Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2014-11-04 09:39am

BabelHuber wrote:An 'inclusive' society is one where people can take their fate in their own hands and are not tied to the class they live in. An 'extractive' society is one where your parents determine your fate (e.g. when you were born as farmer in the middle ages, you usually stayed farmer) and where a small upper class extracts wealth from the rest of the society. In such a society, it is nearly impossible for a member of the lower classes to become an entrepreneur.
Except that in that case, all premodern societies are "extractive" for practical purposes, because 90-99% of the population was part of an underclass that could only be left by taking extreme measures or by a huge stroke of luck. So it's useless as a way to distinguish different ancient societies from one another.

I mean sure, you can point to all the Roman emperors who started out as peasants... but then I can point to all the hundreds of millions of Roman peasants who didn't become emperors, and in fact spent the rest of their lives as peasants.

It's not that there was no social mobility, it's that there really wasn't very much of it, certainly not enough to be a dominant explanation for affairs in a whole society.

Honestly, this whole thing strikes me as more of an attempt to map modern economic conventions onto ancient times; it's as nonsensical as assuming that China should have been able to defeat the Mongols because it had a higher GDP than a bunch of nomadic tribesmen.

To make matters worse, fixating on social mobility just screws up the terms of debate. What matters here is the distinction between a productive

India had a caste system in the 1600s and 1700s, for crying out loud! NO social mobility! And yet they had a very vibrant economy that fed the population, and maintained high production of goods. Until the East India Company took over and tried to remake the whole subcontinent as a resource production area. Within a decade or two, the economy had collapsed, the people were on the whole much poorer, and India began to experience famines.

So when we talk about an "extractive" economy, let's not kid ourselves into thinking social mobility is what matters here. What matters is extraction- is the economy of the state geared to the production of a single resource, for foreign or domestic consumption?
The level of 'inclusiveness' can vary. You can e.g. have a middle age-type society where you have a class of rich merchants in big cities. In this class, a talented individuum can be successfull and innovative. But a farmer cannot.

This society would be more 'inclusive' than a society which mainly consists of nobles and farmers without big cities with rich merchants.

Also, the book explicitly states that growth is possible in an 'extractive' society. But this growth usually stops when creative destruction is involved, because the upper class will fight this change.
An example of teh book is Russia in the 19th century, which was quite extractive. So the upper class saw no need to build railroads - why should the farmer be more mobile after all? The crimean war changed this - Russia was militarily at a disadvantage because troops had to march on foot instead of being driven to the front by trains.

So after the war, Russia also started to build railroads and bought trains. This created growth, but nevertheless the society stayed extractive.
I'm suspicious of this. For one, there are a lot of reasons why Russia might have lagged in railroad production. For one, it's a huge country, so connecting up the major cities with a dense railroad network requires you to physically lay down about an order of magnitude more track. In much of the country, heavy construction work is nearly impossible during the winter. Production of steel and machinery lagged throughout the 19th century, and Russia had chronically lower levels of literacy and mechanical proficiency.

So you're looking at a country where finding people competent to run a railroad is harder. Uneducated illiterates cannot run a railroad, if they try there will be accidents and logistics snarls.

And where even if you do get the right team together, buying the equipment to make the railroad- even the iron rails themselves!- is expensive. You might be priced out of the market for iron, just because while a railroad is valuable, per ton of iron it has a much lower return on investment than using the iron in other ways. As long as metal is expensive, railroads aren't very practical.

And to make matters worse, even if you did get together enough metal to lay 200 kilometers of track (for instance), that doesn't get you very far in Russia, because the major centers of commerce are farther apart than they are in Western Europe. As are the fronts you might need to shuffle troops between. It was all very well for the Prussians to have a state railroad network in place in the 1870s to rapidly move troops across the country, but Russia could not feasibly have done the same nearly so quickly- it had far more track to lay before the country could be considered "connected" by rail.

And even once you get everything lined up to construct huge amounts of railroad track, for several months a year construction is brought to a screeching halt by snow-drifts a man could drown in, or mudholes a man could also drown in.

So yes, Russia was slower to build up a railroad infrastructure. But why do you think that ignorant nobles going "why do peasant farmers need to be more mobile?" had anything to do with it?

This has the ring of the kind of "just so stories" created by people (often American) who have decided that the only way to succeed as a civilization is to do XYZ, so that the success of any society can be judged by its similarity to XYZ. Which generally results in twisting the historical record into a pretzel with nonsense like saying the Romans succeeded at the expense of the Hellenistic empires of the eastern Mediterranean because they had freer markets.
Another example from the book is modern China: This is still a society with lots of 'extractive' elements, but OTOH it got more 'inclusive' since the 1970ies. This made it possible to have growth.

