When atoms a re trave l l i ng

stra i ght down t hrough empty
q u i te i ndeter mi nate times
and pl aces, t hey swerve ever
so l itt l e from t hei r cou rse,
j ust so muc h t hat yo u would
cal l i t a cha ng� of di recti o n.
I f i t were not fo r t hi s swerve,
everyt hi ng wou l d fal l down­
wards through t he a byss of
space . No col l i si o n wou l d ta ke
pl ace and no i mpact of ato m
o n ato m wou l d be created.
Thus n atu re wo ul d never have
created a nyt h i ng.
- Lucret i us
Swerve Editions
Edited by Jonathan Crary, Sanford Kwinter, and Bruce Mau
I would like to dedicate this book to my parents,
Manuel De Landa and Carmen Acosta De Landa. I would
also like to thank Celia Schaber for her constant support
and inspiration, Don McMahon for his careful editing
and useful suggestions, and Meighan Gale and the editors
at Zone Books. -Manuel De Landa
© 1997 Manuel De Landa
Zone Books
611 Broadway, Suite 608
New York, NY
10012
All rights reserved.
First Paperback Edition
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
means, including electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
microfilming, recording, or otherwise (except for that
copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S.
Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public
press) without written permission from the Publisher.
Printed in the United States of America.
Distributed by The MIT Press,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
De Landa, Manuel.
A thousand years of nonlinear history /
Manuel De Landa.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-942299-32-9 (paper)
1. Science - Philosophy - History. 2. Nonlinear theories
- History. 3. Philosophy - History. 4. Geology - History.
5. Biology - History. 6. Linguistics - History. I. Title.
Q174.8.D43 1997
501 - dc20
1/
Hf
Karlruhe
� � ,I
r h , "I
.
/
96-38752
CIP
Contents
11 Introduction
I : LAVAS AND MAGMAS
25 Geological History: 1000-1700 A.D.
57 Sandstone and Granite
71 Geological History: 1700-2000 A.D.
II: FLESH AND GENES
103 Biological History: 1000-1700 A.D.
135 Species and Ecosystems
149 Biological History: 1700-2000 A.D.
III: MEMES AND NORMS
183 Linguistic History: 1000-1700 A.D.
215 Argu ments and Operators
227 Linguistic History: 1700-2000 A.D.
257 Conclusion and Speculations
275 Notes
I ntrod uction
Despite its title, this is not
a book of history but a book
of philosophy. It is, however,
a deeply historical philoso­
phy, which holds as its cen­
tral thesis that all structures
that surround us and form
our reality (mountains, ani­
mals and plants, human lan­
guages, social institutions)
are the products of specific
historical processes. To be
11
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
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12
INTRODUCTION
0! 0ð\6|' ð' ' $0, ' | 06|ð\6G !|00 \!6 G090ð$ 0!
\!6 0ð$\.
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| ||6v6|$' 0' 6 !| $\0| | Cð ' 0|0C6$$6$. P¯G \!6
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ð ¯ ' 0ð| $ ð¯G 0' ð ¯\$ W6|6 ¯0\ 6000G | 06¯\$
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C0¯$\| uC\ | 0¯$, $' 0W ðCCu 0u | ð\ ' 0¯$ 0! ðGð0·
\ | v6 \ |ð' \$ C606¯\6G \096\!6| v' ð |60|0G uC·
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0! \!6$6 \W0 \!60| | 6$ ' ¯C0|00|ð\6G ð |ð\!6|
W6ð H ¯0\ | 0¯ 0! !' $\0|V ' ¯\0 \!6' | C0¯C60\ uð'
0ðC!' ¯6|V. 00\! C| ð$$| Cð| \!6|00GV¯ð0' C$
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!| $\0|| Cð| 0u\C006, \!6 |6ðC!| ¯9 0! \!6|0ð|
6Gu ' ' ' 0| ' u 0 0| 0! \!6 ! ' \\6$\ G6$| 9¯ . | ¯ 00\!
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0|0C6$$6$ C6ð$6G \ 0 C0u ¯\. | ¯ ð $6¯$6, 00\ | ·
13
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
mal desi gn o r o pti mal di stri buti on of energy represented an end of h i s­
tory for t hese t heori es.
I t s houl d come as no sur pri se, then, that the cu rrent penetrati on of
sci ence by hi stori cal con cer ns has been the resul t of advances i n these
two di sci pl i nes. l I ya Pr i gogi ne revol uti oni zed ther modynami cs i n the
1960s by showi ng t hat t he cl assi cal resul ts were val i d onl y for cl osed sys­
tems, whe re the overal l qu anti ti es of energy are al ways conserved. I f one
al l ows an i ntense fl ow of energy i n and out of a system (that i s, i f one
pushes i t far from equilibrium), the n u mber and type of possi bl e h i stori cal
outcomes greatl y i ncreases. I n stead of a uni que and si mpl e form of
stabi l i ty, we now h ave mu l ti pl e coexi sti ng forms of varyi ng compl exi ty
(stati c, peri odi c, and chaoti c attractors). Moreover, when a system swi tches
from one stabl e state to another (at a cri ti cal poi nt cal led a bifurcation),
mi nor fl uctuati ons may pl ay a cruci al rol e i n deci di ng the outcome. Thus,
when we st udy a gi ven physi cal system, we need to know the speci fi c
nat ure of the fl uct uati ons t hat have been present at each of i ts bi fu rca­
ti ons; i n other words, we need to know i ts hi story to u nderstand i ts
current dynami cal state. l
And what i s true of physi cal systems i s al l the more true of bi ol ogi cal
o nes. Attractors and bi fu rcati ons are featu res of any system i n whi ch the
dynami cs are not only far from equi l i bri um but al so nonlinear, that i s, i n
whi ch t here are strong mut ual i nteracti ons (or feedback) between compo­
nents. Whether the system i n questi on i s composed of mol ecul es or of
l i vi ng creatures, i t wi l l exhi bi t endogenously gen erated stabl e states, as
wel l as sharp transi ti ons between states, as l ong as there i s feedback and
an i ntense flow of energy cou rsi ng t hrough t he system. As biol ogy begi ns
to i ncl ude t hese nonl i near dynami cal phenomena i n i ts model s -for
exampl e, the mut ual sti mu l ati on i nvol ved i n the case of evol uti onary "arms
races" between predators and prey -t he noti on of a "fi ttest desi gn" wi l l
l ose i ts meani ng. I n an a rms r ace there i s no opti mal sol ut i on fi xed o nce
and for al l , si nce the cri teri on of "fi tness" itsel f changes wi th t he dynam­
i cs. 2 As t he bel i ef i n a fi xed cri teri on of opti mal i ty d i sappears from bi ol ­
ogy, rea l hi stori cal processes come to reassert t hemsel ves once more.
Thus, t he move away from energeti c equi l i bri u m and l i near cau sal ity
has rei njected t he natu ral sci ences wi th h i storical concerns. Thi s book i s
an expl orati o n of t he possi bi l i ti es that mi ght be opened to phi l osophi cal
refl ecti on by a si mi l ar move i n t he soci al sci e nces i n general and h i story
in part i cul ar. These pages expl ore the possi bi l i ti es of a nonl i near and non­
equi l i bri u m h istory by traci ng the development of t he West i n t hree hi s­
tori cal narrati ves, each starti ng roughl y i n the year 1000 and cul mi nati ng
i n our own time, a thousand years l ater. But doesn' t t hi s approach contra-
14
INTRODUCTION
di ct my stated goal ? I sn' t the very i dea of fol l owi ng a line of development,
century by centu ry, i n herentl y l i near? My answer i s t hat a nonl i near con­
cepti on of hi story has absol utel y not hi ng to do wi th a styl e of presenta­
ti on , as i f one cou l d trul y captu re t he nonequi l i bri u m dynami cs of h u ma n
hi stori cal processes by ju mpi ng back a n d forth among t h e centu ri es. On
the contrary, what i s needed here i s not a text ual but a p hysi cal opera­
ti on: much as hi story has i nfi l trated physi cs, we must now al l ow p hysi cs
to i nfi l trate hu man hi story.
Earl i er attempts i n t hi s di recti on, most nota bl y in the pi oneeri ng work of
the physi ci st Art hur I beral l , offer a usefu l i l l ustrati on of t he conceptual
shi fts t hat t hi s i nfi l trati on wou l d i nvol ve. I beral l was perhaps the fi rst t o
vi sual i ze t he major transi ti ons i n earl y human hi story (t he transi ti ons from
h unter-gat herer to agri cul tural i st, and from agri cul tura l i st to ci ty dwel l er)
not as a l i near advance u p the l adder of progress but as t he crossi ng of
nonl i near cri ti cal t h reshol ds (bi furcati ons). More speci fi cal ly, much as a
gi ven chemi cal compo u nd (water, for exampl e) may exi st i n several di s­
ti nct states (sol i d, l i qu i d , or gas) and may swi tch from sta bl e state to
stabl e state at cri ti cal poi nts i n the i nten si ty of temperatu re (cal l ed phase
transitions), so a h uman soci ety may be seen as a "materi al " capabl e of
undergoi ng t hese changes of state as i t reaches cri ti ca l mass in te rms
of densi ty of settl ement, amo u nt of energy consu med, or even i ntensi t
of i nteracti on.
I bera l l i nvi tes us t o vi ew earl y h u nter-gat herer bands as gas parti cl es, i n
the sense t hat t hey l i ved apart from each other and therefore i nteracted
rarel y and u nsystemati cal ly. ( Based on the et hnographi c evi dence t hat
bands typi cal ly l i ved about seventy mi l es apart and assu mi ng t hat h umans
can wal k about twenty-fi ve mi l es a day, h e cal cul ates t hat any two bands
were separated by more t han a day's di stance from one a nother. 3) When
h u mans fi rst began to cu l ti vate cereal s and t he i nteract i o n between
human bei ngs and pl ants created sedentary commu ni ti es, h u mani ty l i qu e­
fi ed or condensed i nto groups whose i nteracti ons were now more frequent
al though sti l l l oosel y regu l ated. Fi nal l y, when a few of t hese commu ni ti es
i ntensi fi ed agri cul tu ral producti on to t he poi nt where su rpl u ses cou l d be
harvested, stored, and redi stri buted (for the fi rst ti me al l owi ng a di vi si on
of l abor between produ cers and consumers of food), h u mani ty acq ui red
a crystal state, i n t he sense that central gover nments now i mposed a sym­
metri cal gri d of l aws and regul ati ons on the u rban popu l ati ons. 4
However oversimpl i fi ed thi s pi ctu re may be, i t contai ns a si gn i fi cant cl ue
as to t he nat ure of nonl i near hi story: i f the di fferent "stages" of h u man
hi story were i ndeed brought about by phase transi ti ons, t hen t hey are
not "stages" at al l -that i s, progressi ve devel opmental steps, each better
15
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
than the previ ous one, and i ndeed l eavi ng the previ ous one beh i nd. On
t he contrary, much as water's sol id, l i qu i d, and gas phases may coexi st,
so each new human p hase si mpl y added i tsel f to the ot her o nes, coexi st­
i ng and i nteract i ng wi th t hem wi thout l eavi ng them i n the past. More­
over, much as a gi ven materi al may sol i d ify i n al tern ati ve ways (as i ce or
snowfl ake, as crystal o r gl ass), so h u mani ty l i quefi ed and l ater sol i di fi ed
i n d ifferent forms. The nomads of the Steppes ( Hu ns, Mongol s), for
exampl e, domesti cated ani mal s not pl ants, and the consequent pastoral
l i festyl e i mposed on them the n eed to move wi t h t hei r fl ocks, al most as i f
t hey had condensed not i nto a pool of l i qu i d but i nto a movi ng, at ti mes
t ur bu l ent, fl ui d. When t hese nomads di d acqu i re a sol i d state (d uri ng the
rei gn of Genghi s Khan, for i nstance), the resul t i ng struct ure was more l ike
gl ass than crystal , more amorphous and l ess central i zed. I n other words,
human hi story d i d not fol l ow a strai ght l i ne, as i f everyt hi ng poi nted
toward ci vi l i zed soci eti es as humani ty's u l ti mate goal . On the contrary, at
each bi furcati on al ternati ve stabl e states were possi bl e, and once act ual ­
i zed, t hey coexi sted and i nteracted wi t h one a not her.
I am awa re that al l we have here are suggesti ve metaphors. I t i s the
task of the vari ou s chapters of thi s book to attempt to remove t hat meta­
phori cal content. Moreover, even as metaphors, I be ral l 's i mages suffer
from another drawback: i norgan i c matter-energy has a wi der range of
al ternati ves for the generati on of struct ure t han j ust t hese si mpl e phase
transi ti ons, and what i s true for si mpl e "stuff" must be al l the more
so for the compl ex mater i al s t hat for m human cul t ures. I n ot her words,
even the h u mbl est forms of matter and energy h ave t he potenti al for
self-organization beyond t he rel ati vel y si mpl e type i nvo l ved i n t he cre­
ati on of crystal s. There a re, for i nsta nce, those coherent waves cal l ed
solitons, wh i ch form i n many di fferent types of materi al s, rangi ng from
ocean waters (where t hey are cal l ed tsunami s) to l asers. Then t here a re
t he aforementi on ed stabl e states (or att ractors), wh i ch can sustai n co­
herent cycl i c act i vi ty of di fferent types (peri odi c o r chaoti c).5 Fi nal l y, and
u n l ike t he previ ous exampl es of nonl i near sel f-organ izati on where true
i n novati o n ca nnot occu r, t he re is what we may cal l " nonl i near combi n a­
tori cs, " whi ch expl o res t he d i fferent combi nati ons i nto whi ch enti ti es
deri ved from the previ ous processes (crystal s, coherent pul ses, cycl i c
patterns) may enter. I t i s from t hese u nl i mi ted combi nati ons t hat trul y
novel struct ures are generated. 6 When put together, al l t hese forms of
spontaneous struct ura l generati on suggest t hat i norga n i c matter i s much
more vari abl e and creati ve t han we ever i magi ned. And t hi s i nsi ght i nto
matter's i nherent creati vi ty n eeds to be fu l l y i ncorporated i nto our new
materi al i st ph i l osoph i es.
16
INTRODUCTION
Whi l e the concept of sel f-orga ni zati on, as appl i ed to pu rel y materi al
and energeti c systems, has been s ha rpened consi derabl y over t he l ast
t hree decades, i t sti l l needs to be refi ned before we can appl y i t to the
case of h uman soci eti es. Speci fi cal ly, we need to take i nto account that
any expl anati on of h u man be havi or must i nvol ve

:eference to i rred uci bl e
i ntenti onal enti ti es such as " bel i efs" and "desi res, " s i nce expectati ons
and preferences are what gui de huma n deci si on maki ng i n a wi de range
of soci al acti vi ti es , such as pol i ti cs and economics. I n some cases t he
deci si ons made by i ndi vi dual human bei ngs are hi ghly constrai ned by
thei r posi ti on a nd rol e i n a hi erarchi cal organi zati on and are, t o t hat ex­
tent, gea red towa rd meeti ng t he goal s of t hat organi zati on. I n other cases,
however, what matters i s not the pl an ned resu l ts of deci si on maki ng,
but the unintended collective consequences of h uman deci si ons. The best
i l l ustrati on of a soci al i nsti tuti on t hat emerges sponta neousl y from the
i nteracti on of many h u ma n deci si on makers i s that of a pre-capi tal i st
market, a col l ective enti ty ari si ng from the decentral i zed i nteracti on of
many buyers and sel l ers, wi th no central "deci der" coordi nati ng t he
whol e process. I n some model s, the dynami cs of markets ar e gover ned
by peri odi c attractors, whi ch force markets to undergo boom-and-bust
cycl es of varyi ng du rati on, from t hree-year busi ness cycl es to fi fty-year­
l ong waves.
Whet her appl ied to sel f-organ i zed forms of matter- energy o r to t he u n­
pl anned resu l t s of h u man agency, t hese new concepts demand a n ew
methodol ogy, and it is t hi s methodologi cal cha nge t hat may p rove to be of
phi l osophi cal si gni fi cance. Part of what t hi s change i nvol ves is fai rl y obvi ­
ous: the equat i ons sci enti sts use to model nonl i near processes can not be
sol ved by hand , but demand the use of computers. More tec hni cal l y, u n­
l i ke l i near equati ons (th e type most preval ent i n sci ence), nonl i near ones
are very di ffi cul t to sol ve analytically, and demand the u se of detai l ed
n umeri cal si mul ati ons carri ed out wi th the h el p of di gi tal machi n es. Thi s
l i mi tat i on of anal yti cal tool s for t he study of nonl i near dynami cs becomes
even more constrai ni ng i n t he case of nonl i near combi natori cs. I n t his
case, certai n combi nat i ons wi l l di spl ay emergent properties, t hat i s, prop­
erti es of the combi nati on as a whol e whi ch are more t han t he su m of
its i ndi vi dual parts. These emergent (or " synergi sti c" ) properti es belong
to the interactions between parts, so it fol l ows t hat a top-down analyti cal
approach that begi n s wi th the whol e a nd di ssects i t i nto i ts consti tu ent
parts (an ecosystem i nto s peci es, a soci ety i nto i nsti tuti ons), i s bou nd to
mi ss preci sel y those prope rti es. I n ot her words, anal yzi ng a whol e i nto
parts and t hen attempt i ng to model i t by adding up t he components wi l l
fai l t o capt ure any property t hat emerged from compl ex interacti ons,
17
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
since the effect of the latter may be multiplicative (e.g., mutual enhance­
ment) and not just additive.
Of course, analytical tools cannot simply be dismissed due to this
inherent limitation. Rather, a top-down approach to the study of complex
entities needs to be complemented with a bottom-up approach: analysis
needs to go hand in hand with synthesis. And here, just as in the case of
nonlinear dynamics, computers offer an indispensable aid. For example,
instead of studying a rain forest top down, starting from the forest as a
whole and dividing it into species, we unleash within the computer a pop­
ulation of interacting virtual "animals" and "plants" and attempt to gen­
erate from their interactions whatever systematic properties we ascribe to
the ecosystem as a whole. Only if the resilience, stability, and other prop­
erties of the whole (such as the formation of complex food webs) emerge
spontaneously in the course of the simulation can we assert that we have
captured the nonlinear dynamics and combinatorics of rain forest forma­
tion. (This is, basically, the approach taken by the new discipline of Artifi­
cial LifeJ)
I n this book, I attempt a philosophical approach to history which is as
bottom-up as possible. This does not mean, of course, that every one of
my statements has emerged after careful synthetic simulations of social
reality. I do take into account the results of many bottom-up simulations
(in urban and economic dynamics), but research in this direction is
still in its infancy. My account is bottom-up in that I make an effort not
to postulate systematicity when I cannot show that a particular system­
generating process has actually occurred. (I n particular, I refrain from
speaking of society as a whole forming a system and focus instead on sub­
sets of society.) Also, I approach entities at any given level (the level of
nation-states, cities, institutions, or individual decision makers) in terms
of populations of entities at the level immediately below.
Methodologically, this implies a rejection of the philosophical founda­
tions of orthodox economics as well as orthodox sociology. Although the
former (neoclassical microeconomics) begins its analysis at the bottom
of society, at the level of the individual decision maker, it does so in a
way that atomizes these components, each one of which is modeled as
maximizing his or her individual satisfaction ("marginal utility") in isola­
tion from the others. Each decision maker is further atomized by the
assumption that the decisions in question are made on a case-by-case
basis, constrained only by budgetary limitations, ignoring social norms
and values that constrain individual action in a variety of ways. Orthodox
sociology (whether functionalist or Marxist-structuralist), on the other
hand, takes society as a whole as its point of departure and only rarely
18
INTRODUCTION
attempts to explain in detail the exact historical processes through which
collective social institutions have emerged out of the interactions among
individuals.
Fortunately, the last few decades have witnessed the birth and growth
of a synthesis of economic and sociological ideas (under the banner of
"neoinstitutional economics"), as exemplified by the work of such authors
as Douglas North, Viktor Van berg, and Oliver Williamson. This new school
(or set of schools) rejects the atomism of neoclassical economists as well
as the holism of structuralist-functionalist sociologists. I t preserves "meth­
odological individualism" (appropriate to any bottom-up perspective) but
rejects the idea that individuals make decisions solely according to self­
interested (maximizing) calculations, and instead models individuals as
rule followers subjected to different types of normative and institutional
constraints that apply collectively. Neoinstitutionalism rejects the "metho­
dological holism" of sociology but preserves what we may call its "onto­
logical holism," that is, the idea that even though collective institutions
emerge out of the interactions among individuals, once they have formed
they take on "a life of their own" (i.e., they are not just reified entities)
and affect individual action in many different ways.
8
Neoinstitutionalist economists have also introduced sociological con­
cepts into economics by replacing the notion of "exchange of goods" with
the more complex one of "transaction," which brings into play different
kinds of collective entities, such as institutional norms, contracts, and
enforcement procedures. I ndeed, the notion of "transaction" may be said
to add to linear economics some of the "friction" that its traditional mod­
els usually leave out: imperfections in markets due to limited rationality,
imperfect information, delays and bottlenecks, opportunism, high-cost
enforceability of contracts, and so on. Adding "transaction costs" to the
classical model is a way of acknowledging the continuous presence of non­
linearities in the operation of real markets. One of the aims of the present
book is to attempt a synthesis between these new ideas and methodolo­
gies in economics and the corresponding concepts in the sciences of self­
organization.9
I n Chapter One I approach this synthesis through an exploration of
the history of urban economics since the Middle Ages. I take as my point
of departure a view shared by several materialist historians (principally
Braudel and McNeill): the specific dynamics of European towns were one
important reason why China and I slam, despite their early economic and
technological lead, were eventually subjected to Western domination.
Given that an important aim of this book is to approach history in a non­
teleological way, the eventual conquest of the millennium by the West
19
A THOUSAND YCARS OF NONLINCAR HISTORY
will not be viewed as the result of "progress" occurring there while failing
to take place outside of Europe, but as the result of certain dynamics
(such as the mutually stimulating dynamics involved in arms races) that
intensify the accumulation of knowledge and technologies, and of certain
institutional norms and organizations. Several different forms of mutual
stimUlation (or of "positive feedback," to use the technical term) will be
analyzed, each involving a different set of individuals and institutions and
evolving in a different area of the European urban landscape. Furthermore,
it will be argued that the I ndustrial Revolution can be viewed in terms of
reciprocal stimulation between technologies and institutions, whereby
the elements involved managed to form a closed loop, so that the entire
assemblage became self-sustaining. I refer to this historical narrative
as "geological" because it concerns itself exclusively with dynamical ele­
ments (energy flow, nonlinear causality) that we have in common with
rocks and mountains and other nonliving historical structures.
Chapter Two addresses another sphere of reality, the world of germs,
plants, and animals and hence views cities as ecosystems, albeit
extremely simplified ones. This chapter goes beyond questions of inani­
mate energy flow, to consider the flows of organic materials that have
informed urban life since the Middle In particular, it considers the
flow of food, which keeps cities alive and in most cases comes from
outside the town itself. Cities appear as parasitic entities, deriving their
sustenance from nearby rural regions or, via colonialism and conquest,
from other lands. This chapter also considers the flow of genetiC materi­
als through generations-not so much the flow of human genes as
those belonging to the animal and plant species that we have managed
to domesticate, as well as those that have constantly eluded our control,
such as weeds and microorganisms. Colonial enterprises appear in this
chapter not only as a means to redirect food toward the motherland,
but also as the means by which the genes of many nonhuman species
have invaded and conquered alien ecosystems.
Finally, Chapter Three deals with the other type of "materials" that
enter into the human mixture: linguistic materials. Like minerals,
inanimate energy, food, and genes, the sounds, words, and syntactical
constructions that make up language accumulated within the walls of
medieval (and modern) towns and were transformed by urban dynamics.
Some of these linguistic materials (learned, written Latin, for example)
were so rigid and unchanging that they simply accumulated as a dead
structure. But other forms of language (vulgar, spoken Latin) were dy­
namic entities capable of giving birth to new structures, such as French,
Spanish, I talian, and Portuguese. This chapter traces the history of
20
INTRODUCTION
these emergences, most of them in urban environments, as well as of the
eventual rigidification (through standardization) of the dialects belonging
to regional and national capitals, and of the effects that several genera­
tions of media (the printing press, mass media, computer networks) have
had on their evolution.
Each chapter begins its narrative in the year 1000 A.D. and continues
(more or less linearly) to the year 2000. Yet, as I said above, despite their
style of presentation, these three narratives do not constitute a "real"
history of their subjects but rather a sustained philosophical meditation
on some of the historical processes that have affected these three types
of "materials" (energetic, genetic, and linguistic). The very fact that each
chapter concentrates on a single "material" (viewing 11uman history, as
it were, from the point of view of that particular material) will make these
narratives hardly recognizable as historical accounts. Yet, most of the
generalizations to be found here have been made by historians and are
not the product of pure philosophical speculation.
In the nonlinear spirit of this book, these three worlds (geological, bio­
logical, and linguistic) will not be viewed as the progressively more sophis­
ticated of an evolution that culminates in humanity as its crowning
achievement. It is true that a small subset of geological materials (car­
bon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nine other elements) formed the substratum
needed for l iving creatures to emerge and that a small subset of organic
materials (certain neurons in the brain) provided the SUbstratum for lan­
guage. But far 'from advancing in stages of increased perfection, these
successive emergences were-and will be treated here as-mere accumu­
lations of different types of materials, accumulations in which each suc­
cessive layer does not form a new world closed in on itself but, on the
contrary, results in coexistences and interactions of different kinds. Be­
sides, each accumulated layer is animated from within by self-organizing
processes, and the forces and constraints behind this spontaneous
generation of order are common to all three.
In a very real sense, reality is a single matter-energy undergoing phase
transitions of various kinds, with each new layer of accumulated "stuff"
simply enriching the reservoir of nonlinear dynamics and nonlinear com­
binatorics available for the generation of novel structures and processes.
Rocks and winds, germs and words, are all different manifestations of
this dynamic material reality, or, in other words, they all represent the dif­
ferent ways in which this single matter-energy expresses itself. Thus, what
follows will not be a chronicle of "man" and "his" historical achievements,
but a philosophical meditation on the history of matter-energy in its dif­
ferent forms and of the multiple coexistences and interactions of these
21
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
forms. Geological, organic, and linguistic materials will all be allowed to
"have their say" in the form that this book takes, and the resulting cho­
rus of material voices will, I hope, give us a fresh perspective on the
events and processes that have shaped the history of this millennium.
Geological History
1000-1700 A.D.
We live in a world populated
by structures-a complex
mixture of geological, biologi­
cal, social, and linguistic con­
structions that are nothing but
accumulations of materials
shaped and hardened by his­
tory. I mmersed as we are in
this mixture, we cannot help
but interact in a variety of
ways with the other historical
constructions that surround
25
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
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26
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
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P00u\ 6' 9!\ \!0u$ð ¯ G V6ð|$ ð90, !u 0ð¯ 000·
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G6v6' 006G ð¯ u | 0ð¯ exoskeleton: 0| | CH$ 0!
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\!' ¯9$. | uXu |V 00| 6C\$, D6W$ , ð¯G !00G, !0|
27
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
exampl e. I n parti cul ar, t he weekl y markets t hat have al ways exi sted at
t he heart of most ci ti es and towns consti tuted veri tabl e motors, peri ­
odi cal l y concentrati ng peopl e and goods from near and faraway regi ons
and t hen sett i ng t hem i nto moti on agai n, al ong a vari ety of trade
ci rcuits.1
Thus, t he urban i nfrastruct u re may be sai d to perfor m, for ti ghtl y
packed popul ati ons of hu mans, the same fu ncti on of moti on control
t hat our bones do i n rel ati o n to our fl eshy parts. And, i n bot h cases,
add i ng mi neral s to t he mi x resul ted i n a fantasti c combi natori al expl o­
si on, greatl y i ncreasi ng the vari ety of ani mal and cul t u ral desi gns. We
must be carefu l when d rawi ng these anal ogi es, however. I n parti cu l ar, we
must avoi d t he error of compari ng ci ti es to organ i sms, especi al l y when
t he metaphor i s meant to i mpl y (as i t has i n the past) t hat bot h exi st i n
a state of i nternal equ i l i bri um, or homeostasi s. Rather, urban centers
and l i vi ng creat u res must be seen as different dynami cal systems operat­
i ng far from eq ui l i bri u m, that is, t raversed by more or l ess i ntense fl ows
of matter-energy t hat provoke thei r un i que metamorphoses. 2
I ndeed , u rba n mor phogenesi s has depended, from i ts anci ent begi n­
nings i n the Ferti l e Crescent, on i ntensi fi cati on of the consumpti on of
non human energy. The ant hropol ogi st Ri chard Newbol d Adams, who
sees soci al evol uti on as just a not her form that t he sel f-organi zati on of
energy may take, has poi nted out t hat t he fi rst such i ntensi fi cati on was
the cu l ti vati on of cereal s. 3 Si nce pl ants, vi a photosynthesi s, si mpl y con­
vert sol ar energy i nto sugars, cul ti vati on i ncreased t he amount of sol ar
energy t hat traversed h u man soci eti es. When food prod ucti on was
fu rt her i ntensi fi ed, h umani ty crossed the bi fu rcati on t hat gave ri se to
u rban struct ures. The el i tes that r ul ed those early ci ti es i n tu rn made
ot her i ntensi fi cati ons possi bl e -by devel opi ng l arge i rri gati on systems,
for exampl e -and u rban centers mutated i nto t hei r i mperi al for m. I t
i s i mportant to emphasi ze, however, t hat cereal cu l ti vati on was only one
of several possi bl e ways of i ntenSi fyi ng energy fl ow. As several ant hro­
pol ogi sts have poi nted out, t he emergence of ci ti es may have fol l owed
alternative routes to intensification, as when the emergence of u rban l i fe
i n Peru fed off a reservoi r of fi sh. 4 What matters is not agri cul tu re per
se, but t he great i ncrease i n t he flow of matter-energy t hrough soci ety,
as wel l as t he t ransfo rmati ons i n u rban form t hat thi s i ntense fl ow
makes possi bl e.
F rom t hi s poi nt of vi ew ci t i es ari se f r om the fl ow of matter-energy, but
once a town's mi neral i nfrastructu re h as emerged, i t reacts t o t hose
fl ows, creati ng a new set of constraints that ei t her i ntensi fi es or i n h i bi ts
t hem. Needl ess to say, the wal l s, monu mental bui l di ngs, streets, and
28
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A.D
houses of a town woul d make a rat her weak set of constrai nts if t hey
ope rated on t heir own . Of course, t hey do not. Our historical expl orati on
of u rban dynamics must therefore i ncl ude an analysis of the institutions
t hat i nhabit citi es, whether the bureaucracies t hat run them or the mar­
kets t hat animate t hem. Al though th ese instit utions a re the product of
col l ective h u man decision maki ng, once in pl ace t hey al so react back on
t heir human components t o limit them and control t hem, or, on t he con­
trary, to set t hem i n moti on or accel erate t heir mut ation. ( Hence i nstitu­
tions constitute a set of emergent positi ve and negative constrai nts, but
on a smal l er scal e. )
The bi rt h of Eu rope, a round t he el eventh century of our era, was made
possi bl e by a great agri cu l tu ra l intensification . As Lyn n White, Jr. , a hi sto­
rian of medieval technol ogy, has shown, in the cent u ries preceding t he
second mil l en ni um, "a series of i nnovations occu rred which consol idated
to form a remarkably effici ent new way of expl oiting t he soi l ."5 These
in novati ons (t he heavy pl ow, new ways of harnessi ng the horse's muscu­
l ar energy, the open-fiel d system, and t ri en nial fiel d rotation) were mut u­
al l y en hancing as wel l as interdependent, so t hat only when t hey fu l l y
meshed were their inten si fying effects fel t. The l arge i ncrease in t he fl ow
of energy created by t his web of tech nol ogies al l owed for t he reconstitu ­
ti on of t h e European exoskel eton, t h e u rban framework t hat h a d for t he
most part col l apsed wit h t he Roman Empire. Begi n ning a round 1000 A.D.,
l arge popu l ation s of wal l ed towns and fortified castl es appeared in two
great zones: in the sout h, al ong t he Mediterranean coast, and in t he
nort h, al ong t he coastl ands l yi ng between t he t rade waters of t he Nort h
Sea and t he Baltic.
As city historians often point out, urbanization has al ways been a dis­
continuous phenomenon. Bursts of rapi d growt h are fol l owed by l ong pe ri­
ods of stagnation. 6 The wave of accel erated city bui l ding t hat occu r red
i n Europe between t he el eventh and thi rteenth cent uries is no exceptio n.
Many of t he great towns i n t he nort h, s uch as Brussel s and Antwerp,
were born i n thi s period, and the far ol der ci ties of I tal y and the R hi ne­
l and experienced enormous growth. This accel eration in u rban devel op­
ment, however, wou l d not be matched for another five hundred years,
when a new intensification i n the fl ow of energy -t his ti me a rising from
t he expl oitati on of fossi l fuel s -propel l ed anot her great spu rt of city
bi rth and growt h in t he 1800s. I nterestingl y, more t han t he prol i fe rati on
of factory towns made possi bl e by coal , the "tidal wave of medieval u rba n­
i zation"7 l aid out the most endu ring features of the Europea n u rban
structu re, featu res t hat woul d contin ue to i nfl uence t he cou rse of history
wel l into the twentieth centu ry.
29
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
There are two basic processes by which cities can emerge and grow.
A town may develop spontaneously, acquiring its irregular shape by fol­
lowing the topographical features of the landscape, or it may inherit
its shape from the distribution of villages that have amalgamated to form
it. Such was the case of medieval Venice, which accounts for its labyrin­
thine streets. On the other hand, a city may be the result of conscious
planning; a regular, symmetrical form may be imposed on its develop­
ment, to facilitate orderly settlement. During the deceleration that fol­
lowed the year 1300, the relatively few new cities that were born were of
the latter type, perhaps reflecting the increasing political centralization
of the time. Versailles, with its grid of broad avenues converging at the
center of power, is a perfect illustration. However, the difference between
self-organized and planned cities is not primarily one of form, but of the
decision�making processes behind the. genesis and subsequent develop­
ment of that form. That is, the crucial distinction is between centralized
and decentralized decision making in urban development. There are
towns that have been purposefully designed to mimic the "organic" form
of curvilinear streets, and there are towns whose grid-patterned streets
evolved spontaneously, due to some peculiarity of the environment.
Furthermore, most cities are mixtures of the two processes:
If we were to scan several hundred city plans at random across the range
of history, we would discover a more fundamental reason to question
the usefulness of urban dichotomies based on geometry. We would find
that the two primary versions of urban arrangement, the planned and
the "organic", often exist side by side .. .. In Europe, new additions to the
dense medieval cores of historic towns were always regular ... , Most his­
toric towns, and virtually all those of metropolitan size, are puzzles of
premeditated and spontaneous segments, variously interlocked or juxta­
posed .... We can go beyond. The two kinds of urban form do not always
stand in contiguous relationship. They metamorphose. The reworking of
prior geometries over time leaves urban palimpsests where a once regular
grid plan is feebly ensconced within a maze of cul-de-sacs and narrow
winding streets.B
The mineralization of humanity took forms that were the combined
result of conscious manipulation of urban space by some central agency
and of the activities of many individuals, without any central "decider."
And yet, the two processes, and the forms they typically give rise to,
remain distinct despite their coexistence and mutual transformations.
On the one hand, the grid is "the best and quickest way to organize a
30
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
homogeneous population with a single social purpose."9 On the other
hand, whenever a heterogeneous group of people comes together spon­
taneously, they tend to organize themselves in an interlocking urban
pattern that interconnects them without homogenizing them.
Even though from a strictly physical viewpoint accelerations in city
building are the result of intensifications in the flow of energy, the actual
form that a given town takes is determined by human decision making.
A similar distinction between centralized and decentralized decision mak­
ing must be made with respect to the social institutions that determine
how energy flows through a city-that is, with respect to the city's "distri­
bution systems."l0 On the one hand, there are bureaucracies, hierarchi­
cal structures with conscious goals and overt control mechanisms. On
the other, there are peasant and small-town markets, self-organized
structures that arise spontaneously out of the activities of many individu­
als, whose interests only partially overlap. (I have in rnind here a place
in a town where people gather ev�ry week, as opposed to markets in
the modern sense: dispersed collections of consumers served by many
middlemen.)l
Bureaucracies have always arisen to effect a planned extraction of
energy surpluses (taxes, tribute, rents, forced labor), and they expand
in proportion to their ability to control and process those energy flows.
Markets, in contrast, are born wherever a regular assembly of indepen­
dent decision makers gathers, whether at church or at the border between
two regions, presenting individuals with an opportunity to buy, sell, and
barter. The distinction between these two types of energy distribution
systems exactly parallels the one above, only on a smaller scale. One sys­
tem sorts out human beings into the internally homogeneous ranks of a
bureaucracy. The other brings a heterogeneous collection of humans
together in a market, where their complementary economic needs enmesh.
Markets and bureaucracies are, however, more than just collective
mechanisms for the allocation of material and energetic resources. When
people exchanged goods in a medieval market, not only resources
changed hands but also rights of ownership, that is, the rights to use a
given resource and to enjoy the benefits that may be derived from it.l
2
Hence, market transactions involved the presence of collective institu­
tional norms (such as codes of conduct and enforceable contracts). Simi­
larly, medieval bureaucracies were not only organizations that controlled
and redistributed resources via centralized commands, they themselves
were sets of mutually stabilizing institutional norms, a nexus of contracts
and routines constituting an apparatus for collective action. The rules
behind bureaucracies tended to be more formalized than the informal
31
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
conventions and codes of conduct behind markets, and more impor­
tantly, they tended to become a "constitution," that is, a set of contracts
defining a homogeneous, common enterprise not easily disaggregated
into a set of heterogeneous bilateral contracts like those involved in mar­
ket transactions.13
Markets and bureaucracies, as well as unplanned and planned cities,
are concrete instances of a more general distinction: self-organized mesh­
works of diverse elements, versus hierarchies of uniform elements. But
again, meshworks and hierarchies not only coexist and intermingle, they
constantly give rise to one another. For instance, as markets grow in size
they tend to form commercial hierarchies. In medieval times this was
true of the great fairs, such as the Champagne fairs of the thirteenth cen­
tury, which came to have as many participants as most towns had inhabi­
tants: "If a fair is envisaged as a pyramid, the base consists of the many
minor transactions in local goods, usually perishable and cheap, then
one moves up to the luxury goods, exp�nsive and transported from far
away. At the very top of the pyramid came the active money market

ith­
out which business could not be done at all-or at any rate not at the
same pace."14
Thus, once markets grew past the size of local, weekly gatherings, they
were ranked and organized from the top, giving rise to a hybrid form:
a hierarchy of meshworks. The opposite hybrid, a meshwork of hierar­
chies, may be illustrated by the system of power in the Middle Ages. Urban
bureaucracies were but one of a number of centralized institutions that
coexisted in the Middle Ages. Royal courts, landed aristocracies, and
ecclesiastical hierarchies all entered into complex, uneasy mixtures. There
was never a "super-elite" capable of globally regulating the mix, so local
constraints (shifting alliances, truces, legal debates) worked alongside
formal procedures in generating stability. If we add to this the fact that
the state and the church in the West arose from heterogeneous origins
(unlike China or Islam where all these hierarchical structures had emerged
within a homogeneous cultural tradition), the system of power in the early
part of this millennium was a true mesh of hierarchical organizations.15
Meshworks and hierarchies need to be viewed not only as capable of
giving rise to these complex hybrids but also as in constant interaction with
one another. Primitive bureaucracies had evolved in the Middle Ages to
regulate certain aspects of market life (for instance, to arbitrate disputes
between markets when their catchment areas overlapped), or to provide
security for the big fairs. However, we must not imagine that the mere
existence of a command hierarchy meant that the global rules of a
bureaucracy could in practice be enforced. In medieval times, the norms
32
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A.D
that governed economic life-the norms that guaranteed that contracts
would be honored or that measures, weights, and currencies would
remain stable -were for the most part not global, but based on self­
defense, retaliation, and other local controls. As one historian has put it,
the enforcement of economic norms in the Middle Ages was a combina­
tion of centralized decision making and a "self-regulating mechanism
compounded by a balance of terror and a lively sense of mutual advan­
tage felt by all members of the international community."
16
The large populations of towns and cities that emerged in Europe after
the year 1000 may be classified by their relative proportions of meshwork
and hierarchical components. By far the majority of settlements were
small towns, with more market than command ingredients in their mix.
Over half of all European urban dwellers lived in those local market centers,
even though each town had fewer than two thousand residents. Then
came intermediate-sized towns (fewer than ten thousand inhabitants),
which began adding local and regional administrative functions and, hence,
a higher proportion of command components. Control of roads and super­
vision of travelers, two centralized functions absent from small towns,
were already practiced here. A wider variety of institutional forms inhab­
ited those larger settlements: courts, jails, hospitals, religious founda­
tions. But as complexity increased, so did rarity: while there were about
3,000 small towns in northern Europe, there were only 220 of intermediate
sizeY Denser urban concentrations were even rarer, but for the same
reason sustained a wider range of functions:
Cities with more than 10,000 residents stood out in Medieval Europe,
except in northern Italy and Flanders where the spread of cloth production
and the increase in trade permitted relatively intense urbanization. Else­
where, large siie was correlated with complex administrative, religious,
educational, and economic functions. Many of the big towns-for example,
Barcelona, Cologne or Prague-supported universities as well as a wide
variety of religious institutions. Their economies were diversified and
included a wide range of artisans and service workers .... The large cities
of 1330 owed their size to the multiplicity of their functions .... The same
point can be made about the few urban giants of the Middle Ages. Paris,
Milan, Venice, and Florence were commercial and manufacturing cities, and
also political capitals.18
This multiplicity of urban centers, internally differentiated by size and
complexity, can be compared to other populations of towns that emerged
elsewhere. Urbanization explosions had occurred in Islam and China at
33
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
least two centuries before those in Europe. But in those two regions, cities
and towns had to compete with a larger sociopolitical entity that emerged
only later in the West: the central state. While I slam in the early part of
the millennium had some towns (C6rdova, Ceuta) similar to those in the
West, huge towns, such as Baghdad or Cairo, that housed royal hierarchies
were the rule there.19 China, too, showed a greater percentage of towns
subjected to a central authority than autonomous towns defined by the
movement of people and goods through their walls. William I Vcl\eili is one
of several historians who think that one of the reasons for the West's
eventual domination of the millennium lies in the different mixtures of
centralized and decentralized decision making in its towns:
The fact that China remained united politically from Sung to modern times
.. . is evidence of the increased power government personnel wielded. Dis­
crepancies between the ideas of the marketplace and those of government
were real enough; but as long as officials could bring overriding police power
whenever they were locally or privately defied, the command element in the
mix remained securely dominant. ... For this reason the autocatalytic char­
acter that European commercial and industrial expansion exhibited between
the eleventh and the nineteenth century never got started in China.2
o
In short, McNeill's hypothesis is that explosive, self-stimulating ("auto­
catalytic") urban dynamics cannot emerge when hierarchical components
overwhelm meshwork components. Fernand Braudel seems to agree with
this hypothesis when he asserts the existence of a "dynamic pattern of
turbulent urban evolution in the West, while the pattern of life in cities in
the rest of the world runs in a long, straight and unbroken line across
time."21 One example of the nonlinear, runaway nature of autocatalytic
dynamics in many medieval Western towns is the sequence of intensifica­
tions of energy flow that propelled urban growth. First came an agricul­
tural intensification causing massive increases in population and
therefore giving birth to many cities. Then, as in ancient times, the inter­
action of these urban centers further intensified energy consumption.
One of these intensifications was achieved by harnessing the energy of
running water to power grain mills and trip-hammers in forges and to
facilitate the fulling of cloth. This was, without exaggeration, an eleventh­
century industrial revolution, fueled by solar (agricultural) and gravita­
tional (water) energy.
22
I n addition to raw energy, the turbulent dynamics to which both McNeill
and Braudel refer were associated with the intensification of another flow:
the flow of money. Howard Odum, a systems ecologist, has developed a
34
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
theory of money that, though perhaps too simple, offers a useful image
here. Money, Odum says, is like energy, only it runs in the opposite direc­
tion: energy flows from agricultural villages to the towns they feed, while
money flows from town to countryside, to pay for the food. "The flow of
energy makes possible the circulation of money [includi ng the energy spent
on paperwork, banking, closing deals] and the manipulation of money
can control the flow of energy."23 To apply Odum's schema to medieval
li fe we need to bri ng our mixtures of market and command i ngredients
to bear. Contrary to what may be supposed, monetary systems are of
not commercial but political origin. Specifi cally, they were developed by
central hi erarchies to faci litate the extraction of agricultural surpluse�
and the raisi ng of taxes.24 I n the early part of the millen nium, feudal Fnd­
lords extracted this excess energy, and in many cases peasants would
come to a market town to sell their goods, not to buy other goods, but to
get cash to pay their rent to the owners of their land.
2
5 With that qualifica­
tion, Odum's idea is useful: monetary flows regulate (inhibit or intensify)
energy flows, particularly when the flow of money escapes total control by
the state.
Money is best defi ned as a catalyst or stimulant of trade (and its
absence, an inhi bitor). Barter, the exchange of goods for goods, is rela­
tively inefficient i n that people must wait for their complementary needs
to meet. The occasions when one person has exactly the good that the
other needs, and vice versa, are ,exceedi ngly rare. But any good that is
highly desirable and can easily be put back i nto circulation can play the
role of money: blocks of salt, cowry shells, coral, ivory -even cigarettes
in modern prisons.26 Any one of a number of widely desired goods can
spontaneously become money simply by being able to flow faster and
more easily. And once such self-organized money comes into existence,
complementary demands can be meshed together at a distance, greatly
i ncreasi ng the i ntensity of market exchanges. Frequently coexisti ng with
this spontaneous money are monetary systems, with their hierarchy of
homogeneous metal coi ns of different denominations, a system that is
not self-organized but plan ned and implemented by an elite. Plan ned
money, since its i nception in ancient Egypt, has used metals as its physi­
cal vehicle because they can be weighed and measured, uniformly cut,
and standardized.27
Whenever these two types of money -the plan ned and the spontaneous
-came into contact, standardized money would i nevitably wi n, causi ng
devaluation of the other, i ncreases in its reserves, and catastrophic i nfla­
tion. This situation would arise time and again over the centuries, particu­
larly when Europe began colonizi ng the world. However, in the first few
35
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
centuries of the millennium the situation was reversed: early Europe
was, in a manner of speaking, a colony of Islam, an empire that not only
had a more advanced monetary system, but also had invented many
of the instruments of credit (from bills of exchange to promissory notes
and checks). As Braudel says, "If Europe finally perfected its money, it
was because it had to overthrow the domination of the Muslim world. "2
8
Venice, Florence, Genoa, and other large medieval cities started coining
their own copper, silver, and gold money, and the volume of European
trade began to rise. From then on, this new flow, catalyzing and control­
ling the flow of energy, never ceased accelerating the pace of European
history. The flow of money could itself be intensified, either by increas­
ing the exploitation of mines, and hence the reservoir of metal, or by
speeding up its circulation. These two intensifications, of the volume and
velocity of money, affected each other, since "as precious metals became
more plentiful coins passed more quickly from hand to hand."
2
9
These intense flows of energy and monetary catalysts fueled the great
urban acceleration in medieval Europe and kept the towns that made up
Europe's great exoskeleton in a turbulent dynamical state. Although large
accumulations of money created new commercial hierarchies, the net
result was a decrease in the power of central states and a concomitant
increase in the autonomy of cities. The intensity of the flows themselves,
and not any special feature of the "European psyche" (calculating ratio­
nality, say, or a spirit of thrift), is what kept the mixture of market and
command components in the right proportions to foster autocatalytic
dynamics.30 One more element must be added to this explanation, how­
ever, but this will involve going beyond a conception of markets (and
bureaucracies) as allocation mechanisms for scarce resources.
