Locke’s theories, which mainly focused on the concept of liberty:

“The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule.”

Lastly, one of the other key trains of thought ‘departing from its station’ at the time was the one linked to the English political theorist of classical republicanism named James Harrington, and it had more to do with the proposition of a free State and the virtue of its arm-bearing citizens.

The conflict between the British crown and its American colonies

The American Revolution can also be considered as one of the consequences of the Seven Years’ War, which extended over many continents and ended successfully for Great Britain.

At the end of the war (1763), France cede all mainland North American territories (except New Orleans) in order to retain the Caribbean sugar islands. Britain, on the other hand, gained territories east of the Mississippi river, leaving Spain with territories west of the Mississippi (the country also traded Florida for Cuba). These events constituted the first instance of friction between the American colonies and Great Britain, who wanted to pacify them.

Another aspect that upset the land speculators and real-estate companies among the American settlers was that, in 1763, king George III prohibited the extension of settlements west of the Appalachian mountains, and thus the heads of the real estate companies became the leaders of the Revolution. Furthermore, the king also intervened in colonial affairs by granting religious freedom for the French Catholics of Louisiana, ‘offending’ the colonies’ claim to their ‘right’ over territories in the west.

Soon, a debate developed in Great Britain about the legitimacy of slavery, and the American settlers feared an abolitionist decree.

But the most important aspect is the quarrel of the finance of the past war and the defence of the companies; the monarchy had to raise taxes in order to finance the military and to pay off its accumulated debts, first with the Sugar and Stamp Acts (1765), and then with the Revenue Act (1767). The Americans felt that this was a great injustice and came up with the famous phrase, ‘no taxation without representation’.

The revolution broiled until new British troops arrived at Boston in 1678, and, as a sign of protest against tea taxation, American settlers threw tons of tea overboard from ships of the East India Company in what is known as the Boston tea party (1773). As a consequence, Massachusetts was stripped of self-government and the colonies boycotted British goods. The Continental Congress decided to meet for the first time in 1774.

The Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the Constitution of 1787

The commanding chief of the Continental Army was George Washington, and the first armed conflict of the Revolutionary War occurred in 1775. This led to the Continental Congress’ emanation of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776; but the war took a twist when, in 1777, British and American loyalist (a number of other troops were also present, some of them on the side of the British, such as a lot of slaves that hoped for the abolition of slavery, while some sided with the settlers, especially the French troops, who wanted to take revenge for the horrors of the Seven Years’ War; one of the French commanders was General la Fayette) forces surrendered at Saratoga on the 13th of October. On the 1st of March, 1781, the Articles of Confederation were ratified, and on the 18th of October, the British forces surrendered. Many other important events followed, such as the Peace Treaty of Paris in 1783, the adoption of the American Constitution in 1787 and the vote for the Bill of Rights in 1791.

Slavery before and after Independence

The role of slavery during the American Revolution has been recently revisited and has challenged the original narrative of ‘freedom for all’ that has been preached by American historians for decades. The reality of slave houses and plantations (especially in the Southern colonies) was at odds with the values of freedom and liberty, and more recent studies point out that Africans in the American colonies took arms on the side of the British, while the slave holders pushed for the revolution to prevent the introduction of an abolition decree. Freedom, for the founders of the United States, meant the freedom to keep others enslaved, and a strand of that argument can be found in John Locke’s theory. The American Revolution therefore centred on Americans’ right to control their property (which included other human beings) and reinforced the States’ commitment to keep the slave industry alive and kicking.

Slavery was outlawed in most northern States after the end of the war, but this only freed children when these turned 25 years old, and racism still persisted (as we can see in a Massachusetts law of 1786 that prohibited whites from marrying African Americans, Indians or people of mixed race).

Doubts about the moral aspects of slavery never really took serious hold among white folk in the Lower South. In fact, after the Mexican Revolution, US slaveholders settled in Texas, completely disregarding Mexican legislation. When the war between the US and Mexico broke out in 1836, Texas already had 5,000 slaves. When Texas joined the United States in 1845, the state was home to at least 30,000 slaves, a number which swelled to 58,000 in 1850.


After a four-year Civil War (1861-1865) between the United States and 11 slave-holding Southern states, these all formed the Confederate States of America. Regarding slavery, things took a turn in 1865 with the 13th Amendment (passed by Congress on January 31st, 1865), which states:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”

What ensued was a mass incarceration of African-Americans in order to legally keep them as slaves. From 1875 to 1965, State laws and local regulations came into existence that enforced racial segregation (apartheid) in the USA, especially in the Southern States. Only under the pressure of the Civil Rights movement did the States start the process of overcoming Jim Crow in 1964, a racist caricatural character of African-Americans that has been present since the 1820s.

Westward expansion and Native Population

With the Revolution, a process of territorial expansion began. The United States first started expanding its territory with the Treaty of Paris, proceeding both Westward and Southward, conquering land through wars and peaceful treaties, such as with Mexico. On a diplomatic level, it was still in the logic of colonial territorial administration (such as with Mexico and Alaska, which was purchased in the 1860s by the USA from the Czarist Empire for 7.2 million dollars), but this was not the case with many native populations. On these lands lived a consistent number of native Americans who had deported to these areas by the settlers themselves. The conquer of these regions was seen by Americans as a conquer in the name of ‘civility’. The conquer, once completed, continued in the direction of the Pacific Ocean (Hawaii) and on to places like Cuba. It was also seen as the conquest of ‘virgin land’; according to the legal philosophy of colonising European countries, savages who lived on a land and did not work it had no notion of the modern legal theory regarding private property extending to the land, and thus had no right to the possession of said land; they were the ‘illegal’ dwellers that were then dehumanised by settlers. It was a systematic genocide.

Democratic representation and social structure

The American Constitution reflects the traditions of political thought in the 18th century and American society.

Social structure:

  1. SLAVES: Slavery of Africans existed in all the British American colonies.
  2. FREE BLACKS: The British American colonies had a small but important population of free men and women of African decent.
  3. FARMERS: During the 18th century, most Americans lived and worked on small farms.
  4. MIDDLING TENDENCIES IN THE SOCIETY: In the 18th century, a new group gained a larger role in society and government. These men and women worked in trades or as professionals, such as lawyers and doctors, or merchants who owned stores.
  5. GENTRY: The gentry were the ‘upper crust’ of colonial society. They were the large landowners, very wealthy merchants and financiers.

The political system is the following:

  1. The people elect members of Congress and the President
  2. Congress approves the Cabinet’s (executive body) decisions and has the power of impeaching the President
  3. The President nominates members of Cabinet

The people who had a right to vote for the first American Congress were the following:

  1. 60-80% of white adult male citizens
  2. Many poor white, and most of the black, both free and enslaved, were excluded
  3. Women were excluded
  4. Natives were excluded
  5. Nevertheless, the right to vote was much more ‘general’ than in most European liberal systems of the 19th century

Lecture 8: The French Revolution and the Napoleonic period, 1789-1814

Learning objectives:

  1. Major turning points of the revolutionary process
  2. A new concept: “sovereignty of the people”
  3. The Nation as religion
  4. Peoples’ sovereignty and the rule of law
  5. France 1789-1814: a laboratory of different possibilities

Major turning points of the revolutionary process

The French Revolution originated from social discontent triggered by the economic difficulties of the lower class and the discontent of the growing social class of the bourgeoisie, who did not have the possibility of being politically represented; they possessed great economic power, but no political power. The immediate triggers were, like in the States, were fiscal crisis (the wars that France had waged around the world had been quite expensive and caused the monarchy to go into debt; for this reason, they introduced unsuccessful financial and monetary reforms, causing quarrels), and the following protests which emulated those of the American Revolution (which was viewed very positively in France). Elected representative bodies of the three Estates had not been called in since 1614, but the King called it in again in the spring of 1789 to have the consent of the French population regarding these taxes. The elections were held at the end of a process of broad political mobilisation, in which the bourgeoisie wanted political participation and the urban working classes wanted improvement and political participation. There were quite high tensions when the Third Estate (the common people), having negated that every deputy would have one vote, declared itself the National Assembly. After the storm of the Bastille (July 14th), King Louis XVI recognised its validity, and the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizens.

What followed was a suppression of religious orders (which created a popular, counter-revolutionary movement mobilised by the clergy and by some peasants) and the abolition of feudalism and the nobility, and political parties such as the Gironde, the Cordeliers and the Jacobins grew in power. In September of 1791, a Constitutional Monarchy (which had already existed during the Revolution) was established thanks to the brand new Constitution. Foot riots ensued in Paris, followed by popular upheaval against the monarchy. Following some international developments, King Louis XVI was arrested and guillotined in 1793 when the most important outbreak of counter-rebellion sparked in the Vendèe. After this, the Committee of Public Safety was formed, and the most important figure was Robespierre. This was a radical acceleration of the Revolution, since he was a member of the Jacobins, a group which came to control the majority of the National Assembly and executed the majority of the Girondists to gain control. Under their control, the 1793 Republican Constitution was ratified by a popular referendum, allowing universal male suffrage.

At this very moment, riots were suspended because the Committee of Public Safety established the Reign of Terror to fight back and terrorise the ‘enemies of the Revolution’ (Girondes and Cordeliers); but during this process, nearly everyone was in danger of being accused of being one. A year later, monarchist forces and Girondist forces fought back and declared Robespierre and his allies the real enemies of the Revolution. Robespierre then executed himself.

A moderate period of the Revolution began with more conservative and monarchist political views, meaning that the progressive Constitution of 1793 was substituted by a Moderate-Liberal Constitution which limited political participation to the nobility and introduced a new form of execution. In a certain way, it harkened back to the Girondists’ views and urged expansionistic wars in Europe and Africa; Napoleon Bonaparte emerged, who proposed to ‘civilize’ these new territories. In 1798, he was defeated in Egypt and had to turn back to France in 1799. Nevertheless, he was seen as a hero and he took his popularity to organise the Coup d’Etat of 18 Brumaire, an event which marked the end of the Directory and the introduction of another Constitution (which foresaw the leadership of a restricted number of people, which included Napoleon, who was elected as First Consul), in which a Consulate was established (all of this was founded on general assent ratified by a popular referendum, whereas the Directory was restrictive).

There were a number of clashes during the Revolution, the symbolic meaning of which was superior to their military weight. The most important was the Storming of the Bastille, in which the bourgeoisie defeated the noble troops. From that moment on, Paris was in the hands of the Revolution, and events like these demonstrated the social heterogeneity of the Revolution. The Municipality would be under the control of the poor, the working class and the bourgeoisie, who wildly accelerated the Revolution. The National Assembly represented the moderate majority of France, and their best instrument to qualm the broiling capital was the National Guard, which was under the command of La Fayette.

In the early days of the Revolution, there was a great wave of sympathy for the Revolution outside of France, but there was also a strong reaction against it. Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman who served as a member of the British house of commons for over thirty years. In the 1770’s, he had supported the American Revolution, yet durig the late 1780’s, his position contrasted greatly with that of the sympathisers of the French Revolution. His book, ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’, became a European bestseller and was translated into several languages; it was the most influential text against the Revolution at the time. His concept of legitimacy and geopolitical equilibrium that had been destroyed and the responsibility of Europe with regards to this became major points in the Congress of Vienna. When writing his book, the execution of King Louis XVI was still beyond his imagination, and yet he was outraged by what he had already seen (such as the Women’s March on Versailles in 1789, a movement which forced the King and Queen to wear the Phrygian cap, a symbol of the Revolution). Burke wondered what could hold a political society together, and he came to the conclusion that it was the recognition of the constituted authority of governors, good manners, religion and traditions.

A new concept: “sovereignty of the people”

The Revolution brought about ideological innovations, such as the sovereignty of the people, which rearranged the political meaning of the concepts of ‘people’ and ‘nation’. During the Ancien Règime (refers to the biological descent of the nobility and the clergy and implies their dominance in the hierarchy of soicety), the term ‘people’ referred to the individuals excluded from political decision and was a generic name for the amorphous mass of humans that had no say in the direction of the nation. This perspective was turned around during the Revolution, and in early 1789, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès published the pamphlet ‘What is the Third Estate’, which would become a founding text of the Revolution and of the concept of the people’s sovereignty in Europe. Not only did Sieyès’ view of the ‘people’ correspond to the Third Estate, but he also claimed that it was the common people who formed the true nation. To argue this, Sieyès refused legitimacy through biological descent to point at citizenship and democratised this same principle: the noble conquerers either had to give up their privilege or return from whence they came from, that is, the forests of Bavaria (in this way, he weaponised their claims of biological nobility and introduced mythical legitimisation for the concept of sovereignty). In conclusion, those who dwelled on French soil for generations were the only genuine form representation of the nation.

The Nation as religion

The mythical foundation of the people’s sovereignty was clearly a part of Revolutionary language: according to Robespierre, a sovereign individual is one who establishes its own new legitimacy of power derived from the eternal laws of reason, justice and nature. Robespierre also claimed that the people were sacred through the sacred laws of nature, while the King wasn’t, and thus that his authority was merely a farce. The allegories and the symbolism of the Revolution also confirmed the existence of this process of sacralisation, as concepts such as justice or nature or humanity were depicted as goddesses who fought back the evil spirits of obscurantism. This radical sacralisation culminated in the Parliamentary decision that the Supreme Being existed and that its veneration should be a public affair.

One of the most perceptive observers of the French Revolution was the early Romantic poet, Novalis; his 1799 pamphlet, ‘Christianity or Europe’, is not wrongly considered the founding manifesto of modern conservatism. Like Burke’s essay, it is a concise critic of the Revolutionary project. Yet, the text also reveals significant passages of appreciation. Indeed, for Novalis, the French Revolution marked the end of the political realisation of the Enlightenment. According to Novalis, the philosophers of this period had disparaged morality and the love of art, purging poetry of nature and the human soul; from his point of view, the French Revolution sent a signal of regeneration because these same Revolutionaries restored passion, religion and the concept of sacralised nature in a historically remarkable manner. In this way, politics became a matter of mass communication from the end of the Revolution onwards. This poet anticipated the principles of political communication in the coming era of the peoples’ sovereignty.

Peoples’ sovereignty and the rule of law

Enlightenment thinkers like Montesquieu, Kant and Plato were hostile to democracy, which they only deemed the first step towards tyranny and the complete opposite of the Republic. The early liberals came up in the moderate part of the Revolution and shared Montesquieu’s and Kant’s skepticism of democracy, in which we can discern a concern for social and economic power and a concern for the rule of law. All along the 19th century, most liberals fought against democracy, because, by extending the right to vote for the lower classes, it would threaten the bourgeoisie’s power. They saw the rule of a socialist majority as a threat to sacred property rights; at any rate, the concern for the rule of law should be carefully taken into consideration. Why have plebiscites always marked the beginning of modern dictatorship in the 20th century? Hitler and Mussolini were incited by widespread popular consent. Montesquieu believed that the sovereign should be beneath the law, regardless of the social and philosophical connotations of this term. The people shouldn’t be the exclusive source of political legitimacy; weakening the distinction between sovereignty and political power would cause an imbalance and put the people above all others by following this radical concept of ‘natural superiority’. In the National Assembly, the legislative body of the people was entitled to absolute and unlimited sovereign power because it was a result of general will and national justice. The emergence of popular sovereignty and the Constitution divided them, subjecting political power to the control of counter-powers and caused the sovereign people to become more absolute and theoretical. Integrating them more into political life would cause the foul smell of tyranny to spread, such as during the emergence of Napoleon and when he was crowned as Emperor.

France 1789-1814: a laboratory of different possibilities

If we look back at the twenty-five years that separated the end of absolute monarchy in France (1789) and its restoration in the Vienna Congress (1814), we can see that this period in France and Europe constituted an extraordinary laboratory of different political and constitutional possibilities, which delineated the possibilities that would be seen in the following two-hundred years:

  1. Absolute monarch (1789)
  2. Constitutional monarchy (1789)
  3. Republican constitution of democratic character (1793)
  4. Emergency regime of terror (1793-94)
  5. Moderate elitist liberal rule (1794-1799)
  6. Authoritarian populist rule (1799-1804)
  7. Monarchic dictatorship (1804-1814)
  8. Restored absolute monarchy (1815)

Lecture 9: Liberalism, Socialism and Feminism

Learning objectives:

  1. ‘Liberty’ before Liberalism
  2. Liberalism as a political movement
  3. The Emergence of a Socialist movement in the 19th century
  4. The Feminist movement and Women’s Rights before World War One

‘Liberty’ before Liberalism

Over the last decades, the history of political thought and conceptual history has criticized the self-narrative of liberalism, which dated itself back to the 16th century and put the school of thinkers of natural justice onto a single line of tradition. ‘Liberal’ as a political adjective was only coined in the 1800’s and then morphed in the early 19th century into the ‘liberalism’ we know today. ‘Liberty’, instead became a central concept of human thought from the early Enlightenment onwards thanks to individuals like Hume, Kant and Locke, and was inserted in this liberal mainline of ancestry; this is correct, yet on the other hand, this does not mean that we can necessarily place them on a strand of intentional tradition because the political outcomes these thinkers had in mind weren’t necessarily the same that 19th-century liberals would speak about later on. John Pocock and Quentin Skinner argued that there wasn’t just one meaning of liberty:

The contractarian tradition: concerned with maximising individual freedom and wealth under the condition of a political society (commonwealth)

The Roman republican tradition: reactivated by Macchiavelli and others, and was concerned with the freedom of the political society (republic) as a whole depending on individual virtue

Other main events in this period (such as the Dutch Republic, the English period of Civil War and Revolution and the American Revolution) also pertained to both strands of liberty.

Liberalism as a political movement

Differently from the concept of ‘liberty’, ‘liberal’ still had no political meaning in the 18th century and referred to social and moral customs, as well as tolerant or loose moral habits. It became an adjective with a political connotation during the French Directorate (the moderate period of the French Revolution); it then became a fashionable word in the European establishment, especially regarding Napoleon and Czar Alexander I, who both referred to themselves as men with liberal principles. The liberal movement was born in the 1820’s, and at the time it was strongly characterized by international solidarity and freemasonry during the Restoration period, and its main areas of interest were Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Greece.

Only during the first half of the 19th century was this great strand of ideas identified as ‘liberalism’, a standard reference to French and European moderate bourgeois political ideals, and often in favour to constitutional monarchy. After the 1848 revolutions, liberal groups and parties emerged under that name that had distinguished themselves from conservatives during the revolution on one hand, and democrats and republicans on the other. The most important philosopher of Liberalism was John Stuart Mill, who said that “people understand their own interests better and care for them more than the government does or is expected to”; this was said in a period when it became clearer that the government wouldn’t be the night guardian that would only grant society, but also take over administration and control of infrastructures, a development that liberals didn’t see as positive.

Great changes came in the 1860’s, when the former British Whig Party (of Lockean traditions) changed their name into Liberal Party. With regards to Europe, the great time of Liberal parties ended in 1918 with the transformation of constitutional monarchies, mass society and the mass extension of the right to vote. In the USA, on the other hand, the adjective ‘liberal’ had no great appeal until the 1930’s, when it became identified with moderate State intervention and social politics, and a commitment in favour of civil rights.

The Emergence of a Socialist movement in the 19th century

To understand why the question of socialism and communism will be an aspect that will persist in the following years, we also have to understand that the emergence of the concept of private property on land (which was the main factor) in Europe was historically seen as relatively new, and it was argued by the first thinkers of natural justice as a social contract with work, and that people who worked the land were quite right to refer to it as their exclusive property. ‘Privatus’ (from latin) means that there is something subtracted from a greater common good, something of common use made into an object of private use. These thinkers claimed that this was a natural right because it was the fruit of someone’s work.

In the early 19th century, classical economy (Marx and Ricardo) fully recognised that the only source of wealth is work; they believed that other factors of production (capital or land) did not increase the plus value of wealth in a society. This led to private property of means of production (esp. of land) to always be a little bit on the defensive. The aforementioned was extensively discussed by thinkers of natural justice and also by marginalist economists (who relativised the meaning of labour). The promise of overcoming the private property of means of production and erecting socialist society grew in Europe; the effects of social polarisation were clear in European society and were a matter of discussion and of efforts of change (e.g.: during the French Revolution with Babeuf).

One of the most important thinkers of this age was Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825), who founded a more technocratic view (he argued in favour of State-organised industrial production and distribution) of industrial society, which was a very influential concept in the international technocratic tradition.

During the 1848 Revolution, there were efforts in France to erect working houses to abolish unemployment and create reservoirs of socialism under the protection of the State. There were also thinkers who thought that in the middle of the social environment of the liberal societies, the best thing to do was to begin to form a community that would put into practise communist forms of living; an example of one of the supporters of this was Robert Owen (1771-1858), who advocated the transformation of society into smaller local communities. He also vouched for no child labour, schools, free healthcare and affordable food in a New Lanark village, and he also formed a tightly-knit socialist community in New Harmony, Indiana, which followed ideals like 8-hour workdays and moneyless trade. His model was not emulated as he had thought it would be, however.

