An Analysis of Civilized Society

Civilization: The Age of Masked Gods and Disguised Kings – Volume I

Increasing our efforts to analyze the Sumerian society will enhance our understanding of our own society. All that needs to be done is to analyze civilization—to pull off the masks that cover its mentalities and institutions so that the true faces and the actual status of the different role-players within the society can be seen.

Our society tries to pass itself off as the youngest society, calling itself “contemporary” or “new age.” It claims that ancient civilization is old. This is peculiar—after all, adolescence is closer to birth than maturity. If, as argued in the previous section, the Sumerian society represents the birth of our own civilization, then the term “adolescence” should be bestowed accordingly. If this is the case, then attributes such as “new” and “young” are misnomers when they refer to our society. Rather, we are the oldest society of this civilization. This misnaming indeed is a continuation of the masking used by civilized (that is, the classed, city-state) society.

The fundamental question that must be asked is: Why did civilized society, which can also be called the “urban civilization,” require such intense masking? The Sumerian priests’ art of masking was maintained endlessly. While initially the concept of divinity had a meaningful and noble content, why did it later become the foremost agent of degradation and meaninglessness? Many opinions have been expressed in favor of or against civilized society, but what has not been attained is the formulation of a radical criticism of civilization and the development of a set of guidelines to progress beyond it. This is indicative of the degree to which all interpretations thus far have failed.

Still, it is widely accepted that there is an extraordinary suppression of humanity’s desire for freedom—suppression so intense that the desire for freedom has long ago reached a state of unsustainability. In fact, there is not a single year in the history of civilization without wars. Living a life of suppression has become “natural.” Exploitation is seen as “the way of life,” accepting it as honesty, and innocence and morals are deemed to be idiocy.

What is needed is an analysis of civilized society conducive to the kind of criticism that will enable us to progress beyond this civilization. A critique that focuses only on capitalist modernity will not lead to such progress, as is quite clear from the failed efforts of many schools, including the Marxists. The fundamental reason behind this failure is the fact that civilized society, which capitalist modernity is bound to, has not been included in the analyses. A Eurocentric philosophy of life seems to have silenced even the fiercest opponents. Just as in our analysis of the relationship between Neolithic culture and European civilization, there is a dire need for a comprehensible analysis of the relationship between European civilization and previous civilizations in terms of history and society. The fact that I am convicted under the harshest possible suppression of this civilization justifies my attempt at such an interpretation despite its amateurishness.

a. In defense of a free life

The analysis of civilization is a matter for structural sociology. If the main provision for being scientific is not to flounder in the swamp of positivism but to obtain the knowledge and understanding that will exceed the subject-object dichotomy, then there is a dire need for it in structural sociology. The primary duty of general sociology is to diagnose and treat society. There can only be one reason for knowing: to make some sense of this life that we love. This in turn will give us the opportunity to understand the structural issues and, if there are any unsound elements, to restructure them.

The society of civilization is a structural heap, a conglomerate that epistemology difficultly tries to make sense. The existence of this heap is closely related to the distortion of our understanding. It is not enough to just make an effective diagnosis; urgent treatment is necessary. If our structural sociology and our sociology of freedom wish to evade becoming a heap of rubbish like its predecessors, then it must prove its strength in diagnosis and treatment.

Civilization is worse than just the “great slaughterhouse” Hegel called it.56 It is a continuous genocide of freedom—which is the sole reason for human life. All else is just the residue of life. Civilization is what is left of life when the meaning of free life has been pumped out of it! Is the history that we are taught not the chronicle of the construction and collapse of states and their subsidiaries? Is acquiring power not the sole aim of this? Which of the heroic tales are innocent of violence and exploitation? Have those who claim to rebel for their tribe, nation, or religion done anything but claim the crown of power? Does civilized society, that has not had a year without war, deserve to be called anything other than “the slaughterhouse”? Would the development of the sciences, arts and technology that we hear so much about have been possible if it were not for the real inventors, either giving their lives for their inventions or having it seized from them? Can this reality that is told as the story of order, stability and peace have any other meaning than that of theatrical performances of how human beings are subjugated? We can multiply the number of questions concerning civilization, but what is really dreadful is the boldness and arrogance with which this story is told as the undeniable fate of humanity, as a story of friendship, genteelness and alliance, a glorious history, sacred religion, legend of love and beauty, magnificent inventions, the dream of reaching for heaven.

