Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Americas, armed trade and cheap energy: review of Kenneth Pomeranz's “The Great Divergence”


Yes, I am 18 years late. I have read quite a lot about Pomeranz’s “Great Divergence”, both laudatory and dismissive reviews, papers that continued in his footsteps and others that did not, but I have not read the original book. So I decided to correct the omission at the end of this Summer.

It is a great book. And it is not surprising that it became famous. It presents what was then (year 2000) a largely new view on the causes of the Great Divergence, proves methodically, one by one, insufficiency of all other plausible explanations, and presents a logically taut and cogent case for its own hypothesis.  

That hypothesis is by now so well known that I will just sketch it here in the briefest terms possible. Pomeranz argues that around 1750-1800 Western Europe, China and to a lesser extent India were at the same or similar levels of development in all relevant respects that could have led to the Industrial Revolution (technology, protection of property rights, development of markets, institutions in general, demography and family formation). If anything, China was ahead of Western Europe in being much more of a competitive  Smithian market economy: land was easier to sell than in Europe (p. 73), labor market was well-integrated with greater migration of labor (pp. 84-4, 90), state interfered less with merchants and granted them fewer privileges (p. 170), there were only two state monopolies (p. 196).

There is thus no apparent reason why only Western Europe would develop further while the  others stagnated or declined. The real reason was, Pomeranz argues, in the role played by the Americas that (i) provided the silver with which Europe could satisfy insatiable Chinese demand (as China was undergoing the process of remonetization) and thus provide wherewithal to pay imported Asian luxuries, and (ii) more importantly, grow food and cotton for which Europe had no sufficient land or climate.  Americas thus helped Europe remove the Malthusian trap, or more accurately, helped it avoid the cul-de-sac development into which China and India fell due to the lack of land on which to grow food for their increasing populations. In addition, England was helped by having access to relatively cheap energy (coal)—a fact which interestingly does not receive in the main text of the book the attention that later reviewers gave it.

The origins of the Great Divergence are thus not endogenous to Europe: they cannot be found in some features unique to Europe—be it culture or institutions, or the division of the continent in many warring states or more advanced technology—but are exogenous. Without the Americas, there would not have been (modern) Europe, nor the Industrial Revolution.

The book is not exactly fun to read. The problem does not lie in bad writing or misorganization. In fact, the writing is excellent and very clear. The problem lies in the fact that Pomeranz needed first to dispose of all alterative interpretations for the European take-off, that is to show that none of them can prove Europe’s “difference” from China decisively, and thus to convince us of “surprising similarities” between Western Europe and most of China around 1700-1750. But to do so Pomeranz had to rely on a multitude of very partial and fragmentary observations or bits of data (here, a piece of evidence about the cost of land in a town in China around 1770, there, a guessestimate of Chinese cotton production around 1720 based on information about the “usual” yields in somebody’s diary). None  of that makes for an exciting reading and had we better and more consistent data, both for Western Europe and China, most of this discussion could be safely relegated to annexes. But under that scenario, most of Pomeranz’s book would be in annexes. This makes of course for a very tedious reading livened up, however, from time to time, by some excellent observations or unusual facts.  

It is only when we come (in the third part of the book) to Pomeranz’s own hypothesis that the text picks up pace and becomes more engaging. Pomeranz‘s Introduction that runs to some 20 pages is also commendably lucid. I read it after having read the book (as I normally do, since I think that we can understand general line of an argument much better after having read the nitty-gritty) and for those who are do not agree with me and are interested in the main argument only, the Introduction may suffice.

Let me now mention two points I found interesting…and puzzling: armed trade and sources used. “Armed trade”, that is, trade carried in the shadows of the threat, or actual use, of force or even pure piracy was the European way to prevail in Asian trade (p. 182). State-linked (or coercion-intensive; both terms are Pomeranz’s) European capitalism was not only key for the conquest of the Americas but projected European power across the world, including in Asia. Pomeranz thus argues that whenever European refrained from the use of force, they failed to squeeze out Chinese merchants from Southeast Asia; only when they resorted to armed trade, did they take control. While European merchants worked with the state, or were themselves (like East India Company or the Dutch VOC) quasi states, the Qing China was uninterested in protecting its overseas traders, failing even to react to their massacres in Batavia and Manila (pp. 202-3).

But the question one can ask is, why was the trade war fought on what may be thought to be Chinese home-turf? Were there some reasons that uniquely enabled Europeans to project their power and to trade in Asia, and that prevented the Chinese to do likewise in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean? Was the willingness to use force the only reason? Thus while I find plausible or even convincing that the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish or English could not outsell the Chinese in Indonesia or the Philippines except when ready to use force, I still do not understand what led Europeans to get there in the first place and prevented Chinese to send similar ships to the Atlantic. Was that something “endogenous” to Europe?