Similarly, from within this set of liberal thinkers emerged the anarchists (‘libertarian socialists’), who were a sort of liberal left wing rather than of the socialist movement because they do not wish to give the State a key role in society. They were prominent in many European countries in the mid-19th century, such as Switzerland, Spain and Russia. These various strands of thought were called ‘utopian socialism’ by Marx and Engels, who opposed against these due to their lack of political feasibility because they did not analyse the laws of history in a philosophical manner. Instead, they proposed an analysis (Marx’s economic analysis of the capital) in the Communist Manifesto (1848), in which they spoke of building in this idea of overcoming the contradictions introduced by capitalism in a way that was in line with a scientific philosophy of history. Thanks to this, with the advancement of industrialisation, (electorally) strong Socialist trade unions and political parties emerged in Europe. After the 1900’s, their revolutionary purposes were gradually marginalised in favour of reformist claims for a gradual improvement in the framework of capitalist society.

The Feminist movement and Women’s Rights before

World War One

Although Women’s suffrage in several countries was only reached in the 1890’s and the 1920’s, the Feminist movement started long before:

Mary Astell (A Serious Proposal to the Ladies + Some Reflections upon Marriage) = “If all Men are born free, how is it that all Women are born Slaves?”

Olympe de Gouges (Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen) = exposed the failures of the French Revolution in the recognition of sexual equality; afterwards, in the 1790, Nicolas de Condorcet and Etta Palm d’Aelders unsuccessfully called on the National Assembly to extend civil and political rights to women

Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Women) = one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy, claims women’s right for education in order for them to take their role in society, as they are essential to the nation

Clara Zetkin = Marxist theorist and activist for women’s rights; organised the first International Women’s Day

Harriet Taylor Mill (the Enfranchisement of Women)

Lecture 10: The concept of ‘nation’ and Nationalism

Learning objectives:

  1. The ideas of Nation: Essentialism vs Constructivism
  2. The phases of Nation-Building
  3. The Nation as an Imagined Community
  4. Pedagogy and the invention of tradition

The ideas of Nation: Essentialism vs Constructivism

Reilly writes:

The national idea — that the world is divided into separate people each with its own distinct culture and deserving political independence — is sometimes regarded as a natural and ancient organization of human society.

This has been the mainstream view of ‘nation’ all throughout the 19th century and most part of 20th century, and in most the cases it is the most widespread interpretation of national history and the concept of being a nation.

According to these idea, the idea of a nation had always been present yet invisible in the form of institutions of religion, feudalism, and of dynasties that had hidden it for centuries in order to achieve national unity before national consciousness could begin to spread. To become conscious of the existence of nations is the first step to reach rebirth and reemergence, or, in Italian, ‘risorgimento’. History that reestablishes the idea of nation is also called Essentialism. Federico Chabod was an Italian historian, and it was in his book, ‘The Idea of a Nation’ (1961) that he makes several references to Rousseau, who underlined that at the centre of political society there are wilful acts. This is called Constructivism, and it claims that a political community will not come into existence without wilful acts that come from a place of determination, since a nation must be constructed with a wilful act as the number of communities that would come into existence on that territory is not decided beforehand — a second thought that not many scholars necessarily share. In fact, there were many intellectual confrontations between these two schools of scholars.

From the 1980s onwards, the Constructivist interpretation of nations was put forward by scholars who didn’t have a patriotic interpretations of nations; they were more critical regarding the very idea of the nation, which did not necessarily stick with the distinction between nationalism and patriotism. They referred more to the Constructivist Understanding and looked back again at the history of the nation and national movements through this lens of constructivist principles.

Nevertheless, they looked also back an important text from 1882 written by the French historian Ernest Renan called “Qu’est-ce qu’une Nation?”/“What is a nation?”. We must remember the context of this text, however: in 1882, France was still healing from the trauma of being defeated by Prussia. France was deep in thought regarding the very concept of nation; Ernest Renan certainly had a constructivist interpretation and was by no means critical or distant from the notion of nation. On the contrary: he tried to discover the will behind the nation and also tried to persuade the French to wilfully support this (Constructivism was a great way to enforce patriotism).

According to Renan, a nation is nothing that is objectively given, but:

  1. A geographical entity that, as a rule, evolved from the transformation of pre-existing dynastic states

  2. A spiritual entity (principle/inheritance-based on collective memory and a sense of belonging)

  3. A coherent historical narrative based on facts selected to make them converge, such as representing the nation as a necessary, logical, coherent organism

With regard to the last point, the Essentialist position, according to Renan, is the outcome of a coherent historical narrative. Politically, he believed that this narrative must be enforced by historians, but he also claimed that it is not a natural outcome of history, just a construction.

The phases of Nation-Building

In the 1960’s/1970’s, a popular approach to the problem of nation-building was the one proposed by Ernest Gellner with his “Nations and Nationalism” of 1983 (Gellner could well be placed between Essentialism and Constructivism).

In light of the social sciences of his time, he figured out a model that perfectly delineates the separate steps of nation-building and that can be applied to every single nation:

Statue ex Ante (the French Revolution)

National Irredentism/movements

Emergence of the Nation-State

Phase of Extreme Nationalism (late 19th century; caused WWII)

Phase of Cultural Convergence (emergence of solidarity and constitutional patriotism; eschatological process which didn’t foresee the revival of nationalism from the 1990’s to today)

Miroslav Hroch (a Czech historian) wrote an important book called “Social preconditions of national revival in Europe” (1985). He studied smaller nations (‘nations without history’); his view also lies between Essentialism, Constructivism and Marxism, focusing on social conditions. He listed three key moments within nation-building:

Memory of a common past

Social communication across linguistic and cultural borders thanks to means of communication

Spread of the idea of equality

In conclusion, the most useful model to consider is the three-stage model:

PHASE A: individual intellectuals are committed to establishing the idea of a national identity

PHASE B: political activism for the “resurgence” of the nation

PHASE C: the national movement becomes a mass movement and morphs to include the majority of the population

The Nation as an Imagined Community

Benedict Anderson was an anthropologist who became exceptionally influential in the 1980’s/1990’s. He was a key witness of the political events in Indonesia, and, stricken by what he had seen, wrote his “Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism” (1983).

In this text, we can clearly underscore his Constructivist position, as he spends a great part of the book analysing the phenomenon of nation-building and the notion of nationalism in anthropological terms:

A nation is a real community —> members imagine themselves in relation with one another beyond the political and social contrasts

A nation is both imagined and imaginary —> no single person belonging to it in their lives will know all the others belonging to the same nation

Communities should not be distinguished according to objective criteria —> they should only be distinguished in the way in which they imagined themselves

Pedagogy and the invention of tradition

Eric J. Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s The Invention of Tradition (1983) made various claims regarding the concept of nation:

National identity is based on the representation of the modern nation in terms of an ancient, primordial phenomenon, notwithstanding that fact that it is, in fact, a new historical phenomenon

To represent the nation as something that must just be ‘rediscovered’ or ‘resurrected’ is pulling forth alleged ‘traditions’ that did not previously exist and were merely invented

To be taken over by the ‘masses’ from the élites who invented them; these traditions are disseminated first by the means of culture (poems, novels, works, dictionaries, newspapers etc.), then through political propaganda

Once the nation-state is founded, the education of the masses continues through the press, books, the cult of national heroes, school education, military service, public rites and a rewriting of the landscape (monuments, interventions urban, place names, street names, parks, unification of signs etc.)

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi is considered the founding father of European pedagogy. He elaborated a very interesting method that foresaw so-called “developmental pedagogy”, AKA, the method with which to entrench the idea of belonging to a place/a nation in the mind of an infant.

Anne-Marie Thiesse, on the other hand, narrated about the time the invention of tradition and folklore occurred (around the second part of the 18th century). This involved the conceptualisation and the realisation of the first examples of peoples’ sovereignty, politically legitimised thanks to folklore.

Lastly, George L. Mosse in his The Nationalisation of the Masses illustrated how the Nazi movement had come to power in 1933, noting that a cultural precondition that had already existed before had made sure that the party would have imminent success.

Lecture 11: Social changes in Europe, 1800-1914

Learning objectives:

  1. An Overview of Social Changes up until World War One
  2. Transformations of Bourgeoisie and the ‘Liberal Idea’
  3. Transformation of the working class and the ‘socialist idea’
  4. The ‘residual’ sectors of society: the Nobility and Peasants

An Overview of Social Changes up until World War One

The 19th century was characterized by changes in class structure and in their names. With a rise in productivity from the times of the neolithic revolution, it was possible to construct a triangular social hierarchy in which there were less rich people than people in the working class:

  1. Highest orders
  2. Second class
  3. Third class
  4. Fourth class
  5. Fifth class
  6. Sixth class
  7. Seventh class
  8. Army and navy

This new hierarchy divided people according to their role within the productive system. Marx’s division of classes, considered by many thinkers of the 19th century, was the following:

Capitalists, or bourgeoisie (own the means of production and purchase the labor power of other workers)

Workers/Proletariat (do not own means of production and sell their own labor power)

Petite Bourgeoisie/“Middling” class (own means of production but does not purchase labor power)

In the first group, we have the model industrial great bourgeoisie on the left, and on the right, we have the Junger, lower-class men which still had a huge influence on the State, the military and particularly on land owners east Germany .
The next is what is known as the bourgeoisie, a group of people with varied professions who are on the same level as the agriculture entrepreneurs that possess the land and a certain amount of wealth.

Next we have the petit bourgeoisie, who are the equivalent of the old society are small and middle-class agricultural land owners.
And finally we have the rest, and what in British classification of early 19th century are called work mechanics and paupers are here put together at the end of 19th century in a category called the proletariat which also has a traditional part: the workers and men of agriculture.

In short, the division of classes was oriented according to the position of the individual in the production process, and according to Marx and other 19th-century thinkers, there were three groups of people in this hierarchy:

  1. The first were the capitalists, or bourgeoise, a term which indicates the owners of the means of production who purchase the labor of others to run the production process and take profit from it
  2. The second group consists of the workers, or the proletariat, who do not own means of production and are forced to sell their own labor power in order to live
  3. Then there is the middling class, also called the Petite bourgeoise, which own the means of production, but there are very few of them; the land they own is far too small to enable them to purchase the work of others, so they just work in a family enterprise on their own without exploiting the work of the others.

In the general projection by Marx and others it was foreseen that this petit bourgeoisie and middle classes would disappear and the whole society would polarise; small groups of owners of means of production in greater areas and an increasing group of workers meant that the latter were not owners of production and were obliged to sell their work to the aforementioned
With this in mind, a political background emerges: all workers operate under the same conditions and are all deprived of means of production, and thus they have to sell their workforce and this puts them into condition that is objectively opposed in the interest of those that own the means of production. At the time, however, not everyone was conscious of this fact: on one hand, there were classes defined by objective conditions, and on the other, there was a lack of awareness regarding consciousness of the class condition.

So what is a class for itself for its members?
According to socialist Thompson’s essay, in order to know how the working class saw itself or how it was seen by the rest of society, we must also look at how the members of that class fought to become one. In the years between 1780 and 1832, most English working-class people came to feel an sense of identity and a certain animosity towards men of other classes whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs. Thompson focuses much on what early thinkers called class consciousness and how they shaped what we can call the English working class. Although Karl Marx himself did not articulate a theory of class consciousness, he intimated the concept in his characterization of the working class. According to Marx, workers first become conscious of sharing common grievances against capitalists (thus forming a class “in itself”) and eventually develop an awareness of themselves as forming a social class opposed to the bourgeoisie (thus becoming a class “for itself”), the proletariat. Class consciousness is a historical phenomenon, born out of collective struggle. In this sense, Marx did not approach class consciousness as a matter of pure ideality. Rejecting any separation of theory and practice, he used the term “conscious human practices” to emphasise the conjunction of subjectivity and objectivity in history. At the end, according to Heywood’s post-linguistic approach to reveal the history of the working class, the bourgeoise identified themselves as the embodiment of a new liberal ideology, the working class as the embodiment of the socialist ideology and the other classes as the conservative.

Transformations of Bourgeoisie and the ‘Liberal Idea’

In Petri’s view, the most interesting part of Heywood’s analysis is that of the transformations of the bourgeoisie and the ‘liberal utopia’; he starts with describing the bourgeoisie condition as reflected by this liberal utopia. The latter expected that society would develop increasingly towards a context of free producers who need an exchange of goods on the free market in an optimal allocation of the overall resources of society. At the same time, they would confine the State’s function to the ‘night guard functions’ of securing the rule of the law, the security of property rights and of public security, but otherwise abstain from the organization of their lives because that would be self-organised by civil society through the so-called public sphere of organization, debate, and exchange of opinions, and there was a growing number of associations for leisure time or literally any purpose which testified the growing tendency of social self-organization of the public sphere (typical of the ideals and the reality of this early bourgeoisie development). Another ‘sacred cow’ of the liberal utopia was the sharp distinction between the private sphere (exclusively home to the individual) and the public sphere. Symbol of this distinction was the role assigned to women, who now were more or less relegated to the private sphere; they might have acquired a role of command within the household, but they were excluded in this liberal utopia’s public sphere.

Heywood then chooses to analyse the second half of the 19th century and looks at how these expectations were or were not met, how these expectations of a liberal utopia then proved to be inadequate with regards to the various changes in society and what discrepancies this produced in other ideologies. First of all, contrary to the expectations of the first half of the 19th century, there was no conversion of society towards the middling strata of producers, but, on the contrary, it became evident that there was a growing sense of social polarisation. In the broad landscape of enterprises, it became clear that there was a concentration process in the making that hampered free competition thanks to an oligopolistic and monopolistic market structure (born with the creation of trusts and cartels). Important producers of raw materials and commodities (such as coal and steel) would agree on a price for the market which all the buyers and consumers were obliged to pay; this was the complete opposite of a free market.

The next phenomenon we should look at is how the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie changed. Many of these ‘new rich’ people (who became such through the development of their industrial enterprises) developed aristocratic ideas and social models where this was possible; they applied to become nobles through various contrasts because they saw this as a matter of social prestige. The economically most successful representatives of the bourgeoisie did not personify the liberal utopia, but tended towards other social models in their own self-reflection regarding themselves. On the other end of the bourgeoisie spectrum, burrowed deep within the oligopolistic shape of the market, chock-full with trusts, big banks and cartels, we can find the economic existence of small shopkeepers who could not easily compete with the competition of the industries and producers, so they developed a sort of animosity towards these upper-bourgeoisie classes (whom they suspected to be a conspiring group of jews) and hoped that the regulating hand of the State would intervene (due to this, they developed State-oriented, nationalist and corporatist sympathies). New forms of menagerie capitalism within enterprises gave birth to new types of bourgeoisie people and professions such as employers, engineers, managers of firms, etc., who were not quite characterized by markets, but by hierarchies, and formed sort of ‘small States’ with both bureaucratic and military organizations.

Lastly, thanks to these market and industrial developments, a skilled workforce was formed through public schooling and increased the number of bourgeoisie professions that directly depended on the State as well as their expectations (which depended on political dynamics and expectations of the State to protect their interests). It is in this way that the liberal idyll collapsed.

Transformation of the working class and the ‘socialist idea’

Heywood, in this next section, replicates the same epidemiological scheme and speaks of the first worker’s movement in the first half of the 19th century (which Marx would then call Utopian Socialism) organised in correlation with the Petit Bourgeoisie, a republican and democratic wing organised in cooperative movements that preached political participation and justice. Some utopian thinkers include Owen, Fourier and Weitling, and their organizations were very often religious and regarded subjects such as healthcare and political justice; there were also statist socialist experiments in the 1848 Revolution in France (where this socialist view had its roots in Saint-Simon’s works), which concluded with the term ‘social rights’ being included in the country’s Constitution, and this certainly transcended the bourgeois horizon of political and social organization, guaranteeing the absence of unemployment and poverty (workhouses were also erected).

Heywood declares the Revolution of 1848 a ‘watershed moment’ that then gave rise to new and unprecedented forms of working class-oriented socialist organizations which became visible beyond the left-wing and republican forces of bourgeois origin and became autonomous with their own socialist ideologies; these then became particularly influenced by Marxist theories and erected this theoretical edifice of scientific socialism.

Then, in the second half of the 19th century, these merged with practical experience, so that the programs of socialist parties and trade unions could be seen as a product of both practical experience and dialogue with theoretical elaboration (e.g.: reforms for democratic participation of the working class operated on both grounds). Heywood also pointed out, however, that the ‘real’ workers weren’t really involved in this dialogue, as the objective interests of the working class were more important than the subjective self-consideration of workers; this was a qualitative difference that was both an element of political strength and one of division between the individual and local consciousness of the average worker, who would certainly fight for higher wages and reforms, but nevertheless, would stay in an open field of ideological competitions. For example, what was not fully reflected in these theories was that industrialisation brought about hierarchisation in the working class; the theory said that their interests were common (they were all workers who needed to sell their work force), but that meant little compared to the daily abuse and exploitation of each singular worker during the production process. The reality of the working class was not homogeneous, and everyone experienced the system differently. On an ideological level, the working class (especially when mass organizations and nationalists came into power in the second half of the 19th century) was not impermeable; proof of this was the First World War. Until then, the political orientation of the socialist parties had been strongly anti-war and internationalist, but many workers were still captured by the enthusiasm of patriotic and national mobilisation when the war broke out.

The ‘residual’ sectors of society: the Nobility and Peasants

The last part of Heywood’s analysis is dedicated to Conservatism and the upper strata, the so-called ‘high society’ that had been around since the Ancien Règime and the feudal social order of earlier times. They were made up of the high clergy, the nobility and the aristocrats, who conserved a major role in society and politics (e.g.: in the constitutional model of Great Britain), but were also great land owners in many European countries (all for constitutional reasons; the nobility has a permanent role in the state apparatus, especially in the Tsarist Empire, the Habsburg Empire and Germany). So even in an industrial society they had kept their positions, and Heywood interprets this as the ‘conservative protest’ against progress; according to conservatives, industrialisation has also its negative consequences (unfair competition on the market for small craftsmen and little shopkeepers). This paternalistic old model favoured both the nobility and the poor, who were open to conservative ideas, fearing a competitive market.

Lecture 12: World timeline, 1750-1914; Western Domination

Learning objectives:

  1. Napoleon in Egypt
  2. Technological innovations and transport systems
  3. Imperialism and the Industrial Age
  4. Western Expansion in Asia

Napoleon in Egypt

The first example of European expansionism in the late 18th/19th century was Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition in Egypt; symbolically, it represented a number of different elements that were behind the reason for this project.

On July 1st, 1798, Napoleon landed in Egypt with 400 ships, 54,000 men (including 150 scientists, engineers and scholars whose responsibility was to learn about Egyptian culture and the history of the territory). Upon arrival, the French installed a large library and several librarians who looked after the books, who brought them to prospective readers; the French particularly enjoyed it when a Muslim visitor appeared to be interested in the sciences, and they welcomed them immediately and showed them all of the literary works that were at hand. The appreciation of the French troops’ arrival can be seen in the writings of Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti, an Egyptian intellectual. However, while Jabarti spoke of the arrival of the French in Egypt (particularly in Cairo) in a positive light, their presence soon brought about the destruction of any barricades they encountered, the Mosque of al-Azhar and millions of Qurans. All the colonisers had for Egyptian (and Muslim) culture was disgust and disdain. We can also cite sources from Egyptian Christians (copts) who experienced the arrival of the French in the same way as Muslims (such as Jabarti) did. French sources are also indispensable in describing the colonisation of Egypt, as even they referred to the conquering methods used as ‘massacres’.

The French Republic, under Napoleon, had two strategic goals in the Mediterranean: to control it and to create a French corridor to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean in order to create a disadvantage for the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain. In diplomatic terms, this meant the betrayal of the alliance between France and the Ottoman Empire that can be traced back to the 16th century. Since he was aware of this, Napoleon tried to present his expedition to the Egyptians as something that was done in the name of the Sultan against the Mamluks (who desired independence), hoping that the Sultan wouldn’t consider his strategy as treason (and would ally himself with Russia and other traditional adversaries) and that Egypt wouldn’t greet his men with initial hostility.

Napoleon’s expansionistic, economic and imperialistic ambitions are easily reducible to certain motives, but, as we say today, “the West does not go to war only for oil”. The West presented itself to other nations as a beacon of freedom, humanity and civilization that operates on a sincere self-referential belief that had both a philosophical and a theological background: on the one hand, it built on some anti-Catholic traditions that dated back years, and on the other, the anti-trinitarian visions of the Enlightenment and the Supreme Being (voted by the National Assembly) make the assertion that the French were the best Muslims in the mind of those who pronounced it to be so.

But the Mediterranean unity dreamt by the French elite transcended the present thanks to the tailors of history; this was the fruit of European semantic construction that lasted two or three centuries and that assigned the Mediterranean an exemplary role (with a special place for Egypt). On the eve of the battle against the Mamluks, this idea had matured long since, so it was easy to see how a French victory would be able to breach the past and the future. It is thanks to this ideology that Napoleon motivated his troops: they were each puzzle-pieces in history, and the result of their efforts would mark humanity for centuries to come. This secular vision of history will always be an ideological drive behind European expansionism.