My purpose in raising so many questions lies in my interest in, respect for, and devotion to the last unspoken words of all those who took up resistance in the name of freedom. It may just be that a meaningful method will empower us to fight in defense of a life of freedom.

b. The role of class struggle in civilized society

It is important to have a clear understanding of the notion of class as used by the opponents of capitalist modernity. If not, opposition will never go beyond demagogy; a vague and hazy understanding will serve only as a tool to keep the essence of capitalist modernity disguised. What we need to determine, is whether class has any role to play on its own, whether it has the ability to act as subject—as an agent determining action.

Class constitutes the hands and feet of power. As with hands and feet, on its own class has no power. But the power within modern society—and the Leviathan within civilized society—is the most organized power there is. We can describe the state as the unity of the power relations through which the general coercion and exploitation of classed society is enabled. Does this not entail that those coerced and exploited are an inseparable part of this network of relations? Is it not true that civilization—that is, organizational and structuring power—lies not only in the organization of the state, that it can also be found in fields such as religion and the economy? Is it not the main function of this power to create the slave, serf, worker and the numerous other horizontal and vertical strata of society?

In the organization of power, the hands and feet will never be given the opportunity of being “subject”—the agent determining the action. If power relations have been successfully installed, an absolute domination over the laborers has been achieved. This means that, even if the laborers previously did have acting power, under these circumstances they would lose it. This is exactly why the slave-laborer rebels of the Spartacus era and Paris Commune never had a chance to succeed. Only on one condition would success have been possible: if the powers of the time had seen them as “fresh blood” that could have rejoined civilized society. The one hundred and fifty years of attempts at socialism bear witness to this reality.

Whether it is the class’s upper stratum of master, seignior, patron, or the middle stratum of bourgeoisie or the lower stratum of slave, serf, worker—these strata all have the same ideological and political approach concerning power relations. Internal disputes do not have any value at all. The relationship between the different strata forms a network with many knots. If you reject one of these, the others will come into motion. The system is such that severance of any of the knots will be repaired, the upstart more devoted than before or—if needed—his life taken.

Let us examine the worker and the laborer of the tribe working in the “first draft” of the state—the system of power relations devised by the Sumerian priests and the dynastic chiefs. The worker who was being turned into a servant by the priest was under the spell of the enormous legitimization attempt of the newly manufactured gods—if he was not under their spell, he would not have been accepted. Secondly, in the Ziggurat he was fed better than before and thus bound to the system. Thirdly, his dreams were continuously decorated with the beauty radiated by the houri in the temple.57 (The offerings of women must have contributed much more to obedience and submission to the system than the present-day offerings of media and armies!) Thus, this new subject was anything but a rebel fighting for freedom—he was totally drained from any desire for free life.

The dynastic chief used a similar approach as he built its own state-power relations. The first step was to secure a strong organization based on more visible and sound interests among the main allied forces. The dynastic family had a feared and respected legitimacy within the larger family. The tribal traditions continuously extolled the hierarchy. All disputes were resolved either peacefully within the tribal assembly or through conflict.

If the class characteristics of a dynasty on its way to becoming a state were so pronounced, we have to conclude that class division is a fundamental characteristic of civilization. Of course, while theoretically it is not impossible that this characteristic forms the strategic basis for a class revolution, in practice such a revolution can’t succeed—history teaches us that all civilizations and power systems that have been overthrown were overthrown together with their subjects and proletariat. In the few cases where they were overthrown by their subjects and proletariat, the new administration has usually been far worse than the previous oppressive and exploitative regime.

While asserting that class is fundamental to civilization, at the same time we have to acknowledge that to view history as nothing but a series of class struggles is a highly reductionist approach. The maintaining of civilization, and hence the history of civilization, is indeed based on oppression and exploitation, but the ideology, policy and even the economy of this system works on a different basis. In other words, the course of history has not been determined purely by a struggle of class versus class. With this statement, I am not negating the dreadfulness of enslavement, the degrading characteristics of the system or its denial of freedom. My contention is that the struggle between classes could not have been the sole cause of the establishment and collapse of systems of political power and the various systems of civilization. My interpretation is that opposition to the system always ends in becoming part of it—either by knowingly joining the existing political power or system of civilization as a new political force or, despite rejecting it, by not being able to escape being the “new blood” for the system, as happened in the Soviet and Chinese experiences.