But this growth did not involve creative destruction yet. When the society gets to a point where creative destruction becomes necessary, there are two possibilities:

- The inclusive elements in the society win, so growth can continue.
- The extractive elements win, so the growth stops
"Creative destruction" is grossly overrated.
Ancient Rome is also cited as an example: After Augustus turned the republic into an empire, the society got more exclusive and hence couldn't progress as much as before, which eventually lead to its downfall.
I see no evidence for this. Rome had already conquered to about the practical limit of conquest (the point at which holding captured territory costs more in garrisons and maintenance than it returns in taxes) in all directions. What ultimately seems to have killed the Roman Empire was a mix of causes, many of which don't support this 'theory' (and I use the term loosely).

I mean, if there's a huge civil war for control of the Empire, and that weakens the Empire severely, then do we blame that on low social mobility? Or on high social mobility because every jackass thinks he has a shot at being the next emperor?
Compared to Diamond's theory, this theory can at least explain why the industrial revolution started in England, and not in Moldavia or in China. Diamond's one can only explain why it started in Eurasia, but now why it started in England.
Except that it's the equivalent of throwing a dart at a corkboard, then walking over and drawing a bullseye around the place where it lands.

Basically, this guy is saying that the Industrial Revolution started in England because England had "England-like" characteristics, and that other societies throughout the world succeeded insofar as they were "England-like." And the characteristics he's calling "England-like" aren't even historically accurate necessarily, plus they get a nonsensical name like "extractive," which would more logically apply to resource extraction economies.
I wouldn't say that this theory is the explanation of everything which happend in the last few tousand years, but I think it has some truth in it. At least it can explain why different countries develop differently despite having similar external preconditions.
I'd say that its explanatory power comes almost entirely from being an explanation that was actively made up well after the fact. Again, it's the equivalent of redrawing the bullseye so you can pretend to be good at hitting the target.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by madd0ct0r » 2014-11-04 01:32pm

Since when dif diamonds theory apply to industrail revolution instead of farming?


Question for the board. Did Africa lag behind in early civilisation?
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2014-11-04 02:38pm

madd0ct0r wrote:Question for the board. Did Africa lag behind in early civilisation?
Define 'early'? Paleolithic? Neolithic? 1000 BCE? 100 BCE?

As far as sub-Saharan Africa goes, our big problem there is not much historical record nor evidence. There's some interesting stuff like the Great Zimbabwe civilization, but that was from the 1200's.

We do know of a number of Iron Age civilizations but the paucity of actual written or oral records doesn't leave much to really know other than the archaeological evidence of "we found settlements where people were working bronze or iron and stuff in this area" across much of Africa.

Looking at the Wiki page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sub-Saharan_Africa#History

I'm seeing a lot of stuff from the mid 1000's. Kanem is ~700-1300ish CE, Axum started ~100 CE, Monomopata was 1200's... If you want to go BCE there's not a whole lot of civilization that can be tracked down. Cultures and tribes, sure. Organized governments over a large population or stretch of country? Not so much.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by Thanas » 2014-11-04 03:03pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
BabelHuber wrote:An 'inclusive' society is one where people can take their fate in their own hands and are not tied to the class they live in. An 'extractive' society is one where your parents determine your fate (e.g. when you were born as farmer in the middle ages, you usually stayed farmer) and where a small upper class extracts wealth from the rest of the society. In such a society, it is nearly impossible for a member of the lower classes to become an entrepreneur.
Except that in that case, all premodern societies are "extractive" for practical purposes, because 90-99% of the population was part of an underclass that could only be left by taking extreme measures or by a huge stroke of luck. So it's useless as a way to distinguish different ancient societies from one another.

I mean sure, you can point to all the Roman emperors who started out as peasants... but then I can point to all the hundreds of millions of Roman peasants who didn't become emperors, and in fact spent the rest of their lives as peasants.

It's not that there was no social mobility, it's that there really wasn't very much of it, certainly not enough to be a dominant explanation for affairs in a whole society.
You are wrong on Rome.

First of all, social mobility was there in Rome, certainly far more than for most of Europe, with the exception of the post - 16th century.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by BabelHuber » 2014-11-05 06:01am

Thanas wrote:You are wrong on Rome.

