The Scientific Study of Social Evolution and World History
Evolutionary globalization is one of six research streams at The Abs-Tract Organization, and this is the first of a series of blog posts on it. The concept of evolutionary globalization dovetails with systemic-conspiracy, as they’re both concerned with world history and agency. The inevitability of globalization gives the false appearances of conspiracy, and also conceals real ones.
Evolutionary globalization is an evolutionary and ‘historical materialist’ approach to the study of long-term historical change. It explains in evolutionary terms the rise and fall of ancient empires, the emergence of the contemporary global village, and our inevitable maturation into a world state. The idea of it stretches back to antiquity, but this new field has made great breakthroughs in the last few decades.
A Brief History of Global Evolution
Aristotle developed an early version of teleology in his study of biology, and many thinkers have since followed his lead. Immanuel Kant is one of the most prominent philosophers of history to argue for the teleological evolution of human society, and of course is one of the foundational scholars on cosmopolitanism and liberal internationalism.
This field is a logical extension of the progression of evolution into the social sciences. Evolutionary psychology is already mainstream and the evolutionary approach is making great inroads into sociology. Outside of the field, the concept of ‘social evolution’ is faced with skepticism and denial, due to its association with the pseudoscience and social-darwinism of Nazis and the eugenics and scientific racism of the 19th and 20th century. But social evolution has always been true, we just haven’t understood it well.
With the introduction of evolutionary globalization as a core research stream, we attempt to shift the discourse of both sociology and international relations towards an evolutionary paradigm. Any reference to globalization and global politics without recourse to the evolutionary approach is flawed, because change and adaptation are obvious natural processes operating on the macro scale. There is much skepticism and resistance to evolutionary approaches but the simple response is the fact that the environment shapes biological evolution, for which is there is now a field of epigenetics. But there is a more obvious proof than this. Social evolution explains memes, which are now a staple of internet culture.
Memes have everything to do with ideas and social cognition, as they evolve rapidly through a human mediated process akin to natural selection. The science of memetics is still in its infancy, but many advancements are being made in the private sector. Social evolution also explains how organizations such as religions, corporations, and nation-states change and behave, so it is not to be casually dismissed.
In the same way that we are intervening in genetics, we must scientifically understand memetics and have a humanist intervention, in order to understand and interrupt and halt the runaway globalization processes that are prompting the sixth mass extinction. My efforts here are to legitimize the findings of this field so they can be properly publicized and translated into global policy. Evolutionary globalization is the only scientific basis for rationalizing global governance, which is why it is one of our core research topics.
Due to the holistic nature of globalization and its study, the evolutionary approach can be more functional and fruitful than when applied in sociology alone. Because evolutionary globalization deals exclusively with macro- phenomenon we can study flows and cycles more objectively, from a more abstract point of reference, buttressed by vast amounts of planetary social and ecological data.
The basic implications of evolutionary globalization are that our species is a superorganism and on a particular trajectory. The first part means that humans are in part collectively and sociologically determined. This is achieved through narratives, group dynamics, and social institutions, among other factors. The second part suggests the we are also determined by our future, by our dreams and projections, and that we are thus directed towards abstract goals which happen converge/ collide sooner or later.
One of the most prolific contributions to the field is Globalization as Evolutionary Process: Modeling Global Change (2007), edited by George Modelski, Tessaleno Devezas, and William R. Thompson. I’ll defer paraphrasing the complexity of it to a reviewer of the book:
“Modelski’s chapter on ‘Globalization as evolutionary process’ sets forth the volume’s most theoretically explicit argument, arguing in favor of an ‘institutional’ (versus a ‘connectivist’) approach on globalization, whereby globalization is viewed as ‘the construction (and/or emergence) of institutions of planetary scale’ (p. 12). That is, in contrast to the approach followed by David Held and his associates in their Global Transformations (1999), Modelski argues that the processes of globalization have to be explained in evolutionary terms, taking the long duree of human history as their frame of reference and the human species as the unit of analysis.” — Victor Roudometof, Review of Globalization as Evolutionary Process
Future World State
In their book Transparency and Conspiracy: Ethnographies of Suspicion in the New World Order, Harry G. West and Todd Sanders cite the shared Cold War (neoliberal) assumption that modernity was a “teleological process” that would evolve into Marshall Mcluhan’s “global village.” United by this shared ideology, elites could unremittingly push forward globalization without concern for recourse (or ‘blowback’). The employment of the term ‘teleology’ is particularly interesting since the concept has been rejected by social scientists until only recently. Despite the rejection of teleology, globalization deepened under the premise of ultimate modernization and unity.
