Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-01-04 12:00pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-04 11:30am
If the setting is not immune to progress, technically they should be entering pre-industrial age by the time of the books. GRRM does not describe economy that much, but politically it seems like really early feudalism, with serfdom, primarily agrarian mode of production, no manufacture or factory in sight, sieges and actual keeps and castles, not palaces. They had over half a millenia to move to late feudalism, but it does not seem like there was a lot of movement. Even the seven kingdoms and the ruling noble houses are implied to last for from over a thousand years to several millenia by the time of the books. I mean, a thousand something years before events of ASOIAF there is an invasion of Dorne with all the bookverse’ feudal attributes seemingly already in place.

I blame the fantasy winters...
A fair point.

Personally I blame it on "authors have no sense of scale." Martin didn't want to portray a deep backstory with the forms of society changing significantly over time, so he stretched out 400-500 years' worth of history over a thousand-plus years of timeline.

That said, Martin hasn't explicitly declared this; there is no specific force enforcing technological stasis. So I'm inclined to assume that future events could progress as fast as they do on Earth, in which case proto-industrialism could emerge within a few hundred years of the "High Middle Ages" society we see in Westeros.
...although it does fail to explain why the other parts of the world aren’t undergoing a transition faster. Slaver’s Bay is also locked in the slave production mode for an extremely long time.
I look at that and I bear in mind that Marx's notion of slavery naturally evolving into feudalism was heavily informed by medieval European history, and was not informed so much by the history of other parts of the world where widespread slavery persisted rather longer.

Furthermore, for a long time the Slaver's Bay area has been subject to depredations by the Dothraki, who are well equipped to pillage the countryside and set back economic development outside the major fortified cities their usual tactics cannot easily topple. Dany's actions in reducing the Dothraki numbers (by drawing many off to Westeros) and... 'adventurism' (by quelling some of the more brutal and aggressive factions and habits within Dothraki culture) may prove just as much a force for progress in Slaver's Bay as her abolitionist campaign.
The merchant class is weak, although sea trade exists and even plays into the story at key moments. Braavos looks like a stand in for Netherlands or a city-state with more progressive policies and flourishing commerce, but it also existed for a loong time (just google about when Valyria was)...
I think it would help to model Valyria as being, in effect, ancient Rome; it was a very high point of economic, technological, and infrastructural progress.

Venice, the most direct model for Braavos, began its rise to prominence within a few centuries of the fall of Rome, and continued to slowly expand its influence over the Mediterranean for several centuries before running into the rising naval powers of the Ottomans and later the Spanish, plus the fact of the Spanish/Portuguese sea trading routes making Venice's naval position in the Mediterranean inherently less valuable.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-04 12:25pm

Yeah, I get it that GRRM had no specific “tech block” or development block in mind (after all, they developed that far somehow), and I know Braavos as a city-state seems to be modelled on Venice just as Valyria is Rome, and if we skip British context to a greater context, even Aegon the Conqueror is kind of like Charlemagne, a splinter of something that used to be.

It’s just outside the scope of the books, the entire economic machinery - which is rarely described by fantasy authors, as I think a lot of them are uninterested and/or lack the knowledge to describe it good and thus prefer to skip rather than write nonsense...
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-01-04 01:29pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-04 11:30am
If the setting is not immune to progress, technically they should be entering pre-industrial age by the time of the books. GRRM does not describe economy that much, but politically it seems like really early feudalism, with serfdom, primarily agrarian mode of production, no manufacture or factory in sight, sieges and actual keeps and castles, not palaces. They had over half a millenia to move to late feudalism, but it does not seem like there was a lot of movement. Even the seven kingdoms and the ruling noble houses are implied to last for from over a thousand years to several millenia by the time of the books. I mean, a thousand something years before events of ASOIAF there is an invasion of Dorne with all the bookverse’ feudal attributes seemingly already in place.

I blame the fantasy winters, although it does fail to explain why the other parts of the world aren’t undergoing a transition faster. Slaver’s Bay is also locked in the slave production mode for an extremely long time.

