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
The Methodological Approach to Democratic Civilization
The universalist linear progressive approach in the social sciences leads to at least as many problems as religious dogmatism when it comes to how truth is perceived. There is no discernable difference between its judgments and religious certainty: the universe is in an eternal state of progress, and everything predicted in the Levh-i Mahfûz is coming true.5 In other words, “what is taking place is just what should take place.” Everything is unfolding as foreseen. Contrary to popular belief, positivism is not anti-metaphysical and anti-religiosity, it is an absolutely vulgar materialist religion with a light polish of science. In fact, it is the idolatry of modernity. The basic similarity between both dogmatic methods is the idea of the existence of a force called law that rules nature. God’s laws have been replaced by scientific laws. The rest of the narrative is similar. The most serious problem with the positivist methodology of thought is that its conclusions have the power of law. There is no room for interpretation. A deduction that is considered conclusive and objective and implicitly the view that everyone must hold is also essentially anti-science. The fact that positivism bases itself on a sharp distinction of subject and object also fails to leave room for a margin of error.
The efforts of the bourgeois class to present medieval theology with a polish of positivism as a secular and scientific philosophy is understandable. It will, of course, bear the marks of the social reality it grew out of. If we do not free ourselves from all the imaginary approaches that have been imposed upon our thinking since the Middle Ages—indeed throughout the history of civilization—it is inevitable that a wave of positivism will capture our minds, so to speak. This did not allow for any other development other than the endless repetition of clichéd thoughts and the belief that a hollow and dry rhetoric reflected reality. It amounts to the replacement of “whatever the imam says is right” with “whatever the teacher and the philosopher say is right.” This is what lies at the core of our intellectual infertility. As such, we were even deprived of our right to address our own social nature. This is a very grave situation; it is cerebral blunting and enslavement. At least religious dogmatism, as a kind of conveyor of tradition, resonates with certain historical facts. The same cannot be said about positivism. Positivism raises a huge dam of alienation between us and our reality. As the ideological hegemonic power of the West, it would like to seize control of its opponent without, so to speak, firing a shot (i.e., without using its brain). Clearly, without breaking through this dogmatism, it is impossible, generally speaking, to analyze official civilization and specifically break with the capitalist modernist paradigm. Therefore, it would have been difficult to attain the capacity for free interpretation. I am convinced that ideological weapons play a more effective prohibitive role than military weapons.
When I first asked myself, “Can democratic civilization be systematized?” I struggled quite a bit to free myself from these methodological chains. Even more challenging and difficult, however, was smashing the dogma surrounding scientific socialism, which I had totally believed in. To free yourself from the prison of dogmatism, you must struggle with yourself. Then again, I had been doing that for most of my life.
I was also wrestling with a paradox: on the one hand, I was still under the influence of a culture that stretched back thousands of years (to 10,000 BCE) in the homeland of the agricultural revolution; on the other hand, I had begun the struggle for a postcapitalist society. How were we to establish a new society without resolving the gap between the two that stretched back at least twelve thousand years? Our system of thought had turned into a kind of science of the afterworld. Obviously, there was not yet a fecund intellectual method that took hold in my mind. This disease of being unable to think even an inch outside of the margins of what had already been written can only be explained by the effect of dogmatism. Before we were free of the clamor of the religious patterns, we were bombarded with a “domineering” official positivism. I grasped that the true protective force of any system is its ideological hegemony. That is why I understand Nietzsche’s struggle against the official German ideological power to the point of going mad. If we know even a few simple truths about the West, we owe them to this frantic struggle.
The very first dogma that I firmly shed was scientific socialism’s thesis that primitive communal society was imperatively followed by slave-owning and other forms of class society in a necessarily consecutive way. I had treated this dogma like it was a law for a very long time. It didn’t take me long to break a second dogma that was intertwined with the first, that of identifying society with a class. Calling society slave-owning or feudal conceals the most sensitive of truths about its nature and identifies society with its masters. It was clear that such designations are a remnant of the dominant structures. Addressing the third dogma, which is intertwined with the previous two, was fairly straightforward. I refer to the dogmatic belief that different stages of class society are both necessary and progressive. I came to understand that these stages are neither inevitable nor progressive; I recognized that these stages were the most reactionary and enchaining development. The end result was to grasp that a way to formulate a historical discourse that brought us closer to truth was possible. Instead of shying away from a multidirectional analysis, it was obvious that this would be a more appropriate methodology for uncovering deeper layers of meaning. Obviously, when dogmatism (presupposition) is smashed in a wide range of areas, this opens the way to greater interpretive power and the development of a wealth of meaning. I can clearly state: no matter where people are and what conditions they are living under, if they are unable to resolve the problems they face, the main reason will be that they lack the courage to move beyond their primitive way of thinking and smash the thousand-year-old dogmas and instincts that underlie their behavior. Behind any cowardice lies the fear of thinking.