This approach may be criticized as being lenient toward power reductionism and of not pointing a way out. I will discuss this issue in detail in my forthcoming book, The Sociology of Freedom. For the time being, let me just say that freedom has its own social area, mentality and strategy, just as political power has its own ideology, policies and organization.

c. The role of conflict in civilized society

Although the question under discussion is that of conflict or alliance between civilizations, its historical meaning is much more comprehensive. Civilized society is a structure that generates conflict both within and between civilizations. To achieve the aim for which this society was generated and to institute the class division that it bases itself upon, requires oppression and exploitation combined with continuous diversion and disguise. This explains the need to continuously generate conflict. Political power and class division by their very nature mean conflict, whether internally or externally. It does not matter how we categorize a civilization in an attempt to hide its essence. Whether warlike or pacifist, monotheist or polytheist, fertile or infertile, cultured or ignorant, from the same tribe or from different tribes—these attributes do not change the essence of civilized society. Its guiding force is its perceived duty to conquer the whole world. The desire to become a world power is a structural disease. Its source is political power. The moment it stops expanding, it starts to regress—it does not end up as a “normal” power but ends up in collapse. Like cancer, it must either eradicate or be eradicated. There have been many simple tribal chiefs who deified themselves with the powers of civilization.

Behind the assertion of divinity lies the power to destroy humanity. Mass destruction creates the belief that mass creation is possible; an uncontrolled ego develops into limitless megalomania. The civilization system offers a society in which this disease can flourish. It has been said that there is not a single social value and personality that political power cannot corrupt—truly an insight into the essence of political power. Civilizations are societies of political power and hence systems in constant conflict with life. There is not a single value that one would not sacrifice in order to attain political power, nor one’s own brother, partner or friend. An in-depth examination of the administration of civilizations will make evident the many murders and conspiracies. Indeed, the systematized lies are called “politics.”

d. Subservience of society as a whole

Attention should be drawn to a characteristic that has become institutionalized in civilized society, namely the susceptibility of society to political power. It happened in a way quite similar to the remaking of women according to the institution of housewifization. Political power cannot be sure of its continued existence before it has recreated society, just as it did with women. Housewifization, as the most ancient form of enslavement, has been institutionalized as result of woman’s defeat by the strong man and his attendants. It required a long and comprehensive war and resulted in the domination of the sexist society. This action of domination has positioned itself within the society before the civilization was fully developed. This was such an intense and fierce struggle that it has been erased from our memories, together with the consequences thereof. Woman cannot remember what was lost, where it was lost and how it was lost. She considers a submissive womanhood as her natural state. This is why no other enslavement has been legitimized through internalization as much as woman’s enslavement.

This had a twofold, devastating effect on society. Firstly, it paved the way for society to be enslaved; secondly, thereafter, all enslavement was based on housewifization. Housewifization is not just about becoming a mere object of sexism. It is not a biological characteristic either. In its essence, housewifization is a social characteristic. Enslavement, submission, acceptance of insults, crying, the habit of lying, being unassertive, self-sacrifice and the like are all considered a part of housewifization. These characteristics also indicate a rejection of the ethics of freedom.

This aspect constitutes the social grounds for degradation. In fact, it is the true reason for enslavement. It is the institutionalized grounds that have given breathing space to all forms of enslavement, from the most ancient forms to the most modern. In order for the system of civilized society to function, society as a whole must be made to adopt wife-like characteristics. If political power is identical to masculinity, then the housewifization of the society is inevitable. Political power doesn’t recognize the principles of freedom and equality because—should it do so—it could not exist. There are essential similarities between political power and sexist society.

In ancient Greece, which is considered to be a milestone of our civilization, male teenagers were offered to the experienced men as “boys.” The philosopher Socrates maintained that the contact between erastes (the adult male) and eromenos (the youth) could be aimed not only at sexual love, but also at obtaining moral wisdom and strength—in other words, to prepare the boy for a code of behavior “befitting” to women. Greek society quite openly wished to create a housewifized society. As long as there still were noble and dignified youths, such a society wouldn’t be possible, hence housewifized behavior had to be internalized. Eromenoi were widespread in this society: it reached a point where it was customary for every master to have a “boy.” Thus, we can’t view this custom as sexual perversion or a disease; in fact, it was a social phenomenon caused by the classed society. In all different shapes of civilized societies similar trends exist. In other words, the grounds for power relations within civilized societies have been carefully prepared and on the basis of housewifization. The tradition of civilization sees women as “men’s field.” A similar view exists with regard to society. Men must offer themselves to political power as women offer themselves to men. Those that rebel or refuse to offer themselves will be readied through warfare.

