SIX – The Emergence of the Social Problem
6.1 Defining the Problem of Historical-Society
6.1.a The First Major Problematic Stage of the Monopoly of Civilization
6.1.b From Rome to Amsterdam
6.1.c Eurocentric Civilization’s Hegemonic Rule
6.2 Social Problems
6.2.a The Problem of Power and the State
6.2.b Society’s Moral and Political Problem
6.2.c Society’s Mentality Problem
6.2.d Society’s Economic Problem
6.2.e Society’s Industrialism Problem
6.2.f Society’s Ecological Problem
6.2.g Social Sexism, the Family, Women, and the Population Problem
6.2.h Society’s Urbanization Problem
6.2.i Society’s Class and Bureaucracy Problem
6.2.j Society’s Education and Health Problems
6.2.k Society’s Militarism Problem
6.2.l Society’s Peace and Democracy Problem
7.1 Definition of Democratic Civilization
7.2 The Methodological Approach to Democratic Civilization
7.3 A Draft of the History of Democratic Civilization
7.4 Elements of Democratic Civilization
7.4.b The Family
7.4.c Tribes and Aşirets
7.4.d Peoples and Nations
7.4.e Village and City
7.4.f Mentality and Economy
7.4.g Democratic Politics and Self-Defense
EIGHT – Democratic Modernity versus Capitalist Modernity
8.1 Deconstructing Capitalism and Modernity
8.2 The Industrialism Dimension of Modernity and Democratic Modernity
8.3 The Nation-State, Modernity, and Democratic Confederalism
8.4 Jewish Ideology, Capitalism, and Modernity
8.5 The Dimensions of Democratic Modernity
8.5.a The Dimension of Moral and Political Society (Democratic Society)
8.5.b The Dimension of Eco-Industrial Society
8.5.c The Dimension of Democratic Confederalist Society
NINE – The Reconstruction Problems of Democratic Modernity
9.1 Civilization, Modernity, and the Problem of Crisis
9.2 The State of Anti-System Forces
9.2.a The Legacy of Real Socialism
9.2.b Reevaluating Anarchism
9.2.c Feminism: Rebellion of the Oldest Colony
9.2.d Ecology: The Rebellion of the Environment
9.2.e Cultural Movements: Tradition’s Revenge on the Nation-State
9.2.f Ethnicity and Movements of the Democratic Nation
9.2.g Religious Cultural Movements: Revival of Religious Tradition
9.2.h Urban, Local, and Regional Movements for Autonomy
Defining the Problem of Historical-Society
In the first two volumes of my defense, I focused on power in general and on the capitalist monopoly of power in particular. Although these books have many shortcomings, I believe I effectively demonstrated that the central civilization system constitutes a line. The important thing was to present the key links in its development. I identified the issues and analyzed the accumulations of power, including the cumulative accumulation of capital, in its successive development. When I was writing these two volumes, I had not yet read Andre Gunder Frank’s The World System.2 What I did, in fact, was a different recounting of the contents of this anthology, in which I was inclined to link the solution to a system—i.e., democratic civilization. Were I to write these books now, I could perhaps refine my argument, but, out of respect for history, it is more valuable to leave them as they are.
I will be addressing the social problem in a separate section. My aim is not to present a history of power and monopoly or to discuss the democratic solution. I am attempting to theoretically address the social problem in light of practical experience, as a contribution to solving the problem. It is not that I have not touched on this question until now. I have treated it in bits and pieces, but it would be more instructive to address it in an overall way.
The question of how to define the social problem is thought-provoking. Some currents of thought consider social poverty, while others think that not having a state is the social problem. Yet others think that military weakness is the key issue, or that it is the errors of political system, the economy, or moral degeneration that are central. Perhaps there is no single social arena that is not considered problematic. There may well be something in each of these points of views, but they don’t reflect the essence of the problem. To me it makes more sense to present the trampling of the fundamental dynamics of society as the social problem.
I think society deprived of being a society is the fundamental problem. The first issue is the existence of values that determine a society and conceive and construct a social existence. I am referring to the aspect that we call existence itself. Second, I am referring to developments that do not allow this existence to be itself and destroy its basis. When these two things are intertwined, there is a major social problem. For example, if glaciation during the clan period eliminated all the clans, we cannot call this a social problem, because natural disasters occur beyond human will. To be considered a social problem, the problem must be created by the human hand. Even the ecological problem should be defined as a social problem when it is the result of human activity. Therefore, linking the fundamental social problem to the forces that unravel and destroy society at its very foundations will lead us to a correct definition.
I see the monopoly of capital and the monopoly of power to be at the forefront of these forces. Both are essentially forces that hollow out the foundations of society by usurping surplus value. From this point on, I will refer to these two monopolies simply as “the monopoly.” Defining the problem-free, normal, and natural state of society will also shed more light on the issue and contribute to our ongoing evaluation. Regardless of the level and form of a community, if a society can freely shape its own moral structure and politics, then we can call it a normal or natural society. It is also possible to call it an open or democratic society. Because I will focus on my proposed solution in later sections, let me just briefly emphasize that I will not present the solution as either a fully liberal or fully socialist society, the nation-state society, the affluent society, or as a consumption-based, industrial, or service-oriented society, because any classification of society of this sort is largely speculative. These definitional categories don’t have an equivalent in a real society. Calling them attributes related to society would be more accurate.
Therefore, depriving a society based on free politics and morality of these fundamental qualities can be regarded the beginning of the problem. Monopoly is the force that triggers the problem. Thus, we must also define the scope of the monopoly. A monopoly is formed when surplus value, whether accumulated privately or by the state, is amassed agriculturally, commercially, and industrially. Undoubtedly, the initial triad within the monopoly—priest + strongman + sheik—was hierarchical. They each benefited from the monopoly proportional to their power. This triadic monopoly would eventually splinter off into various institutions over the course of history. Each of these institutions would also split internally but would essentially be carried to the present by increasing their chain-like influence.
We should always keep in mind the cumulative and chain-like character of the historical flow of monopoly. The central civilization system is both the cause and the effect of the chain-like development of the monopoly—this must be emphasized. Today, modernity’s way of thinking imposes a terrible time pressure and stifles everything into a compressed “now.” But “now” is both history and the future. Modernity’s massacre of history by imposing this way of thinking is not in vain; it is much easier to rule a society that is cut off from tradition however the ruler wishes. The history of monopoly is unique in that no other history had the opportunity of such an intense, chain-like, and expanding self-formation. While the monopoly creates its history in this way, it also finds it essential to render all communities in all societies history-less; or, put otherwise, their dissolution and colonization is of the utmost importance. To this end, it forms mythological, religious, philosophical, and scientific structures and makes an effort to undermine the morality of communities and render them incapable of politics.
While we often use monopoly as a concept, let’s not forget that we use it in economic, military, political, ideological, and commercial contexts, because these groups share surplus value in one way or another. Whatever the form and the ratio, the essence of the division remains unchanged. Based on their importance at a given point, sometimes those responsible for economic efficiency will have a say in how surplus value is shared, while at other times it will be the military, the political class, the ideologues, or the merchant cliques. Wholesale concepts like class and state can blur reality. Monopoly plays a clearer role—it is the exploitative and oppressive enterprise. The class and state formation behind it are of derivative value; they are secondary births.
The construction of the city is the third of the monopoly births. The city raises its head as monopoly’s oppression and exploitation headquarters. The city is intertwined with the temple to provide it with ideological legitimacy. And, so, the city, as historically eventuated, first and foremost, appeared as the nucleus of the temple, military headquarters, and living structures (palaces) of the bourgeoisie. (We can call all these exploitative urban circles bourgeois.) The surrounding masses play the role of domestic servants—as the second ring around the core of castles. They could even be called the slave class.
The fortresses and ramparts that are continuously encountered in history are the clearest evidence of the nature of monopoly’s urban structure. The factors that give rise to the social problem are the city, class, and state structures that came into existence around monopoly’s essence. In a sense, the history of civilizations is the expansion of this triad across time and space. The logic is simple: as opportunities for surplus value increase so do monopolies, leading to the construction of new city, class, and state structures. Simultaneously, these basic structures create very strict traditions. The city tales, state traditions, and dynastic histories are a neverending topic of narration. Those who are clever and have oratorical talent provide the necessary daily ideological legitimacy as the army of ulema.3 There is almost no room for new fairy tales or parables. From the construction of gods (city gods and war gods) to the creation of the devil and jinn, from portraits of heaven and hell to literary epics—there is no area where they have not invented something. The fear-inducing structures like the mausoleums, palaces, and temples, as well as the theaters and stadiums, constructed by surplus human labor, are like monopoly’s show of power. Part of the monopolistic tradition is to eradicate whole peoples, tribes, cities, or villages with their entire population (excluding any captives who might prove useful) in horrifying wars. Besides, anything of economic value can already be found in monopoly’s holy book as the plunder of holy war.
The type of civilization developed by the monopoly after the agricultural revolution, thus the derivative triad (city, class, and state), is relevant to our examination of the emergence of the social problem. The questions are: Was the transition from the Neolithic stage of society to civilization (i.e., the stages of development also called slave-owning, feudal, and capitalist society) unavoidable? Were there ways that Neolithic society could have made the leap to a higher stage without urbanization based on class and the state? If so, why didn’t that happen? Although such questions address the hypothetical, they nonetheless touch upon important matters, which will be discussed in greater depth in the section dealing with the democratic civilization system. At this juncture, I will, nonetheless, briefly answer those questions as part of our examination of social nature. According to the prevailing paradigms of civilization, all developments were destiny and everything happened as it was meant to: according to destiny. Our fate has been realized. All metaphysical constructs are based on this idea.
The analysis of democratic civilization, however, makes for a different interpretation of civilization and its social forms and has a different approach to the continuation and transformation of Neolithic society. In short, social reality is not what Eurocentric social sciences claim it is. Interpretations that come closer to the truth are certainly possible. Society comes into being differently than we have been led to believe. Seeing the difference between the standard discourses and reality, as well as recognizing the link between these discourses and the dominant central civilization system, is of great importance. Many categorical evaluations that have been imposed as indisputable truth and presented on behalf of the social sciences are predominantly propaganda. They aim at concealing the truth. Many schools of social science—including those advanced by scientific socialism—have been heavily influenced by liberalism. These issues need to be clarified, at least to some degree, or the margin of error in any response will be relatively large.