Technological innovations and transport systems

Behind Western expansion was also a whirlwind of technological innovations and transport systems (both brought around by the Industrial Revolution) that allowed expeditions to travel far and wide:

  1. Military means (breech-loading rifles, machine guns)
  2. Circulation of people and goods (lowering of transport coast, transoceanic steamship routes)
  3. Steam ships, building of channels (Suez built by the french and Panama in the 20th century) and the transatlantic telegraph

Imperialism and the Industrial Age

Western expansion continued in the same pattern as 16th-century European Imperialism and 15th-century European Colonialism; but this new phase of Western expansion differed in many ways from the earlier one. Now the primary focus was on Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Pacific societies rather than on the Americas, and the main ‘players’ were no longer Spain or Portugal, but rather Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia and the United States.

We can summarise the motives behind this expansion as:


    Export of industrial surplus production

    Export of capital and profitable investment

    Raw materials

    Internal social ‘pacification’


- Competing nationalisms


    Export of a higher form of humanism

    Dissemination of Christianity

    Export of technical progress

    Export of economic wealth


Western Expansion in Asia

Colonial expansion in the 19th century can be described as Western, and not just as European, because the United States took a big part in it as well. The nation had already had colonial ambitions in the early 19th century in Africa, creating the colony of Liberia (a name which was given because it was a land that was believed to host emancipated African-American slaves who were sent back to their homeland) and expanding in the Pacific towards Hawaii and other islands, landing the Black Ships on the coast of Japan in 1854 and forcing the nation to open its borders to Western trade. This triggered many changes in Japan, like the end of Shogun-rule (1867) and the beginning of the Meiji-Restoration as well as Japanese industrialisation.

In Asia, anti-colonial movements were quick to surge (especially in India and in the Philippines) in the mid-19th century; the Philippines succeeded in temporarily freeing itself of colonial rule with its Declaration of Independence in 1898, but the island were ceded to the United States by Spain.

A great transformation occurred concurrently In Indonesia, where the trade ports on the spice islands, which had been controlled by the Dutch since the 17th century, were swept aside; the Netherlands had proclaimed Indonesia to not only be a mere colony, but a nationalised colony known as the Dutch East Indies.

Similarly, in India the East India Company had immense control of the territory, but had to face rebellion in the mid-19th century. By 1858, Great Britain had eradicated the Company and transformed the country into a colonial government (AKA, a colony).

Finally we have China, a populous Empire where Western forces tried to interfere in various ways, such as the British, who took the first opportunity to influence the country’s population in the first Opium War. Great Britain wanted to force the country into accepting copious flows of opium in the name of free trade, which created worrying social dilemmas in China. The First Opium War (1839-1842) ended with the Nanking agreement, which was in favour of the UK. This led to the spark of the Second Opium War (1856-1860), in which the anti-foreign Boxer Uprising (the Yihetuan movement) was a key factor. The Opium issue came to an end at the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.

Lecture 13: Global Changes; Colonialism and Imperialism

Learning objectives:

  1. British takeover of India
  2. The British-Chinese Wars of 1835-41 and 1856-60
  3. Scramble for Africa, 1875-1924
  4. American Expansion
  5. Russian Expansion

British takeover of India

In India, the power of the Mughal Empire waned in the 18th century due to political tensions between the Muslim Emperor and his Hindu subjects, as well as the sparks of violence generated by regional rivalries. Some wealthy Indian traders, resenting the demands of Mughal authorities, helped finance the military forces of the British East India Company, and a remarkable number of Indian men joined European-led armies, attracted by the security and opportunity for enrichment they offered. So the power of the East India Company grew large enough in the territory to marginalise other European competitors, and this Company took control of the subcontinent until the mid-19th century.

The Indian Rebellion of 1857/8 began with a cultural clash in the military when Indian troops refused to use cartridges greased with animal fat; the Hindus feared that the fat came from holy cows, while the Muslims feared it came from filthy pigs, so this led to a rebellion that spread to all regions of Northern and Central India and became a generalised uprising against British-style reform and Company; a cruel and violent repression of the mutiny followed, and this period ended with the dissolution of the East India Company. The administration was taken over directly by the British government, which proclaimed the Unitary State of India, which was then transformed into vice-royal territory (a colony). At the same time, Great Britain introduced a British-style parliamentary system, an element that would later favour them in the organization of political movements for Indian independence (these led to the formation of the Indian National Congress and similar organizations in 1885).

The British-Chinese Wars of 1835-41 and 1856-60

The members of the British East India Company had long been frustrated for years at their inability to find any Western products that could interest China. The solution was found in India: opium. It had been grown since ancient time for medical purposes; the Company increased its production, and with the help of corrupt Chinese officials, imported huge quantities into China, where the highly addictive drug found a ready market. This was illegal from every point of view (social, economic, etc.), and after years of discussion, the Imperial government decided to crack down on the smugglers and British traders that were caught in the act.

Chinese authorities destroyed large quantities of drugs, and Great Britain took this as an opportunity to wage war on China with the purpose of controlling its external sea trade by attacking coastal cities and ports. After Great Britain’s victory, it forced China into an agreement that decreed the creation of coastal colonies and the right of British traders to operate under extraterritorial conditions (not subject to Chinese jurisdiction). It was the later foreign prime minister and first president of the British liberal party Henry John Palmerston, who was one of the most important politicians in the 19th century, that made the following comment regarding the British victory over China:

“There is no doubt that this event, which will form an epoch in the progress of the civilization of the human races, must be attended with the most important advantages of the commercial interests of England.”

It is here that we see for the first time that drugs (regarded in the same manner as oil and armaments), the third most important commodity within trade, enter the stage of geopolitics as an instrument of Western power.

In China, the Nanking agreement and everything it implied facilitated the birth of social tensions which articulated themselves more openly in the form of protests and uprisings, causing the beginning of a period of political and societal upheaval that culminated in humiliation and the Second Opium War (which ended with the Siege of Beijing by the British and a wide range of European powers). All this ended in 1911 with the breakdown of the Chinese empire and the end of the Qing Dynasty.

Scramble for Africa, 1875-1924

Since the colonial period had begun in the 15th century, European interest in Africa had mainly been limited to trade posts, but for a number of reasons, there had never been an interest of conquering the territory (except for the South African area, where Cape Town was devising a settler-colonial project that was extending towards the North).

In 1870, only 10% of Africa was under European control, but by 1914, it had increased to 90% of the continent thanks to the increased need for raw materials brought around by the Industrial Revolution; only Ethiopia (Abyssinia) was still independent, as newfound African colonies had become the main source of raw materials for the European economic and industrial elites.

To avoid a war among European powers, the Berlin Conference of 1884 decided to regulate European colonisation and trade in Africa (without African citizens themselves having any say in the matter) and was the starting point of the Conquest of Africa. There were almost no military conflicts between European colonising powers in this period, and the military conquest of Africa had began in a low-cost and systematic manner.

Of course, this all put the Africans at a disadvantage, who didn’t have the technological means to effectively oppose the colonisers’ military conquest; small military units of European powers could control large areas of African land.

American Expansion

“American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonisation of the Great West. The peculiarity of American institutions is the fact that they have been compelled to adapt themselves to the changes of an expanding people.”

- Frederich J. Turner

The effort of pushing American progress beyond their frontiers had developed Southward and Westward, as the doctrine of President James Monroe claimed that the States were the supervisors of Latin America and territories that spread Eastward. In 1822, the American Colonisation Society created Liberia in Africa. Ironically, these efforts were sold under the trademark of anti-colonialism, particularly in the Caribbean, with which the States had traditionally very tight connections. In Cuba, the citizens fought several wars to free themselves from Spanish colonial control (1868, 1879-1880, 1895-1898); at the end of the last war (1895-1898), the Cubans were on the brink of winning independence, but the USA intervened and its Newspapers ran wild headlines like “Spanish Cannibalism”, “Inhuman torture” and “Amazon Warriors Fight for Rebels” that radically dehumanised the Spaniards. The Americans came to the help of the anti-colonial rebels, sending the USS Maine warship to Havana Bay on February 15th of 1898; a huge explosion of unknown origin wrecked the ship and killed 266 American sailors. This was an excuse to declare war on Spain and enter the war under an anti-colonial pretext (when in reality, the USA only wanted to occupy Cuba and other Spanish colonies). In 1902, Cuba obtained a form of independence whose conditions privileged American presence in Cuba (these regulations were only removed under the presidency of Roosevelt, when Cuba became a de facto American protectorate).

However, American progress decided that the West was its preferred frontier, so it spread to California and the Pacific Ocean, conquering Hawaii, opening Japan to the benefits of Western trade and looking for other Spanish colonies; it found the Philippines. Here, all throughout the late 19th century, several rebellions against the Spanish monarchy developed in 1896 under the oppositions’ leader, Emilio Aguinaldo. The Filipino movement would then proclaim independence on June 12th, 1898, but soon a contrast was born between the American troops and Filipinos, who then engaged in the prosecution of a war of Independence against occupying American forces. This second war lasted until 1902 and ended with American victory, resulting in the death of over 4,200 Americans and over 20,000 Filipino combatants and 20,000 Filipino civilians (who died due to violence, famine and disease).

The anti-colonial endeavour against the Spaniards gave America the opportunity to conquer strategical important areas, such as Puerto Rico and Panama (where the channel would control Atlantic and Pacific trade). Expansion into the Pacific brought Hawaii under American control, as well as Guam and the Philippines (strategically positioned close to China, Japan and the strait of Malaga).

Russian Expansion

The Tsarist Empire had been expanding towards Siberia since the 17th century and continued ‘till the 19th century, spreading eastward towards Japan and China and southward towards South Asia (which created many conflicts with the British Empire, which had the opposite ambition in Asia).

However, in East Asia a previously unheard-of adversary emerged: Japan. This nation exhibited increasing military and economic strength, and the Russian-Japanese war (1904-1905) broke out over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea. The Russian defeat was a major blow to the Tsarist regime and its expansionistic ambitions; nevertheless, looking at the development of Russia towards the east, we can see many parallels with American expansion towards the West (regarding overcoming frontiers, bringing civilization and progress and enlightening ‘the natives’), but there were also many differences, namely that Russia had the traditional approach of an Empire towards conquest (like Great Britain) and tried to integrate these populations in order to create a multicultural and multi-religious Empire.

Lecture 14: Global Changes; the effects of Colonialism and Imperialism

Learning objectives:

  1. The effects of Colonial Imperialism in India
  2. The effects of Colonial Imperialism in Africa
  3. Migration and racism
  4. The effects of Western influence on China
  5. The effects of Western influence on Japan</u>

The effects of Colonial Imperialism in India

In India, Great Britain introduced institutions such as railroads, new schools, new streets and parliamentarianism; these were benefits that certainly would leave a mark on Indian society for years to come and would unite its people also by creating alternative means of communication (lingua franca, etc.).

If we look at the development of India’s share in world manufacturing, it was at 25.0% in 1750, and had shot up to 1.4% by 1913; we can say that it was raised thanks the huge dimension of the Indian population. However, the production of cotton textiles was greatly reduced; initially, Great Britain had introduced protectionist laws during the Industrial Revolution to prohibit the import of cotton into the UK, and over time, it became a matter of technological advantage. At the end, Indian goods could no longer compete with English goods, not even on the English market, thus creating a sort of dependency on England, the ‘mother country’.

This ‘mother’ was not always so generous and well-meaning. During the second half of the 1870s, there was a great famine in India, six to ten million people died of hunger. The food prices soared, so flour was expensive, and the Indian population asked for a regulation of food prices. This proposal was instantly rejected by the Famine Commission and by the British parliament because the laws of ‘lesser fair’ were sacred as were those of ‘free trade’; in addition, the British government believed that famine was a ‘righteous punishment’ for India’s ‘overbreeding’.

The effects of Colonial Imperialism in Africa

Unfortunately, hunger crises were a normal occurrence in agricultural societies; the last major hunger crisis in Europe was caused by a series of bad harvest in 1846/7. Hunger crises happened cyclically in densely populated areas where there was no availability of uncultivated land to expand the usable area during times of great difficulty, and in Africa, there were certainly many hunger crises. Nevertheless, these cyclical crises had everything to do with the structural dependency that became the colonial footprint in the continent. The consequences of these disruptions were so strong that Africa became a symbol for of poverty and a need for ‘Western help’, reinforcing racist and supremacist views typical of these colonial elites.

These structural disruptions cut deep into the heart of African society. When the colonial system expanded in the area, forced labour was used for infrastructure by all colonial powers, and the worst exploitation of all occurred in the Congo Free State, which was privately owned by Leopold the First (King of Belgium), famous for his exceptional brutality.

The change of the agricultural structure and the crops that were cultivated was important; the land dedicated to the cultivation of industrial foodstuff that were thought for the world market and served industrial societies radically changed the continent. There was less land for the African population to grow crops that they needed to keep themselves alive and well, leading to numerous hunger crises and to their migration to poor urban areas and mines; often, the latter was conditioned to the rule that young men couldn’t bring their families with them (especially in South Africa), so this also split families so that the social structure of African society was shattered completely.

Migration and racism

In the late 19th century, there were huge migration flows from Europe to North or South America; if 15 million Europeans left from Europe, at the same time, 38 million Chinese and Indians migrated for the same reasons, mostly to Southeast Asia, where they built local communities that would become ethnic networks on the long run; many Indians also migrated to South Africa. African slavery had produced European racism as a legitimisation of slavery because they were ‘beasts’ or inferior to the ‘white man’, and was a tool to soften the moral threat that slavery posed. But when it was gradually abolished in the 19th century, racism was reinforced by society to maintain the subjugation of the African population. Now that slaves were free men, racism soared higher than ever.

The effects of Western influence on China

In the late 19th century, the Chinese Empire suffered defeat against the West and Japan and was riddled by anti-foreign Boxer uprisings and internal conflicts. This social and political unrest brought about the end of the Qing dynasty and the institution of imperial China in 1911; just like with India, the development of Chinese share in world manufacturing was at 33.0% in 1750, and this remarkable share was reduced to 3.6% in 1913. How did this happen?

The mechanisms were similar to what happened in India as far as the general circumstances were concerned, such as the growing productivity gap between Europe and China thanks to the Industrial Revolution; not even in the later 19th century there was no significant structural change in China, remaining a rural society. A sense of loss pervaded Chinese society at the end of the Qing dynasty and a refusal of Western influence, and this translated in a return to the desire of reaffirming Confucian principles and in an opposition to the imitation of Western techniques. The conservative forces prevailed in China, and this, similarly to India, did not accelerate the industrial recovery of China as one may have expected in the second half of the 19th century, whereas this was the case in Japan.

The effects of Western influence on Japan

Japan was an Empire where the main executive power was not assumed by the Emperor, but rather by the Shogun (the highest military leader), whose authority was so strong that its office became hereditary. After the first opening of Japan, however, dissatisfaction with the Shogunate’s politics bloomed among some elites, driven by nobles and the pro-Emperor Samurai. These elites were confused as to how to react to Western influence: should they rebuke Western culture completely, or apply certain reforms to industrialise the nation and grow above Western powers? The Meiji reforms pertained to this party (the alliance that was created by the young Emperor Meiji) and led to the resignation of the Shogun and a civil war in which imperial forces claimed victory and reinstated full imperial rule on the basis of a Constitution like in Western countries; this was instrumental for these reform objectives. Delegates of Japanese scholars were sent out to Western countries to best understand their societies and ‘borrow’ the principles and ideas that would help Japan; this led to a process of modernization, industrialisation and other successful changes because the cultural mindset and traditions of Japan were never erased, but they were rather instrumental to reinforce Japan on their own terms. A certain Japanese nationalism developed along with militaristic/imperial ambitions that gave way to spectacular victories, the most important of which were:

  1. The First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)
  1. Victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)

  2. Control of Taiwan, Korea and the southern half of Sakhalin

Lecture 16: Theories of Imperialism

Learning objectives:

  1. “Progress or Exploitation?” Debates on Western Imperialism
  2. Hobson: Earth hunger and the scramble for export markers
  3. Lenin: Structural features of the highest stages of capitalism
  4. Amadori Virgilij: Craving for a world-wide moral empire

“Progress or Exploitation?” Debates on Western Imperialism

It isn’t strange to ask ourselves what the reasons behind accelerated European expansion actually were and what the factors were to make this extension possible. If we are to answer this question, we should first consider the economic factors.

It was thanks to industrialisation that Europe and the United States of America quickly became the centre of manufacturing and economic growth. But in order to industrialise, a country needs raw materials, something which Europe was in dire need of after exhausting its reservoirs. So the continent’s nations expanded imports from other colonies in order to obtain raw materials such as dyes, cotton, vegetables, metal ores and later petroleum from overseas. Regarding industrialisation, we can also say that the invention of railroads assisted in transporting massive amounts of goods to and from the colonies, and that the telegraph greatly facilitated communication and the administrative control over the colonies.

However, it is also crucial that we analyse the military factor. The United States of America and Europe both continued to advance in military technology, which was also a side effect of industrial and technological development. Chemists created deadly explosives (and later, poisonous gases) that could be used in war; an example of ones of these chemists is Alfred Nobel, who invented Dynamite. With innovation in production technology, industrial countries were also able to manufacture imported firearms and greater amounts of munition. By the 1880s, the machine gun had become an effective battlefield weapon, which gave European armies an advantage over their opponents (like over the Zulu in Southern Africa during the Anglo-Zulu war in 1879).

Hobson: Earth hunger and the scramble for export markers

In the 1900s, John Hobson proposed the first comprehensive, systematic and analytical study of imperialism, which was a phenomenon he had witnessed for a number of years during the scramble for Africa or the wars in the Philippines. He wondered what drove these industrialised, wealthy countries to wage war against poorer, ‘third-world’ countries and to dominate them.

According to Hobson, the main drive behind this development was the concentration of wealth in the richer, industrialised nations of the world. Industrial development had created a small class of industrialists and bankers who grew wealthier by the day; the number of enterprises shrunk, and so production facilities adapted to this new situation and produced a huge amount of consumer goods. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough wealthy people to actively consume these goods. This led to underconsumption (also known as overproduction), and thanks to the phenomenon, rich bankers and industrialists could enjoy their new wealth and selfishly keep the level of profits staggeringly high. The State was now under the control of the interests of this wealthy minority, which invested in rearmament and increasing the State’s power through waging wars against poorer countries in order to conquer new export markets.

Hobson was not a marxist revolutionary who would have insisted that there be a rebellion to end this state of affairs; he was a left-wing reformist liberal who was of the opinion that this wasn’t an inevitable situation and could be overcome by reformist solutions, which could be found through new State policies that were more worker-friendly. This way, the State could contribute to increasing income levels of the working classes and the poor, who constituted the majority of the population at that time.

Thus, the State had basically two ways that it could evade this situation:

  1. Abandon the legislation that had been unfriendly to trade union powers for decades
  1. Introduce a minimum wage law

Another way would be progressive taxation, which is a tax reform that would benefit the great majority of the population so that the rich would pay much higher taxes and attenuate the tax level of the poor and the working class. It would also be crucial to adopt welfare measures (such as unemployment benefits) so as to increase the income level. With a higher income level, the population would be able to reap the benefits of these overproduced consumer goods and balance the economy.

Lenin: Structural features of the highest stages of capitalism

Vlamidir Lenin was the leader of the Russian socialist majority wing and wrote his most influential works regarding imperialism during World War I when he was in exile in Switzerland. His analysis started out as loosely based on Hobson’s work, and he wrote:

“The social liberal Hobson correctly takes into account two ‘historically concrete features of modern imperialism. First, the competition between several imperialist nations, and secondly, the predominance of the financier over the merchant.”

In the first point, Lenin says that Hobson was right in stating that the competition between imperialist powers was inevitable and would lead to war, as it had already done when Lenin was writing. The second point, however, concerns the economic analysis behind the political process; Lenin says that Hobson was also right in distinguishing the older form of capitalism from a new phenomenon he calls financed capitalism, which had been explained by Rudolf Hilferding (and shared by Lenin) within the marxist theory; Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun and in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed. Banks and industrial cartels had merged into homogeneous groups of financed capitalism, just as Hilferding had pointed out. But why is this an important point in the explanation of imperialism?

Firstly, these monopolistic enterprises stemming from the merging of big banks and industries take on a dimension that leads to the over-accumulation of capital. This means that a certain level of capital accumulation stays in the single bank or industrial enterprise and within this monopolistic form as a whole, which makes it impossible to remunerate the investment of a reasonable profit trade on the domestic market. As a consequence, they have to export capital to countries with less developed economies in order to regenerate the extra profits that the whole market is not able to anymore. This is different if compared with Hobson, who had concentrated on the production of goods and the necessity to find export markets for these goods. Lenin argued that the main interest in question is not the export of commodities, but rather to place direct investment in less developed countries.

Secondly, Lenin writes:

“The prevailing types of enterprises were no longer those freely competing inside the country and through contact between countries, but within monopoly alliances of entrepreneurs and trusts.”

This new age of monopolistic capitalism makes the apparatus of financial capitalism so powerful that it controls the State, its rule, its laws and public spending on the domestic market, reinforcing once again the oligopolistic position of big enterprises.