Alexander Wendt is a prominent International Relations theorist who has impressively modeled a self-organization theory of political evolution, which incorporates Kant. In 2003, Wendt applied new developments in self-organization theory to hypothesize a teleological view of global dynamics that “inevitably” culminates in a world state. The paper Why a World State is Inevitable argues that a world state will eventually manifest on the basis of collective security, a logical outcome based on increasingly destructive military power. A scary prospect, which is why we must bring about world state based on the principles of cosmopolitanism and demilitarization.
An update on the progress of his theory is given by Wendt himself in this video (24 min):
Inevitability implies that all attempts to derail globalization will invariably fail in the long run; regardless of our intentions or predictions, we subconsciously conspire to bring about a world society. Most important of Wendt’s points is that agency matters; we not only have the power, but the responsibility to create a benign new world order.
In a review article about world government Luis Cabrera recounts the prominent shift of IR scholars towards realizing global government, and the empirical tendency towards its emergence. The summary also includes the efforts of politicians and diplomats, who both understand these processes, and promote understanding and integration of the world through them. The emerging consensus is one of evolutionary realism and the pragmatic need for global governance, although Cabrera challenges the notion of the world-state.
If one accepts Wendt’s world state thesis, they should be inclined to embrace cosmopolitanism rather than work against it. The good news and the bad news are the same; geopolitical homogeneity is unavoidable (eventually). So we must make the best of it. Evolutionary globalization is very critical reflexive knowledge that can help streamline this process. It potentially empowers the individual agent within the current social structure and enables them to help redefine it.
Globalization as Conspiracy
“[a] positive feedback between consumers and resources — a historical conspiracy of sorts — implies the existence of inherent directions in the history of living things, including humans.” — Vermiej, A Historical Conspiracy, 2011
This quote is from obscure journal called cliodynamics (mathematical history), where an evolutionary biologist argued that evolutionary globalization is historical conspiracy.
His use of ‘conspiracy’ is interesting, referring to teleology and how it implies a directionality to history. If that direction is based on shared control, this is what I call “Ouija Board Global Governance.” History seems like a conspiracy because globalization occurs with or without our conscious participation, sometimes against our will. At any rate, there are always plans for expansion and reasons to construe globalization with conspiracy. World history trudges forward, manifesting the will of the masses being partially conducted by elites, spawning crisis upon crisis faster than we are equipped to solve them.
Vermiej also wrote a book called The Evolutionary World: How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civilization. In both works, the author cites neither Kant nor Modelski nor Wendt to derive his conclusions, yet he is talking about the same thing: evolutionary globalization. It speaks to how broad the evolutionary approach is.
In Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism Fredric Jameson notes that conspiracy theory is a “degraded attempt to think the impossible totality of the contemporary world system.” At least Jameson recognizes that total comprehension of the world system is indeed “impossible.”
But the fact that neoliberal modernization has not emancipated the global masses to the extent anticipated has left many disillusioned and skeptical, and validates my argument of systemic-conspiracy. Nevertheless, acceptance or rejection of the world state hypothesis in the present will have a reflexive impact on how one views the processes of globalization and diplomacy. The inability to reconcile this complex theory of globalization is also reflected in the current political polarization. Therefore, it is useful to analyze the conspiracy worldview with respect to globalization.
The dominant expressions of anti-globalism and anti-elitism are most manifest in the mainstream “New World Order” conspiracy theory. It has many versions, but I refer to it in its most generic form. The origins are embedded in the 1782 design of the great seal which ended up on the one dollar bill eventually. The first contemporary invocation of the phrase “New World Order” was by George H.W. Bush in 1990 and it was promptly interpreted by many in the language of conspiracy rather than transparency.