Second. It is striking how few contemporary Chinese sources we have (or are quoted in the book), compared to contemporary European sources, or even European travel writers in China (nothing similar exists in China: no Chinese travelers in Europe are cited). I suppose that Pomeranz who is a China scholar knew most of the then-extent sources. Further, we surely have more sources today than almost twenty years ago. There is an enormous archival research work going on in China. But the disproportion is, it seems, still large. If we take the period 1500-1700, there are thousands of documents, notes, memoranda, books and treatises in Western Europe that deal with economic matters. It does not seem that anything similar existed in China. And although researchers are finding new data in Chinese household stashes and archives, and that particular paucity of numbers may be alleviated, the paucity of scholarly discussion of economic matters is unlikely to be remedied because if such texts existed in China, we would have known of them by now. So the question is, if scholars or bureaucrats  in China were uninterested in matters economic, and scholars and bureaucrats in (Western) Europe were,  does not that too show that there were some “endogenous” differences?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

On the Threshold of the Third Globalization: why Liberal Capitalism might Fail?


We are used to speaking with awe about the current globalization: integration of financial and goods’ markets, ease of travel. Yet,

“[around year 150]..it was possible for a young student, Tatian, to pass from the eastern, Syrian, fringe of the Roman empire to Rome, speaking Greek all the way and participating in a uniform Greek philosophical culture…To humbler men, [the Empire] meant wider horizons and unprecedented opportunities for travel; it meant the erosion of local differences through trade and emigration; and the weakening of ancient barriers before new wealth and new criteria of status” (Peter Brown, The World of late antiquity, p. 60).

and

“[prior to World War I the inhabitant of London] could secure…cheap and comfortable means of transport to any country or climate without passport or other formality, could dispatch his servant to the neighboring office of a bank for such supply of the precious metals as might seem convenient, and could then proceed abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge of their religion, language, or customs, bearing coined wealth upon his person, and would consider himself greatly aggrieved and much surprised at the least interference. But most important of all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, expect in the direction of further improvement…” (Keynes, The Economic consequences of the peace, pp. 11-12)1

As these quotes imply, we are currently standing at the threshold of the Third Globalization. The first globalization was the Roman-led empire that covered during the two to three centuries which we plausibly can treat as a period of globalization the area from the Euphrates to Scotland, from the Gibraltar to Armenia. The second globalization was, of course, the British-led one, lasting from around 1870 until the Great War. But



1 World Bank, Research department.. I am grateful to Ethan Kapstein, Mansoob Murshed, Veljko Djuric and Richard Kohl for valuable comments. The views expressed here are my own, and should not be attribiuted to the World Bank or its affiliated institutions.

were these periods real “globalization”, and how sure are we about assigning the dates to them?

In Part 1, I shall look at some similarities between the three globalizations; in Part 2, I will consider the ideological backlashes against the three globalizations: Christianity against the first, Marxism against the second. Finally, I will indulge in some speculation as to what ideology might play a similar role in the future, undermining the seemingly firm current dominance of liberal capitalism.


1.  Similarities between the three globalizations


The dates and definitions. Can we truly argue that the period of the Roman rule over the large part of the inhabited globe was “globalization?” Is not a “partial” globalization a contradiction in terms? If the rule did not extend over the entire globe, how can it be “global?” And if one empire, why not others: the Spanish empire that spanned parts of Europe and most of South America. The reason lies in the spread of the Roman empire, its duration and its overall approach. One can reasonably argue that the empire grew “global” from the moment when it reached its peak, both in terms of territorial expansion and social stability—under Trajan who in 115 was the first, and the last, Roman emperor to behold the shores of the Persian Gulf. It was global because it included within its ambit a wide number of groups, tribes, peoples, religions—it represented a “universum” as it included practically all the known civilized peoples with the exceptions of Persians, and Germanic tribes across the Rhine. (China and India were too far to be known.)

Now, if we can set the beginning of “globalization” with relative ease, that is at the time which coincided with what is conventionally regarded as the high watermark of Roman power, when was the end of the first globalization? Deciding on the dates is important—not because we can truly establish when globalization ended, nor choosing one year rather than another per se matters—but because it forces us to look at different aspects of what globalization means. For choosing different years means that we are defining globalization differently. For example, if we say that the end of the “global”

phase coincides with a fall of Rome in 476, we are using a rather symbolic ending date. For sure, the Eastern Roman empire continued for many centuries. But the fall of Rome symbolically represented the end of integration of the entire broad Mediterranean basin: trade between Syria and Britannia was interrupted for many centuries—perhaps until the Second Globalization occurred late in the 19th century. 2

But if we look further from the symbolic, we are forced to recognize that not only had Rome had long ceased to be a very important part of the Empire, it was not even the Imperial capital.3 Moreover, since the time when in the early 5th century the Empire lost control of Britain, Gaul, Iberian peninsula, and northern Africa, the integration between the West and the East of the Mediterranean became a thing of the past. One could thus date the end of the “global” phase from the early 5th century as the Roman possessions in the West began to shrink. 4 To complicate the matters further, the importance of market exchanges, which is indeed an important feature of globalization, 5 declined with the growth of a largely self-sufficient manorial system in the Western part of the Empire. 6 Walbank (1946) thus describes the Western Empire in the third century: “Over the whole Empire there was a gradual reversion to small-scale, hand-to-mouth craftsmanship, producing for the local market and for specific orders in the vicinity” (p. 31). “The gradual transfer of industry from the cities to villages and large country estates [started]. In this way the essentially agrarian character of ancient civilisation began to reassert itself over the urban elements which had produced its highest and most typical developments” (Walbank, 1946, p.33). There was “...the splitting-up of a single oecumenical [global] trade system into a number of provincial blocks” (p.38).

