by John Press
Peter Turchin’s, Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth, necessarily implies that the West needs a popular war within or near its borders. He reluctantly confesses, “A reactionary catchphrase of the 1970s used to go, “what this generation needs is a war,” a deplorable sentiment but one that in terms of cultural evolution might sometimes have a germ of cold logic.”[i]
Turchin’s main project is to explain the existence of civilisations. To this end, he tells the story of social cooperation’s rise and expansion. Being an evolutionary anthropologist he starts by describing chimpanzees use of violence to maintain their group cohesion and hierarchy.
But, by the Pleistocene era, (2 million – 10,000 BC), evidence indicates that man (homicide aside), was largely peaceful and egalitarian. Why? Stone weapons! Upstart bullies could be pounded in the head with stones during their sleep. So weapons enforced egalitarian cooperation.
At the end of the Pleistocene era, because the weather became stable, populations boomed. At this point, you get brutal unequal chiefdoms. The standard model says that agriculture created the archaic states. Turchin convincingly argues that this is not true, war did.
For thousands of years, after agriculture became widespread, people continued to do hunting and gathering as well. Those with these blended economies were free and equal. And these folks’ had much better diets than those who only did agriculture. So agriculture does not explain the rise of states.
Using math, history and evolutionary logic, Turchin argues that one group switching to a centralised hierarchical state system could dominate and enslave the others. Once one group had switched, others had to do so or be beaten. So hierarchical cooperation was born and brutally enforced. War made people do agricultural, not vice versa. Societies’ roots are in war.
But, starting about 500 BC, Turchin explains, military horse use decisively tilted the military advantage to whoever could field the largest army. Large armies require big population bases. Hierarchical archaic states' control via violence limited their size and created internal disunity.
Universal monotheistic religions enabled larger societies. Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Confucianism taught rulers to treat their subjects with care. In turn, these religions legitimised supporting the king. But these egalitarian ethics, again, were there to create larger populations in order to win wars.
THE CULTURIST CRITIQUE
Turchin ends his book asking a huge culturist question, “How do we develop the science of cooperation?”[ii] His answers are all skewed because he ignores cultural diversity.
In arguing that modern ethics all evolved to the same end, (making big populations for war), and so are the same, Turchin undermines Western pride. When nations are proud (Imperial England), they spread; when ashamed (the West under multicultural philosophy), they contract and crack.
Yes, Mr. Turchin, war makes societies via cultural innovation. But, that does not mean all cultures are the same.
His failure to note cultural diversity also leads him to assume that military conflict is a thing of the past. War deaths have been declining for five hundred years. So, going forward, he concludes, we’ll only have economic competition. But, as he enthuses, global cooperation only arose in 1945.[iii] And, really, the 'ultrasociety' still does not exist.
No sane society would bet its life on Islam forever forgoing its founder's violence for cooperation and so-called 'universal' values.
CULTURIST POLICY IMPLICATIONS
In showing how ethics facilitate empire, Turchin tells us that Spain could only keep its Middle Ages multi-ethnic empire together via fervently acknowledging its shared Christian Catholic identity. And, eventually, religious schism undermined the Spanish empire.[iv] This means multiculturalism destroys societies so the culturist policy of promoting assimilation is safer.
But, ultimately empires collapse because their wars happen on distant front lines. When, in the empire’s capitol city, “ . . . survival is no longer at stake, selfish elites and other special interest groups capture the political agenda. The spirit that ‘we are all in the same boat’ disappears,” and inequality, disunity, and social collapse follow.[v]
In reviewing the scientific literature, Turchin concludes, “The evolution of cooperation is driven by competition between groups.”[vi] Again, he assumes going forward competition will only be economic. But, if not, the ‘cold logic’ of his formula wherein the absence of war undermines cooperation, means we need war and we need it close to home. And, for the West, there is only one plausible enemy close to home: Islam.
As a culturist, I have long argued that Western governments must:
(a) Drop their guise of cultural neutrality, acknowledge Western culture, and legally protect it
(b) Stop Muslim immigration both for safety and to create an enemy
(c) Deport any immigrant who advocates Sharia for lying during naturalization
(d) Stop Saudi mosque funding on our soil.
I advocate these non-violent culturist policies because violence is unnecessary, would undermine our legal system, cause property damage, and possibly end in defeat. But, Turchin’s thesis, that war creates states, strongly suggests that we would best reach our culturist goals via violent confrontation with enemies on or near European soil.
[i] Turchin, Peter, Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth, (Chaplin: Beresta Books, 2016), 42.
[ii] Ibid. 230.
[iii] Ibid. 5.
[iv] Ibid. 203.
[v] Ibid. 42.
[vi] Ibid. 93.