Lenin’s third point is that the State, as an expression of financial capitalist interest, must also intervene abroad to safeguard the monopolies’ possibilities of profit-making; this explains the aggressive imperialist foreign policies and the military effort to establish direct colonial control over Africa, Indo-China, etc.. It may be interesting to see how Lenin describes the tendencies of what we today would call globalization.

In his book published in 1902, Hobson also remarked on the endeavour of the well-meaning philanthropist, which we may consider the equivalent to the relief and assistance organizations of our time. These epically motivated reformists and missionaries devotedly followed the world of even the most ferocious imperialists in order to do well in their jobs. These philanthropists, according to Hobson:

“Believe in that religion and utilise it for their ends.”

According to Hobson, the ingeniousness of these people has become an instrument that makes the apparatus of imperial power work smoothly.

Amadori Virgilij: Craving for a world-wide moral empire

However, for the Italian sociologist Giovanni Amadori Virgilij (who published “Il sentiments imperialista” four years after Hobson), the craving for goodness is not just a fake pretext, but the very core of imperialism:

“Along the general lineation of imperialist sentiment lies this altruistic concept, which is one of the main factors of moral confidence and faith in the destiny of this empire.”

At the core of imperialism lies the ideology and imperialist sentiment, which is why one should criticise ‘the absolute inadequacy of all definitions that explain the phenomenon as a result of political and economic tendencies’. Entities are good intentions in itself, and that, for Amadori, is the core problem of imperialism. The economic definition of imperialism is not wrong, but it fails to explain that it can unfold only thanks to a belief system and a sentiment that are both deeply entrenched in the psyche of popular mass sentiment. According to Amadori, imperialists believe to act in the name and interest of civilization — that is, in the name of history. Imperialism is a general feeling of the people and the collective concept of domination.

Lecture 17: World Timeline (1914-2003)

Learning objectives:

  1. On the timeline: major events, 1914-2003
  2. On the timeline: Independence of India, Indonesia and African countries, 1947-1989
  3. On the timeline: the Vietnam war, 1965-1974
  4. On the timeline: the Iranian Revolution of 1979

On the timeline: major events, 1914-2003

On the timeline: Independence of India, Indonesia and African countries, 1947-1989

On the timeline: the Vietnam war, 1965-1974

On the timeline: the Iranian Revolution of 1979

During World War II, Iran was assigned an important strategic role by Churchill and Stalin, who were allies, and their Anglo-Iranian company took great interest in the country. After the anglo-soviet agreements in 1941, Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in favour of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. After the war, soviet influence strengthened the position of the communist party.

Lecture 18: World War One

Learning objectives:

  1. A gradual escalation of ‘regional’ conflicts among great powers
  2. The ‘Entente’ and the ‘Central Powers’
  3. Technology, mechanisation, industry, labour force mobilisation
  4. A new global power rises, while empires break down</u>

A gradual escalation of ‘regional’ conflicts among great powers

In 2014, historian Christopher Black published ‘The Sleepwalkers’ about how Europe went to war in 1914; according to the book, none of the great powers actually wanted to end the war, and that, like sleepwalkers, the European governments woke up in the reality of a terrible war that no one had actually wanted. The fact is that, for example, the Socialist International had predicted a clash between imperialist powers as a structural necessity for capitalist development. Liberal and conservative governments had plenty of opportunities to confute this marxist ‘nonsense’, which, however, they didn’t do.

The World War had many roots: one was the breaking up of the alliance between Russia and Austria during the Crimean War sixty years earlier. This had translated into competition between these two nations in the Balkans where they fought for dominance and often had conflicts of interest, especially when an Austria-friendly king was substituted by a Russia-friendly one.

Formal Austrian annexation of the Bosnian protectorate in 1908 sharpened the tensions between Serbia and Austria; but this was just one part of the story. Another was the series of social and political mutinies in the Ottoman Empire, which led to the Young Turk Revolution in 1908 and a break-away tendency in the Middle East. Great powers in neighbouring countries observed the ‘ill man on the Bosphoros’ like vultures in the sky, hoping to take the part of the dying Empire’s body that they desired.

In 1897, Greece and Turkey fought over Crete. In 1911, Italy waged colonial wars against Libya, Greece and the Ottoman Empire. The further weakening of the Ottoman Empire encouraged Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Greece to go into battle in the First Balkan War in 1912, and the Ottoman Empire was expunged from many European territories.

One year later, during the Second Balkan War (1913), Serbia and Greece confronted Bulgaria, which wanted to annex Macedonia, and a year later, Bulgaria would ally itself with Austria, Germany and the Turkish arch enemy against Serbia in the occupation and violence against the civilian population of which Bulgarian troops would become infamous for.

As we said before, Italy started its colonial adventure because, like Germany, it felt that it deserved the colonial greatness that every other nation possessed through the ‘humanitarian’ mission of civilizing its colonies. In North Africa, Italian and French interests had clashed lots of times; thousands of Italians had settled in Tunis, for example, but France had conquered it.

The division of spheres of interests foresaw that Italy should look after Tripoli and Cyrenaica, and once French ambitions were nearly satisfied in Morocco, someone must have decided in Rome that it was high time to take action before it was too late. Morocco had been a Sultanate that had successfully stayed independent in the early modern period (notwithstanding Spain and Portugal’s attacks), but at the beginning of the 20th century, France tried to upgrade its role as a colonial world power. Going against the Maastricht convention of 1880, it decided to conquer Morocco, but France’s plan was foiled by Germany, who was allied with the Moroccan Sultanate. In 1911, France declared direction of a Moroccan protectorate, and Germany opposed and sailed its boats off the Moroccan coast. But then Berlin green lighted French conquest of Morocco if it would cede a piece of French Congo and grant free access to the Moroccan market. The typical Germany steadfastness was reaffirmed in this way: business was business. The Moroccan resistance was broken with great brutality.

The most important fault line, however, remains the industrial rise of Germany and its rivalry with Britain. Germany built up a huge modern navy with the openly declared purpose of challenging the maritime superpower of the time, Great Britain, which took this boasting quite seriously. The Reich had a strength also as a continental power, one that Britain lacked in Europe; Britain felt the threat of Germany building a Berlin-Baghdad railway to the Mesopotamian oil fields (which it considered to be its very own private property), the British saw little point in easing the tensions.

If these were ‘sleepwalkers’, then the phrase ‘a sleeper is not a sinner’ must be revised: no one was innocent. In early 1914, the game was ripe to turn into war at any moment.

The trigger, however, was Gavrilo Princip and the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28th, 1914 in Sarajevo. It was the perfect pretext. Still, it wouldn’t have been an adequate excuse had the previous tensions not been apparent to Europe before, as the killing of archdukes and important figures was quite widespread at the time: in 1898, Empress Elizabeth of Austria was shot, and so was, in 1900, Umberto I of Italy, and so on. The Empress of Austria had been murdered by an Italian, but still Austria hadn’t declared war on Italy. Gavrilo Princip wasn’t even a Serbian subject, but rather a subject to Vienna itself. There could have been diplomatic solutions if there had been a will.

Austria gave Serbia one month to declare itself responsible; it agreed on everything settled by Austria but one detail, and so Austria declared war on Serbia. Germany declared war on Russia and France and violated the neutrality of Belgium in order to provoke France so that Great Britain had a good reason to intervene. In the fall of 1914, the major European powers found themselves in the midst of a great war.

The ‘Entente’ and the ‘Central Powers’

Standing between the lines that formed in World War One were the Central Powers: Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. Their adversaries were the Entente Powers, formed by Great Britain, France, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, the US, China, Japan and others.

In East Asia, the battles revolved around German colonies: one of them was on the Chinese mainland. On the Western front, Germany invaded France through Belgium and conducted massacres against its population, including (but not limited to) civilians, priests and officials who tried to resist the occupation of the country. It was the violation of Belgium’s neutrality, however, that allowed England to enter the war.

On the Balkan front, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bulgaria tried to occupy Serbia and parts of Greece by committing acts of violence against the civilian population. On the western front, on the other hand, the war was soon blocked in the trenches. Officials sent soldiers out of the trenches to die en masse so that they could conquer 200 metres of land, only to be thrown back into battle the next day as inane sacrifices. The war itself cost the lives of 400,000 dead soldiers during the first four months of battle in the west between France and Germany. French and German soldiers had gone into war with patriotic enthusiasm, but they soon became aware of the fact that they were mere tools in the hands of high commanders who had no intention of getting their own hands dirty.

In 1915, when signs of fraternisation between French and German soldiers became apparent, the headquarters of both sides repressed this phenomenon with harsh punishments and increased the exposure of soldiers to hate propaganda.

Italy remained neutral for a year and some liberal forces (as well as the Church) felt it was wiser to maintain its good relationship with Austria, but nationalist and democratic forces pushed the nation to join the Entente in order to complete the ‘Risorgimento’ and regain the southern part of Tyrol, an area of Trieste and Dalmatia. When the Entente powers made a deal with Italy on its own terms, the country entered the war. Soon, the southern front was blocked in the trenches, just like the west.

In the east, Austrian and German troops managed to conquer great part of what today is known as Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and other Baltic countries. In 1917, the conflict entered Finland in the form of a civil war.

In Russia, the situation was very diverse. The partial collapse of Russian defence and economic problems laid the groundworks for the 1917 Revolution. The Bolsheviks came into power in the fall of 1917, right after the centrist revolutionaries’ government refused to stop the war, which the Russian population didn’t see the point of continuing. It was then that the Bolshevist government established the Brest-Litovsk armistice with Germany and Austria.

USA had delivered a large amount of armaments and munition to France and Great Britain during every war. When it entered the war in 1917, the immobile fronts in the south-west began to move.

In 1918, the Central Powers were defeated, and the nations that had been involved slowly came to terms with the human costs of the war: around 8 million soldiers had been killed, as well as a large number of civilians. Countries like Germany and Russia would suffer greater losses in World War II, but for many others, this war would remain as the Great War in everyone’s memory.

Technology, mechanisation, industry, labour force mobilisation

Industrial production had come to a stall during the years characterized by colonial warfare, but in the period right before the start of World War I, new means of transport, pieces of artillery, torpedoes, submarines, air force bombardment, chemical weapons, tanks, automobiles and rifles were introduced in the late 1800s; these were decisive factors in many historical events that would occur later on (such was the strategic importance of railways in Russia’s victories over France). Industry had a great impact on the industry and rearmament, but many of the modern armaments that were first produced in the 1890s only came into full use during World War I.

But this new technology also had unprecedented social consequences:

  1. The lack of men in industrial production led to them becoming soldiers and perishing in the war
  1. A new feeling of ‘belonging’ was born, leading to a novel nationalisation of the masses

  2. People became aware that war was only a matter of political interest

  3. The bourgeoisie in Russia constituted the first example of ‘class enemy’, but they wouldn’t be the last

  4. Politicisation of the masses

  5. For the first time in history, women had a role in industrial production

The deaths of soldiers during World War I was literally a part of industrial mass killings in a war that was fought on an industrial scale; huge masses of people and soldiers were needed, just like artillery and rearmaments. Soldiers and peasants of humble origins came into contact with novel technologies they had never seen before as well as other soldiers from regions they hadn’t even known existed. The war created a feeling of common belonging and boosted the nationalisation of the masses as well as the politicisation of soldiers: they realised that it was not in the common people’s interest to be at war with each other when they saw that common soldiers were being treated as slaved and sent to a more or less certain death instead of the officials and top commanders that ordered them to. This realisation was what caused the birth of the revolution against the bourgeoisie in Russia, the November Revolution in Germany and the civil war in Finland.

With the men at the front, fields and factories were filled by women to replace the husbands, brothers and fathers that had worked there prior to the war. After this development, many countries introduced female suffrage at the end of World War I.

Furthermore, World War I was a turning point also because it inaugurated a new area of warfare: it was perhaps the last war in which more soldiers died than civilians. It was in modern wars that civilians were targeted by mass bombings, terrorising, deportations, exterminations, massacres and mass rapes. Today, being a member of the armed forces is (statistically) the most secure position.

A new global power rises, while empires break down

The USA was the most important power by the end of the 19th century; however, in the realm of international commerce, finance and monetary policies, this fact was not fully perceived and visible. The State were more inward-looking and depended less on foreign trade. Its banking system was more vulnerable to cycles, and the Federal Reserve Fund was only created after 1914. Since a central bank didn’t exist, the dollar’s full economic strength was not visible to non-experts on international markets. All this changed in World War I, when American became a world power and gave birth to the ‘American century’.

Great European powers (such as Great Britain and France) were actually in huge war debt to American banks. It was also the slow decline of European imperialism that further demonstrates America’s rising dominance on the market as well as the mechanism of operations imposed on the war’s losers (Germany in particular).

The geopolitical consequences of the war, however, were equally immense. The end of the Tsarist, Hapsburg and Ottoman Empire created a new landscape in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East. New nation states were created and established: Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Albania, Austria and Hungary. Italy, on the other hand, obtained Trento and Bolzano, but not Trieste and Fiume, and thus the results of the war did not satisfy the population’s nationalist appetite. The same occurred in Romania, Hungary and Germany, who felt that they had been treated unjustly; they developed a craving for revenge, and the stage seemed to be set for another war.

The extremely important consequences of the war were also experienced in the Middle East. The former Ottoman Empire’s provinces were divided according to the borders that the British and the French representatives had made in 1960 according to both parties’ imperial interests. After the war, England and France would erect protectorates in these colonies except in Mesopotamia, which became an formally independent nation state (then substantially independent after World War II). In 1970, the British foreign secretary Delfoure stated that Britain would support the establishment of a national home for jewish people in Palestine.

Lecture 19: The Economic Crisis of 1929 and the right-wing dictatorships

of the interwar period

Learning objectives:

  1. The Peace Treaties and the Debt Cycle
  2. The financial crisis of 1929
  3. The Great Depression of the 1930s
  4. Authoritarian and dictatorial regimes in the 1920s and 1930s</u>

The Peace Treaties and the Debt Cycle

World War I left a number of situations open. At the end of the war, France and Great Britain were heavily indebted with American banks for the loans they had asked during the war. The Ottoman Empire was dismantled, and Bulgaria wasn’t in its strongest economic state; furthermore, Germany had to carry the burdens of these situations. The nation was obliged to submit to the peace treaty and confess itself guilty for all the damages of World War One (the sum Germany would pay at the end of the war would greatly benefit France and Great Britain).

The conditions imposed upon Germany were so heavy that many were critical of the long-term effects the treaty of Versailles would have on international relations. One of these critics was the young economics John Maynard Keynes, who, in the early 1920’s, published “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”, where he criticized the institutional mechanism that was determined by the peace treaties and would guarantee a potential of instant financial stability and political stability in Europe and on the international field. The whole hub of transactions concerning the US, France, Great Britain and Germany would greatly affect the world economy.

On the other hand, the Italian delegate to one of the commissions of the League of Nations, Gini Corrado, criticized the lack of super-nationalist institutions that could regulate trade, commerce, finance and so on, and the lack of such regulating, super-nationalist bonds would lead, in his opinion, to situations in which the nation states would prefer a policy of autarchy. He especially criticized the USA, which was not ready to build up international institutions that would stabilise international trade, monetary systems, etc.

Summing all these up, we can say that the global situation in the 1930’s was quite predictable: the 1920’s bred hyperinflation in Germany, a phenomenon that soon spiralled completely out of control. In 1924, a settlement called the Dawes Plan foresaw the involvement of international creditors who would secure a stable financial flow between the US, Germany and other European countries.

The most important problem at this time was the transmission channel of negative and positive developments as American banks gave loans to European countries; many of these loans became investments in infrastructure or other industries, boosting the EU economy for the first few years. But already in the second half of the 1920’s, US banks implemented restrictive measures and created investment problems in EU economies. Why exactly did American banks refrain from investing in Europe? The reason was that the American stock market had gone through very positive developments.

In the early 1920’s, Germany itself had caused major inflation within the nation, and German currency was only stabilised in agreement with the Dawes Plan with these same American banks (these would issue new loans to European countries; in this way, Germany would receive some of this money and pay reparations to France and Britain, and these last two would use America’s own money to repay their debt to the US).

All this created a channel of transmutation for potential crisis, as Europe had first had symptoms of crisis around 1928/1929.

The financial crisis of 1929

In 1929, USA’s stock prices continued to rise. When financial markets lose their ties with the real economy, this is normally a sign that a crisis is imminent. On October 4th of 1929, the stock market’s bubble finally burst and investors began dumping industrial shares on the masses.

The stock market crash of 1929 was not the sole cause of the Great Depression, as recession had already been ongoing, but the crash did accelerate the global economic collapse which it had already been a symptom of.

The Wall Street crash had a major impact on the American and world economy; in the 1930’s, 1,352 banks with nearly 9 billion dollars went bankrupt, and in the following years there were almost 2,300 banks which failed with nearly 1,7 billion dollars in deposits. Businesses in many industries were faced with failure (with almost 30,000 in 1931); given this international flow of capital, this crisis soon seeped into Europe.

In September 1929, the London stock market had crushed the beginning of a great crisis in Europe. Of course, the absence of flow of the debt cycle and the connection between American and European banks also had an effect on the continent, especially in Germany, Austria and Hungary.

This banking crisis also caused the failure of heads of industries; stocks had less value, and this meant that it was difficult to re-finance industrial activities, and thus this led to unemployment and a lower demand for consumer goods.

It was then that USA adopted protectionist measures to protect its own industries in 1931. The more industrialised a country was, the harder the crisis hit, and Germany was at the top of this list. European countries were also forced to adopt protectionist measures, such as Italy and Great Britain.

By 1933, nearly half of all American banks had failed, and unemployment was approaching nearly 15 million people (40% of the entire workforce), while in Germany unemployment was around 6 million. Was this crash inevitable?

The answer is: not really. Cyclical crises had followed each other ever since the creation of capitalism. The reform policies which followed (1930’s-1970’s), however, managed to introduce a new cycle of neo-liberalism and start over from scratch.

The Great Depression of the 1930s

In 1933, the Great Depression reached its peak and Franklin Roosevelt proposed a new economic policy called the “New Deal”.

This “New Deal” was a series of measures that offered the population welfare measures, such as unemployment benefits, a public spending policy and public jobs that would employ 9 million unemployed citizens, especially in projects concerning hydroelectric power generators and other infrastructural projects.

These were very popular and actually attenuated the social effects of the crisis, but it also had a variety of cons (questions of economic interest, ideological prejudice and the State’s intervention in the economy). Thus, some plans could not be put into practice, and this may have contributed to the fact that the American economy could not recover from the crisis before World War II.

In Germany’s case, unemployment was also a huge political factor and certainly catalysed the nation’s political orientation towards Nazi parties and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in early 1933. Once the Nazi party came into power, Hitler decided to adopt a new economic policy called the ‘high ways of Adolf Hitler’ (these were actually the plans that had previously been drafted by social-democratic trade unions whose members were later prosecuted in concentration camps). These plans were quite coherent and were put forth in various sectors (mainly infrastructure), and Germany was able to mend its wounds regarding unemployment at a quick pace by 1935.

Many of Keynes’ opponents claimed that the success of the Nazi party was all thanks to Keynes’ politics, but his general theory had only been published in the 1930’s and the Nazi party had already adopted his tactics in the 1920’s. Germany, however, was a fully industrialised country with a macroeconomics aspect of cyclical unemployment (not structural unemployment), and its model corresponded perfectly to the model Keynes had explained in theory. All Hitler had done was put it into practice.

Thanks to its economic growth in the 1930’s, Germany entered World War II at its full productive capacity; however, the second half of the war brought around unfavourable consequences for the nation because it had exhausted its last resources just to further extend the war effort.

The USA entered the war wrecked by unemployment, yet the American economy was bigger than the German one. Still, the nation faced difficulties in the years immediately before entering the war (the period of time corresponding to the Great Depression), but World War II turned this situation on its head and proved to be advantageous for the USA.

The Nazi party’s success in fighting unemployment had presented the German government as a sort of ‘miracle-worker’, and thus the population had put too much faith in its capabilities.

Authoritarian and dictatorial regimes in the 1920s and 1930s

Most of the time, when we think of right-wing dictatorships, we tend to point our fingers to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Of course, these two countries stand out not only because they were the two most decisive European powers of the 1930’s, but also because of the political movements that had shaped the masses thanks to strong, ‘charismatic’ leaders that intended to re-educate the population. This was something new at the time, as the indoctrination of a mass re-organization of society had never occurred before and was not equalled by any other regime at the time.

However, in the 1940’s, we can see that parliamentarian democracy had also been in place in France, Scandinavia, Great Britain, Ireland and Switzerland; not even Hungary had ever abolished parliamentarian democracy, but still had its ‘regent of the kingdom’ at the head of the nation: Horthy Miklòs.

In every other nations, some form of dictatorship was still in power. The first of these was probably Jòzef Piłsudski (the ‘First Marshal of Poland’), who came into power when Poland became independent and gave the Polish nation state its right-wing shape that it would keep throughout the 1900’s.

But there were some leaders that were harder to compartmentalise: Mustafa Kemal (called ‘the father of the Turks’) was a comparatively progressivist leader. He maintained good relations with the Soviet Union, made a number of secular reforms within his country and was a smart and charismatic leader. Other countries were graced with monarchic dictatorships, such as Bulgaria and Romania, and not all with the same political orientation.