This point might be clarified by applying certain ideas recently devel­
oped by the neoinstitutionalist economist Douglas North. As we noted
above, not only resources change hands in the marketplace but also
property rights; hence the market facilitates simple exchanges as well as
potentially complex transactions. The latter involves a host of "hidden
"
costs ranging from the energy and skill needed to ascertain the quality
of a product, to the drawing of sales and employment contracts, to the
enforcement of those contracts. I n small medieval markets these "trans­
action costs" were minimal, and so were their enforcement mechanisms:
threats of mutual retaliation, ostracism, codes of conduct, and other
informal constraints sufficed to allow for the more or less smooth func­
tioning of a market. But as the volume and scale of trade intensified (or
as its character changed, as in the case of foreign, long-distance trade),
new institutional norms and organizations were needed to regulate the
36
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A.O
flow of resources, ranging from standardized weights and measures
to the use of notarial records as evidence in merchant law courts or state
courts. North's main point is that, as medieval markets grew and com­
plexified, their transaction costs increased accordingly; without a set of
institutional norms and organizations to keep those costs down, the
turbulent intensification of trade in the West would have come to a halt.
Economies of scale in trade and low-cost enforceability of contracts
were, according to North, mutually stimulating.31
Many institutional norms emerged in an unplanned way-those related
to common law or to informal codes of conduct, for example-and slowly
"sedimented" within towns in the Middle Ages. Others, such as printed
lists of prices or maritime insurance schemes, were deliberately intro­
duced to reduce transaction costs by improving the flow of market infor­
mation or by spreading the risks of large investments. Those cities
engaging in types of trade with particularly high transaction costs, such
as long-distance trade, seem to have been the incubators of many institu­
tional innovations. As these "cultural materials" (informal constraints,
formal rules, enforcement procedures) acting as trade catalysts accumu­
lated, they began to diffuse through the urban environment. As North
observes, "Merchants carried with them in long-distance trade codes of
conduct, so that Pisan laws passed into the sea codes of Marseilles. Oleron
and Lubeck gave laws to the north of Europe, Barcelona to the south of
Europe, and from Italy came the legal principle of insurance and bills of
exchange."32
One difference between the neoinstitutionalist approach and the one
I am trying to sketch here is this: beyond the level of the individual orga­
nization, the neoinstitutionalist does not seem to envision yet another
emergent larger-scale entity but simply refers to "society" or "the polity"
as a whole. This, however, runs the risk of introducing too much homo­
geneity into our models and of suggesting that human societies form a
"totality," that is, an entity on a higher ontological plane than individual
institutions and individual human beings. By contrast, speaking of con­
crete cities (instead of "society" in the abstract) enables us to include in
our m0gels historically emergent wholes that do not form totalities but
simply larger-scale individual entities. It also reduces the danger of taking
too much social uniformity for granted. I ndividual cities (and nation
states) are easier to visualize as encompassing a variety of communities
within their borders, and if, as a matter of empirical fact, a given city (or
nation-state) displays a high degree of cultural homogeneity, this itself
becomes something to be modeled as the result of concrete historical
processes. We have already seen that, depending on the mixture of cen-
37
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
tral i zed and decentral i zed deci si on maki ng beh i nd a ci ty's bi rth and
growt h, we can expect di fferent degrees of u ni formity and di versi ty i n its
i nfrastruct ural l ayout. To thi s i t must be added that, dependi ng on the
rol e that a ci ty pl ays i n the l arger u rban context i n whi ch i t fu ncti ons,
t he "cu l tu ral materi al s" t hat accumul ate wi t hi n it wi l l exhi bi t di fferent
degrees of homogenei ty and heterogeneity. Speci fi cal ly, a ci ty may pl ay
t he rol e of pol i ti cal capi tal for a gi ven regi on and e ncou rage a certai n
degree of u ni formity i n i ts own cu l tu re and i n that of t he smal l er towns
u nder i ts command. On t he contrary, a ci ty may act as a gateway to for­
eign cultures, promoti ng t he e ntry and di ffusi on of heterogeneous materi ­
al s that i ncrease i ts di versi ty a nd that of the ci ti es i n cl ose contact wi t h
i t. I n ei t her case, vi ewi ng ci ti es as i ndi vi dual s al l ows us to study t he i nter­
acti ons between t hem a nd t he emergent whol es t hat may resul t from
those i nteracti ons.
That grou ps of ci ti es may form hi erarchi cal structu res i s a wel l - known
fact at l east si nce t he 1930s, when the term "Central Pl ace" system
was i ntroduced to refer to pyrami ds of urban centers. More recentl y,
urba n hi stori ans Paul Hohenberg and Lyn n Hol l en Lees have suggested
that i n addi ti on to hi erarchi cal struct ures, ci ti es i n Europe al so formed
a meshwork- l i ke assembl age, whi ch t hey refer to as the " Network Sys­
t em. " Let's exami ne some of the defi ni ng trai ts of t hese two types of ci ty
assembl ages, begi n n i ng wi th t he Central Pl ace system, exempl i fi ed i n
t he Mi ddl e Ages by t he hi erarchi es of towns t hat formed u nder strong
regi onal capi tal s such as Pari s, Prague, a nd Mi l an. As we saw before, the
popu l ati on of towns i n medi eval Europe was di vi ded by the si ze and com­
pl exi ty of i ts i ndi vi dual u n i ts. Thi s di stri buti on of si zes was not acci dental
but di rectl y rel ated to the l i n ks and con necti ons between settl ements.
Much as smal l towns offered the su rrou ndi ng cou ntrysi de a vari ety of
commerci al , admi n i strati ve, and rel i gi ous servi ces, the towns t hemsel ves
l ooked to t he more di versi fi ed l arger ci ti es for servi ces t hat were unavai l ­
abl e l ocal ly. Thi s created pyrami ds of towns organi zed around hi erarchi cal
l evel s of compl exi ty. The di stri buti on i n space of t hese hi erarchi cal sys­
tems was di rectl y ti ed to geographi cal di stance, si nce t he resi dents of a
town woul d onl y travel so far i n search of a desi red servi ce. A n umber of
such pyrami dal structu res arose i n t he Mi ddl e Ages, each organ i zi ng a
broad, more or l ess cl earl y defi ned regi on. General ly, t he fl ows of traded
goods t hat ci rcu l ated up and down these hi erarchi es consi sted of basi c
necessi ti es, such as food and manufactu red products.
I n contradi sti ncti on , t he ci rcul at i on of luxury items ori gi nated some­
where else. Long-di stance trade, whi ch has si nce Anti q uity deal t wi th pres­
ti ge goods, i s t he provi nce of ci ti es outsi de the Central Pl ace system,
38
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
cities that act as gateways to faraway trading circuits, as well as nodes
in a network not directly constrained by distance. For example, many
Europ
e
an gateway cities were maritime ports, connected (more than sep­
arated) by the Mediterranean and the Baltic and North Seas.33 These
urban centers formed, according to Hohenberg and Lees, a Network
system:
The Network System, with quite different properties, compl ements the Cen­
tral Place System. Instead of a hierarchical nesting of similar centers, dis­
tinguished mainly by the number and rarity of services offered, it presents
an ordering of functionally complementary cities and urban settlements.
The key systemic property of a city is nodality rather than centrality . . . .
Since network cities easily exercise control at a distance, the influence of a
town has little to do with propinquity and even less with formal command
over territory. The spatial features of the Network System are largely invisi­
ble on a conventional map: trade routes, junctions, gateways, outpostS.34
Instead of a hi erarchy of towns, long-distance trading centers formed a
meshwork, an interlocking system of complementary economic functions.
This is not to imply, however, that all the nodes in the meshwork were of
equal importance. Certain economic functions (especially those giving
rise to innovations) formed a privileged core within a given network, while
others (e.g., routine production tasks) characterized its peripheral zones.
Yet, the core of the Network system differed from the acme of the Central
Place pyramid. I n particular, the influence of a network's main city was
more precarious than that of the Central Place, whose dominance tended
to be stable. Core cities tended to replace one another in this role, as the
intensity of exchange in a given trade route varied over time, or as erst­
while luxury goods (pepper, sugar) became everyday necessities: "Since
[these] cities are links in a network, often neither the source nor the ulti­
mate destinati on of goods, they are in some measure interchangeable as
are the routes themselves."35 Roughly, the sequence of cores was (from
the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries) Venice, Antwerp, Genoa, Ams­
terdam, London, !ew York.36 The two systems coexisted, with Central
Place towns usually belonging to the middle zone (or semiperiphery) of
the Network system. 37
One very important feature of Central Place and Network systems is
the type of cultural structures they give rise to. As with many other struc­
tures, the raw materials (in this case, cultural habits and norms) need to
accumulate slowly and then consolidate, as more or less permanent links
are established among them. Hierarchical constructions tend to undergo
39
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
a homogenizati on before thei r material s harden i nto a pyrami d, whi l e
meshworks arti cul ate heterogeneous el ements, interl ocking t hem wi thout
imposi ng uniformity:
On one l evel , the Central Pl ace System serves a homogeneous peopl e wel l
settled i n i ts hi stori cal l ands. The nati onal capi tal di sti l l s and formal izes
the common fol k cul ture and rei njects the civi l ized product back i nto l ocal
l i fe . . . . [Thi s contrasts] wi th the rootless cosmopol itani sm of the Network
System, wi th its sharp cul tural di sconti nu i ti es between ci ty and country and
between core and peri phery . . . . Core val ues and techni ques are superi m­
posed on a tradi ti onal peri phery wi th no attempt at i ntegrati on or gradual
synthesi s. 38
Eve n before t he advent of national capi tal s, t he domi nant ci ti es of Cen­
tral Pl ace hi erarchi es performed t hei r homogen i zati ons at the regi onal
l evel , tra nsforming l ocal cu l tu res i nto "great tradi tions, " as they engaged
in book pr i nting and publ i shing as wel l as school ing. Gateway ci ties, on
the ot her hand, hel ped di ffuse heterogeneous el ements from al ien cul ­
tu res, as when medieval Veni ce i ntroduced i nto Europe products, tech nol ­
ogy, and archi tect ure from the East. Later on, t he ci ti es of the Network
system wou l d propagate the i deas of h u mani sm, enl i ghtenment, and radi ­
cal thought, while gi vi ng refuge to persecuted t hi nkers and pu bl i shi ng
forbi dden books. 39 The ci rcu l ation and processing of "cul tu ral mate ri al s"
through these two di fferent systems of cities are as i mportant in t he l ong
r un as the mi nd-sets of t he i n habi tants of t he towns themsel ves. The l at­
ter are, of cou rse, an acti ve el ement i n the mix, to t he extent that psycho­
logi
c
al structu res, once they have come into being, affect the dynami cs
of decisi on maki ng and hence the fl ows of energy and money, knowl edge
and i deas. But what is cruci al to emphasi ze here i s that the entire process
does not emanate from some essence housed wit hi n peopl e's heads,
particul arly not any rei fi ed essence such as "rati onal ity."
I n t he ori gi nal versi on of Central Pl ace theory, created by Wal ter
Christal l er i n t he early 1930s, the h uman ca paci ty for maki ng maxi mal l y
effi cient deci si ons (what is now cal l ed "optimi zi ng rat i onal ity") was taken
for granted. The model of Christal l er al so assu med a frictionl ess worl d,
where geography l acked i rregul a ri ti es, weal t h and powe r were distri buted
evenl y, and the l evel s of demand for ci ty servi ces, as wel l as the di stances
peopl e woul d be wi l l ing to travel to get them, remai ned fixed. I n thi s l i near
worl d, pa rti cul ar spati al di stri buti ons of ci ties of di fferent ran k resu l ted,
as the di fferent centers arranged themsel ves t o mi ni mize travel time for
a given servi ce, t hus opti mi zi ng thei r col l ecti ve benefi t, or uti l i ty.40 I n non-
40
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A.D
l i near dynami cal model s of city devel opment, such as those created by
Peter Al l en and Di mi tri os Dendr i nos, u rba n patterns do not resul t from
some gl obal opti mi zer ( such as superrati onal h uman deci si on makers
mi nimi zi ng transportati on costs) but from a dynami cs of cooperati on a nd
confl i ct among ci ti es, i nvol vi ng growth and
'
decay of centers. I n t hese
model s, urban settl ements grow by attracti ng popul ati on from s u rroun d­
i ng r ural areas, wi th job avai l abi l i ty and i ncome acti ng as i ncenti ves to
immigrati on whi l e congesti on and pol l uti on act as di si ncenti ves. Al though
i n pri nci pl e several ci ti es coul d share t hese huma n resources more or
l ess even ly, the model s show a strong tendency for some u rban centers
to grow at t he expense of others and for l arge centers to i nhi bi t the
growt h of si mi l arl y scal ed towns i n t hei r vi ci n ity. Moreover, the emergence
of sta bl e patterns of coexi sti ng centers seems rel ated to a decrease i n
t he strength and number of di rect i nteracti ons among towns: too much
con necti vity (as when every ci ty i n the model i nteracts wi t h every ot her
one) l eads to unstabl e patterns, whi l e decreased con necti vi ty wi t hi n a
hi erarchy of towns (that i s, fewer i nteracti ons between ran ks t han wit hi n
a gi ven rank) l eads t o stabi l i ty.4
1
Contempora ry studi es i n nonl i near u rba n dynami cs teach us that, i n
many cases, fri cti on (del ays, bottl enecks, confl i ct, uneven di stri buti on of
resou rces) pl ays a cruci al rol e in generati ng sel f-orga ni zati on. He nce,
el i mi nati ng i t from our model s (by postu l ati ng an opti mi zi ng rati onal ity,
for i nsta nce) automati cal l y el i mi nates the possi bi l i ty of captu ri ng any real
dynami cal effect. Thi s i nsi ght i s even more i mportant when we consi der
the dynami cs of the i nsti tuti ons t hat chan nel the fl ow of energy t hrough
ci ti es: ma rkets and bureaucraci es. The cl assi ca l pi ctu re of the market,
Adam Smi th' s "i nvi si bl e hand" model , i s j ust l i ke Chri stal l er's model of
urban patte rns. I t operates i n a worl d compl etel y devoi d of fri cti on, where
monopol i es do not exi st and agents are endowed wi th perfect foresi ght
and have access to cost l ess and u n l i mi ted i nformati on. Smi th's model (or
more exactl y, i ts i mpl ementati on i n neocl assi cal econorni cs) al so gener­
ates patterns that maxi mi ze the benefits to soci ety as a whol e, that i s,
patterns i n whi ch suppl y and dema nd i nteract so as to reach opti ma l
equil i bri um, precl udi ng wastefu l excesses or defi ci ts. Thi s type of market
dynami cs i s, of cou rse, a ficti on. And yet thi s pi ctu re of a " rati onal " free­
ma rket dynami cs emanati ng from the i nteracti on of sel fi sh agents reach­
i ng opti mal concl usi ons about al ternati ve uses of scarce resou rces i s sti l l
at the core of moder n l i near economi cs.
Nonl i near approaches to market dynami cs, i n contrast, emphasi ze the
rol e of uncertai nty i n deci si on maki ng and the i n herent costs of i nfo rma­
ti on gat heri ng. I mperfect knowl edge, i ncompl ete assessment of feed-
41
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
back, l i mi ted memory a nd recal l , as wel l as poor probl em-sol vi ng ski l l s
resul t i n a form of rati onal ity that attai ns not optimal deci si ons but more
or l ess sati sfactory compromi ses between confl i cti ng constrai nts. 42 Thi s
"satisfi ci ng" or "bou nded" rati onal i ty, proceeds i n ma ny cases by r ul es
of t humb and other adapti ve behavi oral patterns. Thi s does not precl ude
some coherence among an agent's expectati ons, needs, and acti ons, but
i t does cal l for a dynami c expl anati on of the format i on of adeq uate bel i efs,
as opposed to si mpl y assumi ng stati c forms of rati onal ity. Moreover, it
emphasi zes that the responses of economi c agents i n t he marketpl ace
a re not u n ifo rm, t hat some agents wi l l act more coherentl y t han ot hers,
and that t he adeq uacy of t hei r deci si ons wi l l va ry from t i me to ti me. 43
A nonl i near model of ma rket dynami cs di ffers greatl y from Adam
Smi th' s. I n particul ar, i nstead of a si ngl e, stati c eq ui l i bri um toward whi ch
markets are su pposed to gravi tate, the non l i near model al l ows for mu l ti ­
pl e dynami cal forms of sta bi l ity. For exampl e, markets may get caught i n
cycl i cal equil i br i ums that force them to undergo successi ve peri ods of
growt h and decay. Hence mar kets may be both sel f-regu l ati ng and non­
opti mal .44 These i ssues are al l the more i mportant when co nsi deri ng
medi eval ma rkets, whi ch had to cope not onl y wi t h t he effects of imper­
fect foresight, but wi t h a mul ti pl i ci ty of ot her no nl i nea ri ti es: agrari an hi er­
a rchi es exacti ng a porti on of producti on, taki ng it out of ci rcul ati on;
craftsmen sel l i ng t hei r products specul ati vel y; money su pply affect i ng
pri ces; and so on. No nethel ess, by the twel ft h centu ry, pri ces t hroughout
Eu rope fl uctuated in un i son, and thi s i s what above al l characteri zes a
sel f-regu l ati ng ma rket economy.45 Thi s col l ecti ve osci l l ati on , thi s massi ve
r hythmi cal breath i ng across the citi es that made up the Central Pl ace
and Networ k systems, can now be captu red t hrough the use of nonl i near
model s, where the i mpediments created by bou nded rati onal ity pl ay a
constructi ve rol e. 46
One may thi n k t hat the su bopti mal compromises to whi ch medieval
ma rkets were condemned deri ved from the decentral i zed natu re of thei r
deci sion-ma king processes . But a si mi l ar concl usi on may be reac hed vis­
a-vi s central i zed bu reau craci es, even though t hei r forma l i zed pl ans and
wel l -defi ned goal s woul d seem to be prod ucts of an opti mizi ng rati onal ity.
But here, too, deci si on ma ki ng ta kes pl ace i n a worl d fu l l of uncertai nti es.
Any act ual system of i nformati on processi ng, pl anni ng, and control wi l l
never be opti mal but merel y practi cal , appl yi ng rote responses t o recur­
rent probl ems and empl oyi ng a vari ety of conti ngency tactics to deal with
u nforeseen events. Some of the fl ows of matter and energy in and out of
citi es -fl ows t hat medi eval hi erarchies were su pposed to regu l ate ­
recei ved more attenti on whil e ot hers were overl ooked and mi smanaged .
42
GEO
LOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
For i nstance, by the th i rteenth centu ry London had al ready generated a
speci al i zed bureaucracy for handl i ng t he fl ow of water i nto t he ci ty; but
management of the fl ow of waste out of t he city di d not come a bout unt i l
t he ni netee nth centu ry, even though t he Engl i sh capi tal had had recu r­
rent sewage cri ses si nce the 1370s. It was not u nti l the ri ver Thames's
capaci ty to transport waste reached its l i mi ts, ca usi ng an odor t hat made
parl i amentary sessi ons i mpossi bl e t o conduct , t hat the pr obl em was con­
fronted. Before that, t he approach to sewage management had been
reacti ve, u npl an ned, and pi ecemeal -hard l y opti mal . 47
Thus, to understan d the rol e of deci si on maki ng i n t he creati on of soci al
order, we need to concentrate not so much on the more or l ess rati onal
character of individual deci si on s, but on t he dynami cs (central i zed or
decentral i zed) among many i nteracti ng deci si on makers. The hi erarchi es
and meshworks t hat devel op from these i nteracti ons ( parti cu l a r bureau­
craci es, i ndi vi dual mar kets) i n t ur n become el ements of ot her homoge­
neous and heterogeneous struct ures (capi tal s or gateways), whi ch in t ur n
go on to form Central Pl ace and Networ k systems. At each l evel , di fferent
nonl i near dyn ami cs ta ke pl ace, wi t h t hei r own mul ti pl e eq ui l i bri ums and
bi fu rcati ons between al ternati ve stabl e states. Hence, i ndi vi dual deci si on
maki ng, whi l e i mporta nt, i s si mpl y one el ement i n t he mi x, i nteracti ng
and i nfl uenci ng dynami cs on on l y one of c number of sca l es. 48
But even at the i ndi vi dual l evel , what �atters is not any pa rti cu l ar psy­
chol ogi cal struct u re (rat i onal ity) so much as probl e m-sol vi ng ski l l s, rul es
of t hu mb, and routi ne procedu res, that i s, "cul tu ral materi al s" that can
accumulate over time wi t hi n a town's wal l s. I ndeed, many prei ndustri al
ci ti es may be seen as l arge reservoirs of ski l l s and routi nes. Those ci ti es
recru i ted from the cou ntrysi de arti sans possessi ng the most vari ed abi l i ­
ti es and trades, and they were constantl y struggl i ng to steal t hi s val uabl e
" hu man capi tal " away from each ot her. To mai ntai n and i ncrease thei r
reservoi rs, towns attracted a fl ow of craftsmen, as wel l as a vari ety of pro­
fessi onal s, who brought wit h them ski l l s and procedures that coul d now
be taught to ot hers or imi tated , and hence added to the exi sti ng stock. As
these cul tu ral material s accumul ated, they mi xed in va ri ous ways, form­
i ng novel meshworks and hi erarchi es.
On one hand, the ru l i ng el i tes of many towns created, between the
twel ft h and the fi fteenth centu ri es, the gu i l d system, t hrough whi ch t hey
organi zed al l craft acti vity wi t hi n the ci ty. Each gui l d brought toget her the
ski l l s t hat formed a gi ven trade, and homogeni zed the mea ns of t hei r
transmi ssi on by regu l at i ng trai ni ng met hods and ce rti fi cati on procedures.
As ski l l s accu mu l ated and began i nteracti ng wit h one anot her, trades
began to d i versi fy and mu l ti pl y: " I n Nu remberg . . . the metal worki ng
43
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
gui l ds . . . had di vi ded, as earl y as the t hi rteenth centu ry, i nto several
dozen i ndepe ndent professi ons and trades. The same process occu rred
i n Ghent, Strasbou rg, Fran kfu rt and Fl orence, where the wool en i ndustry,
as el sewhere, became a col l ecti on of trades. I n fact it woul d be true to
say t hat the boom of the t hi rteenth century a rose out of t hi s newl y cre­
ated di vi si on of l abor as i t prol i ferated. "49 On the other hand, as s peci al ­
ti es mul ti pl i ed so di d the i nteracti ons between i ndi vi du al trades, and
t hi s gave ri se t o meshworks of smal l producers, "symbi oti c col l ecti ons of
l i ttl e enterpri ses, " as the u rbani st Jane Jacobs has cal l ed them. 5
0
Whi l e t he bi g gateway ci ti es at t he core of the Network system, as wel l
as t hose at t he top of Central Pl ace pyrami ds, gave ri se t o el aborate hi er­
archi es of gu i l ds and ever more ri gi d regul at i ons, towns i n h abi ti ng the
mi ddl e zone (that i s, not too smal l to be condemned to remai n a suppl y
regi on for the core), engaged i n what Jacobs cal l s "i mport-substi tuti on
dynami cs. " I nstead of si mpl y exchangi ng raw materi al s for man ufactu red
goods from the bi g ci ti es, the arti san s of these towns devel oped t he
ski l l s n ecessary t o sl owl y repl ace those i mports wi th l ocal producti on .
These new, l ess r egul ated ski l l s, i n tu rn, began formi ng mes hworks, as
t hey i nterl ocked wi th one another i n fu ncti onal compl ementari ty.51
The market dynami cs of these mi ddl e-zone towns were sel f-sti mul ati ng
because the money saved by repl aci ng some i mports coul d be spent on
n ew i mports, whi ch i n turn generated a new rou n d of su bsti tuti ons. As
Jacobs puts i t, these smal l medi eval towns, and thei r smal l producers,
"wer e forever produci ng new exports for one another -bel l s, dyes, buck­
l es, parchment, l ace, needl es, pai nted cabi net work, cerami cs, brushes,
cutl e ry, paper, si eves and n eedl es, sweetmeats, el i xi rs, fi l es, pi tchforks,
sextants -re pl aci ng them wi th l ocal producti on, becomi ng customers for
sti l l more i n novati
?
ns. "52 Jacobs descri bes the autocatal yti c dynami cs
t hat produced t hese h umbl e goods as evol vi ng t hrough bi fu rcati ons, as a
cri ti cal mass of potenti al l y repl aceabl e i mports accu mul ated wi t hi n a
town, gi vi ng ri se to a new expl osi ve epi sode of i mport repl acement. The
i n novati ons t hat came out of thi s process di d not have to be gl amorous
or h ighl y vi si bl e; what mattered was the generati on of new ski l l s and the
consequent compl exi fi cati on of t he mes hwork.
Computer si mu l ati ons of economi c meshwork dynami cs have shown
t hat, at a certai n cri ti cal l evel of compl exi ty, a ki nd of " i nd ustri al ta keoff"
occurs i n t he i nterl ocked system of functi ons consti tuti ng the mesh­
work. 53 Jacobs has gathered evi dence i ndi cati ng t hat thi s i s i ndeed the
way i n whi ch the economy of Europe took off at the t urn of the fi rst
mi l l e n n i u m. At t he t i me, Constant i nopl e was at the top of the u rban hi er­
archy, and Veni ce (whi ch by t he fourteenth centu ry was the metropol i s at
44
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
the core of the Network system) was one of i ts humbl e suppl y zones. The
Ven eti ans sol d ti mber and sal t to t he capi tal , i n exchange for manufac­
tu red products. I n the el eventh centu ry, however, the economy of Veni ce
began to grow expl osi vely, as a mes hwork of smal l producers began sub­
sti tuti ng l ocal l y manufactu red goods for those previ ou sl y i mported from
Constanti nopl e. Si nce the l ocal goods were necessari l y rough a n d pri mi ti ve
by t he standards of t he capi tal , Ven i ce coul d onl y trade i ts n ew surpl us
products wi th other backward ci ti es. (Thus, t hi s type of autocatal ysi s
i nvol ves not si ngl e ci ti es but teams of ci ti es. ) I n thi s way, t he economy of
Veni ce took off and propel l ed t he ci ty t o a posi ti on as domi nant center.
Because the smal l er towns t hat now i mported Ven eti an products were
al so reservoi rs of fl exi bl e ski l l s, they eventual l y created t hei r own i mport­
substi tuti on meshworks. Such was the case of Antwerp, whi ch began as
a Veneti an su ppl y regi on for wool ; by t he fi fteent h century i t too had
become a core of t he Network. London had to wai t unt i l the n i n eteenth
centu ry before becomi ng t he Network core, but si nce t he Mi ddl e Ages i t
had been su bsti tuti ng i mported l eat her goods from C6rdova , to sel l to
other backward ci ti es. 5
4
Thi s ki nd of vol ati l e t rade among smal l towns shoul d be added to our
l i st of autocatal yti c processes ani mati ng medi eval Europe. Large towns,
on the ot her hand, gave r i se to a di fferent type of t urbul ent dynami cs,
based on l uxury goods ( i nstead of everyday i tems) i nvol vi ng bi g fi rms
( i nstead of smal l producers), and on strategi es t hat di d n ot rel y on the
exi stence of heterogen eous ski l l s. As Braudel says, the prol i ferati on of
new trades, and the resul tant mi crospeci al i zati ons, always characteri zed
the bottom l ayers of the trade hi erarchy. Bi g busi ness i n the Mi ddl e Ages,
and for centu ri es afterwa rd, had i ts own dynami cs, whi ch ran i n the
exact opposi te di recti on: HEven a shopkeeper who made hi s fort une, and
became a merch ant, i mmedi ately moved out of speci al i zati on i nto non­
s peci al i zati on . . . obeyi ng t he ru l es of trade at i ts upper l evel s. To become
and above al l t o r emai n a whol esal er meant havi ng not onl y the ri ght but
the duty to handl e, i f not everyt hi ng, at a ny rate as much as possi bl e. "55
The advantage t hat nonspeci al i zati on gave to t hese earl y ca pi tal i sts
was freedom of motion, whi ch al l owed them to handl e a ny fl ow of goods
t hat became hi ghl y profi tabl e, and to move i n and out of fl ows as t hei r
profi tabi l i ty changed. Thi s freedom of choi ce has characteri zed capi tal i sm
t hroughout t he mi l l enni um. The merchants and fi nanci ers ( and l ater
i n dustri al i sts) who i n habi ted t he u pper l evel s of t he trade hi erarchy never
i nvaded l ow-profi t zon es. Wi th the excl usi on of cas h crops for the l uxury
market, food producti on and processi ng were l eft u ntouched u nti l t he
seventeenth centu ry. The same i s true of trans portati on, u nti l the rai l -
45
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
roads, and of the constructi on i ndustry, unti l our ce ntu ry (i f we excl ude
factori es and publ i c bui l di ngs). I f we add to thi s t he retai l i ng of goods, we
may concl ude that none of the fl ows of energy and matter that are i ndi s­
pen sabl e for a n u rban center were penetrated by l arge commerci al hi er­
archi es ( and t hei r central i zed deci si on maki ng) u nt i l rel ati vel y recentl y.
Even i n thi s age of huge mu l ti nati onal corporati ons, t he command
el ement i n t he commerci al mi xtu re i s far f r om 100 percent. The econo­
mi st joh n Ken n et h Gal brai t h , who sharply di fferenti ates between s ponta­
neous economi c acti vity (mar kets) and pl anned economi c processes
(bi g busi ness), cal cul ates that today roughl y hal f of the Wester n economy
has been taken ove r by capi tal i st hi erarchi es. The ot her hal f compri ses
the l ow-profi t regi ons, whi ch these h i erarch i es wi l l i ngly abandon to the
market. Accordi ng to Gal brai th, what gi ves capi tal i sm thi s freedom of
moti on i s economy of scal e, whi ch i s why si nce the Mi ddl e Ages commer­
ci al capi tal i sm has been associ ated wi th whol esa l e a nd n ot retai l . A l arge
fi rm i s better abl e to absorb shocks a nd fl uctuati ons and create the pl ans
and ct .."t" CIC that may wi n i t a degree of i ndependence from market
forces, i ndeed the abi l i ty to control and manipulate t hose forces to a cer­
tai n
Such consi derati ons l ed Braudel t o the sta rtl i ng concl usi on that "we
shoul d not be too q u i ck to assume that capi ta l i sm embraces the whol e
of western soci ety, that i t accou nts for every sti tch i n t he soci al fabri c . . .
t hat our soci eti es are organ i zed from top to bottom i n a ' capi tal i st sys­
tem. ' On t he contra ry . . . t here is a di al ecti c sti l l very much al i ve between
capi tal i sm on one hand, and i ts anti thesi s, the ' non-capi tal i sm' of the
l ower l evel on t he ot her. "5
6
And he adds that, i ndeed , capi tal i sm was car­
ri ed u pward and o nward o n t he shoul ders of smal l shops and "t he enor­
mous creati ve powers of t he market, of the l ower story of exchange . . . .
[Thi s] l owest l evel , not bei ng paral ysed by the si ze of i ts pl ant or organi ­
zati on , i s t he one readi est to adapt; it i s t he seedbed of i nspi rati on,
i mprovi sat i on and even i nn ovati o n , al though its most bri l l i ant di scoveri es
sooner or l ater fal l i nto the hands of the hol ders of capi tal . I t was not the
capi tal i sts who brought a bout the fi rst cotton revol uti on ; al l the new i deas
came from enterpri si ng smal l busi nesses. "57
There i s a mi sconcepti o n, wi del y shared by economi sts and ph i l oso­
phers on ei ther si de of the pol i ti cal spectrum, that capi tal i sm devel oped
i n several stages, bei ng at fi rst competi ti ve and su bservi ent to market
forces and on l y l ater, i n the twenti eth century, becomi ng monopol i sti c.
However, sta rti ng i n t he t hi rteenth centu ry, capi tal i sts engaged i n vari ous
noncompeti ti ve practi ces, i n order to create the l arge accumul at i ons of
money that have a l ways characteri zed t he upper l evel s of the trade
46
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
pyrami d. As we di scussed, the early medi eval fai rs, the meeti ng poi nts
of ri ch merchants from al l over Europe, were veri tabl e hi erarchi es of
meshworks, i n whi ch the l uxu ry and money markets domi nated t he
upper echel ons. Nei t her i n the l ong-di stance trade of presti ge goods nor
i n t he worl ds of preci ous metal s and credi t di d suppl y a nd demand rei gn
supreme. On the cont rary, most fort u nes i n t hese areas were made by
t he man i pu l ati on of these market forces t hrough a vari ety of n oncom­
peti ti ve practi ces. There was, of cou rse, i ntense competi ti on among ri ch
merchants a nd fami l i es, much as today l arge corporati ons compete wi th
o ne a nother, but t hese ri val ri es among ol i gopol i es are fundamental ly
di fferent from t he ki nd of "anonymous competi t i on" i n whi ch smal l pro­
duce rs and traders engage. 58
From the Mi ddl e Ages to t he n i neteenth centu ry, not on l y di d i ndi vi d­
ual busi nesses engage i n monopol i sti c practi ces, ent i re ci ti es di d too,
even grou ps of ci ti es. By means of noncompeti ti ve practi ces, a town
coul d greatl y ai d i ts merchants and fi nanci ers, protecti ng them from for­
eign ri val s, and sti mu l ati ng the accu mul ati on of money wi t hi n i ts wal l s.
The medi eval ci ti es t hat cont rol l ed t he Medi terranean and the Bal ti c a nd
Nort h Seas fi n anced much of t hei r growt h from man i pul at i on of markets
a nd by acqu i ri ng excl usi ve control of certa i n fl ows, such as spi ces and
si l ks from t he Levant i n t he case of Ven i ce, or sal t i n t he case of Lubeck.
Wi th a monopol y on l uxury goods, won and mai ntai ned by mi l i tary force,
fou rteenth-cent ury Veni ce domi nated the ci ti es a round i t, not on l y t he
smal l towns consti tuti ng i t s suppl y regi ons but other gi ant towns, such as
Fl ore nce and Mi l an. I n t he nort h, between t he t hi rteent h a nd fi fteent h
centu ri es, ci ti es l i ke Lubeck and Bruges formed a meshwork of ci ti es known
as t he Hanseati c League, whi ch was capabl e of col l ecti ve acti on wi t hout a
central i zed organ i zati on behi nd i t. The l eague al so e ngaged i n monopol i s­
ti c practi ces to trap t he towns wi t hi n i ts zone of economi c i nfl uence i n a
web of supervi si on and dependence. 59
We wi l l ret ur n s hortl y to othe r forms of market mani pul ati on whi ch,
accordi ng t o Braudel , have a l ways characteri zed certai n commerci al i nsti ­
tuti ons si nce the Mi ddl e Ages. Thi s wi l l make cl ear how wrong i t i s to
assume (as many economi sts to t he ri ght a nd center of t he pol i ti cal spec­
trum tend to do) t hat market power i s somet hi ng t hat may be d i smi ssed
or t hat n eeds to be studi ed on l y i n rel ati o n to some abe rrant i n sti tuti onal
forms such as overt monopol i es. But certai n concepti ons from t he l eft
(parti cul arl y the Marxi st l eft) al so need to be corrected, i n parti cul ar, a
tel eol ogi cal concepti on of economi c hi story i n terms of a linear progression
of modes of producti on . I n thi s Braudel expl i ci tl y agrees wi th Gi l l es
Del euze a nd Fel i x Guattar i : capi tal i sm cou l d have a ri sen a nywhere and
47
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
l ong before i t di d i n Europe. 6
o
I ts emergence must be pi ct ured as a bi ­
fu rcati on , a phase transi ti on t hat mi ght have taken pl ace somewhe re
el se had t he condi ti ons bee n ri ght (for i nstance, i n t he huge camel cara­
vans al ong t he Si l k Road i n t he t hi rteenth centu ry) .
61
Moreover, t he i nsti ­
tuti ons t hat emerged after th i s bi fu rcati on must be vi ewed n ot as
repl aci ng previ ous i nsti tuti ons ( i . e. , markets) but as fu l l y coexi st i ng wi th
them wi t hout formi ng a soci etywi de "system. " I t i s true t hat pri ces across
Europe were pul sati ng to the same rhyt hm from medi eval ti mes and thi s
gave t he e nt i re conti nent a certai n economi c cohere nce (someti mes
referred to as a "worl d-economy"), but i t woul d be a mi stake to confuse
worl d-economi es wi th the "capi tal i st system, " si nce I ndi a, Chi na, and
I sl am al so formed coherent economi c areas (as powerfu l as those of Eu­
rope) wi t hout gi vi ng ri se to capi tal i sm. 62
The concept ual confusi on e ngendered by al l t he di fferent uses of the
word "capi tal i sm" (as "free e nterpri se" or as "i ndust ri al mode of produc­
ti on" or, more recentl y, as "worl d-economy") is so e ntrenched that it
makes a n obj ecti ve a nal ysi s of economi c power al most i mpossi bl e. One
coul d, of cou rse, si mpl y redefi ne t he t er m "capi tal i sm" to i ncl ude "power
to mani pu l ate mar kets" as a consti tuti ve part of its mean i ng and to ri d i t
of some of i ts tel eol ogi cal con notati ons. But as phi l osophers of sci ence
know wel l , when a theory begi ns redefi ni ng its te rms i n an ad hoc way to
fi t the l atest rou nd of n egati ve evi dence, it shows by t hi s very act t hat it
has reached the l i mi ts of its useful ness. I n vi ew of t hi s, i t wou l d seem
that the on l y sol uti on i s to repl ace t hi s ti red word wi t h a neol ogi sm, per­
haps t he one Braudel suggested, "anti markets, " and to use it excl usi vely
to refer to a certai n segment of the popul ati on of commerci al and i ndus­
tri al i nsti tuti ons.
63
I n addi ti on to monopol i es, t he most obvi ous form of mani pul ati on of
suppl y and demand, prei ndustri al anti markets used several ot her mecha­
ni sms to fu rt her t hei r accumul ati ons a nd i ncrease t hei r domi nati on. For
exampl e, goods bought di rectl y from a producer at a l ow pri ce were often
stored i n l arge warehouses u nt i l the market pri ce rose to a desi red l evel .
Market pri ces someti mes i ncreased of thei r own accord, as happened
duri ng wars, but whenever t hey di d not the merchants who owned t hese
huge rese rvoi rs coul d arti fi ci al l y i n fl ate pri ces, pe r haps by buyi ng certai n
amou nts of a gi ven product at a hi gh pri ce (or, vi ce versa, defl ate pri ces
by du mpi ng l ower- pri ced goods).
64 Long-di stance trade was anot her
means t o free onesel f of t he l aws a nd l i mi tati ons of the l ocal mar ket. I n
terms of vol u me, l ong- di stance l uxu ry t rade was mi nuscu l e i n compari son
to the fl ows of humbl e goods t hat ci rcu l ated i n the medi eval markets. But
what i t l acked i n one form of i ntensi ty i t made up i n anot her:
48
G�OLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
Long-di stance trade certai nl y made super-profits: i t was after al l based on
the pri ce di fferences between two markets very far apart, wi th su pply
and demand in compl ete i gnorance of each other and brought i nto contact
onl y by the acti vi ti es of the mi ddl eman. There coul d onl y have been a
competi ti ve market if there had been pl enty of separate and i ndependent
mi ddl emen. I f, in the ful l ness of ti me competiti on di d appear, if su per­
profits vani shed from one l i ne, i t was al ways possi bl e to fi nd them agai n
on anot
h
er route wi th di fferent commodi ti es. I f pepper became common­
pl ace and decl i ned i n val ue, tea, coffee, or cal i coes were wai ti ng i n the
wi ngs to take the pl ace of the former pri ma donna.
65
Such was t he freedom of movement t hat characteri zed anti markets, a
freedom made possi bl e by exten si ve credit. Much as pr i mi ti ve or metal l i c
money was a catalyst for smal l -scal e commerci al exchan ge, credi t was t he
great accel erator for ant i market tra nsacti ons, both whol esal e and l ong­
di stance t rade. Credi t represented one more for m of the autocatal yti c or
t urbul ent dynami cs t hat propel l ed prei ndustri al Eu ropean ci ti es ahead
of t hei r Easter n ri val s, eventual l y enabl i ng Europe to domi nate the rest
of the worl d. Credi t (or, more exactl y, compoun d i nterest) is an exampl e
of expl osi ve, sel f-sti mu l ati ng growt h : mon ey begett i ng money, a di a bol i cal
i mage t hat made many ci vi l i zati ons forbi d usu ry. Europea n merchants
got arou nd thi s prohi bi ti on t hrough t he use of the "bi l l of exchange, "
ori gi nal l y a means of l ong-di stance payment (i n heri ted from I sl am); as i t
ci rcu l ated from fai r to fai r i ts rate of ret ur n accrued usuri ously. (Thi s di s­
gui sed form of usury was tol erated by church hi erarchi es due to the many
ri sks t he ci rcul ati on of bi l l s of exchange i nvol ved. ) The fl ow of credi t -
and t he i n sti tuti ons that grew around thi s fl ow, such as banks and stock
exchanges -was cruci al for sel f-sustai n ed economi c growt h at the top,
and i t was one more fl ow a nt i market i nsti tuti ons monopol i zed earl y on . 66
To retu rn to European u rban hi story, the decel erati on of u rban expan­
si on that fol l owed t he year 1300 had a vari ety of effects. The bi rt h rate
of new towns decreased si gn i fi cantly, as di d conti n uous growt h across
the fu l l spect r um of ci ty si zes. I n the su bseq uent fou r centu ri es many
smal l towns di sappeared, and on l y t he l arger towns conti n ued to grow.
I n a sense, t he l ong depressi on acted as a sel ecti on pressu re, favori ng
t he l arge and hence i ncreasi ng the proporti on of command el ements
i n the mi x. Si mu l taneously, t he fi rst n ati on-states began to con sol i date,
i n regi ons previ ou sl y orga ni zed by Central Pl ace hi erarchi es, as the
domi nant ci ti es, some of whi ch became national capitals, began to swal l ow
up and di sci pl i ne t he towns i n thei r orbi t. The gateway ci ti es that made
up the Network system l ost some of t hei r autonomy yet conti n ued t o
49
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
grow, becomi ng maritime metropolises. Hence, whi l e rel ati vel y few towns
were born i n thi s peri od, the exi sti ng popu l ati on of ci ti es changed si gni fi ­
cantl y. The capi tal and the metropol i s, and the h uge conce ntrati ons of
peopl e they housed , became i ncreasi ngl y vi si bl e featu res of the European
u rban struct ure.
Anne Querri en has descri bed the characteri sti cs typi cal of these two
types of l arge towns, whi l e warni ng us that i n real i ty a pure capi tal or
metropol i s i s rare, t hat more often t han not we are deal i ng wi th mi xtu res.
A metropol i s, she says, i s l i ke "a membrane whi ch al l ows communi cati on
between two or more mi l i eus, whi l e the capi tal serves as a nucl eus around
whi ch t hese mi l i eus ar e ri gorousl y organi zed. "67 Metropol i ta n centers
exerci se t hei r i nfl uence across i nternati onal bou ndari es, whi l e capi tal s are
t he guardi ans a nd protectors of t hese fronti ers and t he terri tori es t hey
encompass. Hence, whi l e t he former ari se by t he sea, the l atter are often
l andl ocked, bou nd to t hei r hi nterl and. Capi tal s tend to pl ace restri cti ons
on t he fl ows of trade and use taxes, tol l s, and tari ffs t o extract energy
from these ci rcui ts; conversely, metropol i tan ci ti es tend to free these fl uxes
of al l obstacl es, seeki ng to expl oi t t hei r di stant peri pheri es more t horough­
ly. (We have here two di fferent forms of power, xenophobi c nati onal i sm
versus sal t-water i mpe ri al i sm. )
6
8 I n the peri od of nati on-state formati on,
Pari s, Mad ri d, Baghdad, and Pe ki ng were perfect exampl es of nati onal
capi tal s, whi l e Ven i ce, Genoa, C6rdova, and Cant on typi fi ed t he mari ti me
metropol i s. Ci ti es such as London were mi xtures of bot h types.
The emergence of powerfu l nati on-states, and the concomi tant decrease
i n autonomy of the ci ti es t hey absorbed (and eve n of the ci ty-states that
remai ned i ndependent), coul d have brought the di fferent forms of sel f­
sti mu l ati ng dynami cs we have descri bed to a hal t. That t hi s di d not hap­
pen was due to yet one more form of autocatalysi s u ni que to the West:
conti nued arms races. The hi stori a n Paul Kennedy has argued that thi s
type of sel f-st i mu l ati on depended i n tur n on the fact that the nati ons of
Europe, u nl i ke Chi na or I sl am, were never abl e to form a si ngl e, homoge­
neous empi re, and have remai ned u nti l today a meshwork of hi erarchi es.
I t was wi t hi n t hi s meshwork that advances i n offensi ve weapon ry sti mu­
l ated i n novati ons i n defense technol ogy, l eadi ng to an ever-growi ng arma­
ment spi ral :
50
Whi l e thi s armament spi ral cou l d al ready be seen i n the manufacture of
crossbows and armor pl ate i n the early fi fteenth centu ry, the pri nci pl e
spread to experi mentati on wi th gunpowder weapons i n the fol l owi ng fi fty
years. I t is i mportant to recal l here that when cannon were fi rst employed,
there was l i ttl e di fference between the West and Asi a i n thei r desi gn and
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
effecti veness . . . . Yet, i t seems to have been onl y i n Europe that the i mpe­
tus exi sted for constant i mprovement: i n the gun powder grai ns, i n casti ng
much smal l er (yet equal l y powerful ) cannon from bronze and ti n al l oys, i n
the shape and texture of the barrel and the mi ssi l e, i n the gu n mou nti ngs
and carri ages.
69
These arms races had a vari ety of consequences. They affected the
mi neral i zati on of Eu rope, as the new mobi l e si ege arti l l ery made t he si m­
pl e hi gh wal l s that su rrounded most towns obsol ete. Forti fi cati on changed
radi cal ly, as town wal l s were bu i l t l ower whi l e becomi ng more el aborate,
now i ncorporated i nto compl ex assembl ages of di tches, ramparts, para­
pets, and covered passageways. Thi s had i mportant consequences for
the ci ti es encl osed wi thi n these forti fi ed wal l s. Before 1520, when a town
outgrew i ts mi neral membrane, the wal l coul d be easi l y di sassembl ed and
reconstructed fart her away. But now, the new star-shaped systems of
defense that had repl aced i t were prohi bi ti vel y expensi ve t o move, so that
the towns so forti fi ed were thereafter condemn ed to grow verti cal lyJ
o
On
the other hand, the n ew fortress desi gns, as wel l as the arti l l ery that had
catal yzed t hem i nto exi sten ce, began to consume a rapi dl y i ncreasi ng
share of a town ' s weal t h. Thi s favored n ati ons over ci ty-states, si nce on l y
the former coul d sustai n t he i ntensi fi cati on of resource expl oi tati on t hat
t he new tech nol ogi es demanded.
Ken nedy has added hi s voi ce t o the chorus of hi stori ans who, havi ng
rej ected Eurocentri sm, came to real i ze that even as l ate as 1500 Chi na or
I sl am was much better posi ti oned t o domi nate t h e mi l l en ni um t han Eu­
rope. ( Hence, the fact that Europe managed to do thi s agai nst the odds
warrants expl anati on . ) Many of the i nventi ons that Europeans used to col ­
oni ze the worl d (t he compass, gu n pOWder, paper money, the pri nti ng
press) were of Chi nese ori gi n , whi l e Europe's accou nti ng techni ques and
i nstru ments of credi t (whi ch ar e often ci ted as exampl es of her u n i qu e
" rati onal ity") came from I sl am. Thus, n othi ng i ntri nsi c to Europe dete r­
mi ned the outcome, but rather a dynami cs beari ng no i n he rent rel ati o n­
shi p to a ny on e cul tu re . I n t hi s, Ken n edy agrees wi th Braudel and
McNei l l : an excess of ce ntral i zed deci si on maki ng i n t he East kept tu rbu­
l ent dyn ami cs u nder control , whi l e they raged u nobstructed i n t he West.