In Transparency and Conspiracy, West and Sanders summarize the [N.W.O.] conspiratorial perspective as seeing an “international elite” plotting to undermine American sovereignty and establish a totalitarian collectivist one-world government. To be sure, the US has tried to blatantly assert it’s exclusively American New World Order — even more explicitly the Project for a New American Century which was the de facto “think tank” that engineered the Iraq war.
As to be expected, although the figureheads change, the power behind them remains the same, and a haphazard global agenda continues to unfold at the expense of the masses. The latest conspiracy theories are of course no stranger than reality itself, as we’ve seen the Clinton establishment try to rig an election only to have it stolen by an opportunist who seized upon the worst dirty tricks of the Republican party. Now, in the most blatant act of systemic-conspiracy, the Trump administration is withdrawing from world leadership, and imploding what’s left of the country and its citizens, while America’s top conspiracist Alex Jones is running psy-ops.
This would appear to dovetail with the trend of the agency of states being increasingly marginal in world politics. In the study of International Relations, it is well understood that the concepts of states and sovereignty are being eroded and being challenged. Non-state forces such as climate change or terrorism, or non-state actors such as corporations or NGOs, are exceeding the political power of states. Yet ironically America is reasserting its national identity despite its increasing irrelevance.
Corporations especially have growing power and wealth, many eclipsing the economies of smaller states. Fifty-one of the 100 largest economies in the world are corporations. General Motors’ annual sales are greater than Denmark’s GDP. As Daniel Hellinger explains in Paranoia, Conspiracy, Hegemony in American Politics, there is more than a degree of truth to the conspiracist view that “democratic sovereignty is being sacrificed on the altar of economic globalization.” Elites are abstracting wealth upwards for no functional purpose other than banal greed.
For the conspiracy theory subscriber, resistance to the impersonal forces of globalization is heroic. But if resisters are wrong in their ontological assessment of global dynamics, then their energies are misplaced into projects that encumber the goals they share with liberal internationalists; namely peace, prosperity, equality. In other words, if anti-globalists resist all globalization, they ultimately work against their own interests.
Within the US, an extreme incarnation of the anti-globalization ‘hero’ can be seen in ‘lone wolf’ terrorists, such as Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), who see globalization only as a destructive process. It is fruitless to think you can slow down globalization, especially through violent demonstration. As of late, America has no shortage of violent revolutionaries who are so uncreative they can only cling to their whiteness.
On the other hand, pro-globalization can have also have negative consequences. Both resistance and humanitarianism sometimes demonstrate good intentions gone awry, producing counterproductive effects. Foreign aid has been stolen and squandered by corrupt officials, elites have expropriated resources from developing nations, some abstract economic policies have have entirely backfired, and attempts to control and suppress political revolt have accelerated collapse, to give a few examples.
Directed Evolution vs Manifest Destiny
Hellinger writes that globalization “seems evolutionary, beyond agency,” and therefore resistant to conspiracism. Nevertheless, he argues that globalization doesn’t just happen, but rather it is a conscious process constantly advanced in the interests of the elites. This reflects Wendt’s point that agency matters, that we collectively change the models and structures of our decision making.
Globalization’s most keen proponents are “liberal internationalists in intellectual and diplomatic circles.” One notable figure is arch-globalist David Rockefeller, who proudly admits in his autobiography Memoirs to the charge of “conspiring” in a “secret cabal… [to] build a more integrated global political and economic structure” towards a one world order.
Many conspiracy theorists cite the quote as proof of the greater crimes of the new world order. But I believe it is part mocking of conspiracy theory and part humblebrag, so there is a kernal of truth to it. One might argue that the CIA ostensibly pursues similar goals through their highly illegal covert ventures. But Rockefeller is not confessing to any crimes; rather he is acknowledging his part in an “Open Conspiracy” of liberal internationalism.
It is not that elites plan to dominate the masses, although this is part of it for some, but rather they see their pursuance of rational self-interest as serving the ultimate liberation of the masses. The hazard of such progressive principles is the tendency for concentration and monopolization of power, which leads to its own internal corruption, decay, and abuse. And power, even benevolent well intentioned power, seeks to protect itself. In this sense, even Google, who’s famous was slogan was ‘don’t be evil’, has drifted a bit towards the dark side.