In opposition to monarchic dictatorships were right-wing conservatives such as Mussolini or Hitler. They erected authoritarian regimes where the rule of law was suspended to such a degree that freedom of opinion and of the press was unheard of, and the forms of government were dictatorial.

The most interesting figure with respect to these themes was Antonio de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal, who was one of the longest-serving dictators of Europe. As a right-wing conservative technocrat, he harboured little sympathy for the fascist movement that threatened to oppress Portugal, but he was still a right-wing dictator. Antonio was very open towards the American world and tried to modernize his country, just like Francisco Franco.

Franco was not only the ‘guiding force’ of Spain, but also the leader of the victorious nationalist forces (namely the Spanish military) which had regrouped to fight against the republican left-wing government in 1946 and had been very successful in the tragic Spanish Civil War (1946-1949). Francisco Franco had not only won militarily; he had also won the war of opinions and of propaganda thanks to the help of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Spain had also had the Catholic Church at its side, and Franco’s government had successfully turned every aspect of daily life into a tool to further his political agenda.

Germany’s arm hadn’t been short, either, with regards to ideological influence. The nation had demonstrated its deft agility in warping the minds of the countries it had occupied on various occasions: take, for example, Italy and Croatia. Of course, there were other less collaborative leaders, like in France, but these oppositional forces had only represented a narrow section of French society. It was the wealthy demographic that were happy to oblige to Germany’s implicit and explicit orders.

It was with the help of the economically advanced parts of European society that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy could spread far and wide. There was also a deep fear of Communism involved with regards to Nazi sympathisers; with the nationalisation of the masses came their intervention in politics, and parties formed by the population allied themselves with fascist/nazi parties due to a spread of misinformation and fear. Nationalism had also been a decisive factor, as the loss of social distinction in the modification of the map of Europe had driven the continents’ population to seek some sort of national identity.

Concerning anti-semitism: it had always been present, and its widespread presence in society was nothing new. The 19th century bred the organization of anti-semitic parties that grew more and more virulent with the Nazi party.

All these conditions, along with the various economic crises harrowing Europe, made democratic parliamentarian systems not particularly attractive, and the majority of the population believed that the solution to these problems laid in the hands of the right-wing.

Lecture 20: World War II and the Shoah

Learning objectives:

  1. World War II: origins, alliances, overview
  2. Chronology and major turning points, 1939-1945
  3. Germany’s anti-Jewish extermination policy, 1943-1944
  4. The results of the war

World War II: origins, alliances, overview

World War II lasted from September 1st, 1939, to September 2nd, 1945; its main battlefields were located in Europe, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Southeast and Southern Asia, China, the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean. Its carnage was unprecedented. Over 60 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives, of which more than one third were Soviet citizens. On average, 20,000 people were killed every day, and this made it the most destructive war in human history; 9 million Germans, 4 million Chinese and 3 million Japanese lost their lives. The war developed in steps, but from 1942 onwards, the primary combatants were the Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan; they signed agreements concerning mutual assistance, but never made a comprehensive plan of action due to difficulty regarding communication, while the Allied powers did) and the Allied powers (Great Britain and its Commonwealth nations, the Soviet Union and the United States).

There is one other important date besides September 1st, 1939 (when Germany invaded Poland and England and France declared war on Hitler’s Nazi state): July 7th, 1937, when the Chinese-Japanese war began. This war, when viewed separately from World War II, becomes an integral part of it and would come to a parallel end in 1945 with the liberation of China and the end of World War II. Imperial Japan sought to drive its industrial development ahead; after the victories over the Chinese and Russian Empires in the mid 1890s and its victories with the Entente in World War I, it was very confident in its own force and had to find more raw materials and workforce to keep itself at the same level of productivity. In order to do so, Japan had to work in competition with Western colonial and imperial powers in the Pacific. This is why it supported anti-colonial movements in Southern Asia and colonial conquest with the annexation of islands in the Chinese sea (plus the invasion of Manchuria). In July 1937, a full-scale war sparked between China and Japan.

In the meantime, Italy tried to put the Mar Nostrum policy into place and become the dominant Mediterranean power by basing its strategy on that of the Ancient Roman Empire; in North Africa and the Balkans, the politics of fascist Italy followed in the steps of late liberal Italy. A breaking point with Western powers was the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935/1936; up to that moment, the relationship between these countries and Italy had been quite good, but then Italy established a partnership with Nazi Germany and exited the League of Nations as a response to the sanctions imposed upon the country. Italy had also opened questions with Nazi Germany over South Tyrol, Austria and the Balkans, but these questions were more or less settled. They became allies in the Spanish civil war. In 1939, Italy occupied Albania, which was its launchpad in its failed 1940 attempt of conquering Greece; this unsuccessful occupation was the reason why Germany felt obliged to come to Italy’s assistance in occupying the Balkans (a front which Germany had not considered before).

In Germany, Adolf Hitler capitalised on the economic decline of the country and the deep resentment towards the League of Nations (due to the Treaty of Versailles) that boiled within its foundations. Hitler began establishing the airforce in 1935, which was a violation of the 1919 Treaty, then proceeded with organising the army in 1936. From the start, the Nazi movement had declared that Germany needed ‘living space’, which was almost a direct declaration of war against its Eastern neighbours, because the ‘living space’, according to the Nazis, was in Eastern Europe. In 1938, at the Munich Conference, Great Britain and France agreed to the division of Czechoslovakia (against the will of the country’s population). German-speaking areas would be annexed by Germany, while Polish-speaking areas would be annexed by Poland, and that contributed to keeping peace in Europe (that was their theory). But this only stimulated Germany’s appetite for revenge. In 1938, Austria’s pro-fascist government was replaced by a pro-Nazi government with the consent of the majority of Austrians.

Stalin’s Soviet Union had argued against the Munich Agreements and had taken the Czechoslovakian government’s side in the decision of remaining a single nation; it had also been the only country to deliver official assistance to the Republican government of Spain, and besides this, the USSR was the main power that opposed the moves of the Italian-German fascist and nazi Axis in Europe. It had also repeatedly tried to create an anti-Hitler union with Britain and France, but these attempts had always been rejected, as Poland met them with a firm opposition (because it was against any sort of agreement with the USSR).

In 1939, the USSR was the only country that so far had not signed any agreement with Nazi Germany so far. It was largely isolated, and it was for that reason that in August 1949 that Soviet foreign minister signed a non-aggression pact with German foreign minister Ribbentrop called the Molotov Plan (a system originally created in 1947 in order to provide aid to rebuild the countries in Eastern Europe that were politically and economically aligned to the Soviet Union; it was an agreement made after the USSR refused to participate in President Truman’s Marshall Plan, which was a pledge of economic assistance for all European countries willing to participate). There was also a secret part of the agreement: de facto, the USSR would reassume the position of the Tsarist Empire in its later years regarding its relations with Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus and so on. But it is clear that this agreement was just a way for Germany to avoid Russia interfering in its plans. The 1st of September, 1939, the German invasion of Poland began; his was five years after the Polish government had sought good relations with the country with treaties and agreements that dated back to 1935.

The ‘sleepwalking’ theory in World War I was not present in World War II, as it was apparent that the aggressive expansionist drive between the Axis’ foreign policy was what ultimately caused the greatest was in human history. Still, we can speak of the law of ‘unintended consequences’ in both wars; the USA’s entrance in the war was actually triggered by the Axis’ own moves, and so on. Logistics, economic and military potential became a bias on the battlefield with regard to quality of armaments, as the Axis’ lack of raw materials near the end of the war made it quite clear that it could never win the war, and the main reason why Germany’s allies had joined the Axis was because the nation’s Blitzkrieg’s had assured it a seemingly infinite source of raw materials. Another reason why the Axis lost was because it had made the grave mistake of attacking Russia, a decision which resulted in the same devastating consequences as it had for Napoleon.

Chronology and major turning points, 1939-1945

After the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. But in 1940, the German Blitzkrieg overwhelmed Belgium, Holland and France; in the meantime, Britain was under siege of heavy German bombings. Churchill decided to resist at any cost, although lots of Brits tried to negotiate with Germans. At the end, Germany’s attempt to invade Great Britain failed, foiling Hitler’s plans.

In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Allied troops confronted Italian and German troops in North Africa. At the end of 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, and this was the moment in which the US (sovereign of Pearl Harbour) entered the war.

Three major turning points occurred in 1942: the German-Italian defeat in El Alamein and the German surrender at Stalingrad. This year was also marked by the various sea battles (Battle of the Coral Sea, Battle of the Java Sea, etc.) between Japan and the US.

Starting from 1943, the Axis powers were on the retreat. When the Allied troops invaded lands pertaining to Italy (Sicily and Southern Italy), the nation surrendered. Germany occupied Northern Italy and installed a ‘puppet regime’ under Mussolini. At the same time, British and Indian forces defeated Japan in Southern Asia. The Red Army was marching Westward.

In 1944, while the Red Army pushed towards the West, Western forces landed in Normandy and liberated Paris. Nazi Germany was cornered from all sides.

In 1945, the Red Army reached Poland and started entering Germany from the East while Allied troops started conquering Western Germany. On April 30th, Hitler committed suicide and Germany surrendered.

In Asia, the war continued even though Japan was practically defeated, but the nation resisted occupation. The USSR offered the face that burden, but the US (now under President Truman) launched atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on August 14th, and World War II came to a definite end.

Germany’s anti-Jewish extermination policy, 1943-1944

The genocide perpetrated against the Jewish population was a key feature of World War II. After the Nazis came to power, there was a continuous escalation of antisemitism and discrimination within Germany. With the start of the war, these politics and hate crimes soon extended to Europe under German influence, but especially to Eastern Europe, home to millions of jews. Pogroms took place in Poland and the Balkans, and special mobile killing squads of SS soldiers began to mass-murder the jewish population in the Soviet Union after the invasion of there USSR. From summer to the end of 1941, German forces murdered around 1,400,000 people (most of them being jews). The jewish population was deported from various European countries and concentrated in ghettos in Eastern European countries.

As the situation became militarily difficult, Nazi and SS chiefs met in Wannsee (close to Berlin) to decide what to do to these European jews in the ghettos. Several proposals were put forth, and at the end, the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’ (as the Nazis called it) prescribed the systematic genocide of the jewish population through death camps and work camps, such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, Chełmno, Majdanek and Sobibor; more than 4,200,000 jews died in these camps, while about 5,700,000 jews were killed during the course of the Final Solution.

This is now called the Shoah/Holocaust, meaning ‘destruction’. It is also crucial to remember that, even though the majority of deaths by genocide were jewish, that other minorities were subjected to the same treatment: Soviet prisoners of war, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, ethnic Poles, Ukrainians and Belorussians, Roma, the disabled and political opponents.

The results of the war

Despite winning the war, Britain lost much of its Empire. The developments in the colonies were already pointing at this final outcome, and Britain was ready to accept that; however, it still saw itself as a main world power, a position defended until the 1950s. The structurally weakened British Empire began to scramble. The War led to the revival of US economy, and half of the industrial world economy was American from that moment on. The USSR had taken the brunt of the war and had been weakened by the consequences of the war (differently from the US), but it emerged as a major winner. The US and the USSR rose to become the world’s two superpowers and entered the Cold War, which dominated world politics until 1990. Europe was divided between US and USSR alliances along the lines of the 1945 Yalta agreement between Stalin and the West. The end of the Soviet Union later on completely changed European geopolitics.

Lecture 21: The affirmation of Communism and the USA-USSR confrontation

Learning objectives:

  1. The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Chinese Revolution of 1949
  2. Industrialisation and repression under Communist regimes
  3. Cold War in an ‘American century’
  4. Cultural empire and anti-Americanism

The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Chinese Revolution of 1949

In Russia, 1917 saw the break-out of the revolution; soldiers mutinied, peasants seized land from the nobility, workers took over factories and non-Russian nationalities asserted their independence. This was very similar to the 1905 Revolution; both created problems regarding hunger and unemployment and triggered a movement that changed the structure of the counsels (called the ‘Soviets’ by the Russians), especially in 1917.

Within a year, the Tsarist monarchy was gone and the Soviets were catapulted into power. There were two Revolutions in 1917: the first was the Provisional Revolutionary Government (February Revolution), which was formed by a broad coalition of forces (bolsheviks, socialists, mensheviks, etc.). This Provisional Government declared the monarchy to be obsolete and that it had been substituted by a Republic; but under the revolutionary socialist Alexander Kerensky, Russia decided to continue the war, a decision which did not need the favour of the population (who were opposed to this and in agreement with the Bolsheviks, whose motto was ‘peace, land and bread’).

The Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov/Lenin, who had been transported under the coverage of the German government (who knew he would favour Russia’s armistice), led the Bolsheviks into power in the October Revolution (early November in the Western calendar). Few people expected this fragile hold to last, but the Bolsheviks (the ‘Reds’) consolidated their power after a bitter Civil War (against the ‘Whites’, who were joined by foreign powers and consisted of monarchists and Tsarist sympathisers), then renamed themselves the Communist Party.

From the early 1920’s onwards, many socialist parties split throughout Europe and named themselves Communist parties. But it should always be remembered that the actual split of the worker’s movement was World War I because those who would form the Communist party in Germany, for example, did not support the war in 1914 and stuck to the line of the socialist movement; the split regarded the propaganda for and against the war.

In 1922, the USSR was founded and remained the sole world outpost against capitalism. But then in the late 1940’s, Communism began to spread as Communist parties took power in Eastern Europe after World War II. Eastern European Communist governments were created by occupying Soviet troops after the Yalta Conference (1920’s). In some of these countries (such as in Eastern Germany and Hungary), there had also been strong workers’ movements before World War II, and thus this phenomenon wasn’t solely a post-war occurrence.

But Europe wasn’t the only instance of Communism in the 1920’s; the Chinese Communist party was founded in 1921 in this ideological ‘red wave’. In 1937, the Communist Party and their militia co-organised the resistance against the Japanese occupation of Manchuria together with the Kuomintang nationalist party of China. From 1937 to 1945, both the Communist Party and the Kuomintang fought against Japan in the Second World War.

With the beginning of the Cold War, however, the differences between the nationalists and the communists bred a bloody Civil War that ended in 1949 with the victory of the Communists, led by Mao Zedong. When Mao triumphantly proclaimed the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Communism became a global movement, and over the next several decades, also took hold in North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. By the 1970’s, Communist rule encompassed 1/3 of the World’s population.

Industrialisation and repression under Communist regimes

In both Russia and China, the Communist party was everywhere: education, the arts, social life, etc.. All these factors of daily life were monopolised by the party and reinforced by executions and imprisonment to achieve almost total control. Being a member of the party ensured a chief means to status and privilege; but the vision in both Communist parties triggered a vehement search for ‘enemies’, that is, those who rejected or questioned the policies of this leadership.

In the USSR, this period was known as the ‘Great Terror’ of 1936-1939, in which many high-ranking members of the party were either executed or imprisoned for inexistent or silly crimes. A self-perpetuating wave of fear engulfed the country, particularly in elite circles: citizens denounced one another in fear of being denounced themselves.

Something similar took place during China’s cultural revolution during the late 1960’s, as Mao Zedong mobilised millions of young Red Guards and sent them across the country to confront any who might be taking a capitalist road. Something similar to a Civil War ensued until Mao Zedong put a stop to this tremendous upheaval.

The other important aspect of Communism was industrialisation: much of the world expected Communism to first pop up in the most developed countries, where the intrinsic contradiction of capitol would ignite a spark of revolution. But, to everyone’s surprise, Communism reared its head in Russia and China, who were more agrarian than industrial at the time.

In the USSR, collectivisation radically transformed rural forms of living in a brutal way that caused periods of hunger and social disarray. But the country’s central planning system pivoted industrialisation, as long as heavy industry similar industries were concerned. These types of industries had also shown a natural tendency for state protectionism in capitalist countries. The transformation of the USSR was impressive; but what the central planning system would fail at was meeting the demands of the industrial mass-consumer society that developed in the 1960’s. In most Eastern European countries, the absence of market mechanisms created shortages in the supply of consumer’s goods, which favoured corruption and caused increasing dissatisfaction in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This was probably the major, single cause of the Communist regime in Eastern Europe.

China, who also took the path of radical agricultural/industrial transformation, took another oath in the late 1970’s under Deng Xiaoping: a law-enforced, state-controlled market economy in the agriculture and consumer-goods sectors, which allowed a strong export sector to develop and satisfied the demand of the population.

Cold War in an ‘American century’

On March 12th 1947, US President Truman offered a statement to a joint session of Congress in which he said that he believed it must be the policy of the United States to support free people who were resisting a tempered subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures. The subjugation he referred to was Communism; any Communist policy, even if peacefully pursued, was considered a fruit of outside pressure or a Communist conspiracy in the eyes of America.

In the 1970’s, Communist rule reached its peak (albeit many countries labeled as Communist were actually not Communist, per say). President Truman’s speech of 1947 could be considered the final ‘straw’ that pivoted the Cold War; Truman’s doctrine of ‘Containment’ implemented the deployment of US bases around the world and military or CIA interventions in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti and Panama. Subversive activity and government overthrow characterized the USA’s intervention in various countries.

Cultural empire and anti-Americanism

Anyone who lived in the decades after WWII can testify to the incisiveness of American influence in all sectors of life; these have shaped the imagery of generations from an aesthetic, idealogical and cultural point of view in most countries of the world. This has been interpreted as an extraordinary political success. In the euphoria of 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the eradication of a ‘bad idea’, the American political scientist Joseph Nye published “Soft Power”, in which he argued that there was an irreversible transformation of American power which was all about cultural influence and the ability to influence the behavior of others to obtain a favourable outcome. This would come to characterize American foreign policy in the future.

In 1994, as a response to Nye’s book, “Science of Coercion” by Christopher Simpson pointed out that Soft Power practises had only rarely offered alternatives to violence; instead, they had been an integral part of a cultural strategy based on the premise of the strongest government to the detriment of the weakest, on the basis of which coercion and manipulation warped general forms of understanding within society.

Colonel Ralph Peters says:

“There will be no peace…violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive. The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing.”

With regard to Anti-Americanism, political scientist Brendon O’Connor of the United States Studies Centre suggests that anti-Americanism cannot be isolated as a consistent phenomenon and that the term originated as a rough composite of stereotypes, prejudices and criticisms towards Americans or the United States, evolving to more politically-based criticism. French scholar Marie-France Toinet says use of the term “is only fully justified if it implies systematic oppression — a sort of allergic reaction — to America as a whole”.

Lecture 22: “Third World”, political Islam, decline of Soviet communism

Learning objectives:

  1. The Nonalignment movement
  2. The idea of a “Third World”
  3. The rise of political Islam
  4. The Communist collapse

The Nonalignment movement

After World War II, the return of the colonial status quo was impossible. The weakening of European powers, the emergence of Cold War bipolarity and the beginning of internationalisation within the framework of the United Nations Charter would put a movement of emancipation into motion, which would have been favoured by a number of cumulative factors and converging forces.

The group of newly independent countries and those still struggling to obtain it became an arena for the competing models of internationalisation. However, many of these countries did not accept those competing visions passively, but tried to promote their own national agendas. The new nations were undertaking a path to create their own network through their association on the international stage. The first of these struggles was aimed at avoiding colonies from ending up under colonial control of the US or the USSR.

A significant demonstration of these nations’ desire for autonomy and their capacity of self-organization was represented by the Bandung conference of 1955, held in Indonesia. A conference had already been held in Colombo (Ceylon) in 1954, and on that occasion, India, Pakistan, Burma (today, Myanmar), Indonesia and Ceylon showed their position against colonialism and the nuclear arms race and were instead in favour of peace and détente. The following year in April in Bandung (Indonesia), 29 states (for the most part, neutral) opposed to both colonialism and neocolonialism not only by European powers, but also by the US and the USSR. Of the 29 nations that were represented in the conference, six were from Africa: Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Libya and Sudan. The leading contributors of the Bandung conference were Burma, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Bandung had certainly had great importance, but it was not yet the founding moment of the Nonalignment movement.

Some countries accused China of leaning on the USSR’s support and displaying expansionistic behavior in Asia; for the most part, these countries condemned pactomania, that is, the pressure to join one pact or another to decide on nuclear disarmament. In the end of the conference, a declaration of the Ten Principles of Bandung were issued, which focused on themes such as economic and cultural cooperation, human rights, national self-determination and International peace.

The Nonalignment movement was only born in 1961, and the term referred to the participants of the NAM conference of that same year, held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia; the objectives of the Nonalignment movement remained the lessening of military tensions and the proposal of alternatives to escape the blackmail of compromises imposed by the Cold War’s protagonists. The events occurring in the background of this conference were French nuclear tests in the Sahara, the unsuccessful invasion of Cuba by the US, the construction of the Berlin Wall and the flickering tension between China and USSR/India. Differently form Bandung, this conference saw the presence of Cuba, by which the alliance extended to Latin America (previously too dependent on Western powers). The hosting country was Yugoslavia, which would remain the only European member of the Nonalignment movement; this would draw political prestige from the opposition against the Western and Eastern bloc.