To be su re, at several poi nts i n her hi story Eu rope coul d have become a
u ni fi ed hi era rchy, and t hi s woul d have grou nd t hese dynami cs to a hal t.
Thi s happened i n the si xteenth centu ry wi th the Hapsburg Empi re, and
l ater on wi t h the r i se of Napol eon and Hi tl er. Yet al l these efforts proved
aborti ve, and European n ati ons remai ned a meshwork.
Perhaps the most damagi ng effect of ce ntral i zati on was t hat i t made
51
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
Easter n nati ons too depe ndent on the i ndi vi dual ski l l s of t hei r el i tes.
Someti mes these ski l l s were i n short suppl y, as i n the Ottoman Empi re
after 1566, when it was rul ed by thi rteen i ncompetent sul tans i n succes­
si on. Because of t he excess of command el ement i n t he mi x, as Ken nedy
says, " an i di ot sul tan coul d paralyze the Ottoman Empi re i n a way that
a pope or Hol y Roman emperor cou l d never do for al l of Europe. "71 I n a
si mi l ar way, Chi na's outl ook was turned i nward by its e l i te at a cruci al
poi nt i n h i story, when the secret to worl d domi nat i on l ay i n the conquest
of t he oceans, both for t he profi ts of l ong-di stance trade and for t he fl ows
of energy a nd materi al s that col oni zati on made possi bl e.
Chi na had a n ear l y l ead i n t he naval race, havi ng successful l y pi o­
neered expedi ti ons to the I ndi an Ocean as earl y as 1405, i n whi ch her
"l argest vessel s probabl y di spl aced about 1, 500 ton s compared to t he
300 tons of Vasco da Gama's fl agshi p . . . at t he end of t he same centu ry
.
Everyt h i ng a bout t hese expedi ti ons ecl i psed the scal e of l ater Portu­
guese e ndeavors. More shi ps, more gu ns, more manpower, more cargo
capaci ty . . . . "7
2
However, Chi na's rigi d el i te turned back its outward- l ook­
i ng pol i ci es a nd tu r ned t he cou ntry i nward. Had Chi na's expedi ti ons
conti n ued, "Chi nese navi gators mi ght wel l have rou nded Afri ca and di s­
covered Eu rope before Pri nce Henry t he Navi gator di ed. "73 And Euro­
pean ci ti es mi ght have found t hemsel ves col on i es a nd suppl y regi ons of
a faraway empi re.
Those were t he dangers a nd mi ssed opportu ni ti es t hat too much cen­
tral i zati on brought about. Several regi ons of Europe (Spai n , Austri a,
France) moved i n t hat di recti on, as thei r capi tal ci ti es grew out of al l pro­
porti on, becomi ng l arge, u n producti ve centers of consu mpt i on and
i n h i bi ti ng t he growt h of t hei r potenti al urban ri val s. Those nati ons whi ch
u ni ted i n t hei r central ci ty t he dual functi on of nati onal capi tal and mar­
i ti me gateway were better abl e to mai ntai n t hei r autocatal yti c dynami cs.
Such was the case, i n t he si xteenth to ei ghteenth centuri es, of Bri tai n
and t he Un i ted Provi nces. Li ke ol der cores of t he Network (Veni ce,
Genoa, Antwerp) London and Amsterdam were mari ti me ci ti es, and con­
stant contact wi th t he sea (more than any speci fi cal l y Engl i sh or Dutch
cul t ural trai t) i nspi red and sust ai ned thei r el i tes' outward ori entati on .
A si mi l ar effect mi ght have been achi eved i n Spai n and even i n Chi na:
52
When i n 1421 the Mi ng rul ers of Chi na changed thei r capi tal ci ty, l eavi ng
Nanki ng, and movi ng to Peki ng . . . the massi ve worl d-economy of Chi na
swung round for good, turni ng its back on a form of economi c activity based
on easy access to sea-borne trade. A new l andl ocked metropol i s was now
establ i shed deep in the i nteri or and began to draw everythi ng towards i t. . . .
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
Phi l i p I I made an equal l y momentous deci si on i n 1582. At the hei ght of Spai n's
pol i ti cal domi nati on of Europe, Phi l i p I I conquered Portugal and el ected
resi dence, with his government, in Li sbon for a peri od of al most three
years . . . . Looki ng over the ocean thi s was an i deal pl ace from where to rul e
the worl d . . . . So to leave Li sbon i n 1 582 meant l eavi ng a posi ti on from
whi ch the empi re's enti re economy coul d be control l ed, and i mpri soni ng
the mi ght of Spai n i n lVadri d, the l andl ocked heart of Casti l l e -a fateful
mi stake! The I nvi nci bl e Armada, after years of preparati on, sai l ed to its di s­
aster in 1 588. 74
Al though most European a nd non- Eu ropean el i tes were very aware of t he
i mportance of sea power a nd of t he profi ts of l ong-di stance trade, onl y
constant contact wi th t he sea seems to have convi nced them to partake
of the col ossal benefi ts i n herent i n t he energy trapped i n wi nds a nd
cu rrents. The ocea ns a nd t he atmosphere form a nonl i near dynami cal
system t hat contai ns ten ti mes more sol ar energy than pl ants captu re
t hrough photosynthesi s, a nd onl y a ti ny fract i on of t he potenti al energy
of pl ant l i fe powered most of ci vi l i zati on's past i ntensi fi cati ons. The enor­
mous reservoi r of oceani c and atmospheri c energy fuel s a great vari ety
of sel f-organi zed structu res: tornadoes, cycl ones, pressu re bl ocks, a nd,
more i mportantl y for h u ma n hi story, wi nd ci rcui ts.
Some of t hese ci rcui ts, l i ke the monsoon wi nd, whi ch has powered al l
sai l shi ps i n Asi an waters for centu ri es, gave soci et i es a cl ock, a peri odi ­
cal rhyt hm. The monsoon bl ows westward hal f t he year and eastward
the ot her hal f, creati ng a "seasonal weat her system t hat coul d be com­
prehended from l and, "75 a nd cou l d thus enter as a factor i n the deci si on­
maki ng processes of t he seafar i ng towns i n Asi a. I n t hose u rba n centers
i n contact wi th t he monsoon, knowl edge of its dynami cal behavi or accu­
mu l ated a nd ski l l s i n t he art of tappi ng i ts energy wi th sai l s devel oped.
Si mi l ar knowl edge a nd ski l l s evol ved i n t he ports and metropol i ta n cen­
ters on t he Medi terra nean . However, these ski l l s were i nadequate to
master the ci rcui t t hat wou l d change the cou rse of the mi l l en ni um: t he
giganti c "doubl e conveyor bel t" formed by t he trade wi nds a nd t he west­
erl i es, t he wi nd ci rcu i t t hat brought Europeans to t he New Worl d a nd
back agai n. Har nessi ng t he e nergy of t hi s conveyor bel t, whi ch al l owed
the conversi on of an ent i re conti nent i nto a ri ch suppl y zone to fuel
the growt h of European ci ti es, requi red speci al ski l l s, a nd t hese had accu­
mul ated by the fi fteenth cent ury i n European ci ti es faci ng t he Atl anti c,
parti cu l arl y i n Li sbon.
I n t he expanse of water between t he I beri an peni nsu l a a nd t he Canary
I sl ands, a smal l -scal e repl i ca of t hi s doubl e conveyor bel t exi sted. The
53
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
tri p from Eu rope to the i sl ands was strai ghtforward, but t he ret ur n was
di ffi cu l t si nce i t was agai nst the wi nd. The sol uti on was to navi gate away
from t hat wi nd -somet h i ng t hat sai l ors from Medi terranean or I ndi a n
Ocean ports wou l d never try -and l ook for anot her one whi ch bl ew i n the
opposi te di recti on. Thi s strategy of usi ng two di fferent ci rcui ts, one to go
and one to come back, was devel oped by the sai l ors of Li sbon, and cal l ed
volta do mar. It was l ater adapted by a nati ve of Genoa i n hi s effort to di s­
cover a western route to t he Ori ent:
The al ternati ng use of the trade wi nds on the outward l eg, then the vol ta
(the crabwi se sl i de off to the northwest) to the zone of the westerl i es, and
then t o swoop home wi t h t he westerl i es as the fol l owi ng wi nds . . . made
the gambl es of Col umbus, da Gama and Magel l an acts of adventure not
acts of probabl e sui ci de. Ihe sai l ors knew they coul d sai l out on the trades
and back on the westerl i es . . . . I t i s doubtful i f the sai l ors of the age of
expl orati on thought of the vol ta i n any sort of formal way. I t i s i mprobabl e
that they l ear ned the techni que as a pri nci pl e; they were, after al l , gropi ng
out to the sea for a favorabl e wi nd not searchi ng for l aws of nature. But
prevai l i ng patterns of thought grew up to match the patterns of prevai l i ng
wi nds, and I beri a n sai l ors used the vol ta as a templ ate wi th whi ch to pl ot
thei r courses to Asi a, to the Ameri cas and around the worl d. 76
Day-to-day contact wi th the smal l -scal e versi on of the dou bl e conveyor
bel t generated t he ski l l s t hat -i n combi nat i on wi t h t he growi ng reservoi rs
of human capi tal i n t hese gateway ci ti es -al l owed t he mastery of t he
Atl anti c sea routes. As t hi s knowl edge spread to ot her metropol i ses, the
nati ons t hat wou l d eventual l y emerge a nd domi nate t he next fi ve h u n­
dred years wou l d be t he ones t hat i ncor porated these outward-ori ented
ci ti es and used t hem as i nter nal motors. Those nati ons whose capi tal s
were l andl ocked became vi cti ms of t he extreme vi scosi ty of l and trans­
port and of t he tyran ny of di stance and its consequ ent hi erarchi cal u rban
patterns. The story was the exact opposi te for gateway ci ti es:
54
Al though the conquerors, traders, and settl ers pl a nted the fl ag of thei r sov­
erei gn, a l i mi ted number of ports actual l y di rected the expansi on. [Gate­
way] ci ti es devel oped ti es to overseas settl ements a nd to one another that
were stronger than thei r l i n ks wi th the terri tory at thei r back. As a group,
they consti tuted the cor e of a powerful tradi ng networ k whose outposts
span ned the worl d and through whi ch, vi a overseas gateways, were fun­
nel ed the pl u nder and produce of vast regi ons. 77
-
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY 1000-1700 A. D
Despi te the fact t hat the anal ysi s of u rban dynami cs whi ch I have
attempted here i s me rel y a sketch, i gnori ng so many ot her i mportant hi s­
tori cal factors affecti ng ci ti es, i t nevert hel ess provi des ce rtai n i nsi ghts
i nto t he rol e nonl i near sci ence mi ght pl ay i n t he study of hu man h i story.
Fi rst and foremost, nonl i near model s show t hat wi thout an energy fl ow
of a certai n i nte nsi ty, no system, whet her natu ral or cu l tu r al , can gai n
access t o t h e sel f-organi zat i on resou rces consti tuted by e ndogenousl y
generated stabl e states (attractors) and transi ti ons between those states
(bi fu rcati ons). Second, nonl i near model s i l l ustrate how t he struct ures
generated by matter-en ergy fl ows, once i n pl ace, react back on t hose
fl ows ei ther to i n hi bi t t hem or f urt her i ntensi fy t hem. We have seen t hat
many di fferent types of st ructu res can pl ay t hi s catal yti c rol e : t he mi ner­
al i zed i nfrastruct ure of ci ti es t hemsel ves; t he organi zat i ons (central i zed
or decentral i zed) t hat l i ve wi t hi n t he mi neral wal l s; and vari ous ot her
cu l tu ral materi al s t hat move i n and out of ci ti es or accumul ate i n t hem:
ski l l s and knowl edge, money and credi t, i nfor mal ru l es and i nsti tuti onal
norms. Furthermore, wars a nd anti market ri val ri es between ci ti es (and,
l ater on, nati on-states) al so had catal yti c effects on al l t hese fl ows. 7
8
I t was preci sel y these catalysts acti ng on each ot her ( i n autocatal yti c or
cross-catal yti c rel at i ons), i n t h e context of an i ntensi fi ed energy fl ow, t hat
propel l ed Europe a head of its potenti al ri val s for worl d domi nati on .
To t h e extent t hat these basi c i nsi ghts are correct, h u ma n cul t u re a n d
soci ety (consi dered a s dynami cal systems) are n o di fferent from t he sel f­
organ i zed processes t hat i n habi t t he atmosphere and hydrosphere (wi nd
ci rcui ts, h u rri canes), or, for t hat matter, no di fferent from l avas a nd mag­
mas, whi ch as sel f-assembl ed conveyor bel ts dri ve pl ate tecton i cs and
over mi l l en ni a have created al l t he geol ogi cal featu res t hat have i nf l uenced
human hi story. From t he poi nt of vi ew of energeti c and catal yti c fl ows,
human soci eti es are very much l i ke l ava fl ows; and human- made struc­
t ures ( mi neral i zed ci ti es and i nsti tuti ons) are very much l i ke mou ntai ns
a nd rocks: accumul at i ons of materi al s hardened a nd shaped by h i stori cal
processes. (There are, of cou rse, several ways i n whi ch we are not l i ke
l ava and magma, a nd t hese di fferences wi l l be di scussed i n t he fol l owi ng
chapters. )
Meanwhi l e, thi s "geol ogi cal " approach to h u man hi story sti l l has some
surpri ses i n store for us as we expl ore the l ast t hree h u ndred yea rs of t he
mi l l enni um. Duri ng t hose centuri es, t he popu l ati on of towns whi ch had
propel l ed Eu rope i nto her posi ti on of worl dwi de supremacy wi tnessed
dramati c changes. Just as powerfu l i ntensi fi cati ons of the fl ows of energy
had triggered t he great accel erati on of ci ty bui l di ng betwee n t he years
1000 and 1300, fossi l fuel s woul d make a new rou nd of i ntensi fi ed energy
55
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
fl ow possi bl e fi ve centu ri es l ater and woul d dramati cal l y al ter the compo­
si ti on of t hi s popul ati on, accel erati ng city bi rths once more and gi vi ng
ri se t o novel forms, such as t he factory town compl etel y control l ed by i ts
i ndustri al h i erarchi es: a trul y mi neral i zed anti market.
56
Sandstone and Granite
The concepts of " meshwork"
and " h i erarchy" have f i gu red
so promi nentl y i n ou r di scus­
si on u p to t hi s poi nt t hat i t i s
necessary to pause for a
moment and ref l ect on some
of t he ph i l osophi cal quest i ons
t hey rai se. Speci fi cal l y, I have
appl i ed t hese terms i n such
a wi de vari ety of contexts t hat
we may very wel l ask ou r­
sel ves whet her some (or most)
57
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
of t hese appl i cat i ons have bee n pu rel y
metaphor i ca l . There i s', no dou bt, some
el ement of metaphor i n my use of t he terms,
but t here are, I bel i eve, common physi cal
processes be h i n d t he format i on of mesh­
works and h i erarchi es wh i ch ma ke each di f­
ferent usage of the terms q u i te l i tera l . These
common processes can n ot be fu l l y ca pt u red
t h rough l i ngu i st i c representat i ons al one; we
need to empl oy somet h i ng al ong t he l i nes of
engineering diagrams to speci fy t hem.
A concrete exa mpl e may he l p cl a ri fy t h i s
cruci al poi nt . When we say (as marxi sts used
to say) t hat "cl ass stru ggl e i s t h e motor of
h i story" we are usi ng t he word " motor" i n a
pu rel y meta phori ca l sense. However, when we
say t hat " a h u rri ca ne i s a stea m motor" we
are not s i mpl y ma k i ng a l i ngu i st i c a na l ogy;
rat her, we a re sayi ng t hat hu rri canes embody
t he same di agram used by engi neers to build
stea m mot ors -t hat i s, we are sayi ng t hat a
h u rri ca ne, l i ke a steam engi ne, conta i ns a
reservoi r of heat, operates vi a t hermal di ffer­
ences, and c i rcu l ates energy a n d materi al s
t h rough a (so- ca l l ed) Ca r not cycl e. 79 (Of
cou rse , we may be wrong i n ascri bi ng t h i s di a­
gram t o a h u rri ca ne, a nd fu rt her empi ri cal
58
SANDSTONE AND GRANITE
research may revea l t hat h u rri ca nes i n fact
operate i n a d i ffere nt way, accordi ng to a di f­
ferent d i agra m. )
I wi s h to argue here t hat t here a re al so
abst ract machi nes (as Del euze and Gu atta ri
ca l l t hese engi neeri ng di agrams) be h i n d t he
structure- generating processes t hat yi el d as
h i stor i ca l prod ucts speci f i c meshworks and
hi erarch i es. Part i cu l arl y i nstr uct i ve among
hi era rch i ca l str uct u res a re soc i al strata
(cl asses , castes) . The term "soci al st ratu m"
i s i tsel f cl ea rl y a meta phor, i nvol vi ng t h e
i dea t hat, j ust a s geol ogi ca l st rata a re l ayers
of rocky mater i al s stacked on top of each
ot her, so cl asses and castes are l ayers ­
some hi gher, some l ower -of h u man mater i ­
a l s. I s i t possi bl e t o go beyond metaphor
and show t hat t he genes i s of bot h geol ogi ca l
and soci al strata i nvol ves t he same engi neer­
i ng di agra m? Geol ogi ca l st rata are created
by means of ( at l east) two di st i nct operat i ons.
When one l ooks cl osel y at t he l ayers of rock
i n an ex posed mou nta i nsi de, one i s str uck by
t he observat i on t hat each l ayer conta i ns fu r­
t her l ayers, each composed of pe bbl es t hat
are nearl y homogeneous wi th respect to s i ze,
shape, and chemi cal composi t i on . Si nce
59
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
pebbles do not come i n standard sizes and shapes, some kind of sorting
mechanism must be involved here, some speci fi c device to take a multi­
plicity of pebbles of heterogeneous qualities and distribute them into
more or less uniform layers.
Geologists have discovered one such mechanism: rivers acting as veri­
table hydraulic computers (or, at least, sorting machines). Rivers transport
rocky materials from their point of origin (an eroding mountain) to the
bottom of the ocean, where these materials accumulate. In the course of
thi s process, pebbles of various size, weight, and shape react differently
to the water transporting them. Some are so small they dissolve i n the
water; some are larger and are carried in suspension; even larger stones
move by jumping back and forth from the riverbed to the streaming
water, while the largest ones are moved by traction as they roll along the
bottom toward the! r destination. The ,ntensity of the river flow (i. e. , its
speed and other intensities, such as temperature or clay saturation) also
determines the outcome, since a large pebble t hat could only be rolled by
a moderate current may be transported in suspension by a powerful eddy.
(Since there is feedback between pebble properties and flow properties,
as well as between the river and its bed, the "sorting computer" is clearly
a highly nonlinear dynamical system.)8
0
Once the raw materials have been sorted out into more or less homo­
geneous groupings deposited at the bottom of the sea (that is, once they
have become sedimented), a second operation is necessary to transform
these loose collections of pebbles into a larger-scale entity: sedimentary
rock. This operation consists in cementing the sorted components together
into a new entity with emergent properties of its own, that is, properties
such as overall strength and permeability which cannot be ascribed to the
sum of the individual pebbles. This second operation is carried out by
certain substances dissolved in water (such as silica or hematite, in the
case of sandstones) which penetrate the sediment through the pores
between pebbles. As this percolating solution crystallizes, it consolidates
the pebbles' temporary spatial relations into a more or less permanent
"architectonic" structure
. B
1
Thus, a double operation, a "double articulation" transforms structures
on one scale into structures on anot her scale. I n the model proposed by
Deleuze and Guattari, these two operations constitute an engineering dia­
gram and so we can expect to find isomorphi c processes (that is, this
same "abstract machine of stratification") not only in the world of geology
but in the organic and human worlds as wel1 .82 For example, according to
neo-Darwinians, species form through the slow accumulation of genetic
material s and the adaptive anatomical and behavi oral traits that those
60
SANDSTONE AND GRANITE
genetic materials yield when combined with nonlinear dynamical processes
(such as the interaction of cells during the development of an embryo).
Genes, of course, do not merely deposit at random but are sorted out by
a variety of selection pressures, including climate, the action of predators
and parasites, and the effects of male or female choice during mating.
Thus, in a very real sense, genetic materials "sediment" j ust as pebbles
do, even if the nonlinear dynamical system that performs the sorting
operati on i s completely di fferent in detai l. Furthermore, these loose col­
lecti ons of genes can (like accumulated sand) be lost under drastically
changed conditions (such as the onset of an ice age) unless they consoli­
date. This second operation is performed by "reproductive isolation":
when a given subset of a population becomes mechanically or genetically
incapable of mating with the rest. Reproducti ve isolation acts as a "ratchet
mechanism" that conserves the accumulated adaptation and makes i t
impossible for a given population to "de-evolve" all the way back to uni­
cellular organisms. Through selective accumulation and isolative consoli­
dation, individual animals and plants come to form a larger-scale entity:
a new species.83
We also find these two operations (and hence, this abstract diagram)
in the formation of social classes. We talk of "social strata" whenever a
given society presents a variety of differentiated roles to which individuals
are denied equal access, and when a subset of those roles (to which a
ruling elite alone has access) involves the control of key energy and mate­
rial resources. While role differentiation may be a spontaneous effect of
an intensification in the flow of energy through society (e.g. , when a Big
Man in prestate societies acts as an intensifier of agricultural produc­
tion84), the sorting of those roles into ranks on a scale of prestige involves
speci fi c group dynamics. I n one model, for instance, members of a group
who have acquired preferential access to some roles begin to acquire the
power to control further access to them, and within these domi nant groups
criteria for sorting the rest of society into subgroups begin to crystallize. 85
Even though most cultures develop some rankings of this type, not in
all soci eties do these rankings become an autonomous dimension of social
organization. In many societies differentiation of the elites is not extensive
(they do not form a center while the rest of the population forms an ex­
cluded periphery), surpluses do not accumulate (they may, for instance,
be destroyed in ritual feasts), and primordial relations (of kin and local
alli ances) tend to prevai l. Hence, for social classes or castes to become a
separate entity, a second operation is necessary beyond the mere sorting
of people into ranks: the informal sorting criteria need to be given a theo­
logical interpretation and a legal definition, and the elites need to become
61
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
the guardi ans and bearers of the newl y i nsti tuti onal i zed tradi ti on, that i s,
t he l egi ti mi zers of change and del i neators of the l i mi ts of i n novati on. I n
short, to transform a l oose ranked accumul ati on of tradi ti onal rol es (and
cri teri a of access to t hose rol es) i nto a soci al cl ass, t he l atter needs to
become consol i dated vi a t heol ogi cal and l egal codi fi cati on.
86
No dou bt, thi s characteri zati on of the process t hrough whi ch soci al strata
emerge i s somewhat si mpl i fi ed; even geol ogi cal strata are more compl i ­
cated t han t hi s. (For exampl e, they grow not onl y t hrough sedi mentati on
but al so t hrough accreti on and encroachment. Speci es and soci al cl asses
may al so i nvol ve these mechani sms. ) But I wi l l retai n here the si mpl i fi ed
di agram for i ts heu ri sti c val ue: sedi mentary rocks, speci es, and soci al
cl asses (a nd ot her i nsti tuti onal i zed hi erarchi es) are al l hi stori cal construc­
ti ons, t he product of defi ni te structu re-generat i ng processes that take as
t hei r starti ng poi nt a heterog�neous col l ecti on of raw materi al s (pebbl es,
genes, rol es), homogeni ze t hem t hrough a sorti ng operati on , and t hen
consol i date the resul ti ng u ni form grou pi ngs i nto a more permanent state.
The hi erarchi es to whi ch I have referred t hroughout t hi s chapter are a
speci al case of a more general cl ass of structu res, strati fi ed systems, to
whi ch not onl y h u man bu reaucraci es and bi ol ogi cal speci es bel ong, but
al so sedi mentary rocks. (And al l t hi s without metaphor. )
What about meshworks? Del euze and Guattari offer a hypotheti cal
di agram for thi s type of str uct ure, too, but i ts el ements are not as strai ght­
forward as those i nvol ved i n the formati on of strata. Pe r haps the most­
studi ed type of meshwork is t he "autocatal yti c l oop, " a cl osed chai n of
chemi cal processes, whi ch must be di sti ngui shed from the si mpl e sel f­
sti mul ati ng dynami cs to whi ch I referred many t i mes i n my descri pti on of
t ur bul ent u rban growth . Un l i ke si mpl e autocatal ysi s, a cl osed l oop di spl ays
not o n l y sel f-sti mul ati on but al so sel f-mai ntenance; t hat is, i t l i n ks a seri es
of mut ual l y sti mul ati ng pai rs i nto a structu re t hat reproduces as a whol e.
The physi cal basi s for ei ther si mpl e or compl ex sel f-sti mul ati on are cat­
al ysts, t hat i s, chemi cal su bstances capabl e of " recogni zi ng" a more or
l ess speci fi c mater i al and al teri ng t hat materi al ' s mol ecul ar state so that
it now reacts wi th certai n sU bstances wi th whi ch it wou l d not normal l y
react. Thi s act of recogni ti on is not, of cou rse, a cogn i ti ve act but o ne
effected t hrough a l ock-and- key mechan i sm: a porti on of t he catal yti c
mol ecul e fi ts or meshes wi th a port i on of the target mol ecu l e, changi ng
its i nter nal struct ure so that i t becomes more or l ess recepti ve t o yet
anot her su bstance. I n t hi s way, the catal yst provokes a meeting of two
substances, faci l i tati ng (or i n hi bi ti ng) t hei r reacti on and, therefore, t he
accu mu l ati on (or decu mu l ati on) of t he products of that reacti on . U nder
speci al condi ti ons, a set of t hese processes may form a cl osed l oop,
62
SANDSTONE AND GRANITE
where the product that accumu l ates due to the accel erati on of one reac­
ti on serves as the catal yst for yet another reacti on, whi ch i n t ur n gener­
ates a product that catalyzes the fi rst one. Hence, the l oop becomes
sel f-sustai n i ng for as l ong as i ts envi ronment contai ns enough raw mate­
ri al s for t he chemi cal reacti ons to proceed.
Humberto lVat u rana and Franci sco Varel a, pi oneers i n the st udy of
autocatal yti c l oops, di sti ngui sh two general characteri sti cs of t hese
cl osed ci rcu i ts: t hey are dynami cal systems t hat endogenously generate
thei r own stable states (cal l ed "attractors" or "ei genstates"), a nd they
grow and evol ve by drift.87 The fi rst characteri sti c may be observed i n
certai n chemi cal reacti ons i nvol vi ng autocatal ysi s (as wel l as cross-cata­
l ysi s) whi ch fu ncti on as veri tabl e "chemi cal cl ocks, " t hat i s, the accu­
mul ati ons of materi al s from t he reacti ons al ternate at perfectly regular
intervals. I f we i magi ne each of the two substances i nvol ved as havi ng
a defi ni te col or (say, r ed a nd bl ue), t hei r combi nati on wou l d not resul t
i n a pu rpl e l i qui d (as we wou l d expect from mi l l i ons of mol ecul es com­
bi ni ng at r andom) but i n a rhyt hmi c reacti on wi th states i n whi ch mostl y
bl ue mol ecu l es accu mu l ate fol l owed by states i n whi ch mostl y red mol e­
cu l es are produced. Thi s rhyt hmi c behavi or is not i mposed on the sys­
tem from the outsi de but generated spontaneousl y from wi t hi n (vi a an
attractor).
88
The second characteri sti c menti oned by Matur ana and Varel a, growt h
by dri ft, may be expl ai ned as fol l ows: i n t he si mpl est autocatal yti c l oops
there are onl y two reacti ons, each produci ng a catal yst for t he other.
But once t hi s basi c two-node network establ i shes i tsel f, new nodes may
i nsert themsel ves i nto t he mesh as l ong as they do not j eopardi ze i ts
i nter nal consi stency. Th us, a new chemi cal reacti on may appear (usi ng
previ ousl y negl ected raw materi al s or even waste prod ucts from the ori gi ­
nal l oop) that catal yzes one of the ori gi nal reacti ons a nd i s catal yzed by
the ot her, so that the l oop now becomes a t hree- node network. The
meshwork has now grown, but i n a di recti on t hat i s, for al l practi cal pur­
poses, " u n pl anned. " A new node (whi ch j ust happens to sati sfy some
i nter nal consi stency req u i rements) i s added a nd the l oop compl exi fi es,
yet preci sel y because t he onl y constrai nts were i nternal , the compl exi fi ca­
ti on does not take pl ace in order for the l oop as a whol e to meet some
external demand (such as adapti ng to a speci fi c si tuati on). The su rround­
i ng envi ronment, as sou rce of raw materi al s, certai nl y constrai ns the
growth of the meshwork, but more i n a proscri pti ve way (what not to do)
t han i n a prescri pti ve one (what to do).
8
9
The q uesti on now is whet her we can deri ve from empi ri cal studi es of
meshwork behavi or a structu re-generati ng process that i s abstract
63
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
enough to operate i n the worl ds of geol ogy, bi ol ogy, a nd human soci ety.
I n the model proposed by Del euze and Guattari , t here are t hree el e­
ments i n thi s di agram. Fi rst, a set of heterogeneous el ements is brought
toget her vi a an articulation of superpositions, that i s, an i ntercon necti on of
diverse but overl appi ng el ements. ( I n the case of autocatal yti c l oops, the
nodes i n t he ci rcui t are j oi ned to each other by thei r functional comple­
mentarities. ) Second, a speci al cl ass of operators, or intercalary elements,
i s needed to effect these i ntercon necti ons. ( I n our case, t hi s i s the rol e
pl ayed by catalysts, whi ch i nsert t hemsel ves between two other chemi cal
su bstances t o faci l i tate t hei r i nteracti on. ) Fi nal ly, t he i nter l ocked hetero­
genei ti es must be capabl e of endogenousl y generati ng stabl e patterns of
behavi or (for exampl e, patterns at regul ar temporal or spati al i nterval s). 90
I s it possi bl e to fi nd i nsta nces of these three el ements i n geol ogi cal , bi o­
l ogi cal , and soci al str uctu res?
I gneous rocks (such as gran i te) are formed i n a process radi cal l y di f­
ferent from sedi mentati on. Grani te forms di rectl y out of cool i ng magma,
a vi scous fl ui d composed of a di versi ty of mol ten materi al s. Each of these
l i qui d components has a di fferent th reshol d of crystal l i zati on; that i s,
each u ndergoes the bi fu rcati o n toward i ts sol i d state at a di fferent cri ti cal
poi nt i n temperat u re. As the magma cool s down, i ts di fferent el ements
separate as they crystal l i ze i n sequence, and t hose that sol i di fy earl i er
serve as contai ners for those that acqui re a crystal form l ater. The resu l t
is a compl ex set of heterogeneous crystal s that interlock wi th one another,
and t hi s is what gi ves grani te its su peri or strengt h. 9
1
The second el ement i n t he di agram, i ntercal ary operators, i ncl udes,
i n addi ti on to catal yti c su bstances, a nythi ng that bri ngs about l ocal arti c­
u l ati ons from wi t hi n -"densi fi cati ons, i ntensi fi cati ons, rei nforcements,
i nj ecti ons, s howeri ngs, l i ke so many i ntercal ary events. "9
2
The reacti ons
between l i qui d magma and t he wal l s of an al ready crystal l i zed compo­
nent, n ucl eati on events wi t hi n the l i qu i d whi ch i ni ti ate the next crystal l i za­
ti on, and even certai n "defects" i nsi de the crystal s (cal l ed "di sl ocati ons")
whi ch promote growth from wi t hi n, are al l exampl es of i ntercal ary el e­
ments. Fi nal ly, some chemi cal reacti ons wi t hi n t he magma may al so gen­
erate endogenous stabl e states. When a reacti on l i ke the one i nvol ved i n
chemi cal cl ocks i s not sti rred, t he temporal i nterval s generated become
spati al i nterval s, formi ng beauti ful spi ral and concentri c-ci rcl
e
patterns
t hat can be observed i n frozen form i n some i gneous rocks. 93
Thus, gra ni te (as much as a f ul l y formed autocatal yti c l oop) is a n
i nstance of a meshwork, or, i n t h e terms used by Del euze a n d Guattari , a
self-consistent aggregate. Un l i ke Matu rana and Varel a, who hol d that the
qual ity of sel f-consi stency exi sts only i n the bi ol ogi cal and l i ngui sti c worl ds,
64
SANDSTONE AND GRANITE
Del euze and Guattari argue that "consi stency, far from bei ng restri cted
to compl ex l i fe forms, f ul l y pertai ns even to the most el ementary atoms
and parti cl es. "94 Therefore we may say that much as hi erarchi es (organi c
or soci al ) are speci al cases of a more abstract cl ass, strata, so autocat­
al yti c l oops are speci al cases of sel f-consi stent aggregates. And much as
strata are defi ned as an arti cul ati on of homogeneous el ements, whi ch
nei t her excl udes nor req ui res t he speci fi c featu res of hi erarchi es (such as
havi ng a chai n of command) , so sel f-consi stent aggregates are defi ned
by thei r arti cul ati on of heterogeneous el ements, whi ch nei ther excl udes
nor requ i res t he speci fi c featu res of autocatal yti c l oops (such as growt h
by dri ft or i nter nal autonomy). Let's now gi ve some bi ol ogi cal and cu l ­
t ural exampl es of the way i n whi ch the di verse may be arti cul ated as such
vi a sel f-consi stency.
A speci es (or more preci sely, t he gene pool of a speci es) i s a pri me
exampl e of a n orga n i c strati fi ed structu re. Si mi l arl y, an ecosystem repre­
sents the bi ol ogi cal real i zat i on of a sel f-consi stent aggregate. Whi l e a
speci es may be a very homogeneous structu re (especi al l y if sel ecti on
pressu res have d ri ven many genes t o fi xati on), an ecosystem l i n ks
toget her a wi de vari ety of heterogeneous el ements (ani mal s and pl ants
of di fferent speci es), whi ch are arti cu l ated t hrough i nterl ock, t hat i s, by
t hei r fu ncti onal compl ementari ti es. Gi ven t hat the mai n featu re of an
ecosystem i s t he ci rcul ati on of energy and matter i n t he form of food,
the compl ementari ti es i n questi on are al i mentary: prey- predator or para­
si te- host are two of the most common fu ncti onal cou pl i ngs i n food webs.
Symbiotic relations can act as i ntercal ary el ements, ai di ng the process of
bui l di ng food webs (an obvi ous exampl e: the bacteri a t hat l i ve i n the
guts of many ani mal s, whi ch al l ows those a ni mal s to di gest thei r food). 95
Si nce food webs al so produce endogenousl y generated stabl e states,
al l t hree components of the abstract di agram wou l d seem to be real i zed
i n t hi s exampl e. 96
We have al ready observed several exampl es of cu l tural meshworks
whi ch al so fi t our descri pti on of sel f-consi stent aggregates. The si mpl est
case i s that of smal l -town markets. I n many cu l tu res, weekl y markets
have been the tradi ti onal meeti ng pl ace for peopl e wi th heterogeneous
needs. Matchi ng, or i nterl ocki ng, peopl e wi t h compl ementary needs a nd
demands is an operati on that is performed automati cal l y by the pri ce
mechan i sm. (Pri ces transmi t i nformati on about the rel ati ve monetary
val ue of di fferent products and create i ncenti ves to buy and sel l . ) As
Herbert Si mon observes, t hi s i nterl ocki ng of producers and consumers
cou l d i n pri nci pl e be performed by a hi era rchy, but markets "avoi d
pl aci ng on a central pl an ni ng mechan i sm a burden of cal cu l ati on t hat
65
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
such a mechani sm, however wel l buttressed by the l argest compute rs,
coul d not sustai n. [ Ma rkets] co nserve i nformati o n and cal cul ati on by
maki ng it possi bl e to assi gn deci si ons to the actors who a re most l i kely
to possess the i nfo rmati on (most of it l ocal in ori gi n) that is rel evant to
those deci si ons. "97
Of cou rse, for t hi s mechani sm to wor k pri ces must set themselves, and
therefore we must i magi ne that t here i s not a whol esal er i n town who ca n
mani pu l ate pri ces by d umpi ng l arge amou nts of a gi ven p roduct i nto the
market (or by hoard i ng). I n the absence of pri ce mani pul ati on, money
(even pri mi ti ve forms of money, such as sal t, shel l s, or ci garettes) fu ncti ons
as an i ntercal ary el ement: wi th pu re barter, the possi bi l ity of two exactl y
matchi ng demands meeti ng by chance i s very l ow; wi th money, those
chance encou nters become u nnecessary and compl ementary demands may
fi nd each other at a di stance, so to speak. Ot her i ntercal ary el ements
are al so needed to make markets work. As we have repeatedly noted, not
j ust materi al and energeti c resources change hands in a market, property
ri ghts (t he l egal ri ghts to use those resou rces) do too. Hence we typi cal l y
do not have to model si mpl e excha nges but more compl ex transacti o ns
that i nvol ve a host of other costs, such as those i nvol ved i n enforci ng
agreements. I f t hese transacti on costs are too hi gh, the gai ns from trade
may eva porate. I n smal l -town markets, i nformal constrai nts (such as codes
of behavi or enforced t hrough peer pressu re i n dense soci al networks)
are al so needed to red uce transacti on costs and al l ow the i nterl ocki ng of
compl ementary demands to take pl ace. 98 Fi nal ly, markets al so seem to
generate endogenous stabl e states, parti cu l arl y when commerci al towns
form tradi ng ci rcui ts, as can be seen i n the cycl i cal be havi or of thei r pri ces,
and thi s provi des us wi th the thi rd el e ment of the di agram.
Thus, much as sedi menta ry rocks, bi ol ogi cal speci es, and soci al hi er­
archi es are al l strati fi ed systems (that i s, they are each t he hi stori cal
prod uct of a process of dou bl e arti cu l ati on), so i gneous rocks, ecosys­
tems, and ma rkets are sel f-consi stent aggregates, the resul t of the com­
i ng toget her and i nterl ocki ng of heterogeneous el ements. And just as the
di agram defi ni ng t he "strati fyi ng abst ract machi ne" may tu rn out to
requ i re more compl exi ty than our basi c di agram of a dou bl e arti cu l ati on,
so we may one d ay di scover (empi ri cal l y or th rough theori zi ng and com­
puter si mul at i ons) t hat the di agram for the meshwork- produci ng process
i nvol ves more t han the t hree el ements outl i ned above. Moreover, i n
real i ty we wi l l al ways fi nd mi xtures of markets and hi erarchi es, of strata
and sel f-consi ste nt aggregates. As Si mon says, i t may seem pri ma faci e
correct to say t hat
66
SANDSTONE AND GRANITE
whereas markets fi gu re most promi nentl y i n coordi nati ng economi c acti vi ­
ti es i n capital ist cou ntri es, hi erarchi c organi zati ons pl ay the l argest rol e i n
soci al i st countri es. But that i s too si mpl e a formul a to descri be the real i ti es
whi ch al ways exhi bi t a bl end of al l the mechani sms of coordi nati on . The
economi c uni ts i n capi tal ist societies are mostl y busi ness fi rms, whi ch are
themsel ves hi erarchi c organ i zati ons, some of enormous si ze, that make
onl y a modest use of markets i n thei r i nternal fu ncti oni ng. Conversel y
social i st states use market pri ces to a growi ng extent to suppl ement hi erar­
chi c control in achievi ng i nter- i ndustry coordi nati on. 99
There is one fi nal aspect of meshwork dynami cs I must exami ne be­
fore retu rni ng to our expl o rati on of the "geol ogi cal " hi story of hu man
soci eti es. We may wo nder why, gi ven t he ubi qu i ty of sel f-co nsi stent aggre­
gates, i t seems so hard to th i nk about t he structu res that popul ate the
worl d i n any but h i erarchi cal terms . One possi bl e answer i s that strati fi ed
st ructu res i nvol ve the si mpl est form of causal relations, si mpl e arrows
goi ng from cause to effect . l
O
o Accordi ng to Magoroh Maruyan a, a pi oneer
i n the study of feedback, Wester n thought has been domi nated by noti ons
of l i near ( nonreci procal ) ca usal ity for twenty-fi ve h u ndred years. I t was
not unti l Worl d War I I that the work of Nor man Wi ener (and engi neers
i nvol ved in devel opi ng radar systems) gave ri se to t he study of negati ve
feedback and wi th i t the begi nn i ng of nonl i near t hi nki ng.
The cl assi c exampl e of negati ve feedback i s the t hermostat. A t hermo­
stat consi sts of at l east two el ements: a sensor, whi ch detects changes
i n ambi ent tempe rature, and, an effector, a devi ce capabl e of changi ng
the ambi ent temperatu re. The two el ements are coupl ed i n such a way
that whenever the sensor detects a change beyond a certai n th reshol d i t
ca uses the effector to modi fy t he su rroundi ng temperatu re i n the oppo­
si te di recti on. The cause-a nd-effect rel ati on, however, i s not l i near (from
se nsor to effector) si nce the moment the effector ca uses a cha nge i n the
su rrou ndi ng temperatu re i t t hereby affects the s ubsequ ent behavi or of
the sensor. I n short, the causal rel ati o n does not form a strai ght arrow but
fol ds back on i tsel f, for mi ng a cl osed l oop. The overal l resu l t of t hi s ci rcu­
l ar ca usal ity i s that ambi ent temperat ure i s mai ntai ned at a gi ven l evel .
Maruyana opposes negati ve feedback wi th " posi ti ve feedback" (a form
of nonl i near causal i ty t hat we have al ready encou ntered i n t he form
of autocatal ysi s). Whi l e the fi rst type of reci procal causal i ty was i ncorpo­
rated i nto Wester n thought in the 1950s, t he seco nd type had to wai t
anot her decade for researchers l i ke Stan i sl av Ul am, Hei nz Von Foerster,
and Maruya na hi msel f to formal i ze and devel op t he concept.
l
O
I
The t ur­
bu l ent dynami cs behi nd an expl osi on are t he cl earest exampl e of a sys-
67
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
tem gover ned by posi ti ve feed back. I n thi s case the ca usal l oop is estab­
l i shed between the expl osi ve su bstance and i ts temperat ure. The vel ocity
of an expl osi on is often determi ned by the i nten si ty of its temperat ure
(t he hotter the faster), but because the expl osi o n i tsel f generates heat,
the process is sel f-accel erati ng. Unl i ke the thermostat, where the arrange­
ment hel ps to keep temperatu re un der control , here posi ti ve feed back
forces temperat ure to go out of control . Perhaps beca use posi ti ve feed­
back i s seen as a destabi l i zi ng force many observers have tended to
u nderval ue i t rel at i ve to negati ve feedback. ( I n the so-cal l ed Gai a hypoth­
esi s, for i nstance, where stabi l i zing negati ve feedback i s postu l ated to
exi st between l i vi ng creatu res and t hei r envi ron ment, posi ti ve feedback i s
someti mes referred to pejorati vel y as "anti -Gai an. ")102
Maruyana sees t he quest i on in di fferent terms. For hi m t he pri nci pal
characteri sti c of negati ve feed back i s i ts homogeni zi ng effect: any devi a­
ti on from the temperat ure t hreshol d at whi ch the t hermostat i s set i s
el i mi nated by the l oop. Negati ve feedback i s "devi ati o n-cou nteracti ng. "
Posi ti ve feed back, on t he ot her hand, tends to i ncrease heterogenei ty by
bei ng "devi ati on-ampl i fyi ng" : two expl osi ons set off under sl i ghtl y di ffer­
ent condi t i ons wi l l arri ve at very d i fferent end states, as the smal l origi nal
d i fferences a re ampl i fi ed by the l oop i nto l arge d iscrepanci es. 103 We have
al ready observed the many rol es t hat posi ti ve feed back has pl ayed i n the
t ur bul ent hi story of Western towns. However, i t i s i mportant to di sti ngui sh
between si mpl e autocatal yti c dynami cs and compl ex autocatal yti c l oops,
whi ch i nvol ve not onl y sel f-sti mul ati on but sel f- mai ntenance (t hat i s, posi­
ti ve feedback and cl osu re).
Anot her way of stati ng t hi s d i stincti on i s to say t hat the i ncrease i n
d i versi ty t hat mut ual l y sti mul ati ng l oops bri ng about wi l l be short- l i ved un­
l ess t he heterogeneous el ements are i nterwoven toget her, that i s, un l ess
they come to form a mes hwork . As l\aruyana wri tes, "There are two ways
t hat heterogeneity may proceed: t hrough localization and t hrough inter­
weaving. I n l ocal i zati on t he heterogenei ty between l ocal i ti es i ncreases, whi l e
each l ocality may remai n or become homogenous. I n i nterweavi ng, het­
erogeneity in each l ocal ity i ncreases, whi l e the di fference between l ocal i ti es
decreases. " 104 I n other words, the danger wi th posi ti ve feed back i s t hat
t he mere producti on of heterogenei ty may resu l t in i sol ati oni sm (a hi gh
d i versi ty of smal l cl i ques, each i nter nal l y homogeneous). Hence t he need
fo r i ntercal ary el ements to ai d i n arti cu l at i ng thi s d i versi ty wi t hout homog­
eni zati on (what Maruyana cal l s "symbi oti zati on of cu l tu ral heterogenei ty").
Negati ve feed back, as a system of control and redu cti on of devi ati on,
may be appl i ed t o h u man hi erarchi es. Deci si on maki ng i n strati fi ed soci al
structu res does not al ways proceed vi a goal -d i rected anal yti c pl an ni ng but
68
SANDSTONE AND GRANITE
often incorporates a utomatic mechanisms of control simil a r to a thermo­
stat (or any other device capabl e of gene rating homeostasis). 105 On t he
other hand, social meshworks ( such as the symbiotic nets of producers
whom Jacobs descri bes as engaged in vol ati l e trade) may be model ed on
positive-feedback l oops as l ong as our model al so incorporates a means
for t he resu l ting heterogeneity to be interwoven. Moreover, specific insti­
tutions wi l l l ikel y be mixtu res of bot h types of reci procal ca usal ity, and t he
mixtu res wil l change over ti me, al l owing negative or positive feedback to
domi nate at a given moment. 106 The q uestion of mi xt ures shou l d be al so
kept in mind when we j udge the rel ative ethical value of t hese two types of
structu re. I f t his book displ ays a cl ear bias again st l arge, central ized hier­
archies, it is onl y because the l ast t hree h u ndred yea rs have wit nessed
an excessive accu mu l ation of stratified systems at the expense of mesh­
works. The degree of homogeneity in t he worl d has greatl y i ncreased, whi l e
heterogeneity has come to be seen as al most pathological , or at l east as
a probl em that mu st be el iminated. Under the circu mstances, a cal l for
a more decentral ized way of organi zing h u man soci eties seems to recom­
mend itsel f.
However, it is crucial to avoid t he faci l e concl usion that meshworks
are intrinsically better than hierarchies (in some transcendental sense).