Identifying social problems at their origin in this way will lead to a more realistic interpretation of their development. Instead of dividing them into basic categories, presenting them as key stages in a process is more instructive, because this addresses the problem in its totality.
The First Major Problematic Stage of the Monopoly of Civilization
The first major problematic stage of the monopoly of civilization can be placed between 3000 BCE and 500 CE. Monopoly is a large organization that extorts surplus value from society in different ways, depending on time and place. Beginning in 3000 BCE, the Sumerian, Egyptian, and Harappa societies attained extraordinary agricultural surplus product using a method of organization that could be called “pharaoh socialism.” This is capital’s first major model for accumulation. A much higher level of productivity was attained than had been the case in Neolithic society. This productivity gave rise to the city, class, and the state. The first major age of exploitation based on either violence or a trade monopoly began with the advent of the accumulation of surplus product that had already begun in Neolithic society. There can be no doubt that pharaoh socialism was based on the exploitation of subjects who were worked like a new type of animal in exchange for food. This was the first link in the chain of exploitation that has culminated in today’s exploitation of the periphery by the center. Available documentation clearly shows all of these developments in Sumerian society.
Obviously, this mode of production and the seizure of surplus product led to severe problems—like a knife stabbed into the heart of society. Mythologies and religions abound with stories of such problems encountered in history. Among the available narratives are the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Genesis flood narrative, the legends of Adam and Eve and of Cain and Abel, the construct of heaven and hell, the clash between the god Enki and the goddess Inanna, and the conflict between shepherds and farmers. It is quite clear that these narratives are essentially meant to expose the ruthless stabs of the monopoly—i.e., the extortion of surplus product by seizing and working people like animals.
Of course, a complex language is used in the countless stories that deal with similar examples of horrific plunder and forced human labor. It is important to keep in mind that during this period, ideological domination was as effective as physical domination. If history was written in the language of the oppressed and plundered, we would inevitably encounter a very different past than the one presented to us.
Many millions of slaves worked to build the Egyptian pharaohs’ pyramids. (These were the pharaohs’ mausoleums. What must their palaces have been like?) These people were housed in congested stable-like structures and were not even fed as well as the animals. They were whipped, often to death, while they worked to build these terrible structures. While these animal slaves, treated as property, were being used and abused in this way, the monopoly’s military wing mounted expeditions against other communities. They were not just satisfied with seizing goods and the land used by these communities but would take captive those seen as useful by the community and kill the rest. The magnificent castles, ramparts, mausoleums, arenas, palaces, and temples, which even today astonish the passersby, were built by these captives. If these millions of captives had not been forced to work in agriculture, which was further developed by the first irrigation canals, such a huge surplus product could not have been produced, just as these gigantic stone structures would never have been built. And, by extension, the heavenly life of the monopoly would not have been guaranteed.
To present this horrendous period differently, narratives (mythology, religion, philosophy, and various schools of the arts and science) with roots in the central civilization (stretching from the Sumerian hegemonic civilization of Mesopotamia to present-day US hegemonic civilization) and ideologies have been developed, alongside many equally grandiose superstructural institutions. Analytical reason, in particular, made the most progress. The priests, under the leadership of the monopoly, developed numerous responses, including mythological utopias and portraits of heaven and hell. If that was not sufficient, philosophical and scientific explanations, as well as knowledge and wisdom that would better explain the phenomena of nature, were developed. To rule with greater ease, the initial steps in developing writing, mathematics, astronomy, and biology were taken. The search for new medication to ensure the monopolistic strata’s comfort resulted in the foundation of medical science. The most exciting part of the Epic of Gilgamesh is the search for the “Immortality Plant.” Stone architecture developed techniques to build immortal structures for the immortals. When mythology proved inadequate, the era of more rigid and dogmatic religions was induced. To console the people who were condemned to a terrible life, images of gods that reflected the god-kings were created. Analytical reason probably presented its greatest masterpiece in the transition to monotheistic religions.
Not only did this result in the social problem, the problem was delivered in its most terrible form. The monopoly descended like a nightmare onto society’s material and immaterial culture. Even at that early time, the Sumerian word amargi meant the “return to the sacred mother and nature.” Degraded humanity could only crave for its past. To die as soon as possible in order to go to heaven reached the level of an ideology. The heavenly life that at times was imagined to have marked the Neolithic Age was being deferred to other worlds and had become the subject of utopias. Secular, worldly consciousness was replaced by a consciousness that focused solely on the afterlife. Faced with this terrible problem, the world lost its diverse richness and was seen as a place of torment.
Social morality and politics received their very first fatal blows at the hands of this monopoly problem. While the building blocks of communal society—morality and politics—were being smashed, a dominant morality (in fact, immorality) and politics (the divine state) specific to the narrow communities of the members of the monopoly held sway. It is perfectly clear that social morality and politics atrophied before they had a chance to develop. They were replaced by a divine order that consisted of the insane way of life of the rulers and their ideas of divinity. Society was only granted this right—the right to embrace these narratives as the holy belief.
The result was not just the creation of the social problem, but, worse, society was made to cease to be itself; it was being transformed into monopoly’s “animal farm.” Slavery and servitude came to be accepted as the natural regime. The enslavement of women, which has become the most far-reaching life problem, has roots dating back to this primitive hierarchical period. Regimes with dominant male gods were built, as if to take revenge on the Neolithic sacred mother society and matriarchal society. As traces of the goddesses gradually disappeared, the magnificent age of the domination of the male imaged gods began. Even at that time women found themselves forced into prostitution, both in the temple and in ordinary brothels, and were thus confined to “public homes and private homes.”4
This fertile period, partially the result of the newly developed irrigation technologies, fell into severe crisis in late 2000 BCE. Both drought and soil salination played a role. It is only natural, however, that after a two-thousand-year hiatus, the effects of social practice would disintegrate their own founding principles. Harappa had already disintegrated and fallen silent, and internal contradictions were making Egyptian civilization increasingly unsustainable. The Sumerians, once the dominant ethnic group, had long since been replaced by other civilizations with different ethnic origins.
The central civilization system of this period made two significant attempts to solve the severe problems it caused. The first of these was outward expansion. The process of colonization and imperialism, something that will be frequently encountered later, offered a temporary solution to existing problems, but it could not avoid resulting in new problems. Problems were not solved; on the contrary, they became more prevalent and intensified. When the problems concentrated at the center, in the metropole, were exported, they multiplied and rebounded upon the center after a brief respite. This cycle appears often throughout history, with center and periphery constantly shifting.
In my view, the Sumerian metropole (center) exported itself in three cardinal directions, four if we include the sea. The product of its initial western expansion was the Egyptian Nile. It seems likely that Egypt first developed as a colony and continued to develop after independence. In the absence of external support, the development of a civilization in Egypt, in a geographically enclosed area, was an unlikely proposition. The fruit of the eastern Sumerian expansion was Harappa, on the shores of Sind. As with Egypt, without external support Harappa could only have been a miracle in the desert. It is reasonable to similarly explain the birth of the first kingdom in China around 1500 BCE. The center-periphery relationship is an essential feature of civilizational practice since the birth of civilization. Another important area of expansion to the east was the Elam civilization, today’s Iran (with Susa as its capital, it was often referred to as Susiana), which neighbored Sumeria. The northward expansions, on the other hand, were carried by the Arian-Hurrians, the local communities of Upper Mesopotamia that had been the fundamental force behind the Neolithic Revolution, and Babel and Assyria, which were not far from the center.
The Sumerians, Akkadians (an ethnic group with Semitic roots), Babylonians, and Assyrians continuously tried to colonize the Hurrians. Perhaps the very first and greatest resistance in history was that of the Hurrians against the forces of this original central civilization. This process of resistance can be seen in the Sumerian tablets. Even the Epic of Gilgamesh clearly explains how this first expedition targeted the northern forests. Contemporary Iraq (Uruk), still a boiling cauldron, dramatically mirrors the continuation of this reality and tradition. The conflict between the Kurds with Hurrian roots and the Arabs with Semitic roots arguably still bears these ancient characteristics. The only thing that has changed is the nature of the center and the periphery, who holds hegemonic power, and the different technologies available.
The Hurrians are the original tribes of the Fertile Crescent. They could resist and develop their own civilization, because they had been profoundly influenced by the agricultural revolution. Numerous archeological discoveries provide insight into the establishment of the first Hurrian urban centers around 3000 BCE, independent of any Sumerian center. The megaliths found near the city of Urfa (Göbekli Tepe, 10000–8000 BCE), which predate the Neolithic Revolution, are particularly important evidence of this region’s civilizational roots, which have had ongoing repercussions in the world of science. I think that the Sumerians were colonies with Hurrian roots that first settled in Lower Mesopotamia. Thus, it is understandable that both the Hittites and the Mitannis, with their Hurrian roots, established empires in Central Anatolia and the southeast of present-day Turkey after 1600 BCE.5 Other civilizations may also have developed in these areas. Analysis of Göbekli Tepe ruins might provide us with a different view of civilization. The expansion of the Sumerians via the sea (Persian Gulf) led to civilization colonies in what are today Oman, Yemen, and even Abyssinia (Ethiopia). A city as big as Harappa has been discovered in Oman.
The Babylonians and Assyrians developed a second method for overcoming the crisis. The Babylonians developed industry and science, while the Assyrians established a trade monopoly in a continuous effort to expand Sumerian civilization, while simultaneously attempting to resolve the serious problems it faced. In terms of science and industry, Babel was the true London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Venice of its time. In fact, during its ascension it was even more famous than today’s New York. It was no accident that Alexander drew his last breath in a waning Babel. It could even be argued that Saddam was the last tragic victim of the love for Babel, alongside thousands of others who cannot be enumerated here.