The merchant class is weak, although sea trade exists and even plays into the story at key moments. Braavos looks like a stand in for Netherlands or a city-state with more progressive policies and flourishing commerce, but it also existed for a loong time (just google about when Valyria was)...
It strikes me as highly dubious to assume that there is a set rate or sequence for social/economic progress, such that we could predict that a society that had reached early feudalism would realistically reach industrialism in X number of centuries, if not hindered by some outside force.

IIRC, one of the main causes of the collapse of feudalism in Europe is considered to be the Black Death- I'm not aware of a comparable analogous catastrophe in Westeros, though the upcoming White Walker invasion/long winter might, I suppose, serve.

I do think you're right that the long winters might play a role in holding things back, though I would also expect, realistically, to see things change a lot if we could look forward a century after the end of the series (presuming the White Walkers don't just overrun everything). What with said White Walker invasion, and Dany going through Essos like a wrecking ball.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-04 02:20pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2018-01-04 01:29pm
It strikes me as highly dubious to assume that there is a set rate or sequence for social/economic progress, such that we could predict that a society that had reached early feudalism would realistically reach industrialism in X number of centuries, if not hindered by some outside force.

IIRC, one of the main causes of the collapse of feudalism in Europe is considered to be the Black Death- I'm not aware of a comparable analogous catastrophe in Westeros, though the upcoming White Walker invasion/long winter might, I suppose, serve.

I do think you're right that the long winters might play a role in holding things back, though I would also expect, realistically, to see things change a lot if we could look forward a century after the end of the series (presuming the White Walkers don't just overrun everything). What with said White Walker invasion, and Dany going through Essos like a wrecking ball.
I think that there is no “set rate”, but the critical mass of social changes that force certain technological adjustments and progress generally does follow some rules; we expect that once a transition happened somewhere, its rate elsewhere will be accelerated. Feudalism persevered longer outside of Europe, but once the transition started in some nations, it quickly moved to the others.

The Walkers and harsh winters in general, it is implied, could cull the North. But since they are so unpredictable, perhaps all ir leads to is ossified power structures.

After all, advancement rests on philosophy and science, both in very short supply in ASOIAF, and the scientific method needs predictability to flourish.

It is actually my beloved theory on why so many magical worlds are regressive socially and technically, that there is a deep wisdom: magic and gimmicks, especially if they affect fundamental things (like climate as in ASOIAF, or conservation of energy in many “war mage” stories), make the world unpredictable and the scientific method cannot flourish. Actual existence of giants and magic structures like thr Wall such leads to persevering myths, and the mythical concept of history does not work well together with science. Heh... “Flight of Dragons”, my childhood memory. :)

Maybe it really is that way. Maybe magic isn’t good for progress. Haven’t seen many magical stories with a set-up where magic is socially or technically progressive in a non-bad way... There are by now quite a few industrial magic stories out there, but they are decidedly different, more similar to steampunk, and they explore the social deeper than epic fantasy, so they don’t share common roots with high fant.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by LaCroix » 2018-01-04 02:26pm

Trying to take stock of their tech base:

The most prominent area for metalworking, the Street of Steel in King's Landing is far inside the city, not close to any meaningful water flow. Which means that they don't have any kind of mechanical tooling. All is done by a couple of people with sledgehammers and a few anvils, and this is the economic centre of metalworking. We don't hear anything about mining coal (usually you would send criminals to mines if there were any), so it seems charcoal is still the main fuel, and we don't hear a lot about iron mines, so they are either still using bog iron (the wildlings and hillfolk most certainly do), or surface deposits. (iron isles most likely have some ore veins that break the surface.)

We never see anything looking like farming equipment more advanced than a simple plow and rather crude carts (most with spokeless wheels, and pretty much each a unique design, meaning they are individual builds and not mass produced), and the mentions of windmills (with maybe one depiction of a broken one, the tower where the Starks and hodor hide when Jon fights and leaves the wildlings.) is the only other industry we see.

Their agriculture is pretty much at the barely population sustaining level. Mayority of people work fields. So no unemployed workforce to cause social/economic pressure. People are mostly only able to feed themselves.