The reason that all this is a ‘conspiracy theory’ is because the true path of globalization contradicts historical narrative myths such as nationalism, religion, patriotism and identity that populations are indoctrinated with. To promote traditionalism while also speaking about the inevitability of change would be to undermine one’s authority. The illusion of sinister conspiracy arises to alleviate the cognitive dissonance resulting from the clash of political reality and political myth. Meanwhile, the odd elite operational conspiracy will slip by under the radar.
The concept of alter-globalization posits that ‘another world is possible.’ Synonymous with global justice, alter-globalization refers to the movement for global cooperation to protect the environment, human rights, economic justice, and the preservation of culture. It directly confronts the negative effects of neoliberal globalization. Alter-globalization has a socialist agenda, but to avoid being demonized it has to build up a scientific alliance with evolutionary sociology, in order to validate its values and principles.
Many mainstream trade press books and public thinkers pick up on evolutionary globalization, and in different ways. David Korten has been a long-time educator and critic of capitalism, calling for holistic thinking and radical change in how we conceive globalization. Robert Wright wrote the brilliant Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, which predicts the evolutionary path and natural emergence of a world state. Bill Clinton has been vocal in his support of it, which reflects his globalist ambitions in an open and constructive way. How well that has been executed is another issue.
Even with this exposure, as a discourse, the topic of evolutionary globalization is very far removed from mainstream political discussion, whether micro- or macro- issues are on the table. Talk of terrorism, immigration, and climate change all are compromised by the utter lack of theory or prudence. The mainstream media is limited by its own filters, and therefore does not educate about vital topics. In truth, all political issues need to be considered in the context of evolutionary globalization; of systems analysis and long-term historical change. It is the broadest abstract view.
To ignore, downplay, or negate the scientific findings of this field because it challenges the political beliefs of its (dis-)affected subjects is a disservice to those very people. Like all social constructions, the nation-state was a useful fiction for a very long period of time, but as the stages of historical evolution go, it is time for it to become an artifact, along with the concept of monarchy. The hopes of nationalists are tied up in pseudoscientific convictions about statehood and ethnicity that might have been provisionally true in the 20th century, but are increasingly fraught with contradiction.
The End Goal
Evolutionary globalization is the scientific study of social evolution and world history. It can summarize all of human history in macro-models, as well as project (not predict) hundreds of years into the future. It concerns very practical matters and challenges a lot of assumptions of the political status-quo. The evolutionary approach is another level of abstraction above economic, historical, and political approaches to globalization, as it combines them all.
The political perversion of social evolution was pseudoscientific and it has been stigmatized ever since. The fears of social evolution today are as much a reflection of anti-science attitudes and sociological ignorance as in the past. Social engineering is also incredibly complex and risky. So societies have neglected or repressed their own evolutionary growth and change for a sort of agnosticism. This is also a great detriment to our current discourse and how we discuss ideas and objects, which evolve. More than ever we need to design a global society that has no misunderstanding, deception, or violence; we will use science to outlaw war.
The concept of evolutionary globalization also opens the door to negotiating world peace, resolving systemic-conspiracy, designing global governance, and collectively directing our social evolution. I propose that this field is also an indicator of the paradigm of new metamodernism, in tandem with systemic-conspiracy. I define metamodernism as “a new cultural, political, scientific, and social movement representing a post-ideological, open source, globally responsive, paradox resolving, grand narrative.” By realizing what is positively different and new about these approaches, we can start to decisively solve all social problems and build a metamodern global society.
It is critical that a think tank specialize in this field so it is able to address the political paradoxes of globalism to the public and governments. Specifically, conspiracy theories about globalization need to be deconstructed and recontextualized with respect to macro-historical trends and open plans for a world society and global government. Authoritarian globalism and financial hegemony needs to be curbed so a global civil society can emerge to take the leadership role. The broad truth of globalization must be depoliticized and taught in order to both enhance the critique as well as foster the support for a consensual planetary civilization.
The Abs-Tract Organization (TATO) is a boutique research and media think tank, centered around the broad concept of “abstraction” and five other vital research streams.
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