I t is true t hat some of the characteristics of meshworks (particul arl y t heir
resi l i ence and adaptabi lity) make them desi rabl e, but t hat is equal l y true
of certai n characteristics of hierarchies (for exampl e, t hei r goal -di rected­
ness). Therefore, i t is crucial to avoi d t he temptation of cooking up a
narrative of hu man history in which mes hworks appear as heroes and
hierarchies as vil l ains. Not onl y do meshworks have dynamical properties
that do not necessaril y benefit h u manity (for exampl e, they grow and
devel op by drift, and t hat drift need not fol l ow a di rectio n con sistent with
a society's val ues), but t hey may contain heterogeneous components
that are t hemsel ves inconsistent with a society's val ues (for exampl e, cer­
tai n meshworks of hierarchies). Assuming that h u mani ty coul d one day
agree on a set of val ues (or rather on a way of meshing a heterogeneous
col l ection of pa rti al l y divergent val ues), fu rt her et hical j udgments coul d
be made about specific mi xtu res of central ized and decentral ized compo­
nents in specific contexts, but never a bout t he two pure cases in isol ation .
Th e combi natorial possibil ities -t he nu mber o f possi bl e hybrids of
meshworks and hierarchies -are immense (in a precise technical sense),
1
07
and so an experimental and empirical attitude toward the probl em woul d
seem to be cal l ed for. I t i s su rely impossi bl e to deter mi ne purely theoreti­
cally t he rel ative merits of these di verse combinations. Rather, in our
search for viabl e hybrids we mu st l ook for i nspiration i n as many domai ns
69
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
as possi bl e. Here, we have l ooked to a real m t hat woul d nor mal l y seem
out of bou nds: t he mi neral worl d. But i n a nonl i near worl d i n whi ch the
same basi c processes of sel f-organi zati on take pl ace i n the mi neral ,
organ i c, and cu l tu ral spheres, perhaps rocks hol d some of t he keys to
u nderstandi ng sedi mentary h umanity, i gneous h u ma nity, and al l t hei r
mi xt ures.
70
Geological History:
1700-2000 A. D.
Pr i or to t h e ei ghteent h cen ­
t u ry a l l t h e energet i c i ntensi ­
f i cat i ons t hat h u ma n i ty had
u nderta ken were rel at i very
s hort - l i ved . The i ntensi f i ed
ex pl oi tat i ons of agri cu l tu ral
resou rces whi ch had sustai ned
wave after wave of anci ent
u rban i zat i on were typi cal l y
fol l owed by soi l depl et i on or
erosi on , bri ngi ng h u man
ex pa ns i on t o a ha l t . Even
71
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
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W!' C! ðGG6G C0006|C' ð| ð ¯ G 0|0\0· ' ¯G u$\|' ð|
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! | |$\ C' v| | | Zð\ | 0¯ \0 $u 00| \ C0ð| G600$ ' \$ \0
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| \$ | ¯ Gu$\| | ð| |6v0| u\ ' 0¯ .
1!' $ ¯6W ' ¯\6¯$' ! ' Cð\ | 0¯ !ðG G |ð0ð\ | C C0¯ ·
$6Gu6¯C6$ !0| \!6 000u ' ð\ ' 0¯ 0! \0W¯$ ð ¯ G
C| \ | 6$ 0! Lu |006, ð $ W6| | ð$ !0| \ |6 | ¯$\ | \u\ | 0¯$
\!ð\ ' ¯!ð 0| \6G \!60. ¯6|6 W6 W' | ' 6Xð 0| ¯6
72
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
$6v6|ð' 0! \!6$6 C0¯$6Gu6¯C6$, \ð H' ¯9 ðGvð ¯ ·
\ð96 0! \!6 ¯0v6' | ¯$| 9!\$ 0 ¯ \!6 0| | 9' ¯$ ð¯G
GV¯ð0| C$ 0! \!6 ' ¯G u$\|| ð| ¬6v0| u\ ' 0¯ 0|0!·
!6|6G 0V ¯| $\0|' ð ¯$ ð ¯ G \!60|| $\$ W!0 !ðv6
ð 00' | 6G \0 \ | 6| | $u 0| 6C\ C0¯C60\$ 00||0W6G
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ð$ \ |6 |6$ u | \ 0! !u 0ð¯ $0C| 6\V !ðv' ¯9 |6ðC!6G
ð ¯6W ¨$\ð96 0! G6v6' 0006¯\ |ð ¯6W 00G6
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Cð\ð| V\ ' C GV¯ð0| C$ |$ u 0| 6C\ \0 ¯69ð\ | v6 !66G ·
0ðCH) Cð06 \0 !0|0 ð $6' !· $u$\ð ' ¯ | ¯9 ðu\0Cð\·
ð ' V\ ' C | 000.
N0|60v6|, \6C!¯0' 09V W0¯\ 06 v' 6W6G ð$
6v0| v' ¯9 ' ¯ ð $\ |ð ' 9!\ ' | ¯6 , ð$ ' ! \ |6 ðG
¸
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0ðC!' ¯6$. Õ¯ \!6 C0¯\|ð|V, 0ð$$ 0|0GuC\ ' 0¯
\6C | ¯ ' Gu6$ ' ¯ ð| | \!6' | !0|0$ W6|6 00 ' V 0¯6
ð| \6| ¯ð\ | v6 ð 00¯9 $6v6|ð ' , ðDG \!6 !ðC\ \ |ð\
\!6V Cð06 \0 G00' ¯ð\6 \!6 G6v6| 0006¯\ 0!
¯6W 0ðC|| ¯6|V | $ | \$6| ! | ¯ ¯66G 0! 6X0' ð¯ð·
\ ' 0¯ . Õu| ' ¯v6$\ | 9ð\ ' 0¯ 0! \!6 ' ¯\6¯$' ! | Cð\ | 0¯$
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$\6ð0 00W6| ð¯G 00v6$ 0¯ \0 6 ' 6C\| ' C' \V,
73
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
whi ch formed t he basi s for a second i ndustri al revol ut i on in our own cen­
tu ry. Both coal and steam, and l ater oi l and el ect ri city, greatl y affected
t he fu rt her devel opment of Western towns, and, as usual , once t he mi n­
eral i zed i nfrastruct ure of those towns, and t he i nsti tuti ons wi t hi n t hem,
had regi ste red t he effects of these i nten si fi cati o ns, they reacted back on
the energy fl ows t o const rai n t hem, ei t her i nhi bi ti ng t hem or fu rther
i ntensi fyi ng t hem.
Al though Eu rope underwent a l ong peri od of rel ati vel y sl ow economi c
growt h after 1300, the popu l ati on of Eu ropean towns nonethel ess under­
went si gni fi cant cha nge. The l ong depressi on had acted l i ke a "sorti ng
devi ce, " el i mi nati ng many towns on t he l ower ranks of Central Pl ace hi er­
archi es and concent rati ng growt h at t he top. Con seq uently, t he command
el ement in t he mi x had i n creased (as had its degree of homogeni zati on,
d qe to t he absorpti on of ci ti es and t hei r regi ons i nto nati on-states). The
rel ati vel y few new Eu ropean ci ti es t hat were born between 1300 and
1800 were pl anned ci ti es ( usual l y port ci ti es created by central govern­
ments i n order to enter t he great mari ti me races). For exampl e, between
1660 and 1715, the French hi erarch i es under Lou i s XI V created a strate­
gi c network of commerci al and mi l i tary port ci ti es -Brest, Lori ent, Roche­
fort, and Sete -each one pl anned "to pl ay a speci fi c rol e i n t he
gover nment's pol i ti co- mi l i tary st rategy for sea-power. " 108
By contrast, i n t he 1800s the i ntense ci rcul ati on of coal energy gave
ri se to a far greater nu mber of new ( mi ni ng and factory) towns, most of
whi ch grew spontaneousl y, not to say chaoti cal ly. Thi s was the case, for
exampl e, i n the Ru h r regi on, whi ch wou l d l ater become the center of Ger­
man heavy i ndustry, and in Lancashi re, the heart of i ndustri al Bri tai n. I n
t hese two regi on s, and ot hers, mi l l s, mi ni ng centers, a n d metal l urgi cal
compl exes mushroomed everywhere, u nregul ated and havi ng no system­
ati c rel ati ons wi th one anot her. Some ol der ci ti es, such as Li verpool and
Mancheste r, grew enormousl y (one becomi ng the gateway, the other the
capi tal of t he regi on), wh i l e a multi tude of new towns sprang up arou nd
t hem: Bol ton, Bu ry, Stockport, Preston, Bl ackbur n, Burnley. As t hese
coal -fuel ed towns d evou red the countrysi de and grew i nto each ot her,
they formed huge conurbations: extremel y dense but wea kl y centra l i zed
urban regi ons prod uced by accel erated i ndustri al i zati on. I n the words of
Hohen berg and Lees:
74
The best exampl es of the transformi ng power of rapi d i nd ustri al growth are
to be found in the coal -mi ni ng regi ons. There the expl osive co ncentrated
effects of . . . modern economi c change can be seen in pure fo rm. Si nce
coal was needed to ru n the engi nes and smel t the ores, factories and fu r-
G£OLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A.D.
naces tended to locate very near coal suppl i es or in pl aces where they
had good access to transportati on. As demand skyrocketed, mi n i ng areas
with thei r expandi ng nu mber of pi ts, wo rkshops and new fi rms attracted
new workers . . . . Both hi gh ferti l i ty and mi grati on bred an extreme den sity
of settl ement, whi ch soon surpassed anythi ng that the proto- i ndustri al
era had known . These coal basi ns grew by a ki nd of regional i mpl osi on,
whereby a rural mi l i eu crystal l i zed i nto a densel y urban one.
lOg
These new towns wou l d soon be i n habi ted by an i ndustry that was un­
doubtedly more compl ex t han anyt hi ng huma ni ty h ad seen before. And
yet, as Hohen berg and Lees remi nd us, i t was not as i f soci ety as a whol e
had reached a new stage and every regi on now moved i n l ockstep toward
th i s type of i ndustri al i zati on. Not onl y were there regi ons t hat i ndustri al i zed
i n a di fferent way, but sti l l others underwent radi cal dei ndustri al i zati on.
I ndustri al devel opment i s l i ke bi ol ogi cal evol uti on, whi ch not onl y l acks
any progressi ve di recti on, i t does not even have a consi stent d ri ve towa rd
compl exi fi cati on: whi l e some s peci es compl exi ty, ot hers si mpl i fy.
l
i
D
I n both cases, a vari ety of processes resul t in accumul ati ons of com­
pl exity i n some areas, deaccu mul ati ons i n ot hers, and the coexi stence of
d i fferent types of accu mul ated compl exity. The l arge-scal e, concentrated
i ndustry of coal -fuel ed towns represented onl y one possi bl e di recti on for
the compl exi fi cati on of tech nol ogy. Areas t hat i ndustri al i zed more sl owl y
and mai ntai ned t hei r ti es to traditi onal craft ski l l s devel oped methods
of producti on t hat were scattered and smal l i n scal e but hi ghl y sophi sti ­
cated , wi t h a compl ex di vi si on of l abor and a hi gh degree of market i n­
vol vement. "Whet her one l ooks at Swi ss cottons and watches, at texti l es
i n Pi edmont and t he Vosges, or at meta l wares i n central Germany t he pi c­
t ure is t he same: u pl and val l eys fashi oni ng an endu ri ng i ndustri al posi ­
ti on wi thout ever t ur ni ng th ei r backs on the proto- i ndustri al he ri tage. "ll
i
Thus, t here were at l east two stabl e t rajectori es for the evol uti on of
i ndustry, proceedi ng at di fferent speeds and i ntensi ti es: l arge-scal e,
energy- i ntensi ve i ndustry and smal l -scal e, ski l l - i ntensi ve i ndustry. Whi l e
the for mer gave ri se to fu ncti onal ly homogeneou s towns, in many cases
control l ed by t hei r i ndustri al hi era rchi es (t he factory town), the l atter
was housed i n smal l settl ements, wi th a more hete rogeneous set of eco­
nomi c functi ons and l ess concentrated control . Anti market i nsti tuti ons
took over onl y one type of i ndustry, t hat whi ch, l i ke t hemsel ves, was based
on economies of scale.
Besi des di fferi ng i n t he proporti on of meshwork and hi era rchy i n t hei r
mi xes, these towns al so vari ed i n terms of the form of t hei r expansi on.
The rapi d, vi ol ent growt h of coal -fuel ed ci ti es, whi ch expanded i nto the
75
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
cou ntrysi de wi th total di sregard for previ ous l and- use patterns, contrasts
wi th the way in whi ch t he smal l towns t hat housed decentral i zed i ndus­
tri es meshed wi th t hei r ru ral surroundi ngs.
ll2 Al though al l towns tend to
domi nate t hei r cou ntrysi des, i ndustri al towns i ntensi fi ed t hi s expl oi tati on.
As t he bi ogeographer I an G. Si mmons has noted, u rban economi es based
on coal had a host of h i dden costs -from the vast amou nts of di verted
water t hey used to the depressi ons, cracks, and si n khol es that conti n ued
to form l ong after mi n i ng had stopped -and t he su rrou ndi ng rural areas
bore t he brunt of t hose ecol ogi cal costs. 1
Si mmons vi ews ci ti es as veri tabl e transformers of matter and energy:
to sustai n t he expansi on of t hei r exoskel eton , t hey extract from t hei r su r­
rou ndi ngs sand, gravel , stone, and bri ck, as wel l as t he fuel needed to
convert these i nto bui l di ngs. He notes that, l i ke any system capabl e of sel f­
organi zation, ci ti es are open (or di ssi pati ve) systems, wi th matter-energy
fl owi ng i n and out conti n uousl y. And thi s is al l the more true for n i neteenth­
centu ry i ndustri al towns. Besi des t he raw mater i al s needed to mai ntai n
t hei r mi neral i zati on, these towns needed t o i n put fl ows of i ron ores, l i me­
stone, water, human l abor, a nd coal , as wel l as to output other fl ows (sol i d
waste, sewage, manufactured goods). Rural areas absorbed some of t he
noxi ous outputs, whi l e the i n puts began t o come from fart her and farther
away, parti cu l arl y as groups of coal towns coal esced i nto con u rbati ons.
These l i n ks to faraway suppl y regi ons, pl us t he l ack of systemati c rel ati ons
between servi ces and si ze of settl ements, pl aced these towns wi thi n t he
Network system rat her than wi t hi n the Central Pl ace hi erarchi es. 14
What made t hese u rban centers speci al , however, was not so much the
matter-energy fl ows t hat traversed t hem, but t he way i n whi ch those
fl ows became amplified. Hence, argues Si mmons, whi l e coal used for i ron
smel ti ng was expl oi ted wi th i ncreasi ng i ntensi ty si nce 1709, i t was not
u nti l the n i neteent h centu ry, when t he steam engi ne had matu red, that
i ndustri al takeoff occurred: "A smal l amount of coal i nvested i n such an
engi ne was the catalyst for the producti on of energy and materi al s on
an ever l arger scal e. "
1
l5 I n al l di ssi pati ve systems, energy must be put i n
before any sur pl uses can be taken out. Even though an i ndustri al town
had to i nvest more energy t han previ ous u rban centers, i t extracted
greater surpl uses per u n i t of energy. Basi cal ly, i t used certai n fl ows of
energy to ampl i fy ot her fl ows.
Furt hermore, t hese posi ti ve-feedback l i nks between fl ows began to
form cl osed ci rcu i ts: anti market money fl owed i nto mi ni ng regi ons and
i ntensi fi ed coal extracti on and i ron producti on, whi ch tri ggered a fl ow of
mechan i cal energy (steam), whi ch i n tu rn triggered a fl ow of cotton tex­
ti l es, whi ch created t he fl ow of profi ts t hat f i nanced f urther experi menta-
76
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
ti on wi th coal , i ron, and steam tech nol ogy. These l oops of triggers and
fl ows were behi nd t he expl osi ve u rban growth i n Engl and between 1 750
and 1850. As Ri chard Newbol d Adams puts i t, "Great Bri tai n i n thi s era
was a great expandi ng di ssi pati ve structu re, consumi ng i ncreasi ng
amounts of energy. "li6 And preci sel y these autocatal yti c l oops we re what
kept t hi s sel f-organi zed struct ure goi ng:
A tri gger of one energy form sets off a flow i n another whi ch, i n turn, tri g­
gers a rel ease of a fl ow i n the fi rst; the i nserti on of more parti es creates a
chai n of trigger-fl ow i nteracti ons that may go in seri es, in paral l el or both . . . .
The trigger-fl ow i nteracti ons speci fi cal l y create an i nterdependent repro­
ducti on among the parti ci pati ng di ssi pati ve struct ures. It i nterl ocks a seri es
of separately reproducti ve systems i nto a si ngl e, i nteracti ve reproducti ve
system
.
l17
These meshworks of mutual ly su pporti ng i nnovati ons (coal - i ron-steam­
cotton) are wel l known to hi stori ans of tech nol ogy. l
8
They exi sted l ong
before the ni neteent h centu ry (e. g. , the i nterl ocki ng web formed by the
horseshoe, t he horse harness, and tri en ni al rotati on whi ch was beh i nd
the agri cul tu ral i ntensi fi cati on at the tu rn of the mi l l en n i u m), and t hey
occurred afterward, as in the meshwork of oi l , el ectri ci ty, steel , and syn­
theti c materi al s that contri buted t o t he second i ndustri al revol uti on .
Nonethel ess, a s i mportant a s t hey were, autocatal yti c l oops of technolo­
gies were not compl ex enough to create a sel f-sustai ned i ndustri al take­
off. Before the 1800s, as we noted, these i ntensi fi cati ons ofte n l ed to
depl eti ons of resou rces and di mi ni shi ng retu rns. Negati ve feedback even­
t ual l y checked t he tur bul ent growth generated by posi ti ve feedback.
Braudel uses two exampl es of earl y encou nters between a nti markets
and i ndustri al technol ogy to make t hi s poi nt. I n some I tal i an ci ti es (e. g. ,
Mi l an) and some German ci ti es (e. g. , Lubeck and Col ogne), expl osi ve
growt h occur red as earl y as t he fi fteenth centu ry. The German mi n i ng
i ndustry i n t he 1470s "sti mul ated a whol e seri es of i n n ovati ons . . . as wel l
as t he creati on of machi nery, on a gi ganti c scal e for t he ti me, to pump
out water from t he mi nes and t o bri ng up t he ore. "l9 Mi l an , on t he ot her
ha nd, wi tnessed an extraordi nary i ncrease i n text i l e manufactu ri ng, wi th
sophi sti cated " hydraul i c machi nes . . . to th row, spi n and mi l l si l k, wi th
several mechani cal processes and rows of spi ndl es al l tu r ned by a si ngl e
water-wheel . "
1
20
Al though si mpl e mut ual l y sti mu l ati ng l i n ks had devel ­
oped i n t hese ci ti es, between mi ni ng and l arge-scal e credi t, or between
texti l e profi ts a nd commerci al i zed agri cu l tu re, both i ntensi fi cati ons came
t o a hal t i n a few decades.
77
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
Engl and hersel f attempted an earl y takeoff between 1560 and 1640,
at a ti me when, comparati vely speaki ng, she was a rat her backward
i ndustri al nati on. To catch up, the Bri ti sh waged a campai gn of i ndustri al
espi onage i n I taly and i mported German, Dutch, and I tal i an craftsmen,
t o effect a tra nsfer of know- how and manufactu ri ng techni ques t o t hei r
i sl and. 121 Once a ski l l reservoi r had been formed at home, Bri ti sh anti ­
ma rkets gave i ndustry a much i ncreased scal e and l evel s of capi tal i nvest­
ment reached new peaks of i ntensity. Sti l l , sel f-su stai ned growt h di d not
occu r. One possi bl e expl anati on i s that autocatal yti c l oops need to achi eve
a t hreshol d of compl exity befo re they acqui re the resi l i ence and versati l ity
needed to overcome di mi ni shi ng ret urns. Hence, what made ni neteenth­
cent ury Engl and a speci al pl ace was the formati on of a more compl ex,
sel f-mai ntai n i ng ci rcu i t of tri ggers and fl ows whi ch i ncl uded a n umber of
other catal yti c el ements i n add i ti on to technol ogy and bi g busi ness: a
nati onal market, a stabl e bank and credi t system, extensi ve l ong-di stance
tradi ng networks, a growi ng agri cul tural sector to feed the expandi ng
popu l ati on, and, of course, the popul ati on i tsel f, whi ch provi ded raw l abor
and ski l l s.
The new i ntensi fi cati on i n agri cul tu re, whi ch was based on si mpl e posi ­
ti ve feedback (between cattl e rai si ng and the crops t hei r manure hel ped
ferti l i ze) but whi ch i ncreased i n scal e due to anti market i nvestment,
pl ayed several rol es i n the i nd ustri al takeoff. On the one hand, i t served
for a l ong ti me as t he pri nci pal consumer of metal tool s and hence cat­
al yzed, and was catal yzed by, the i ron i ndustry. On the ot her hand, the
new agri cu l tural system (whi ch i s exami ned i n more detai l i n t he next
chapter) favored di fferent types of soi l s than those used by t he previ ous
agri cul t ural regi me, and so created a l arge pool of u nempl oyed farm
workers, who woul d provi de the muscu l ar energy for the new factori es.
122
Hence, agri cul t ural regi ons recei ved i n puts (i ron) from, and provi ded
i n puts ( l abor, food) to, t he factory towns, and i n t hi s sense agri cul tu re
was an i mporta nt node i n t he autocatal yti c l oop. The fl ow of l abor that
thi s node su ppl i ed, however, was to be used mostly as raw muscul ar
ene rgy. Ski l l ed l abor was al so needed, and reservoi rs of t hi s had begu n
formi ng i n t he earl y 1 700s. I ndeed, the fi rst steam engi ne, a water pump
i n a coal mi ne i n operati on by 1 71 2, had been t he product of such ski l l ed
know- how. Al though i ts i nventor, Thomas Newcomen, may have been
fami l i ar wi th the basi c pri nci pl es of steam and the vacu um, as embodi ed
i n contemporary sci enti fi c apparatuses, he put together the fi rst engi ne
usi ng mostl y i nformal knowl edge.
123
Much the same ca n be sai d for the
other i nnovati ons of t he ei ghteenth century:
78
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
I n erecti ng a machi ne . . . not onl y visual [e.g. , engi neeri ng di agrams] but
tacti l e and muscul ar knowl edge are i ncorporated i nto the machi ne by the
mechanics and others who use tool s and ski l l s and j udgment to give l i fe to
the vi si ons of the engi neers. Those workers -machi ni sts, mi l l wri ghts, car­
penters, wel ders, ti nsmi ths, electri ci ans, riggers, and al l the rest -suppl y
al l made thi ngs wi th a cruci al component that the engi neer can never ful ly
speci fy. Thei r work i nvol ves the l ayi ng on of knowi ng hands . . . . The h i stori ­
cal si gni fi cance of workers' knowl edge had hardly been noti ced unti l the
Bri ti sh economi c hi stori an John R. Harris connected i t to the tech nol ogi cal
l ead t hat Great Bri tai n hel d over the Conti nent duri ng the I ndustri al Revo­
l uti on. I n the seventeenth centu ry, Bri tai n had converted to coal as an
i ndustri al fuel [and t hi s i nvolved many cha nges. ]. . . The l i st of changes of
techni ques and apparatus i s very l ong, but these changes are unappreci­
ated because many (probably most) of them were made by [seni or ski l l ed]
workers . . . rather than by owners or the supervi sors of the works. By 1710
. . . workers' growi ng knowl edge of the techn i ques of coal fuel technol ogy
had al ready gi ven Bri tai n a commandi ng i ndustri al l ead over France and
other Conti nental countries. 1
2
4
These reservoi rs of ski l l ed l abor were i mportant i nputs to the factory
towns and hence key nodes i n the l oop. Ski l l s and know- how provi ded
what one mi ght cal l "catal yti c i nformati on, " that i s, i nformati o n capabl e
of bri ngi ng toget her and ampl i fyi ng fl ows of energy and materi al s. Thi s i s
a good argument agai nst l abor theori es of val ue, for whi ch a machi ne i s
not hi ng but t he congeal ed muscul ar energy t hat went i nto i t s prod ucti on.
Stri ctl y speaki ng, t hi s woul d mean there i s no di fference between a ma­
chi ne that works and one t hat does not (or a di sassembl ed one). As t he
above quote makes cl ear, not onl y i s a di agram necessary ( brought i nto
t he process by an engi neer) but al so the ski l l ed manual knowl edge
needed to i mpl ement t he a bstract di agram. I n s hort, t he energeti c i n puts
to l arge-scal e producti on processes requ i red compl ementary i n puts of
catal yti c i nformati on i n o rder for the I ndustri al Revol uti o n t o become a
sel f- sustai ni ng process.
Of course, i n addi ti on to these reservoi rs of factory i n puts, t he l oop
req u i red nodes ca pabl e of absorbi ng the i ndu stri al output. I n ot her words,
t he huge outputs of factory towns, t hei r conti nuous fl ows of manufact ured
products, needed domesti c and forei gn markets of a sufficient scale to
absorb them. These markets were not the product of i ndustri al towns but
of the ci ti es that nati on-states had absorbed as pol i ti cal capi tal s and
gateways to t he now gl obal i zed networks of exchange. Unl i ke l ocal and
regi onal markets, n ati onal markets were not the product of a process of
79
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
sel f-organ i zat i on but of del i berate pl an n i ng by a country's el i tes, a con­
sci ous pol i cy k nown as mercantilism.
125
It i nvol ved not onl y t he removal of
i nternal tol l s and tari ffs, but the constructi on of a commun i cati ons net­
work (roads, canal s, mai l s) to al l ow commands (and traded goods) from
the capital to reach the whol e country. I n additi on to a nat i onwi de market,
an i ntensi fi cat i on of forei gn trade and t he prol i ferati on of l i n ks between
gateway ci ti es al l over t he gl obe were al so necessary i ngredi ents.
London, part pol i ti cal capi tal a nd part mari ti me metropol i s, was i n stru­
mental i n the creati on of the Bri ti sh nati onal a nd forei gn markets. Lon­
don al so pl ayed a key rol e i n t he formati on of a stabl e credi t system, wi th
t he creat i on i n 1694 of t he fi rst central bank, t he Bank of Engl a nd, whi ch
al l owed tappi ng (vi a credi t) t he vast monetary reserves of Amsterdam.
As Braudel remarks, even though France had at t he t i me a greater reser­
voi r of natu ral resou rces t han �ngl and, h.er credi t (and taxati on) system
was never as good: "arti fi ci al wealth" proved more powerful than natural
weal th . 126 Hence, t he fi rst autocatal yti c l oop t o achi eve sel f-sustai ni ng
growth i nvol ved more t han i ndustri al el i tes. Fi nanci al and commerci al
anti markets were al so key i ngredi ents, as was t he nati on-state. And whi l e
each separate el i te di d exerci se central i zed control over a gi ven process
(the l ogi sti cs of factory towns, the creati on of the n ati onal market), t he
revol uti on as a whol e was t he r esul t of a true meshwork of hi erarchi cal
structures, growi ng, l i ke many meshworks, by dr i ft:
Can we real l y be sati sfi ed wi th thi s i mage of a smoothly coordi nated and
evenl y devel opi ng combi nati on of sectors, capabl e between them of
provi di ng al l the i ntercon nected el ements of the i nd ustri al revol uti on and
meeti ng demands from ot her sectors? I t conveys the mi sl eadi ng vi si on of
the i ndustri al revol uti on as a consci ousl y pursued objecti ve, as i f Bri tai n's
soci ety and economy had conspi red to make possi bl e the new Machi ne
Age . . . . But thi s was certai nly not how the Engl i sh revol uti on devel oped.
It was not movi ng towards any goal , rather i t encou ntered one, as it was
propel l ed al ong by that mul ti tude of di fferent currents whi ch not only
carri ed forward the i ndustri al revol uti on but al so spi l l ed over i nto areas
far beyond i t. 127
Thus, at l east from t he perspecti ve where soci al dynami cs are the
same as geol ogi cal dynami cs (that i s, from the perspecti ve of energy and
catal ysi s), t he process of i ndustri al takeoff may be vi ewed as a bi furcati on ,
from a state i n whi ch sel f-sti mul ati ng dynami cs were not compl ex enough
to overcome di mi ni shi ng retu rns, to a state i n whi ch t he seri es of nodes
formi ng t he ci rcui t became a sel f-sustai ni ng enti ty. The addi ti on of new
80
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A.D.
nodes to t he meshwork as i t compl exi fi ed di d not occu r accordi ng to a
pl an but si mpl y fol l owi ng i nternal constrai nts; t hat i s, each new node had
to "mesh wel l " wi th the exi sti ng ones (i . e. , catalyze a nd be catal yzed by
exi sti ng nodes). As t he "geol ogi cal hi story" of t he ni neteenth centu ry con­
t i n ued to u nfol d, t he tech nol ogi es t hat grew around t he i nani mate power
of steam (as wel l as radi cal l y new ones) si mpl y i nserted t hemsel ves as
f urt her nodes i n the growi ng autocatal yti c l oop. The rai l road a nd the tel e­
graph, for exampl e, meshed wel l not onl y wi th one another (ampl i fyi ng
each ot her' s strengt hs a nd compensat i ng for certai n weaknesses), t hey
meshed wel l i n t he l arger context of t he ci rcu i t.
The new sel f-sustai ned i ntensi 'fi cati on was made possi bl e by el ements
of bot h t he Central Pl ace a nd t he Network systems. Admi n i strati ve cen­
ters and gateway ports j oi ned factory towns to form t he great ci rcui t of
tri ggers and fl ows. The I ndustri al Revol uti on , i n t ur n, affected i n several
ways t he fut ure growt h of ci ti es. One of t he revol uti on's i nten si fi ed fl ows,
t he fl ow of cast i ro n, tri ggered t he begi n n i ng of the metal l i zati on of t he
urban exoskel eton as t he i ndustri al regi ons of Engl and began t o use i ro n
frames to bui l d fi reproof text i l e mi l l s: fi rst, a si x-story cotton mi l l wi th
i ron col umns was erected i n Derby i n 1792; t hen, i n 1796, a cotton mi l l
wi th i ron beams and col umns was bui l t i n Shrewsbu ry; by 1830, t he i nter­
nal i ro n frame was commo n i n i ndustri al a nd pu bl i c bui l di ngs i n Engl and
and France. 1
28
Next, t he web of i nterl ocki ng i n novati ons t hat character­
i zed t hi s peri od generated a second wave of i nteracti ng technol ogi es
(the rai l road a nd the tel egraph), whi ch had profound effects on the Eu ro­
pean u rban system as a whol e, changi ng the rel ati ve i mportance of t he
capi tal a nd t he metropol i s. Up t o t hi s poi nt , l and transport coul d not
compete wi th t he swi ft a nd fl exi bl e communi cati ons afforded by t he sea.
Whi l e ter restri al di stances served to separate l andl ocked urban settl e­
ments, the open sea served to con nect gateway ci ti es. But the advent
of steam-powered tra nsportati on removed these constrai nts, gi vi ng
terri tori al capi tal s many of the advantages previ ously enjoyed by ma ri ­
ti me ci ti es. 129
The coal regi ons of Engl and were t he bi rt hpl ace of t he fi rst rai l road sys­
tem, adopti ng t he " Rocket" l ocomoti ve i nvented by George Stephenson
i n 1829. T�l i s al l owed t he Li verpool a nd Manchester Rai l way t o open for
busi ness i n 1830. 13
0
Ot her rai lways began operati ng on t he Conti nent a
few years l ater, i n France and Austri a, but t hey remai ned experi mental
for at l east ten years. Yet Bri ti sh l eadershi p i n steam-dri ven transport
was soon su rpassed by t he Un i ted States, whi ch a few decades earl i er
had been a n Engl i sh suppl y regi on. These former col oni es had taken off
economi cal l y i n the second hal f of the ei ghteenth centu ry, by means
81
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
of the same smal l -scal e autocatal yti c process that had al l owed Europe
many centuri es earl i er to emerge from the s hadow of I sl am: vol ati l e
trade among backward ci ti es engaged i n i mport su bsti tuti on.
Accordi ng t o Jane Jacobs, t he fi rst two Ameri can ci ti es t o begi n t hi s
process were Boston and Phi l adel phi a , one a Bri ti sh resource depot for
ti mber and fi sh, t he ot her su pplyi ng Engl and wi t h grai n . Whi l e New York
remai ned a capti ve market, Boston and Phi l adel phi a were copyi ng Eu ro­
pean products and repl aci ng them wi th l ocal ones, whi ch they trad�d
among t hemsel ves. Whi l e t he i nnovati ons that came out of t hi s process
were smal l and u ngl amorous, and hence can not be compared wi th t he
ones t hat emerged from t he I ndustri al Revol uti on , what mattered was
the reservoi r of i nterl ocki ng ski l l s and procedu res generated by i mport­
substi tuti on dynami cs. 13
1
After the War of I ndependence, New York j oi ned
Boston a nd- Phi l adel phi a i n devel opi ng a greater vari ety of manufact u ri es,
whi l e San Franci sco woul d, after t he gol d rush, become a gateway to the
emergi ng gl obal Networ k system.
The mechani cs and engi neers of t hese Ameri can ci ti es created t he tech­
nol ogy t hat wou l d by 1850 al l ow t he U. S. rai l roads to su rpass t he Bri ti sh
rai l way system i n terms of mi l eage of wrought- i ro n rai l s. I f bri dges and
factori es i n Ameri ca were sti l l bei ng bui l t out of ti mber, t he transportat i on
system of t he new nati on-state was undergoi ng an even more i ntense
metal l i zati on than Engl and' s. More i mportantly, the technology devel oped
i n Engl and (l ocomoti ves and rai lway construct i on tech ni ques) was l argel y
unsui tabl e for the l ong di stances and di ffi cu l t ter rai n of the U ni ted States,
and so i t coul d not si mpl y be i mported but had to devel op l ocal ly i n n ovel
ways. 13
2
Hence the i mportance of the meshworks of smal l fi rms that had
devel oped al ong t he Ameri can eastern seaboard, whence t he l ocal engi ­
neeri ng and entrepreneuri al tal ent needed to devel op the new machi nes
was recrui ted.
There is a nother si de to the success of Ameri can rai l roads (and to t he
future evol uti on of i ndustri al i zati on) whi ch i nvol ved not meshworks but
command h i erarchi es. Whi l e t he technol ogi cal el ements of t he system
had been devel oped by ci vi l i a n engi neers from New Yor k and Phi l adel phi a,
military engineers were i nstrumental i n devel opi ng the bu reaucrati c man­
agement methods t hat came to characteri ze Ameri can rai l roads. I n t he
words of t he h i stor i an Charl es F O' Connel l :
82
As the rai l roads evol ved and expanded, they began to exhi bi t structural and
procedural characteri sti cs that bore a remarkabl e resembl ance to those of
the Army. Both organi zati ons erected compl i cated management hi erarchi es
to coordi nate and control a vari ety of functi onal l y di verse, geographi cal l y
-
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
separated corporate acti vi ti es. Both created speci al ized staff bureaus to
provi de a range of techni cal and l ogi sti cal su pport servi ces. Both di vi ded
corporate authority and responsi bi l ity between l i ne and staff agenci es and
offi cers and then adopted el aborate written regul ati ons that codi fi ed the
rel ati onshi p between them. Both establ i shed formal gui del i nes to govern
routi ne acti vi ti es and i nstituted standardi zed reporti ng and accounti ng pro­
cedures and forms to provi de corporate headquarters with detai l ed fi nan­
ci al and operati onal i nformati on whi ch flowed al ong carefu l l y defi ned l i nes
of communi cation. As the rai l roads assumed these characteri sti cs, they
became Ameri ca's fi rst " bi g busi ness. "
1
33
O' Con nel l poi nts out t hat speci fi c i ndi vi dual s from t he U. S. Army Corps
of Engi neers pl ayed key rol es i n the bui l di ng of a n u mber of Ameri can
rai l roads and i n so doi ng faced manageri al probl ems of a scal e and com­
pl exi ty u n known to t he l ocal busi ness commun ity. They made stri ct
accountabi l i ty and bu reaucrati c hi erarchy pi votal el ements of a manage­
ment styl e that wou l d event ual l y fi l ter th rough to ot her rai l way l i nes
(and ot her i ndust ri es). Al though t hi s general l y unacknowl edged mi l i tary
el ement of anti market i nsti tuti ons is brought i nto hi gh rel i ef by t he
Ameri can experi ence i n rai l road management, i t di d not ori gi nate t here.
I ndeed, t he rel ati onshi p between mi l i tary and anti market i nsti tuti ons i s
a very ol d one. By t he si xteenth centu ry, Veni ce had devel oped standard­
i zed procedu res as part of the operat i on of i ts arsenal , the l argest i ndus­
tri al compl ex i n Europe at t he ti me. 134 The armed sai l shi ps bu i l t at t he
a rsenal si nce 1328 were used by Veneti an anti markets not onl y to con­
duct thei r l ucrati ve l ong-di st ance trade wi th t he Leva nt, but al so to mai n­
tai n by mi l i tary force t hei r monopol y on that t rade. I n t he ei ghteenth
a nd ni neteenth centu ri es, a rsenal s wou l d agai n pl ay a l eadi ng rol e i n the
standardi zat i on and routi ni zati on of t he producti on process, i n'Fl uenci ng
the futu re devel opment of i ndustri al anti markets. I n pa rti cul ar, mi l i tary
di sci pl i ne was transferred to factori es, t he workers sl owl y de- ski l l ed, and
t hei r acti vi ti es rati onal i zed.
Harry Braverman, a l abor hi stori an , acknowl edges t he rol e of bu reau­
crati c and mi l i tary hi erarchi es i n t he ori gi ns of t he rati onal i zati on of l abor:
" France had a l ong tradi ti on of attempt i ng t he sci enti fi c study of work,
starti ng wi t h Loui s XI V's mi ni ster Col bert; i ncl udi ng mi l i tary engi neers l i ke
Vauban and Bel i dor a nd especi al ly Coul omb, whose physi ol ogi cal studi es
of exerti on i n l abor are famous. "135 I ndeed, t he basi c routi nes t hat woul d
l ater evol ve i nto mass producti on techni ques were born i n French mi l i tary
arsenal s i n t he ei ghteenth century. These routi nes were l ater transfer red
to Ameri can arsenal s, where t hey became i nsti tuti onal i zed over t he
83
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
cou rse of t he n i neteenth centu ry, eventual l y devel opi ng i nto t he "Ameri ­
can system of manufactu ri ng. "
The Ameri can system was ori gi nal l y devi sed to create weapons wi t h
perfectl y i nterchangeabl e parts. When arti sans manufactu red t he di ffer­
ent parts of a weapon by hand, the resul ti ng heterogeneity made i t
i mpossi bl e to suppl y fronts wi t h spare parts. The new system fi rst cre­
ated a model of a parti cul ar weapon, and t hen the model served as a
standard to be exactl y repl i cated. But enforci ng thi s standard, to ensure
t he homogenei ty of t he products, requi red a transfer -from the mi l i tary
to the factory-of the di sci pl i nary and su rvei l l ance methods that had
been used to mai ntai n order i n barracks and camps for over two cen­
tu ri es. I n short, t he Ameri can system transformed manufactu ri ng from
an open process based on fl exi bl e ski l l s i nto a cl osed process based on
fi xed routi nes (en forceabl e t hrough di sci pl i ne and consta nt i nspecti on):
When l abor was mechanized and di vi ded i n ni neteenth-centu ry arms facto­
ri es, i ndi vi dual work assi gnments became more si mpl i fi ed whi l e the overal l
producti on process became more compl ex. Coordi nati ng and control l i ng
the fl ow of work from one manufacturi ng stage to another therefore
became vital and, in the eyes of factory masters, demanded cl osel y regu­
l ated on-the-j ob behavi or. Under these conditi ons the engi neeri ng of peopl e
assumed an i mportance equal to the engi neeri ng of materi al s. As confor­
mi ty su ppl anted i ndi vi dual i ty in the workpl ace, craft ski l l s became a detri ­
ment to producti on. 136
Obvi ousl y, not al l aspects of t he rati onal i zati on of l abor had a mi l i tary
ori gi n . Mi l i tary i nsti tuti ons pl ayed a key rol e, but i nd ustri al di sci pl i ne
had al ready devel oped (more or l ess i ndependentl y) i n certai n a nti ­
market enterpri ses, such as mi nes.
1
37
Al l that ca n be cl ai med i s that the
process of routi ni zati on of producti on i n arsenal s, mi nes, and ci vi l i an
factori es u nderwent a great i ntensi fi cati on on both si des of t he Atl anti c,
and thi s i mpl i ed a l arge i ncrease i n t he command el ement i n t he eco­
nomi c mi x. But once agai n, despi te t he i mportant consequences that t he
advent of rat i onal i zati on had on t he fut ure of the economy, i t i s i mportant
to keep i n mi nd al l the coexi sti ng processes taki ng pl ace at thi s ti me so
as not to reduce t hei r heterogeneity to a si ngl e factor. I n parti cul ar, rou­
t i n i zat i on needs to be contrasted wi th the compl etel y di fferent process
of i n novati on.
1
3
8
Routi ni zati on i n i ts i ntensi fi ed (an d consci ousl y pl anned)
form occu rred i n a fai rl y defi ned area of the European (and Ameri can)
exoskel eton , away from t he nati onal and regi onal capi tal s whi ch became
centers of i nnovati on . Whi l e t he l atter kept growi ng i n di versi ty and eco-
84
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
nomi c heterogeneity du ri ng the ni neteenth century, the towns, whi ch
u nderwent t he i ntensi fi ed routi ni zati on of producti on, became ever more
homogeneous:
At the h i gh end of the spectrum [ of occupati onal homogeneity], we f i nd the
si ngl e- i ndustry and "company" towns. Often associ ated wi th secret mi l itary
technol ogy i n our ti me, the l atter go back at l east to the naval ports, such
as Brest and Toul on, fou nded by Loui s Xl V I n the ni neteenth centu ry, si n­
gl e enterpri ses devel oped si zabl e towns or came t o domi nate an u rban
area. Port Sunl i ght (Lever) i n Engl and, Leverkusen (Bayer) i n Germany, and
Sochaux (Peugeot) i n France, are exampl es. Entrepreneurs were moti vated
by the determi nati on to exerci se total control over the human as wel l as the
techni cal envi ronment. Non� basi c empl oyment was kept to a mi ni mum
because t he pater nal i sti c empl oyer di scouraged competi ti on and "fri vol i ty"
i n the provi si on of servi ces. 139
Thi s homogeni zati on of economi c fu ncti ons, whi ch retai ned basi c ser­
vi ces and excl uded competi ng i ndustri es, meant that t he only posi ti ve
feedback operati ng i n these urban centers was the enor mous economi es
of scal e to whi ch thei r anti ma rket i nsti tuti ons had access. By sta ndardi z­
i ng producti on, costs coul d be spread across a l arge n umber of i denti cal
products, and i n thi s way the l aw of di mi ni shi ng ret ur ns coul d be over­
come. Yet, there are ot her possi bl e types of posi ti ve feedback for ci ti es
and towns, ot her con necti ons between effi ci ency and si ze - not the si ze
of a homogeni zed enterpri se and its homogeneous mass- produced prod­
ucts, but t he si ze of a hi ghl y heterogeneous u rba n center whi ch pro­
vi des smal l fi rms wi th a vari ety of mutual ly sti mu l ati ng l i n ks. These a re
not economi es of scal e, but economies of agglomeration:
85
[These economi es] come from the fact that the fi rm can fi nd i n the l arge
city al l manner of cl i ents, servi ces, suppl i ers, and empl oyees no matter how
speci al i zed i ts product; thi s, i n turn, promotes i ncreased speci al i zati on.
Surpri si ngly, however, economi es of aggl omerati on encou rage f i r ms of t he
same l i ne t o l ocate cl ose t o one another, whi ch i s why names such as
Harl ey, Fl eet, and Lombard streets and Savi l l e Row-to sti ck t o London ­
cal l to mi nd professi ons rather than pl ace. Besi des the non- negl i gi bl e profi t
and pl easure of shop-tal k, al l can share access to servi ces that none cou l d
support al one . . . . A key poi nt about economi es of aggl omerati on is that
smal l busi nesses depend o n them more than do l arge ones. The l atter can
i nternal i ze these " exter nal economi es" by provi di ng thei r own servi ces
and gai n l ocati onal freedom as a result. . . . The rel ati onshi p between l arge
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
ci ti es and smal l busi ness i s a symbi oti c one benefi ci al to both. The reason
i s that smal l fi rms are the major carri ers of i nnovati on, i ncl udi ng creati ve
adaptati on to change. Thi s was even more true in the days before sci enti fi c
research contri buted much to new technol ogy. 140
Hohenberg and Lees argue that, whether it was i nformal know- how or
formal knowl edge, i nformati on was, wj th i ncreasi ng regul ari ty, one of the
mai n i n puts of smal l -scal e i ndustry. And l arge, di versi fi ed ci ti es were cen­
ters where i nformat i on accu mul ated and mul ti pl i ed. The i n novati ons to
whi ch t hese economi es of aggl omerati on l ed made these ci ti es pi oneers
i n many new i ndustri al products and processes, whi ch woul d l ater be
exported to t he centers of heavy i ndustry once t hey had been rout i n i zed.
"The natu re of i nformati on as an i n put to producti on is that it ceases to
be i mportant once a gi ven process becomes routi ne . . At that poi nt ot her
costs -for machi nes, basi c l abor, and space -take over, a nd central ci ti es
are at a seri ous di sadvantage. Moreover, economi es of scal e become cri ti ­
cal and . . . very l arge ci ti es are n ot especi al ly favored l ocati ons for t he
l argest enterpri ses. "
141
Th us, even t hough routi ni zat i on may not be conduci ve to, and may
even precl ude, i nnovati on , t hi s l oss is offset through t he gai ns deri ved
from economi es of scal e. Moreover, i ncreasi ng the command el ement i n
the economi c mi x reduced not onl y producti on costs but transacti on
costs a s wel l . Thi s i s i ndeed how t h e neoi n sti tuti onal i st economi st Ol i ver
Wi l l i amso n expl ai ns t he repl acement of markets by hi erarchi es. I n hi s
vi ew, t hese two extremes and thei r hybri ds represent di fferent "gover­
nance structures" for handl i ng t he same transacti ons. Poor i nformati on
about a good t o be exchanged, opport u n i st behavi or by t he partners of
exchange, di ffi cu l ti es i n drawi ng sal es contracts t hat foresee al l eve ntual i ­
ti es (as wel l as ot her i mperfecti ons of real markets) i ncrease t he costs of
transacti ng i n a decentral i zed way. At t he l i mi t, transacti on costs may
overri de the gai ns from trade and t hen it may prove profi tabl e to swi tch
from mar kets to hi erarchi es as the mode of gover ni ng transacti ons.
142
Wi l l i amso n argues, for exampl e, that as any asset devel ops a hi gh
degree of speci fi ci ty (e. g. , one fi rm buys machi nery geared excl usi vel y
toward the needs of a not her fi rm, or workers devel op ski l l s for parti cul ar
processes), a rel ati onshi p of dependence devel ops between the peopl e
i nvol ved whi ch may l eave the door open for opportu ni st behavi or. I n t hi s
si tuati on, gi ven the much i ncreased costs of defi n i ng contracts t hat cou n­
teract t he effects of opportu n i sm, it wi l l pay for one company to absorb
t he ot her, that i s, to repl ace a rel ati on based on pri ces by one based o n
commands. I n the case o f workers, the transacti on costs i nvol ved may
86
GE
OLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
be t hose of bargai ni ng over the terms of a contract. The routi n i zati on of
the producti on process and the conseq uent de-ski l l i ng of t he workers
reduces t hei r bargai ni ng power and t he consequent costs for managers
of transacti ng i n t he l abor market.