Maybe husbandry could provide a boom? Producing more meat? Freeing up filed workers by having huge herds grazing the constantly green meadows? Not likely - We see that Hay is stacked in rather small haycocks in the scene where the wildlings attack the town,( so not even bale press technology) Which means very limited animal stock can be fed through 'winter', limiting the amount of meat that can be produced during summer. (they do have seasons, or else they would not make hay. You don't make it if you can have them graze all the time. Even in the south, we see signs of hay being made, but I may have been mistaken.)

I do believe there is simply not enough infrastucture there to even begin any kind of technological advance. Unless there is some tech breakthrough.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-04 02:57pm

The problem is not just technical alone...

There is almost no merchant class, especially after the requsitions, the war carnage and theocratic purges in King’s Landing, so moving goods swiftly enough in necessary volumes to enable a transition to manufacture (not speaking bout factory here)... is not possible.

The opportunities are balanced out by the fact enormous numbers are uprooted from their land to fight in wars, so there is that aspect of human mobility to consider.

However, the basic mode of production is unaltered, so these hands can only go back where the came from or turn to being outlaws, the nascent trader-merchant class cannot absorb them and skilled workers most likely can’t either, very little production facilities.

So from this angle a tyrant like Daenerys, who would uproot at least the feudal loyalties and transition to absolutism (maybe still with serfdom), would be a lightspeed leap for the world of ASOIAF... Heh.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by Solauren » 2018-01-04 04:52pm

Another factor in G.O.T/ASOIF politics is the Summer/Winter cycle.

It's really hard to advance when you have years on end of living off supplies and starvation, followed by years of recovery in hopes of surviving the next cycle.

It's the equal of our world having global famines that last 5 years or so. It's amazing there is any life on that planet at all.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-04 05:09pm

Westeros isn’t the world though (I guess that helps)
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-01-04 05:19pm

Solauren wrote:
2018-01-04 04:52pm
Another factor in G.O.T/ASOIF politics is the Summer/Winter cycle.

It's really hard to advance when you have years on end of living off supplies and starvation, followed by years of recovery in hopes of surviving the next cycle.

It's the equal of our world having global famines that last 5 years or so. It's amazing there is any life on that planet at all.
Yeah, this is pretty much the reason they've had such an extended period of technological stasis. When they have an extremely long Summer, things start advancing (see all the toys Qyburn starts pulling out, though I'm not sure how much of that is TV vs. book). The alternative is magic, but that has its own drawbacks (see Valyria).

But when the planet itself kicks your entire population in the teeth on a regular basis, that's not going to really help the situation.

What occurs to me though is that there are still areas where the Winters aren't *that* severe, like Dorne. Surely those should have some advantages from that situation, no?
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by Solauren » 2018-01-04 09:45pm

Elheru Aran wrote: Yeah, this is pretty much the reason they've had such an extended period of technological stasis. When they have an extremely long Summer, things start advancing (see all the toys Qyburn starts pulling out, though I'm not sure how much of that is TV vs. book). The alternative is magic, but that has its own drawbacks (see Valyria).

But when the planet itself kicks your entire population in the teeth on a regular basis, that's not going to really help the situation.

What occurs to me though is that there are still areas where the Winters aren't *that* severe, like Dorne. Surely those should have some advantages from that situation, no?
While Dorne does have some climate advantages, IIRC, it's supposed to get cold and snowy even down there.

It's also possible Dorne becomes the only food production centre for Westros. No time for tech advancement if you are too busy trying to feed the rest of the continent.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-01-05 11:27am

True, for some reason I was thinking Dorne was like... I dunno... Arabia or something like that, basically desert. *checks wiki* And it seems to be? The main crops it produces are exotics? http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Dorne
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by LaCroix » 2018-01-05 02:44pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-04 02:57pm
The problem is not just technical alone...

There is almost no merchant class, especially after the requsitions, the war carnage and theocratic purges in King’s Landing, so moving goods swiftly enough in necessary volumes to enable a transition to manufacture (not speaking bout factory here)... is not possible.

The opportunities are balanced out by the fact enormous numbers are uprooted from their land to fight in wars, so there is that aspect of human mobility to consider.