The idea of a “Third World”

The idea of a Third World was as powerful as a fact, articulated by politicians, researchers, intellectuals and journalists in developing countries. It was individuals like Che Guevara (Latin America), Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Frantz Fanon (Algiers) and Gamal ‘Abd al-Naser (Egypt), however, that brought this concept to life and employed it in their beliefs and philosophy. Their idea of Third World (also known as ‘developing countries’, ‘global South’ or ‘poor countries’ by First World nations) was a search of the historical significance of their countries and movements in a world focused on the conflicts between the capitalist West and the communist East. They sought to distill a common meaning from the variety of struggles that had recently been overcome: spokesmen for the Third World distinctly opposed the concept that developed countries needed to ‘civilize’ them or help them develop. It wasn’t an innate element, but rather colonial rule that had caused the backwardness and poverty present in these nations, and this divided the world into imperialists and nations who were exploited by them and were known as the progressive, revolutionary South.

In the UN, countries pressed for more rapid decolonisation so that they could all focus on any issue other than the Cold War (which dominated the majority of official conversations). A growing number of independent nations made the UN swell into an organization dominated by African and Asian states, which gave the Third World countries an ample stage to develop their ideas. In recent years, however, we can see that many of these countries are blackmailed by stronger ones to behave in a certain way to favour a specific political agenda. But in the 1960’s and 70’s, the Third World managed to become a court of world opinion that fought for what the majority of the world’s countries strived for (however, major capitalists countries such as the Soviet Union and China still held most of the power).

The Nonalignment movement remained half-completed due to the various conflicts and also because of the internals struggles between political and social models that tended to favour capitalistic models rather than Third World ones. Some countries were under suspicion of leaning towards one or the other bloc; indeed, between 1960 and 1980, Indonesia and China moved from pro-Soviet to pro-American positions. On the other hand, this Third-World position expressed itself in many Arab countries which spoke of Arab socialism and leaned on the Soviet Union for economic and political cooperation (internally, however, they harboured anti-communist sentiments).

Generally, countries fought for decolonisation, but depended on military aid from the USSR, while countries with financial problems depended on Western aid. From an economic point of view, in the 1970’s, OPEC (which had been founded to aid Third-World countries that exported petroleum) had had great success by reaching a four-fold increase in oil prices so that wealth, financial resources and capital would flow from First World to Third World countries, but many of these capitals flew back to New York and other Third World countries had to pay higher energy bills, along with increasingly expensive raw materials; what followed was an ever-worsening debt problem that lasted from 1970 to 1995 caused by this radical interference in internal policies with market-oriented reforms. Still, after 1990, when some of these debt problems were settled through debt cancellations in the early 2000’s thanks to the International Monetary Fund, which saw that the Third World would go into detriment of prices weren’t attenuated. But there was another aspect: in Latin America and Southeast Asia, there was a growing wealth in manufacturing countries after 1990, leading to the increase in wealth within those countries thanks to the low cost of the labour force and the diminishing costs of transportation/information, which allowed these developments.

The rise of political Islam

When talking about Political Islam, it is useless to refer to pre-modern times, as the religion itself and politics were inseparable at the time, like Christianity; thus, it is essential that we speak of a modern phenomenon. After the end of the Mughal and Ottoman Empire, Islam began giving rise to the idea that State and religion should be separate; this distinction created the concept of Political Islam. Still, to understand it, pre-modern history is important. The parabola of Islam and Islamic expansion (which lasted for around a thousand years) was an age of glory embedded in the timeline of human history — it was a centre for cultural, artistic and spiritual development. In the 1600’s, under the impact of colonialism and European expansion, Islam was marginalised and crushed under the weight of these phenomena. In the 20th century, Islam was further marginalised with the creation of Israel to the detriment of the Palestinian population.

The political struggle of the Islamic community is necessary to heal all these wounds caused by history; the basic narrative of political Islam is eschatological as well. It tells us of a golden age, then a decay in history that can, must and will be healed in the future. Political movements of Islamic inspiration can be found in the Indian subcontinent in the second half of the 19th century and in the form of political parties (especially in India) since the 20th century. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, is an important transitional Sunni Islamist organization that was founded by Hassan al-Banna in Egypt in 1928; it would be influential in Syria, Jordan, Palestine and other areas.

After World War II, independence movements of secular nationalist character came to power in areas pertaining to the former Ottoman Empire, and military elites had a strong role in many Islamic countries, often representing the most important institution of the Republican state. One example of this is Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Arab Socialism in Egypt, as well as efforts of modernization and secularisation of the nation (all the while rejecting Marxism and communism from outside forces). Since the 1980’s, secular and nationalist political orientation ended a period of crisis. Corrupt governments failed to meet the economic expectations of the citizens, who faced a growing sense of social inequality and the rapidly worsening phenomenon of youth unemployment, who had suffered from a lack of perspective. Political participation and critique were discouraged by oppression, and discontent regarding the expansion of Israel (with the help of the US) added to this general sense of frustration. Political Islam began to be listened to by the younger people thanks to the growing wealth of the oil monarchies in the Arab peninsula; the criticism of political Islam was directed against the lack of social equality and honest government.

The humiliation of muslim societies was attributed to a moral and religious decay. Western influence was also accused, because it promoted feminism and ‘immoral lifestyles’, as well as Communism because of its atheist worldview. Islam is divided among several sects/branches, and it is so politically as well. But what they all strived for was a division between religion and politics and the creation of institutions that conformed to the practises established by the Prophet Mohammed; in the social and private sphere, a religious and secular lifestyle should be substituted by one that conforms to Islam. This separation is innocuous in the eyes of Political Islam, as Islam’s prescriptions can regulate all aspects of human life. Today, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Pakistan and Iran are the references for countries with Islam within their Republican constitutions; there are kingdoms that build their legitimacy on that religion. Many other countries today accept the Shariah, while many parties of Political Islam hold the majority and the government. In some cases (such as in Egypt and Algeria), these were overthrown by a military coupe. The history of political Islam in the 20th century has been a success story.

The Communist collapse

After 1979, the USA, under Reagan, stationed new types of cruise missiles in Europe and announced the militarisation of open space, triggering a new arm’s race, which turned out to be a heavy economic burden for the USSR. The USSR established pro-Soviet Afghan governments by intervening militarily in Afghanistan (1979-1989) while the USA sustained local Islamic resistance leaders as well as foreign fighters of the Arab world that came to the nation’s succour (like Osama Bin Laden); the arm’s race in the Afghan war exhausted the resources of the Soviet economy.

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was nominated the general secretary of the Communist Party, which was the highest power position in the union. In 1986, he signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the US, which partly ended the arm’s race, then introduced transparency policies (Glasnost) and economic restructuring policies (Peristroyka), but these reform measures only piled up on the Union’s economic hiccups. In 1986, the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl exploded, blasting a metaphoric crater in the environment and in the USSR’s credibility, as the information policy of the administration in the early phase of the accident was all but transparent. Food and clothing shortages, unbridled corruption and impoverishment in the years that followed all the way up to 1990 created a deep moral crisis that didn’t spare the elites.

In 1991, Gorbachev resigned and Boris Yeltsin took over. In the following year, 1991, the USSR was dissolved, and many Soviet republics gained independence. This process was also catalysed by what was happening in Poland; in 1978, a Polish bishop (Wojtyla) was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, and in 1980, the Catholic union Solidarnosc was founded. In 1981(3, under general Jaruzelski, the authoritarian communist government of the Polish People’s Republic drastically restricted everyday life by introducing martial law and a military junta in an attempt to throttle political opposition, in particular the Solidarity Movement (although martial law was lifted in 1983, many political prisoners were not released until a general amnesty in 1986). Under the impression of Soviet developments, in 1989, a round table between the Opposition forces and the Communist government negotiated re-elections, in which, in 1990, the leader of the Solidarity Movement, Lech Walesa, was elected president.

In most of the other European countries, the transition was non-violent; Communism had long lost its moral and ethical motivations among people in power, many who were surprisingly good at transforming into liberal/conservative/nationalist politicians (such as in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, GDR and Romania) who remained in some positions of power. Some used their leading position in the industry during the period of privatisation to steal wealth from social property and grow to become the elite in this post-Communist era. In Romania, however, the fall of the Union gave way to a kind of revolution and secret-service coup against Ceaucescu. From 1990 to 1991, former USS Republics obtained independence, such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and Belorussia, while many more did the same in Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1992 (Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia; Yugoslavia only disbanded in 2000).

In China, after the fall of the USSR, foreign policy started favouring America, which sought to play out China against the USSR. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping (the leader of China) jumpstarted an economic reform process that foresaw liberalisation processes. In 1989, at the high of the Soviet crisis, students revolted and demanded political reforms similar to those in the USSR. During the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, protestors were massacred by the armed forces; still, most Chinese people were focused on working hard to improve their economic position, something that the Chinese system not only facilitated, but offered. Under Jiang Zemin, the Communist party would later on secure and cement its leading role for years to come. Mass consumerism spread, and the Chinese economy started to rebound from two hundred years of humiliation.

Lecture 23: Global changes: demographic, social, political and cultural


Learning objectives:

  1. The growth of the world population
  2. Progress and inequality
  3. Nationalism and democracy in the global process
  4. Cultural convergence an divergence

The growth of the world population

Since the 1700’s, we have observed declining death rates throughout the world (albeit with geographically unequal distribution). It was progresses in medicine and changes in agriculture, however, that made this possible. At the same time, birth rates stayed high, as declining death rates meant that more children could reach adulthood and procreate. But why did birth rates drop only decades after death rates?

First of all because of the inertia of social conditions. For example, a rise of productivity in agriculture brought about an expansion of the work force; less people were needed to grow crops, richer than ever as a nutritional base. The work force became wage-labourer: more children meant more work force, and therefore more income so that they were encouraged to keep birth rates high.

The second is the inertia of customs. Even when material conditions change, it normally takes several generations to change reproductive behavior and social norms. In Europe, only after industrialisation had been completed did birth rates fall; before, dynamic population growth had exerted a strong demographic pressure on land. The agricultural industry could not provide the entire population with sufficient crops, and industrialisation couldn’t catch up (except in the UK) and support the local rural population. This was why, between 1849 and 1940, several million Europeans had left the continent and migrated to the Americas.

In China and East Asia, the demographic pressure on land was average and ended around 1980. Full industrialisation caused a radical change in the age structure: East Asian society had an average raging population, and some countries even tended to have a negative natural population growth.

In Africa, even if with some differences within the continent, the average fertility rates were still high, and this produced a dynamic population growth and, as a consequence, prolific migration flows.

These modern-day migration streams caused by population growth changed their direction with respect to previous years. Overall, the estimates for demographic growth rounded out by the 21st century. By the 22nd century, the world’s population might even decrease.

However, fears regarding food supply had skyrocketed in the past thanks to Thomas Robert Malthus, a British economist who theorised that exponential increases in population growth would surpass arithmetical increases in food supply with dire consequences, unless population growth was arrested by such means as famine, war, or the control of reproduction through moral restraint. These fears have been nourished over and over again and have been proven wrong, however; agricultural and industrial productivity growth have widely surpassed demographic growth. In the 20th century alone, if the world population had grown fourfold, the world economy had grown fourteen-fold. Famine is caused by the distribution of wealth, and not because of population growth.

Malthus was a professor of political economy at the East India Company College, and this largely explains the foundation of his theories; the UK had long tried to engineer/control population growth through administrative means. We had seen this logic at work in the 1870’s when millions of Indians starved to death and the British had proclaimed that it would be ‘immoral’ to sustain the ‘overbreeding’ poor British population.

In 1920, Harvard University professor Lothrop Stoddard published his “The Rising Tide of Colour against White World-Supremacy”. Sterilisation and birth control were fixed ideas that formed a core part of eugenic theories; the battalion of liberal and left-leaning eugenic intellectuals in the 19th century was immense (Keynes formed a part of this sector), and they pretty much all sustained these theories. After WWII, the founding director of UNESCO (Julian Haxley), the Rockefeller foundation and the Population Council (founded in 1952) also depicted a grim future unless wise people would not preside as the administrative power in the world of birth-planning.

In 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich published his “Population Bomb”, which predicted worldwide famine in the 1970’s and 1980’s due to overpopulation. He advocated immediate action to limit population growth, and although none of his prediction ever came true , he is still acclaimed as a credible expat on population methods. This shows what powerful corporate of international organizations stand behind these theories on overpopulation.

One other long-time development that warped our world is urbanisation. Urban life was the minority form of human dwelling for a millennia and has now become predominant over rural living; in industrialised countries, demographic changes and the rise of life expectancy has transformed the age structure of the population. There are ever fewer young people and more retired ones, and this creates problems for the welfare system if no new changes are introduced (e.g.: pension funds). When experts say that something should be done ‘for the sake of the younger people’ at the expense of the elderly, it is better not to fall for it. Playing one generation against another is a demagogical trick. It is the question of the distribution of wealth, because it is productivity that we should look it. Today, the work of one worker can sustain one retired person. The problem is that capital was liberated from part of its obligations to contribute to social welfare because the country must be competitive (e.g.: ’we can’t ask the enterprises to give x sum for social welfare provisions’). Thus, a minority of rich people grow richer and richer. Like with the Malthusian argument, it is all about how resources are distributed.

Progress and inequality

The globalized world is divided by an ever-growing gap between rich and poor countries; if the average income gap between these was two-fold in the 1800’s, it was nine-fold in the 1900’s, and in the 2000’s it was sixty-fold. Even if absolute poverty has been reduced (thanks to the rise of East Asia and China), the general picture is of a dramatic rise of inequality that has birthed radical anti-globalization movements.

But behind the problem of unequal international distribution of wealth is the problem of unequal social distribution of wealth; whereas at the beginning of the 19th century the richest 5% of the human population was 7 times richer than the poorest 20%, by the end of the 20th century it was 16 times richer. In 2000, the richest 2% of adult individuals owned more than half of all global wealth, with the richest 1% accounting for 40% of global assets. Today, 1% of the world’s population owns more than the other 99% of mankind put together.

Overall, demographic growth and economic growth imply a huge use of resources. We have previously underlined the environmental effects of industrialisation, which brought about an increase in entropy and pollution. It appears that biodiversity is diminishing and more species are going extinct. All these problems have caused worldwide environmental problems and movements to protect it.

Here, one should distinguish practical solutions that should be implemented (and lead to a much more just use of resources) from apocalyptic scenarios (such as the one depicted in “Population Bomb”). Western culture is always inclined to develop such apocalyptic narratives; some say that we have entered a new geo-logical era, the ‘Anthropocene’, but isn’t this expression the product of an anthropocentric worldview? The end of the human species and everything else will leave the planet literally untouched. So what does the slogan ‘save the planet’ mean? The planet will be fine when our species will be extinct. We should tackle these problems right now in an equal way (not to the detriment of the poor) and reflect on who needs to use mystifying language and to which ends they try to manipulate us.

Nationalism and democracy in the global process

The idea of ‘nation’ was an idea that, in its modern form, had European origins; it was the belief that a group of people share common culture, history and territory and that deserve to govern themselves independently (the concept of sovereignty). In Europe, this was the guiding principle for most of the States after WWI; most of them had become nation States. Still, the other parts of the world lived under imperial or colonial rule and their political identification was typically either regional or local. They had stronger bonds to religion and spiritual, and tribal belonging was very important.

But with the anti-colonial movements, intellectuals from these countries took the Europeans’ concept of nation as an example for their revolution. Sons and daughters of the èlites went to metropolitan countries and formulated their opposition to colonialism in the terms of philosophies and political thoughts they had learned in Europe. An example is the Philippines: the early anti-colonial movements were strongly influenced by the Spanish liberal movements in the 19th century. These were, in their eyes, a tool to struggle against colonialism. Why should people claim the right to self-determination in Europe and then deny the colonies’ rights to the same thing? Nationalism became a feasible tool in the struggle for independence.

Also Communism, just as the entire socialist tradition, is internationalist. But before you can become an internationalist, you must recognise that the nation is a natural form of human organization (in Marxism, it’s described as a stage in human development). It’s a sign of progress and modernization compared to tribal or feudal society. The USSR helped young nations created national languages, literature, etc.. The Soviet Union was therefore internationalist and agreed that this was a very important principle. Some of the European and Asian communist states had particularly emphasised on the concept of ‘nation’; some were even called National Communists (such as Albania, China, Vietnam and Romania, where Communist parties had sparked nationalistic discourse).

On the other hand, nationalism had also been challenged by various factors:

  1. Globalization (big enterprises, IMF, World Bank, interference with
  2. Ethnic Separatism (competing national projects in many countries)
  3. World Governance (UN peacekeeping, r2p, human rights limiting the sovereignty of weaker nations)
  4. Regional supranational bodies (EU)
  5. Religion (the Catholic church, Muslim umma; these are all transnational)

As far as the idea of democracy is concerned, modern democracy developed in the West (following the American and French revolutions), even if the immediate outcomes of these revolutions did not necessarily perfectly fit with our present understanding of the concept (e.g., the liberal constitutional monarchies in Europe from the late 19th century up until WWI didn’t resemble our present-day democracies, either).

By 1914, only a few Western European countries and former British colonies were fully democratic; democracy only came around full-swing after WWI. Women’s right to vote, however, had only started to slowly diffuse between 1890 and 1950. Many Eastern European countries had been criticized by Western European politicians for only being democratic ‘on paper’, as their nationalistic views impeded the development of a well-rounded democracy. After 1945, however, democracy started to spread to other countries. Where democracy couldn’t properly develop, dictatorships took hold. The only results that came from anti-colonial struggles and protests, however, were more often than not one-party regimes.

In the post-Communist era, democracy started to replace the Soviet Union’s influence with substantial (but also just formal) democracy, especially in Eastern Europe. Constitutional freedom, however, was drastically reduced due to the strong nationalist attitudes that followed after the dissolution of the USSR.

It’s in the Post-democratic era (a term coined by Colin Crouch, an English sociologist and political scientist) that:

  1. Financial an industrial concentration governs the international economy
  2. Financial and industrial concentration governs the national economy
  3. Supranational bodies (UN, IMF, EU) impose new rules on national politics
  4. The markets impose new rules on national politics
  5. Functional elites dictate “the only possible solution”

Cultural convergence and divergence

Another point that Reilly raises is cultural globalization. This is a difficult aspect, as it is about authenticity, or the lack thereof, which are both difficult to substantiate. Since the emergence of a poignant, general fear of los, cultural globalization has sparked heated debates in favour or against it. We have spoken of Soft Power already; in this case, Consumerist globalization means:

  1. Fast food, blue jeans, music, movies
  2. Consumerism and advertising
  3. Post-Mao Consumerist Culture (China)
  4. Westernisation/Americanisation

Westernisation, however, stretches beyond appearances. To think that a Chinese citizen, for example, thinks like an American just because they wear blue jeans is an extreme act of hubris. When it comes to globalization, one may wonder: what is more globalized, McDonald’s, or anti-globalization hero, José Bové? Foodstuffs, music, medicine practices and religion have all stretched beyond their traditional spheres. However, this isn’t new. The problem of authenticity has been around ever since humanity had constructed ships or carriages. Even languages could be considered at the mercy of globalization:

  1. French, Spanish, Russian and English were diffused during colonialism
  1. Chinese was diffused via migration movements

  2. Arabic was diffused through cultural channels

  3. Chinese has become the most-spoken mother tongue

  4. English is now the most-diffused “lingua franca”

  5. Meanwhile, 800 Amerindian languages have disappeared

With regards to cults, religions, beliefs and habits:

  1. Diffusion of Christianity and Islam beyond their places of origin
  1. Diffusion of Buddhist meditation practices

  2. Diffusion of scientific culture

  3. Diffusion of traditional medicine practices

  4. Diffusion of “ethno food”

  5. Fusion of “world music”

Lecture 24: Two waves of economic globalization?

Learning objectives:

  1. Periodising globalization
  2. Industrialisation, capital market and financial flows
  3. Trade, investment, migration and factor prices
  4. Summing up similarities and differences

Periodising globalization

The first wave of globalization occurred during a fertile period of colonisation when trade and money flows virtually flooded the whole globe. The main criticisms of this came from economic historians of the modern and contemporary period who argued that, even though a world economy was established during the phase of colonisation, it nevertheless lacked the qualities of globalization for three main reasons:

  1. The commodities and values comprised by those flows were too low a percentage of world economy
  1. There were no real world markets and price convergency for the greatest part of commodities

  2. High transportation, transaction and information costs hindered the integration of long-distance markets

These were also the considerations of the two historians Baldwin and Martin; they were the ones who recognised a first wave of globalization during the period between 1870 and 1914 and a second one that began after 1960. Baldwin and Martin argued that, on the surface, the two waves have much in common, but after a more detailed and in-depth examination, they concluded that these two are also characterized by remarkable differences. They analysed the following points:

Industrialisation and income inequalities

Capital markets and financial integration, trade, investment, migration and other costs

Economic beliefs and the policy-making

Industrialisation, capital market and financial flows

As far as industrialisation and inequalities regarding income are concerned, Baldwin and Martin generally confronted what we would call first (global north) and third world (global south).