The creation of power systems is not sudden, nor are they created by any individual, class, or nation. Governments may be formed suddenly, but political power and political systems have been prepared as a culture of domination by hundreds of brutal emperors and various other dominating forces. Societies—just as the wife waits for her husband as if it was her destiny—wait to be used by their political powers. Political power exists as a dominant culture within society. Therein lies the true importance of the quote attributed to Mikhail Bakunin, “If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself.”

This degeneration is elicited by the power system. The seat of power, composed of the blood and exploitation of thousands of years, will of necessity corrupt the one sitting on it. There is only one way of not getting corrupted: by being devoted to protecting oneself! One of the most striking examples of the corruptive force of power can be found in the experience of real socialism. One cannot doubt their intentions or their devotion to their aims; why then did, did those who set up the system voluntarily gave themselves up to capitalism—the very system that they fought so hard against? In my opinion, the fundamental reason for this historical tragedy is the way in which power was obtained and exercised. The founders of socialism came to power through the culture of civilized society. Although they claimed to oppose this bloody and exploitative heritage and claimed that they refused to become a power resting upon it, they fully embraced it. Kropotkin’s criticism against Lenin for the quick transition from soviets to the adaptation of state power was even seen as opportunism.58 Immanuel Wallerstein comes close to the truth when stating that the Soviets did not have the inherent strength to surpass the capitalist world-system and thus were destroyed by the impact of that world-system. But this is still not the essence of the problem. Michel Foucault, with the insight that the soviets reintegrated with the system because they used the system’s method of handling knowledge and power, is much closer to the truth.

The same happened with the Paris Commune, numerous national liberation movements, and initiatives by both communists and social democrats. Just as each field is sown with only one crop, freedom and socialism cannot be generated in the millennia old fields of knowledge and power. To succeed, activists and theorists of freedom and socialism must prepare their own fields, continuously diagnosing and treating contagious diseases that are generated by power relations and, even more importantly, keeping a distance from power relations and all its institutions and characteristics. If rich democratic forms are not implanted and nurtured at the same time, they will not escape the power net and only repeat the thousands of failed attempts which, in the end, were not at all different from the systems of power they sought to escape. Keeping in mind the limited understanding of the human being, claiming that we understand the whole universe would be arrogant. Therefore, to attribute to divinity the things that cannot be explained with the humans’ limited knowledge and information must be seen as “good” metaphysics.

e. Religion, science, philosophy, the arts, morality and law in civilized society

It is important to understand the role that such institutional practices as religion, science, philosophy, the arts and morality play in civilized society.

The bedrock of religion lies in the extraordinary value attached to food. During the Neolithic, the attainment of abundant and diverse types of food was gratefully received as a blessing from a divine entity that humans equated with their own social identity. Even today we do not understand the reason behind life; during the Neolithic an effort was made to attach a meaning to it through the concept of divinity, a concept which is in fact closer to a creative principle than to magic and enchantment. It is important that we don’t confuse this idea of divinity with Allah. The concept of Allah was constructed in the atmosphere of the Semitic culture; as illustrated below, it had a different and particular course of development.

Attaching moral aspects to the gods they manufactured eased the Sumerian priests’ task of selling themselves to the society that they had constructed. The priests were probably the first to attribute punishment and sin to the notion of god in order to develop the sense of obedience. God was slowly turned into the state. This is the reform brought about by the Sumerian priests. From many of the wall reliefs it is clear that much was done to increase the status of the state’s administrators, and thus to increase the administration’s authority over society. The king managed to mask his own interests very well as he went to war in the name of his god. In all the drawings and narratives from Sumer the administrator is always the beloved son of the god; its enemies are the devil that must be conquered. Slowly a group of gods took shape—a clear reflection of the new administration.

The indistinguishability of god and administrator has never been displayed so openly in any other society. The question of who was masking whom no longer held much importance. The more god was turned into the state, the more he attained attributes such as “supreme creator,” and as the priests developed into the administrative class attributes such as “administrator” were assigned to god as well. In time god and administrator became equated; distinguishing between them impossible. This is the point where the constructed divinity turned into bad metaphysics. In all the later stages all civilized societies would discover and use the magical power of religion and god in the legitimization of administration. Although the god of old—the sacred and creative divine force—would occupy a place in the thoughts and emotions of the oppressed, the god and religion that would become the state played their roles through their administrative agents.