Similar ambivalence attends any attempt to pinpoint the dates of the Second Globalization. In recent papers, Baldwin and Martin (1999), and Williamson (1996) both date the Second Globalization to have lasted from around 1870 until 1914. The ending date is clear, and it would seem, accepted by everybody. But the beginning date coincides with the epoch of imperialism. Hobson in his famous “Imperialism” also dated the beginning of “new” imperialism to 1870. However, certain features that we believe are present in globalization (ability and freedom to move from place to place, to sell and buy goods from different locales, or to make investments) were present even in an earlier period, say after the mid-19th century. Politically, if one focuses on Europe (and Europe

indeed was the most important part of the world), the period between 1848 and 1914 represents a single whole.7 To use Hobsbawm’s terminology the question is whether Second Globalization should include the Age of Capital in addition to the Age of Empire. However, unlike our decision to treat a period of Roman rule as globalization even if it excluded a large part of the inhabited globe, a similar approach cannot be used to consider as globalization the “European-only” period, that is the pre-imperialist era of the 19th century. This is simply because the existence of the rest of the world was indeed known by then. It may be therefore more sensible to rather conventionally date the period of the Second Globalization from around 1870 to 1914.

As for the Third Globalization, although the features we associate with globalization started to spread to the parts of the world since the 1960’s they did not include, until the end of the Cold War, the vast expanses of the Euro-Asian continent. And, surely did not include China until the changes in that country in the late 1970’s. “Globalization” that excludes some 30 percent of world population (Communist countries of Europe, Asia and China) can thus hardly be termed globalization.8 This is why we believe that only now do we stand at the threshold of the Third Globalization. What lessons can comparisons with the other two globalizations allow us to draw? What similarities can we observe between these two episodes, and the present?

Globalization is led by a hegemon. Globalization is inseparable from the existence of a hegemon. It is not that globalization is a process where most of the countries, and peoples participate on an equal footing, engaging equally in exchange and production. Globalization emerges only when a hegemon ensures safe roads or safe seas for many to engage in commerce and investment. The hegemon provides security—a crucial public good. The role of world hegemon is no different from that of a ruler of a country: he too provides safety.9 Of course, not every hegemon will do so. Mongols did not. They were more interested in extracting a surplus from those whom they ruled. Thus a relatively benevolent hegemon (“a live and let live hegemon”) is needed for globalization. And the three globalizations of which we speak here found in Rome, Britain, and the United States, such three hegemons. In somewhat self-congratulatory words of Lord Rosebery, the British empire was “the greatest secular agency for good known to the world.” 10

Similar in spirit, albeit less elegant, is the recent description of the United States by its Secretary of the Treasury, as “an indispensable nation.” So long as the world is  polarized, as it was during the Cold War, globalization was impossible. Had Persia been a stronger opponent for Rome, globalization, and certainly a Roman-led one, would have never come to pass. Had Britain been weaker, there would not have been Second Globalization, and indeed when it was faced by a strong challenger (Germany), which it failed to defeat in a way that enabled it to regain its old pre-eminence, the Second Globalization ended. It is only because we live now in a unipolar world that globalization has suddenly become so obvious.

Technological progress not sufficient. Without technological progress, globalization is simply technically unfeasible. Chariots and ships had to be invented for people to be able to travel from one end of the Roman empire to another. Ships ferried goods and people from Europe to Asia and to Africa and to Australia in the last century. Telephones, Internet, and airplanes are needed today for people to stay in touch with each other. So much is obvious. Yet, technological progress alone is not sufficient. Had the Soviet Union not collapsed (or: had Persia been stronger), we (or: the Mediterranean world) would have had the same technology, but the world would not have been globalized. It is not technology alone that makes us “global”: it is the political unity which is imparted to the world by the hegemon.

The global and the particular. The constituent elements, as it were, of a globalization are nation-states in the Second and Third Globalizations. Since the First Globalization occurred within an Empire, its constituent elements were cities (local governments). What is most interesting for us is that Roman-led globalization coincided with increasing importance of local governments (particularly in the Eastern part of the Empire), and great variability in local legislation. Under the semblance of a uniform administration and imperial laws, the role of cities increased. Many in the East consciously promoted and displayed their Greek roots: “The Greek aristocracies treasured their local rites...as guarantees of local status, and through a fear that the vast empire in which they found themselves would become a cultural dust-bowl. The general attitude of the age [4th century] stressed the brittle honeycomb of local patriotism: the Greek cities

produced a rash of coins, each honoring its own god; and an African city summed it up in an inscription: ‘More power to the home-town!’” (Brown, 1971, p.60). The Roman example shows, translated into today’s circumstances, that globalization does not need to lead to an obliteration of local customs, nor to a total sidelining of the nation-state.