When I try to unravel Assyria’s trade monopoly, the trade monopolies of Venice, Netherlands, and England spring to mind. The Assyrian trade monopoly, along with the Phoenician monopoly, was perhaps the most enterprising and creative in history. It is undisputed that the Assyrians developed trading networks—the famous karums, places of profit, kârhaneler—from Central Asia (even, it is claimed, reaching China) to Western Anatolia, from Arabia to the shores of Black Sea.6 There is no question that they founded the first major trading empire. This trading octopus can be divided into three periods: 2000 BCE–1600 BCE, 1600 BCE– 1300 BCE, and, finally, 1300 BCE–600 BCE. In this sense, it is unparalleled. Nonetheless, apart from a limited capacity to expand and strengthen the central Sumerian civilization, trade offers little else of analytical value for an overall solution of problems. Moreover, the trade monopoly has always been a collaborator of the main monopoly—the priest + the soldier + the ruler. Disagreements among them never goes beyond struggles over higher profit shares. Yet the fact that Assyria was a vehicle for the Sumerian central civilization for 1,500 years should not be underestimated. It is one of the strongest links in the chain of civilization.
Harrappa, Oman, Hittite, Mitanni, and Egypt easily fell into internal decay, because they were unable to achieve a similar success. It is undeniable that the most decisive role in the uninterrupted reign of central civilization was played by the Phoenicians, the Medes-Persians, and the late Hittites, as well as the Assyrians, who influenced Greek civilization through trading contact. The trade monopoly did not solve the existing problems, but, by spreading products that aid development (including ideas and beliefs) everywhere, it facilitated the ongoing growth and survival of the civilization for a while longer. Otherwise, it would have inevitably shared the fate of Harappa. History may have repeated itself for several thousand years, but let’s not forget that the trade monopoly is the cruelest form of capital accumulation monopoly, whose political representatives never hesitated to engage in the most brutal of practices, e.g., castles and ramparts built from human skulls. Moreover, it is well-known that trade monopolies use price differences and differences in the production costs of goods to attain significant profit with minimal labor.
Here, we are not talking about small commodity exchanges or trade for nonprofit purposes or consumption. We are talking about monopolistic profit-driven trade. It is very likely that Harappa collapsed because it was unable to expand outward and develop trade. The New Kingdom of Egypt (1600–1000 BCE), which failed to develop the skills necessary to establish a trade monopoly and open up to the outside world, withered away under the dual impact of internal struggles and external attacks. Our world might have been different had the New Kingdom of Egypt expanded as much as Sumer. China, on the other hand, did not see the need to overflow its borders, perhaps because it was already large enough. Clearly, the boom of the first central civilization reached another stage by spreading the grave problems it caused across the world.
There are intellectuals who postulate that for the first time in history the Anatolian, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian civilizations acquired a central and hegemonic character primarily by becoming intertwined between 1600 and 1200 BCE. Although it is not called a golden age, it is clear that there was a great leap in urbanization, trade, and the development of an aristocracy. Evidently, the spread of the problem has contributed to the frequent shift in the location of the central hegemony and prolonged the life of the system. The famous Treaty of Kadesh (an Egyptian-Hittite peace treaty concluded around 1280 BCE) reflects the reality of this period.7
The crisis of the central civilization from 1200 to 800 BCE eased as iron working techniques superseded bronze technology (3000–1000 BCE). While the developments in production and war techniques always contribute to any era’s uniqueness, social development is undoubtedly the decisive factor, but this social development is closely linked to technology. The hegemonic center moved outside Mesopotamia for the first time, taking the initial steps in the shift to the West and toward Europe. In this shift, the Median-Persian Empire (600–330 BCE) by land and the Phoenicians (1200–330 BCE) by sea would constitute the transitional phase. The Urartu (850–600 BCE) would later play a similar role. Social crisis, although not completely overcome, was alleviated by iron technology and widespread secure trade routes sustaining civilization. The Median-Persian Empire (hegemony) initiated important trade offensives via the land and the Phoenicians via the Mediterranean Sea. The Greeks were a colony of these two civilizations for a long time. Western-centric history considers the Greek-Ionian civilization to be original, but more realistic research shows that this civilization acquired most of its features from the expansion of these two civilizations. When we add Egyptian, Babylonian, and Cretan influence to the Median-Persian and Phoenician influences, then it becomes undeniable that the famous Greek civilization is largely an imported product.
No doubt the Greek-Ionian synthesis cannot be underestimated, but it is clearly not original. In fact, none of the civilizations are original. They are all based on gathering Neolithic society’s values, either by extortion or through trade monopoly, and often both. Alterations of these values may have led to new syntheses, but, as Gordon Childe points out, only the developments in Europe from the sixteenth century onward are comparable to Neolithic society’s technological innovations in the Taurus and Zagros arc in 6000–4000 BCE. The construction of the central civilization began around this technology with the rise of the city of Uruk from 4000 BCE onward. The most fundamental factor in the conflict between the goddess Inanna and the god Enki is the mes (the Neolithic technology organized around women, with me meaning technical invention) that Enki stole from Inanna. Here the relationship between male supremacy, which develops parallel to civilization, and the control of technology is emphasized. This example alone indicates the great educational value of Sumerian mythology. Of course, the language of those days isn’t that of today; it was charged with mythology.
The Greek-Ionian civilization (600–300 BCE), rising on both shores of the Aegean, was undoubtedly an important link in the historical chain. It marked a great breakthrough in social development, making significant contributions, both in terms of the mindset and in technical and practical areas. It also greatly improved upon the legacy of the Phoenicians in maritime transportation. It formed colonies all along the shores of Europe. By developing the technique of writing, again influenced by the Phoenician legacy, Greek-Ionian civilization made an important contribution to today’s alphabet. In fact, it was responsible for revolutionary developments in all of the known sciences of the day, as well as a total revolution in philosophy. It put an end to the era of Sumerian gods with Olympian gods, while the works of Homer carried the tradition of the Gilgamesh Epic to its peak. There were similar revolutionary developments in theater, music, and architecture, with magnificent cities built. Building techniques for temples, palaces, theaters, stadiums, and assembly halls from that period continue to reverberate today. And neither the leap forward in production and trade nor the progress in industry should be downplayed. Historic examples of democracy were introduced in the political realm that proved the superiority of democracy over other forms of governance, even if within the framework of civilization. All of the above does not, however, change the fact that Greek-Ionian civilization is a link in the central civilization system that began with the Sumerians—it confirms it.
When we consider the role that Greek civilization played in solving the social problem, or, better, its part in the development of the problem, it becomes clear that there is no essential difference between this civilization and the ones that preceded it. All progress made, in particular by Athenian democracy, indicates that the problems of central civilization were aggravated—not solved. A few examples follow.
Women’s captivity deepened. They were not only obliged to produce children and serve men at home like the lowest of slaves, they were banned from participating in politics, sports, science, or administration. They were obliged to do all the difficult production work. Plato was of the opinion that living with a woman demeaned a man’s nobility, one of the reasons for the widespread homosexual relationships at that time. Slavery in general, not only women’s, also expanded immensely during this period. For the first time, there was a large number of unemployed slaves. This was also when the military institution of mercenaries first arose. Not only goods but also slaves were widely exported. In contrast, the most parasitic class of masters sprung up, and the concept of an aristocracy came into being. The social sphere was overrun with parasitic elements. The segments of society closest to the bourgeois class were the product of the Greek civilization. In short, new problems were added to the already existing problems, and existing problems were aggravated.
Urban development attained magnificence and the city an organic structure, but these developments were achieved at the expense of further aggravating the social problem. It is almost as if the structures of ziggurats and pyramids were pulled to pieces only to be replicated in much greater dimension. The first phase of the city was the temple and its appendages, the second phase was the construction of the citadel and the surrounding inner and outer ramparts in its foothills, and in the third phase these divisions were removed, and, with new additions, the city attained the spatial richness and splendor. All of this ran parallel to the growth of monopoly. These developments didn’t solve the problems but, once again, amplified them. The army of slaves exploded, and the number of unemployed slaves grew for the first time, as people found themselves redundant. This is as severe as a social problem can get. A system that produces unemployment is the cruelest of systems.
A similar growth can be observed in power and the state apparatuses. Power spread to occupy not only the upper floors of society but the lower floors as well. The state’s domination of the society grew as it gained a stranglehold on the political sphere. A state bureaucracy was formed, and the military class reinforced its privilege. In general, a rise in power over women, children and youth, slaves, peasants, and craftspeople was palpable in the social fabric. The worst thing about Athenian democracy was the way the state blatantly hollowed out politics. The communal democratic tradition seems to have drawn its last breath with the help of the Athenian aristocracy, and this is surely the most important lesson to be learned from Athenian democracy.
The monopoly of Roman civilization (750 BCE–500 CE) is a continuation of the Greek-Ionian tradition and should be evaluated within that framework. It is an example of the transfer of civilization from one peninsula to another. The most important thing to be said at this point is that if the Greeks were this civilization’s period of childhood and youth, Rome was its maturity and old age. What had been taken from the East was assimilated and synthesized by Rome in a way that gave this civilization an edge over the East for the first time. Another of Rome’s successes was integrating parts of Europe into civilization through brutal occupation and colonization. In all other ways, Rome was little more than an over-growth of the Greek touchstone. Nonetheless, class and power evolved to a fantastic degree in the city, and the kingdom was transformed into an aristocratic republic, laying the base for the most powerful and extensive empire in history. As the Roman way of life became fashionable everywhere, the Roman aristocracy, like the bourgeoisie of today’s modernity, was the decisive power of the modernity of the time. Parasitic aristocracy and a lumpenproletariat were stark reminders of Rome’s raging problems.
It can be said that the social problem reached its peak during the Roman period. Little wonder. There is a direct link between the cumulative growth of the central civilization’s monopoly and the growth of the inherent problem caused by it. Despite the terrible punishments (crucifixion, being torn apart by lions, cities, including Carthage, razed),8 the internal conquest of society by Christianity, the political party of the poor, and the flow of the barbarian clans from the outside into Rome meant an explosion of problems—in essence, an outburst of the spirit of freedom. It is clear that the true barbarian was Rome, and that its collapse was caused by the enormous and ever-growing internal and external social problems. The collapse of Rome marked not only the end of the Roman city, Roman power, and the Roman aristocracy but the decline of the civilization that had its roots in the emergence of the city of Uruk, with its characteristic structure of center-periphery, competition-hegemony, and rise-fall—indeed, it was the collapse of the world system itself. Thus, the most savage period in history came to a close as a result of the problems caused by this anti-society system and the internal and external resistance that developed against it.