While I was intellectualizing democratic civilization, a second important point caught my attention: the amount of concrete empirical material available to me. The examination of history shows the widespread availability of this sort of material, which begs a couple of questions: Why are dynasties, plunder of surplus value, and power structures treated as a system, while the family, the tribe, the aşiret, the non-power classes (both in villages and cities), non-statized peoples, and nations—the stem cells of society—go systematically unevaluated? Why are the latter not seen as constituting ideologically and structurally meaningful systems?
There must be a reason why those in whom we invested our hopes were unable to adequately answer these questions. Nonetheless, it is clear that these are not pointless questions that lack truth. Although the answers have not been systematized, there are many fragments of the answers available to us if we know where to look.
As we tend toward a different civilization and a different modernity, a third factor is the potential of freely building social nature. If there are massive and piled up problems, and if people are exhausted due to unemployment and starvation, then construction of systems (not in terms of creation or social engineering) is both possible and an imperative moral obligation. As a matter of fact, the very dimension of our problems raises the need for a revolution, and revolution puts the structures that provide answers on the agenda.
The fourth factor driving my quest can perhaps be summed up in the question: If the dominant system does not provide hope or treat you like a human being and does not show any interest in resolving the simplest of problems, such as that of identity, then what is required of a human being is to conjoin self-esteem and hope with the capacity to build your own system. Otherwise, at the table of the wolves, you may not get to pick the bones but instead might become the prey.
The final driving factor might well be somewhat personal, but it probably also has a more general resonance. No matter who it is—even your mother—you invested your hopes in, if they were unable to offer you much, you should not hesitate to trust in your own strength. You should also not surrender for any other reason or because of any drive. If there is no possible life worth living for you, don’t forget that you have the capacity to display the intelligence and will necessary to build the good, the true, and the beautiful!
According to the linear interpretation of history, the city society that emerged after the agrarian-village society is the “last word,” and narratives of civilization developed around the city are truth itself. The force—dominant class—that seized control of the city and organized it as a religious state is the motor of history. Everything they did was right and holy—the realization of destiny. To this end, divine ideological hegemonies were exalted. Each and every dissident sound was considered treason against the word of past-eternity and post-eternity and its expression of life and felt “God’s wrath.” Rationalizations for all of the dishonorable activities of the despots, their most vile oppression and their systems of exploitation, poured from the lips of the priests as the most holy word of God or the gods. Once the servants surrender to the gods’ laws, they no longer feel the pain.
In its original form, the city-centered civilization—as an organization of capital and force—has been presented to us in the ramshackle narratives of mythology or religion and carried into our present times through a series of transformations. The shine has come off this civilization, whose essence remains the same but whose rhetoric and form has regularly changed and shifted as it sought new ways to present itself. Despite its lack of luster, it is not shy about declaring itself post-eternal in the form of a rigid nation-state fascism. The bureaucratic iron cage, as the city’s organization of capital and force, multiplies AIDS and biological cancers along with its contents. But what is worse is that we have entered an extremely serious stage in our development; social nature, with all its internal structures and its natural environment, has entered a cancerous phase. To understand that there is no exaggeration in the facts we have schematically advanced here, we only need to look at war and colonialism—the war that has spread throughout society over the past four hundred years of the world system (and, indeed, the past five thousand years), as well as at our current environmental disaster.
When we look at all forms of liberal ideological hegemony and more particularly at their official spheres (state ideologies), we can see that this is their end of history. In other words, the capitalist system, which is at the peak of the global age, presents itself as the post-eternal form of the final word. This is nothing new; the end of every significant age of capital and tyranny has been accompanied by declarations of “post-eternity.” This is the truth that the five-thousand-year-old “sciences” of civilization have cloaked in thousands of different disguises and turned into a methodology. Methodology has become the truth, and the truth has become methodology.
When one whispers that other worlds, sciences, and methods are possible, along with discourses about deserving hell for heresy and infidelity, unlimited forms of “terror” (from being beheaded to crucifixion, from being burned at the stake to being hanged, from being sentenced to a lifetime of labor to torture, from being worked to death to languishing in prisons, from being made a housewife to colonization and assimilation) come into play.