1
43 However, Wi l l i amson's approach, i n
whi ch an i ncrease i n t he command el ement of economi c organi zati ons
i s j usti fi ed excl u si vel y i n terms of effi ci ency (economi zi ng transacti on
costs), has been cri ti ci zed for overl ooki ng t h e nonco ntract ual benefi ts
(to the managers of fi rms) of i ndustri al di sci pl i ne
. 1
44 Thi s i s one reason
f or vi ewi ng the devel opment of economi c i nsti tuti ons (parti cul arly i n the
Un i ted States) as part of a wi de r "organi zati onal ecol ogy, " whi ch must
i ncl ude mi l i tary i nsti tuti ons. I n t he next chapter we wi l l need to wi den
even more the scope of t hi s "ecol ogy" as we devel op Foucau l t's i dea t hat
t he effi ci ency of economi c organ i zati ons (for exampl e, t he factory sys­
tem) needs to be measu red both in terms of economi c uti l ity and i n
terms o f pol i ti cal obedi ence, whi ch i s where di sci pl i nary i nsti tuti ons pl ay
an i mporta nt rol e.
I n the ni neteenth centu ry t here were two more processes benefi ti ng
hi erarchi es over meshworks i n the economy. On one hand, as Dougl as
North argues, as economi es compl exi fi ed (as t he amou nts of fi xed capi tal
i ncreased, for exampl e), t he proporti on of the gross nati onal product
spent on transacti on costs al so i ncreased. Thi s l ed to a n i nsti tuti onal evo­
l uti on i n whi ch i nformal constrai nts were i ncreasi ngl y converted i nto
formal r ul es and decentral i zed enforcement repl aced by the coerci ve
i nterventi on of central states, i n order to keep transacti on costs rel ati vel y
I OW. 145 On the other hand, t he popul ati on of commerci al orga n i zati ons
i n habi ti ng ci ti es (and the i ndustri al hi nterl ands these ci ti es ani mated)
u nderwent dramati c changes. I n parti cul ar, an organi zat i onal form that
preexi sted the I ndustri al Revol uti on but had al ways bee n a smal l part
of the popu l ati on now began to prol i ferate: t he j oi nt-stock company. Thi s
type of organ i zati on i s characteri zed by a separati on of ownershi p from
control : the owners are a di spersed group of stockhol ders, and control of
the compa ny passes from the owner-entrepreneur to the professi onal
manager (or, rather, to a manageri al hi erarchy).
Gal brai t h, for exampl e, argues that al though j oi nt-stock corporati ons
have boards of di rectors whi ch represent the owners, i n practi ce t hi s
fu ncti on has become l argel y ceremoni al , parti cul arl y i n fi rms where t he
managers sel ect the members of the board. Owners hi p i s al so separated
from control by the fact that the managers have a more compl ete knowl ­
edge of the dai l y operati ons of the fi rm. I n t hese ci rcu mstances, t he
strategy of the i nsti tuti on changes from one of maxi mi zi ng the weal th of
t he stockhol ders to one of growt h for i ts own sake, si nce thi s i ncreases
87
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
t he compl exi ty of t he operati on and hence the need for i nsi der, manager­
i al knowl edge.
1
4
6
I nterest i ngly, t he most i ntense prol i ferat i on of t hi s organ i zat i onal form
di d not occur i n the more i ndustri al l y advanced Br i ti sh ci ti es but i n t he
Un i ted States. (The Br i t i sh and the Dutch di d have j oi nt-stock compa ni es,
parti cul arl y t he famous Compani es of I ndi as, whi ch were l i ke states wi th­
i n the state. )147 I t was i n Ameri ca t hat t hese organ i zat i ons began a pro­
cess of enormous growt h by swal l owi ng smal l er compa ni es, i ncreasi ngl y
repl aci ng mar kets wi th h i erarchi es. I ndeed, one economi st goes so far as
to say t hat the reason Bri tai n l ost i ts i ndustri al l ead to t he Un i ted States
by the earl y twenti et h cent ury was preci sel y because t hi s absorpt i on of
markets by hi erarchi es di d not take pl ace. Bri tai n's probl em "was not
t hat i t rel i ed too l i ttl e, but t hat it rel i ed too much, on market coordi nati on
of i ts economi c acti vi ti es.
" 14
8
There ar e many competi ng expl anati ons
for why l arge-scal e enterpr i ses i n whi ch commands i ncreasi ngl y repl ace
pri ces as a coordi nat i on mechani sm fai l ed to devel op on Bri ti sh soi l , at
l east wi t h t he same i ntensi ty as on the other si de of t he Atl anti c
.
One
i nteresti ng possi bi l ity rests on the i dea that London ( and the rest of Eng­
l and's ci ti es, whi ch fel l u nder i ts co ntrol ) was at the t i me the core of t he
Network system ( and hence of the now gl obal i zed worl d-economy) and
that, as such, i t had the resources of the enti re worl d as i t s own pri vate
su ppl y zone. (That i s, i n t he n i neteenth century, Engl and as a whol e may
be seen as a monopoly.) Back i n t he fou rteenth a nd "fifteenth centu ri es,
when Veni ce was the core of the European worl d-economy, "she was far
behi nd t he pi oneer ci ti es of Tuscany as regards ba nki ng or the formati on
of l a rge fi rms. "149 I t i s al most, as Bra udel suggests, as i f the whol e of
Ven i ce, whose enti re popu l ati on l ent money to t he merchants, were a
huge j oi nt-stock company i tsel f, thereby i n h i bi ti ng t he devel opment of
t hi s organi zat i onal form wi th i n i t.
Whatever the reasons for the del ay i n Bri tai n, the process of separa­
t i on of ownershi p from control and the whol esal e repl acement of markets
wi t h hi erarchi es were part i cul arl y cl ear i n urban settl ements in the Un i ted
States. Thi s cou ntry had wi tnessed i ts own accel erati on of ci ty bui l di ng i n
t h e ni neteenth centu ry. Whi l e the popul ati on of towns i n 1790 i ncl uded
onl y a cou pl e dozen ci ti es, by 1920 t here were al most t hree t housand.
l
5
o
Thi s popul at i on i ncl uded ca pi tal s, gateway ports, and i ndustri al towns of
di fferent types, from oppressi ve anti market towns l i ke Pi ttsbu rgh to more
soci al l y concerned text i l e mi l l towns l i ke Lowel l , Lawrence, and Manches­
ter. 151 I n the l ater part of the centu ry, t hi s accel erati on fu rt her i ntensi fi ed
and the percentage of the human popul ati on l i vi ng i n ur ban centers dou­
bl ed between 1890 and 1920. 152 I ndustri al i zati on had al so i ntensi fi ed, so
88
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A.D.
t hat by t he tu rn of the cent ury t he Uni ted States had become t he worl d's
l eadi ng man ufact urer.
The popul ati on of commerci al i nsti t uti ons i n habi ti ng Ameri can ci ti es
u nderwent an i ntense wave of i nternal i zati on of markets by hi erarchi es.
Thi s i ntegrati on took one of t hree forms: backward verti cal i ntegrati on,
whi ch meant t hat a manufacturer absorbed i t s suppl i ers of raw materi al s;
forward verti cal i ntegrati on, whi ch resul ted i n the i ncorporati on of a fi rm's
di stri buti on system; and, fi nal ly, hori zontal i ntegrati on, whi ch i nvol ved
taki ng over ot her fi rms i n t he same i ndustri al speci al ty. 153
I n the second
hal f of t he ni neteenth centu ry, Chi cago's tool makers and meat packers,
Mi l wau kee's beer producers, New York's texti l e mi l l s and sewi ng-machi ne
manufacturers al l began a process of forward verti cal i ntegrati on by
devel opi ng thei r own nati onwi de market i ng operati ons, i nternal i zi ng a n
economi c fu ncti on previ ousl y performed by networks of commi ssi oned
sal esmen and brokers. Whi l e the Ameri can economy i n 1850 "was one of
smal l busi nesses wi t h many uni ntegrated fi rms dependent u pon many
marketi ng mi ddl emen . . . by 1900, contemporary observers were descri b­
i ng a qui te di fferent worl d, a worl d of verti cal l y i ntegrated bi g busi ness.
A few l arge fi rms whose i nterests spread out over the whol e cou ntry dom­
i nated every maj or i ndustry."154 Ameri can i ndustri al hi erarchi es both
absor bed thei r markets and merged among themsel ves, wi th the ai m of
avoi di ng ol i gopol i sti c competi ti on and i ncreasi ng central i zed control :
The rai l roads, whi ch were the country's first bi g busi ness, encouraged
ot her bi g busi ness i n at l east two ways in addi ti on to provi di ng the
model . . . . They were a cardi nal factor i n creati ng a nati onal market, and i n
doi ng so, they put a sharper edge on i ntramural competi ti on. They broke
down monopol i sti c market posi ti ons by maki ng i t possi bl e for fi rms to
i nvade each other's territory. To protect themsel ves from the wou nds and
brui ses of competiti on, busi nessmen i ntegrated horizontal l y as well as
verti cal ly, thus givi ng another boost to bi g busi ness.
155
I n the nort heastern Uni ted States, the process of i nternal i zati on woul d
pl ay an i mporta nt rol e i n the next great energy i ntensi fi cati on: el ectri fi ca­
ti on. Whi l e i ndependent i nventors (such as Edi son), who benefi ted from
economi es of aggl omerati on, had devel oped t he fi rst few el ectri cal prod­
ucts, a process of i nternal i zati on by i nvestors15
6
was behi nd the harness­
i ng of the gravi tati onal energy of Ni agara Fal l s, a nd i t was the l atter that
transformed el ectri ci ty from i ts l i mi ted rol e as a sou rce of i l l umi nati o n to
that of a u ni versal form of energy. I n the cou rse of t hi s u ndertaki ng, cru­
ci al techni cal quest i ons (such as the rel ati ve meri ts of di rect versus al ter-
89
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
nat i ng cu rre nt) were settl ed, a nd the natu re of t he enterpri se i tsel f (a
producer of energy, not a suppl i er of l i ght) was el uci dated. The dri vi ng
force be hi nd the project was a group of ban kers who formed t he Cata ract
Construct i on Company i n 1889. They i nternal i zed an esta bl i shed com­
pany a nd al l i ts machi nery, and set out to face the compl ex techn i cal and
l ogi sti cal probl ems of conqueri ng the fal l s. By 1896, the pl ant they bui l t
was transmi tt i ng power to t he ci ty of Buffal o, and t he el ectri cal uti l ity
company as we know i t had come i nto exi stence. 157
A product of i nvestor i nternal i zati on, t he el ectri cal i ndustry hel ped
pi oneer a new form of absorpt i on: the di rect i nternal i zati on of economi es
of aggl omerati on. Unl i ke i ts ri val s (coal gas for i l l umi nati on, steam for
motori zati on), el ectri city was i ncreasi ngl y dependent on formal and i nfor­
mal knowl edge for i ts devel opment. Knowl edge, i n t ur n, i s an i nput of
producti on whi ch exacts hi gh transacti on costs. Only where patents a re
perfectl y enforceabl e wi l l i nformati on be al l owed to fl ow t hrough markets,
el se ant i markets wi l l prefer to i nternal i ze i t i nto t hei r hi erarchi es. l58 One
way a corporate hi erarchy may i nternal i ze knowl edge i s by fu ndi ng a
research l aboratory. Al though t he German organi c-chemi stry l aboratori es
and Edi son's Menl o Park l ab were precu rsors, the fi rst modern i ndustri al
l aboratory dedi cated excl usi vel y to research (as opposed to mere testi ng)
was created by t he General El ectri c Compa ny in the earl y years of t he
twenti eth ce ntu ry. The G. E. l ab, a nd t he many t hat were l ater created i n
i ts i mage, may be vi ewed as an i nternal i zed meshwork of ski l l s:
I t i s a great strength of the i ndustri al la boratory t hat i t can be bot h "spe­
ci al ist" and "general i st," permi tti ng an i ndi vi d ual to work al one or a team
to work together . . . . The research l aboratory provi des an i ndi vi dual with
access to ski l l s and faci l i ti es whi ch greatly i ncrease hi s capaci ty. It ca n at
the same ti me, however, organi ze a team effort for a speci fi c task and
thus create a col l ective "general i st" wi th a greater range of ski l l s and knowl ­
edge tha n any i ndi vi d ual , no matter how gifted, coul d possi bl y acqui re i n a
l i feti me. 159
Al t hough t he use of el ectri ci ty as an energy sou rce owed its ori gi ns to
urban economi es of agglomerat i on a nd t he i nformat i on t hey generate,
once those meshworks had been i nternal i zed and routi ni zed, el ectri city's
future bel onged to economi es of scal e. Much as t he steel i ndustry, whi ch
requ i red l arge r and more sophi sti cated machi nery and pl ants t han i ron
mi l l s, automati cal l y benefi ted l arger enterpri ses, so el ectri ci ty i mmedi ­
atel y matched the scal e at wh i ch a nt i market i nsti tuti ons operate. 160 The
new i ntensi fi cati on took pl ace al ong several fronts. Si ze, temperat ure,
90
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
a nd pressu re were al l i ntensi fi ed to gene rate economi es of scal e i n the
production process. Vol tage, too, was greatly i ntensi fi ed, and posi ti ve
feedback was created i n the transmission process as wel l . Yet, as far as
el ectri ci ty' s effect on soci ety, the i ntensi fi cati on that mattered most was
that of consumption, whi ch fol l owed natu ral l y from el ect ri ci ty' s mu l ti tude
of potenti al uses. I n other words, t he i nj ecti on of more and more energy
i nto urban centers woul d not on its own have prod uced much of a
change, si nce t he uses to whi ch the ol der forms of energy coul d be put
were l i mi ted. At some poi nt u rban soci eti es woul d have reached a poi nt
of satu rat i on, and the i ntensi fi cati on woul d have ceased. But el ect ri ci ty
si mu ltaneousl y i ncreased t he fl ow of energy and t he potenti al uses of
t hat energy. Hence, i n t hi s case, i t was as much the i ntensity as t he form
of the new energy i nputs t hat mattered.
At the turn of the centu ry, el ectri ci ty had t hree possi bl e uses, not to
menti on a mu l ti tude of potenti al uses (such as computers) that woul d be
rea l i zed onl y l ater. These t hree appl i cati ons were communi cati ons, l i ght­
i ng, and mechani cal power. The fi rst two were t he better known, si nce
el ectri city had been connected wi t h the fl ow of i nformati on from earl y on.
Stored i n batteri es, i t had powered t he tel egraph t hroughout t he ni ne­
tee nth centu ry. El ectri ci ty had al so powered l i ghti ng systems, begi n n i ng
i n t he 1870s. But i ts true transformi ng power woul d not depend as much
on i t s rol e i n commu ni cat i ons or i l l umi nat i on as i n t he creati on of a new
breed of motors t hat, un l i ke steam engi nes, coul d be miniaturized, whi ch
permi tted a new degree of control over the fl ow of mechani cal energy
.
1
6
1
The mi ni atu ri zati on of motors al l owed t he gradual repl acement of a cen­
tral i zed engi ne by a mu l ti tude of decentral i zed ones (even i ndi vi dual tool s
coul d now be motori zed). Motors bega n di sappeari ng from vi ew, weavi ng
t hemsel ves i nto the very fabri c of real ity.
Of course, el ectri ci ty was not t he sol e cause of t he l ast great i ntensi fi ca­
ti on undergone by Western ci ti es. As wi t h earl i er i ntensi fi cati ons, i t was
the i nterpl ay of several i nnovati ons (el ectri city and el ectri cal products, t he
automobi l e and i ts i nternal combusti on engi ne, pl asti cs and other syntheti c
materi al s, steel and oi l ) t hat al l owed t hi s i ntensi fi cat i on to su stai n i tsel f.
I t is al so i mportant to keep i n mi nd t hat t hi s new web of i nterl ocki ng
technol ogi es di d not repl ace the ol d one. Al t hough coal l ost ground to oi l
i n thi s century, even as l ate as the 1960s coal sti l l accou nted for hal f of
the worl d's energy co nsu mpti on, and i ts rese rves were l ess depl eted t hat
those of oi l .
1
62
Rather t han performi ng a whol esal e repl acement, t he new
ci rcui t of tri ggers and fl ows i nserted i tsel f i nto the ol d one. The ori gi nal
l oop (coal - i ron-steam-cotton), and i ts newl y acqui red nodes (rai l roads,
tel egrap h), conti n ued to f uncti on i nto the twenti eth century. The new
91
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
technol ogi es si mpl y
grafted themsel ves i nto the previ ous
meshwork,
becomi ng yet other
nodes, parti ci pati ng i n i ts sel f-reproducti on and,
hence, reprod
uci ng
t hemsel ves. Rat her than bei ng l eft
behi nd, t he ol d
ci rcui t
si mpl y
com
pl exi fi ed, l osi ng a few tri gger-fl ow components whi l e
gai ni ng many new ones.
Ci ti es began t o
change under the i nfl uence of t hese new nodes. New
York and Chi cago i n parti cu l ar experi enced an i ntense el ectri fi cati on and
metal l i zati on, whi ch resul ted i n the bi rth of the skyscraper, an ori gi nal
ur ban form u ni que to t he U ni ted States, pri or to Worl d War I I . The i ron
frame, wh i ch al l owed masonry wal l s t o be repl aced wi t h gl ass, had been
pi oneered i n European ci ti es such as London and Pari s. But i t was i n
Ameri ca that t hi s metal l i c endoskel eton evol ved i nto t he skyscraper.
El ectri c motors i n t ur n al l owed el evators to transport peopl e verti cal l y
through t hese huge towers. Chi cago pi oneered the use of steel a nd el ec­
tri ci ty i n t he constructi on i ndustry, catalyzed by t he great fi re of 1871,
whi ch destroyed the ci ty's commerci al center and l i teral l y cl eared the way
for i nnovati ve bui l di ng tech ni ques to be appl i ed. By t he 1890s, Chi cago
was the worl d capi tal of the skyscraper, wi th New York a cl ose second.
But i f el ectri city a nd steel acted as centri petal forces, maki ng possi bl e
the i ntense human and machi ne concentrati ons represented by the new
megaci ti es, the i nter nal combusti on engi ne and the automobi l e had a
centri fugal effect, al l owi ng peopl e to move out of central ci ti es i nto rapi dl y
growi ng subu rban areas. Automobi l es, say Hohenberg and Lees, "acted
as a sol vent rather t han a cement to the urban fabri c. "1
6
3
The year 1920 marks a t ur ni ng poi nt i n the accel erati on of Ameri can
ci ty bu i l di ng, the moment when the number of Ameri cans l i vi ng i n ci ti es
surpassed the number i n habi ti ng rural areas. But 1920 al so marks the
moment when the growt h of central ci ti es was su rpassed by the growth at
t hei r fri nges, the moment ur ban deconcentrati on bega n to i ntensify. As
suburbs started housi ng more of the urban popul ati on t han central ci ti es,
the l atter became part of l arger "metropol i tan regi ons" (as they came to
be known) a nd of a new terri tori al di vi si on of l abor. Ci ti es l ost some of
thei r economi c fu ncti ons to su burbs and i ndustr i al hi nterl ands, and
devel oped speci al i zati ons i n yet ot her fu ncti ons (those t hat were i nforma­
ti on- i ntensi ve). Thi s process was l argel y u npl an ned, formi ng a terri tori al
meshwork of i nterl ocki ng speci al i zati ons. As one aut hor puts i t, "One
mi ght descri be t he metropol i tan regi on as a gi a nt network of fu ncti onal
rel ati onshi ps i n sea rch of a form and a government .
"
16
4
Besi des t hese changes i n i nternal form, the rel ati onshi p between ci ti es
i n Eu rope a nd i n Ameri ca began to change. I n parti cul ar, the core of the
gl obal Network system s hi fted i n the 1920s from London to New York
92
GEOLOGI CAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A.D.
Ci ty. By the twenti es, New York had al ready enj oyed several decades of
fi nanci al i ndependence from London. For i nstance, el ectri fi cati on, u nl i ke
New
York's earl i er i ntensi fi cati ons, had not been fi nanced from abroad
. 1
6
5
A few decades l ater, after Worl d War I , the Uni ted States emerged as a
credi tor nati on, and anot her mari t i me metropol i s ( New York), not a l and­
l ocked capi tal (Washi ngton), woul d assume the rol e as core of t he gl obal
Network system.
However, New York wou l d soon experi ence a phenomenon whose roots
went back several centu ri es, to t he ti me when nati on- states fi rst began
to swal l ow up urban centers: the process of city killing. One factor con­
tri buti ng to the depl eti on of urban autocatal yti c dynami cs was the u n­
precedented mobi l ity of l arge corporati ons, whi ch, havi ng i nter nal i zed the
benefi ts of economi es of aggl omerati on, coul d move headquarters and
producti on faci l i ti es wi th rel ati ve ease. Unl i ke smal l fi rms, whi ch are
l ocked i n a meshwork of i nterdependenci es wi th ot her smal l enterpri ses
and hence ca nnot easi l y move to anot her ci ty, i nd ustri al anti markets are
free to change l ocati on between , or outsi de of, urban centers. And as
they move away, l arge corporati ons t ake t hei r i nternal i zed meshworks
wi th them, depri vi ng ci ti es of a n i ncal cu l abl y val uabl e resource. Mesh­
works of smal l fi rms may al so be destroyed i n a more di rect way by l arge
organi zati ons usi ng t hei r economi es of scal e to gai n control of markets.
I n Braudel 's words:
Over the twenty years or so before the cri si s of the 1970's, New York-at
that ti me the l eadi ng i ndustri al ci ty i n the worl d -saw the decl i ne one after
another of the l i ttl e fi rms, someti mes empl oyi ng l ess than thi rty peopl e,
whi ch made up i ts commerci al and i ndustri al su bstance-t he huge cl oth­
i ng sector, hundreds of smal l pri nters, many food i ndustri es and smal l
bui l ders -al l contri buti ng to a truly "competi ti ve" worl d whose l i tt l e un i ts
were both in competi ti on wi th, yet dependent u pon each other. The di s­
organi zati on of New York was the resul t of the squeezi ng out of these thou­
sands of busi nesses whi ch i n the past made i t a ci ty where consumers
coul d fi nd i n town anythi ng they wanted, produced, stored and sol d on the
spot . I t was the bi g fi rms, wi th the bi g producti on uni ts out of town , whi ch
ousted the l i ttl e men. 1
66
Anti market organ i zati ons were not the only hi erarchi cal structu res
engaged i n ci ty ki l l i ng. Accord i ng to Jacobs, governmental bu reaucraci es
have for centu ri es been dest royi ng urban meshworks i n a vari ety of
ways, a di versi ty of "transacti ons of decl i ne" (as she cal l s t hem) t hat
resul t i n t he l oss of posi ti ve feedback, or at l east i n the l oss of the speci al
93
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
type of eco nomi es of aggl omerati on i nvol ved i n i mport-substi tuti on
dyn ami cs. Because smal l ci ti es need a fl ow of i mports to bui l d up t he crit­
i cal mass t hat resul ts i n an expl osi ve epi sode of repl acement dynami cs,
any gover nment pol i cy t hat redi rects t hi s fl ow away from them i s a poten­
t i al ci ty ki l l er. Taxi ng u rban centers i n order t o sustai n ru ral subsi di es i s
one exampl e, as i s t he promoti on of trade between l arge and smal l ci ti es,
si nce a l arge ci ty wi l l attempt to transform a smal l er ci ty i nto a suppl y
zone. (As we observed earl i er, vol ati l e trade requ i res backward ci ti es to
u se each ot her symbi oti cal l y. )167
To retu r n to ou r mai n argu ment, despi te t he l oss of vi tal ity of many
ci ti es, t he great autocatal yti c l oop of triggers and fl ows conti nued to com­
pl exi fy by acqui r i ng new nodes (el ect ri ci ty, automobi l es), whi ch al l owed
i t to ci rcumvent i nternal l i mits to its growt h (such as a satu rati on of t he
u rban demand for more and more energy). The conti n u i ng growth al so
depended, of cou rse, on ot her factors, such as t he avai l abi l ity of rel a­
ti vel y cheap energy sou rces, and t hi s i n turn depended on the abi l ity of
Wester n n ati ons to transform the rest of the worl d i nto a vast peri phery,
or suppl y zone. We wi l l ret ur n to t he questi on of col oni al i sm i n t he next
chapter, but for now i t wi l l suffi ce to note that, u nl i ke t he ori gi nal ci rcu i t
of t ri ggers and fl ows i n Bri tai n duri ng the I ndustri al Revol uti on , t he
resou rce nodes i n t he expanded versi on of the l oop (t he second i ndus­
tri al revol uti on) had l ong been i nternati onal . (Western ci ti es became
pai nful l y aware of t hei r l ong dependence on underpri ced energy -and
hence t hei r dependence on thei r gl obal suppl y zones -duri ng t he oi l
cr i si s of t he 1970s. ) The autocatal yti c l oop became i ncreasi ngl y depen­
dent, too, on t he fl ow of i nformati on. And t hi s fl ow, i n turn, began to
be affected by t he creati on of new i nsti tuti ons: t he research l aboratory
and the techni cal u ni versi ty. As Peter Drucker wri tes:
94
Few of the major figures i n 19th centu ry technology received much formal
educati on. The typi cal i nventor was a mechani c who began hi s apprenti ce­
shi p at age fourteen or earl i er. The few who had gone to col lege [El i Whi tney,
Samuel Morse] had not, as a rul e, been trai ned i n technol ogy or sci ence,
but were l i beral arts students . . . . Tech nol ogi cal i nventi on and the devel op­
ment of i ndustri es based on new knowledge were i n the hands of craftsmen
and arti sans wi th l i ttle sci enti fi c educati on but a great deal of mechani cal
geni us . . . . The 19th century was al so the era of techni cal -u ni versity bui l d­
i ng. Of the major techni cal i nsti tuti ons onl y one, the Ecole Poly techni que i n
Pari s, antedates t he century . . . . But by 1901, when t he Cal i forni a I nstitute
of Technology in Pasadena admitted its fi rst cl ass, vi rtual l y every one of
the major techni cal col l eges active in the Western world today had al ready
r"
GEOLOGICAL HISTRY: 1700-2000 A. D.
come i nto bei ng. Sti l l , i n the openi ng decades of the 20th century the
momentum of technol ogi cal progress was bei ng carri ed by the sel f-taught
mechani c wi thout speci fi c techni cal or sci enti fi c educati on . 168
The swi tch from t he sel f-taught i nve ntor of t he n i neteenth centu ry to
t he i ndustri al l aboratory of t he twenti et h, wi t h i ts staff of techn i cal ­
u ni versi ty grad uates, i nvol ved a reversal i n t he bal ance of power between
i nformal and formal knowl edge. Sti l l l at er on, t he advent of computers
(wh i ch are basi cal ly automated formal systems) appeared to consol i date
t he vi ctory of anal yti cal over embodi ed knowl edge, to t he poi nt where t he
di fference i tsel f seemed t o vani sh for al l but a few phi l osophers.
169
Accordi ng to Gal brai th, t he e nl arged rol e that knowl edge began to pl ay
as an i n put to produ cti on processes (as wel l as i n ot her areas of corporate
acti vi ty, such as market i ng) had a si gni fi cant i mpact on t he gover nance
struct ure of l arge economi c o rgani zati ons, acti ng as a counterbal ance to
t he i ncreased amount of comma nd el ements i n t hei r mi x. Despi te t he
exi stence of manageri al hi erarchi es i n most corporati ons, the deci si on­
maki ng processes wi t hi n t hese i nsti tuti ons are not based enti rel y on ran k
and formal authori ty, but on commi ttees, an apparatus for grou p deci si on
maki ng (whi ch he cal l s t he "technostructure"). These commi ttees serve
as a means for pool i ng knowl edge, formal and i n for mal , a nd as mecha­
ni sms for testi ng the rel evance of col l ecti ve opi ni ons. Top management
tends si mpl y to rat i fy t he deci si ons made by t hese col l ective bodi es, par­
ti cul arl y i n si tuati ons where t he deci si ons to be made are not routi ne.
17
0
The i ntensi fi cati on of the fl ow of knowl edge al so affected t he dynami cs
of ci ti es and t hei r i ndustri al hi nterl ands. A recent study of two i ndustri al
hi nterl ands -"Si l i con Val l ey" i n Northern Cal i forni a and Route 1 28 near
Boston , bot h of whi ch devel oped i n cl ose contact wi t h techni cal u ni versi ­
ti es (Stan ford and Massachusetts I nsti tute of Technol ogy, respecti vely) ­
i l l ustrates t he effects of t hi s i ntensi fi cati on . The study observes t hat:
95
Si l i con Val l ey' has a decentral i zed i ndustri al system that i s organi zed arou nd
regi onal networks. Li ke f i r ms i n Japan, and parts of Germany and I tal y,
Si l i con Val l ey compani es tend to draw on l ocal knowl edge and rel ati onshi ps
to create new markets, products, and appl i cati ons. These speci al i st fi rms
compete i ntensel y whi l e at the same ti me l ear ni ng from one another about
changi ng markets and technol ogi es. The regi on's dense soci al networks
and open l abor markets encou rage experi mentati on and entreprene u rshi p.
The boundari es withi n fi rms are porous, as are those between fi rms them­
sel ves and between fi rms and l ocal i nsti tuti ons such as trade associ ati ons
and u ni versi ti es.
l7l
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
The growt h of t hi s regi on owed very l i ttl e to l arge fi nanci al fl ows from
gover nmental and mi l itary i nsti tuti ons. Si l i con Val l ey di d not devel op so
much by economi es of scal e as by the benefi ts deri ved from an aggl om­
erati on of vi si onary engi neers, speci al i zed consu l tants, and fi nanci al
entrepreneurs. Engi neers moved often from one fi rm to anot her, devel op­
i ng l oyal ti es to the craft a nd the regi on's networks, not to a ny parti cul ar
corporati on . Thi s conti nual mi grati on, toget her wi th an u n usual (for cor­
porati ons) cul tu re of i n formati on shari ng among the l ocal producers,
e nsured t hat new for mal and i nformal knowl edge woul d di ffuse rapi dly
t hrough t he regi on . Busi ness associ ati ons fostered col l aborati on between
smal l and medi u m-si zed compani es. Ri sk taki ng and i n novati on were
preferred over stabi l ity and rout i ni zati on. (Of cou rse, t hi s does not mean
that t here were not l arge, routi n i zed fi rms i n Si l i con Val l ey, o n l y t hat t hey
di d not domi nate t he mi x. ) Not so on Route 1 28:
Whi l e Si l i con Val l ey producers of the 1970's were embedded i n, and
i nseparabl e from, i ntri cate soci al and techni cal networks, the Route 128
regi on came to be domi nated by a smal l number of hi ghly sel f-suffi ci ent
corporati ons. Consonant wi th New Engl and's two centu ry ol d manufactur­
i ng tradi ti on, Route 128 fi rms sought to preserve thei r i ndependence by
i nternal izi ng a wi de range of acti vi ti es. As a resul t, secrecy and corporate
loyalty govern rel ati ons between firms and thei r customers, suppl i ers,
and competi tors, rei nforci ng a regi onal cul ture of stabi l ity and self-rel i ance.
Corporate hi erarchi es ensured that authority remai ns central ized and
i nformati on flows verti cal ly. The bou ndari es between and wi thi n fi rms and
between fi rms and l ocal i nsti tuti ons thus remai n far more di sti nct
. 1
7
2
Before the recessi on of the 1980s, bot h Si l i con Val l ey and Route 128
had been conti nuousl y expandi ng, one on economi es of aggl omerati on
a nd t he ot her on economi es of scal e (or, rather, mi xtu res domi nated by
one type or t he ot her); nonet hel ess, they bot h fel t the f ul l i mpact of the
downtu r n. I n response to hard t i mes, some l arge Si l i con Val l ey fi rms,
i gnori ng the dynami cs behi nd t he regi on's success, bega n geari ng produc­
ti on toward economi es of scal e, transferri ng the manufact ure of certai n
parts t o ot her regi ons a n d i nte r nal i zi ng acti vi ti es previ ousl y performed
by smal l er fi rms. Yet t he i ntensi fi cat i on of routi n i zati on and i nter nal i za­
t i on i n Si l i con Val l ey was not a const i tuti ve part of the regi on (as i t was on
Route 1 28), whi ch mea nt t hat t he ol d meshwork system coul d be revi ved.
And that i s, i n fact, what happened. Si l i con Val l ey's regi onal networks
were reenergi zed, th rough the bi rth of new fi rms i n the ol d pattern, and
t he regi on has now ret ur ned to i t s former dynami c state, u n l i ke the com-
96
GEOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
mand- heavy Route 1 28, whi ch conti nues to stagnate. Thi s shows t hat,
whi l e economi es of scal e and economi es of aggl omerati on, as forms of
posi ti ve feedback, bot h promote growt h, on l y the l atter endows fi rms
wi th the resi l i ence and adaptabi l i ty needed to cope wi th adverse eco­
nomi c condi ti ons.
The case of Si l i con Val l ey and Route 128 shows t hat there are several
vi abl e l i nes of devel opment for futu re producti on systems, much as t here
were al ternat i ve forms of i ndustri al i zati on i n previ ous centu ri es. Paradoxi ­
cal ly, the computeri zed products manufact ured i n t hese t'o i ndustri al
hi nterl ands, and t he f urt her i ntensi fi cati on i n t he fl ow of knowl edge t hat
computers al l ow, coul d push t he evol uti on of i ndustri al product i on i n
ei ther di recti on, t o i ncrease or decrease t h e rel ati ve proporti ons of com­
mand and sel f-organi zati on .
On one hand, computers may become t h e machi nes t hat fi nal l y el i mi ­
nate human bei ngs and t hei r fl exi bl e ski l l s from i ndustri al producti on,
as i n ful l y automated factori es. Mat urana notes t hat one characteri sti c of
autocatal yti c l oops i s t hat t hei r i nter nal states determi ne most of t hei r
behavi or, wi th external sti mu l i pl ayi ng t he rol e of triggers. He compares
thi s to push-button machi nes whose behavi or i s not caused by the push­
i ng of a button, o n l y tri ggered by i tY3 Automated factori es are very
compl ex push-button machi nes of t hi s type and, as such, planned autocat­
alytic loops. I ndeed, as l ate as t he 1960s, a routi n i zed, rati onal i zed pro­
ducti on process t hat generated economi es of scal e was thought by many
to be the perfect exampl e of a whol e t hat i s more t han t he sum of i ts
parts. That so-cal l ed systems approach cel ebrated routi n i zati on as the
crowni ng achi evement of modern sci ence. 174 Today we know t hat pl anned
l oops of tri ggers and fl ows are on l y one of a number of systems that
exhi bi t emergent properti es, and t hat spontaneousl y generated l oops
may be more adapti ve and resi l i ent than ri gi dl y pl a n ned ones. 175
Automati on resul ts i n sel f-sustai ni ng autocatal yti c l oops of routi nes,
wi th a l i mi ted capacity for spontaneous growt h. These l oops emerge a nd
grow by corporate pl a n n i ng, so t hey can be only as good as t he pl anners
themsel ves. On t he ot her hand, i nstead of ai di ng t he growt h of sel f-suffi ­
ci ent corporati ons, computers ca n be used to create a network out of a
col l ecti on of smal l fi rms, as happened i n some i ndustri al hi nterl ands i n
Eu rope, al l owi ng economi es of aggl omerati on t o compensate for t he l ack
of scal e of the i ndi vi dual fi rms. 176 I n t hi s case, t he abi l i ti es of t he i ndi vi du­
al s i nvol ved wi l l be ampl i fi ed by processes of sel f-organ i zati on occu rri ng
at the i nsti tuti onal and regi onal l evel s. By faci l i tati ng t he formati on of
meshworks of compl ementary economi c fu ncti ons, the computers created
i n i ndustri al hi nterl ands coul d al l ow u rban centers to recover t he ri ch
97
I: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
nonl i near dynami cs of earl i er producti on methods, such as i mport-su bsti ­
tuti on dynami cs.
I f somet hi ng l i ke t hi s were to happen, these regi ons woul d si mpl y be
repayi ng a very ol d debt to ci ti es. I ndustri al hi nter l ands have al ways
emerged i n cl ose con necti on with dynami c u rban centers, spawned a nd
nouri shed by ci ti es and towns enj oyi ng some ki nd of posi ti ve feedback
from t hei r aggl omerati on of ski l l s and economi c fu ncti ons. Ci ti es that
served mostl y as admi ni strati ve centers, wi th more command t han mar­
ket components, di d not ani mate acti ve i ndustri al regi ons beyond t hei r
borders. London, Amsterdam, Pari s, Los Angel es, New York, Sao Pau l o,
Si ngapore, and Seoul di d, whi l e Madri d, Li sbon , Atl a nta, Buenos Ai res,
Mani l a, and Canton di d not. Accordi ng to J acobs, the l atter l acked t he
vol at i l ity i n trade and the dynami sm of smal l - producer networks needed
to i nfuse l i fe i nto a ci ty's regi ons, as opposed to merel y expl oi ti ng t hem
as resou rce depots.
I
n
Needl ess to say, computers wi l l not magi cal l y produce a q ui ck tech no­
l ogi cal fi x to u rban probl ems. For one t hi ng, they may sti l l evol ve i n the
di recti on of routi n i zati on, fu rther erodi ng the combi natori al ri chness of
knowl edge and maki ng fl ows of i nformati on ever more ster i l e. The di gi tal
revol ut i on shoul d be t hought of as one more el ement added to a compl ex
mi x, fu l l y coexi sti ng wi th ol der components (energeti c and materi al ), not
al l of whi ch have been l eft i n the past. I n ot her words, di gi tal machi nery
is si mpl y a new node that has been grafted on t he expandi ng autocat­
al yti c l oop. Far from havi ng brought soci ety to a new stage of i ts devel op­
ment, t he i nformati on stage, computers have si mpl y i ntensi fi ed the fl ow
of knowl edge, a fl ow whi ch, l i ke any ot her catal yst, sti l l needs matter and
energy fl ows to be effecti ve.
There i s one fi nal i nsti tuti onal devel opment that needs to be men­
t i oned here: the transnati onal corporati on. Al t hough government a nd mi l ­
i tary i nsti tuti ons evol ved si de by si de wi th bi g busi ness, formi ng a tr ue
meshwor k of hi erarchi es, a recent i ntensi fi cati o n of t he mobi l i ty t hat has
al ways characteri zed anti markets has al l owed them to transcend nati onal
bou ndari es and hence thei r i nterl ocki ng rel ati onshi ps wi t h the state.
(Transnati onal corporati ons are not a new phenomenon, but they used to
form a smal l fracti on of the total popu l ati on of u rba n fi rms. ) The routi n­
i zati on of producti on and the i nternal i zati on of markets are now carri ed
on at a gl obal l evel , whi l e powerful computers al l ow the central i zed con­
trol of geographi cal l y di spersed acti vi ti es. Accordi ng to some anal ysts,
the i nternati onal i zati on of anti market i nsti tuti ons (or at l east the i ntensi fi ­
cati on of thi s process) was i ndeed brought about by advances i n the sci ­
ence of central i zati on (for exampl e, i n operati ons research, whi ch was
98
G£OLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
devel oped by the mi l i tary du ri ng Worl d War I I ) and by the use of l arge
computers to coordi nate and moni tor compl i ance wi th ce ntral pl ans. 17
8
I n t hi s way, many corporati ons have now become tru l y i ndependent of
any parti cul ar cou ntry, much as decades ago t hey became i ndependent
of ci ti es. I ndeed, nati on-states have become obstacl es for the expa nsi on
of anti market i nsti tuti ons, si nce the achi evement of economi es of scal e
at an i nternati onal l evel demands t he destructi on of t he regu l ati ons wi th
whi ch i ndependent cou ntri es attempt to control the fl ows of money,
goods, and i n formati on across nati onal borders.
Despi te t he fact that meshwork-generati ng processes are acti ve today
in several parts of t he gl obe, hi erarchi cal structu res enj oy a commandi ng,
two- or th ree- hundred-year l ead, whi ch coul d very wel l deci de the i ssue,
parti cul arl y now t hat processes of homogeni zati on have become i nter­
nati onal . But even if the futu re tu rns out to bel ong to hi erarchi es, t hi s wi l l
not occu r because a " l aw of capi tal i sm" somehow determi ned t he out­
come from above. Hu man hi story i s a narrati ve of conti ngenci es, not
necessi ti es, of mi ssed opportu n i ti es to fol l ow di fferent routes of devel op­
ment, not of a u n i l i near successi on of ways to convert energy, matter,
and i nformati on i nto cu l tu ral products. I f command structu res end u p
prevai l i ng over sel f- organi zed ones, t hi s i tsel f wi l l be a conti ngent hi stori ­
cal fact i n need of expl anati on i n concrete hi stori cal terms. I have al ready
suggested here that a mu l ti pl i city of i nsti tuti ons (economi c, pol i ti cal , a nd
mi l i tary) wi l l enter i nto t hi s expl anati on. A more detai l ed anal ysi s of the
process th rough whi ch homogeni zi ng forces came to overwhel m t hose
promoti ng heterogeni zati on wi l l i n fact i nvol ve a wi der vari ety of orga ni za­
ti ons ( i ncl udi ng school s, hospi tal s, and pri sons).
I n the next chapter, we wi l l expl ore ot her aspects of the accumu l ati on
of hi erarchi cal str uctu res wi t hi n t he Eu ropean a nd Ameri can exoskel eton .
Exami n i ng the rol e that t hese i nsti tuti ons pl ayed wi l l al l ow us to put some
fl esh on t he bare bones of our accou nt of Wester n i nsti tuti onal and u rban
hi story.
99
C
æ
Biological History:
1000-1700 A. D.
I n t he eyes of many h u man
bei ngs, l i fe appears to be a
u ni que and speci al phenome­
non . There i s, of cou rse, some
trut h to t hi s bel i ef, si nce no
ot her pl anet i s known to bear
a ri ch and compl ex bi osphere.
However t hi s vi ew betrays an
"organ i c chauvi n i sm" t hat
l eads us to u nderest i mate t he
vi tal i ty of t he processes of sel f­
organ i zat i on i n other spheres
103
2: FLESH AND GENES
of real i ty. I t ca n a l so make us forget t hat,
despi te t he many di fferences between t hem,
l i vi ng creatu res and t hei r i norgan i c counter­
pa rts share a cr uci al dependence on i ntense
fl ows of energy and materi al s . I n many
respects t he ci rcu l at i on is what matters, not
t he part i cu l ar for ms t hat i t causes to emerge.
As t he bi ogeogra pher I a n G. Si mmons puts
i t, " The f l ows of energy and mi neral n ut r i ­
ents th rough an ecosystem man i fest t hem­
sel ves as act u a l a n i mal s and pl a nts of a pa r­
t i cu l ar speci es ." l Ou r orga n i c bod i es are, i n
t h i s sense, not h i ng but temporary coagu l a­
t i ons i n t hese f l ows : we captu re i n ou r bod i es
a certai n port i on of t he f l ow at bi rt h , t hen
re l ease i t aga i n when we di e and mi cro­
organ i sms t ra nsform us i nto a new batch of
raw materi al s.
The mai n form of matter- energy f l ow i n
t h e bi osph ere i s t he ci rcu l at i on of f l esh i n
food chai ns. Fl es h , or " bi omass;' ci rcu l ates
cont i n u ousl y from pl a nts to her bi vores,
and from herbi vores to car n i vores, gi vi ng t he
ecosyst em i ts stabi l i ty and res i l i ence . (Thi s
bas i c food cha i n i s i n rea l i ty on l y one among
severa l , for mi ng a system of i nterl ock i ng
cha i ns referred to as a "food web." ) The fou n-
104
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A.D.
dati on of any food web is its pl ants, whi ch
" bi te" i nto t he st ream of sol ar rad i at i on ,
ca ptu r i ng some of i t as suga rs by means of
photosynt hesi s . Pl ants a re t he on l y non para­
si t i c creat u res i n an ecosystem, i ts pr i mary
prod ucers, wh i l e t he a n i mal s who eat f l esh
( pl ant or a n i ma l ) are mere consumers . The
compl ex mi crof l ora and n1 i crofau na t hat
process t he ecosystem's waste are as i mpor­
tant as pl ant s, si nce t hese orga n i sms rem­
i nera l i ze and rei nj ect dead pl ant a n d a n i ma l
bodi es back i nto t he web. 2 Compa red to
pl a nts and mi croorga n i sms, " h i gher" an i mal s
are j ust fa ncy decorat i ons i n an ecosystem,
consu mi ng a n d tra nsformi ng bi omass wi t h
decreasi ng eff i ci ency as t hei r si ze i ncreases. 3
For t h i s reason , t he emergence of an eco­
system i s typi ca l l y descri bed as a succession
of plant assemblages t hat i nteract wi t h each
ot her, passi ng t h rou gh severa l sta bl e states
u nt i l t hey reach a " cl i max." A temperate for­
est, of t he type t hat characteri zes t he E u ro­
pean cont i nent, for exampl e, begi ns as a n
assembl age of l i chen and moss, fol l owed by
scru bby bi rch and aspen , t hen pi ne forest,
a nd f i n a l l y a matu re oa k, l i me, el m, and beech
forest . 4 Al t hough i t may appea r ot herwi se,
105
2: FESH AND GENES
t hi s process of successi on does not have the cl i max state as i ts goal .
Rather, the emergence of an ecosystem i s a bl i nd gropi ng from sta bl e
state to stabl e state i n whi ch each pl ant assembl age creates the condi ­
ti ons that stabi l i ze the next one. A vari ety of hi stori cal constrai nts (e ner­
geti c, materi al , dynami cal ) deter mi ne at some poi nt t hat t here is no
ot her stabl e state attai nabl e from the cu rrent one, and so t he process
cl i maxes. Thi s i s, of cou rse, j ust anot her exampl e of a meshwork of
heterogeneous el ements evol vi ng by dri ft. A more rea l i sti c model of t hi s
meshwork wou l d have to i ncl ude mi croorgani sms, t he myri ad i nsects
and ot her smal l an i mal s that pl ay key rol es in the fl ow of bi omass, and
even some "decorati ve" l arge predators, l i ke ti gers, wol ves, or earl y
hu mans.
Thi s secti on expl ores the rel ati onshi ps between med i eval ci ti es and
towns and t he ecosystem i n whi ch they grew-not onl y t he forests they
devou red as they prol i ferated but al so al l the ot her i nteracti ons they
mai ntai ned wit h bi ol ogi cal enti ti es, especi al l y mi croo rga ni sms. Here we
wi l l argue t hat even t hough pl ants were i n a way su bmi tted to t he control
of the towns, mi crobes resi sted control much l onger (i f i ndeed we can
say that anti bi oti cs have fi nal l y brought them u nder our command, whi ch
may not be quite t r ue). And t hen, of course, we must consi der that ot her
uncontrol l abl e el ement of ecosystems, the cl i mate. Bot h i nfecti ous di s­
eases and cha ngi ng weather patterns pl ayed a great rol e in ur ban hi story,
maki ng epi demi cs and fami nes part of the "bi ol ogi cal regi me" t hat domi ­
nated u rban and rural l i fe unt i l the ei ghteenth centu ry.
From a di fferent pe rspecti ve, ci ti es and towns may t hemsel ves be
consi dered ecosystems, at l east to the extent that bi omass ci rcu l ates
t hrough t hem to feed t hei r i n habi tants. The di agram of t hi s ci rcul ati on,
however, must i ncl ude processes occu rri ng outsi de ci ti es and towns
because u r ban centers have al ways depended on thei r cou ntrysi des for
food. I n human-made ecosystems, the i nhabi tants of the su rrou ndi ng vi l ­
l ages are the pr i mary producers whi l e ci ty dwel l ers, despi te thei r cul t ural
sophi sti cati on, are mere co nsu mers. Mo reover, t hi s parasi ti c rel ati onshi p
can be reproduced a t a l arger scal e. I n the earl y si xteenth centu ry, fo r
exampl e, as ci ti es grew and devel oped trade l i nks wi th one another, t hei r
food bega n t o fl ow from ever remoter su ppl y zones. Fi rst eastern Europe
was t ransformed i nto a vast "cou ntrysi de" for the u r ban compl ex to i ts
west, t hen Ameri ca and ot her forei gn l ands were converted i nto resou rce
depots to feed western Eu ropean ci ti es.