From Rome to Amsterdam
The distinctive feature of the period from 500 to 1500 CE is the rise of the Abrahamic religions. They emerged with a message meant to solve the existing problems and left their mark on this period. It is necessary to elaborate on the role of the Abrahamic religions, because, although they hoped to offer a solution, in the end, they created additional social problems.
The social message of the Abrahamic religions suggests that the problematic material structure of the central civilization system was transformed into a problematic immaterial structure. In other words, the problems of the material culture echoed in the problems of the immaterial culture. The holy books clearly state that the prophet Abraham fled or emigrated from the tyranny of Nimrod, the Babylonian representative in Urfa, and the increasing problems that tyranny gave rise to. His survival and escape from being burned is presented as a miracle of divine origin.9 The fact that he was searching for a new god is also presented as a clear sign. We could interpret the search for God as a search for a new regime. The narrative also presents many other features of the severely problematic structure of that period. Abraham’s hegira is estimated to have occurred around 1700 BCE. This hegira takes Abraham from a civilization with Mesopotamian roots to one with Egyptian roots. This suggests that passage between the two civilizations was possible. It may be that Abraham was looking for sanctuary and a new ally. His life in Canaan (present-day Palestine and Israel) confirms this thesis. He and his family left a small tribe and formed a new one in Canaan. His grandson Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, where his talents saw him rise to the position of vizier in the pharaoh’s palace. It is worth noting that women played an important role in palace life and in his rise. In Hebrew history, women always played important roles.
A Hebrew tribe was also formed in Egypt but lived in semi-slavery. Tribe members suffered greatly by this. Nimrod was replaced by the pharaoh, whom he, for his part, had hoped to get rid of. It was at this point, around 1300 BCE, that Moses led the hegira. The narrative of this journey and its many miracles is recounted in the Holy Scripture. It is similar to Abraham’s story, with a return to Canaan. Compared to Egypt, Canaan was a sort of “promised land.” The God they sought on Mount Sinai called out to the tribe more clearly with the Ten Commandments, effectively the principles of organization and the political program of the tribe, gained from lengthy experience. The tribe firmly abandoned the religions of Nimrod and the pharaoh and established its own ethnic religion (worldview and program). The story of the later periods is presented in a divine voice at length in the Holy Scripture, not as mythological stories, as was the case in Sumer and Egypt, but as religious rules understood as absolute truth (orthodoxy).
This is a major revolution in the history of religion and a great intellectual revolution in its time. Research shows that the Hebrew tradition is one of the Middle East’s most sophisticated sources of memory. I believe that the Hebrews transformed the essence of Sumerian and Egyptian mythology into a form of religious discourse (rhetoric). Throughout the historical process, the Bible was continuously developed with additions drawn from Zoroastrianism and from Babylonian (especially during the exile of 596 BCE), Phoenician, Hurrian, and Greek sources. Let’s not forget that the Bible was first assembled between 700 and 600 BCE, and there are no earlier written sections.
It bears saying that throughout history, the Jewish people have not only accumulated capital and money but also most impressively ideology, science, and knowledge. They transformed their numerical inferiority into worldwide strength with the help of these two strategic accumulations. The Jewish ethnic group (initially as a tribe, nowadays as a nation) has been able to hold on to a relatively superior level of life at the margins and in strategic positions of power—not only today but throughout time—because of these two accumulations. But the catastrophes and the terrible problems they faced were also closely related to this. When analyzing history and present developments, if we proceed methodologically from the presumption that capital and knowledge equal might and power, and that power equals monopoly over capital and knowledge, then the social problem can be understood more clearly and realistically. Here I will confine myself to a brief examination of how the Abrahamic religions caused even more complex historical and social problems, as I will examine their role in solving these enormous problems in greater detail in the section titled “Envisaging a Democratic Civilization System.”
The Old Testament presents the post-Moses period in the form of leaders, priests (Levites), prophet-rulers, prophets, and writers. It is possible to add to this intellectuals, scholars, and other similar categories for later periods. It seems that all the wisdom (priestly innovations) originating in Sumerian and Egyptian mythologies were treated as prophetic in the Old Testament. The main task of the prophets was to solve the unprecedented social problem created by a civilization based on monopoly. If we bear in mind that surplus product and capital accumulation were procured through forced labor on the basis of enslavement and by military means, what lies behind the enormous accumulation of problems becomes clearer. Prophecy reflects the impact of this reality on the social sectors experiencing severe problems. Grasping its institutional character in this manner opens the way to a better understanding of history.
We observe that Moses’s ideological and political program gave birth to a small state around 1000 BCE, approximately three hundred years after his death, under the reign of the prophets Saul, David, and Solomon. The solution they found to the severe social problem they faced after all of these struggles was to develop a state apparatus and rule of their own. It is clear that this state was not as democratic as the Athenian state, was a lot weaker, and had fewer options to offer than the Egyptian and Babylonian-Assyrian traditions in which the Hebrew tribe had lived for such a long time. Given this, why was the Abrahamic tradition so state-focused? Because the state was the invention of the prophet, and his followers were provided the lands in Canaan as the “promised land.”
The first Jewish state quickly collapsed as a result of familiar power struggles and occupation (i.e., the power struggle between the sons and grandsons of David and Solomon and Assyrian threats and occupation). It is comparable to the Israel founded in the same place three thousand years later. However, we should pay attention to this prophetic construct, which, with the help of ideological and monetary capital, exerted great influence on the powers of central civilization throughout history.
The prophet Jesus’s tradition is the second most important Abrahamic religion. Its message advances a solution to the entangled problems resulting from the destructiveness of the occupying Roman forces. Jesus is called the Christ, the Messiah (the Redeemer). It is befitting that this movement, which initiated the Gregorian calendar, has been described as the first ecumenical (universal) party of Rome’s lumpenproletariat and poor. It is far from the militant character of the Mosaic movement. It can be said to have grown out of the lower segments of the Hebrew tribe and to be the product of the circumstances (objective conditions) in which tribal organization lost its ability to resolve problems, while the emergence of classes, urbanization, and attaining power had eroded communal values. This is the basis for its universal and class character. At the time, there was an acceleration in the dissolution of many other tribes and peoples in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Greek, Assyrian-Babylonian, and, finally, Roman colonial movements exposed the unemployed and poor masses who had broken away from their tribes to hunger and homelessness, creating an intense search for a master and a messiah. It is clear that Jesus’s movement is the collective expression of that search. In fact, he calls himself the “Message,” and the Old Testament is renewed as the New Testament (the Bible). The civilizational culture and language at the time were Assyrian-Aramaic, Babylonian-Chaldean, Greek-Hellenic, and Jewish-Hebrew. Roman-Latin was a recent arrival. It is said that Jesus spoke Aramaic, while Hellenic became quite widespread in the region during the Hellenic era. Aramaic had been the language of trade and culture in the region for around a thousand years. Hellenic would later attain that status. Hebrew, on the other hand, as far as we know, was the language of the sacred text, with Latin finding its place more generally as the new language of ruling.
No traces of Arabic had yet been encountered. Arabic was widely used among the dessert tribes, becoming a civilizational language with the urbanization on the Arabian Peninsula. Arabic was to conquer the region only with the onset of the Islamic revolution. Although traces of Persian dialects can be found, their advanced forms are only encountered within the Taurus and Zagros Mountain systems and in the Persian-Sasanian civilization centers. Furthermore, numerous languages and cultures, especially Sumerian and Coptic (Egypt), were vitiated and eliminated by the influence of the central civilization. Armenian was also becoming an influential language in the region.
The conflict between the two hegemonic powers over the region, with one identifying its origins in the East and the other in the West, continued at full speed: the Iranian and Caucasian–centered Sasanian Empire and the Italian and Roman–centered empire. The Mesopotamian-centered civilization, which shifted out of the region for the first time following its establishment three thousand years earlier, continued the legacy shared by these two great hegemonic civilizations. The extremely violent wars between them were in essence about the legacy of Mesopotamian civilization. Perhaps history’s most constant and intense hegemonic struggle was experienced in this period. Alexander’s attacks and the resulting situation can be interpreted as the first round of this battle, but it would still be a long time before the center of civilization shifted to the West. Nonetheless, it was clear that the first steps in this direction had been taken.
We can also see that Greek philosophy within the Roman Empire and the Zoroastrian doctrine (more secular and moral) within the Persian-Sasanian Empire did not solve the problems stemming from both civilization monopolies. The war between the two was in fact a reflection of this deadlock. The limited potential surplus value makes the war between the monopolies—the most popular method of accumulation—grow in number and quality. War, in essence, has been the historical means to accumulate capital and power in civilization. It has nothing to do with the stories of legendary heroes. That is the propaganda aspect. The most meaningful description is clearly that wars, including those today, are, in the final analysis, the means by which capital and power change hands. Therefore, when reading history, we need to always keep in mind that wars take place and play a role at the center of the most fundamental forces of production and their relations. In comparison, defensive wars aim to protect the land and other forces of production and their relations and freedom—in a nutshell, the identity of society—and, to this end, its moral and political structure and its democracy, if it exists. Defensive wars owe their legitimacy to this fact.
Monopoly wars are often seen as the engine in the history of civilization. This is correct insofar as war has resulted in technological advances and organizational and operational innovations. However, we must not forget that wars are essentially the most antisocial, even the most unnatural, phenomena and beyond brutality. Yet they have their origins in society, since they act as a means for monopolization. In order for the society to cease being a society, they suck up these resources.
The phrase turning the other cheek attributed to the prophet Jesus no doubt expresses the search for great peace. It is clear that wars mean a loss of production, while peace means a substantial increase in production. Peace played a major role in Christ’s movement, because it was clear that the massive unemployment and poverty at that time stemmed from the endless wars. This movement would retain this quality for three hundred years, infiltrating everywhere the Romans and Sasanians went, and reverberating as far away as China and India. The Manichaean movement, similar in nature but primarily Sasanian-based, appeared during the same period and also deserves attention. The Prophet Mani said, “I will personally go all the way to Rome and make peace with the Sasanians possible.” If the Manichaean movement, a doctrine that combines aspects of Christianity and Zoroastrianism with a number of deeper qualities, had not been crushed by the tyrannical Sasanian rulers it would perhaps have led to a new Renaissance in the Middle East.