Even the hegemon is influenced. Thus while the First Globalization took place under the Roman aegis, those who gradually extended and maintained Roman borders were less and less recognizably “Roman.” The set of the Illyrian-born emperors who restored Roman greatness in the Third century after a period of 50 years of constant turmoil and weakness, would have been hardly recognized as Romans by the 1st century senators. 11 They were hardy military leaders, speaking Latin because it was the administrative language of the Empire, while all but ignoring the Senate, and not even bothering to visit Rome except to celebrate a triumph. Diocletian, who, as Gibbon put it, “like Augustus, …may be considered as the founder of a new Empire” (The Decline and Fall… p. 359), became Roman emperor because he made a successful career as a military leader, not because he had any particular cultural or ethnic attachments to Rome. 12

Similarly, as the ruling elites in the US become more globalized, they will less and less represent the interests of their American constituents only. Not only will foreign lobbyists gradually become more important (since they have more money) than many domestic interest groups, even cultural similarities between the US and foreign elites will make them feel closer to each other than they feel to their domestic constituents. An interesting situation might then ensue: since the decision on who will hold power in the hegemon will still be made by the American people, we might have the people deciding between several competing groups within the elite (as is already today the case), who, in their turn, are partly bankrolled by foreign interests groups. We immediately see a strong similarity between the role of the Roman senate and the American electorate. Since Augustus (“this crafty prince” as Gibbon called him), the Senate had—with very few exceptions—no substantive role in the election of the Emperor. However, since  Augustus, almost all Emperors ostensibly deferred to the Senate and sought its approval. The senators caved in, at first because they faced a fait accompli or were cajoled (both strategies used, simultaneously, by Augustus), and later they gave their approvals out of a long habit, deeply aware of own impotence. Still, for senators, playing the pretense was

more rewarding than refusing it—because they knew that a refusal might lead to their own dismissal or replacement by the more pliant group. As money, and interest groups, at times foreign-bankrolled, come to dominate the electoral process in the US, the power of the American people to elect its own leaders may gradually be emptied of real content: the people will be increasingly viewed as a group to be manipulated through media blitzes or fooled by promises—but the real levers of power will be held elsewhere. 13

Imperialism. The First Globalization was the direct outcome of successful Roman imperialism. It was successful not only militarily, but, more importantly, politically as it extended the benefits of Roman citizenship to all nations brought within its confines. 14

The Second Globalization is indissolubly linked with Imperialism. At the time when the Napoleonic wars ended, European powers did not control, with the exception of Egypt and a number of enclaves along the African coastline, no part of Africa. By 1914, no part of Africa was independent save for Ethiopia. Moreover European possessions  also expanded in Asia, and Oceania. Britain too followed, for a while, a policy of extending the citizenship, until the fear of being overwhelmed by the other races stopped it. The French were famous for teaching African children of “our ancestors the Gauls.” But the North Europeans, the British and the French, were more wary of extending citizenship the way the Romans did. Perhaps because with the Roman example before them, they knew that such a policy will lead to the watering down of what to be a Roman, or a British means. Thus, the triad of hegemonism, imperialism, and globalization seems to go together.

How far will the current hegemon go along the path of imperialism? We already see the clear signs: the almost total disregard of the United Nations, or rather the fact that the UN has become an instrument of the US policy, or when inconvenient is simply ignored; the disregard of the existing international charters and documents; the US willingness to act unilaterally or to drag, in an ostensible show of unity, its reluctant allies. The hegemon is present at practically all points of the globe; and where it cannot be present itself, it sends its regional allies to do the job (Italy in Albania, Australia in

East Timor). So, imperialism, like under the previous two globalizations, is part and parcel of globalization.

Will the US be more like the Roman Empire who embraced politically under its constitution all the people which willingly joined it or were subdued, or would it be more like the British who found it too risqué to promise a true political union or to give political rights to the subject peoples? Note that the British political possessions fell into three categories—Crown colonies with no self-governments, colonies with some representative, but not responsible government, and colonies with self-rule in which the Crown retained only a veto on some legislation—and that all but one of the 39 possessions acquired by Britain after 1870 were simple colonies (the category 1).15 As Hobson wrote in 1902: “Politically, the new [British and other European] Imperialism was an expansion of autocracy” (ibid, p. 27).

The United States, being itself an amalgam of peoples seem like a good candidate to follow the Roman example. However, the formal extension of citizenship may be a costlier undertaking today than it was some eighteen centuries ago. While it is true that there was an economic cost to the original Roman citizens of further extension of citizenship (since subsidized food rations had to be guaranteed to all citizens of Rome, Alexandria, and later Constantinople), the costs were probably, in relation to the size of the economy, less then than they are today—when government-provided benefits, and thus taxes needed to finance them, are much greater. (This is simply the other way of saying that provision of government benefits had increased faster, in the rich countries of the world, than their income.) Furthermore, the US is a democracy while Rome was not. And people in a democracy may be stingier of the benefits than an absolute ruler. For the latter, extension of citizenship is a trade-off where the benefits may be tangible (support of the new citizens for his rule, enhanced greatness) and the offsets minimal (economic costs that he does not bear himself).16 But for each citizen in a democracy, extension of citizenship and suffrage may affect his purse directly.