Thus, ours wi l l be a dual story, one traci ng our bi ol ogi cal connecti ons to
nonhu man l i fe, t he ot her descri bi ng the grad ual conversi on of t he worl d
i nto a suppl y regi on to fuel European u rban growt h . We begi n by di s-
106
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
cussi ng the pri nci pal di fference between natural a nd u rban ecosystems:
thei r degree of homogene ity and heterogenei ty.
Ecol ogi sts have l earned from t hei r empi ri cal study of ecosystems t h at
t here is a close rel ati onshi p between stabi l i ty and the degree of speci es
heteroge neity i n a food web. However, the nature of the co nnecti on
between the two i s not yet fu l l y understood. I n t he ea rl y seventi es, some
mathemati cal model s of ecosystems suggested that t here may not even
be a connecti on: webs of randomly assembled speci es tended to become
more unsta bl e as new speci es were added; di versity bred i nsta bi l i ty.
However, al l that t hose model s proved was that real ecosystems are not
ra ndom assembl ages of speci es, but sel f-orga ni zed meshworks i n whi ch
speci es are i nte rconnected by t hei r fu ncti onal compl ementari ti es: prey
and predator, host and parasi te. 5 Accordi ng to one ecol ogi st, heterogene­
ity endows these mes hworks not so much wi th stabi l ity (t he capaci ty to
mai nt ai n a state wi th rel ati vely mi nor i nter nal fl uctuati ons) as wi th resi l i ­
ence (the ca paci ty to absorb maj or external and i nte rnal fl uctu ati ons by
switchi ng between several al ternati ve stabl e states).
6
Conti nental forests
are an exampl e of these resi l i ent webs of i nterl ocked speci es. I sl ands
fa r from the mai nl and, on the other hand, are more homogeneous and
l ess capabl e of absorbi ng shocks and may be drasti cal l y desta bi l i zed by
a sudden i nfl ux of a new speci es.
The ci ti es t hat bega n mul ti pl yi ng i n Europe at the begi n n i ng of the
mi l l en n i u m were l i ke so many i sl ands i n the mi ddl e of a l arge temperate
forest i n its cl i max state, domi nated by oaks and el ms. Ci ti es are l i ke
i sl ands i n two di fferent ways. I n terms of cl i mate, ci ti es are " heat
i sl ands, " sepa rated from t hei r cou nt rysi des by a shar p di fference i n tem­
perat ureJ La rge fu rn aces and machi nes t hat emi t heat, a mi neral i nfra­
structu re that stores heat from the su n and then rel eases i t at ni ght, and
l ow evapotranspi rati on are among the factors that contri bute to maki ng
l arge ci ti es concentrati ons of waste energy. I n medi eval ti mes, of cou rse,
onl y a few regi onal capi tal s and gateway ports (i f any) had mi neral i zed
and i ndustri al i zed enough to become heat i sl ands. But al l medi eval towns
bi g and smal l were i sl ands i n anot her respect: t hei r l ow degree of speci es
heterogeneity. A typi cal medi eval town can be descri bed as a ti ghtl y
packed assembl age of hu mans, a few speci es of ani mal s and pl ants, and ,
as one wri ter has put i t, "a l umpen-prol eta ri at of i nsects. "8
Beca use towns are necessari l y parasi ti c on thei r r ural surroundi ngs,
u r ban ecosystems encompass more t han what is fou nd i nsi de thei r wal l s.
A town wi th t hree t housand i n habi ta nts, a medi um-si zed town i n t he
Mi ddl e Ages, needed t o control t he l ands of at l east t en vi l l ages arou nd i t
(an area of approxi matel y fi ve sq uare mi l es) to ensu re a constant su ppl y
107
2: FESH AND GENES
of edi bl e bi omass. Thus, al though den si ty of popu l ati on is the cri teri on
normal l y used to defi ne an urba n center, Fer nand Braudel argues that the
di vi si on of l abor between food prod ucers and consumers (a nd the power
needed to i mpose and mai ntai n i t) i s the true defi n i ng trai t of ur ban l i fe. 9
We shoul d not i magi ne, however, that the medi eval di sti ncti o n between
the urban and the ru ral was as sharp as i t i s today. "Even the l arge towns
conti nued to engage i n ru ral acti vi ti es up to the ei ghteenth centu ry. I n
the West t hey the refore housed shepherds, game keepers, agri cul tu ral
workers and vi negrowe rs (even i n Pa ri s). Every town ge neral l y owned a
surroundi ng area of gardens and orchards i nsi de and outsi de its wal l s . . . .
I n the mi ddl e ages the noi se of the fl ai l coul d be heard ri ght up to the
Rat haus i n Ul m, Augs burg and Nuremburg. Pi gs we re reared i n freedom
i n the streets. "l
0
The mai n characte ri sti c of an ur ba n ecosystem is i ts homoge nei ty:
human bei ngs shorten all food chains i n the we b, el i mi nate most i nterme­
di ari es and focus al l bi omass fl ows on themsel ves. ll Whe never an out­
si de speci es tri es to i nsert i tsel f i nto one of these chai ns, to st
a
the
process of compl exi fi cati on agai n, i t i s ruthl essl y expu nged as a "weed"
(a term t hat i ncl udes "ani mal weeds" such as rats and mi ce). Medi eva l
towns were, i n thi s respect, no exce pti on . Moreove r, the agri cul t ural l ands
that fed these towns we re themsel ves si mpl i fi cati ons of the forests they
had repl aced. When a pi ece of forest was cl eared to create arabl e l and,
an assembl age of pl a nts i n i ts cl i max state was dri ven back t o its very
fi rst state of successi on, its speci es composi ti on homogeni zed and its
energy and nutri e nts redi rected toward a si ngl e ce nte r. (Yet, for the same
reason , i t was transfor med i nto a pl ace where pl ant speci es wi t h "oppor­
tun i sti c" re producti ve strategi es [i . e. , weeds] coul d mul ti pl y.)
The same hel d true wi th respect to ani mal s. Seve ral domesti cated
speci es (pi gs, cattl e, goats) may be consi dered biomass converters, whi ch
ai d t he process of shorte ni ng and redi recti ng food chai ns. For exa mpl e,
cattl e and goats transform i ndi gesti bl e bi omass (l eaves, grass, sprouts)
i nto edi bl e fl es h and mi l k. Pi gs are even more effi ci e nt converters (one­
fi fth of the carbohydrates they eat are transformed i nto protei n), but they
feed mostl y on sources that are al so su itabl e for human consumpti on . 12
They can nevert he l ess serve as l i vi ng storage devi ces for unpredi cted
surpl uses. Toget her, humans and t hei r "extended fami ly" of domesti cates,
as the hi stori an Al fred Crosby cal l s i t, tra nsformed a hete rogeneous mesh­
work of speci es (a tempe rate forest) i nto a homoge neous hi e ra rchy, si nce
al l bi omass now fl owed towa rd a si ngl e poi nt at the top. I n a sense, a
compl ex food web was repl aced by a si mpl i fi ed food pyrami d, at l east i n
those areas where urba ni zati o n had tri u mphed.
108
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A.D.
Thi s homogeni zati on, howeve r, had to be mai ntai ned through the sheer
wei ght of h uman nu mbers. Whe never the human popul ati on decl i ned, the
ani mal s and pl a nts that were excl uded from the urban ecosystem made
a come back. Roughl y speaki ng, Europe's popu l ati on i ncreased betwee n
1100 and 1350 and between 1450 and 1650; it decl i ned betwee n 1350
and 1450 and agai n between 1650 and 1750. I n the peri ods of decl i ne,
h umans had t o struggl e t o kee p thei r pl ace at t he t op of the pyrami d:
The whol e of Europe, from t he Ural s to t he Strai ts of Gi bral tar, was the
domai n of wol ves, and bears roamed i n al l i ts mou ntai ns. The omni pres­
ence of wolves and the atte nti on they aroused make wol f- hunti ng an i ndex
of the hea l th of the cou ntrysi de, and even of the towns, and of the charac­
ter of the year gone by. A momentary i nattenti on, an economi c set back,
a rough wi nter, and they mu l ti pl i ed. I n 1420 packs entered Pari s through
a breach i n the ramparts or unguarded gates. They were there agai n i n
September 1438, attacki ng peopl e thi s ti me outsi de the town, between
Montmartre and the Sai nt-Antoi ne gate .
1
3
Large predators conti nued t hei r vi si tati ons unti l the end of the ei gh­
teenth ce ntu ry, by whi ch ti me human hu nters had nea rl y dri ven them to
exti ncti on . And yet they we re not the onl y speci es for whom human
bei ngs we re a food sou rce. Of greate r i mportance, and of more enduri ng
i nfl uence, were t he " mi cropredators, " the di seases that ate human fl esh
from wi t hi n. Co ntagi ous di seases and thei r hosts for m compl ex, nonl i nea r
dynami cal systems wi th several possi bl e states. When the popu l ati o n of
hosts is i nsuffi ci e nt, or i nsuffi ci e ntl y packed, maki ng contagi on di ffi cul t
for the mi croorgani sm, the dynami cal system ente rs an unstabl e state
cal l ed "epi demi c, " and the popul ati on of germs grows expl osi vel y unti l i t
bur ns out i ts human fu el . When, on the contrary, overal l popul ati on and
popul ati o n densi ty are beyo nd a cri ti cal t hreshol d, so that t here i s al ways
a fresh supply of fl es h for the parasi tes to i nfect (typi cal l y smal l chi l dren) ,
after a few epi demi cs the dynami cal system stabi l i zes i nto what i s cal l ed
an "endemi c" state. Hu man su rvi vors of the di sease become i mmune,
the mi croorga ni sms l ose some of thei r vi rul ence and mi crobe and host
ente r i nto a state of mutual accommodati on. I n Wi l l i am McNei l l 's words:
Onl y i n commun i ti es of several thousand persons, where encounters wi th
ot hers attai n suffi ci ent frequency to al low i nfecti on to spread unceasi ngly
from one i ndi vi dual to another, ca n such di seases persi st. These communi ­
ti es are what we cal l ci vi l ized : l arge, compl exly organ i zed, densely popu­
l ated, and wi thout excepti on di rected and domi nated by ci ti es. I nfecti ous
109
2: FLESH AND GENES
bacteri al and vi ral di seases that pass di rectly from human to human wi th
no i ntermedi ate host are therefore the di seases of ci vi l i zati on par excel ­
l ence: the pecul i ar hal l mark and bu rden of ci ti es and of countrysi de i n con­
tact wi th ci ti es. They are fami l i ar to al most al l contemporary humanki nd as
the ordi nary di seases of chi l d hood: measl es, mumps, whoopi ng cough,
smal l pox and the rest
. . " Most and probably al l of the di sti nctive i nfecti ous
di seases of ci vi l i zati on transferred to human popu l ati ons from ani mal
herds. Contacts were cl oser wi th the domesti cated speci es, so it i s not sur­
pri si ng to fi nd that many of our common i nfecti ous di seases have recogniz­
abl e affi ni ti es wi th one or another di sease affl i cti ng domesti cated ani mal s.
Measl es, for exampl e, i s probably rel ated to ri nderpest and/or cani ne di s­
temper; smal l pox i s certai nl y connected cl osel y wi th cowpox . . . i nfl uenza is
shared by humans and hogS. I4
Medi eval ci ti es, wi th t hei r i nti mate packi ng of domesti cated ani mal s
and h umans, were veri tabl e "epi demi ol ogi cal l aboratori es. " They offered
certai n mi croorgan i sms the perfect habi tat i n whi ch to evol ve novel vari ­
ants. Si nce t hei r very exi stence woul d go u n recogni zed for many centu ri es,
thi s cruci al component of u rban ecosystems was effecti vel y outsi de of
human control . Al though quaranti ne measures exi sted i n Europe si nce
the fi fteenth centu ry, most cul t ur al accommodat i ons to i nfecti ous di sease
were habi ts a nd rout i nes that devel oped wi t hout a consci ous pl an, by tri al
and e rror. These were, i n a sense, cul t ural materi al s t hat accumul ated
u nconsci ousl y, sorted out by the pressure of the parasi tes themsel ves.
Hence, germs a nd h u mans formed a meshwork, coevol vi ng t hrough dri ft,
i n stark contrast wi t h the rest of t he food hi erarchy at the servi ce of
u rban cul tu re.
I t i s easy to di scou nt t he i mportance of energy a nd n utri ent fl ows by
u ndul y emphasi zi ng t he cul tu ral el ements that i nevi tabl y fl ow al ongsi de
them. For exampl e, Cl aude Levi -Strauss poi nted out decades ago t hat bi o­
mass does not e nter human soci ety i n its "natu ral " state: it is at the very
l east processed t hrough t he "ci vi l i zi ng" power of fi re. I n t ur n, the di ffer­
e nce between raw a nd cooked bi omass becomes a l argel y symbol i c oppo­
si ti on, appropri ated by myth and l egend. I5 Cul tu re al so regu l ates the
fl ow of fl es h , di sti ngui sh i ng between taboo, sacred, a nd everyday foods.
The i ncreasi ng el aborati on of sauces and compl ex di shes whi ch began i n
Eu rope i n t he fi fteenth century (and i n Ch i na and I sl am much earl i er)
added more and more l ayers of cu l tu re to the ci rcul ati on of raw matter­
energy. However, t hese cul tu ral addi ti ves, i mporta nt as t hey were, shoul d
not bl i nd us to t he fact t hat u l ti matel y i t was sti l l t he nutritional value of
t he fl ow t hat mattered. Not hi ng serves better to remi nd us of thi s fact
110
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
t han the recu rrent fami nes t hat pl agued Europe and ot her conti nents,
not on l y i n medi eval ti mes but u nti l the very eve of the I ndustri al Revol u­
ti on . I n extreme cases, peopl e woul d not onl y eat bi omass that had not
been cul tu ral l y sancti oned (such as grass, bark, or even soi l ), but, more
i mportantly, they woul d break t he most powerfu l of al i mentary taboos
and eat h u man fl es h.
Fami ne recurred so i nsistently for centu ries on end that i t became i ncorpo­
rated i nto man's bi ol ogi cal regi me and bui l t i nto hi s dai l y l i fe. Dearth and
penury were conti nual and fami l i ar even i n Europe, despite its pri vi l eged
posi ti on. A few overfed ri ch do not al ter the rul e. I t coul d not have been
otherwise. Cereal yi el ds were poor; two consecutive bad harvests spel l ed
d i saster . . . . For these and other reasons fami ne onl y di sappeared from the
West at the cl ose of the ei ghteenth century, or even l ater . ¤ . . A pri vi l eged
country l i ke France i s sai d to have experi enced 1 0 general fami nes duri ng
the tenth centu ry; 26 in the el eventh; 2 in the twel fth; 4 in the fourteenth;
7 i n the fifteenth; 13 i n the sixteenth; 11 i n the seventeenth and 16 i n the
ei ghteenth. We obvi ousl y offered thi s eighteenth centu ry summary without
guarantee as to its accuracy: the onl y ri sk i t runs is of over-opti mi sm,
because it omits the hundreds and hundreds of l ocal fami nes. 16
Fami nes and epi demi cs were two bi ol ogi cal phenomena t hat competed
i n i mportance wi t h the pu rely cul tural phenomena of the t i mes. Cul tu re
i s not a compl etel y separate sphere of real i ty, but i nstead mi xes and
bl ends wi th fl ows of organi c ( and even mi neral ) materi al s. So far we h ave
emphasi zed only one of t hese orga ni c fl ows -bi omass -but of equal
i mporta nce i s the fl ow of geneti c materi al s t hrough generati ons. Wi t hout
thi s fl ow, orga ni zed fl esh woul d exi st i n forms as ephemeral as h u rri canes
(and other nonorga ni c sel f-organi zed enti ti es), and, moreover, i t coul d not
evol ve. Si nce evol ut i onary processes far exceed t he l i fe span of i ndi vi du­
al s, any si gni fi cant accumul ati on of adapti ve trai ts requ i res geneti c mate­
ri al s to be regi stered and stored.
I n t h e vi ew whi ch domi nated t h e West for two mi l l en n i a t h e trai ts t hat
defi ne a gi ven speci es were necessari l y ti ed toget her for al l ti me si nce
they were expressi ons of a n eter nal essence. Today we know that t here i s
not hi ng necessary about th ese accumul ati ons. Speci es a re h i stori cal con­
structi ons, thei r defi n i ng trai ts a pu rel y conti ngent col l ecti on assembl ed
by means of sel ecti on pressures, whi ch act as a geneti c sorti ng process.
I n a very real sense, much as our bodi es a re tempora ry coagul ati ons i n
the fl ow o f bi omass, t hey a re al so passi ng constructi ons i n the fl ow of
geneti c materi al s. As Ri chard Dawki ns has put i t, pl ants and a ni mal s a re
111
2: FESH AND GENES
merel y "su rvi val machi nes" that have been bui l t to house and perpetuate
the fl ow of genes, or repl i cators:
Repl i cators began not merel y to exi st, but to construct for themsel ves con­
tai ners, vehi cl es for thei r conti nued exi stence. The repl i cators that survi ved
were the ones that bui l t survi val machi nes for themsel ves to l i ve i n . . . .
Now they swarm i n huge col oni es, safe i nsi de giganti c l umberi ng robots,
seal ed off from the outsi de worl d, communi cati ng wi th i t by tortuous, i ndi ­
rect routes, mani pul ati ng it by remote control Y
For the bi ogeographer, t he fl ow of bi omass t hrough food webs i s
paramou nt; for the evol uti onary bi ol ogi st, the fl ow of genes t hrough gen­
erati ons i s what matters chi efly. I t i s cl ear, however, t hat t he bodi es of
ani mal s and pl ants are transi ent aggl omerati ons of materi al s deri ved
from bot h of t hese fl ows, and not onl y for the obvi ous reason that l i vi ng
creatu res must eat (and avoi d bei ng eaten) to successfu l l y reproduce.
A more fu ndamental reason i s that th e very structu ral and fu ncti onal
properti es of t hese bodi es can not be expl ai ned in terms of geneti c mate­
ri al s al one. Between the i nformati on coded i nto genes and the adapti ve
trai ts of a pl ant or ani mal (i . e. , between genotype and phenotype),
there are several l ayers of sel f- organi zi ng processes, each sustai ned by
endogenously generated stabl e states, themsel ves the prod uct of matter­
energy fl ow. Genes are not a bl uepr i nt for the generati on of organi c
structu re and fu nct i on, an i dea i mpl yi ng that geneti c materi al s predefi ne
a form t hat i s i mposed on a passi ve fl esh. Rather, genes and thei r prod­
ucts act as constrai nts on a vari ety of processes that spontaneousl y
generate order, i n a way teasing out a form from acti ve (and morpho­
geneti cal l y pregnant) fl esh.
18
Unl i ke an ecosystem, whi ch is a meshwork of hi ghl y heterogeneous
el ements, t he gene pool of a speci es may be seen as a hi erarchy of
homogeneous el ements. As the physi ci st Howard Pattee has argued, the
cruci al fu ncti on of genes i s to force i ndi vi dual mol ecu l es wi t hi n a cel l to
obey t he cel l i tsel f, and si mi l arl y for i ndi vi dual cel l s i n a ti ssue, i ndi vi dual
ti ssues i n an organ , and i ndi vi du al organs i n an organi sm. At each ran k
of t h e hi erarchy, t h e genes' pu rpose i s t o constrai n t h e l ower l evel to
behave i n ways determi ned by t he i mmedi atel y u pper l evel . 19 If we i mag­
i ne a case i n whi ch t he sel ecti on pressu res on a speci es have had the
ti me and opport unity to work themsel ves out (i . e. , to el i mi nate many
genes from t he pool and dri ve others to fi xati on), t he resu l ta nt speci es
wi l l i ndeed be a very homogeneous entity.
20
Of cou rse, i n real ity most
speci es retai n a degree of heterogeneity, parti cul arl y if t he sel ect i ng envi -
112
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
ron ment i s i tsel f heterogeneous i n ti me or space. Besi des, a total ly homo­
geneous speci es wou l d be i ncapabl e of evol vi ng, si nce natu ral sel ecti on
requi res vari ati on i n t he gene pool as i ts raw materi al . Neverthel ess, co m­
pared to ecosystems, t he gene pool of a speci es may be seen a
s
a struc­
t ure wi th more command el ements i n i ts mi x.
Al though hi ghl y homogeneous, t he gene pool of t he human speci es i s
sti l l vari abl e due to t he l arge vari ety of ecosystems t hat h umans have col ­
o ni zed, as wel l as to cu l tural taboos agai nst i nterraci al marri age. How­
ever, whatever heterogenei ty remai ns i n t he human gene pool affects o n ly
our outward appearance a nd has l i ttl e adapti ve val ue, wi t h some excep­
ti ons. For exampl e, i n nort her n Europe duri ng the Mi ddl e Ages, t here was
a gene codi ng for an enzyme that al l owed adul t huma ns to di gest raw
mi l k. El sewhere, i n t he popul ati ons of Chi na a nd I sl am, for i nstance, t he
gen e di d not exi st, so mi l k had to be cul tu ral l y processed (tra nsformed
i nto cheese or yogu rt) before i t coul d be di gested. Another gene, whi ch
was di stri buted t o some degree al ong the Medi terranean but was much
more preval ent on t he west coast of Afri ca, al l owed i t s human carri ers to
resi st " bei ng di gested" by mal ari al parasi tes.
21
Most human trai ts are n ot, of cou rse, determi ned by a si ngl e gene.
Ski n col or, for i nstance, i nvol ves several genes (or more techni cal ly, pai rs
of al l el es, al te rnati ve genes for t he same posi ti on i n a chromosome).
More i mportantl y, most of t he genes that aren' t common to al l human
commu n i ti es defi ne l i teral l y superfi ci al trai ts: ski n col or, hai r for m, body
shape, and stat ure. Despi te the fact that these trai ts may have some
adapti ve si gni fi cance, t he real i mportance of t hi s heterogeneous "outer
shel l " i s our use of i t as a basi s for cul t ural di fferenti ati on and raci al
stereotypi ng. Trul y obj ecti ve anal ysi S (obj ecti ve, that i s, i n compari son to
t he cari catu res of obj ecti vity t hat Soci al Darwi n i sts and eugeni ci sts have
gi ven us) of the geneti c makeup of the body as a whol e reveal s a star k
geneti c homogenei ty. I nteresti ngly, t he geneti c vari ati on among i ndi vi du­
al s of a parti cul ar race i s greater t han t he vari ati on between races:
Of al l geneti c vari ati on, 85% i s between i ndi vi dual peopl e wi t hi n a nati on
or tri be . . . . The remai ni ng vari ati on is spl i t evenl y between vari ati on
between nati ons wi thi n a race and vari ati on between one maj or race and
another. To put the matter crudel y, i f after a great catacl ysm, onl y Afri cans
were l eft al i ve, the human speci es woul d have retai ned 93% of i ts total
geneti c vari ati on, al though the speci es as a whol e woul d be darker ski nned .
I f the catacl ysm were even more extreme a n d onl y the Xhosa peopl e o f the
southern ti p of Afri ca survi ved, the human speci es woul d sti l l retai n 80% of
i ts geneti c vari ati on.
22
113
2: FESH AND GENES
The genes t hat defi ne t he "outer shel l " (as wel l as those few that
i nvol ve bi ol ogi cal l y i mporta nt fu ncti ons, such as resi sta nce to mal ari a or
the abi l i ty to di gest raw mi l k) evol ved i n hi stori cal ti mes, whi ch proves
that the human gene pool i s sti l l changi ng. But t hi s ki nd of change ("geo­
l ogi cal l y" sl ow cha nge) has not pl ayed the central rol e in the dynami cs of
the human gene pool . That honor i s reserved for l arge mi gratory move­
ments that mi xed hi therto sepa rate popu l ati ons. For exampl e, the medi ­
eva l di st ri buti on of bl ood types owed more to anci ent mi grations t han to
natural or cul t ural sel ecti on.
23
From the geneti c perspecti ve, the causes
of human mi grati on (a fami ne, for i nst ance) are l ess i mportant t han i ts
effects: the homogeni zi ng or heterogeni zi ng conseq uences of i njecti ng
DNA from one l ocal gene pool i nto another. " Mi grati on i s of the greatest
geneti c rel evance. I t i s the vehi cl e for the mecha ni sm of evol uti on that
-
today is produci ng the greatest evol uti onary effect, al l owi ng the i ncorpo­
rati on of new genes i nto esta bl i shed ge ne pool s, en hanci ng i ntrapopu l a­
ti on and reduci ng i nterpopul ati on vari abi l ity. "24
When human mi grati on is not a movement i nto previ ousl y empty space,
i t i nvol ves the i nvasi on of ot her peopl e's l ands. I n t er ms of i t s effects on
the l ocal gene pool , we may di sti ngui sh t hose cases i nvol vi ng the exter­
mi nati on of the l ocal popu l ati on ( and hence a repl acerlent of one gene
pool by a not her) from those where t he ai m i s to su bj ugate the l ocal s and
use t hem as a workforce. I n t hi s second case t here i s coexi stence between
grou ps, whi ch al l ows a smal l tri ckl e of genes t o pass between the two
groups, despi te the soci al barri ers separati ng one pool from anot her.
Thi s geneti c exchange typi cal l y occu rs from the conqueror's to t he con­
quered's pool . 25
Several i nvasi ons pl ayed i mportant rol es in shapi ng the composi ti on of
European gene pool s. Lui gi Caval l i Sforza has di scovered i n the di stri bu­
ti on of geneti c materi al s i n present-day Europe an al most ci rcul ar pattern
of some of i ts components, wi th i ts center i n the Mi ddl e East. After r ul i ng
out the hypothesi s t hat sel ecti on pressu res coul d have generated t hi s
ci rcu l ar gradi ent (t here does not seem t o have been enough t i me f or t hi s
to happen spontaneousl y), he has concl uded that it was produced by
an anci ent i nvasi on, whi ch brought agri cul tu re from its pl ace of ori gi n i n
the Fe rti l e Crescent to the European conti nent t hen i n h abi ted by popul a­
ti ons of hu nter-gatherers. The l ong- and wi del y hel d bel i ef t hat agri cul ­
t ure was i ntri nsi cal l y superi or to hu nti ng and gatheri ng, and hence that i t
had spread by the diffusion of ideas, has been l argel y refuted by recent
research.
26
The ol d way of obtai ni ng food was as effi ci ent as the new one,
so agri cul tu re coul d not have won over the Eu ropean popu l ati on beca use
of i ts i ntri nsi c superi ority; i nstead, i nvasi on and repl acement of some
114
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A.D.
local popu l ati ons pl ayed a key rol e i n spreadi ng the new economi c system
across Europe. Sforza's computer si mul ati ons, however, i ndi cate that to
generate the ci rcul ar pattern we need to al l ow some accul tu rati on of t he
remai ni ng hu nter-gatherers, i nvol vi ng both cross- marri age and adopti on
of the new technol ogy.
Al though some aspects of cu l tu re, the l east normati ve and bi ndi ng, do
travel freel y from mi nd to mi nd (and from cul tu re to cul ture), ot her aspects
more central to a soci ety seem to mi grate al ongsi de i ts genes. Accordi ng
to Sforza, l a nguages are a good exampl e of cu l tural materi al s t hat are
spread t hrough i nvasi ons. Li ngui sti c norms do not di ffuse easi l y from cul ­
t ure t o cul tu re (wi t h the excepti on of i ndi vi d ual words), so l ocal l angu ages
are easi er to ki l l by el i mi nati ng thei r spea kers t han to cha nge by l oca l
adopti on of forei gn nor ms. Another porti on of medi eval Europe's gene
pool was contri buted by I ndo-Eu ropean i nvaders who brought geneti c and
l i ngu i sti c materi al s to the conti nent and extermi nated many l ocal commu­
ni ti es and l a nguages.
Medi eval European gene pool s were al so affected by the coexi stence
of (and gene fl ow between) di fferent pool s. (The expansi on and retreat of
the Roman Empi re and the gene fl ow between Lati n and Ger mani c pool s
bel ong to thi s category, as do the genes that ar ri ved wi th the Mongol and
Moor i nvasi ons, and t hose spread by t he Jewi sh Di aspora . )
2
7 The i nten­
si ty and form of thi s gene fl ow were, i n t ur n, affected by cul tu ral i nsti tu­
ti ons: the degree to whi ch marri age occu rred outsi de the group (t he
degree of exogamy) or the di stri buti on of marri age di stances ( l onger for
u rban t han for r ural marri ages), for exampl e.
2
8 I n conseq uence of t he
vari ous patterns of mi grati on t hrough Eu rope over the mi l l enni a, the enti ­
ti es we desi gnate as " races" today are si mpl y the hi stori cal outcomes of
t hese homogeni zi ng geneti c fl ows, and raci al grou ps are di ffe renti ated
onl y by t hei r "outer shel l ":
Britons, so consci ous of t hei r race, are, i n fact, an a mal gam of t he Beaker
Fol k of the Bronze Age, the I ndo- Europea n Celts of the fi rst mi l l enni um
B. C. , t he Angl es, Saxons, Jutes, and Picts of t he fi rst mi l l en ni um A. D. , and
fi nal l y the Vi ki ngs and thei r pa rvenu grandchi l dr en, the Normans . . . .
[ Hence] the noti on that there are stabl e, pure races that on l y now are i n
danger of mixi ng u nder t he i nfl uence of modern i ndustri al cul ture i s
nonsense. There may i ndeed be endogamous groups, l argel y bi ol ogi cal ly
i sol ated by geogra phy and cul t ure from thei r neighbors, such as the
Pygmi es of the I turi Forest, but these are rare and not perfectl y i sol ated i n
any event. 29
115
2: FESH AND GENES
Another cruci al rol e mi grati on pl ays i n urban dynami cs affects l ess the
compositi on of a ci ty's gene pool than t he vi tal processes of the ci ty them­
sel ves. Medi eval towns, and i ndeed al l ci ti es up to t he l ate ni neteenth
centu ry, were not se l f-reproduci ng enti ti es. That i s, they di d not repro­
duce t hei r popu l ati on by si mpl y combi ni ng the fl ow of bi omass from the
cou ntrysi de wi th the genes that had accumul ated wi th i n t hei r wal l s. Death
rates i n u rban centers exceeded bi rt hrates for many centuri es (mortal i ty
rates among i nfants a nd the poor were especi al l y hi gh), so ci ti es were
al ways i n need of mi grants from the countrysi de. Si xteent h-century Lon­
don, for exampl e, needed about fi ve thousand ru ral mi gra nts a year. 3
0
And, of cou rse, si nce many of th ese i mmi grants were poor, thei r mortal ity
rates (and even more so, t hei r chi l dren's) i ncreased the moment they
passed t hrough the city gates, whi ch expl ai ns why towns were commonl y
referred to as "deat h traps. " "Yet towns, parti cul arly smal l er central
pl aces (as opposed to ports, proto- i ndustri al ci ti es, or great capi tal s), were
by no means al ways d eath traps . . . . I nfant mortal i ty, the key compon ent
i n normal ti mes [has been ca l cul ated to be] equal for rural areas and
smal l er market towns: 25 to 33 percent of the chi l dren up to fi ve yea rs,
as opposed to 40 percent to 50 percent i n l arger ci ti es. "31
I n the ni neteent h century, i mproved water treatment (and other sani ta­
ti on pol i ci es) and mutual adaptati on between h umans and mi croorgan i sms
began to reverse the trend and urban bi rth rates cl i mbed above death
rates. But before that (and i n many pl aces, a l ong ti me afterward) towns
were as dependent on ru ral areas for the i nfl ux of genes as t hey were for
t he i nfl ux of food. Geneti c mate ri al s from ru ral ge ne pool s di d not, of
cou rse, mi x freel y wi t h those of the ci ty's own gene pool (i . e. , the ge nes
of l egi ti mate ci ti zens of the ci ty, who coul d transmi t t hei r ri ghts and obl i g­
ati ons to t hei r progeny). Rather, the two pool s coexi sted and exchanged
smal l fl ows of genes. For i nsta nce, a typi cal way of gai n i ng ci ti zenshi p was
to marry a ci ti zen' s daughter (hence i njecti ng outsi de genes); and, of
cou rse, ci ti ze ns' genes found t hei r way i l l egi ti matel y i nto the mi gra nt pop­
ul ati on's pool .
Thi s bri ngs us t o the qu esti on of the soci al struct ure of urban centers.
So far we have descri bed urban ecosystems as pyrami ds i n whi ch short­
ened food chai ns redi rect al l energy toward the apex, but t he exi stence
of soci al cl asses i mpl i es that the apex i tsel f has a hi erarchi ca l structu re;
that i s, i t i s di vi ded i nto several niches arranged i n ran ks. Niche i s the
term used by ecol ogi sts to defi ne the posi ti on of a gi ven speci es i n a food
web. I t takes i nto consi derati on the energy used i n searchi ng out and
obtai ni ng food, as wel l as that spent i n avoi di ng bei ng eaten. Each
speci es has i ts own pecu l i ar way of performi ng these two tasks, and
116
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A.D.
these behavi oral and physi ol ogi cal adaptati ons defi ne i ts "job, " or ni che,
i n an ecosystem
.
The ecol ogi st Paul Col i nvaux has proposed th at, t o the
exte nt that di fferent soci al cl asses do not have equal access to di ffere nt
types of food (and ot her energy resources), they mi ght be sai d to be
social niches. 32 I n the Mi ddl e Ages, for i nst ance, many peasants survi ved
on a monotonous di et of bread, gruel , roots, and cooked tu be rs. They had,
i n Col i nvaux' s termi nol ogy, a very na rrow ni che. The el i tes, on the ot her
hand , whet her feudal or u rban, had access to a l arge r vari ety of food­
st uffs, i ncl udi ng l arge quanti ti es of meat and l uxury i tems (e. g. , spi ces).
They had a wi de ni che. I n rea l i ty, of cou rse, thi ngs were more compl ex
and changed ove r ti me.
Col i nvaux's general poi nt, however, seems to appl y regardl ess of ch ang­
i ng h i stori cal detai l s. He argues that , j ust as wi l d ani mal s must adj ust the
t i mi ng and quanti ty of t hei r reproducti ve output (e. g. , breedi ng season
a nd cl utch si ze) to sq uare wi th the resou rces avai l abl e to them, so, too,
must hu mans. I n parti cu l ar, he argues that there i s a cl ose rel ati onshi p
between ni che wi dth and nu mber of offspri ng. Peasants and the urban
poor, pa rti cul arly recent i mmi grants, l i ved i n a penuri ous but i nexpensi ve
narrow ni che, so t hei r reproducti ve "cal cu l ati ons" l ed t hem to concl ude
t hat they cou l d afford many chi l dren . Weal thi er cl asses, on t he other
hand, desi rous of rai si ng wi de- ni che chi l dren, "cal cu l ated" that t hey coul d
afford fewer progeny. 33
Thi s l i ne of argu ment corresponds wi th the popu l ati onal phenomenon
known as the "demographi c transi ti on": the more urbani zed a gi ven soci ­
ety, the l ower i ts ferti l i ty rate. As a general stati sti cal phenomenon, thi s
transi ti on dates to the end of the ni neteenth centu ry, but t here i s some
evi dence (from ci ti es such as Geneva and Veni ce) that weal thy cl asses i n
the West l i mi ted t hei r reproducti ve output l ong before that. "Al though
here the pi ct ure i s parti cul arl y uncertai n and compl ex, i t may be that
urban dwel l ers were t he fi rst i n l arge numbers to restri ct fami ly si ze wi th­
i n marri age, as wel l as to shape desi red fami l y si ze to economi c ci rcum­
sta nces. "3
4
Many addi ti onal factors must be brought t o bear t o make
Col i nvaux's model more real i sti c. Th e i n herent u ncertai nty of the pre­
i ndustri al u rban envi ronment, parti cu l arly the hi gh i nfant- mortal i ty rates,
made i t hard to cal cul ate even a sati sfactory fami ly si ze. Peopl e had to
produce extra chi l dren as i nsurance agai nst fami ne and di sease, and i n
the case of farmers, as potenti al economi c contri butors. Moreover, t here
were col l ecti ve mechani sms of popul ati on control :
Prei ndustri al western Europe exhi bited one stri ki ng and aberrant character­
i sti c. Whi l e popul ati on di d tend to grow i n the presence of abundant l and,
117
2: FLESH AND GENES
the rate of i ncrease al ways remai ned moderate. The ferti l ity rates, l ower
than i n other soci eti es, i ndi cate the presence of preventi ve checks to bi rths.
These checks were communal rather than i ndi vi dual , and amounted to a
European system of soci al control of ferti l i ty. The most common mode of
control i n western Europe was to i mpose soci o-economi c condi ti ons on mar­
ri age: a tenancy or gui l d membershi p for the groom, an appropri ate dowry
for the bri de. As a resul t, peopl e were often forced to marry l ate and many
remai ned si ngl e throughout l i fe because they coul d not achi eve an i ndepen­
dent s i tuati on. 35
The changi ng rol e of women i n medi eval soci ety is a nother factor that
must be added to Col i nvaux's model . Recent studi es of the demographi c
transi ti on i n modern ti mes make it i ncreasi ngl y cl ear that a wi den i ng of
women 's n i ches is as i mportant as u rbani zati on i n i nduci ng t hi s bi furca­
ti on i n the Thi rd Worl d. Women' s access to educati on, contracepti ves,
and j obs (that i s, any expansi on beyond the narrow n i che of "breeder"),
as wel l as i ncreased deci si on- maki ng power i n the process of fami l y pl an­
n i ng, i s a prerequi si te for t he transi ti on. 36 To the exte nt that women are
forced to exi st wi thi n narrow ni ches, gender di sti ncti ons are very much
l i ke cl ass or caste di sti ncti ons. That i s, reproducti ve strata ar e al so hi er­
arc hi cal struct ures, on l y on a smal l er scal e, si nce fami l i al hi erarchi es
exi st wi t hi n soci oeconomi c ones.
I n the previ ous chapter we noted t hat hi erarchy bui l di ng consi sts of
two di sti nct operati ons, a homogeni zati on performed by a sorti ng
process, fol l owed by a consol i dati on t hrough codi ng i nto l egal , rel igi ous,
or other formal regu l ati ons. Thi s i s not , of cou rse, a stri ctl y sequenti al
process: i n practi ce, even after a code has been establ i shed, new sorti ng
operati ons conti n ue, al ongsi de or even agai nst the regul ated routi nes.
Reproducti ve n i ches (or strata) may be seen as the resul t of such a h i er­
archy- bui l di ng process. The i n i ti al homogeni zati on is performed on mate­
ri al s su ppl i ed by the bi ol ogi cal substratu m. Some of the trai ts that are
gen eti cal ly deter mi ned i n a si mpl e way (raw- mi l k di gesti bi l ity, mal ari al
resi stance) exi st as sharp di chotomi es (an i ndi vi dual ei ther possesses the
trai t or does n ot), whi l e trai ts determi ned by the i nteracti on of mul ti pl e
genes (or pai rs of al l el es) form a more or l ess conti n uous stati sti cal di stri ­
buti on. The abi l ity to bear chi l dren i s of the fi rst type, whi l e most of the
secondary sexual characteri sti cs (the ones used to defi ne ge nder rol es)
are of the second type. Conseq uently, wi t h respect to the i mportant cate­
gory of secondary sexual characteri sti cs, geneti c materi al s create two
f uzzy stati sti cal di stri buti ons (one for mal es, the ot her for femal es) wi th
an area of overlap.
37
118
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
When we compare t hese overl appi ng fuzzy sets wi th cu l t u ral defi n i ­
ti ons of gender, i n whi ch rei fi ed essences such as " rati onal ity" or "emo­
ti onal ity" a re sharpl y di chotomi zed, we can be sure that a homogeni zi ng
operati on has taken pl ace. For exampl e, women have tradi ti onal l y been
deni ed fi ght i ng (or even sel f-defense) ski l l s. I n compari son to bi ol ogi ­
cal l y vi tal fu ncti ons such as gi vi ng bi rth a nd taki ng care of chi l dren (as
wel l as maki ng bi omass edi bl e, by gri ndi ng, soaki ng, cooki ng, and fer­
menti ng), fi ghti ng may not seem so i mportant, at l east not before state­
di rected wars of conq uest began to yi el d ri ch spoi l s. But fi ght i ng ski l l s
were cruci al ; t hei r exerci se gave peopl e access to certai n rol es (t he war­
ri or) that were sou rces of prestige a nd status. Si mpl y i n terms of physi cal
st rength, women at the upper end of the scal e, fal l i ng i n the area of over­
l ap, wou l d have been superi or fi ghters i n compari son to men l ocated at
the bottom end of the mal e scal e of p hysi cal st rengt h, and yet these
"geneti cal l y endowed" potenti al femal e warri ors were excl uded from the
presti gi ous rol e. 3
8
Moreover, because physi cal strength can be ampl i fi ed
by trai ni ng, excl usi on meant t hat the overl ap area was artificially reduced
i n si ze:
Bi ol ogy can feed back onto bi ol ogy through soci al di sti ncti ons: for hormonal
reasons, women, on the average (but onl y on the average), have a di fferent
proporti on of muscl e to fat than men, and thi s has the consequence that
women, on the average (but only on the average), can exert somewhat l ess
physi cal force on obj ects. The d i vi si on of l abor between men and women
and the di vi si on of early trai ni ng, acti vity and atti tude cause a very consi d­
erabl e exaggerati on of thi s smal l di fference, so that women become physi ­
cal l y weaker than men duri ng thei r devel opment to an extent far i n excess
of what can be ascri bed to hormones. 39
I n medi eval Europe, as the hi stori an Edi th Ennen has shown, t hi s excl u­
si on from the rol e of warri or preserved the age-ol d fu ncti on of "guardi an­
shi p" as the excl usi ve domai n of the fat her or ot her mal e member of a
patri archal fami ly. I n a sense, the fu ncti on of t hi s i nsti tuti on (and ot her
rel ated ones) was t o control the fl ow of genes, by means of asymmetri ca l
regU l ati ons regardi ng i nferti l ity, i nfi del ity, and ownershi p of offspri ng. It i s
i mportant, however, not t o vi ew reproducti ve strata as stati c enti ti es, but
to focus i nstead on t he dynami cs of t hei r defi ni ng borders. Ennen wri tes
of the shi fti ng borders of medi eval women's rol es:
I n the hi story of women i n the Mi ddl e Ages there are constants and
changes -and there i s permanence wi thi n the changes. The most powerful
119
2: FESH AND GENES
constant: woman as the ri ch hei ress, woman as bearer of successors and
hei rs. Thi s is true for monarchs and peasants, nobl es and bu rghers. The
hi gher the rank, the more i mportant thi s "fu ncti on", the val ue of whi ch, for
the ferti l e and the pregnant woman, is cal culated in money terms in the
werengeld-regul ati ons of the Franki sh leges [Germani c tri bal law]. The sur­
vi val of the dynasty depends on her.4o
Ennen goes on to poi nt out other constants, most i mportantly, the preser­
vati on of t he fu ncti o n of guardi a nshi p. But Ennen al so observes t hat
women' s ni ches were consi derabl y broadened by t he advent of u rban l i fe
and by t he sl ow repl acement (i n nort her n Europe) of Germani c l aw by
Chri sti an codes. Pri or to t hi s mi l l enni um, a marri age contract was
entered i nto by the groom and the woman's guardi an; by the year 1030,
a woman's consent was requ i red i n Engl and. By t he twel ft h centu ry, the
l egal pr i n
C
i pl e of marri age by consent was f ul l y establ i shed, and i mposed
marri ages were barred, at l east i n t heory.4
1
I n many cases, of course,
fami ly pol i ti cs sti l l deter mi ned whom daughters wou l d marry, si nce advan­
tageous marri ages were one of onl y a few means for a fami l y to ri se
soci al ly, but some medi eval women di d acqui re a degree of freedom i n
choosi ng a h usband.
I n medi eval towns women's n i ches were wi dened i n a vari ety of ways.
Women acq u i red a rel ati vel y hi gh degree of commerci a l i ndependence ( i n
fact, women were more t horoughl y excl uded from commerce i n the n i ne­
teenth centu ry t han t hey were i n t he l ate Mi ddl e Ages4
2
), and benefi ted
from changes i n the l aw of matri mon i al property as wel l as i n i n heri tance
l aws wi th respect to wi ves and daughters. Mal es and femal es al so
became equal i n ci ti zenshi p ri ghts, al though not i n pol i ti cal parti Ci pati on:
I n thi s way [through i mproved l egal status and heredi tary ri ghts] women
gai ned a share of ci vi c freedom. I n many ci vi c l egal codes, e. g. that of Bre­
men dati ng from 1186 and of Stade from 1209, the husband and wife are
both expl i citl y menti oned in the i mportant arti cl e whi ch states that any per­
son who l i ves i n the town under muni ci pal l aw for a reasonabl e peri od is
free. Women swear the ci vi c oath and are entered in the register of ci ti zens.