First of all, social mobility was there in Rome, certainly far more than for most of Europe, with the exception of the post - 16th century.
No I am not wrong, I merely stated the theory of the book :wink:

I also think that this explanation is much too simplistic: After all Rome survived almost 500 years after being turned into an empire. IIRC there are about 500 theories why Rome went down, and as an amateur I'm not able to take sides.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by PainRack » 2014-11-05 06:32am

BabelHuber wrote: Also, the book explicitly states that growth is possible in an 'extractive' society. But this growth usually stops when creative destruction is involved, because the upper class will fight this change.

An example of teh book is Russia in the 19th century, which was quite extractive. So the upper class saw no need to build railroads - why should the farmer be more mobile after all? The crimean war changed this - Russia was militarily at a disadvantage because troops had to march on foot instead of being driven to the front by trains.

So after the war, Russia also started to build railroads and bought trains. This created growth, but nevertheless the society stayed extractive.

Another example from the book is modern China: This is still a society with lots of 'extractive' elements, but OTOH it got more 'inclusive' since the 1970ies. This made it possible to have growth.

But this growth did not involve creative destruction yet. When the society gets to a point where creative destruction becomes necessary, there are two possibilities:

- The inclusive elements in the society win, so growth can continue.
- The extractive elements win, so the growth stops
IIRC, the chapter on modern China predicts that the growth won't last because China insitutions won't foster the creative destructive required to transform China economy, even though we have real life examples of how China transformation to a modern economy has already done so.

Compared to Diamond's theory, this theory can at least explain why the industrial revolution started in England, and not in Moldavia or in China. Diamond's one can only explain why it started in Eurasia, but now why it started in England.

I wouldn't say that this theory is the explanation of everything which happend in the last few tousand years, but I think it has some truth in it. At least it can explain why different countries develop differently despite having similar external preconditions.
No, it doesn't. The argument rests on the belief that political conflict in Britain liberalised her insitutions and created a positive feedback loop.

THE problem is that Ming China underwent said feedback loops TOO, but she DIDN"T have what the authors would consider an inclusive insitution, although her economy and demographics were(the increased spread of education, social mobility and wealth.)


We can explain why Ming China failed via degrees of difference. Unlike Britain, Ming China wasn't reliant on trade and banking and political power was concentrated in the elites and when her government fell, etc etc etc...

But it doesn't explain WHY Ming China went down that route. Why was it that Britain became more liberal but China became more conservative?

It gets even more frustrating as a predictive theory because South korea, the example used in the book WAS a dictatorship and the Asian Finanicial Crisis also showed how finanicial power and wealth was concentrated in the elites.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by BabelHuber » 2014-11-05 06:34am

Simon_Jester wrote:Basically, this guy is saying that the Industrial Revolution started in England because England had "England-like" characteristics, and that other societies throughout the world succeeded insofar as they were "England-like." And the characteristics he's calling "England-like" aren't even historically accurate necessarily, plus they get a nonsensical name like "extractive," which would more logically apply to resource extraction economies.
Not at all.

What these guys say is basically the following:

After the magna charta of 1215, the people of England had more rights than in the neigboring countries. This development progressed further and lead to the 'glorious revolution' of 1688.

After 1688, nobody was above the law in England. Even the King had to abide the law. This was very important for the population of England, because now they were relatively save from despotism.

At that time, the leading classes were nobles (mostly land owners) and the rich merchants.

When the first factory owners showed up, they had some different interests than the leading classes.

E.g. factory owners supported importing cheap grain from abroad. The reason was that they wanted to pay low wages to their workers, but OTOH they has to pay enough so that the workers didn't starve.

Hence with falling food prices, they could pay less to them.

This of course was conflicting with the interests of the land owners, because they were interested in high grain prices, so they could make more money (IIRC the book states some other areas of conflicts with the merchants, but I don't have the details in my head. But I can look it up if you want)

The book states that this is a situation where it would have been possible for the nobles and the merchants to unite against the factory owners.

So in an extractive society the two would unite to fight the factory owners. This of course would prevent the industrial revolution.

But they could not brake the law while doing so, because this would violate the rule that nobody is above the law. And this could cause a precedence.

So basically, if the nobles and the merchants would brake the law to fight the factory owners, the king could also do so to fight the nobles and the merchants in the future, arguing that the others did the same to the factory owners.

And the nobles and the merchant feared the king more than they were annoyed by the factory owners.

Hence they had to stick to the law themselves and therefore could not get rid of the factory owners, even though tehy tried within the boundary of the law.