Inequality. The Second Globalization was accompanied –or rather—produced a massive increase in world inequality. As Francois Bourgignon and Christian Morrison

(1999; Table 1) show in a recent paper—which for the first time calculated inequality among the persons in the world (treating all individuals in the world, irrespective of where the live equally) over the long period from 1820 to today—inequality increased between 1820 and 1870 by 6 Gini points (from 50.4 to 56.5) and then between 1870 and 1910 by another 5 Gini points (to 61.4).17 The increase in inequality was driven by rising differences in mean incomes between various countries and country groups. While in 1820, inter-country differences in mean incomes accounted (“explained”) for 11 percent of total world inequality, in 1870, the percentage was 28 percent, and in 1910, 38 percent.18 Western Europe and North America pulled ahead of everybody else. The rest of the world either remained stagnant or declined (Asia in particular). 19

While our data regarding what happened in the 19th century are reasonably good, the Roman data are much more tentative. Inequality in the Empire seems to have increased from the 3rd century onward (approximately, around Constantine’s assumption of full power) 20 but the increase seems to have been limited to the Western part. As Averil Cameron (1993, p.117) writes: “One striking feature of the 4th century [in the Western half of the Empire] is the tendency of landowners to amass estates and wealth on an enormous scale.” But the situation was—as could be implied from the growing role of local governments—different in the East. To quote Cameron again: “[Existence of large estates] revealed a dangerous concentration of wealth in the west…while the government itself became increasingly weak. In the east, by contrast, senatorial fortunes were smaller, partly in view of the very recent development of the senate of Constantinople and the prominence in it of men of much more ordinary origin” (ibid, p. 118). “The difference in atmosphere between the two parts of the empire was largely due to the different role of the small man. When Gaul [in the fifth century] was being terrorized by peasant revolts, provoked by taxation and rack-renting, the farmers of northern Syria were able to build substantial stone houses in villages that now [20th century] shelter only a few nomads” (Brown, 1971, p. 44). Ultimately it led to large villa (manorial or proto-feudal)  economies in the West, and small peasant and village economy in the East. Increased inequality in the West coincided not with growing “marketization” but rather with its opposite: a retrenchment from the relatively free exchange of the earlier century and from the division of labor. It resulted into what Max Weber called “the political capitalism.”


Cultural integration. Neither the Second nor the Third Globalization have,  in terms of cultural integration, reached the level of the First. While the current may ultimately reach it—as witnessed by growing cultural similarities between large swathes of the world, and the cultural domination of the hegemon (films, books, and, in particular, language), the world is not culturally as integrated as Europe and the Middle East were in (say) the second century. For the cultural milieu, perhaps because of shared citizenship and shared language of the cultural elite (Latin and Greek, and often both), was more uniform than it is today. It is clearly a matter of an educated guess, but a New Yorker and a citizen of Tokyo (the very fact that there is no English word to designate it should tell  us something!) may have less in common than a citizen of Antioch and that of Tarragona. Even the fact that an emperor (Julian) would write a book deriding the citizens of a city (Antioch) who mocked him because they did not share his religious beliefs, is not conceivable today. He tried to convert them; they resisted it—but the attempt at conversion and mockery betray a cultural closeness that would be hard to imagine between an American president and the people of Japan.


2.  Reactions to victorious globalization: Christianity, Marxism, what Next?


The new and victorious ideology. Globalization, almost by definition, leads to deracinement (uprootedness). It does so by speeding up economic progress which transforms communities, pushes people to abandon the existing jobs and take the new ones, makes them move to the new places, or even when they do not physically move requires them to confront new customs and ways of thinking. Globalization is the opposite of closedness. It thus severs the old ties that hold communities together. The uprootedness creates a large pool of people who share similar condition and to whom a uniform, universalist ideology will almost by definition appeal. That the ideology has to be universalist is obvious if it wants to reach many people who differ by their backgrounds, religion, custom etc., but who at the time of globalization face the same problems. But uprootedness creates anxiety—even if it accompanied by an improvement in the economic position, and, of course, even more so, if it is not. Therefore, the attitude of the uprooted (deracinés) toward globalization, and in particular toward the hegemon at

the apex, is ambivalent. On the one hand, even the uprooted people are often, in an economic and social sense, the winners because globalization widens their horizons, offers them greater social mobility, increases their incomes, and –even more strikingly— opens up new opportunities for their children. On the other hand, their resent it because globalization tosses them around, physically and metaphorically, like playthings—it obeys to forces they find difficult to comprehend.

These large groups of the uprooted will be in the instinctive search of a new ideology—ideology of the time of globalization. This cannot be the ideology of the elite, that is, the ideology espoused by the hegemon, because of their ambivalence towards globalization and the hegemon. And indeed the First and the Second Globalizations have produced the two strongest universalist ideologies ever which both owe their growth to the deracinés of the globalization: Christianity and Marxism. This is how Moses Hadas in his 1948 introduction to Burckhardt’s classic “The Age of Constantine the Great” saw Christianity: “...a new and revolutionary social doctrine with an enormous emotional appeal was spread abroad by men with a religious zeal for a new and authoritarian cosmopolitanism and with a religious certainty that their end justified their means.” 21 Would not the same definition, verbatim, apply to Marxism around the turn of the 20th century?