Christianity (it may be more fitting to speak of one denomination among a number claiming the name) became an official religion during the construction of Constantinople (İstanbul), and from that date (325 CE) onward rapidly became the official ideology throughout Eastern and Western Rome. While our subject is not the history of Christianity, the relationship of Christianity to the social problem and power monopolies is an aspect of our subject. Just as the original Mosaic movement ended in a state, its renewed version, Christ’s movement (at least the majority tendency) also ended in power and the state. This movement not only became the official ideology of Byzantium, it became a powerful state in Rome by around 1000 CE. It indeed became much more than that; it came to be the sum of thousands of extensive and powerful society-based apparatuses of power, perhaps best referred to, both in symbolic and official terms, as the state.
For our purposes the internal strife within Christianity, conflicts between the Catholics and Orthodox and the rise of other famous denominations, are only important for indicating how problematic Christianity had become. While Christianity aimed to be a religion of peace, it became so militarist that it even adopted burning people at the stake, which shows us how deeply the essence of the central civilization runs. How else are we to explain the fact that Christianity has been the source of more wars than the war ideologies of mythological origin? The crusades against Islam in the East, the suppression of tribal religions and witches in Europe, later internal denominational fighting, and its role in colonial warfare in the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Eastern Asia led Christianity to completely stray from its aim. Assyrians, Armenians, Chaldeans, and Anatolian Hellenes, who were the earliest peoples to accept Christianity, clung to this religion, because they thought it would be a remedy for the profound social problems they faced, but they too fell victim to the religion’s ultimate ties to the central civilization. Christianity, which they interpreted as some sort of nationalism, rapidly brought them face to face with the power monopolies of other peoples. While Western Christianity achieved power at the cost of its essential message, Eastern and Anatolian Christianity were crushed by forces that put on the masks of both Judaism—the initial Abrahamic tradition—and Islam—its third version, and then were totally wiped out by other nationalisms (Arab, Turkish, Kurdish). Here we are confronted with striking examples of how the social problem is augmented.
I must repeat my thesis: the Abrahamic tradition, inter alia Christianity, represents the immaterial culture that reflects the material culture of the central civilization. More precisely, it aims to solve the grave social problem that this material culture, namely, monopoly, has caused, just as real socialism (scientific socialism) sought to solve the problem originating in capitalism. But because the science and ways of life they developed to do so did not in fact subvert the relevant patterns of the era and of modernity, they could not escape becoming a new version of the central civilization—i.e., either a new hegemon or a dependent weaker power. Those who insist on remaining radical and sincere in their assertions cannot avoid being eliminated, although they will leave behind an important legacy. For this reason, I always compare the Abrahamic tradition to the social democratic movement of our time. Just as social democracy didn’t go beyond patching up the grave problems caused by capitalist civilization, Abrahamic religions that played a more universal role over a long historical period were also content with some reforms, which were treated as the solution to problems caused by the central civilization that left masses unemployed, suffering, and hungry. In the final analysis, they were also unable to escape becoming a problem. The Abrahamic tradition, as an ideological and political program, is worthy of careful analysis, an analysis that is essential if we are to understand the capitalist world system in its entirety. These analytical efforts are of great value, both in connecting Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-system to the five-thousand-year-old central civilization system and for understanding how real socialism collapsed from within.
When we analyze Islam, which is the third important Abrahamic religion, we can see the essence of this tradition more clearly. Islam represents a more proficient ideological and political orientation. When I look at the reality of the Prophet Mohammad, I always see him as the greatest representative of the last generation of the Sumerian priests who constructed the first great divine concepts. Behind the Sumerian priests, who constructed gods based on mythological concepts, are the most advanced religious and mythological traditions of that period. We need to keep in mind that the Prophet Mohammad internalized—albeit in a limited way—the religious, mythological, and even philosophical and scientific knowledge that was available in his own time and place. Just as he knew about the tribal systems, he got to know the civilization from the reflections of the two global hegemonic powers, the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires. Mohammad diagnosed the grave problems both systems inflicted on society. In addition to the corrupting effects of Arab tribalism, he experienced firsthand the oppressive and exploitative structure of Byzantine and Sasanian power monopolies that blocked society’s development and dismantled it. It is thus understandable that he sought a radical break with both systems. Like Jesus, he was closer to the lower social strata. He did not hesitate to sympathize with both slaves and women. Although he was influenced by the Mosaic and Assyrian priests, he was also a witness to their inability to solve the problems within their societies. He considered the pagan religions (the idols in Mecca) to be outdated traditions that had long ago run their course. The message of the “last prophet” of the Abrahamic tradition was one of the things that most attracted his attention. Under these circumstances, he did the best he could by daring to make the third major reform (which could also be called a revolution) in the Abrahamic tradition.
The position taken by Marx and Engels on the utopians and Mohammad’s position regarding the Mosaics, Christians, and even the Sabians (a group that also believed in one god) are similar. While Marx and Engels drew a distinction between genuine socialism and utopian socialism, Mohammad updated the outdated Abrahamic traditions in the form of a new truth. In other words, he provided a more realistic religious interpretation. The Koran and the hadiths are there; they emphatically preach not only an ideological and political program but also a new morality. They also have their own economic principles. Mohammad even restructured the rules of war. I will analyze his method, which can be called “the prophet’s way,” more comprehensively in the section that deals with science. For now, I will make do by saying that it is a good tradition.
It could easily be argued that Islam, which has more advanced views than original Christianity and Judaism, is civilizational. Within ten years of its emergence, it had succeeded in becoming the heir to all of the previous civilizations in the Middle East. Islam was able to establish the most powerful hegemonic ruling system in the region in 650 CE. Although the point here is not to address this particular history, we will continue to examine it in relation to social problems in the region, as well as in the world overall (because it presents itself to the world as the “good news”).
We can be certain that the Prophet Mohammad’s understanding of Allah is a social abstraction of the highest order and an expression of social identity. I think Islamic theologians have been very lazy in this regard and are unworthy of Mohammad. The richness and evolution of theology in Christianity has almost been suspended in Islam. I won’t go into this any further here, as I will be returning to it later. It is nonetheless important to understand why Mohammad focused so heavily on the concept of Allah and charged it with such an enormous degree of sacredness. As I see it, Mohammad was not addressing a theoretical discussion about the existence of Allah but rather dealt with the social essence of Allah. He poured a lot of energy into this, which is reflected in his exhaustion and fainting when delivering the hadiths. This should be taken seriously. Allah, referred to with ninety-nine names, represents a more comprehensive social utopia and program than the most advanced social utopia, and, in this regard, Mohammad is both realistic and responsible in his deference. The misfortune was not only the ignorance of those after Mohammad, but also that they were rapidly taken by a lust for power.
Islam, as a revolution, is perhaps one of the most betrayed revolutions in this regard. Aside from not implementing the Prophet Mohammad’s perspective, program, and way of life, the leaders after him, including the caliphs, failed to understand them and betrayed them in what they did implement. We cannot predict how well the Prophet Ali might have implemented the Prophet Mohammad’s ideas, as he was unable to conclude his efforts. The interpretations and praxis of all denominations, especially Sunnism, are far removed from Mohammad’s teachings. To put it baldly, the sultanate traditions that began with the Ummayads are nothing more than power monopolies that are much worse than the ones that preceded them.10 I am sure that radical Islam is a disease of power that, far from reviving Islam, does it undeserved harm. It is most befitting to refer to these ignorant Islamists as provocative Islam.11 If there is a message that can be taken from Islam, it would only make sense under a different name and in a different form. I leave further thoughts on this topic for later.
I attach importance to the real monopoly of power in the name of Islam but not as Islam, because Islam ceases to exist in this monopoly of power. It is nothing more than state symbols and rulers that follow in the footsteps of the Assyrian, Persian, Roman, and Byzantine lineages. I say this in relation to Islam as power. As an element of immaterial culture, there are, of course, areas where it is influential. I should emphasize that I do not see the utility of naming societies after ideologies. For example, calling a society Christian, Islamic, or Hindu reduces society to religion and leads to numerous inadequacies and errors. These concepts prevent an understanding of the actual nature of society. The same applies to concepts such as capitalist and socialist society. I will return to this topic at a more appropriate point. The most befitting and meaningful concepts would be democratic civilization society and monopolistic civilization society, because that makes the whole of society visible.
The central civilization systems had hegemony in the Middle East, which was by and large under Islamic rule from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries. Islamic rulers further expanded upon and further entrenched the power they inherited from the Byzantines and Sasanians, and society was being ruled in an unprecedented way. There was an increase in the number of big tribes, dynasties, and states controlled by these rulers. As a result, there was no decrease in the pace of wars for power; in fact, the increase continued. The military monopoly held the real power, but there were also developments in the trade monopoly. Islam is predominantly an ideology of military and trade monopolies. Cities grew, while developments in agriculture and industry were much more limited, as was also the case in the arts—it certainly failed to surpass what was achieved by the Greeks.
The period of Islamic rulers and Islamic states marks the end of the Middle East’s hegemonic power. By the end of fifteenth century, the hegemonic core of the central civilization had shifted from Venice to Western Europe, and from there to Amsterdam and London. The Middle East was the Neolithic center between 10,000 and 3000 BCE and was the central civilization for 4500 years, from 3000 BCE to 1500 CE. Thereafter, under the weight of the enormous problems of civilization, the Middle East was worn out, had exhausted itself in attempts at self-renewal, and became, so to speak, a social wreck.
When we evaluate the role of the Abrahamic tradition within the central civilization system in terms of problems, we see that it was unable to limit power; on the contrary, it further amplified it. States increased in numbers and grew in size. Therefore, the problems arising from monopoly of power and the state multiplied, and war continued to be the far preferred means for securing monopoly. Concepts of democracy and the republic were unknown. For the most part, traditional rule by a dynasty persevered and became more common.
Second, the society grew weaker, while power and the state became stronger. The area of social morality and politics narrowed considerably, with denominations developing largely in response to this. Male dominance over women and youth grew apace. While the forms of slavery associated with pharaonic power disappeared, new forms of slavery (especially of Africans and northern Slavic people) became commonplace. The city and commerce grew but continued to lag behind their former glory and never reached the level seen in the Greco-Roman city or its commercial life. Nor were there agricultural or industrial advances worth noting.