However, the basic mode of production is unaltered, so these hands can only go back where the came from or turn to being outlaws, the nascent trader-merchant class cannot absorb them and skilled workers most likely can’t either, very little production facilities.

So from this angle a tyrant like Daenerys, who would uproot at least the feudal loyalties and transition to absolutism (maybe still with serfdom), would be a lightspeed leap for the world of ASOIAF... Heh.
The root of this is technical. Because of the bad technology, they lack trading. The only trade goods they mention is wine and cloth.

Carpentry, for example: We see a lot of construction made by rough hewn wood and ropes. When the Hound helps with the septon build, they only tie rough hewn round posts together, with minimal notching to improve fit.
Even the barrier at the Turney of the Hand is tied together. Any carpenter could have made it with proper joinery, or even nails (which only would exist when enough iron tech is available). So I expect that there are only few good carpenters in Kings Landing, and are most likely occupied with making furniture for highborns, and house construction within the city.

I strongly suspect that all the town smallfolk mostly make their homes and interior themselves, maybe with help by their neighbors, but no full -time carpenter. There wouldn't be enough need for one. These towns most likely also make their cloth and clothes themselves, and have a bit of a barter for various produce between each other. Pottery and wittling wooden utensils are evening work. Same for carts - they make the ones they need themselves. With exception of a blacksmith and a carpenter every few towns (the one with the castle), there are most likely no full time craftsmen, and those are mostly occupied with the needs of the highborns. They may also make some of the tools the immediate surroundings need, and the occasional trader coming through will supply the rest.

With better farming tools, people could raise above mere "scraping by" subsistence, which would increase survival rates, grow settlements, and at the same time free manpower up for full time craftsmen, which now can be paid for their work by the people. With full time craftsmanship comes specialization, and quality, which leads to trade, which leads to traders. Which leads to more demand in carts, which leads to more carpentry work, which means more need for tools and iron fittings, nails, etc...

Also, specialization leads to innovation. Someone making a lot of a certain tool will maybe get a good idea. Such an event will again kick this cycle one level higer.

You see this very well in our own history. Most of the medieval time, the farming tool was the sickle. Farming was not so much a problem of plowing and planting - you could do that for weeks with no real problem - but a calculation of how much can you harvest before it rots. The sicle made it a back breaking work with very slow progress and limited harvests massively. Then, the scythe was invented and created the first industrial revolution. A farmer could now harvest a lot with relatively small effort - this lead to trying to make the now more time-consuming plowing more efficient, which resulted in better plow types. Which also was only possible due to the scythe making hay harvest easier, which meant lifestock was easier to feed through the winter, which meant you could keep more trained draft animals, which enabled them to use more power to pull these better designs.

Pretty much all hinges on increasing food production, which is directly dependent on the farm tech you employ.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by K. A. Pital » 2018-01-05 04:17pm

I think that if you create sufficient population pressure in the cities, but they are still feedable by the village (as it seems to be in our scenario), a process of industrialization can start in the urban core and spread out to the land, as it sometimes did.

But you're right about their utter failure at agrarian surplus production. It has been a while since I've watched and read the books, so memory of some key scenes failed me, but I took another look and... boy is there little to work with...
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-01-05 05:21pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2018-01-04 05:09pm
Westeros isn’t the world though (I guess that helps)
Yeah, though I'd expect at least some global effects, both environmentally and in terms of economics/trade.

I suppose that the best hope would be for a more southerly, more merchant-based city state in Essos to kick-start something.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by FaxModem1 » 2018-01-05 11:11pm

There was also, for millenia, the effect of dragons ridden by tyrannical kings and queens who used them to snuff out any competition. That sort of thing tends to impede progress, as most science labs, centers of industry, and strongholds tend to not react well to being burned down.
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Re: Game of Thrones political hypothetical.

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2018-01-05 11:13pm

Honestly, when you put it that way, perhaps the best thing that can be hoped for in this setting is for Dany to overthrow the existing order, with all of her dragons dying in the process (2/3rds. of the way there).

At least that would shake things up.
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