It is not an accident that Christianity and Marxism were born and grew during the first two globalizations. They appealed to the displaced, to the uprooted and they emphasized the common, universal.22 Both had to overcome, nay to fight, against the dominant ideology which was the driving force behind globalization: Roman paganism during the first, capitalist liberalism during the second. Short of globalization, neither Christianity nor Marxism would have aroused. Not only because globalization offered them the masses eager to follow their message, but also because globalization provided them with the means to spread their message. Without cultural and economic homogeneity of the Graeco-Roman world, the message of the Gospel would have remained enclosed within a small community. 23 Origen, writing in the middle of the Third century, makes the parallel directly: “Jesus was born during the reign of Augustus, the one who reduced to uniformity...the many kingdoms on earth so that he had s single

empire. It would have hindered Jesus’s teaching from being spread through the whole world if there had beed many kindgoms.” 24 Similarly, had Europe and the world been less unified, few in China would have heard of a German exile writing in the British Museum.25

If we extent this analogy, we can see that those who believe that the current globalization will result in an ideological triumph of the values that underlie the globalization and are shared by the elite, are wrong.26 What history seems to prove is that the eras of globalization are particularly propitious times and settings for the growth of ideologies that while not against globalization as such (among other things because they stress universalism) are critical of the particular form of globalization—in other words of the ideology propounded and held by the ruling elites. For sure, globalization will produce ideologies that reject globalization, i.e. that are in direct opposition to it. The Second Globalization produced a fair crop of nationalistic-romantic rejections of liberalism. But the real powerful ideologies will be those that, in an almost textbook Hegelian fashion, do not represent an antithesis of globalism (that is, its rejection), but  the synthesis (that is, its transcendence). Marxism viewed capitalist globalization of the 19th century as a great step forward in mankind’s evolution—and few have waxed more eloquent about the achievements of capitalism than Marx in The Communist Manifesto— but not a final step. The next, logical, step was to get rid of the classes and usher in universalist equality. Similarly, Christianity did not oppose to the Roman triumphalism the exclusiveness of the ethnic religions in the way that Judaism did. It accepted Roman unification of the known (and civilized) world, and wanted to improve on it. The ambivalence toward Rome, and all it symbolized, is nowhere clearer than in Augustine’s City of God. It was specifically written to address that ambivalence: Christians disliked Rome for all of what it represented of paganism and licentiousness (and were hence supposed to rejoice in its downfall),27 yet they were culturally its citizens.28 The sack of Rome in 410 brought this ambivalence to the fore. The similarities between Christianity and Marxism in their attitude toward the globalization of their times are striking. Can we expect that the Third Globalization will give birth to a new universalist ideology?

To us, it would seem that Islam would almost perfectly fill the role of a new ideology fit to prevail in the Third Globalization: it is universalist and expansionist

(proselytistic); it has a strong element of commonality (meaning that people who share the religion feel particularly close to each other, maybe only a shade less so than the early Christians and Communists felt among themselves), and it is not the religion/ideology of the ruling elites. The difference is, of course, that Islam is already an old religion which did not arise in response to specific needs of today. But one cannot rule out that it may   be sufficiently flexible to fill these specific needs.

The fall. For the globalization to “count”, it need not only cover most or all of the surface of the Earth; it also needs to last. It is premature to speak of the Third Globalization now. In reality, we should be speaking of it—if it persists in some fifty or one hundred years from now. But, assuming that we are indeed on the verge of the Third Globalization, how did the previous two end? The first ended, as we saw before, in the early 5th century when the Western part of the Empire was lost. The connection with the rest of the Empire was severed, and the cultural unity of the known (Western) world ended—and quite arguably has never recovered since. (For the cultural closeness of Palmyra and London was greater then than it is today.) But the cause of the fall was military defeat of the West at the hands of the Goths and other Germanic tribes. While  the discussion of the causes of the Fall is endless, and will probably never generate unanimity nor will it lead us to isolate a single cause, the fact is that the western Roman empire was lost at the battlefield. However, it was overthrown by the people who, while not Roman citizens, were not culturally dissimilar from them. Not only did Alaric serve as a general in the Roman army, but Goths were permitted to live among the Romans (as they escaped from the Huns)—an experience which left them, it is true, with bad memories but nevertheless culturally close to Romans. The people who conquered Rome and sacked it were Christians too—like most of Rome’s own inhabitants. In the famous phrase by Gibbon, “if the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors.” 29 The new religion born partly in resistance to Roman globalization, partly as a means to transcending it, achieved its objective—its existence transcended that of the Empire. The Empire which gave rise to the First Globalization ended, but the religion to which the Empire gave the raison d’être and the

wherewithal of expansion, went up to conquer a large part of the world, and to rule up to our days, two thousand years after it was created.