Third, and perhaps most negatively, it gave rise to problems—which reached genocidal levels—based in the prevailing tribal and peoples’ nationalism within the Abrahamic tradition. The expression “the chosen servant and people of God” lies at the root of this nationalism. Initially, the Hebrews were considered “the chosen people of God,” and then the Arabs took the title of the “noble people” for themselves. The Turkic tribes went a step further, and the rubric of Islamic heroism turned being Islamic into a deep-rooted identity. Assyrians consecrated themselves as the very first people to embrace Christianity, while Greeks and Armenians would later insist that they were among the initial sacred peoples. The spread of Christianity to Europe played an important role in accelerating nationalism rather than ecumenism (universalism). Russian nationalism is also, in a sense, the product of Orthodox Christianity.
Along with such an influence on tribal nationalism, the Abrahamic tradition didn’t simply drown the ancient peoples of the Middle East in problems, it brought them tragedy and disaster. The most ancient peoples to become Christians, including the Assyrians, Armenians, Pontus, and Ionians, were brought to the brink of social extinction by the Islamized Arab, Turkish, and Kurdish rulers. The role of Judaism in this cannot be underestimated either. The elimination of Armenians, Assyrians, Ionians, Pontus, and Yazidis, as well as other non-Muslim peoples and their cultures, rendered the Middle East in general, and Anatolia in particular, cultural desserts. With the decline of these peoples, who carried with them the oldest known cultures, the region they had inhabited fell into extreme backwardness. This was a tragic loss for all the peoples of the region, as the elimination of these peoples and their cultures not only aggravated the social problem but also substantially undermined attempts to find a solution. Without these peoples and their cultures, which had been leaders of development in many branches of science and the arts, society in the region lost its artistic and scientific memory and ability.
In the name of Christianity, similar tragedies were delivered upon the Native peoples in North America, the Aztecs and Incas in South America, the Indigenous people of Australia, and the Inuit. Even when they have religious attributes, regimes that are charmed by power and lust will commit any villainy and cause all sorts of problems and tragedies. I must emphasize that the perspective, program, and practical life of the Abrahamic religious tradition, under the significant influence of the material culture of the central civilization, is not attempting to surpass this civilization but rather to mitigate it and make it fairer. The Abrahamic religious tradition sought a reform to allow them a share of the surplus value and the right to join the monopoly. They offered their ideology to legitimize power and, in exchange, demanded their share from those in power. If their demand was not met, they instigated resistance, falling silent when their demands were finally met—something that we also see with European socialism. And, as we shall see, there is a continuity between the two. They have both undoubtedly played a major role in the maintenance and universalization of this ancient civilization. In the end, the Abrahamic religious tradition failed to reduce the ancient social problem of oppression and exploitation. To the contrary, both oppression and exploitation increased and were perpetuated.
Eurocentric Civilization’s Hegemonic Rule
Since the 1500s, the European civilization that has been on the rise worldwide has been consistently referred to as capitalist. It has been asserted that it is unique and unprecedented. The ways in which it is unprecedented are continuously emphasized (the nation-state, industry, and informatics).12 Its intellectual hegemony means that the claims made by the Eurocentric social sciences are presented as positive facts. These positive facts, which it is hoped will be accepted as strict and absolute facts—even more so than religious facts—are at heart the dogmas of the new modernity.
It cannot be denied that the structure of European civilization underwent a transformation into something different. But throughout history, the central civilization has evolved, getting to know many places and time. The form taken by the central civilization in one time and place was not identically reproduced in other times and places; differentiation has been continuous. Furthermore, this development is in keeping with universal flow. But the claim that European society is unprecedented is exaggerated. The fundamental characteristics that have marked the central civilization from its very beginning and determined its character have remained essentially unchanged for five thousand years. Administration may take different forms, and there may be differences in proportion, technique, organizational structures, issues of efficiency, and questions of ideology. But the one characteristic that remains stable whatever the differences or the forms adopted is the monopoly’s hegemonic control of surplus product. The content may change, but the monopoly itself doesn’t. The triad of priest + soldier + regent always exists. Their significance may vary at different times and in different places, but monopoly requires the continued existence of these groups. The methods of appropriating surplus product or values may differ, but the principle never changes. Surplus product may be accumulated either through increased efficiency within agriculture or industry or through trade or military conquests. There may be times when particular methods are central, but accumulation is always the result of the sum of these methods.
We must take care to understand the monopoly. It is neither purely capital nor purely power. It is not exclusively formed in the areas of trade, military, and administration. It is the consolidated expression of all these values and areas. In fact, monopoly is not the economy either. It is the power to use organizations, technology, and violence to secure its extortion in the economic area; it is the company. This is not a traditional company but, in the final analysis, a corporation to accumulate capital. Sometimes it appears as a power apparatus that has not yet become the state, while at other times it appears as the state itself. Nowadays, it often takes the title of “business enterprise.” As I have already mentioned, rather than seeing it as part of the economy, it makes more sense to describe it as “an enterprise intent on extorting the economy.” It sometimes projects itself in the military form but generally prefers merchant’s union and industrial monopoly. Like an octopus, a monopoly can have many arms. At times, it may emerge as the combined effect of different forces and potentials. Whatever the case may be, the key thing is that surplus value accumulates in its hands as capital. This is the fundamental unchanged and uninterrupted reality that has grown cumulatively over the past five thousand years. The competition and hegemony, rise and fall, and center and periphery in different times and places all serve the continuity of this reality and act to ensure that it carries on like the links in an unbroken chain.
It must be pointed out that concepts such as capitalism and the capitalist system are used for propaganda purposes. In terms of contents, we can determine corresponding parallels for these concepts. However, if they are interpreted as phenomena, incidents, and systematic relations, they are very likely to distort the nature of society and its problems. Social life unfolds differently. The dimension of the resulting social problems makes clear that this flow requires a new language and a new science.
If capitalism is a system of capital accumulation, then it has been proved that this form of accumulation was first comprehensively achieved in the Sumerian city-states—although in a relatively primitive form, capital with its enterprises, money, warehouses, organization, and administration formed the foundation of these city-states. Perhaps the city itself is the initial capital enterprise, the monopoly itself. The army of merchants, military men, scientists, and artists, together with priest-rulers and worker-slaves, were the fundamental social classes, even back then. The temple (ziggurat) is at the same time a factory, a place to take shelter for worker-slaves and the headquarters for ruler-military commanders and priests. Of course, the top floor was used by the gods for surveillance and supervision. All of these were arranged perfectly, one within the other. I find such a configuration marvelous and see the ziggurat as the womb in which our civilization with all its state, class, and city structures was formed. The tale of the five-thousand-year-old central civilization is nothing more than this temple having grown and spread across time and space.
I do not believe that a more perfect and original capitalist monopoly, enterprise, and company than that organized within this temple is possible. Just as the source of all cells is the mother cell, the mother cell of all these monopolistic structures is this temple, as is confirmed by the archeological excavations in this region to date. Archeologists agree that the latest discovery, the structure to which the t-shaped monoliths at Urfa-Göbekli Tepe belong, is the oldest temple we know of at this point (a temple of the hunter and gatherer societies that preceded the Neolithic Age around 10,000–8000 BCE).13 Each new excavation confirms that this is the original source of capital accumulation.
It cannot be denied that Eurocentric “capital” represents both the latest form and the absolute culmination of monopoly. This capital clearly differs from its predecessors in many ways, ranging from accumulation to production through organizational and administrative structures and military organization to monopoly of the arts, technology, and science. But it would be a huge exaggeration to say that this is unprecedented. Frankly speaking, this is Eurocentric propaganda; put another way, it is a claim made by the new class of modern temple priests of Europe (the army of the university, academic science, and the arts). We can easily say that these modern priests serve to legitimize the new “capitalist system” even more than do the Christian churches.
The objective here is not to write the history of the emergence of European civilization and its roots in the “capitalist system.” It is, however, one of the most clearly established facts of recent historical work that this civilization rose through the theological, commercial, scientific, technological, and administrative practices of fifth- and sixth-century Christianity and of ninth- and tenth-century Islam (especially, in the latter case, via the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsula). After 1250, there was a shift in the center of hegemonic civilization, and as civilizational centers in the East went into decline, those in Europe were on the rise. The thirteenth century is, of course, also recognized as the beginning of the commercial revolution. With Venice, Genoa, and Florence leading the way from the eleventh to the fifteenth century, not only were material goods brought from the East but so were the traditions, ideas, and techniques, processes and methods of a civilization that was thousands of years old; in short, all significant social values were imported in this way. It is equally clear that this played an important role in shifting the center of the civilization. Christianity, Greco-Roman civilization, and, further back, the Neolithic Revolution (5000–4000 BCE) were all undeniably transferred from the East to Europe. I believe that bringing the fifteen-thousand-years-old social cultures from Asian continent, especially from the Near East, to the European peninsula led to the most magnificent synthesis of the last five hundred years. In a nutshell, this is my interpretation of history!
I am not here being either pro-Oriental or pro-Occidental. My main concern, my objective, and the point of this undertaking is to correctly interpret the totality, continuity, and differences in the maintenance of historical-society in its entirety.
It is clear that more than just the fundamental methodology and structures of central civilization were transferred to the West. The social problems were also transplanted. I briefly touched on what Christianity brought with it. The East’s material civilizational values (trade, production, money, and the state) were as problematic as its immaterial values (Christianity, science). Europe, in a way, was immersed in these problems. Thus, it is not difficult to imagine the earthshaking impact of introducing the East’s complex and contradictory social nature into the still stable and young Neolithic agricultural society of Europe. The competition for shares among monopolies had led to thousands of years of warfare in the East. Europe was caught unprepared (preliminary work by Christianity was inadequate), which would, of course, later lead to much greater disaster and destruction. Conflicts that flared up within the system from the sixteenth century onward carried the mark of an Eastern legacy stretching back thousands of years. The conflicts experienced in the aftermath of the Roman Empire also carried the marks of this culture. I can say, without exaggeration, that the positive immaterial and material values of the central civilization were not all that was brought to Europe. Grave contradictions, problems, conflicts, and war arrived as well. The traces of the Eastern civilizational tradition can be very clearly seen in the disastrous genocides Europe is responsible for. Assyrian kings boast about building castles and ramparts out of human skulls. The Eastern despots enthuse about the many tribal, village, and city communities they annihilated and the people taken captive in the process—in so-called heroic stories!