There is a notable relationship between the number of gods and the form of a society. Polytheism occurs during an era of tribal equality. The decrease in number and the ranking of the gods according to supremacy is closely related to the administrative protocol. The gradual rise to a primary god is a development in line with the distinction between the administrators. We need to investigate the relationship between the invisible god of monotheist religions, who may not be represented in images, and the state that no longer depends on individuals and no longer has a need to institutionalize itself.

The gradual decrease in the number of gods amidst the administrative forces means on the one hand their unmasking; on the other hand, it clarifies what the state really entails and whose interests it represents. This decrease signifies that religion was no longer needed for legitimization. Nevertheless, civilized society has always used the legitimization effect of religion as much as it has used tyranny. Turning religion into state and its privatizations is part and parcel of civilized society, specifically of the development in its administration. This explains the formation of different religious orders and of religious conflicts. Contending civilizations are contending religions and sects. The battles are taken up in the name of religions and sects so that the whole society can be drawn in. The big and long civilization battles have always been disguised as religious battles. The wars waged in the name of Islam, Christianity and Judaism were in essence struggles for dominance over the Middle Eastern civilization, as became apparent when they were later declared official state ideologies. But, as with any phenomenon that reaches its peak, their importance has decreased. As well as reflecting class conflict, dissident sectarianism has always signified the rebellious attitude of the marginal societies excluded from civilized society. During the construction of capitalist nation-states, sectarianism was transformed into a type of nationalism—a pretext masking the real reason behind the bloody wars.

Although the significance of philosophy is small compared to that of religion, it is still highly important. The inadequacy of religious explanations for the phenomenon of life makes apparent the need for philosophy. Sagacity, which has a history as old as religion, can be seen as the beginning of philosophy. The sage, who represents the thinking human, is a different source of understanding than the theologian. The opinions of the sage were valued as highly as those of god’s spokesman. They were never at peace with the state or civilization, having been more devoted to the part of society that falls outside the boundaries of official society. They have played a distinct role in the development of morals and science. Strong traces of the wisdom associated with the mother-goddess survived in the Sumerian society. The rise of the prophets certainly had a lot do with such wisdom. The tradition of wisdom and philosophy in the Middle East certainly warrants more research.

Just as the Sumerian priests were able to conduct the construction of religion and god in parallel with state and society, the Greek philosophers helped to construct and perpetuate a new, more developed civilized society partly by means of both religion and philosophy. The method the two groups used is the same, namely the artful use of concepts. Whereas in Sumer, state and society resulted from concepts used for the construction of religion, in Greece state and society were given shape through philosophic concepts. The masked gods had begun to give way to unmasked gods and naked kings. Development in the thinking of humanity is related to development in philosophy.

Philosophical thought, which played a relatively limited role in Greco-Roman society, underwent a dramatic revolution in capitalist European society. Here, the turmoil in religion was reflected in philosophy. The biggest contributor to this turmoil was the emphasis on national and class interests to meet the requirements of the system. When conflicts were not resolved through religious wars the duty fell on the shoulders of philosophy. The last religious wars were fought between 1618 and 1649. The 17th century was the very same century of philosophical revolution. Philosophy became the leading ideology in the new civilized society, as can be witnessed from the rise of the many philosophic schools at the time. While on the one hand the “death of god” is declared, on the other hand, disguised kings are dethroned. This marked the beginning of the period of nation-states—which themselves have become divine—and capitalist states—which are nothing but naked kings.

The Neolithic agricultural revolution also led to a revolution in arts. Cave drawings were followed by mother-goddess figures, the forerunners of sculpture. With the onset of civilized society, the figures of god and administrators were drawn alongside each other. Increased class division and administrative authority gave rise to the nationalization of the arts as much as religion did. Especially in the art of Egypt, China and India, gods, kings and priests competed in a show of strength as symbolized through enormous statues and reliefs. Architecture followed the same path in the houses of religion and administration. Temples and palaces of vast dimensions were constructed. Huge tombs were built—horrible indications of the level that human exploitations and repression can reach in civilized society. For the construction of a pyramid or a temple alone thousands of people were sacrificed. As trade increased, the merchant became a frequent figure in art. Often other powerful figures besides kings were honored with monuments.