The book argues that in more extractive societies the nobles and the merchants just wouldn't have cared about the law and would have used their combined power to get rid of the factory owners.

In my opinion, this looks logical, so I'd say the theory has some merit.

Mind you, I am not advocating that the book is 100% correct, but I think that the 'inclusiveness' of a society is a factor which has to be taken into account when analyzing history.

A negative example in the book are e.g. some African states in the 16th century, where an upper class lived from selling their citicens as slaves to the European colonial powers.

As a result, these citicens tried actively to hide from the state, so they didn't get cought and sold. So they moved to regions where they could hide more easily, thereby abandoning the more fertile regions they lived before.

Needless to say that the industrial revolution could hardly have happened under such conditions.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by BabelHuber » 2014-11-05 06:46am

PainRack wrote:
BabelHuber wrote:IIRC, the chapter on modern China predicts that the growth won't last because China insitutions won't foster the creative destructive required to transform China economy, even though we have real life examples of how China transformation to a modern economy has already done so.
IIRC the book states that when growths in China stalls because creative destruction becomes a necessity for further growth, either the inclusive or the extractive elements 'win'. But I'd have to look it up to be sure.
PainRack wrote:
BabelHuber wrote:We can explain why Ming China failed via degrees of difference. Unlike Britain, Ming China wasn't reliant on trade and banking and political power was concentrated in the elites and when her government fell, etc etc etc...

But it doesn't explain WHY Ming China went down that route. Why was it that Britain became more liberal but China became more conservative?

It gets even more frustrating as a predictive theory because South korea, the example used in the book WAS a dictatorship and the Asian Finanicial Crisis also showed how finanicial power and wealth was concentrated in the elites.
IIRC the major point in the book was that after 1688, nobody was above the law in England, and this was the prerequisite for the industrial revolution.

But my knowledge of Ming China is too limited to compare these two societies, so I don't know if this was also the case in China...
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by PainRack » 2014-11-05 06:56am

BabelHuber wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:Basically, this guy is saying that the Industrial Revolution started in England because England had "England-like" characteristics, and that other societies throughout the world succeeded insofar as they were "England-like." And the characteristics he's calling "England-like" aren't even historically accurate necessarily, plus they get a nonsensical name like "extractive," which would more logically apply to resource extraction economies.
Not at all.

What these guys say is basically the following:

After the magna charta of 1215, the people of England had more rights than in the neigboring countries. This development progressed further and lead to the 'glorious revolution' of 1688.

After 1688, nobody was above the law in England. Even the King had to abide the law. This was very important for the population of England, because now they were relatively save from despotism.
.
The argument is that inclusive economic/political insitutions allow the existence of proper incentives that create growth and prosperity, whereas extractive insitutions can allow negative feedback loops to occur.


The problem is that her theory depends on extremely ad hoc definitions of what is inclusive insitutions that allow the existence of proper incentives.

Robinson argument is that this is because the job of doing so is difficult, but if so, there should have been some possibility of showing statistical correlation still!
IIRC the major point in the book was that after 1688, nobody was above the law in England, and this was the prerequisite for the industrial revolution.

But my knowledge of Ming China is too limited to compare these two societies, so I don't know if this was also the case in China..
Sigh. So, why did Britain go down that tract then?

Alternatively, why did Ming China swing over to become a more mercentile society, a process that was ultimately stopped by the invasion of the Mongols instead? Why did Ming China feature the same incentives that showed in Britain?



Alternatively, let's try another game.

Singapore.


Singapore is an economically liberal country, yet, these economic liberal policies were built on the backs of 'extractive' institutions that we inherited from the British.

We discriminated against hipsters in the past. Yet, we drew in tech companies and talent that means we produced 10% of wafer production in the world in the last decade, we slipped primarily because of the rise of China manufacturing.

Our politics and economy in the 60s were designed exclusively to suit the elites, be they British expats or Chinese Towkays. Now, the socialist policies of the PAP and Barisan Socialis were intended to break this,for example, Lee initial political support came from his work for the unions, however, by the 80s and in the last 2 decades when we grew economically by leaps and bounds, our policies were designed towards the rich.

Yet......... YET, the policies advocated ultimately still lifted the poor and Singapore society is still designed towards a broad base lifting of the whole populace.