European social scientists have not scrutinized the East without reason. I find their efforts valuable. But the Orientalism involved means they do not even come close to presenting the facts. Again, when compared with what has been produced by petrified Eastern minds, I have to acknowledge that we owe European social scientists a debt of gratitude. Even if their work had precolonialist intentions, it would still be more accurate to say that their real aim was to understand the story of how Europe was civilized. For the only way to understand Europe, including its contradictions, problems, and wars, is by analyzing the Near East. My efforts should be understood as a modest contribution to the subject of means and method.
The majority of the people in the East consider Europeans self-confident and very intelligent. I, however, found the Europeans that I met very naive and incredibly fragile, gullible, and unequipped to live in Eastern culture.
I believe European Neolithic social tradition had a huge influence on how Europe became civilized after the sixteenth century. At the beginning of sixteenth century, all the traditional European communities had embraced Christianity. But Europe also incorporated its own theological interpretations to all the developments in this process, including the urban revolutions after the tenth century. This led Europe to the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, as well as to scientific and philosophical revolutions. The East, in the face of the spread of Islam—the most recent civilizational tradition of Near East, was not able to show any development similar to that of Neolithic society. No doubt there were many successful Turkish, Persian, and Kurdish thinkers, scientists, and artists. There was even a limited Eastern Renaissance from the eighth to the twelfth century. However, the fossilized structure of traditional Eastern despotism was quick to dominate any society that it penetrated to the point of saturation. This was another very important aspect of the intra-Islam struggles. Of course, the real point was to secure a monopoly. Besides the society based on the Eastern Neolithic tradition had by this point lost all of its previous vibrancy and was worn out. It had fallen into ignorance and despair. On the other hand, Europe’s Neolithic tradition was youthful, free, and much more creative, because, unlike the Eastern societies, Europe didn’t face a five-thousand-year-old despotism. In addition, as previously mentioned, it was able to absorb the positive aspects of the great Eastern experience. These two fundamental issues are key to understanding the historical emergence of Europe.
Immanuel Wallerstein and social science groups closely associated with him analyze the “capitalist world-system” that began to develop in the sixteenth century. However, the above very short explanation serves to show that their assessments, which fail to integrate the actual historical basis of this development or the fact that capital is a very ancient invention, have, to say the least, many shortcomings. Moreover, his comments on the intensification of accumulation of capital in the Venice, Amsterdam, and London triangle show similar weaknesses. In the absence of pressure applied to Italy, Netherlands, and England throughout the sixteenth century by Charles V and his son Philippe II, would it have been possible for money-capital to be so intensely invested in manufacturing and agricultural production?14 Was Amsterdam not the site of the national insurrection and the progress that Venice was unable to achieve, and wasn’t it London that was able to use internal political and military resistance against external political and military pressure to reach a successful conclusion? The response to both of these questions validates Fernand Braudel’s statement: intensifying power and the state secrete capitalism.15 I want to take it a step further and say that power and the state are monopolies and capital in themselves. Indeed, if they were not a capital monopoly, it would not be possible for them to secrete capital. Just as you cannot milk a male goat, you cannot milk capital from power and state apparatuses that are not monopolies.
The factors that actually led to the rise of Netherlands and England were external power, state pressure, and internal state resistance. The Spain-centered empire recognized the dangers it faced. After it suppressed the ascending cities in Italy (Machiavelli’s prince would not succeed in his resistance), it set out full throttle to eliminate the new nationalist monopoly formations in the Netherlands and England. Their success would have meant its own disintegration. The resistance of Netherlands and England was profound and protracted in areas including diplomacy, economics, military technology, trade, science, and philosophy, and even religion (the Protestant movement). It is widely accepted that this comprehensive strategic resistance, which led to military technology and strategic and tactical organization, to Calvinism and Anglicanism—radical Protestant interpretations of Christianity—to the technological and organizational advances that facilitated enormous economic productivity, and to the farsighted diplomacy, which included an alliance with the Ottomans and another with the Prussian state, not only scored a victory but also shifted the new hegemonic center of civilization to Amsterdam and London.
In the meantime, the activities of capital multiplied and money-capital began to play a dominant role for the first time in history. (The effect of the flood of gold and silver played a major role in money gaining global leadership.) Some families with money at their disposal (including many of Jewish origin) accumulated huge reserves of capital by making the state their debtor. All such developments played a crucial role in the organization of the bourgeoisie as a class. Moreover, it should be noted that a social layer similar to the working class also took shape during this grand national resistance. I am not suggesting that the working class was entirely the product of this national resistance, only that its contribution cannot be denied. It also cannot be denied that the economic boom that occurred amid these fevered developments led to both the East and West Indian Companies (state monopolies and the state itself ). Are the economic base (infrastructure) or political and military structures (superstructures) primary? This is not a meaningful question. The ideas of bourgeois political economy (Marx’s Capital included), with their whiff of propaganda, conceal the truth rather than revealing it. It is past time that we stop being instruments of this propaganda.
The emergence of European civilization in the sixteenth century was clearly systemic and hegemonic in the history of civilization. The center has clearly shifted from Venice (besides all Italian cities, Lisbon and Antwerp also belonged to it) to Amsterdam and London, with the original nation-state models developing under the leadership of England and Netherlands. It is unquestionable that the new rising civilization was different from all that preceded it and entailed a huge transformation. But we cannot imagine all these developments separate from the five-thousand-year-old history of the central civilization. For example, could we talk about the existence of a European civilization if we were to separate the Akkadians from the Sumerians, the Assyrians and Babylonians from the Akkadians, the Median and Persians from the Assyrians, Egyptians, Hurrians, and Hittites from Mesopotamian civilization, the Greco-Roman civilization from the sum of these developments, and, of course, the Abrahamic religions from all of them? Could the miracles of Amsterdam and London have occurred if transportation pioneered by the Italian cities from 1000 to 1300 had not occurred and spread from Italy to the shores of Western Europe (1300–1600)?
Historical-society theses and social science analyses and theories that overlook the totality and continuity of the world civilization system cannot escape major shortcomings and errors. While even first nature requires a holistic historical explanation, the analysis of the intertwined nature of society—like a sequence of key links in a chain—with a much stricter holistic approach with regard to its historical, philosophical, and scientific aspects is indispensable. The hegemony of European social sciences may have served the hegemony of the civilization by applying a rigid positivist metaphysics and denying this reality for far too long, leading to widespread chaos in the social sciences. Those who have analyzed capital have a huge responsibility in this respect. The many problems we face clearly show that not only were the majority of these analyses far removed from any attempt to explain capital and the capitalist system but, in fact, served to obscure reality.
There is a general agreement that during their European phase monopolies of civilization, which were hegemonic, crisis-ridden, and central throughout history, developed following a path through Venice in the fifteenth century, Amsterdam in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and London, in particular, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The French civilizational monopoly waged war to snatch hegemony from Spain, Netherlands, and England from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century but failed. Germany underwent a civilizational ascent toward the end of nineteenth century that ended nightmarishly, culminating in its 1945 defeat. The US began its civilizational ascent in the twentieth century, consolidating its predominance after 1945. Its hegemony is now (since the early years of the twenty-first century) beginning to crack. Soviet Russia’s attempt to become a hegemonic center from 1945 to 1990 was not terribly successful. For now, claims that China will be the future hegemonic center are little more than speculation. As has often occurred in history, a multicentered hegemonic reality may shape the near future. The US, the EU, the Russian Federation, China, and Japan all have the potential to become assertive centers. For the time being, however, it can be comfortably said that the US is the hegemonic superpower.
Earlier, I briefly examined the argument advanced by Anthony Giddens, the English social scientist, that European modernity (which can also be called civilization) is unprecedented. In short, this assertion is excessively Eurocentric and detached from reality—which I will address in more detail later under the heading “Social Problems.” In what I call his interpretations of capitalist modernity, Giddens presents capitalism as an entirely European system, with industrialism even more specifically a European revolution, and the nation-state as the system’s third pillar as a completely new order and experiment. At the risk of repetition, I must emphasize that capitalism has been observed in all civilizations, and that in all civilizations there have been, to a greater or lesser extent, industrial developments and revolutions. The nation-state, on the other hand, can be defined as the form of dynastic and tribal states at the stage of nation-society. Such categorization may prove very useful for understanding social nature, as long as it is not exaggerated.
The social problems of European civilization, or, more correctly, the European civilizational phase, which have unfolded as major contradictions, conflicts, wars, and even genocides, have peaked along with all the other areas of development. The epic proportions of the intellectual, ideological, political, economic, military, and demographic problems, together with sexism, nationalism, religionism, and ecological problems, are the main concern of the social sciences. In the last four hundred years, Europe has experienced more wars than the sum of wars in previous history. Every kind of war has been experienced: religious, ethnic, economic, commercial, military, civil, national, class-based, ideological, sexist, political, state-based, social, systemic, bloc, worldwide, and so on—there is almost no imaginable type of war that has not taken place. Records in the number of dead, the suffering, and the material losses have been broken across the board!
All these facts cannot be the product of the last four hundred years alone, which is a short time in the long historical march of humanity. Our short examination confirms this. The most correct and more useful interpretation of these wars is probably that the problems accumulated in the Neolithic Age and in civilized societies over the last fifteen thousand years exploded in the society of the European peninsula. Although it has not been completely successful, European society has fought the tangled problems handed down from the old society with superior skill, gaining a good grasp of these problems, and thereby struggling against them more meaningfully. To this end, Europe has undergone the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, made amazing scientific discoveries, developed philosophical schools, and experienced profound periods of democratic constitutional development. It has established and subverted kingdoms and built republics. It has organized economic systems of unparalleled productivity and carried out the biggest industrial revolution. It is unrivaled in the arts and fashion. It has built amazing cities and established magnificent scientific and medical centers. It has spread the civilization system across the world. In short, it has constructed the most comprehensive world system in history.
