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.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.
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.
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.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.
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.
"Creative destruction" is grossly overrated.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
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).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 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?
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.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.
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'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.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.