The rise of Greco-Roman civilization brought a revolution in urban architecture. Cities, previously consisting only of the inner and outer periphery of the castles, went through structural transformations which evoke admiration even today. The underlying labor cost, to a large extent, was the enslavement of society. Most of the slave labor was used for the urban building projects. The indicators of enslavement are the enormous tombs, temples, castles and cities. These structures are also indicative of the lives and labor that civilized society required. With their sculptures, attempting to immortalize beauty and superiority, Greco-Roman society reached new heights in the world of the arts.

Greco-Roman art and culture, revived during the Renaissance, was the inspirational power of European civilization. Feudal Europe, ruled by religion, could only free itself intellectually through Renaissance culture, which was partially open to free thinking. Only with the development of the bourgeoisie, the new civilized class, would the arts effectively influence large numbers. Yet popular art has never reached the magnificence of the past. Art forms, such as urban architecture, music, painting and sculpture, have degenerated in the hands of capitalism, losing their sacredness and distinct identity by turning into an arts industry and thereby declaring their own death.

Oral legends tell with great eloquence of the sacredness of the initial tribal identity and the yearning for it. These legends are the main resources of the written legends. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the first written text of substantial length in history, may be the main source for not only literature but also for the sacred texts. The Sumerian literature and religious texts were inspirational not only for the Greek literature and theology—Greek legends (especially all the mythological constructions) were the transformed versions of the Sumerian legends that travelled throughout Anatolia.

Although the distinction between good and evil in the myths and legends is also linked to the fundamental social division within civilized society, in essence it defines the distinction between good and evil within society. Its essence is socialist: good morality is equated with devotion to society, whereas remoteness from and conflict with society denotes evil. Social constructions always have had a moral character. The initial “constitution” of society was its moral rules. Morality lies at the heart of society—a society that loses its moral basis cannot but disintegrate. Adherence to the rules of the government is considered a sacred duty; social rules can be seen as devotion to the social identity, divine existence, language and other aspects of society. This devotion may include having to risk one’s life. Being excluded from society is equal to a death sentence.

Law is an important invention of civilized society. It only came into existence with the development of social and class divisions and nationalization. Its origin is in the morals of society. In the same way that nationalization of religious sacredness led to state religion, the nationalization of morality led to law. The law denoted the governing rules of the new sate-society and the interests, property and security of the ruling class and in effect was the constitution of the new society.

The earliest sets of laws we know of come from the Sumerian society. Pre-dating the well-known Code of Hammurabi by three centuries, there is the Code of Ur-Nammu (written about 2100 BCE). Though the birthplace of law is, therefore, not Rome or Athens but the Sumerian city-state, much emphasis has been placed on the link between law, the republic and democracy during the Athenian and Roman eras. The birth of the republic and democracy necessitated a code of official, written laws—a constitution—to ensure a collective administration by an aristocracy, preventing the establishment of monarchies and despots. Although precursors existed in the Sumerian society, the first republican system emerged in Rome and the first democracy arose in Athens. In the civilization of the European bourgeoisie, constitutionalism, republicanism and democracy have been some of the most important issues concerning law. The latest development concerns human rights. With this development, individualism and representation are carried to the social level. Thus, the pendulum has now swung to the opposite of where it was during the Neolithic, when morality demanded the individual’s devotion to society.

History recognizes three major revolutions pertaining to scientific development. First, there was the institutionalization period of the Neolithic (6,000-4,000 BCE, i.e. the Tell Halaf period) and the contribution of Sumerian society. Next was the period of the West Anatolian-Athens society (600 to 300 BCE). We are currently in the third period, that of the Western European society (commencing in the sixteenth century). The connection between these revolutions and the stages of civilization is obvious—each stage of civilization was built upon its own scientific revolution.

Scientific development cannot be separated from the other categories of the interpretation of knowledge discussed above (that is, religion, philosophy, literature, arts, morality and law). Science’s only “privilege” is that it deals with the part of knowledge that is empirically verifiable.59 Science does not contain all knowledge—only the knowledge that pertains to empirically verifiable phenomena. In a broader sense, there is no knowledge that cannot be empirically verified. The division of knowledge into categories (such as verifiable or unverifiable, positivist or metaphysical, theoretical or empirical) has been created by civilized society, and has much to do with the relationship between knowledge and power.