While the First Globalization ended through attacks from without, the Second Globalization ended because of dissention among the elites. The struggle for mastery in Europe and in the world between the hegemon (Great Britain) and the upstart power (Germany) ended in the decline of both. Out of that struggle, Marxism, not unlike Christianity, came victorious. It triumphed in one country, then spread to rule over one- fourth of the people in the world, and sought too to transcend the capitalist-led globalization by the one (in theory) led by workers of the world. It failed in its attempt— but while it mounted a challenge to capitalism, it was sufficiently strong to end any  dream of a new universal hegemon and globalization. Only when Communism collapsed, did the Third Globalization become possible. (Of course, the same would have been true in the opposite case: had capitalism lost, and Communism won, we would have also witnessed globalization, but led by another hegemon, and another ideology.)

What does the future hold? All forecasts are the domain of the foolhardy. But if the analogy between the first two and the Third Globalization holds, we can expect (rather: that is what we already see) the rule of a single hegemon, increasing cultural unity of the world, and the striving for a universalist ideology which will not be the current ideology of the hegemon. The future of liberal capitalist ideology is therefore not radiant. Its association with the hegemon will make it unpalatable to the large masses of people that are brought into the process of globalization. They are there, the deracites of the 21st century, providing willing souls thirsting for something that will explain to them the process into which they are thrown, or in which are willingly participating, but which they nevertheless feel baffling. The ideology which will best quench their new thirst will ultimately win. We do not know what it will be, nor how it will be called—but we can  see its contours: it must be universalist, and specific, that is it must answer today’s anxieties, not yesterday’s.

REFERENCES

Richard Baldwin and Philip Martin (1999), “Two waves of globalisation: superficial similarities, fundamental differences”, National Bureau of Economic Research Working paper No. 6904, January.

Francois Bourguignon and Christian Morrisson (1999), “The size distribution of income among world citizens”, mimeo, June 1999.

Peter Brown (1971), The World of Late Antiquity AD 150-750, New York and London,
W.W. Norton.

Jacob Burckhart (1949), The Age of Constantine the Great, Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univrersity of California Press, 1949 [first published in German in 1852].

Averil Cameron (1993), The Later Roman Empire, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Garth Fowden (1993), Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity, Princeton University Press, 1993.

Arther Ferrill (1986), The Fall of the Roman Empire: The Military Explanation, London: Thames and Hudson.

Edward Gibbon (1994 [1776]), The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, London: Pinguin’s, volume I.

K. A. Hobson (1965 [1902]), Imperialism, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Paperbacks.

Jaroslav Pelikan (1987) The Excellent Empire: The Fall of Rome and the Triumph of the Church, Harper& Row.

Ben Polak and Jeffrey G. Williamson (1991), “Poverty, Policy and Industrialization: Lessons from the distant past”, World Bank Working Paper No. 645, April 1991.

Ben Polak and Jeffrey G. Williamson (1993), "Poverty, Policy and Industrialization in the Past", in J. van der Gaag and M. Lipton (eds.), Including the Poor, Washington, D.C.:IFPRI and the World Bank.

F.W. Walbank (1946), The Decline of the Roman Empire in the West, London: Corbett Press.

Jeffrey Williamson (1991), "British Inequality during the Industrial Revolution: Accounting for the Kuznets curve", in Y.S. Brenner, Hartmut Kaelble and Mark Thomas (eds.), Income Distribution in Historical Perspective, Cambridge and Paris: Cambridge University Press and Editions de la Maison des Sciences.

Jeffrey Williamson (1996), “Globalization and inequality then and now: the late 19th and late 20th centuries compared”,. National Bureau of Economic Research. Working paper series No. 5491, March 1996.





1 This is a somewhat overused quote—but it is difficult to produce a better or a more succinct one.
2 In a less symbolic sense, the fall of Rome represented the end of the Western Empire. The insignia of the Empire were sent to Constantinople a few months after Romulus Augustulus was deposed.
3 Note that starting with Diocletian in 300, no emperor lived in Rome, and most hardly ever visited it. Under the tetrarchy, Milan became the western, and Nicomedia the eastern capital, before, of course both were later replaced by Constantinople. “Till Diocletian in the twentieth year of his reign, celebrated his Roman triumph, it is extremely doubtful that he ever visited the ancient capital of the empire. Even on that memorable occasion his stay did not exceed two months” (Gibbon, The Decline and Fall…p. 385). “Rome is rarely if ever on the imperial itinerary” writes Averil Cameron (1993, p.43). Constantine visited it twice in more than twenty years of reign. Gibbon (The Decline and Fall..., p. 606; fn) quotes a revealing statistics from Tillemont, to the effect that between Carus until Honorius (year 400), in an interval of 120 years, no emperor was physically present in Rome on Januuary 1, the day when officially the consulships began.
4 But note that until 410 when Alaric conducted his first sack of Rome, the borders of the Empire were about the same as in 115.

5 In the most abstract economic way, globalization can be seen to take place in several dimensions: globalization transcends narrow geographic or national lines through movement of goods and services (trade), movement of physical capital (direct foreign investments), movement of financial capital, and movement of people (migration).
6 “But another feature of the existence of large estates had a more direct impact on the general economy. This is the fact that many dealings will have taken place between one estate and another of the same landowner, or through arrangements with his friends and relations, and so will have by-passed the open market altogether.” (Cameron . p. 121).
7 It is not by accident that A.J.P. Taylor chose precisely that period in his The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918.