We see that the central civilization, which acted against agrarian-village society as if it were taking revenge, attempting to destroy it for the last five thousand years, has, since the early twenty-first century, been taking steps to completely subvert this society and to eradicate its remaining traces. Environmental destruction is, in fact, the final form of revenge upon agrarian-village society. Interestingly, it is not social nature that has been silenced but first nature that responds to this disaster with various catastrophes (climate change, drought, rapidly melting glaciers, rapid extinction of various species, flooding, and cyclones, to mention but a few). Humanity (silenced humanity) can at times become the most voiceless form of nature. While it hurts to acknowledge this, who can deny that it is true?
The key shift in the paradigm of looking at history must be in relation to the understanding that the city-based capital and power monopoly could not have developed without agrarian-village society (10,000 BCE to date). This opens the way for a fundamental methodological change. Rosa Luxemburg stated, in a very broad manner, that “capitalism, accumulation of capital, and monopoly cannot exist in the absence of a noncapitalist society.”6 Expanding this definition to all of history and all forms of capital is a more accurate narrative; it provides an adequate analysis of capital throughout the historical-society. The most fundamental mistake Karl Marx made was to develop the model of pure capitalist society. Such a society is neither theoretically nor practically possible. Proving this is simple: let’s say we have a society with capitalists (including bureaucrats) and workers (including the unemployed) only. Pure capitalist society requires this. Let us assume that in total one hundred units of a particular good are produced. If twenty-five units are sold to the workers and another twenty-five units are left for the use of the capitalist class, what will then happen to the remaining fifty units? The rest would either have to be left to rot or distributed free of charge. No other approach is possible in a purely capitalist society.
From this point of view, when Rosa said that if this fifty units were sold to a noncapitalist society for a profit, then the system could function, she was wandering the shoreline of truth. Social reality is a lot more comprehensive though. In addition, we should always clearly keep in mind that profit and capital accumulation based on profit are unpaid social surplus. What is a noncapitalist society? It is above all the historical agrarian-village society, the society of women confined to their homes, of the craftspeople who live off their own labor, of the poor and the unemployed of the city (who live through subsidies). If we look at the reality in this way we will be able to better analyze the five-thousand-year-old civilization and its last four hundred years as the capitalist world system—its most systematic period. Most probably the network (aristocracy, lords, bourgeoisie) that have organized themselves as capital and power throughout history have never amounted to more than 10 percent of the population.7 Therefore, the main body of social nature has always been above 90 percent of the population.
In that case, let me ask a question about the methodology employed: Is it more scientific and correct to historicize and systematize this 10 percent, making it the main object of thought, as opposed to the 90 percent? We need to examine this. Perhaps others might say, “No other approach is possible, because thought, science, and methodology are monopolized by this 10 percent.” But isn’t this monopoly, in the final analysis, built on extortion and erosion of social surplus? Does being the best organized ideological group justify such privilege? Even if it were only 1 percent, the well-organized might of 1 percent can be used to dominate and rule over millions. They can set fundamental terms of science and methodology as they wish. But can this substitute for truth? Who declares such a handful of tyrants and monopolists as the truth? Can those who do—presenting it as mythology, religion, philosophy, science, and the arts and becoming wedded to the rule of capital’s tyrannical network—change social truth (the truth of the 90 percent)? The reason why this problem must be addressed in this manner is fairly obvious. No ideological, scientific, religious, philosophical, or artistic hegemony has or should have the power to alter this reality.
When we examine historical-society structurally in the light of this main method and express it through various forms of thought (mythological, religious, philosophical, and artistic) the dimensions of truth will be easier to see and will make more sense. Democratic civilization could have a much more systematically advanced form of this two-directional (within its structuralism, objectivity, and subjectivity as a way of expressing itself ) narrative of historical-society. It is both possible and necessary to more comprehensively systematize the historicity and totality of social nature. A systematic analysis of this sort should be part of the paradigmatic basis of the scientific revolution and the social sciences.