As a whole, the relationship between civilized society and these categories of knowledge can be expressed as the conflict between meaning or interpretation of knowledge and power. These disciplines resulted from the experience of human society. But, since that section of civilized society that represents the state came into being, the practical manifestations of this experience and the development of the human mentality that led to it in the first place have been distorted and expropriated. One of the first things that the administrators have always done with the onset of a new stage in civilization is to reorganize the categories according to their own social paradigm and the source of their practical power. Each stage of the civilization is arranged on the basis of a new, fundamental paradigm. All this rearranging is a means of disguising, of obscuring and of enchaining those who are ruled. The legitimation that the new paradigms allow for has always been preferred to undisguised tyrannical administration. The administrators’ main endeavor with this rearranging has always been to present their interest as the interest (and even the destiny) of society as a whole. The more successfully they do this, the more they can prolong the lifespan of the so-called civilized societies. No civilization—even a world civilization—that loses its legitimacy can escape collapse. The collapse of the Roman civilization is an example of this. It lost respect and appeal because of the growing Christian community internally, and the migration of other ethnic communities externally. When these communities united as new religious and ethnic communities, the extraordinary Roman power lost its legitimacy and fell apart. All major civilizations have been religious civilizations. But when religion loses its ability to provide legitimacy (whether through philosophy, science or a new religion) this usually means the end of that civilization.

All of these facts show the critical importance of the major categories of interpretation (religion, philosophy, arts, law, science and morality) for the civilized (that is the classed, city-state) society. While the task of structural sociology is to explain these categories within the civilized society, the task of the sociology of freedom is to interpret how these categories should be criticized and then combined with a free and democratic social life.

If studied in isolation, investigating the social institutions—which can also be seen as metaphysical categories—leads to the distortion of meaning. But metaphysical disciplines, which are so harshly and fiercely criticized, cannot be evaluated as “good” or “bad” per se. Since the human mind and human society cannot make do without metaphysics, it is more meaningful to make methodological evaluations of good and bad metaphysics in relation to one another and the society in question.

f. The role of economics in civilized society

Historically, studies of economics are both complicated and open to distortion. Capitalist civilization has made economy a field of theoretical and empirical research. Economics is indeed research of the “material” of the social reality. Capitalist civilization, which has recorded itself in history as the material civilization, can also be called the “economic system.”60 In the same way that we can call all of the previous systems of civilization “metaphysical systems,” calling capitalism “materialist” may have explanatory value.

All societies, from the Neolithic society (or even the initial hominid societies) to the pre-capitalist civilized societies, have appraised sacredness, meaningfulness and, on the whole, metaphysics itself and have not able to interpret life in any other way. Capitalist civilization, on the other hand, has presented itself as “unmasked gods and naked kings” (a development so profound that it warrants exhaustive studies into its importance and extent). Ironically, this is the society with the highest power to obstruct, mislead and dissolve within itself (that is, to assimilate).

My personal opinion is that seizure and theft, organized in the name of “economy,” constitute the essence of its social form. The Greek word oikonomia means “household management.” It denotes the material rules of subsistence, its periphery, supplies and other materials. If we extrapolate this to civilized society, it denotes the subsistence rules of smaller communities. This constitutes the least nationalized and privatized social reality. It is the fundamental tissue of social collectivism, its privatization and nationalization are inconceivable because privatization and nationalization of the oikonomia would devastate this fundamental social tissue. It is to deny society its most critical rule of life. Therefore, no other society but capitalism perceived the idea and had the courage to make privatization and nationalization the leading characteristics of society. There is no doubt that all social areas in civilized society have been nationalized and the economy—its most fundamental tissue—has been the subject of both private and state ownership. No other society but capitalism has ever officially and openly declared private and state ownership as its system.

It is important to note that the privatization and nationalization of the economy has been seen as seizure and theft from very early on. Karl Marx expresses this in a more scientific way when he says that the surplus value is stolen as profit. This is an issue that needs to be analyzed exhaustively. We can interpret economy—which has become the subject of private and state ownership—to be a seizure and theft beyond that of the surplus value (or surplus product before that). Hence, all the different types of ownership of the economy, including private and state ownership, are immoral and can be seen as seizure and theft. I will deal with this issue in more detail in the section on capitalism.