The wi fe's share of the ci vi c ri ghts of her husband conti nues i n ful l after hi s
death . . . , However, the sources do not i ndicate that women pl ayed any part
in the gai ni ng of these freedoms, and those who fought for them were not
concerned wit h the emanci pati o n of women in the modern sense. The
medi eval concept i s not based on the noti on of a personal sphere of free­
dom; i t is seen in corporate terms, and i t is the freedom of the ci ti zenry as
a whol e, the town community, that is pursued.43
120
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
Medi eval Eu ropean towns were not only i sol ated as ecosystems ( heat
i sl ands and food-web i sl ands) but thei r wal l s made them i sl ands i n a cul ­
tu ral sense, pl aces where certai n pri vi l eges coul d be exerci sed, where the
ol d feudal restri cti ons cou l d be rel axed, where new n i ches (e. g. , a mi ddl e
cl ass) coul d be created. U nl i ke i ndi vi dual serfs who were bou nd t o a gi ven
manor a nd i ts l andl ord, u rban ci ti zens had no such i ndi vi dual obl i gati ons,
al though ci ti es as a whol e di d owe dues to bi shops, cou nts, or ki ngs. The
rel ati ve a utonomy of towns, whi ch vari ed from pl ace to pl ace, tended t o
be refl ected i n the i nsti tuti onal norms and ru l es t hat sl owl y accumul ated
wi t hi n t hei r ramparts. I f after some peri od of resi dence a town adopted
a ru naway serf, these i nsti tuti onal norms repl aced hi s or her own al l e­
gi ance to a l ord, and t hi s made the medi eval town "a veri tabl e machi ne
for breaki ng up ol d bonds. "44 Thi s does not mean, of cou rse, t hat ru ral
i mmi grants were not drawn al most i mmedi atel y i nto other pyrami dal
structu res. I n Braudel 's words, "t he peasant who uprooted hi msel f from
hi s l and and arri ved i n the town was i mmedi ately a nother man. He was
free -or rather he had aba ndoned a known and hated servi t ude for
another, not al ways guessi ng the extent of it before hand. "45
The u rban i ntensi fi cati on that peaked by t he l ate t hi rteent h centu ry
created many opportu ni ti es for such escapes. Whi l e i n 1050 a r unaway
peasant had nowhere to go, si nce towns were several days from each
other, by 1300 most towns were on ly one day apart. More i mportantly,
whi l e i n 1050 towns were sur rou nded by forbi ddi ng forests whi ch acted
as barri ers to migrati on, by 1300 these forests were begi n n i ng to di sap­
pear.46 But what was benefi ci al from t he perspecti ve of mi grati ng peas­
a nts was potenti al l y catastrophi c for the u rban centers t hemsel ves. I n
two and a hal f cent uri es, towns and t hei r suppl y regi ons had grown at the
expense of the bi ol ogi cal meshwork wi t hi n whi ch they had evol ved. The
ecosystem was greatl y homogeni zed: many parts of t he forest had been
cl eared and ei ther converted i nto agri cu l tural l and or si mpl y destroyed
and used for fuel or constructi on materi al s. As one author puts it, u rban
expansi on was bought on credi t, usi ng as col l ateral the conti nent's nat­
u ral resou rces. After 1300, nature forecl osed and Europe faced i ts fi rst
ecol ogi cal cri si s of the mi l l en n i u m. Pri or to the fou rteenth century, most
fami nes were l ocal i zed, whi ch meant t hat regi ons whose agri cu l tu ral
producti o n fai l ed cou l d i mport bi omass from nearby areas. But after
1300, general fami nes became common, one of the most severe of whi ch
struck i n 1315 and l asted several years. 47
Deforestati on of mountai n sl opes l ed to erosi on and the l oss of ferti l e
soi l . Al though some of t hi s soi l accumul ated i n the val l eys bel ow, i ncreas­
i ng t hei r ferti l i ty, deforestati on i ntensi fi ed t he frequency of fl oods, l eadi ng
121
2: FLESH AND GENES
to fu rther soi l l oss and destructi on of crops. Thi s happened, for i nstance,
i n certai n regi ons of t he U pper Rh i ne Val l ey.4
8
Soi l l oss due to carel ess
expl oi tati on of the forests' resou rces, parti cul arly the transformati on of
steep sl opes i nto agri cu l t ural l and, has been a constant threat to u rban
centers t hroughout hi story. I n fact, some hi stor i ans post ul ate that u rban
l i fe began i n Egypt and Mesopotami a preci sel y because the l and there
was fl at and he nce not su bj ect to erosi on and soi l l oss. They cal cul ate
t hat most ot her u rban ci vi l i zati ons were abl e to pass t hei r genes for onl y
seventy generati ons before they ran out of soi l . 49 Eve n t hough methods
of preventi ng erosi on were known from the ti mes of the anci ent Phoeni ­
ci ans (terraci ng tech n i ques, for exampl e), many u rban �I i erarchi es i n the
past fai l ed to i mpl ement such knowl edge. Thi s i s anot her exampl e of the
practi cal l i mi ts of bou nded rati onal i ty, and proof t hat, al though some
materi al and energy "fl ows can be "soci al i zed" (i . e. , submi tted to cul tu ral
control ), i n practice many are not. 5
0
I n addi ti on to deforestati on , the fou rteenth- cent ury ecol ogi cal cri si s
i nvol ved di sru pti ons to the si mpl i fi ed (hence u n resi l i ent) ecosystems
wi th whi ch ci ti es and t hei r regi ons had repl aced the forest. By shorteni ng
food chai ns, h uman popu l ati ons acqui red control over n utri ent cycl es.
For i nstance, cattl e and certai n crops went hand i n hand: the man u re of
the cattl e, whi ch were rai sed on cereal s, cou l d be pl ugged back i nto the
system as ferti l i zer, cl osi ng the n utri ent cycl e. I n i tself, thi s ti ghteni ng of
the cycl es was good. I ndeed, ecosystems spontaneousl y shorten thei r
nutri ent cycl es as they compl exi fy. A hi ghly compl ex system such as a
rai n forest r uns i ts n utri e nts so ti ghtly, vi a el aborate mi crofl ora and mi cro­
fau n a in the tree roots, t hat the soi l i s l argel y depri ved of n utri ents.
Thi s i s one reason why t he destructi on of rai n forests i s so wasteful : the
soi l l eft be hi nd i s l argel y steri l e. The temperate forests of Europe, on
the ot her hand, do r un thei r n utri ent cycl es t hrough the soi l , and there
deforestati on l eaves a val uabl e reservoi r be hi nd. But when Eu ropeans
repl aced t hi s ecosystem by taki ng control of the cycl es themsel ves,
u nforeseen gl i tches di sru pted the system. For exampl e, as some agri cul ­
tu ral l ands speci al i zed, and cattl e were sent to the hi ghl ands to graze,
the manure cycl e was broken, l ead i ng to a l oss of soi l ferti l i ty.5
1
Components of the ecosystem whi ch l i e outsi de soci al control , such
as the cl i mate, al so contri buted to the ecol ogi cal cr i si s. Worl dwi de cool i ng
trends seem to have affl i cted the fou rte
"
enth and seventeenth centuri es.
Braudel notes that even ci vi l i zati ons at great di stances from one another
(e. g. , Europe a nd Chi na) may have been con nected by gl obal cl i mate
changes that affected the yi el d of t hei r harvests and hence the fates of
t hei r popul ati ons. There i s some evi dence that the cycl es of popu l ati on
122
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
growt h and decl i ne i n the Far East and the Far West were synch ron ized
before the ei ghteenth centu ry; gi ven the rel ati vel y l ow i ntensi ty of com­
merci al contact between East and West, gl obal cl i mate rhythms wou l d
seem
f
o be the mi ssi ng l i nk:
A general cool i ng-down process occu rred in the Northern hemi sphere i n the
fou rteenth century. The n umber of gl aci ers and i ce-fl oes i ncreased and
wi nters became more severe. One hi stori an suggests that the Vi ki ngs' route
to Ameri ca was cut off by dangerous i ce at the ti me. Another thi n ks that
some dreadful cl i mati c drama fi nal ly i nterrupted European col oni zati on i n
Greenl and, t h e evi dence bei ng t h e bodi es of t h e l ast survi vors found i n the
frozen earth . . " Si mi l arly the "l i ttl e i ce age" . . . du ri ng Loui s XI V's rei gn was
more a tyrant than the Sun Ki ng. Everythi ng moved to its rhyt hm: cereal­
growi ng Europe and the ri ce-fi el ds and steppes of Asi a . . . , Al l thi s gi ves
addi ti onal meani ng to the fl uctuati ons of materi al l i fe, and possi bl y expl ai ns
thei r si multanei ty. The possi bi l ity of a certai n physi cal and bi ol ogi cal hi story
common to al l humani ty before the great di scoveri es, the i ndustri al revol u­
ti on or the i nterpenetrati on of economi es. 52
There was a nother component of u rban ecosystems t hat defi ed hi erar­
chi cal control by human cul tu res and l i nked the fates of East a nd West:
contagi ous di sease. As we saw, u rban ecosystems on both si des of Eu ra­
si a (and i n many pl aces i n between) were epi demi ol ogi cal l aboratori es
where an i mal di seases evol ved i nto human ones, and where the densi ty
of popul ati on was i ntense e nough to make the di sease endemi c, that i s,
to al l ow i t to su bsi st i n more or l ess stabl e coexi stence wi th i ts h u ma n
hosts. Many of t h e chi l dhood di seases that affl i cted medi eval Eu rope had
been " man ufactu red" one or two mi l l en ni a earl i er i n the fou r separate
"l aboratori es" that had emerged by cl assi cal ti mes (t he Medi terranean ,
the Mi ddl e East, I ndi a, and Chi na). Smal l pox, for i nstance, may have been
brought to t he Roman Empi re by sol di ers retu rni ng from a campai gn i n
Mesopotami a. 53 Al though each of these centers evol ved separatel y for a
whi l e, as the i ntensity of trade (or warfare) between t hem i ntensi fi ed,
they became i ntercon nected. 54
The l ong caravans that conti nuousl y traversed the Si l k Road and t he
i nte nse mari ti me commerce across the I ndi an Ocean had emerged as
the mai n commu ni cati on channel s con necti ng the di fferent di sease pool s.
Mi croorga ni sms travel ed wi th si l k and ot her goods through these chan nel s,
whi ch were sustai ned by mi l i tary power, habi t, and routi ne. The accel er­
ated u rbani zati on of Eu rope a thousand years l ater and t he consequent
establ i shment of regul ar l and a nd sea routes for commerce had a si mi l ar
123
2: FLESH AND GENES
effect at a smal l er scal e, j oi n i ng the ci ti es al ong t he Medi terr anean coast
wi t h the brand- new ci ti es i n t he nort h i nto a si ngl e di sease pool . 55 These
homogeni zati ons of the mi croscopi c component of u rban ecosystems
had a benefi ci al effect: had the di sease pool s remai ned i sol ated, any con­
tact between them wou l d h ave u n l eashed expl osi ve epi demi cs.
However, u rban popul ati ons were not al one i n fosteri ng endemi c di s­
eases. Wi l d ani mal popul ati ons, too, harbored col oni es of mi crobes, and
contact between t hese ani mal s and h umans coul d h ave catastrophi c
resul ts. That i s what happened i n 1 346, when t he bubo n i c pl ague was un­
l eashed on Europe . The pl ague baci l l us (Pasteurella pestis) had become
endemi c among u nderground popu l ati ons of rats and fl eas at the foot­
hi l l s of the Hi mal ayas. The expansi on of the Mongol Empi re, whi ch con­
verted the ol d l ow- i ntensi ty trade routes i nto a compl ex network of
caravansari es extendi ng i nto the northern Eurasi an steppes and con nect­
i ng Chi na wi th Europe, had created new di sease chan nel s, both for
h u mans and for rats:
What probably happened between 1331 and 1346 . . . was that as pl ague
spread from caravanserai to caravanserai across Asi a and Eastern Europe,
and moved thence i nto adj acent h u man ci ti es wherever they exi sted, a par­
al l el movement i nto underground rodent "ci ti es" of the grassl ands al so
occurred. I n human-rat-fl ea commu n i ti es above grou nd, Pasteurella pestis
remai ned an u nwel come and l ethal vi si tor, u nabl e to establ i sh permanent
l odgment because of the i mmuni ty reacti ons and heavy di e-off it provoked
among i ts hosts. I n the rodent burrows of the steppe, however, the baci l l us
fou nd a permanent home . . . . Before the Bl ack Death cou l d stri ke as i t di d
[i n Europe], two more condi ti ons had to be ful fi l l ed. Fi rst of al l , popu l ati ons
of bl ack rats of the ki nd whose fl eas were l i abl e to carry bu boni c pl ague to
humans had to spread throughout the European conti nent. Secondly, a net­
work of shi ppi ng had to connect the Medi terranean wi th northern Europe,
so as to be abl e to carry i nfected rats and fl eas to al l the ports of the Conti ­
nent. Very l i kel y the spread of bl ack rats i nto northern Europe was i tsel f a
resul t of the i ntensi fi cati on of shi ppi ng contacts between the Medi terranean
and norther n ports. 56
Hence, t he same i nti mate contacts t hat had made medi eval ci ti es i nto
a si ngl e di sease pool , whi ch prevented thei r contagi ous di seases from
becomi ng epi demi c, now worked agai nst them by al l owi ng cross- border
contact betwee n u rban popu l ati ons and di sease-carryi ng rats and fl eas,
whi ch spread the pl ague rapi dly across Europe. Accordi ng to Wi l l i am
McNei l l , i t t ook about 100 t o 1 33 years (fi ve or si x h u ma n generati ons) for
124
BIOL
OGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
the pl ague to
b
ecome endemi c. 57 Neverthel ess, because endemi c equ i ­
l i bri u m may be cycl i cal , l ocal i zed epi demi c outbreaks of varyi ng i ntensi ty
conti n ued u nti l at l east t he ei ghteenth centu ry. I n the fi rst massi ve out­
break (1346-1350), about a t hi rd of the European popul ati on was con­
su med by the pl ague. Su bsequent waves were al most as l ethal , and i t
seemed as i f u rban and ru ral Europe were bei ng di gested from wi t hi n by.,
weeds (rats, fl eas) and t hei r mi croparasi tes.
The soci al consequences of the i ntensi fi ed mortal ity rates were n u mer­
ous. The peasantry and wor ki ng cl asses benefi ted i n the se nse t hat the
su rvi vors fou nd themsel ves i n a worl d wi t h acute l abor shortages, not to
ment i on the fact t hat the su rvi vors i n heri ted the possessi ons of those
eaten by the pl ague. Wages i ncreased, broaden i ng wor kers' n i ches si g­
ni fi cantly. These mi ght be descri bed as Pyrrhi c benefi ts, however, si nce
t he u rban and r ural poor sustai ned the vast maj ori ty of casual ti es. The
r i ch wou l d abandon a city at the fi rst si gns of epi demi c, whi l e "the poor
remai ned al one, pen ned u p i n t he contami nated town where t he State fed
t hem, i sol ated t hem, bl ockaded t hem and kept t hem u nder observa­
ti on. "58 Not o n l y the i n ha bi tants but the ci ti es themsel ves "di ed, " si nce
many of those who pl ayed key rol es i n gover nment and commerce fl ed
and key u rban fu nct i ons ( busi ness and l egal acti vi ti es, rel i gi ous servi ces)
ceased operati ng.
Despi te a ge neral derel i cti on of duty, gover nment hi erarchi es di d
respond to the chal l enge, t hrough a vari ety of methods, i ncl udi ng quaran­
t i nes, su rvei l l ance, i n hal ants, di si nfecti on, bl ocked roads, cl ose confi ne­
ment, and heal th certi fi cates. 59 Pl an ned response, however, remai ned
i neffectual , not on l y because of the l i mi tati ons of bou n ded rati onal ity, but
al so because t he cause of the pl ague (a baci l l us) and i ts method of conta­
gi on ( rats, fl eas, humans) defi ed hu man comprehensi on u nti l the l ate
ni neteenth ce ntu ry. Neverthel ess, i n the eyes of the survi vors, secu l ar
a uthori ti es had at l east made an effort t o 'fi ght back, whi l e eccl esi asti cal
hi erarchi es had remai ned powerl ess to cope wi t h the emerge ncy. I n the
aftermat h, t he authori ty of t he church emerged damaged (anti cl eri cal i sm
i nten si fi ed) whi l e secu l ar hi erarchi es were strengthened.
6o
I n the end,
however, i t was not any pl anned response t hat stopped t he pl ague, but a
tri al - and-error accommodati on to i t.
61
There were ot her soci al consequences of the pl ague. After each succes­
si ve epi demi c wave had passed, t he gene fl ow between cl asses i ncreased
i n i ntensity. Ci ti es fou nd t hemsel ves depopu l ated and l owered t hei r stan­
dards for ci ti zenshi p. Veni ce, nor mal ly very cl osed to forei gners, now
granted free ci ti zenshi p to a nyone who settl ed there for a year.
62
Soci al
mobi l ity i ncreased, as su rvi vi ng el i tes needed to repl eni sh t hei r ran ks
125
2: FLESH AND GENES
wi th. fresh bl ood
. Rel ati onshi ps among ci ti es altered because of the enor­
mo
us -de
mogr
aphi C shi fts
wrought by the pl ague. The eventual emergence
-of Veni ce as t he
core
of the Network system was i n no smal l measure a
conse
quence of those demographi c changes. 63
The Bl ack
Death
struck a Eu ropean popu l ati on t hat was al ready affl i cted
by an ecol ogi cal cri si s of i ts own maki ng. Al though the deforestati on that
preci pi tated thi s cri si s was the product of i ntensi fi ed u rbani zati on, we
shoul d di sti ngui sh a vari ety of rol es pl ayed by di fferent types of ci ti es.
The ci ti es of the Central Pl ace system -that i s, l andl ocked hi erarchi es of
towns of di fferent si zes -cl eared thei r forests for far ml and, for the reser­
voi r of n utri ents t hat the temperate forests' soi l contai ned. The gateway
ports of the Network system, o n t he other hand, mar keted the i ndi ­
gesti bl e bi omass of the forest (wood) as fuel or constructi on materi al for
shi ps. More accurately, t he vari ous regi ons that gave bi rt h to t he mar i ti me
metropol i ses of Eu rope rose to promi nence by expl oit i ng t hree di fferent
reservoi rs: ti mber, sal t, and fi sh. 64 Whi l e some Central Pl ace hi erarchi es
extermi nated thei r forests wi th al most rel i gi ous zeal (i n some cases usi ng
speci al i zed monks who t hought of every acre cl eared of demon- i nfested
forest as an acre gai ned for God65), Network-system gateways had a more
manageri al atti tude toward t hei r reservoi rs.
There were, of course, mi xtu res. Some Central Pl ace ci ti es, such as
Pari s, housed hi erarchi es t hat vi ewed thei r forests as renewabl e resources.
French forests were stabi l i zed i n the si xteenth and seventeenth centu ri es,
partl y by decree (the great ordi nance of 1573 and t he measures taken
by Col bert) and partl y becau se the remai ni ng forest soi l s were too poor to
expl oi t. 66 Neverthel ess, t here were i mportant di fferences between metrop­
ol i ses and capi tal s as ecosystems whi ch i nfl uenced t hei r rel ati onshi ps
to the fl ow of bi omass, edi bl e and i nedi bl e. Many of t he seaports -and
certai n l y al l t he ones t hat served as core of t he Networ k system before
the ni neteent h centu ry (Veni ce, Genoa, Amsterdam) -were ecologically
deprived pl aces, i ncapabl e of feedi ng t hemsel ves. I n thi s sense, they were
al l l i ke Amal fi , a smal l Medi terranean port whose h i nter l ands were l argely
i nferti l e, but t hat at t he tur n of t he mi l l enni um had served as a gateway
to t he dynami c markets of I sl am and had pl ayed a key rol e in t he reawak­
eni ng of Europe.
li ke Amal fi i n its hol l ow among the mountai ns, Ven i ce, scattered over si xty
or so i sl ands and i sl ets, was a strange worl d, a refuge perhaps but hardl y a
conveni ent one: there was no fresh water, no food supply-only salt i n
abundance . . . . I s thi s an exampl e of the town reduced t o bare essenti al s,
stri pped of everythi ng not ?tri ctly urban , and condemned, in order to sur-
126
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
vive, to obtai n everythi ng from trade: wheat or mi l l et, rye, meat on the
hoof, cheese, vegetabl es, wi ne, oi l , ti mber, stone -and even dri nki ng water?
Veni ce's enti re popul ati on l i ved outsi de the "pri mary sector" . . . [her] acti vi ­
ti es al l fel l i nto the sectors whi ch economi sts woul d nowadays descri be as
secondary and terti ary: i ndustry, commerce, servi ces. 57
The same is true of Genoa, whi ch was the fi nanci al capi tal of si xteenth­
centu ry Europe: the ci ty arose on a smal l stri p of l and su r roun ded by
mountai n s barren of trees and even grass. 5
8
The extreme poverty of the
l ands on whi ch the I tal i an mari ti me metropol i ses were bui l t was partl y
due to the soi l depl eti on caused by previ ous i ntensi fi cati ons. I n many
regi ons i n and around the Medi terra nean where producti on had been
i nten si fi ed a thousand years earl i er to feed the ci ti es of the Roman Empi re,
erosi on had l ong si nce removed the fl eshy soi l and exposed t he u nderl y­
i ng l i mestone skel eton . Accordi ng to some hi stori ans, on l y t he soi l nort h
of the Po Val l ey had been spared t hi s destructi on, and these were t he
l ands t hat l ater fed medi eval Europe. The regi on s t hat had been the stage
of barbari c i nvasi on s and war after the fal l of the Roman Empi re had al so
recovered thei r ferti l ity by medi eval ti mes, si nce mi l i tary tu r bul ence made
conti n uous i ntensi fi ed agri cu l tu re i mpossi bl e. 59 But t he l and on whi ch
towns l i ke Ven i ce, Genoa, or Amal fi grew sti l l bore t he scars of carel ess
i ntensi fi cati on. Thus, al though many ci ti es i n t he fou rteenth centu ry (e. g. ,
Fl orence) were al ready i mporti ng grai n from far away, towns such as
Ven i ce and Genoa were, from t he start, condemned t o trade t o mai ntai n
thei r l i fel i ne.
There are other i nteresti ng di fferences between Central Pl ace and
l\etwork ci ti es i n t hi s respect. Al though the former were better endowed
ecol ogi cal ly, even for t hem conti n uous growt h entai l ed i ntensi fi cati on a nd
hence depl eti on . At some poi nt, ei t her trade or i nvasi on became neces­
sary to tap i nto the n utri ent reservoi rs of ever more di stant soi l s. Whi l e
ci ti es bel ongi ng to terri tor i al states i nvaded other peopl es' l ands, gateway
ports penetrated t hei r markets. I n ot her words (and al l owi ng for compl ex
mi xtures), l andl ocked capi tal s took over fert i l e l ands, at ti mes gi vi ng
bi rt h to a l andl ocked col oni al ci ty on forei gn soi l and redi recti ng the fl ow
of bi omass to the motherl a nd. Metropol i ses, on the other hand, took over
strategi cal l y l ocated al bei t barren pi eces of rock i n the mi ddl e of the
ocean , to control t he trade routes that con nected Europe to l ucrati ve for­
ei gn mar kets. As Braudel says, " I n order to control t he l arge expan ses i n
questi on , i t was suffi ci ent t o hol d a few strategi c poi nts (Candi a, captu red
by Ven i ce i n 1204; Corf u, 1383; Cypr us, 1489-or i ndeed Gi bral tar, whi ch
t he Bri ti s h took by s u rpri se i n 1704, and Mal ta, whi ch they captu red i n
127
2: FLESH AND GENES
1800) and to establ i sh a few conveni ent monopol i es, whi ch then had to
be mai ntai ned i n good wor ki ng order -as we do machi nes today. "70
From these strategi c pl aces a naval power coul d
control the Medi ter­
ranean (and the
markets of the Levant) and, hence, the trade l i fel i ne of
the regi on. From l i kewi se ecol ogi cal ly poor stronghol ds on forei gn coasts,
or from
forei gn gateway ci ti es, Eu ropean metropol i ses acqu i red control of
faraway
markets i n I ndi a, Chi na, and the Levant. From these entry poi nts,
t hey captured and redi rected a cont i nuous fl ow of l u xu ry goods (spi ces,
for exampl e), wi th perhaps negl i gi bl e nutri ti onal val ue but ca pabl e of gen­
erati ng extraordi nary profits. I t i s true t hat some gateways al so engaged
i n the col on i zati on of nearby l ands for thei r soi l s, as when Ven i ce took
control of the I tal i an mai n l and a rou nd i t (i ncl udi ng the towns of Padua,
Verona, Bresci a, and Beragamo) i n t he earl y 1400s. But even there, t he
l and was soon used not t o feed the ci ty, but to rai se cash crops and l i ve­
stock for the market. Amsterdam, anot her ecol ogi ca l l y poor gateway port,
and i ts si ster ci ti es i n the Un i ted Provi nces shaped t hei r l i mi ted hol di ngs
of ferti l e l and i nto an effi ci ent agri cu l tural machi ne, though i t, too, was
ori ented towa rd external ma rkets. 7
1
I n many respects, these Network
ci ti es were not ti ed to the l and and ex hi bi ted the ki nd of wei ghtl essness,
or l ack of i nerti a, that we associ ate wi t h transnati onal corporati ons today.
I s it any wo nder that mari ti me met ropol i ses such as Genoa or Veni ce
(as wel l as those regi onal capi tal s cl osely connected to them, such as
Fl orence or Mi l an) were the bi rt hpl ace of many anti mar ket i nsti tuti ons?
Braudel i nvi tes us to vi ew the hi story of t he mi l l en ni um as three sepa­
rate fl ows movi ng at di fferent speeds. On one hand, we have the l i fe of
the peasant popu l ati on, more or l ess chai ned to the l and, whose customs
change wi t h t he vi scosi ty of l ava. Corn, whi ch fed Europe, and ri ce,
whi ch fed Chi na, were tyra nts that forced on the peasa ntry a ri gi d adh er­
ence to wel l -worn ha bi ts and routi nes and a cl osed cycl e of product i on.
Thi s i s what Braudel cal l s "materi al l i fe, " t he know-how and tradi ti onal
tool s, t he i n her i ted reci pes and customs, wi th whi ch human bei ngs i nter­
act wi th pl a nts to generate the fl ow of bi omass that sustai ns vi l l ages and
towns. Thi s body of knowl edge resi sts i n novati ons and hence changes
very sl owly, as i f hi story barel y fl owed t hrough i t. One hi stori an suggests
that one needs observati onal ti mescal es a mi l l enni u m l ong to understand
the agra ri an structu res of I taly.
72 The peasa nt masses are, i n a sense,
l i ke the assembl age of fl ora at the base of natu ral ecosystems, an i mmo­
bi l e engi ne t hat creates the energy whi ch ma kes everyt hi ng arou nd
t hem move.
Next comes the wor l d of markets and commerci al l i fe, where the fl ow
of hi story becomes l ess vi scous. Braudel cal l s market towns "accel era-
128
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A.D.
tors of al l hi stori cal ti me. "73 Al though peasants someti mes came to t he
ci ty market of thei r own accord, more often t han not t hey were forced
to come, and to that extent we may say that towns fed on t hem, or parts
of them, much as an herbi vore does. So above the bottom l ayer of
mate ri al l i fe
comes t he favoured terrai n of the market economy wi th its many hori ­
zonta l communi cati ons between the di fferent markets : here a degree of
automati c coordi nati on usual l y l i nks suppl y, demand and pri ces. Then
al ongsi de, or rather above thi s l ayer, comes the zone of t he anti - market,
where t he great predators roam and the l aw of t he j ungl e operates. Thi s ­
today as in the past, before and after the i nd ustri al revol uti on -i s the real
home of capi tal i smJ4
Thi s is t he l ayer of maximum mobility, where l arge amou nts of fi nanci al
capi tal , for exampl e, fl owed co nti n uousl y from one hi ghl y profi tabl e area
to anot her, d efyi ng fro nti ers and accel erat i ng many hi stori cal processes.
I n summary, accordi ng to Braudel , the European economy compri sed
t hree spheres or l ayers: the i nerti al peasant l ayer, whi ch was the sou rce
of bi omass flow; the market economy, whi ch set su rpl uses i nto moti on by
means of the fl ow of mo ney; and the anti market, where money detached
i tsel f from bi omass, becomi ng a mobi l e muta nt fl ow capabl e of i nvest i ng
i n any acti vity t hat i ntensi fi ed t he producti on of profi ts. Thi s ul ti mate
l ayer may be properl y cal l ed "predatory" to emphasi ze i ts noncompeti ti ve
and monopol i sti c (or ol i gopol i sti c) natu re. Anti markets, of course, coex­
i sted wi t h other predators (or as McNei l l cal l s t hem, " macroparasi tes"
7
5),
such as central states and feudal hi erarch i es, whi ch al so deri ved t hei r
sustena nce by tappi ng i nto t he energet i c fl ows produced by ot hers, vi a
taxes, rents, or forced l abor.
These hi erarchi es ( al l urban in the case of medi eval I tal y) someti mes
metamorphosed from one type of macropa rasi te i nto another. Weal thy
merchants and fi nanci ers, for i nstance, wou l d reti re from busi ness and
buy l and, sacri fi ci ng t hei r mobi l i ty i n hopes of acqu i ri ng access t o t he
a ri stocracy and t he opportu ni ty t o spread t hei r genes across cl ass barri ­
ers. Nobl e l andl ords, on the other hand, wou l d somet i mes take advan­
tage of thei r monopol i es of soi l , ti mber, and mi n eral deposi ts to pl ay
anti ma rket rol es, al bei t l acki ng t he rati onal i zati on and routi nizati on that
characteri zed bi g busi ness. More often than not, however, these nobl e­
men col l aborated i n t he tra nsfer of surpl u ses from agri cu l tu ral regi ons.
As Europe's u rban ecosystems expanded and mul ti pl i ed thei r i nter­
con necti ons wi th one another, they became not onl y a si ngl e di sease pool
129
2: FLESH AND GENES
but a si ngl e economy as wel l . Soon the si mpl e rel ati onshi p between a ci ty
and its sur rou ndi ng su ppl y zone of smal l vi l l ages was l eft behi nd (at l east
outsi de the l ower ran ks of Central Pl ace hi erarchi es), and many l arge
towns bega n to draw t hei r n utri ents l argel y from a si ngl e, vast sou rce,
repl i cati ng on a huge scal e the ori gi nal parasi ti c rel ati onshi p the i ndi vi d­
u al ci ti es had wi th t hei r cou ntrysi des. I n ot her words, du ri ng the si x­
teenth centu ry Europe began col oni zi ng i tsel f, tra nsfor mi ng its eastern
regi ons ( Pol and and other terri tori es east of the Hamburg-Vi enna-Ven i ce
axi s) i nto i ts suppl y zone. As wi th al l such peri pheral regi ons, t hei r rel a­
ti onshi p to the core that expl oi ted them was mostl y negati ve: thei r own
market towns l ost vi tal i ty, hosti l i ty to i n n ovati on i ncreased, and barri ers
between cl asses hardened. The resul t was that, u n l i ke smal l towns i n the
mi ddl e zone whi ch cou l d trade wi th one anot her and eventual l y shake
thei r subordi nate posi ti on, t hese peri pheral areas were condemned to a
perma nent state of backward ness.
I n the case of Easter n Euro pe, i ts reducti on to col oni al status was
brought about by t he acti ons of several hi erarchi es: t he l ocal l and l ords,
who i ntensi fi ed thei r macroparasi ti sm to an extreme (si x days a week of
forced l abor was not u n common for peasants), and whol esal ers i n ci ti es
such as Amsterdam who preyed on the l andl ords t hemsel ves, mani pu­
l ati ng su ppl y and demand t hrough warehousi ng and advanced pu rchases
from produce rsJ6 As thi s i nter nal col oni zati on was taki ng pl ace, Europe
was begi n n i ng to devel op a core- peri phery rel ati onshi p on an even l arger
scal e, t hi s ti me at a gl obal l evel . Spai n and Portugal , whose soi l s had not
recovered from the i ntensi fi cati on of the Roman Empi re, spearheaded
the conquest of l ands across the Atl anti c, the conversi o n of Ameri ca i nto
a conti nent-wi de suppl y zone.
Medi eval ci ti es had attempted a fi rst round of forei gn col on i zati on
centuri es ear l i er, at the t i me of t he Crusades, but t hi s earl i er effort
had l acked stayi ng power. Despi te the hundreds of thousands of Eu ro­
pea ns who had been mobi l i zed for the i nvasi on of t he Hol y Lands,
Europe's col oni es abroad (Edessa, Anti och, Tri pol i , Jer usal em) had
promptl y retu rned to I sl ami c control . Much as popul ati on density was
the onl y means to mai ntai n the domi nati on of u rban over forest eco­
systems (drops i n popu l ati on al l owed the return of ba ni shed pl ants and
wol ves), here, t oo, densi ty was needed t o sustai n a European presence
on forei gn soi l . And yet, as one hi stori an puts i t, despi te the ori gi nal
massi ve transfer of peopl e, Eu rope "l ost the propagati on game. "77 I n
addi ti on , t here was another great bi ol ogi cal barri er to the success of the
Crusades-mi croorgan i sms:
130
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
When the Crusaders arri ved i n the Levant, they had to u ndergo what Bri ti sh
settl ers i n the North Ameri can col oni es centuri es l ater cal l ed "seasoni ng" ;
they had to i ngest and bui l d resi stance to the l ocal bacteri al ·fl ora. They had
to su rvi ve the i nfecti ons, work out a modus vi vendi wi th the Eastern mi cro­
l i fe and parasi tes. Then they cou l d fi ght the Saracens. Thi s peri od of sea­
soni ng stol e ti me, strength and effi ci ency, and ended in death of tens of
thousands. It is l i kel y that the di sease that affected the Crusaders the most
was mal ari a . . . . Crusaders from the Medi terranean . . . had brought wi th
them a degree of resi stance to mal ari a . . . . Unfortu natel y for [them], a per­
son i mmune to one ki nd of mal ari a is not i mmune to al l , and i mmuni ty to
mal ari a is not l ong-l asti ngJ
8
Genes t hat provi de resi stan ce to mal ari a (the si ckl e-cel l and beta­
t hal assemi a genes) exi sted i n the sout her n Eu ropean gene pool , but t hey
were rare i n the nort h. Conseque ntl y, Cr usaders from Fra nce, Ger ma ny,
and Engl and were devou red from wi th i n by t he parti cul arl y vi ru l ent mal ar­
i al strai ns endemi c i n the Mi ddl e East. When Eu rope began col oni zi ng
faraway l ands fou r hu ndred years l ater, she confronted an ent i rel y di ffer­
ent si tuati on. Now h er chi l d hood di seases, parti cu l a rl y smal l pox and
measl es, fought on her si de. As McNei l l says, t hese wer e a " bi ol ogi ca l
weapon u rban condi ti ons of l i fe [ had] i mpl a nted i n t he bl oodstreams of
ci vi l i zed peopl es. "79 I n fact, whenever e ncou nters took pl ace between
human popu l ati ons t hat had not been i n cl ose contact wi th on e a not her
and on l y t he i nvaders possessed "ci vi l i zed" di seases, t he affai r resembl ed
a gi ga nti c food chai n i n whi ch one mass of h u ma ns i ngested t he other :
Fi rst, t he structural organi zati on of nei ghbori ng communi ti es was broken
down by a combi nati on of war (ct. masti cati on) and di sease (ct. the chemi ­
cal and physi cal acti on of stomach and i ntesti nes). Someti mes, no doubt, a
l ocal popul ati on suffered total exti ncti on, but thi s was not typi cal . More
often, the shatteri ng i ni ti al encounters wi th ci vi l i zati on l eft substanti al n u m­
bers of cul tu ral ly di sori ented i ndi vi dual s on the l and. Such human materi al
coul d then be i ncorporated i nto the ti ssues of the enl arged ci vi l i zati on i tsel f,
ei ther as i ndi vi dual s or as smal l fami l y and vi l l age groupi ngs. 8o
As Europe began reach i ng out i nto t he worl d to create new su ppl y regi ons,
Europea n di seases vi si ted near-ext i ncti on or, al tern ati vely, deci mati on
on t he i ndi genous popu l ati ons. I n one of t he fi rst successfu l attempts at
col oni zati on (the Canary I sl ands), the l ocal peopl es (t he Gua nches) were
d ri ven to t he bri n k of exti ncti on, mostl y by t he i nvaders' di seases. Today
a few Guanche genes remai n i n t he Ca nari es' gene pool , al ong wi th a few
131
2: FLESH AND GENES
words and nine sentences from their original language.8
1
The rest was
annihilated. On the other hand, in what proved to be the most successful
and long lasting colonial enterprise, the conversion of the American con­
tinent into a huge peripheral zone to feed the European core, only some
areas (the United States, Canada, Argentina) wi tnessed the wholesale
replacement of one gene pool by another. In the rest of the Americas,
entire communities were instead culturally absorbed. Like those insects
that first regurgitate a soup of enzymes to predigest their food, the con­
querors from Spain killed or weakened their victims with smallpox and
measles before proceeding to Christianize them and incorporate them into
the colonial culture.
Earlier attempts at colonizing the New World had failed partly because
of a lack of "predigestive enzymes." The Norse, who tried to colonize
this continent earlier in the millenni um failed because their motherland
(Greenland) was "so remote from Europe that they rarely received the
latest installments of the diseases germinating i n European centers of
dense settlement, and their tiny populations were too small for the main­
tenance of crowd diseases."82 The new wave of invaders from Spain
not only were in direct contact with the epidemiological laboratories that
"manufactured" these biological weapons, they were the fleshy compo­
nent of the disease factory. The local Amerindians, on the other hand,
though densely populated enough to sustain endemic relations with para­
sites, lacked other components of the laboratory : the livestock that coex­
isted with humans and exchanged diseases with them.83
Overall, the effects of the encounter between epidemiologically scarred
Europe and virgin America were devastating. The total population of the
New World before the Conq uest was by some estimates as high as 1 hun­
dred million people, one-third of whom bel onged to the Mexican and
another third to the Andean civilizations. Fifty years later, after its initial
encou nter with Cortes, the Mexican population had decreased to a
mere 3 million (about one-tenth of the original).84 After the initial clash i n
Mexico i n 1518, smallpox traveled south, reaching the I nca empire by
1526, long before Pizarro's troops began their depredati ons. The disease
had equall y drastic consequences, making it much easier for the con­
querors to plunder the I ncas' treasures and resources. The measles fol­
lowed smallpox, spreading through Mexico and Peru in the years
1530-1531. Other endemic diseases such as diphtheria and the mumps
. soon crossed the ocean, and even some of the epidemics that still
afflicted Europe (e.g., typhus and influenza) may have also leaped this
ancient seawater barrier: the globe was beginning to form a single dis­
ease pool.85
132
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
The cultural advantages that the Spanish enjoyed (horses, very primi­
tive firearms, metal armor) would have been quite insufficient for the
task of conquering a densely inhabited territory. Large animals and loud
weapons had, no doubt, a powerful psychological effect on the native
population. But after the first encounters, during which the indigenous
warriors saw their stone weapons pierce through European armor and
horseflesh and witnessed the inefficiency of the Spaniards' inaccurate,
single-shot muskets, these cultural advantages would have dissipated.
But because the majority of the native inhabitants di ed from disease,
draining the reservoirs of skills and know-how that sustained their culture,
that meager advantage sufficed. Culture certainly played a role here, but
it was not the most important. Cultural materials flowed together with
genes and biomass (not all of it human) across the Atlantic, and it was
the whole complex mixture that tri umphed.
An entire continent was in this way transformed into a supply region
for all three spheres of the European economy: material life, markets, and
antimarkets. Sugar and other inexpensive foodstuffs for the masses would
soon begin flowing in large quantities from the colonies and plantations
to the homeland. A variety of raw materials to be sold in her markets al so
flowed home. Final l y, an intense flow of si lver (and other precious metals)
provided fuel for European antimarkets and for the European monetary
system as a whole.
We saw above that while some cities took over alien lands other cities
tapped into foreign resources by manipulating markets. Unlike the pro­
cess of colonizing a territory, a mostly biological affair, penetrating for­
eign markets (such as the huge I ndian or Chinese markets, which rivaled
those of Europe until the ei ghteenth century) involved large quantities of
metallic money. Silver (rather than infectious diseases) played the role of
"predigestive enzyme" here. Thanks in part to the steady flow of metal
from American deposits, the European monetary system "was projected
over the whole world, a vast net thrown over the wealth of other continents.
It was no minor detail that for Europe's gain the treasures of America
were exported as far as the Far East, to be converted into local money or
ingots in the sixteenth century. Europe was beginning to devour, to digest
the world."8
6
Central Place capitals such as Madrid, Network-system metropolises
such as Amsterdam, and hybrids such as London used their own biologi­
cal or mineral materials to dissolve foreign defenses, break apart loyal­
ties, weaken the grip of indigenous traditions. After gaining entry onto
foreign soil this way, a massive transfer of people, plants, and animals
was necessary to establish a permanent European presence. I n some
133
2: FESH AND GENES
areas of the worl d, parti cu l arl y those that had bee n used as gateways to
expl oit forei gn markets, the new col on i es woul d fai l mu ch as those estab­
l i shed duri ng the Crusades had. But i n ot her parts, Western col oni zers
woul d i ndeed wi n the propagati on game and, wi t h i t, access to the most
fe rti l e and producti ve l ands of the pl anet.
134
Species and Ecosystems
We wou l d do wel l to pause now
for a moment to consi der some
of t he ph i l osophi cal quest i ons
ra i sed by t he f l ow of genes and
bi omass, as wel l as by t he struc­
tu res t hat emerge from t hose
f l ows. As I argued i n t he previ ­
ous chapter t here i s a sense i n
whi ch speci es and ecosystems
are t he product of st ructu re­
generat i ng processes that are
basi ca l l y t he same as t hose
135
2: FLESH AND GENES
whi ch prod uce t he di fferent types of rocks
t hat popu l ate t he worl d of geol ogy. A gi ven
speci es (or, more accu ratel y, the ge ne pool of
a spec i es) ca n be seen as the h i stori ca l out­
come of a sort i ng process (a n accu mu l at i on
of genet i c mater i al s u nder t he i n f l uence of
sel ect i on pressu res) fol l owed by a process of
consol i dat i on ( reprod uct i ve i sol at i on) , whi ch
gi ves a l oose accu mu l at i on of genes a more
or t ess d ura bl e - form by act i ng as a " ratchet
devi ce." The most fami l i ar form of repro­
duct i ve i sol at i on consi dered by bi ol ogi sts
has an exter na l cause: geograph i ca l cha nges
i n the ha bi tat where re product i ve commu ­
n i t i es bel ongi ng to t hat speci es l i ve . For
i nstance , a ri ver may cha nge i ts cou rse (over
many yea rs) and ru n t hrough t he mi ddl e
of a previ ousl y u ndi vi ded terri tory, maki ng
contact between members of a re product i ve
commu n i ty di ff i cu l t or i mpossi bl e. I n t hat
si t uat i on , t he two ha l ves of t he commu n i ty
wi l l sta rt to accu mu l ate changes i n depen­
dentl y of each ot her and hence begi n to
di verge, u nt i l t he day when mat i ng between
t hei r res pect i ve members becomes ( mech­
an i cal l y) i mposs i bl e, or prod uces onl y steri l e
offspri ng.
136
SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEMS
However, t he process of reprod uct i ve i sol a­
t i on (a nd th us, of speciation) may be more
compl ex t han t hat; i n pa rt i cu l ar, i t may
have internal ca uses as wel l as exter nal ones.
One wel l - studi ed exampl e of an i nternal
cause i s t he "speci f i c mate recogn i t i on sys­
te m," or SM RS. 87 Th i s is t he syste m of tra i ts
and si gnal s (wh i ch can be be havi oral or
anatomi cal , or both) t hat membe rs of a sex­
u a l l y re prod uc i ng speci es use to recogn i ze
potent i al mates. Ge neti c changes t hat affect
t he SMRS ( mat i ng cal l s , cou rtsh i p ri tua l s,
i dent i fyi ng marks and decorat i ons , s me l l s)
may i n deed act as a ba rri er to i nter breedi ng
even i f t he two di verge nt dau ghter speci es
cou l d potent i a l l y mi x t he i r ge n es. I n t h i s
case , sexu al sel ect i on (t hat i s, sel ect i on pres­
s u res exerci sed on an i n di vi d ual by i ts poten ­
t i al mates) can cause a smal l i n i t i al di fference
to be anl pl i f i ed i nto a maj or barr i er to t he
exchange of genes and , hence, resu l t i n t he
creat i on of a new speci es. 87
Th us t he f l ow of genes (whi ch one mi ght
i magi ne as pote nti al l y cont i n uous) becomes
enca ps u l ated vi a t hese i sol at i ng barri ers i nto
separate packets , each defi n i ng a di ffere nt
st rat i f i ed system. However, t here i s a ri sk of
137
2: FESH AND GENES
exaggerat i ng t he strengt h of t hese barri ers, parti cul a rl y i f we pay atten­
ti on only to t he worl d of rel ati vel y l arge a ni mal s, to whi ch we bel ong.
I ndeed, ot her l i vi ng creatu res may not be as geneti cal l y "compartmental ­
i zed" as we a re. Ma ny pl ants, for exampl e, a re abl e to hybri di ze wi th
pl ants of ot her speci es (that i s, t he i sol ati ng barri ers retai n a measure of
permeabi l ity), whi l e many mi croorgan i sms freel y exchange genes wi th
other speci es d u ri ng t hei r l i feti mes. (As we shal l see, t hi s seems to be the
way many of the bacteri a that cause i nfecti ous di seases have acqui red
resi stance to a nti bi oti cs. ) I n short, the fl ow of genes i n the bi osphere as
a whol e may not be as di sconti n uous (as strati fi ed) as one woul d i magi ne
by l ooki ng at l arge a n i mal s al one. I n fact, i n some speci al ci rcumstances,
even a ni mal s i n total r eprod ucti ve i sol ati on may exchange geneti c materi ­
al s vi a i n heri ta bl e vi ruses (cal l ed retroviruses). 89
Tak i ng a l l t hi s i nto accou nt, t he pi ct ure of evol uti onary processes t hat
ererges resembl es more a meshwor k t han a stri ct hi erarchy, a bush or
r hi zome more t han a neatl y bra nchi ng tree:
There i s su bstanti al evi dence that organi sms are not l i mi ted for thei r evol u­
ti on to genes that bel ong to the gene pool of thei r speci es. Rather i t seems
more pl ausi bl e that i n the ti me-scal e of evol uti on the whol e of the gene pool
of the bi osphere is avai l abl e to al l organi sms and that the more dramati c
steps and apparent d i sconti nui ti es i n evol uti on are i n fact attri butabl e to very
rare events i nvol vi ng the adopti on of part or al l of a forei gn genome. Organ­
i sms and genomes may thus be regarded as compartments of the bi osphere
through whi ch genes i n general ci rcul ate at vari ous rates and in whi ch i ndi ­
vi dual genes and operons may be i ncorporated if of suffi ci ent advantage. 9
o
Even wi th t hi s added compl i cati on , t he two a bstract machi nes di s­
cussed i n t he previ ous chapt er ( one generati ng h i era rchi es, t he ot her
meshwor ks) a re adequate to accou nt for l i vi ng structu res, part i cul arl y i f
we make a l l owance for varyi ng mixtu res of the two types. However, I
woul d l i ke to a rgue t hat t here is a not her abstract machi ne i nvol ved i n t he
producti on of bi ol ogi ca l ent i ti es whi ch has n o cou nterpart i n t he geol ogi ­
cal worl d, t herefore di sti ngui shi ng speci es from sedi mentary rocks. Thi s
other a bstract machi ne, howeve r, may be found i n ot her non bi ol ogi cal
rea l ms ( i n human cu l tu re, for i nst ance) and t herefore does not consti tute
t he "esse nce" of l i vi ng creatu res.
Darwi n's basi c i nsi ght was t hat a n i mal and pl ant speci es are the cumu­
l ati ve resul t of a process of descent wi t h modi fi cati on . Later on, however,
sci enti sts came to real i ze t hat any variable replica tor ( not j ust geneti c repl i ­
cators) coupl ed to any sorting device ( not j ust ecol ogi cal sel ecti on pres-
138
SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEMS
s ures) woul d generate a capaci ty for evol uti on. For i nstance, i n the 1970s,
the computer sci enti st Joh n Hol l and devi sed a smal l computer program
that sel f- repl i cated by fol l owi ng a set of coded i nstructi ons and t ra nsmi t­
ti ng a copy of t hose i nstructi ons to i ts progeny. Hol l and's program di d
very l i ttl e ot her t han generate vari abl e repl i cati ng copi es of i tsel f. How­
ever, if a population of t hese repl i cati ng programs was submi tted to some
sel ecti on pressure (for exampl e, i f t he user of the program were to weed
out t hose vari ants that di d not seem an i mprovement, l ett i ng onl y the
more promi si ng vari ants su rvi ve) , the i ndi vi dual programs devel oped use­
ful properti es after many generati ons. Thi s i s the basi s for Hol l and's
"genet i c al gori t hm, " whi ch is wi del y used today i n some computer- based
di sci pl i nes, as an effecti ve probl em-sol vi ng devi ce. 9
1
Ri chard Dawki ns
i ndependentl y real i zed t hat patter ns of ani mal behavi or (such as bi rd­
songs or t he use of tool s by apes) coul d i ndeed repl i cate t hemsel ves i f
t hey spread across a popu l ati on (and across generati ons) by imitation.