This approach to the question of methodology would allow for a more accurate presentation of social nature, with all of its historical richness and totality. At first glance it would seem that:
a) A society without capital and power is possible, but capital and power without a society is not.
b) An economy without capital is possible, but capital without an economy is not.
c) A society without a state is possible, but a state without a society is not.
d) A society without capitalists, feudal lords, and masters is possible, but capitalists, feudal lords, and masters without a society are not.
e) A society without class is possible, but classes without a society are not.
f) Agriculture and the village without the city are possible, but a city without agriculture and the village is not.
g) A society without laws is possible, but a society without morality is not.
h) It is possible to put society in a situation where it lacks politics or morality. In that case, society is being torn to pieces and swallowed by the new Leviathan (nation-state fascism). And, indeed, this is the moment when the death of society and humanity becomes a huge spectacle. This is the moment when genocide is carried out. The moment that Michel Foucault proclaimed is the death of man.8 This is the moment when, according to Friedrich Nietzsche, society and humanity have been castrated, dwarfed, and reduced to worker ants and have, in fact, become a herdlike multitude. This is the moment when, Max Weber declared, society has been confined in an “iron cage”!
The democratic civilization paradigm must and needs to come into play at this moment:
a) Since society cannot be sustained without agriculture and the village, throughout the history of civilization the segments of the society living in these areas have always been exploited and oppressed. Their resistance through the ages will only achieve its goal if they transform themselves into political society.
b) The existence of the city is still possible, if it does not become the base of capital and power monopolies. True liberation of the city, which has been obliged to act as the base for exploitation and oppression throughout the history of civilization, requires it to become a political urban society and to install democratic governance. The cities, which have very rich appearance in history, can only be saved from becoming mass cancerous structures by further developing democratic and confederalist governance.
c) If the capital and power monopolies built above the economy are not restricted and eliminated, then economic crisis will not end and other problems cannot be solved. The main cause of unemployment, hunger, and poverty, as well as environmental destruction and all types of unnecessary class division, social diseases, and war, is the struggle of capital and power groups to snatch shares and increase their share of societal surplus value. Social nature is equipped with a flexible membrane against all these problems and diseases. If capital and power apparatuses are restricted, the free pursuit of development will become possible. If history is to be understood economically and from a class perspective, this paradigm offers a way to attain true meaning.
d) Without the capital and power monopoly, moral and political society is the natural state of society. All human societies must have these qualities from their birth to their decay. Slave-owning, feudal, capitalist, and socialist society molds are like clothes they hope to put on social nature; they do not express the truth. In spite of what they claim, there are no such societies. These societies, whose original state was moral and political, were unable to fully develop, because they were continuously oppressed, exploited, and colonized by the capital and power monopolies.
e) The main task of democratic politics is to restore the free functioning of moral and political society. Societies like this are transparent and democratic societies. The more developed democratic politics, the more functional moral and political society. It is the art of democratic politics that is responsible for keeping such societies functional. It is not the task of democratic politics to “socially engineer” societies. Attempts at social engineering are part of what liberalism does to create capital and power monopolies.
f) All kingdoms, empires, republics, city-states, and nation-states established throughout history in the name of civilization, whether separately or collectively, reconciled or competitive, hegemonic or equally powerful, are essentially the forms of capital that have become power and the state.
Moral and political society can never seek to become a monopoly. It can either live independent of them or in conditional peace and reconciliation with them. There are various ways for democratic civilization and the civilizations of official power to reconcile. Because peace rests on these conditional reconciliations, all other times would mean a continuous state of war within or above society.
g) Since society does not rest on the continuous exploitative monopolist wars (internally or externally) it needs to develop various forms of democratic civilization in the agricultural villages and among the city’s laborers. History is not the tool of inhuman and fusty structures and warfare or the sum of power and states alone; there are far more unrecorded examples of democratic civilization: the family, tribal and aşiret systems, confederations, city democracies (as far as we know, the most striking example is Athens), democratic confederations, monasteries, dervish lodges, communes, egalitarian parties, civil societies, denominations, religious and philosophical communities that have not been absorbed by power, solidarity among women, and numerous communities and assemblies based on solidarity. Unfortunately, the history of these communities has not been systematically recorded. Nonetheless, the true history of humanity can only be the systematic expression of these groups.
h) While the civilizations of official power have been sustained by capital and arms monopolies intertwined with ideological hegemony, the ideology of democratic civilization has always remained weak and unsystematic, and thus have been continuously oppressed, distorted, and, more often than not, eliminated. The countless sages, scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, denomination members, and artists who did not surrender and listened to the voice of their free conscience were severely punished and silenced. The fact that the history of all of these people has not been written does not mean they did not exist. One of our primary intellectual tasks is to make sure that democratic civilization is expressed systematically as historical-society.