However, despite these far-reaching developments, it is clear that instead of resolving social problems Europe has made them more complex. Leaving aside the current systemic problems around the world, including unemployment, conflicts, and environmental destruction, this fact can even be seen with more superficial problems, primarily because these problems have five-thousand-year-old civilizational roots—with civilization itself being a huge tangle of problems. I consider the greatest success of Europe to be its ability to hold the mirror of science up to the gigantic civilizational problems—even though the mirror was blurred and misleading in many respects, this mirror has made it possible to look at the problems more closely. Of course, the great contributions of the courageous fighters cannot be overlooked (even if the ideologies at play have often been illusory). The heroines and heroes of the battles waged in the name of equality, freedom, and solidarity are the genuine contributors.
We should not downplay the necessity of defining the fundamental social problem. For thousands of years societies have fought and have been obliged to fight. It is a sad fact that these societies did not know who they were fighting for. They were not only forced to work for their tyrannical exploiters, they were also annihilated in numerous wars.
Eastern sages were no doubt aware of the social problem. That is why they developed grand teachings, moral systems, religion, and denominations. For a long time, they preferred aşiret and tribal life to the state and civilization.16 The main body of Eastern society has been alien to the state and civilization, gigantic ramparts and castles raised between them. Eastern songs and epics express all of this with artistic grace. The human in the East was so estranged from the civilized world and felt so hopeless that the goal became salvation in the afterlife. The supremacy of European society was based on its capacity to absorb the positive aspects of civilization without hesitation while resisting the alienating aspects. Europe did not solve the social problem, but it also did not allow the social problem to completely defeat it and render it helpless.
Adding our present-day problems and the traditional problems of Chinese, Indian, Latin American, and even African societies, to this branch of mainstream civilization will not change their nature. Some noteworthy problems of form can at best strengthen our narrative. In fact, the current world system (a multicentered system with the US as the super hegemon) has systematized and totalized not only its problems but the problems of all of the societies in the world.
I hope to present a summary of the historical and social problems from a new perspective, with a view to complementing the discussion and making it more concrete.
1 Jacques Mallet du Pan (1749–1800) coined the adage: “The revolution like Saturn devours its own children.” The saying became popular and was used by many people, most famously Georges Danton (1759–1794), a leading figure in the French Revolution.
2 Andre Gunder Frank and Barry K. Gills, eds., The World System: Five Hundred Years or Five Thousand? (London: Routledge, 1993).
3 They are the ones who possess the quality of ʿilm, or “learning.” Speaking broadly, they are the guardians, transmitters, and interpreters of religious knowledge, i.e., Islamic doctrine and law.
4 This is a Turkish play on words. In Turkish genelev euphemistically means a brothel and literally means a public house whereas özelev means a private home and refers to the family household.
5 Hittites established an empire centred on Hattusa in north-central Anatolia around 1600 BCE, and Mittanis in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia, from 1500 to 1300 BCE.
6 Karums were Assyrian trading posts from the twentieth to the eighteenth centuries BCE; kârhaneler is a play on words: the word itself means places of profit and is similar to kerhane, a word meaning brothels.
7 The Hittite Empire and the Egyptians fought for over two centuries to gain mastery over the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. The conflict culminated with an attempted Egyptian invasion in 1274 BCE that was stopped by the Hittites at the city of Kadesh (in what is now Syria). The conflict continued inconclusively for about fifteen more years before the treaty was signed. Both sides had common interests in making peace; Egypt faced a growing threat from the “Sea Peoples,” while the Hittites were concerned about the rising power of Assyria to the east. The treaty continued in force until the Hittite Empire collapsed eighty years later.
8 Carthage fell in 146 BCE at the Battle of Carthage. The end of a series of wars marked the end of Carthaginian power and the complete destruction of the city. The Romans pulled the Phoenician warships out into the harbor and burned them, then went from house to house, capturing and enslaving the people. Fifty thousand Carthaginians were sold into slavery. The city was set ablaze and razed to the ground, leaving only ruins and rubble.
9 Maimonides’s history (Laws of Idolatry 1:3) tells us that Abraham was educating people about monotheism. Terach informed on Abraham to Nimrod. According to the Midrash, Abraham was then cast into a furnace but was miraculously saved.
10 The Ummayad dynasty, which ruled in Damascus in 661–750 CE, claimed descent from Umayya, the cousin of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandfather.
11 Here the author is referring to a play on words: Amr ibn Hishām was a pagan Quraysh leader whose epithet was Abu al-H.akam, meaning Father of Wisdom. He showed relentless animosity to Islam and rejected Mohammad’s message. Therefore, Mohammad referred him as Abu Jahl, meaning Father of Ignorance. 12 In volume 2, at the end of section I and continuing into section 2, Öcalan addresses historical-society, civilizations, and capitalism. While there Öcalan often uses the term that Anthony Giddens popularized—“discontinuity”—in this case he prefers “unprecedented.”
13 Klaus Schmidt, “Göbekli Tepe, Southeastern Turkey: A Preliminary Report on the 1995–1999 Excavations,” Paléorient 26, no. 1 (2000), accessed November 17, 2019, https://www.persee.fr/doc/paleo_0153-9345_2000_num_26_1_4697.
14 Charles V (1500–1558), also known as Charles I of Spain, was the Duke of Burgundy and ruler of Netherlands beginning in 1506, the ruler of the Spanish Empire beginning in 1516, and Holy Roman Emperor from 1519 until he voluntarily stepped down from all positions between 1554 and 1556. He ruled extensive territories in Central, Western, and Southern Europe, and the Spanish colonies in the Americas and Asia. His domain spanned nearly four million square kilometers and was the first to be described as “the empire on which the sun never sets.” Philippe II (1527–1598) was King of Spain beginning in 1556 and of Portugal beginning in 1581. Beginning in 1554, he was King of Naples and Sicily, as well as Duke of Milan. During his marriage to Queen Mary I (1554–1558), he was also King of England and Ireland. Beginning in 1555, he was lord of the Seventeen Provinces of Netherlands. During his reign, Spain reached the height of its influence and power.
15 Fernand Braudel specifically says: “Imperialism and colonialism are as old as the world and any reinforced form of domination secretes capitalism”; Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Century, Volume 3: The Perspective of the World (London: Collins, 1984), 295.
17 Sharia, an Arabic word meaning the right path, refers to traditional Islamic law. As well as being Koranic, sharia stems from Prophet Mohammad’s teachings and interpretations of those teachings by certain Muslim legal scholars.
18 Zillullah means shadow of God; the title given to sultans.
19 Dr. Hikmet Kıvılcımlı (1902–1971) was among the first generation leaders of the communist movement of Turkey. In total he was in prison for twenty-two years, and he was only able to publish his theoretical work after the mid-1960s. Most of his work written in prison was published only after his death. Kıvılcımlı developed a Marxist interpretation of history that was not economic reductionist and one that emphasized the importance of cultural traditions. His monumental work called “Tarih, Devrim, Sosyalizm” (History, Revolution, Socialism) has examined the five-thousand-year-long historical period not only through the lenses of Marxist literature but also from the perspective of social and political theory of İbn-i Haldun (whom he called Marx of Islam). He has numerous books, and was also the first Turkish Marxist to define Kurdistan as Turkey’s colony, which he did while in a prison located in a Kurdish town. His works can be found at the website of Institute of Social History, accessed February 7, 2020, https://iisg.amsterdam/en/search?search=Hikmet%20K%C4%B1v%C4%B1lc%C4%B1ml%C4%B1.
20 This is a reference to the Latin proverb “Homo homini lupus est,” which translates as “a man is a wolf to another man,” or more tersely, “man is wolf to man,” which was also used in Thomas Hobbes, On the Citizen (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998 ), 3.
21 Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2003 ), chapter 26, accessed February 7, 2020, https://libcom.org/files/luxemburg%20the%20accumulation%20of%20capital.pdf.
22 This is a play on words; the original Turkish word used is “şebeke,” which can mean either gangs, systems, or networks.
23 These are Turkish idioms and sayings.
24 In Turkish, millet means an ethnic nation, which is how the author is using it; in Arabic it means a community that shares similar ideals.
25 Hozan Serdarî was born in Şarkışla, Sivas. The date of his birth is uncertain, but his poems suggest 1834. He died either in 1918 or 1921. The quote is from a poem titled “Nesini Söyleyim Canim Efendim,” accessed July 25, 2019, https://siirlerlesarkilarla.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/serdari-nesini-soyleyim-canim-efendim-sadik-gurbuz.
26 This refers to a 1963 play by Sadik Sendil, the story of Hürmüz, who married seven different men who were unaware of one another. Will she survive?
27 Hemşehriler means fellow townspeople in Turkish; bajariler means city dwellers in Kurdish.
28 The Hanseatic League was a mercantile league of medieval German towns. It was amorphous in character; its origin cannot be dated exactly. Originally a Hansa was a company of merchants trading with foreign lands. After the German push eastward and the settlement of German towns in the Slavic lands of the Baltic in the thirteenth century, the merchant guilds and town associations became leagues; see “Hanseatic League,” Encyclopedia.com, accessed July 26, 2019, http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Hanseati.html.
29 This is the use of “term” as Fernand Braudel used it.
30 Eschatology, from the Greek word eschaton (the last), is the theological study of the last things, the final state of each individual, of the community, of all individuals, and of reality itself. Thus, traditionally eschatology has dealt with the themes of death, judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory, the resurrection of the dead, the end of the world, and “the new heavens and the new Earth”; William R. Stoeger, “Eschatology,” Encyclopedia.com, accessed November16, 2019, https://www.encyclopedia.com/philosophy-and-religion/bible/bible-general/eschatology.
31 In 64 CE, most of Rome was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome, which many Romans believed Nero had purposely set to clear land for his planned palatial complex, the Domus Aurea. Nero’s rule is often associated with tyranny and extravagance. He is known for many executions, including that of his mother, and the probable murder by poison of his stepbrother.
32 One important example of this practice from the Ottoman Empire was the selection and training of children for the military or the civil service, also known as the blood tax or tribute in blood.
33 There were four institutions within the Ottoman Empire state structure. The function of the ilmiye was to propagate the Muslim religion, while the kalemiye was administrative.
34 Max Weber has used the term stahlhartes Gehäuse (hardened steel casing), translated as “iron cage,” to describe the increased rationalization inherent in social life; Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003).