When the first wave of globalization hit, the income inequality between north and south was less dramatic than in the second wave; the element that made the difference was industrialisation. By the 1750’s, the third world, comprising the manufactural champions of India and China, was indeed on equal foot with the west; however, by 1860, when the first wave of globalization was just creeping on the horizon, they had already fallen behind the European level, and by 1914, the industrialisation process in Europe was twenty-two times more intensive than that in the third world.

It is in this sense that we can say the first wave boosted the industrialisation of the north and the de-industrialisation of the south. The opposite can be said for the second wave: between 1950 and 1990, we assisted the retreat of industrial employment in northern countries because, starting from the 1970’s, industrial producers began to relocate their production in certain southern and cheaper areas. This, together with the oil shock in 1973, contributed to the attenuation of the income inequalities between the north and the south.

During the second wave of globalization, the overall volume of financial flows and foreign investments had not yet reached the level of the first wave. More importantly, the authors highlighted the different nature of the capital flow: this second wave of globalization was characterized by enormous short-term flows, driven by a vehement, unbeatable pace of information exchange and advances in technology rather than the long-term flows that marked the first wave.

During the first wave, long-term flows prevailed also because information technology had improved thanks to the invention of the telegraph and of the telephone, but was by far not that fast. In addition, long-term investments were favoured by the high costs of transmitting knowledge.

It is interesting to figure out whether the author’s first statement, according to which the volume of financial flows and FDIs during the second wave had not reached the level of the first one, can actually still hold in the present day. Between 1996 and the Crisis of 2008, foreign investment became seven times as dynamic as general economic growth, therefore we could, with a great degree of certainty, claim that the second wave has actually overtaken the financial flow and FDI levels of the first wave of globalization. One of the reasons why is that the controls which were imposed on capital movement in the 1930’s were lifted during the mid 1990’s in a climate of neoliberal euphoria.

Trade, investment, migration and factor prices

As far as trade and investment are concerned, the authors state that, during the first and second wave, transport costs diminished: while in the first wave steam shipping and railroads were decisive, during the second wave, the creation of the container system was crucial. The most important factor of difference between the first and the second wave remains, however, the sharp fall of communication costs after 1975, mainly thanks to the introduction of the Internet and other faster communication means. To illustrate, the latter allowed the instantaneous movement of capital, the fall of transportation costs, the organization of a worldwide supply chain in manufacture and the dislocation of factories in countries of the south.

In this way, during the second wave, from a mere raw material supplier, the south also became the key manufacturer of the north, while the north remained the manufacturer of the south. Regarding FDI’s, the authors argued that, during the first wave, the north constituted the supply of capital for the south; however, during the second wave, the dependence of the south on northern FDIs diminished (comparison between data from 1914 to 1996): investments also began to flow among southern countries. This phenomenon has particularly become more robust with the rise of China in recent years.

In economics, the expression “factor prices” refers to the three main factors in the classical production function: land, capital and labour. As far as the Americas are concerned (the US in particular), land and capital goods, such as raw materials have always been abundant, while labour supply has always been quite short: wages have been consequently higher. In Europe and Asia, on the contrary, land and raw materials have always been very costly while workforce is still abundant and therefore badly paid.

This inverted situation constituted what we now define as the hallmark of the 1880-1914 period: a massive flow of labour migration from Europe and Asia to America. Furthermore, in the long run, the major effect of the aforementioned phenomenon was the convergence of factor prices between the “old world”, where wages increased and labour became less abundant, and the “new world”, where the wage level lowered as the labour supply on the market became more abundant. As a consequence, inequality between labour owners and capital owners increased and contributed to pressures for anti-immigration legislations in the late 19th and early 20th century, making the labour market in the US more protectionist.

On the other hand, the inflow of cheap industrial goods into Europe fostered certain anti-trade sentiments. As far as the second wave is concerned, further convergence of factor prices was observed in the 1960s between Europe, Japan and North America. The authors argue that, during this second period, trade had expanded rapidly, especially the manufactured exports of emerging economies: the dislocation of factories to low-wage regions indeed created new income opportunities in the global south and lessened the ones in the north, where labour saving technologies (factory automation, information technology) have reduced the demand for low-skilled workers in offices and factories.

Under such conditions, neoliberal policies could triumph worldwide, weakening the power of organised labour. Over the last decade however, migration flows have become again dramatic, mainly because of the condition of many fugitives of wars and persecutions, but also because of the gaps in factor prices.

Summing up similarities and differences

During the first wave of globalization, the international monetary system had been strong, especially thanks to the creation of the gold standard, which was extremely useful, and for this reason there was little discussion of devaluation by the world’s major players before 1914.

On the other hand, during the second wave, the IMS has become more volatile: for the late 20th-century policymakers, globalization’s most starling impact concerns the management of exchange rate. Officials have indeed had to choose between floating their exchange rate and joining a big monetary union (with its loss of sovereignty).

As far as trade policies are concerned, during both waves, free trade doctrines had prevailed, even though protectionist measures did not disappear in continental European countries and in the American labour market. In the 1800’s, for instance, there was a solid intellectual case for unilateral free trade. The supremacy of the free trade doctrine, however, did not hinder the development of modern protectionism designed to promote development. The result was a strong line of reasoning supporting temporary protection of manufacturing as a means of promoting industrialisation.

Today, the world trade system is viewed by almost all nations as an essential public good, a system that is worthy of support even for purely nationalistic reasons. With the exception of the extreme left and right, protectionism is detested by policymakers and and economists from around the globe and from across the political spectrum.

Lecture 25: Social change in Europe, 1945-2000

Learning objectives:

  1. Mid-20th century
  2. The main periods of change
  3. Changes in work, family and consumption
  4. From class-society to individualism, urban spaces and welfare</u>

Mid-20th century

The period from 1945 to 2000 was a long period of peace, even if we consider the Yugoslav war and the Greek Civil War. It was also a period of extraordinary social dynamism and economic growth. All sectors of society were involved in change, and Europe saw the triumph and the decline of Communism and the welfare state, the end of its colonial era and its transition from a global metropolitan position to one of the greatest centres of multipolar globalization.

The other premise Kaelble proposes is a sort of ‘snapshot’ of society that Europe had left behind. What was mid-20th century Europe like? Here is how the author describes it:

  1. Agricultural and other physically demanding work was prevalent
  2. Weight of agriculture in the economy was still strong
  3. Prevalent family type: monogamous, single-income, two children
  4. Still prevalent rural form of human settlement
  5. In industrial areas, class distinction was clearly visible
  6. Consumption model characterized by scarcity
  7. Consumption styles strongly local and regional, not international
  8. Every-day life under a local and regional horizon, linked to one place
  9. Immigration from former colonies, high birth rates, population growth
  10. Weak welfare estate

The main periods of change

The author guides us through the main periods of change in a chronological and a thematic way; together, they compose the picture of his analysis:

The postwar period (1945-1950)

High unemployment rate, housing shortage, diseases, displacements, hunger, black market

Marked distinctions of status and class

Social reforms, political reforms (democracy)

Period of prosperity (1951-1972)

Economy: high growth rates, real wages up, consumption, structural change

Demography: workers’ immigration

Social policies: welfare state, social planning, spread of education

Era of economic difficulties (1973-1988)

1973 oil crisis, lower growth rates, periods of recession; structural unemployment

New family models (singles, with child)

Birth decreases, zero population growth

Labor market reforms (“flexibility”)

Crisis of the welfare state

Period of Change (1989-2000)

Eastern Europe:

System changed in a brutally quick way

End to social security and full employment

From a scarcity model to one of abundance

Western Europe:

Increase in geographic mobility

New immigration flow from the East

Dismantling of the welfare state


New European currency

Increasingly powerful EU every-day life of citizens

Changes in work, family and consumption



From manual to automated

Long-term working relationships

Increased complexity of tasks, greater division of labor

High unionisation of the workforce and of enterprises

Managerial capitalism and organised industrial relations


From automation to computerisation

The end of the “stable job”; flexibility, insecurity

Less organised industrial relations

Unemployment; diminishing trade union power


Increasingly diversified family models

Growth of divorces; in 1950-1970, there were more independent women

1945-1970: baby boom, 1970-2000: falling birth rate

Extra-familial care of growing children, single, working mothers

New leisure activities: shopping, holidays

Street life replaced by machines and TV

Tendency to live in small urban apartments

Rural family also converges at the end of the “middle class” model

After 1989, the importance of family was re-evaluated; “grown-up babies” stayed in their parents’ home, and the role of grandparents was also reconsidered


Beginning of mass-consumption in the use: 1920’s, in Western Europe: 1950’s, in the East: 1970’s

Internationalisation of styles and tastes

New social symbolic function

From indistinct to personalized

Opposition against standard styles

European mass-consumption has followed European styles (no Americanisation)

(Eastern Europe, 1945-1990)

Centralised production and distribution to combat the shortage

From class-society to individualism, urban spaces and welfare



European West

Disappearance of proletarian and bourgeois milieu, middling tendencies

Income convergence, sociability, weddings, tastes, lifestyles

Growth factors: income, welfare, real estate, education

Less social subdivision of urban spaces

Eastern Europe

“Brutal” disappearance of class society

Marginalisation of the independent bourgeoisie

Subordination of professionals and intellectuals

Destruction of traditional peasant condition


New values: small is beautiful, ecology, localism

Weakening of labor unions, churches, political parties, mass organizations


New inequalities and exclusion mechanisms

Excluded young people; single mothers excluded; poor excluded

Excluded those who can not “appear”


Urban growth everywhere until 1970

After 1970: urban growth replaced by intensification; pedestrian zones, public transport

Urban planning internationalised

European cities resemble each other more and more

Immigration from former colonies

Immigration from Eastern Europe



Minimum income in case of invalidity, old age or unemployment is every citizens’ right

Eastern Europe: workplace guaranteed


The costs of welfare discussed as being “hardly bearable”

Eastern Europe: costs “hidden” welfare costs

High costs alert; gradual expenditure reduction envisaged (in the name of “efficiency”)

Structural unemployment, “new poverty”

“Anti-corporatist” critique, dismantling of protection

Lecture 26: from ‘Solid’ to ‘Liquid’ modernity

Learning objectives:

  1. The rise and fall of labor
  2. From marriage to cohabitation
  3. From procrastination to immediate gratification
  4. The “fluidification” of human relations</u>

The rise and fall of labor

Liquiefied Community (1750-1870)

Pre-Industrial era: well-defined social relations

Pre-Industrial era: solidly organised community

Industrialisation uprooted workers from the means of subsistence

Industrialisation: driving force behind generalised market relations

Classical Economy: all wealth comes from “work”

Polarisation workers vs capitalists; rich nations vs poor nations

Solid Modernity (1870-1970)

After 1850, trend to overcome insecurity

An era of orderly, rational and organised society begins: solid modernity

“Fordism” and standardisation symbolises solid modernity

The liaison between capital and labor is fortified by mutual dependence

Big companies and managerial capitalism

High degree of trade union organization; improving wages

The time horizon of heavy capitalism is long-term

Workers’ bond with one company whose lifespan exceeds their own

Liquid Modernity (1970-…)

All that was solid, becomes liquid

All that was long-term, becomes short-term

From marriage to cohabitation

Today’s uncertainty is of a completely new type

Cooperation seems no longer useful to face the risks

Uncertainty is a formidable “individualising” force

Fears and anxieties are suffered in solitude

People establish weak ties with each other

The capital has become geographically fluid

Capital got rid of its dependence on labor, gaining freedom of movement

The success of a company is measured in annual dividend & stock values

Location is no longer considered important

National governments powerless in forcing the capital to remain

Consumers, not the producers at the centre of economic discourse

Robert Reich, four social categories

  1. Symbolic manipulators
  2. Educators and the social state officials
  3. Professional “personal services” like advertisers and retailers
  4. Routine workers “residual”

The new globalized elite

The space counts for little, command from distance

Revolutionised the vocabulary: surf, flows, etc.

Command a show of power, surveillance by seduction

“Those who control the airwaves dominate the world”

From procrastination to immediate gratification

The satisfaction of desire removed to an “elsewhere” place

Procrastination predominant feature of modernity

It is the ethics of capital accumulation, and of work

Procrastination is not an ascetic principle, however

Procrastination fuelled opposing tendencies

Work appears as an end in itself, but actually is hedonism

Immediate and infinite consumption is the aim in the world of today

This disposition lacks critical reflection, continuity, tradition

Human ties in a fluid world

Uncertainty prevails over stability

Fear of the vulnerability of people’s bodies, person, property

Where does this insecurity and vulnerability come from?

“Structural” unemployment and permanent risk of job loss

No longer even the idea of long-lasting employment

No one can feel socially irreplaceable

Future not predictable, clouded, risky and potentially worse

Given the uncertainty, procrastination has lost its appeal

Fashions and “lifestyles” propagate and go at supersonic speeds

Every opportunity missed seems an opportunity lost

The “fluidification” of human relations

Human relations in liquid modernity

If the future is not predictable, then it is necessary to keep oneself reactive and flexible

Strong and long-lasting bonds become obstacles

Consequence: precarious labor contracts, few marriages, many divorces

Emotional ties often short-lived

Insecure people easily become intolerant, aggressive, suspicious

The self-perpetuation of distrust

Decreasing confidence in oneself, in others, in institutions, in cooperation, in the “big ideas” and organizations

Distrust in politics

Capital is globalizing, labor local

Workers are subjected to the caprices of mysterious “investors” and “shareholders”, against which “you can do nothing”

Lecture 27: the revival of “Community”

Learning objectives:

  1. Loss of control, the main source of contemporary fear
  2. The revival of the community
  3. A revival of the Nation
  4. The dire price of “security”

Loss of control, the main source of contemporary fear

In the previous unit, we learned how the people of our age face solitude and uncertainty. This uncertainty about tomorrow is hardly bearable and triggers fear, and on the collective level, also the political sphere has lost total control. For Zygmund Bauman, the political sphere is divorced from power (which transcends all political and national boundaries while work is divorced form capital (a more localized phenomenon). What can be done? He says that:

“No one is in control. That is the major source of contemporary fear. (…) It seems that we are living on quicksand. (…) Precisely because this fear is so poorly located that it is so frightening. The question is: why is it so? Where does this absence of control come from? We are not in control, no one seems to be in control. (…) There are various reasons for this: one reason is the separation between power and politics. Power is the ability to get things done, and politics is the ability to choose which things to get done. Now, both abilities were, until quite recently, united in one place called nation-state. (…) Both sides of the political spectrum agreed on one point: if our concept of what is to be done wins, then we know who will do it, because the State has the power to do it. (…) This is no longer the case. (…) There is a great gap between the ability to do things and the ability to coerce the powerful agencies to do what needs to be done.

The revival of the community

The future offers no solutions to this problem (mentioned in Part 1), so most of us tend to look to the past for answers. Wasn’t there a better world before it all came down in ruins? Where there was a community, cemented by a sense of solidarity in which one cared for the other?

There is a nostalgic desire for community. This reborn communitarianism responds to the liquefaction of society and the uncertainties it generates. Communitarianism promises to heal the wound, which is why its gospel can count on a large audience.

According to Bauman, present-day neo-communitarianists criticized liberalism because:

The individual human cannot be made responsible for what goes wrong in society

The individual human cannot bear the weight of insecurity alone

We should return to communities that are established beyond individual choice

But this return to ‘community’, according to Bauman, is fake:

“In so far as they need to be defended to survive and they need to appeal to their own members to secure that survival by their individual choices and take for that survival by individual responsibility — all communities are postulated; projects rather than realities, something that comes after, not before the individual choice. The community ‘as seen in communitarian paintings’ would be tangible enough to be invisible and to afford silence; but then communitarians won’t paint its likeness, let alone exhibit them. This is the inner paradox of communitarianism.”

This return is fake because the pre-established and well-established Gemeinschaft is not achievable. If there was an identity, nobody would speak of identity, and if there was an authenticity, nobody would speak of it, either, since there wouldn’t be anything to distinguish it from; the same goes for community, something which exists because of the lack of something.

To conjure it into existence, communitarians must appeal to individual choice/responsibility. Our existential desire for certainty and security morphs into the demonization of the Other/who is external. The concept of “community” is inherently exclusivist, directed against the Other; an inclusive community is a contradiction in terms of meaning.

A revival of the Nation

Community projects may have a mobilizing effect for cultural and political movements (such as during elections), but they tend to be unrealistic and utopian when it comes to the possibility of alternatives.

Still, there is one success story: the only success story of community in modern times is the Nation/the Nation-State. Its success was due to ethnic homologation and loyalty to the ethnic principle. Establishing ethnicity as a form of human unity had the advantage of apparently “naturalising” history and culture. The feeling of belonging was reduced to the individual’s choice of accepting his own nature or to betray it.

Historically, the Nation-State achieved this at the cost of ethnic homologation and suppressing other communities; there is no other form of statehood that extinguished so many communities. This is a typically exclusive model, and this is why net-communitarians can easily sustain and turn out to be the promoters of renewed waves of nationalism, as we have indeed seen in various countries. It is true that there may be nationalisms that are aggressive (and also some that are not), but regarding Maurizio Viroli’s thesis on “Good Patriotism and Bad Nationalism”, Bauman makes an ironic comment saying:

“Nationalism is the patriotism you don’t like or you’re supposed to not like, whereas patriotism is the nationalism you like and you’re supposed to like.”

Thus, Nationalism and Patriotism are fundamentally the same. Both are based on exclusion, even if Patriotism seems nice and friendly, and both traced boundaries with which they then perpetuated the difference between Us (minimization of internal differences) and the Others (exaggeration of external differences). Bauman would prefer what he calls the “Republican model of the Polis”:

  1. Always starts from diversity and gains unity through confrontation, debate, negotiation, compromise and the recognition of others’ freedoms
  2. Is an inclusive model

But in a world of insecure and vulnerable people which model will win? The model of Nation will win, which is based purely on national ethnic homogeneity.

The dire price of “security”

When the national community could gain power again under the control of politics is a matter of heated political debate. Bauman is quite sceptical; after concluding his considerations regarding community as it is dreamt of today, he again points out its mythical and metaphorical character, far from offering a realistic solution to our present fears and vulnerabilities. He writes:

“The vision of community, let me repeat, is that of an island of homely and cosy tranquillity in a sea of turbulence and inhospitality. It tempts and seduces, prompting the admirers to refrain from looking too closely, since the eventuality of ruling the waves and taming the sea has already been deleted from the agenda as a proposition both suspect and unrealistic. Being the only shelter offers the vision an added value, and that value goes on being added to as the stock exchange where other life values are traded grows ever more capricious and unpredictable.”

So at the end, Bauman argues the communitarian communities look more like prisons and not like places of freedom. To root for universal freedom could increase the level of security for all, but neo-communitarians stand firmly by their decision of giving up their freedom for additional security. Unfortunately, this added value might not be worth it and is unpredictable like everything else.

For this very reason, many prefer focusing their attention on the appearance and health of their own body, which has become the last refuge and sanctuary, so it must be preserved. The border between the body and the outside world has become the most closely-watched; however, our body cannot overcome this extreme insecurity and uncertainty. Thus, the loneliness of the body and the solitude of the community are the most meaningful results of the new liquid society.

However, in the present pages, Bauman describes power as it appears: liquid, technical, ephemeral, depersonalized. Here, politics has no chance of building up control again it. In fact, it is not impossible to understand who the really powerful men and women are and who helps them preserve their privilege. The concrete face of power lies behind a smokescreen, and it is also true that politics is not condemned to stay important. Organisation can yield solitude, and change is therefore possible. The sea can be tamed, and those who feel uncomfortable with the fake solutions proposed above, are not condemned to a pessimistic outlook.

Lecture 28: Equality and hierarchy in a global society

Learning objectives:

  1. European spaces
  2. Human races
  3. World cultures
  4. Global rights

General propositions

A pressing question comes to mind when we speak of equality: is the coexistence between the western ideal of universal equality among all human beings (and the obsessive western practices of partition and discrimination since the fifteenth century) a historical paradox or a contradiction?

From a western philosophical standpoint, we can say that this is true, while from a non-western philosophical standpoint, it is neither. The West has always been in possession of the responsibilities for “civilization”, “humanity”, “progress” and “innate rights”. According to the West, moral goodness belongs only to those who accept the universality of universalism, who take the claim that “all men are born equally” seriously.