We can create ad hoc explainations of course, but it just shows that the theory works only for explainatory purposes, where you can look back at the answers and say this worked, this didn't, but it can't be used for predictory purposes. The need to say inclusive economic insitutions means that they become highly ad hoc.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by madd0ct0r » 2014-11-05 08:08am

Elheru Aran wrote:
madd0ct0r wrote:Question for the board. Did Africa lag behind in early civilisation?
Define 'early'? Paleolithic? Neolithic? 1000 BCE? 100 BCE?

As far as sub-Saharan Africa goes, our big problem there is not much historical record nor evidence. There's some interesting stuff like the Great Zimbabwe civilization, but that was from the 1200's.

We do know of a number of Iron Age civilizations but the paucity of actual written or oral records doesn't leave much to really know other than the archaeological evidence of "we found settlements where people were working bronze or iron and stuff in this area" across much of Africa.

Looking at the Wiki page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sub-Saharan_Africa#History

I'm seeing a lot of stuff from the mid 1000's. Kanem is ~700-1300ish CE, Axum started ~100 CE, Monomopata was 1200's... If you want to go BCE there's not a whole lot of civilization that can be tracked down. Cultures and tribes, sure. Organized governments over a large population or stretch of country? Not so much.
defining early civilisation as 'establishment of cities'. I'd put farming in there too, but IIRC there a Native American area where the hunting was rich enough to support stationary cities without the farming leap. reading through the same wiki page, there seems to be a lot going from the 1000's onwards, with buildings and structures on par or larger then the Norman mott-and-bailey castles from the same time period. (Pulling back to them since the original OP argued the lack of giant ruins in Africa meant no civilisation, an assertion I don't think was challenged in the thread.)

I guess, if sufficient evidence on both sides could be dug up (hah!), you could test the animals and parasites as brake theory by comparison with South America?
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2014-11-05 09:47am

There's a decent amount of small-scale subsistence farming all over West Africa since pretty much the invention of agriculture, less so over the rest of the sub-saharan region. It's one of those things that are hard to track down because it's basically a lot of scratching up the dirt, which in time goes back to being... dirt. You only really see it on the archaeological record when there's obvious changes to the landscape like terracing or lines of rocks dug up to clear fields, things like that.

Cities are also a tricky proposition. There almost certainly were some... but there's no real historic record. Given the usual pattern of man to live relatively close to their ancestral homes, archaeological evidence is also difficult to find because you would then have to displace a bunch of people if they don't find stuff while digging for utilities or whatever.

The best you can hope for is oral tradition being supported by archaeological evidence, but frankly, not enough people have put in work to really find much between far prehistory (origin of man) in Africa and roughly the mid 1000's and on up. With that said, local academics and scholars have often found a lot of stuff in their own countries, it's just not published internationally because they simply don't have the resources to get it out there.

As for the animal thing: I'm not sure I understand, given that domesticated animals were never a big deal in South America aside from the llama and similar in the Andes? Or are you referring to the introduction of cattle and horses by the Spanish and how that went?
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by BabelHuber » 2014-11-05 11:52am

PainRack wrote:Sigh. So, why did Britain go down that tract then?

Alternatively, why did Ming China swing over to become a more mercentile society, a process that was ultimately stopped by the invasion of the Mongols instead? Why did Ming China feature the same incentives that showed in Britain?
I think that we are talking past each other here:

In my opinion, this theory is not about predicting the course a country takes, but how well a country fares under certain conditions and why.

So it can help to explain why the industrial revolution started in England in the 18th century, but of course it can not predict that King James II loses to William in 1688.

But we can assume that if James II had won, the industrial revolution would most likely not have happened.
PainRack wrote:Alternatively, let's try another game.

Singapore.

Singapore is an economically liberal country, yet, these economic liberal policies were built on the backs of 'extractive' institutions that we inherited from the British.

We can create ad hoc explainations of course, but it just shows that the theory works only for explainatory purposes, where you can look back at the answers and say this worked, this didn't, but it can't be used for predictory purposes. The need to say inclusive economic insitutions means that they become highly ad hoc.
The point is that Singapore is economically liberal, so it has an inclusive economy.

Politics may be extractive, but this does not stand in the way of growth - unless the development of the economy threatens the wealth of the ruling class.

In this case, the country can become more 'extractive' if the elites win, which means the development will slow down or stop altogether (depending on the level of extraction). Then you have an extractive economy and extractive politics.
Or the elites lose, in this case the country becomes more 'inclusive' (inclusive politics and inclusive economy) and hence the progress can continue.

So, you only can't have extractive politics and an inclusive economy if interests collide. Otherwise it's possible, albeit usually not in the long run, since differing interests have to develop in such a society sooner or later.