8 Baldwin and Martin (1999) define globalization to have started in the 1960’s. This, I believe, is a fairly self-centered definition.

9 Unless he find it more profutable to become a predatory bandit!
10 Quoted from Hobson (1965, p. 160).
11 I have in mind Claudius, Aurelian and Probus, all generals born in Illyricum who ruled from 268 to 282. When Gallerius, of similar origin, tried to impose personal taxation on citizens of Rome, they could not
“patiently brook the insolence of an Illyrian peasant, who from his distant residence in Asia, presumed to number Rome among the tributary cities of his empire” (Gibbon, The Decline and Fall…, p. 408). Yet pay they did.

12 “Latin emperors like Diocletian and his colleagues [the tetrachs] showed that it is quite possible to be a fanatical romanus and yet to visit Rome only once in a lifetime.” (Brown, 1971, p. 42). Note that under the fall of Constantinople 1453, its inhabitants and the emperor referred to themselves as “Rhomaioi” [Greek for Romans].


13 What better example of the trend than that of George W. Bush who has all but won the Republican primaries before a single election was held: but he has a commanding lead because nobody has amassed as much money!

14 “The bulk of people acquired, with that [Roman citizenship] title, the benefit of the Roman laws, particularly in the interesting articles of marriage, testaments, and inheritance; and the road to fortune was open tothose whose pretensions were seconded by favour or merit. The grandsons of the Gauls, who had beseiged Julius Ceasar in Alesia, commanded legions, governed provinces, and were admitted into the senate of Rome.” (Gibbon, The Decline and Fall…, p. 64)

15 Only the Transvaal belonged to category 2. From Hobson (1965, p.23).
16 It is notable that Roman citizenship was extended in 214 to all free subjects by Caracalla—a notoriously avaricious and cruel emperor. As Gibbon writes: “[Caracalla’s] liberality flowed not…from the sentiments of a generous mind; it was the sordid result of avarice…” (The Decline and Fall…p. 178).

17 The Gini coefficient ranges from 0 (perfect equality) to 100 (perfect inequality).
18 Inequality is here measured by the Theil coefficient which, unlike the Gini, is fully decomposable. Calculated from Bourguignon and Morrisson (1999, Table 3).

19 Inequality in the hegemon alone (Great Britain) decreased during the period of Second Globalization. According to Williamson (1991), and Polak and Williamson (1991, p. 30), British inequality reached its peak in the 1870’s; the American remained at the high plateau from the end of the Civil War to the 1920’s.

20 The battle of the Milvian bridge was in 312.
21 Hadas in J. Burckhardt (1949, p.7).
22 “The Christians were immigrants at heart—ideological deracinés, separated from their environment by a belief they knew they shared with little groups all over the empire.” (Brown, ibid, p. 66)

23 “As soon as those histories [of Jesus’s life and ressurection] were translated into the Latin tongue they were perfectly intelligible to all the subjects of Rome...The public highways, which had been constructed for the use of the legions, opened an easy passage for the Christian missionares from Damascus to Corinth, and from Italy to the extremity of Spain or Britain; nor did those spiritual conquerors encounter any of the obstacles which usually retard or prevent the introduction of a foreign religion into a distant country.” (Gibbon, The Decline and Fall...,p. 500).

24 Origen in Contra Celsus. Quoted from Fowden (1993, p.89).
25 Brown (p.57) makes a direct comparison: “[the Christian bishop in Rome in the time of Hadrian] was an incomprehensible emigrant in a great city, like Karl Marx in Victorian London.”

26 The most famous such recent view is held by Fukuyama in The End of History and the Last Man.
27 Burckhart (p. 218) writes: “To the Christians, as long as they saw and hated Rome as paganism personified, as the Babylon of the Book of Revelation, ...the notion [of Roma aeterna] was folly. They regarded Rome, as Arnobius plainly declares, as the “city created for the corruption of the human race, for the sake of whose rule, the entire world was undeservedly been subjugated.”
28 Tartullian insisted that the Christians pray ‘in behalf of the emperors, nay, for the complete stability of the empire, and for Roman interests in general.’ And the reason was this: ‘We know that a mighty shock impending over the whole earth--in fact, the very end of all things, threatening dreadful woes-- is being retarded only by the continued existence of the Roman empire.” (Pelikan, 1987, p.47). Similarly, Pelikan (ibid, p. 44) quotes Jerome: “When I began to dictate [the Commentary on Ezekiel], I was so confounded by the havoc wrought in the West and above all by the sack of Rome that, as the common saying has it, I forgot even my own name. Long did I remain silent, knowing that it was a time to weep.” Paganism was


not dead though. With Alaric ante portes, the pope Innocent “hoping to alleviate panic, agreed to the performance of pagan rituals.” (Ferrill, 1986, p. 103).

29 Or in Burckhardt’s words (1949, p. 216): “It was Christianity..that could bestow a second youth upon the senascent Roman Empire; but it could so far prepare the Empire’s Germanic conqueror that they did not wholly tread its culture underfoot.”

[Text as written in December 1999]

[Unpublished, several times rejected, paper]