So, according to this point of view (shared by many philosophers), a moral person could not defend slavery and oppression. The institution of slavery by those who believe in the equality of men is philosophically paradoxical and morally hypocritical. However, for the French philosopher Étienne Balibar, equality and hierarchy are not just at odds, but they have a dialectical relationship. Both universalism and hierarchical partition each contain the other as a necessary condition of their own discursive construction. This also leads to a development: you cannot make the statement that “all men are born equal” without also claiming that all men are not yet equal. For a Westerner, the dialectical solution sounds more convincing because it has several advantages:

  1. It doesn’t put into question the main strands of Western philosophy
  1. It allows the criticism of the West’s own past by outlining the hypocrisy of what past individuals claimed were their own principle

  2. It allows to keep the whole question within the Western historical master narrative, according to which some people are not yet free (as they deserve) as the people in the West, who should ‘help them’ become free and equal

An example of this western paradox is the first president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, who claimed that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain undeniable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The contradiction within Jefferson’s conundrum is that:

He owned more than 600 African-American slaves throughout his adult life

With his Monticello plantation, he was the second-largest slaveholder in Albermarle County

While serving as president (1801-1809), he brought slaves from Monticello to work at the White House

At the end of his life, he still owned at least 130 slaves (men, women and children)

All of this, according to a non-western philosophical standpoint, is all a Western-established hegemony, be that through oppression or the criticism of oppression. In non-Western eyes, Western universalism doesn’t necessarily appear to be universal to begin with, but is a straightforward partisan claim for hegemony and power that is not at all contradictory.

Thus, for a non-Western, moral goodness may not belong to those who claim universality of universalism. We should understand that such a view can also exist and claim some historical evidence to corroborate it. Our moral indignation will not escape from the self-referential loops of justification of Western philosophy of history.

European spaces

Regarding the partition of spaces, we can be brief, as we have covered this subject in the past.

As Condorcet claimed, the European nations’ universal mission was a European mission. This is why we can say that universal geography was re-classified according to European partition practices. European philosophy of history was able to assign a hierarchy to regions all over the globe according to parameters of progress. It enabled the reaffirmation (albeit secularized version) of colonial occupation. The desire to trace a boundary between Europe and Asia, despite the geophysical objectivity Europe had always used for their scientific projects, was ‘proof’ of such.

In their self-perception, Europeans crossed the boundaries of Europe conquering ‘empty’ backward territories where time stood still. Once again, they did not do so out of selfish will of exploitation, but also because of the ‘weight’ of the ‘humanitarian mission’ that burdened their shoulders.

But also the European spaces themselves have been re-classified. Since the 17th century, they described a new downward slope along the mental axis of progress and civilization. The alleged ‘inability’ of the Levantine areas and the ex-Byzantine rule to establish a more ‘rational’ economic and administrative organization was matched with a ‘brutal and uncivil’ nature of the inhabitants.

According to George Sandies, who was travelling in the Ottoman Empire in the early 16th century, the Ottomans had erased former Greek and Christian civility. On the other hand, for Sir Henry Plumb, who traveled to the Turkish balkans, claimed that the Turkish were the ‘only modern people of the area’, whereas the Christian slavs were the savage people under their rule. The roles were switched. Plumb also maintained that:

“To our north-west parts of the world, no people should be no worse or strange of behavior than those of the south-east. Especially in the most remote places, there are many mountaineers and outlaws like the wild Irish.”

The spacial axes, therefore, assumed a metaphorical value. They stood for the position of the inhabitants on the time axis of progress. The main axes that were formed were the figure of backwards Eastern Europe in the 18th century, backwards South-Eastern Europe (the balkans) in the 19th century and the North-South divide in the late 19th century/early 29th century.

For centuries, the European South was the beacon of wealth, beauty and civilization, and now it had become a place of backwardness that was lagging behind in the process of modernization.

Human races

The Dominican Bartolomè de las Casas is one of the most famous historical figures for his attacks on slavery and extinction to which the Spaniards had subjected the Indians:

“The natives are capable of Morality or Goodness and very apt to receive the principles of Catholic Religion; nor are they averse to Civility and good Manners…, I myself have heard the Spaniards themselves (who dare not assume the Confidence to deny the good Nature in them) declare, that there was nothing wanting in them for the acquisition of eternal grace, but the sole Knowledge and Understanding of the Deity….”

Thanks to his continuous denunciation and his numerous writings addressed to the King, the Indians were freed in 1542. But a need for labour in the colonies led De Las Casas to advise the King to bring the African population there (Spain and Portugal were already using them in their sugar plantations). Why not extend this to the Caribbeans?

The fate of the Africans was cruel, as they were believed incapable of civility and good manners. The Western view on ‘negro’ population was characterized by boundless arrogance; these populations tended to be disdainfully compared to the animal kingdom so as to be excluded by some authors from any possibility of reaching full humanity.

It was in this way that black skin became an inescapable condition of inferiority, something that needed to be explained separately. According to Bernier, the author of the first radically racist book:

“Africans are black due to a peculiar texture of their bodies. (…) Their hair is a wool, like that of our dogs.”

Almost a century later, the respected father of cosmopolitism, Kant, after scientifically explaining “why all negroes stink” (because of “humid climate” and the fact that they are “strong, fleshy, agile”, but also “lazy, indolent”), underlined that “besides all this, humid warmth generally promotes the strong growth of animals”.

These texts easily suggest that, for Westerners, Africans were stuck in the transition period from animal to human. A little later, Hume wrote:

“I am apt to suspect the negroes to be naturally inferior to the whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences.”

The racism in this last statement lies in the quote “uncivilized man”; it all depends on the Western fantasy regarding the difference between man and beast and the meaning of history. This is not biology, but racist taxonomy.

Racism regarding black people was motivated by colonialism and slavery, but we already saw the taxonomy of spaces, which of course stands for the population that inhabits these spaces; this means that there are other types of racism. The so-called Orientalism explains (with racist arguments) why formally leading civilizations, like the Chinese or the Arabs, are now decaying. In Italy, the anthropologist Alfredo Niceforo explains that different races inhabit the North of Italy and the South of Italy. The Southern race is more spontaneous, emotional and instinctive, almost ‘animal-like’ and inferior. What are they inferior in? As Niceforo explains, they are ‘inferior’ in the capability to build a modern industrial society. Racism is not about any intrinsic bodily inferiority; the body may only be part of the ‘explanation’ why a group of people is less capable of bearing the torch of civilization.

Anti-semitism is a special branch of Western racism because it developed gradually. Still, if we follow Adolf Hitler’s explanation of why he became an anti-semite, we can recognise that the eschatological and apocalyptic view of history is central there as well. According to his account, Hitler had initially ‘fell’ for the deceitful camouflage of Jews as Western people, but then he had his ‘awakening’:

“I suddenly came across a man with black curls dressed in a long caftan. My first thought was: is that a Jew? … The smell of these caftan-wearers made me feel nauseous.”

So he now knew that an alien oriental race was in the midst of Westerners, even if they were pretending to be like them. In Hitler’s view, this wasn’t an inferior race, which was a big problem, but rather an ‘anti-Christ’:

“Should the Jew triumph over the peoples of the world, the planet will drive through the ether once again empty of human life. Eternal Nature takes inexorable revenge for the violation of her order.”

According to this quote, the Jews conspire for the conquest of the world to destroy humanity (the salvation of humanity is a Western/Christian/European/German duty). This anti-semitism also took a religious turn:

“I believe that I act today in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: in standing guard against the Jew, I am defending the Lord’s work.”

World cultures

After the Shoah, racism became a taboo.

In 1950, the UNESCO (the leader of which, Julian Haxley, had been a strong promoter of eugenics) recommended to speak of ‘ethnic groups’ when, literally, speaking of race. At the same time, positivistic anthropology was taken over by cultural anthropology; measuring scalps became less attractive than participant observation of customs and habits or ‘primitive’ native peoples. Not even the most fanatic scalp measurers forgot to insert a chapter on climate on customs, climate and psychology.

To call ‘differences’ ‘racial differences’ has become a taboo; but ethnicity and culture are the expressions that have taken the place of ‘race’. They are not the same, but they serve the same purpose. They also distinguish between backward ethnicities and advanced cultures. Why, in the endless flood of multicultural posters, is there always a white hand joining a black hand? If culture is really so diverse, why is there an obsession with skin colour? Cultural anthropology has all but freed itself of bodily references.

A good example of the passage from racism to cultural anthropology is Dr. Carlo Levi’s participant observation of the local peasant population of Southern Italy during political confinement:

“Opaque eyes and possessed by animal spirits and precocious maturity. They live in a desolate land, motionless and beyond history and progressive reason.”

This is a typical colonial description of an ‘exotic’ population. How can culture possibly take the role that race had? There are also other philosophical distinctions: the Socratic fùsis’ division into body and soul. At a certain point, the outer world became nature as opposed to the human and divine sphere. So we see the idea emerge that the human animal, as it is gifted to go beyond nature, has the opportunity to leave its best traits behind. The human species develops its full humanity. But what does culture have to do with all this?

In Latin, ‘culture’ meant individual education. It was only during the Enlightenment that it was re-invented as a word referring to customs and beliefs, such as with Voltaire. For Immanuel Kant, culture was the place of human reason and the way Nature achieves its ultimate end. This also makes it easier to understand why the passage from race to culture wasn’t such a huge step. The culture cage is inescapable, just like a second membrane. This is the way that human difference is explained, and it becomes ‘diversity’.

Global rights

Why did universal difference become ‘diversity’? Why should certain things be more important than others? Why should cultural friendship always be represented by appearance? There are many who defend the ‘superior, leading culture’, who could not care less about the discrimination of women, who now suddenly discover Western superiority through granting rights to women. How is it that Western culture is on the ‘good side’ of history? Evidently, there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ diversity.

Statements such as ‘all men are born equal’ are present in Western writings. Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian general and the most prominent leader of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, was influenced by Enlightenment philosophers; yet, he had to lead the revolution against France, as the revolutionaries sitting in the National Assembly did not abolish slavery in the colonies. A similar phenomenon is also present in the 20th century, such as the fight for being recognised as a ‘Nation’ (quote by Edwin Thumboo):

“Freedom from colonial rule is its repossession as national space.”

Repossession of what, though? Leaving the colonial age behind was thought to be possible through rediscovering an authentic dimension, something lost in the past. But such stances often were also intellectually legitimised by Western philosophy, as we find a reference to this in Heidegger’s “Lebensvollzug”:

“In everydayness, we find the recurrence of a past and a primal sense of grasping the world as our own.”

So any authenticity has to be reinvented, because language and semantics have also been colonised. There are no words left, if not the colonisers’ words to describe the pre-colonial being of a population they had conquered in the past. Of course, the alleged return to tradition is part of the post-colonial narrative, and was used to legitimise the new political élites. It is also a pretext for corrupt Third-World élites, who hide behind “community” and “authenticity” discourses to oppose the human rights of their peoples.

Mahmood Mamdani does not deny this phenomenon, but also says that:

“…the self-righteousness and intolerance of the rights movement is its tendency to dismiss every local cultural assertion as masking a defence of privilege and inequality at the expense of the individual rights; they are concerned for the lack of local equality, but blind to global privilege.”

This is an inescapable paradox. There is an authentic dimension beyond colonisation that is unattainable.

Human rights are inalienable, because that individual is inherently a human being. They are applicable everywhere at any time, because they are universal. In recent times, there have been some debates around the concept of human rights and their universal validity. Some non-Western governors have expressed their view that the Western definition of human rights does not always apply to their country, as they have different traditions. Why violate their own traditions?

To escape this dilemma, Ulrich Beck proposed that human rights be seen in their context, but that this does not mean they can be violated:

“Contextual universalism does not oblige anyone, in the name of some misguided relativism, to accept human rights violations in other cultures and countries. (…) It asks: What conceptions of human rights, and what human rights groups, are there in the country where human rights are being grossly violated? How do they judge what is happening in their country, from their point of view and with their knowledge of human rights?”

Let us now look at the Maori word, ‘mana’:

  1. Legal, binding, authoritative
  1. Prestige, spiritual power, charisma

  2. Jurisdiction, freedom

Mana is a foundation of the Polynesian worldview, a spiritual quality with a supernatural origin and a sacred, impersonal force that pervades our world. From a Polynesian point of view, Mana is a general principle of life, and is a sort of world description and an expression of how the world should work. For that reason, there are protests where Maoris protest that Mana is violated. Why not substitute Beck’s quote with Mana?:

“Contextual universalism does not oblige anyone, in the name of some misguided relativism, to accept Mana violations in other cultures and countries. (…) It asks: What conceptions of Mana, and what Mana groups, are there in the country where Mana is being grossly violated? How do they judge what is happening in their country, from their point of view and with their knowledge of Mana?”

Can we imagine Mana groups in America or in Germany? Can we imagine the US Congress implementing Mana in their own country? Human rights are universal, Mana is not. The fundamental difference is that the Maori never claimed Mana to be universal.

At any rate, it is hard to substantiate human rights as a concrete right, says Costas Douzinas. It is hard if the State doesn’t enforce these rights. It is hard because ‘bare’ humanity does not offer protection for refugees, undocumented immigrants, and imprisoned suspects of terrorism. Despite suggesting an egalitarian reference to every single member of the species, human rights, however, do “classify people on a spectrum between the fully human, the lesser human and the inhuman”. If you are part of a group which has been demonised in the press, you will have no human rights and no human rights group will look after you.

This is not the only aspect where ideology comes in. Noam Chomsky writes:

“The West tends to equate human rights exclusively with personal freedom, and not with the broader and more complex conception found in the International Bill of Rights (1948).”

Because in the articles 22-27, this declaration:

“Sanctioned economic and social rights, such as the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being, the social rights of workers, protection from unemployment, food, clothing, housing and medical care.”

But has any sanctions regime ever been erected for the violation of these human rights? Was there ever a ‘humanitarian war’ declared for rising unemployment in a country? In our Western understanding, these are matters of market economy, and thus their enforcement is near impossible.

At first glance, this seems to reflect the history of ‘Supranational law’ (at its beginnings, was underwritten by a liberal cosmopolitanism that postulated ‘free individuals’ as the objective of this law); however, it is admittedly true that a more complex set of motives govern the more recent evolution of Supranational law and International law (especially after WWII).

In 1948, social rights were advocated as ‘rights of citizenship’, and so it was easy to also claim these as human rights. There is an attempt at Supranational law enforcement, as International Criminal Law Courts have been erected, but it should be noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 came on the heels of the Nuremberg Trials against the crimes of the Nazi regime, which established that ‘war of aggression is the supreme international crime’.

Seen from a hierarchy of imputation brought forth against the Nazi leaders, it was not the Shoah or war crimes or genocide which were all brought forth in the trials, but they were seen as a part of the supreme crime, which is war in itself. This is the violation of sovereignty of another State; this shows that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a Supranational law, but it is International law. This means that sovereign states adopted it so as to respect their sovereignty, besides, perhaps, the measures of enforcement that the UN Security Council might adopt. It is again Daniel Kovalik who observes that:

“The logic of the very founders of International law, including International Human Rights law, was that, to preserve human rights, the primary task of nations is to ensure peace and to prevent war which, inevitably, leads to a massive violation of human rights.”

From the history of International Human Rights, the sovereign state is seen as the only legally entitled actor to make human rights’ respect their priority. Only peaceful means that do not violate the sovereignty of that State can be legitimately used from the outside to enforce the respect of International law and Human Rights. This is a fundamental aspect, whereas in the present decades we have assisted the growth of a Human Rights industry that is based on another logic.

NGO’s (which, in part, are not even non-governmental because they heavily depend on public funding) and other politically-connected organizations look after social protection, education, human rights and women’s rights, but they also heavily interfere with the internal political situation of a country and have supported ‘colour revolutions’ that meddle with the political process in the hosting society. Some state-dependent NGO’s have even called for economic sanctions that wound the civilian population and violate their human rights (food rations, etc.). This is certainly not inside the commandments of International law.

In the euphoria of post-Soviet US-dominated world, human rights became weaponised, and R2P has become an official theory; it means ‘Right to Protect’, and it claims that:

“If governments will not be willing or able to safeguard their citizens against the threat of atrocities, the world must respond.”

In this way, the war in Afghanistan could also become a good thing for the defence of women’s rights. Laura Bush claims:

“We continue to speak out on behalf of women and children, especially girls, who, for seven years, have been denied their basic human rights of health and education. Thanks to the efforts of the international community, the days of oppression and terror by the Taliban are becoming a memory.”

Since 1979, the US and their allies would send money and weapons to Afghanistan for ‘freedom fighters’, who then later burned down girls’ schools. This absurd situation of power-politics shows us the absurdity of R2P and the classification of human rights through Western lens.

Lecture 29: Race, culture, multiculturalism: hierarchies among ‘equals’

Learning objectives:

  1. The contours of a multicultural crisis
  2. Biological and cultural theories of human difference
  3. Difference and diversity
  4. ‘Bad’ diversities in the neoliberal era

The contours of a multicultural crisis

Alana Lentin’s and Gavan Titley’s book titled The crises of multiculturalism addresses the issue of how multiculturalism has been sentenced to death because of its futile efforts in opposing the racism that is ever-rising in Europe today. Their arguments unfold in six chapters which aim to unpack the recited truths and the neoliberal fallacies of multiculturalism and the ever increasing conditions for integration.

The first chapter begins by introducing the sculpture of Entropa, an artwork commissioned by the Czech government to inaugurate its presidency as chancellor of the European Union in 2009 and installed at the headquarters of the Council in Brussels. The name of the sculpture is actually a conjunction between the terms ‘Europe’ and ‘entropy’. Looking more closely at Entropa, we can notice some monks who erect a flag for gay rights in Poland, some minarets which rise from the Netherlands’ sea, a lego sculpture resembling the face of the muslim prophet Mohammad, etc.

The core statement in this chapter is that multiculturalism has failed and imploded; indeed it is no longer race, but culture that precludes integration, because it is crucial in hiding racism. The debate on multiculturalism has actually become the discursive space and playground within which the contemporary politics of race find their expression and vindication. According to Lentin and Titley, various factors contributed to deliver multiculturalism’s coup de grâce:

  1. Liberals convinced of the weakness of postmodern cultural relativism
  2. Nationalists threatened by the unassimilable
  3. Progressive intellectuals for whom liberal multiculturalism weakens leftist critiques of class power relations
  4. Race relations professionals refashioning diversity and integration as the new paradigms of their daily craft

Moreover, also partial and erroneous visions of multiculturalism and racism have given their contribution to the delegitimisation of multiculturalism. As Michel de Certeau claimed, society has become full of recited truths in at least three ways: it is defined by stories, by citations of stories and by the interminable recitation of stories.

Biological and cultural theories of human difference

One of the major recited truths is that race does not exist any longer, allowing culture a new way of dividing and ordering people. By replacing race with culture, we would indeed be able to attribute everything to culture without any fear of racism: to speak of backward and primitive cultures is acceptable, while to say this about races was once racist. According to the British historian Paul Gilroy, race has indeed become a taboo subject, but it still exists and remains powerful precisely because it supplies a foundational understandings of natural hierarchy on which a host of other supplementary social and political conflicts have come to rely.

The authors of the book underline the fact that the power of a racial grammar rests on the consensus of being post-race, where race is resiliently understood solely in terms of what has been rejected: the narrow and selective terms of false biology and phenotypical classification.

Ergo, complaining on cultural difference is not considered racist and this leads to the scarcely credible contention that the lack of an explicit racist political platform evidences the absence of racist politics in Europe.

Today’s racist policies pose themselves precisely within cultural modules, by rejecting multicultural excesses, often referring to stereotypical groups of others, accused of having had every chance to integrate but refused. These discourses can be inserted into a spectrum from hard and soft versions of a clash of civilizations logic, in which to “Western culture” some form of threat arises from non-Westerners in their midst. Especially on the right political spectrum, we can notice that the representation of immigration is expressed as a conspiracy or subversion which is perpetrated by some sort of aliens, resembling historical models of racism.

At present, both in Europe and in the western world, the issue of the radicalisation and “racialisation” of islam has become particularly discussed. According to historian Edward Said, the racialisation of islam draws on the assumption that it can be characterized limitlessly by means of a handful of reckless general and repeatedly deployed clichés. This discourse has been particularly boosted by the events of 9/11, after which the war on terror has turned the old anti-racist slogan “we are over here because you were over there” into a neocolonial justification: “we are over there because you are over here”.

Moreover, similarly to “the Jew” of the 1920s-1930s, “the Muslim” has become a figure of fluid transnationality and potential disloyalty, neither entirely alien but alienating and dis-integrated, fusing the past failures of multiculturalism with the current anxieties of immigration politics.

Difference and diversity

The fact that human beings are different seems almost trivial; the concept of differences between human groups is instead more important for political purposes. Differences between population groups are indeed ignored or exalted according to precise political aims.

At this point, the differentiation between “difference” and “diversity” is crucial. Lentin and Titley agree that the differences between individuals are transformed into diversities between groups by political discourse. In this sense, diversities are politicised and collectivised and stereotypical differences, which come to form a sort of identity.

It goes without saying that such diversities/identities can hardly live together peacefully and without creating huge divergence of behavior. The solutions in this case are normally two: the minority can accept to be assimilated by the majority, or the conflict results inevitable.

‘Bad’ diversities in the neoliberal era

As far as neoliberalism is concerned, the authors claim that it manages to privatise racism, that is, to be silenced or made invisible. Neoliberalism does not indeed invest ideologically in racism, because open discrimination would undermine the fundaments of universalism.
De facto, racialised populations are disciplined, but also controlled, while being described in terms, for example, of civil rights they do not respect. In this way good and bad diversities can be established.

To illustrate, diversities like the headscarf, are considered bad, since they express the problem of wrong freedom or unfreedom which links the Arab states.



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