In the end one cannot take this theory to estimate how Singapore will fare in the future, you are right. But I think we can use it to explain why Singapore developed the way it did, and that at some point the country it will have to decide which way to go further (extractive economy or inclusive politics), but we can't necessarily use it to predict the outcome.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by madd0ct0r » 2014-11-05 12:30pm

Elheru Aran wrote: As for the animal thing: I'm not sure I understand, given that domesticated animals were never a big deal in South America aside from the llama and similar in the Andes? Or are you referring to the introduction of cattle and horses by the Spanish and how that went?

ah, part of the op, or opening page at least, people were discussing that having evolved in Africa meant humans were at a disadvantage - plenty of local parasites used to us and animal's who were co-adapted to competing with us prevented the growth of dense human settlements. Humans drove the mega-fauna extinct in a lot of places, but not in Africa, despite having the longest time period of exposure there.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by Elheru Aran » 2014-11-05 01:00pm

madd0ct0r wrote:
Elheru Aran wrote: As for the animal thing: I'm not sure I understand, given that domesticated animals were never a big deal in South America aside from the llama and similar in the Andes? Or are you referring to the introduction of cattle and horses by the Spanish and how that went?

ah, part of the op, or opening page at least, people were discussing that having evolved in Africa meant humans were at a disadvantage - plenty of local parasites used to us and animal's who were co-adapted to competing with us prevented the growth of dense human settlements. Humans drove the mega-fauna extinct in a lot of places, but not in Africa, despite having the longest time period of exposure there.
Ahh. That is an interesting question.

I suspect it has a lot to do with two things. First, Africa being the (more or less) origin of humanity, it can be speculated that agriculture may have started somewhat earlier there. As such, after the first batch of megafauna were wiped out (you know, stuff like Arsinotherium, Archaeopotamus, etc)-- in fact, check this out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:P ... _of_Africa

There's quite a few extinct megafauna there. So it's not so much that they didn't wipe out the megafauna-- it's more likely that they did or the megafauna went extinct in other circumstances (ice ages? plagues? see Quaternary and Holocene extinction events), and what we have today are the survivors.

So, agriculture being established in Africa (if that's the hypothesis, I imagine it could well have independently sprung up across the globe), they then had less need to hunt down the surviving megafauna, which remained in their niche.

Secondly, competition by animal husbandry against the elephants, antelope, wildebeest, etcetera, was minimized by such lovely scourges as rinderpest, tsetse fly, and natural predation by lions, leopards, hyenas, and all that. It's notable that animal husbandry has been a thing in Africa since prehistory, and yet the megafauna and predators remained. Why? That's a pretty good question...

While I'm thinking about cities. Places like Great Zimbabwe are highly exceptional because they've been abandoned out in the middle of nowhere and end up fairly well preserved due to being built of stone. Note that the Zimbabwe complex has little in the way of remaining living quarters or households-- the only thing that's left is the stone buildings. and walls Either they were deliberately destroyed (possible), it was strictly a ritual compound (unlikely) or after around 800 years or so there's little left of the perishable building materials that are generally used throughout most of Africa (most likely). That in and of itself indicates what is most likely-- cities simply don't survive in Africa unless they're made out of durable materials, which while not rare are not often used.

And if they do survive, it's either in highly decreased form (a city shrinks into a town into a village due to migration and population shifts) or simply matures through the ages and the increasing population demolishes old buildings and replaces them with new. It's the "grandfather's axe" paradox.

A look through the history of Nigeria might be informative. It's pretty much the same across most of Africa.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Nigerian_history
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of ... efore_1500

Essentially it's a history of cultures and people, much of which is based in an oral tradition. There's little solid evidence to go on other than the occasional archaeological excavation prompted when artifacts turn up. So we have to make a lot of educated guesses and use that as a basis until further information comes to light.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by PainRack » 2014-11-12 02:40am

BabelHuber wrote:
PainRack wrote:Sigh. So, why did Britain go down that tract then?

Alternatively, why did Ming China swing over to become a more mercentile society, a process that was ultimately stopped by the invasion of the Mongols instead? Why did Ming China feature the same incentives that showed in Britain?
I think that we are talking past each other here:

In my opinion, this theory is not about predicting the course a country takes, but how well a country fares under certain conditions and why.

So it can help to explain why the industrial revolution started in England in the 18th century, but of course it can not predict that King James II loses to William in 1688.