Commodification has developed as a very important notion within civilized society. There is a close-knit connection between commodification and the civilized society—be it the society of private ownership, classed society or the city-state. Seeing that commodity and commodification are the prime indicators of attaining the state of being civilized, we have to clarify the term “commodity.” An object becomes a commodity when it gains an exchange value that is not determined by the satisfaction of a human need. The idea of exchange value was foreign to society for a long time—it was not even entertained as a thought because it was considered a shame: precious objects were made gifts to society or to a valued individual. Replacing the gift system with the exchange system is the invention—or rather deception—of civilization. For pre-civilized society and the societies that have remained outside civilization, exchange has been shameful and should be refrained from unless absolutely necessary. Such societies have known from experience that when the economy overproduces and its production becomes an object of exchange, grave trouble might be in the offing.

As commodities acquired exchange value, merchants and trade have become important categories of civilization. Here I have to note that I do not share Karl Marx’s concept of commodity. The opinion that the exchange value of a commodity can be measured by the workers’ labor has initiated a conceptualization period fraught with disadvantages. This may be better understood if we look at the disintegration of a society which has no value that has not yet been commodified. The mental acceptance of the society’s commodification is to abandon being human. And this is beyond barbarity. Beneath the societal harm sits the interest rate, of which trade is the basis and of which, in turn, the commodity is the basis. There is a strong causal link between trade and ecological disaster. When the economy stopped being social tissue it marked the beginning of a fundamental break with nature. This happened because of the profound distinction that was made between material and moral values, which form a natural unity. In a way, this severance cultivated the seeds of bad metaphysics. By leaving the material without spirit and the spiritual without matter, the path was being paved for the most confusing dichotomy encountered in the history of thought. Throughout the history of civilization, the bogus distinctions and discussions that have divided every aspect of life into either materialism or morality have destroyed ecology and free life. The concept of inanimate matter and an inanimate universe, combined with an incomprehensible spiritualism, are occupying, invading, and colonizing the human mind.

I have some doubts about another aspect of Marx’s concept. I am quite doubtful that social values (including commodities) are measurable. Commodities cannot be regarded as a mere product of abstract labor but, rather, as a combination of many non-quantifiable, non-natural properties. To claim the opposite paves the way for fallacy, extortion and theft. The reason is clear: How are we to measure the total amount of non-countable labor? Moreover, how are we to measure the labor of a mother at birth and that of the family that raises the worker? Then, how are we to measure the share of the whole society in which this object called “value” is realized? Hence, exchange value, surplus value, labor-value, interest rate, profit, unearned income and so forth are all forms of theft through official and state power. It may be meaningful to develop other measures or new forms of a gift economy to replace the exchange system. I will delve deeper into this topic later when I discuss modernity and free life.

Even in Greek culture trade was a despised occupation—the Greeks were aware of the connection between trade and theft. Nor was the position of the merchant in Roman society considered honorable. Commodification pertained only to a limited number of objects; serious precautions were implemented to restrict it. In other words, the morality of Neolithic society still existed as far as commerce was concerned. Although, due to favorable circumstances, there were occurrences of capitalism before it became the dominant system, even the civilized societies did not allow it to flourish. It was always kept at a marginal level. The fact that it flourished in the 16th century in what is today the Netherlands and England resulted from very special circumstances. It is entirely possible that the capitalist system was a necessity for the existence of the Netherlands and England. Within 400 years it had spread around the world.

My aim with this very short introduction to civilization was to provide the historical and sociological background needed to develop a meaningful method of interpreting knowledge. Our respect for free life demands that all of us who believe that we have a social duty should work from a historical and sociological perspective, so that we can arrive at a meaningful interpretation. In order for us not to be deceived and not to deceive anyone else, a profound analysis of civilization in general—but especially of capitalist civilization—must be combined with the sociology of freedom so that free life can be constructed.

56 Although widely quoted as slaughterhouse Hegel actually used the word slaughter-bench or Schlachtbank in his Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1825–26).

57 Editor’s note: The houri are dark-eyed virgins of perfect beauty believed to live in Paradise with the blessed.

58 Peter A. Kropotkin, Selected Writings on Anarchism and Revolution, edited and translated by Martin A. Miller (1970.)

59 It is difficult to draw the borders between science and philosophy. One can think of them as being theoretical and practical aspects of the same phenomenon.

60 Fernand Braudel’s right and just interpretation.

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