i) In response to capitalism’s four-hundred-year ideological, administrative, military, nation-state civilization system (in the form of the monopoly of economics and power), there have been city democracies (in Italy) and confederations (in Germany), peasants’ rebellions and communes, workers’ rebellions and communes (the Paris Commune), the experiences of real socialism (in one-third of the world), the process of national liberation (their non-power and the non-state mode of being), numerous democratic parties, civil society movements, and, recently, ecological and feminist movements, democratic youth movements, arts festivals, and new religious movements that do not seek power. As can be seen, democratic civilization is based on a broad spectrum of movements and has a system—although not fully integrated—that should not be underestimated.
j) Although the present-day nation-state is experiencing grave systemic problems and its cracks are multiplying daily, it still has the strongest system in the national, regional, and global arena. Nation-states, numbering over two hundred, are represented by regional unions (particularly the European Union, NAFTA, which consists of the US, Canada, and Mexico, APEC in Southeast Asia) and by the United Nations globally. The democratic civilization system is represented by loose and formless forums like the World Social Forum and by non-state and non-power unions of laborers and peoples that are inadequate. Their inadequacy is ideological and structural. In order to address this inadequacy, world democratic confederalism—local and regional democratic confederations with their political parties and instruments of civil society—must be developed.
1 The 114 chapters of the Koran are referred to as suras.
2 Henri de Saint-Simon (1760–1825) was a French political and economic theorist and businessperson whose thinking influenced politics, economics, sociology, and the philosophy of science. His economic ideology, known as industrialism, recognized an obligation to meet the needs of the working class for the smooth functioning of the economy and society.
Charles Fourier (1772–1837) was a French philosopher and “utopian socialist.” Fourier is credited with having coined the word feminism.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865) was the founder of mutualism and the first person to self-define as an anarchist.
Auguste Comte (1798–1857) was the founder of sociology and positivism, which called for a new scientific doctrine to respond to the problems that arose with the French Revolution.
Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) was a French sociologist, social psychologist, and philosopher whose work addressed the maintenance of social integrity and coherence in the face of the breakdown of social and religious ties in modernist period.
4 Shāhanshāh is a Persian honorific meaning king of kings.
5 The Levh-i Mahfûz, Arabic for the protected tablet, is, in the Islamic tradition, the divine book where all that has happened and will happen is written. See also Öcalan: Beyond State, Power, and Violence, (Oakland: PM Press, forthcoming).
6 Here is the statement referenced: “Whatever the theoretical aspects, the accumulation of capital as an historical process, depends in every respect upon non-capitalist social strata and forms of social organisation.” Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital, section three, chapter 26, Marxists .org, accessed December 4, 2019, https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1913/accumulation-capital/ch26.htm.
7 The author uses the word şebeke, which can mean either gangs or networks; in this case, both meanings are intended.
8 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of Human Sciences (London: Tavistock Publications, 1970 ).
9 Zillullah is an Arabic word meaning shadow of God.
10 For example, the archeological remains at Tepe Gawra.
11 Rabb means Lord, Sustainer, Cherisher, Master, Nourisher. In Islam, Ar-Rabb is often used to address Allah, although Ar-Rabb is not one of the 99 names (or attributes) of Allah.
12 The Sabians were grouped by early writers with the ancient Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites and with gnostic groups like the Hermeticists and the Mandaeans. Today, the Mandaeans are still widely identified as Sabians.
13 Mohammad’s adoption of facing north toward Jerusalem, Islam’s first qiblah, or direction of prayer, later changed to facing toward the Kabah in Mecca, when performing the daily prayers.
14 Ahl al-Bayt means People of the House or Family of the House. Within the Islamic tradition, the term refers to the Mohammad’s family. Khawarij means those who went out and refers to a sect in early Islam that revolted against the authority of Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib after he agreed to arbitration with his rival Muawiyah to decide the succession to the caliphate following the Battle of Siffin.
15 The Mughal Empire, based in the Indian subcontinent, was established and ruled by the Muslim Persianate dynasty of Chagatai Turco-Mongol origin that extended over large parts of the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan.
16 Asabiyyah is a concept of social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness and a sense of shared purpose, and social cohesion, originally in a context of “tribalism” and “clanism.” It was familiar in the pre-Islamic era, but was popularized in Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, where it is described as the fundamental bond of human society and the basic motive force of history, pure only in its nomadic form.
17 Öcalan uses mülkiyetçilik, derived from the Turkish word for ownership, to describe it as an ideology, similar to nationalism.
18 The saying is thought to have originated with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who, in 1150, wrote “L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs” [Hell is full of good wishes or desires]. Many people have used some form of the phrase, including Karl Marx.
19 Maqam and tekke are buildings for the gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood.
20 Every wise old religious man or woman is said to belong to an ocak, which is seen as sacred.