But we can assume that if James II had won, the industrial revolution would most likely not have happened.
A theory is useless if it cannot have predictive properties.
Its also against what the authors are trying to do, because they are predicting that China can't sustain its current economic growth because its non inclusive(read democratic) insitutions will sooner or later allow elites to prevent the kind of reforms that will sustain prosperity.

The point is that Singapore is economically liberal, so it has an inclusive economy.

Politics may be extractive, but this does not stand in the way of growth - unless the development of the economy threatens the wealth of the ruling class.
........... Their point is that insitutions, i.e, political and government insitutions must be inclusive, otherwise, growth of the economy will utterly be retarded or crash as measures needed to sustain growth and prosperity will be hindered by elites. That or elites will not be able to propogate the policies needed.
Here's the quote.
Inclusive political institutions tend to support inclusive economic institutions. This leads to a more equal distribution of income, empowering a broad segment of society and making the political playing field even more level. This limits what one can achieve by usurping political power and resources the incentive to re-create extractive political institutions
Furthermore, the growth and transformation of the Singapore economy WAS during this most non democratic period, including when wealth was concentrated in the hands of elitists.

If we were going to use correlation, we can even argue that democracy will hinder prosperity for Singapore, because the increase in the rich poor gap widened dramatically from the middle class after Singapore became more democratic(in the form of political activity and opposition) AND the pursuit of policies meant to garner political support entrenched elitist interests.

This would be as opposed to during the 70s and 60s, when the backlash against the Barisan Socialist also required efforts politically to nurture the Chinese community, even as the most drastic social engineering projects were enacted to shift everything into an English speaking society and economy. The success of said policies reduced the rich poor gap by increasing the middle class and creating a new class of citizens, thus spreading the wealth and the losers ultimately had to be placated via the increased wealth of their kids and lacklustre social safety nets until the current political climate.

In the end one cannot take this theory to estimate how Singapore will fare in the future, you are right. But I think we can use it to explain why Singapore developed the way it did, and that at some point the country it will have to decide which way to go further (extractive economy or inclusive politics), but we can't necessarily use it to predict the outcome.
But then, it becomes a no brainer........ Its entire argument is that institutions matter. Ok, we known that from over a decade ago, when examining the effects of international aid.

Its main difference from effective institutions is that 'inclusive' institutions, which would most likely flourish only in democratic countries is responsible for growth and prosperity.

If its only powers is explainatory, then how is it different from saying effective institutions that are non corrupt, promote economic policies that spread the wealth and improve prosperity ? Why the stress on democratic/inclusive political institutions?

The real reason why inclusive was used instead of democratic was precisely because not all democracies develop institutions that are not corrupt, nor focused on growing the wealth of everyone instead of an entrenched elite. Otherwise, its just another reiteration of the 1980s/90s democracy will bring about peace and prosperity argument.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2014-12-17 02:48pm

I actually think that Britain succeeded because it was the most extractive society, and brutally oppressed its lower classes, engaging in systematic tyrannical oppression with "The Bloody Code" and exporting tens of thousands of its own people overseas into forced colonization efforts over trivial offences, at the same time that these people were being rendered destitute and hopeless by the Enclosure Acts, which substantially reduced their ability to succeed at farming. This created a huge and impoverished labour base that could be simultaneously exported overseas to hold colonial land and employed on industrial machinery. Even the Russian serf at least had the village Mir and a collective organisation in it for ensuring their survival. By the 18th century, the vicious oppression of the British state had essentially reduced its lower classes to bare animals who could be used in conditions worse than slaves to insure the industrial success of the state, carefully contained and repressed through the most violent and punitive law code ever conceived of in the history of humanity, specifying more death penalties than ISIL.

In short, they don't only have it wrong, they have it completely wrong. British democratic institutions worked to modernize Britain--by allowing the New Rich enough influence to buy out and sideline traditional structures which provided some measure of protection for the poor, so that they could be ruthlessly oppressed, dispossessed, and subjected to tyranny until they complied with working in horrible conditions to enable that modernization, or were outright dispossessed from their homeland to secure land for the broader Empire.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2014-12-17 09:21pm

Point.

England is the source of sayings like "might as well hang for a sheep as for a lamb..." because in 1700s England you could be sentenced to death by hanging for stealing a lamb. Or for spending a month in the company of gypsies, for poaching, or for begging without a license while a member of the military.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by MarxII » 2014-12-19 02:23pm

BabelHuber wrote:
But we can assume that if James II had won, the industrial revolution would most likely not have happened.
Could you elaborate on this one?

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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2014-12-19 04:42pm

Because a traditionalist Stuart monarchy would have defended the rights of the peasantry from the vicious aggression of the nascent bourgeoisie in forcing through the Enclosure Acts and impoverishing them into the cities. Mind you, France and Belgium managed to independently industrialize without this, just to a lesser and slower extent that was probably socially healthier, so it was likely the more ethical and moral course.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2014-12-24 11:49am

Since when dif diamonds theory apply to industrail revolution instead of farming?
Because you cannot have an industrial revolution without iron, you cannot urbanize (at high density and high rates of inter-political entity trade) without an immune system that has been exposed to and can handle epidemic diseases like influenza and smallpox, and you cannot urbanize or have an industrial revolution without an agricultural food surplus. Nor does it make any sense to have an industrial revolution without the economic precursors to that industrial revolution, which is an economy driven (har har) in large part by beasts of burden.

What it wont tell you--and is not meant to because that is not the question diamond was trying to address--is why the industrial revolution started in england rather than france. The resolution of a theory proposed by a population ecologist is just not that high.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by madd0ct0r » 2014-12-24 01:52pm

fair enough.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by MarxII » 2014-12-24 03:08pm

The Duchess of Zeon wrote:carefully contained and repressed through the most violent and punitive law code ever conceived of in the history of humanity,
Actually, I'm quite curious about this point as well, going as it does against the grain of most of what I hear of Britain in that time as against her various contemporaries (more or less). If the English legal code was indeed noticeably more punitive than that of (just rattling off a few) France, say, or The Ottomans, Russia, Qing et cetera, can we conclude that the road to industrial supremacy involves railroading a new more or less mercantile elite into power as hard as conditions will allow?

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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2014-12-24 05:35pm

MarxII wrote:
The Duchess of Zeon wrote:carefully contained and repressed through the most violent and punitive law code ever conceived of in the history of humanity,
Actually, I'm quite curious about this point as well, going as it does against the grain of most of what I hear of Britain in that time as against her various contemporaries (more or less). If the English legal code was indeed noticeably more punitive than that of (just rattling off a few) France, say, or The Ottomans, Russia, Qing et cetera, can we conclude that the road to industrial supremacy involves railroading a new more or less mercantile elite into power as hard as conditions will allow?

Not necessarily, but in the early stages of industrialization, it involves moving large amounts of the workforce from relatively safe, comfortable, and prosperous living conditions (say, an early 19th century english subsistence farmer who makes some money selling their food crops to craftsmen etc in town) over to working in horrid factory conditions. That involves divesting them of land and forcing them into abject poverty sufficient to compel them to seek work in one of the new steam powered factories. Make up the drop in food production by way of large plantations or some sort of farm collectivization that are more efficient in terms of manpower (after the transition costs in mass starvation are paid as food production drops during the collective farm's teething period).

In England, this happened "organically" as a result of what amounts to the unspoken class war (ramble on about Marxism all you want, Marxist History works really well to explain how this happens). In the USSR etc. it was part of an explicit program of industrialization.
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Re: Why Did Civilization Lag in Africa?

Post by Simon_Jester » 2014-12-25 01:34am

Alyrium Denryle wrote:In England, this happened "organically" as a result of what amounts to the unspoken class war (ramble on about Marxism all you want, Marxist History works really well to explain how this happens)...
Well of course it does; it was invented while this was going on.

Marxist history is like a Taylor expansion approximation to a curving graph. It fits the data very well for a narrow window of times right around the period it was written. But it becomes less and less accurate as you step time forward past about 1870, because of complicating factors Marx didn't anticipate. And it also becomes less and less accurate as you step time backward and look at societies of whose history Marx was relatively ignorant (i.e. the Far East, the Americas, almost all ancient societies other than Greece and Rome, and so on).

So basically, Marx started with this very detailed and essentially correct criticism of all the historical and economic changes that had occurred in Europe since 1775 or so. His writings take this criticism and do two things with it.

One, they propose a theory of history that explains everything in terms of the prevailing dynamic he saw causing the upheavals in front of his nose: class struggle. He carefully observed one time and place and tried to generalize it to all other times and places. There are obvious problems with that basic methodology, and that helps explain why Marxist history predicts a lot of outcomes that didn't happen, and fundamentally misunderstands a lot of times and places that are just different than the society Marx looked at.

Two, Marx proposed political reforms to stop the negative changes by totally changing everything to be as close to the opposite of the 1840-era status quo as possible. This methodology also has problems, because trying to do the exact opposite of what your enemy did is rarely the best way to get results.
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