Bi rdsongs are t he most t horoughl y studi ed exampl e of t hese repl i cators
("memes, " as Dawki ns cal l s t hem), and t hey do i ndeed evol ve new
forms and generate di fferent di al ects. 9
2
I n each of t hese cases, t he cou pl i ng of vari abl e repl i cators wi t h a sel ec­
t i on pressu re resul ts i n a ki nd of "searchi ng devi ce" (or "probe head")
t hat expl ores a space of possi bl e forms (t he space of possi bl e organi c
shapes, or bi rdsongs, or sol uti ons t o computer probl ems). Thi s search­
i ng devi ce i s, of cou rse, bl i nd (or more exactly, s hortsi ghted), fol l owi ng
the key pr i nci pl e of neo-Darwi ni sm: evolution has no foresight.93 ( I t i s, nev­
ert hel ess, hi ghl y effecti ve, at l east i n cert ai n ci rcumsta nces. ) Thi s probe
head i s the abstract machi ne we were l ooki ng for, the one t hat di fferenti ­
ates the process of sedi mentary-rock formati on from the process t hat
yi el ds bi ol ogi cal speci es. And yet, al though the new machi ne i s character­
i sti c of l i fe-forms, t he same basi c di agram appl i es to memes and geneti c
al gori t hms. I t woul d be i ncorrect to say that evol uti onary concepts are
used metaphorically when a ppl i ed to computer programs a n d bi rdsongs,
but l i teral l y when tal ki ng about genes. I t i s true t hat sci enti sts fi rst di s­
covered t h i s di agram i n t he worl d of l i vi ng creatu res, and i t may even be
true t hat t he l i vi ng worl d was the fi rst physi cal real i zati on of t he abstract
machi ne on t hi s pl anet. However, t hat does n ot make t he abst ract
machi ne any more " i nt i matel y rel ated" to DNA t han to a ny ot her repl i ca­
tor. Hence, i t does not consti tute an "essence" of l i fe, i n the sense of
bei ng that which makes life what it is.94
The fl ow of genes t hrough repl i cati on is i ndeed on ly a part of what l i fe
i s. The other part is consti tuted by the fl ow of bi omass. I ndi vi dual a ni ­
mal s are not j ust members of a speci es, but members of a parti cul ar
139
2: FESH AND GENES
reproducti ve commu n i ty i n habi ti ng a parti cul ar ecosystem and t hus par­
ti ci pate i n t he exchange of energy and materi al s t hat makes u p a food
web. As wi th any physi cal system, the i ntense fl ow of e nergy movi ng
t hrough a n ecosystem pushes it far from equi l i bri u m and endows it wi th
the abi l ity to generate i ts own dynami c stabl e states (attractors). The
same dynami c hol ds true for the i ndi vi dual organ i sms evol vi ng wi t hi n
t hat ecosystem. Consequentl y, t he space t hat t he probe head bl i ndly
expl ores is not compl etel y unstructu red but al ready popul ated by vari ous
types of stabl e states (stati c, cycl i cal , chaoti c, autopoi eti c). Thi s prestruc­
t uri ng of t he search space by i ntensi fi cati ons of t he e nergy fl ow may
i ndeed faci l i tate the j ob of t he abstract machi ne (bl i n d as it i s). For exam­
pl e, si nce on e possi bl e e ndogenousl y generated stabl e state i s a peri odi c
attractor, whi ch woul d a utomati cal l y d raw gen e acti vi ty and gene prod­
ucts i nto a cycl e, the searchi ng devi ce may have stumbled upon the
means to generate a pri mi ti ve metabol i sm very earl y on. Furt her evol u­
ti onary compl exi fi cati on may have been achi eved as the probe head
moved from attractor to attractor, l i ke so many steppi ng-stones.
When search spaces (or "adapti ve l andscapes") were fi rst post ul ated i n
bi ol ogy i n t he 1930s, t hey were t hought to be prestruct ured by a si ngl e
equi l i bri u m, a ki nd of mountai n wi th one peak, whi ch sel ecti on pressures
forced the probe head to cl i mb. Accordi ng to t hi s schema, the top of t he
mountai n represented t he poi nt of maxi mum fi tness, and once a popul a­
ti on had bee n d ri ven t here, sel ecti on pressu res woul d keep it l ocked i nto
t hi s opti mal equi l i bri um. However, recent expl orati ons of adapti ve l and­
scapes, u si ng sophi sti cated computer si mul ati ons, have reveal ed t hat
these search spaces a re anyt hi ng but si mpl e, t hat they may compri se
many mou ntai ns of di fferent hei ghts (l ocal opti ma), cl ustered i n a vari ety
of ways, t he val l eys and peaks rel ated not di rectly to fi tness but to u n der­
l yi ng dynami cal stabl e states. Moreover, once the questi on of coevol uti on
i s i ntroduced ( as when an i mprovement i n a prey's armor puts pressu re
on i ts predator's fangs and cl aws to further s harpen , whi ch i n turn sti mu­
l ates a t hi cken i ng of t he armor), it becomes cl ear t hat i nteract i ng speci es
i n an ecosystem have the abi l i ty to change each other's adaptive
landscapes. (Thi s i s j ust anot her way of sayi ng t hat i n a predator-prey
arms race t here i s not a fi xed defi ni ti on of what cou nts as "the fi ttest. ")95
Al though the noti on of u n i que stabl e states di d some damage to evol u-
. ti onary bi ol ogy (by i mposi ng an oversi mpl i fi ed versi on of evol uti on whi ch
di sregarded energy fl ow and t he far-from-equi l i bri u m condi ti ons the fl ow
of energy generates), the i dea of the "survi val of the fi ttest" had much
more damagi ng effects when i t was appl i ed t o human cu l tu re. That mi s­
appl i cat i on degenerated al most i mmedi atel y i nto Soci al Darwi ni sm and
140
SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEMS
t he eugeni cs movement and, l ater on, i nspi red t he raci al cl eansi ng pol i ­
ci es of Nazi Germany. Comi ng as i t di d after centu ri es of i nt ense col oni al ­
i sm, Soci a l Da rwi ni sm natu ral l y fostered t he i dea that t he Caucasi an race
was su peri or to al l others. Of cou rse, i n addi ti on to t he mi staken noti on
of a si ngl e, opti mal equi l i bri u m, t hese soci al movements were n u rtu red
by the bel i ef t hat genes determi ne cu l tu re, t hat i s, t hat t here i s but a si n­
gl e probe head (whereas, as we j ust saw, even bi rds embody at l east two).
I n reacti on to t hi s posi ti on, a nu mber of ant hropol ogi sts (i ncl udi ng
Franz Boas, Marga ret Mead, and Rut h Benedi ct) devel oped duri ng t he
fi rst decades of t he twenti eth century a cou ntert heory t hat not on l y gave
h u man cul t ure i ts deserved autonomy from geneti c determi nat i on, but
deni ed t hat bi ol ogi cal evol uti on had any effect whatsoever o n t he devel op­
ment of hu man soci eti es. Accord i ng to t hese ant hropol ogi sts, hu man
natu re was compl etel y mal l eabl e and fl exi bl e, and h U man behavi or deter­
mi ned by cul tu re al one. I n t he s hort ru n, "cu l tu ral rel ati vi sm" (as it came
to be known) di d us t he consi derabl e servi ce of fosteri ng a greater tol er­
ance of cul tu ral di fferences (a wel come anti dote to t he raci st i deas and
pol i ci es of t he Soci al Darwi ni sts and eugeni ci sts), but l ater on i t hardened
i nto dogma, and i n some cases it even degenerated i nto empty cl i ches
(such as t he sl ogan "everyt hi ng i s soci al l y const ructed"). 96
Fortu natel y, anthropol ogi sts seem to be movi ng away from dogmati c
posi ti ons and devel opi ng a new interactionist approach, wherei n both
organi c and cul tu ral evol uti on are consi dered si mul taneousl y. One versi on
of thi s new approach (t he one devel oped by Wi l l i am Du r ham) seems par­
ti cu l arl y cl ose to t he vi ew we are expl ori ng here: t hat both organi c and
cul tu ral change i nvol ve repl i cators and t hat new structu res ari se by sel ec­
ti ve retenti on of var i ants. Moreover, Durham agrees t hat t hi s does not
i nvol ve a metaphori cal use of bi ol ogi ca l concepts. ( He cal l s t hi s Camp­
bel l 's rul e: t he a nal ogy to cul t ura! accu mu l ati ons is not from organi c evo­
l uti on but from a general model of evol uti onary change, of whi ch organi c
evol uti on is but one i nstance. )97
Before descri bi ng t he fi ve di fferent ways i n whi ch geneti c and cul tu ral
repl i cators i nteract accordi ng to Dur ham, we must fi rst address the ques­
ti on of j ust what geneti c effects we a re consi der i ng here. Al though a few
i ndi vi dual genes have been added to t he human gene pool i n hi stori cal
ti mes (such as t he gene t hat causes si ckl e-cel l anemi a but protects i ts
carri ers agai nst mal ari a), geneti c evol uti on i s so much sl ower t han cul tu r­
al evol uti on t hat its i nfl uence i n human affai rs is margi n al . As Stephen
J ay Goul d poi nts out , "Whi l e t he gene for si ckl e-cel l a nemi a decl i nes i n fre­
quency among bl ack Ameri cans [si nce t hey a re not subj ected to t he
mal ari al sel ecti on pressu re], we have i nvented t he rai l road, t he automo-
141
2: FLESH AND GENES
bi l e, radi o and tel evi si on, the atom bomb, the computer, the ai r pl ane and
spaceshi p. "9
8
Thus, t he geneti c effects we are consi deri ng are t he organi c
l i mitati ons i mposed on us by our own bodi es whi ch can be cal l ed "human
u ni versal s" as l ong as we do not attach any transcen de ntal meani ng to
thi s term. (Orga ni c constrai nts, l i ke cul tural constrai nts, are conti ngent
hi stori cal products, t hough t hey operate over l onger t i mescal es. )
One way i n whi ch geneti c and cu l tu ral repl i cators i nteract (or act on
one anot her) i s as sorti ng devi ces. On the one hand, genes, or rather
thei r bodi ly (or phenotypi c) effects, may act as sel ecti on pressures o n the
accumul at i on of cul tu ral materi al s. Dur ham di scusses the exampl e of
col or percept i on , and i ts rel ati onshi p wi th col or words, partl y because i ts
anatomi cal basi s i s rel ati vel y wel l known (both the pi gment-based sys­
tem of l i ght absor pti on i n t he eye and the processi ng of sensory i n put by
the brai n) and p artly because much anthropol ogi cal research on t hi s
subj ect al ready exi sts. Cr uci al evi dence on t he " uni versal ity" of col or per­
cepti on was gat hered i n the 1960s by the anthropol ogi sts Brent Berl i n
and Paul Kay i n t he course of an experi ment desi gned t o prove t he oppo­
si te hypothesi s: t hat each l anguage performs the codi ng of col or experi ­
ence i n a d i fferent manner. Berl i n and Kay showed a l arge sampl e of
col or chi ps to subj ects bel ongi ng to twenty di fferent l i ngui sti c commu ni ­
ti es and asked t hem to l ocate i n the gri d of chi ps both what the subj ects
woul d consi der to be t he focal poi nt of the referent of a gi ven col or word
as wel l as i ts outer boundari es. On the basi s of the l i ngui sti c rel ati vity
hypothesi s (that t here is no " nat ural " way to cut u p t he spectrum), these
researchers expected t hei r experi ments to el i ci t wi del y scattered focal
poi nts and di scordant outer bou ndari es, but i nstead they recorded a very
ti ght cl usteri ng of focal poi nts (and concordance of bou ndari es) regard­
l ess of how many col or terms exi sted i n a gi ven nati ve vocabul ary. More
recent research h as supported (an
d
refi ned) Berl i n and Kay's resul ts
and has further shown t hat even though di fferent cu l tures have accumu­
l ated a di fferent n u mber of col or l abel s, the order that this accumulation
follows exhi bi ts some def i ni te regul ari ti es, with terms for "bl ack" and
"wh i te" al ways appeari ng fi rst , fol l owed by terms for pri mary col ors i n
certai n sequences (red-green-yel l ow-bl ue, f or exampl e). One possi bl e
i nterpretati on i s that the fi rst l abel s t hat accumul ate (" bl ack" and "whi te")
desi gnate broad, composi te categori es ("dar k-cool " and " l i ght-war m, "
respecti vel y), whi ch sl owl y di fferenti ate as new l abel s are added t o the
repertoi re, each one e nteri ng t he set i n a speci fi c and hi ghl y constrai n ed
fashi o n . On t hi s basi s, Du rham h as con cl uded that t hi s is an exampl e of
geneti c constrai nts o n percepti on gui di ng the accumul ati on of cul tural
repl i cators (col or words). 99
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SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEMS
Cul t ural materi al s, i n t ur n, may act i n t he opposi te di recti on and i nfl u­
ence t he accumul at i on of genes. U n l i ke t he accu mu l ati on of col or terms,
however, t he accu mul ati on of geneti c materi al s happens so sl owl y as to
be vi rtual ly u nobservabl e. Hence, hard evi dence i s much more di ffi cu l t to
obtai n i n thi s case, and we are forced to di scuss hypotheti cal scenari os
on the basi s of i ndi rect evi dence, such as that provi ded by myt hs. The
exampl e Dur ham di scusses i n detai l i s t he gene t hat al l ows some I ndo­
European races to di gest raw mi l k as adu l ts. Fi rst of al l , vari ati on for t hi s
gene does exi st and i s hi ghl y correl ated wi t h certai n cu l tu ral patter ns.
Hi gh preval ences of t hi s gene exi st onl y i n popu l ati ons t hat today consume
comparati vel y l arge amou nts of fresh mi l k and possess anci ent mythol o­
gi es that both record and encou rage adul t fresh- mi l k consu mpt i on. I n
t ur n, t hese geneti c and cu l tural materi al s are associ ated wi th envi ron­
ments of l ow ul travi ol et radi ati on , where vi tami n D and metabol i c cal ci u m
are chron i cal l y defi ci ent, that i s, wi th envi ron ments where fresh- mi l k con­
sumpti on can have posi ti ve heal th effects. Durham revi ews several possi ­
bl e scenari os t hat may expl ai n t hese correl ati ons and concl udes t hat t he
most pl ausi bl e one ( as wel l as t he one more consi stent wi th t he hi story
coded i nto myths) i s as fol l ows:
As genes for LA [l actose absorpti on] were favored at hi gh l ati tudes, more
peopl e coul d dri nk mi l k after weani ng, thereby spreadi ng the benefits of
mi l k producti on and i mprovi ng the l ocal cul tural eval uati on of the memes
behi nd the practi ce. The i ncreased avai l abi l ity of mi l k, i n turn, woul d have
conti nued the geneti c sel ecti on of LA genotypes, thereby augmenti ng the
frequency of adul t l actose absorpti on, the benefits of mi l ki ng, the cul tural
preference for mi l k, and so on i n perpetuity . . . . The cycle may have started
as a conti nuati on of routi ne i nfant feedi ng practi ces. Earl y on, the mi l k of
dai ry ani mal s may have been tri ed as a suppl ement to mother's mi l k,
i ncreasi ng the vol ume of l actati on, its durati on, or both. By vi rtue of the
(i n i ti al l y rare) LA genotypes, some reci pi ents woul d have mai ntai ned l actose
suffi ci ency beyond i ts normal l apse, conti nui ng to dr i nk mi l k and thereby
avoi di ng ri ckets i n thei r early years . . . . I n parti cul arl y rachi togeni c areas,
the advantage to fresh mi l k consumpti on wou l d have exten ded i nto adol es­
cence and adul thood.
loo
I n addi t i on to t hese two ways of i nteract i ng di rectl y wi th each ot her, cul ­
t ure and genes may enter i nto other, more i ndi rect rel ati ons. I n parti cul ar,
Dur ham poi nts out that once certai n cu l tural materi al s have accu mul ated,
t hey may harden i nto i nsti tuti onal val ues, whi ch i n t ur n act as sel ecti on
pressures for fu rt her cu l tu ral accumul ati ons. Hence, some cul t ur al repl i -
143
2: FESH AND GENES
cators may, i n a sense, be self-selecting, and thi s gi ves t hem a degree of
autonomy i n thei r evol uti on. Under these condi ti ons, cul tural ada ptati ons
may come t o have rel ati ons of enhancement, opposi ti on, or neutral ity
wi th respect to geneti c adaptati ons.
I ncest taboos a re a n exampl e of enhancement. Zool ogi sts have con­
vi nci ngl y demonstrated t hat i n breedi ng has del eteri ous geneti c effects
and that many ani mal s have evol ved an i nsti ncti ve avoi dance of it. Hu mans
may i ndeed share t hi s bui l t-i n constrai nt, as studi es of aversi on to sexual
i ntercou rse among adu l ts who were reared together i n ki bbutzi m seem to
show. However, as Du rham poi nts out, taboo prohi bi ti ons are not neces­
sari l y t he same as avoi dance of i n breedi ng. He observes that "there can
be noni ncest uous i n breedi ng (as when sexual i ntercou rse between certai n
categori es of ki n i s not prohi bi ted) and noni n bred i ncest (as when prohi ­
bi ti ons appl y betwee.n pare nts and t hei r adopted chi l dren). "
lOl
Gi ven the
ra nge of vari a bi l ity of t he i ncest prohi bi ti ons, whi ch onl y parti al l y overl ap
wi th i n breedi ng, Dur ham concl udes t hat t he sets of regul ati ons t hat con­
sti tute the taboo i n di fferent soci eti es evol ved under cu l tural sel ecti on
pressu res (al though i t i s possi bl e t hat i nsti ncti ve avoi da nce may have
pl ayed a rol e i n t hei r accu mu l ati on earl y on i n human evol uti on).
The rel ati ve autonomy wi th whi ch sel f-sel ecti on endows the evol uti on of
cul t ural repl i cators al l ows t hem to fol l ow a di recti on t hat i s neutral rel a­
ti ve to organi c adaptati ons. For the same reason (i . e. , cul tural repl i cators'
rel ati ve evol ut i onary a utonomy), vari ous aspects of cul t ure may t urn out
to have mal adapti ve consequences rel ati ve to our bi ol ogy. For exampl e,
many ci vi l i zati ons i n t he past carel essl y i ntensi fi ed t he expl oi tati on of thei r
soi l s, fai l i ng to i mpl ement avai l abl e techni q ues (such as terraci ng) t hat
coul d have protected t hi s val uabl e resou rce from erodi ng away. Conse­
quentl y, those soci eti es i nadvertentl y set a l i mi t on the number of ti mes
t hey coul d pass thei r ge nes down through the generati ons. (An upper
l i mi t of seventy ge nerati ons exi sted for most cul tures, accordi ng to one
hi stori an's cal cu l ati ons. ) I n thi s case, t he bounded rati onal ity of many
el i tes and the pros pect of short-term gai ns promoted t he accu mul ati on
of habi ts and routi nes t hat, i n the l ong r un, destroyed t he condi ti ons
u nder whi ch t he gene pool s of t hose ci vi l i zati ons coul d reproduce them­
sel ves. Du rham al so fi nds th ese mal adapti ve cu l tu ral materi al s accumu­
l ati ng i n co ntemporary commun i ti es of EI Sal vador and Honduras, thei r
l andscapes "l i ttered wi th tel l tal e si gns of mal adaptati on . Sl opes of forty
o r fi fty degrees . . . were bei ng cul ti vated in perpetuity . . . wi th steadi l y
decl i n i ng yi el ds. Corn was cul ti vated i n rock outcrops, an i mal s grazed i n
steep gu l l i es, and the erosi ve force of tropi cal rai ns carri ed off eve r
more of the l eached and worn-out topsoi l . "1
02
I n thi s case, however, the
144
SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEMS
probl em i s not the l ocal peasant cul ture. Rather, the mani pu l ati on of
l and ten u re pol i ci es by the l anded el i tes a nd the gover nment' s su pport
for export agri cul tu re had i mposed these mal adapti ve condi ti ons o n the
peasants. From thi s and other cases, Du rham concl udes t hat a maj or
cause of opposi ti on between geneti c and cul tural repl i cators i s the i mpo­
si ti on from above of habi ts and customs (or l i vi ng condi ti ons l eadi ng to
certai n habi ts a nd customs) t hat are mal adapti ve.
Howeve r, one must not assu me that the power to i mpose a set of val ues
on a popul ati on (an d hence to i nfl uence the di recti on of t hat popul ati on's
cul t ural evol uti on) is al ways strong enough to el i mi nate the sel ecti ve
effect of i ndi vi d ual choi ce. ( Herei n l i es anot her weakness of "cu l tu ral rel a­
ti vi sm": not only does i t emphasi ze the exoti c at t he expense of the u n re­
markabl e, whi ch i s whe re human u ni versal s are to be fou nd, but i t tends
to focus on the norms of a soci ety whi l e i gnori ng t he act ual behavi or of
i ndi vi dual agents, wh o may or may not al ways adhere to those norms.
Pe rfect obedi ence cannot be taken for granted . 103) Accordi ng to Dur ham,
absol ute i mposi ti on and free i ndi vi dual choi ce need t o be taken as i deal ­
i zed pol es of a conti nuum, wi th most actu al behavi or fal l i ng somewhe re
i n between, as a mi xtu re of the two.
Havi ng establ i shed t he di fferent forms of di rect and i ndi rect i nter­
acti ons between cu l tu ral and geneti c re pl i cators, we must now add ress
certai n questi ons regardi ng the kinds a nd number of abst ract probe
heads at work i n cu l tu ral evol uti on. For exampl e, we observed t hat the
fl ow of ge nes th rough l arge ani mal s i s qui te di ffere nt from the fl ow
t hrough mi croorgani sms, the for mer fol l owi ng a ri gi d verti cal form (from
one generati on to a not her) whi l e the l atte r addi ti onal l y i nvol ves a hori zon­
tal exchange of genes (from one speci es to another, vi a pl asmi ds or
ot her vectqrs). I n terms of the numbe r of channel s for tra nsmi ssi on, t he
fl ow of cu l tu ral materi al s i n h uman soci eti es i s qui te open, and i n that
sense a ki n to the fl ow of ge nes th rough bacteri a. Cul t ural repl i cators fl ow
verti cal l y i n a one-to- one struct ure (from parents to offspri ng) or i n a
many-to- one struct ure (as when t he adul ts i n a communi ty exerci se pres­
sures o n a chi l d). Cul t ural repl i cators al so fl ow hori zontal ly, from adul t to
adul t (one-to-one) or from l eaders to fol l owers (one-to-ma ny).
104
Moreover, it may be argued t hat cu l t ural evol uti on i nvol ves more than
one searchi ng devi ce: whi l e some materi al s repl i cate t hrough imitation
(and, hence, are anal ogous to bi rdsongs or, more general ly, to memes),
others repl i cate th rough enforced repetition: chi l dren do not si mpl y l earn
to i mi tate the sounds and grammati cal ru l es that make up a l anguage,
t hey adopt them as a norm or repeat them as a rule. (Thi s i s one mi nor
shortcomi ng of Du r ham'S a nal ysi s: he uses t he term meme for al l cul t ural
145
2: FLESH AND GENES
repl i cators, even though some of t hem are transmi tted as norms [e. g. ,
hi s "secondary val u es"]. ) Sforza observes that l i ngu i sti c norms (except
for i ndi vi dual words) do not easi ly repl i cate across d i fferent cul tu res but
travel al ong wi th the bodi es that serve as t hei r organi c su bstratu m.
( Hence the ti ght correspondences he fi nds between l i ngu i sti c and geneti c
maps. ) He attri butes thi s conservati ve tendency to the fi rst two (verti cal )
mechani sms of cu l tu ra l transmi ssi on. 105 The fl ow t hrough hori zontal
channel s, on the ot her hand, does i nvol ve i mi tat i on a nd so may be con­
si dered a fl ow of me mes.
A di fferent process i s i nvol ved when the transmi ssi on i nvol ves not
for mal i zed knowl edge but embod i ed know- how. I n t hi s case, the i nforma­
ti on i n questi on can not travel by i tsel f (t hrough books, for exampl e) but
needs human bodi es as i t s ve hi cl e. Thi s ki nd of tra nsmi ssi on may be
compared to t hat i nvol ved in epi demi c contagi on. Br audel argues, for
exampl e, that the pri nti ng press and mobi l e arti l l ery di d not create a per­
manent i mbal ance i n t he di stri buti on of power i n Europe because t hey
spread too ra pi dl y across the Conti ne nt, t hanks to the mobi l ity of t hei r
practi ti on ers. Pri nters and mercenari es i n the si xteenth a nd seventee nth
centu ri es mi grated conti nuou sl y, taki ng thei r ski l l s and know- how wher­
ever they went, spreadi ng t hem l i ke an epi demi c.
lo6
I n t hi nki ng t hrough the mechani sms of cul t ural evol uti on, we must
take i nto consi derati on the kinds of enti ti es that may be sai d to evol ve i n
a gi ven soci ety. When studyi ng soci eti es that l ack d i versi fi ed pol i ti co­
economi c i nsti tuti ons, we may vi ew cul tu ral transmi ssi on i n terms of
repl i cati on of the whol e set of val ues and norms whi ch bi nds a part i cul ar
soci ety toget her. But i n u rba n soci eti es, i nsti tuti ons may al so reproduce
t hemsel ves wi th va ri ati on individually. The economi sts Ri chard Nel son
and Si dney Wi nter, for i nstance, espouse an evol uti on ary t heory of eco­
nomi cs based on t he i dea that once the i ntern al operati ons of an orga ni ­
zat i on have become routi ni zed, the routi nes themsel ves consti tute a
ki nd of "orga nizati onal memory. " 107 For exampl e, when an economi c
i nsti tuti on (e. g. , a bank) opens a branch i n a forei gn ci ty, it sends a por­
ti on of i ts staff to recrui t and tra i n new peopl e; i n thi s way, it transmi ts
its i nte rnal routi nes to the new branch. Thus, i nsti tuti ons may be sai d to
transmi t i nfor mati on verti cal l y to t hei r "offspri ng. " On the other hand,
si nce many i n novati ons spread t hrough t he economy by i mi tati on, i nsti ­
tuti ons may al so affect each ot her i n a manner anal ogous to i nfecti ous
contagi on.
Here we have been expl ori ng excl u si vel y the i nteracti ons betwee n cul ­
t ure and ge neti cs, but nonet hel ess we must never l ose si ght of the fact
that t he fl ow of repl i cators (whether genes, memes, norms, or routi nes)
146
SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEMS
consti tutes onl y hal f t he story. The fl ow of matter and energy t hrough a
system (whi ch ofte n means the fl ow of bi omass, eit her l i vi ng or fossi l ) i s
of equal i mportance, parti cul arl y du ri ng i ntensi fi cati ons. The rol e of
ge neti c and cu l tural repl i cators (or, more accuratel y, of the phenotypi c
effects of those repl i cators) i s to act as catalysts t hat faci l i tate or i n hi bi t
the sel f-organi zi ng processes made possi bl e by i ntense matter-energy
fl ows. I t is these f l ows that determi ne the n at ure of the t her modyna mi c
sta bl e states avai l abl e to a system; the catal ysts act merel y as control
mechani sms, choosi ng one sta bl e state ove r a not her. Anot her featu re of
cata l yti c acti on i s that l ow expendi tu res of energy ca n bri ng about hi gh­
energy transformati ons. An enzyme, for exa mpl e, may bri ng about a
l arge accu mul ati on of a gi ven su bsta nce by accel erati ng a parti cu l ar
chemi cal reacti on, wi thout i tsel f bei ng cha nged i n t he process ( i . e. , wi th­
out i tsel f parti ci pati ng i n the l arger energy tra nsfers).
Cu l tu ral repl i cators may be vi ewed as havi ng phenotypi c effects si mi l ar
t o catal ysi s. A command gi ven by someone of hi gh ran k i n a hi erarchy,
for exampl e, can set off di sproporti onatel y l arge fl ows of energy, as i n the
case of a decl arat i on of wa r. However, the mi l i tary order i tsel f i s power­
l ess u nl ess backed up by a chai n of command that has been kept i n
worki ng order through consta nt dri l l and di sci pl i ne (i ncl udi ng physi cal
puni sh ment for noncompl i ance), al l of whi ch i nvol ves enormous expendi ­
tu res of bodi l y energy. The hi story of Western soci ety i n the l ast few cen­
tu ri es evi dences an i ncreasi ng depende ncy on di sci pl i nary force to secu re
obedi ence. Therefore, we ca nnot be content wi th a descri pti on of soci ety
expressed excl usi vel y in terms of repl i cators and thei r catal yti c effects,
but must al ways i ncl ude the materi al and energeti c processes that defi ne
t he possi bl e stabl e states avai l abl e to a gi ven soci al dynami c.
147
Biological History:
1700-2000 A. D.
Popu l at i on expl osi ons tend to
be cycl i cal , l i ke a gi gant i c
breat hi ng r hyt hm i n wh i ch t he
amou nt of h u man f l esh concen ­
trated i n one pl ace ri ses and
fal l s. These rhyt hms are partl y
t he product of i ntensi f i cati ons
i n food (or ot her energy) pro­
duct i on , whi ch are typi cal l y
fol l owed by depl et i ons. The
i n n u merabl e new mout hs gen ­
erated i n t h e cycl e's u pswi ng
149
2: FESH AND GENES
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150
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
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151
2: FLESH AND GENES
And so the Europeans came between the 1840's and Worl d War I , the great­
est wave of humanity ever to cross oceans and probably the greatest that
ever wi l l cross oceans. Thi s Caucasi an tsunami began wi th the starvi ng I ri sh
and the ambi ti ous Germans and wi th the Bri ti sh, who never reached peaks
of emi grati on as hi gh as some other nati onal i ti es, but who have an i nexti n­
gui shabl e yearni ng t o l eave home. The Scandi navi ans j oi ned t he exodus
next, and then toward the end of the century, the southern and eastern
European peasantry. I tal i ans, Pol es, Spani ards, Portuguese, Hu ngari ans,
Greeks, Serbs, Czechs, Sl ovaks, Ashkenazi c Jews -for the fi rst ti me i n pos­
sessi on of knowl edge of the opportu ni ti es overseas and, vi a rai l road and
steamshi p, of the means to l eave a l i fe of anci ent poverty behi nd -poured
through the ports of Eu rope and across the seams of Pangaea.
1
08
Pangaea is Jhe �ci erJ ti fi c name for t he hypot heti cal l andmass t he con­
t i nents of the Nort her n and Southern Hemi spheres formed when t hey
were sti l l j oi ned toget her, many mi l l i ons of years ago. New a ni mal and
pl ant speci es emerge when t hei r reproducti ve commu n i ti es become i so­
l ated from one a nother; t hus t he anci ent breakup of Pangaea (and the
consequent separati on of reprodu cti ve communi ti es) tri ggered a n i nten se
peri od of orga n i c heterogen i zati on. The worl d that wi tnessed the great
mi gratory fl ow of the 1800s, however, was al ready becomi ng rehomoge­
ni zed . As Crosby puts i t, Pangaea was bei ng sti tched toget her agai n vi a
transocean i c commu ni cati ons. lOg Before the 1500s, t he I sl ami c peopl es
were l argel y responsi bl e for the transfer of speci es across ecol ogi cal
bou ndari es (ci trus, ri ce, cotton , s ugarcane), but from 1500 on, t he Euro­
peans wou l d be the mai n d i spersants.
I n fi ve separate regi ons of the gl obe -the temperate regi ons of the
U ni ted States, Canada, Argenti na, Austral i a, and New Zeal and -t he pro­
cess of rehomogeni zati on reached i ts peak of i ntensity. These regi ons
became, i n fact , repl i cas of t he Europea n u rban and r ur al ecosystems.
Crosby argues t hat, i n order for Eu ropean ci ti es t o repl i cate themsel ves, to
gi ve bi rth to daughter ci ti es such as Boston, Quebec, Buenos Ai res, or
Sydney, a whol e a rray of speci es ( humans and thei r domesti cates) had to
mi grate toget her, had to col oni ze the new l and as a team. The end resul t
is t hat t he temperate a reas of these fi ve cou ntri es became what he cal l s
"Neo- Eu ropes. "
lo
There were, of cou rse, i mport ant col oni al ci ti es outsi de t he regi ons
wi th stri ctl y "European" cl i mates. However, t hese other col oni al urban
centers d i d n ot reprodu ce t he same "soci al ecosystem" as i n u rban
Europe; i nstead, t he rel ati ons between town and cou ntrysi de were more
l i ke those of f eudal Europe. Addi ti onal ly, the neo- Eu ropes, u nl i ke Mexi co
152
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
or Peru , where t he conquerors mi xed wi th the l ocal s, were a cl assi c case
of repl acement of one gene pool by a not her. Fi nal ly, the tens of mi l l i ons
of Europeans who mi grated overseas begi n n i ng i n 1800 were recei ved
pr i nci pal l y by the u rban centers of the neo-Europes. These masses were
not on l y pushed out by the popul ati on expl osi on at home, but al so pul l ed
i n by the prospect of movi ng to an al most exact repl i ca of the u rban
ecosystem they were to l eave behi nd. (Havi ng rel ati ves abroad, the so­
cal l ed stock effect, was a further pul l factor. )l
The reason it was necessary for a whol e team of col oni zers to mi grate
across the oceans i s rel at i vel y easy to grasp i n the case of humans a nd
t hei r domesti cated crops and l i vestock. For an u rban ecosystem to work,
food chai ns must be shortened and cert ai n orga n i sms must be used to
redi rect the fl ow of bi omass toward the top of the hi erarchy. But i n addi ­
ti on t o t hese domesti cated speci es, the European mi grants i nadvertentl y
i mported "weeds, " i n thi s case pl ants wi th opportu ni sti c reproducti ve
strategi es, whi ch al l owed them to col oni ze si mpl i fi ed ecosystems. Un l i ke
many pl ants that t h ri ved i n the new l a nds onl y wi th di rect h uma n i nter­
venti on, Eu ropean weeds (t hi stl es, pl antai n , whi te cl over, nettl es) propa­
gated on t hei r own, wi n n i ng thei r own "battl es" agai nst l ocal ri val s and
fur ni shi ng a key component of the food web as fodder for catt l e:
The Ol d Worl d quadrupeds, when transported t o Ameri ca, Austral i a and
New Zeal and, stri pped away the l ocal grasses and forbs, and these, whi ch
i n most cases had been subjected to onl y l ight grazi ng before, were often
sl ow to recover. In the mean ti me, the Old Worl d weeds, parti cul arly those
from Europe and nearby parts of Asia and Africa, swept in and occupi ed
the bare ground. They were tol erant of open sunl i ght, bare soi l , and cl ose
croppi ng and of bei ng constantl y trod upon, and they possessed a number
of means of propagati on and spread. For i nstance, often thei r seeds were
equi pped with hooks to catch on the hi des of passi ng l i vestock or were
tough enough to survi ve the tri p through thei r stomachs to be deposi ted
somewhere down the path. When the l i vestock returned for a meal the next
season, i t was there. When the stockman went out in search of his stock,
they were there, too, and heal thy.
1
l
2
Eu ropean forage grasses, whi ch had coevol ved wi t h catt l e, won t hei r own
col oni zati on war agai nst many l ocal weeds, whi ch were defensel ess agai nst
the novel sel ect i on pressu res (such as i ntense grazi ng) brought on by the
European mi grati on. Onl y i n areas where l arge l ocal herbi vores t hri ved
(e. g. , the Ameri ca n Great Pl ai ns wi th i ts herds of buffal o) di d the l ocal
grasses have a fi ghti ng chance.
113 I n several of the neo-Eu ropes, the weed
"col oni zati on front" raced ahead of the h uma n wave, as i f prepari ng the
153
2: FLESH AND GENES
ground for i t. I ndeed, consi deri ng that t he human col oni zers were repeat­
i ng past mi stakes by overi ntensi fyi ng t hei r expl oi tati on of the new l and (vi a
carel ess deforestati on , for i nstance), weeds pl ayed anot her key rol e, t hat
of restabi l i zi ng the exposed soi l and preventi ng erosi on. "The weeds, l i ke
ski n t ranspl ants pl aced over broad areas of abraded and bu rned fl esh,
ai ded i n heal i ng the raw wou nds t hat the i nvaders tore i n the eart h. "
1l4
Weeds were not the on l y organi c enti ti es to spread wi thout consci ous
human effort. Some pl ants t hat had been domesti cated a n d even u rban­
i zed acqui red "weedy" be havi or and began wi n n i ng thei r own propagat i on
battl es. Such was t he case, f or exampl e, wi t h peach and orange trees. 1l5
Even some a n i mal s (pi gs, cattl e, horses, and dogs) escaped human
geneti c control and became feral agai n , mul ti pl yi ng exponenti al ly. These
ani mal s l ost some of the qual i ti es t hat domesti cati on had i mposed on
them and reacqui red some qf the "repressed" trai ts of t hei r ancestors.
They, too, began col oni zi ng t he l and. I n Aust ral i a, pi gs became razor­
backs, "l onged- l egged and l ong-snouted, sl ab-si ded, narrow-backed, fast
and vi ci ous, and equi pped wi th l ong, sharp tusks. "
1l
6 I n Argent i na, cattl e
became feral , propagat i ng i n such l arge numbers that t hey stymi ed the
growt h of hu man popu l ati ons. Here and el sewhere, t hese bovi ne mul ti ­
t udes formed "a cattl e fronti er [t hat] preceded the European farmers as
t hey moved west from the Atl anti c. "
117
These i ndependent col oni zers ti l ted the bal ance i n t he exchange of
speci es between Europe and t he rest of the worl d. Whi l e some Ameri can
pl ants, i ncl udi ng mai ze and potatoes, tomatoes a nd chi l i peppers, di d
"i nvade" Europe, t hey di d so excl usi vel y i n the hands of h uma ns, not on
t hei r own . The other spontaneous exchanges, such as the exchange of
mi croorgani sms, were al so asymmetri cal , despi te t he "gi ft" of syphi l i s
whi ch Ameri ca may have bestowed on her col oni al masters. U
8
And, of
cou rse, t he exchanges at the top of t he food pyrami d were heavi l y one­
si ded . Despi te the i nfl ux of mi l l i ons of Afri cans brought i n by the sl ave
t rade and the masses of Asi ans who went overseas as i ndent ured work­
ers after sl avery was abol i shed i n the mi d ni neteent h century, by the
twenti et h, European mi grants accou nted for as much as 80 percent of
t he total mi gratory fl ow. u9
Europeans benefi ted from t hi s massi ve t ransfer of peopl e i n seve ral
ways. Not onl y di d mi grati on serve as an escape hatch from t he popul a­
ti on expl osi on at home, but these masses were what gave stayi ng power
to Europe's col oni al ventu res. Addi ti onal l y, t he mi grants who sett l ed i n
t h e neo-Eu ropes achi eved u n precedented fert i l i ty rates. Between 1750
and 1930, t hei r popul ati on i ncreased by a factor of 14, whi l e the popul a­
ti on of the rest of the worl d i ncreased by a factor of 2. 5
.
120
Nonwhi tes
154
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
were not so l ucky. Sl avery, whi ch broke up fami l i es, ti l ted the gender
rati o of popul ati ons toward mal es, and forced peopl e t o l i ve i n subhuman
condi ti ons, made propagati on of Afri ca n genes abroad very d i ffi cul t .
1
21
Before 1800, Afri can mi grants out n umbered Europeans t hree to one, but
t hei r growt h rates i n Ameri ca were vastl y di fferent : the si x mi l l i on sl aves
remai ned a l most constant i n n u mber, whi l e t he roughl y two mi l l i on Euro­
peans sextu pl ed t hei r popul ati on .
Part of t he e normous popul at i on boom i n t h e neo- Europes was due to
the extreme ferti l ity of t hei r l a nds, i n terms of both soi l n utri ents avai l ­
abl e after deforestati on and photosyntheti c potenti al ( i . e. , t he amount of
sol ar energy avai l abl e for t ransformati on i nto s ugars; the tropi cs have
pl enty of l i ght, but hazi ness and u nva ryi ng day l engt h t hroughout t he
year make i t l ess usefu l for grai n cul ti vati on).
122
Today, t he neo-Europes
feed t he rest of the wor l d. Even whi l e not l eadi ng i n absol ute food prod uc­
ti vi ty, t hey are the regi ons wi th t he greatest food su rpl uses. I t i s no won­
der t hat l ong before t hese col oni es gai ned t hei r i ndependence t hey were
a cruci al suppl y regi on for European ci ti es. On t he other hand, the Ol d
Worl d had to work ha rd t o create t hi s reservoi r for i tsel f:
If the di scovery of Ameri ca brought Eu rope l i ttl e retu rn in the short ru n,
thi s was because the new conti nent was only partly apprehended and
settl ed by the white man. Europe had pati entl y to reconstruct Ameri ca i n
her own i mage before i t began to correspond to her own wi shes. Such a
l abor of reconstructi on was not of course accompl i shed overni ght: i n the
early days, Eu rope i ndeed seemed i nsigni fi cant and i mpotent faced wi th
the superhuman task ahead and as yet onl y i mperfectly percei ved. I n
fact Eu rope took centu ri es to bui l d a worl d i n her own i mage across the
Atl anti c, and then onl y wi th i mmense vari ati ons and di storti ons, and after
overcomi ng a l ong seri es of obstacl es one after another. 1
2
3
Creat i ng ecol ogi cal repl i cas of Europe was only part of t hi s enormous
t ask. The Eu ropean popul ati on of i nsti tuti ons-t he whol e spectru m of
gover nmental , commerci al , eccl esi asti c, and educati onal organ i zati on s ­
al so h a d t o be repl i cated on t h e ot her si de of t h e ocean . Eu rope's i nsti tu­
ti ons were a compl ex mi xt ure of markets, ant i markets, and rati onal i zed
bu reaucraci es, and t hei r repl i cas across the Atl anti c were equal l y vari ed.
Moreover, the tran sformati on of the Ameri can conti nent i nto a su ppl y
regi on i nvol ved i nteracti ons between i nsti tuti ons of di fferent eras, more
s peci fi cal ly, a mi xtu re of di fferent st rategi es for t he extracti on of sur­
pl uses, some anci ent, some new, i n a process aki n to Eu rope' s ear l i er
sel f-col oni zati on.
155
2: FLESH AND GENES
As urban Europe began to transfor m Pol and and other eastern regi ons
i nto a suppl y zone, t he most "advanced" sectors of t hi s popul ati on of
i nsti tuti ons (the ban kers and whol esal ers of Amsterdam, for exampl e)
acted i n col l usi on wi th t he most "backward" ones, t he eastern European
feudal l ords, to transfor m t he free peasantry i nto serfs agai n. 124 The
"second serfdom" was not a step down the l adder of progress, but rat her
a l ateral move to a stabl e state (a stabl e surpl us-extracti on strategy) t hat
had been l atent i n (or, avai l abl e to) t he dynami cal system al l the ti me.
Si mi l ar ly, ant i markets fou nd entry i nto t he Ameri can col oni es t hrough t he
great sugar pl antati ons, al l of whi ch used sl ave l abor. I t was thi s i nsti tu­
ti onal mi xt ure t hat u nl eashed the great fl ows of sugar, one of the most
i nf l uenti al forms of bi omass of t he col on i al age.
I n 1650, sugar was a l uxury and its consumpti on a marker of status,
but by t he ni neteent h century Bri ti sh i ndustri al and agri cul tural workers
had "sugar pu mped i nto every crevi ce of thei r di ets. "125 Sucrose made
i t possi bl e t o i ncrease t he cal ori c i ntake of the undercl asses i n a rel ati vel y
i nexpensi ve way, compared wi th meat, fi sh , or dai ry products. Al though
i t was not the on l y foodstuff provi ded by t he new su pply zones, i t was
the most effi ci ent one i n terms of converti ng sol ar energy i nto cal ori es.
(One acre of l and produced roughl y ei ght mi l l i on cal or i es.
1
26) I n t hi s
sense, sugar was at l east as i nfl uenti al as mai ze or potatoes, t he mi racl e
crops Eu rope adopted from t he New Worl d. Large-scal e sugar producti on
al so requ i red a speci fi c i nsti tuti onal mi x, as sugar processi ng and refi n­
i ng demanded l arge amounts of capi t al and, hence, ant i market organ i za­
t i ons. Sugar al so gen erated i ntense profi ts, most of whi ch accumul ated
not on the pl a ntati ons t hemsel ves but i n the European ci ti es that mar­
keted t he prod uct and provi ded t he credi t for t he e nterpri se.
1
2
7
Sugar
profi ts fi red the European economy and l ater pl ayed an i mportant rol e i n
sustai n i ng t he I ndustr i al Revol uti on .
European col oni zati on transformed t h e New Worl d, and t h e New Worl d
i n turn contri buted to a transformat i on u nder way i n Europe. There, the
n ati onal capi tal s, metropol i ses, regi onal capital s, and even smal l towns
began i n the ei ghteenth centu ry to escape from the bi ol ogi cal regi me
of fami nes and epi demi cs t o whi ch t hey had been subjected si nce bi rt h.
Access to overseas su ppl i es, t he spread of t he mi racl e crops, and better
soi l ma nagement tech n i ques al l contri buted to the abatement of gl obal
fami nes; better transport at i on and commu ni cati ons al l owed emergency
ai d to rel i eve l ocal fami nes qu i ckl y. The rel ati onshi p between urban
masses and t he mi croorga ni sms t hat fed on t hem was al so changi ng.
New epi demi c outbreaks acted as catal ysts for gover nment acti on, and
ur ban centers sl owl y began t o devel op new approaches t o publ i c sani ta-
156
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
t i on (parti cu l arl y sewage and water control ) and to embrace the new
tech nol ogy of vacci nati on ; t hat i s, t hey sl owl y rej ected spontaneous adap­
tat i on to di sease i n favor of compu l sory i mmuni zati on . Al t hough del i ber­
ate i nocul ati on had been practi ced as a fol k remedy si nce anci ent t i mes
(i n Tu rkey, for exampl e), moder n Europeans were t he fi rst to practi ce
i nocu l ati on on a massi ve scal e. 128
( I nocu l ati on refers to t he practi ce of
i nt roduci ng the germs t hat cause human di seases i nto the organi sm; vac­
ci nati on , on t he other hand, i nvol ves t he i nt roducti on of cl osel y rel ated
non human di seases. )
Large ci ti es were t he fi rst pl aces to devel op an u npl an ned accommoda­
t i on wi t h thei r mi croparasi tes vi a endemi ci ty. Thi s may expl ai n why "fol k"
i nocu l ati on tech n i ques fi rst took hol d, i n Engl and, i n vi l l ages and smal l
towns (where t he cri ti cal human mass t o sustai n t he stabl e state of
endemi city di d not exi st), begi n n i ng wi t h i nocu l ati ons agai nst smal l pox i n
1721. Thi s does not mean, of cou rse, t hat u rban i n habi tants were never
i nocul ated (t he el i tes, i ncl udi ng t he royal sci ons of Engl and, were) but
t hat, as Mcl\ei l l puts i t, the practi ce of del i beratel y i nt roduci ng smal l pox
i n the organi sm di d not "take" i n London and ot her l arge centers.
1
29 True
vacci nati on for smal l pox (usi ng t he weaker cowpox germ) was i nt roduced
i n 1798 by Edward J enner, an Engl i sh cou ntry doctor, and spread from
t he bottom of Central Pl ace hi erarchi es u pward. I n conti nent al Europe,
organi zed resi stance to t hi s practi ce l asted l onger, and i t woul d t ake the
death of a ki ng (Loui s XV) to catal yze t he mai n l and ci ti es i nto act i on .
U nl i ke i n Bri tai n, however, here t he practi ce of vacci nati on spread from
the top down : the fi rst campai gns of vacci nat i on took pl ace among t he
el ites, t hen t he armi es ( by command from t he top), and, fi nal ly, t he ci vi l ­
i an popu l ati on . 13
0
I n t he coi oni es, whi ch l acked t he cri ti cal human mass
and constant contact wi t h t he ol d worl d epi demi ol ogi cal l aboratori es
necessary to achi eve endemi ci ty (and where, t herefore, adul t vul nerabi l ­
i ty to di sease was greater), u rban adopti on of t he new techni ques was
much swi fter.
Rel i abl e sou rces of food and t he ri se of orga ni zed medi ci ne hel ped
European ci ti es and t hei r col oni al daughters l eave behi nd t he ol d bi o­
l ogi cal regi me, begi n ni ng i n t he mi d ei ghteent h centu ry. But as t hi s bi fu r­
cat i on to a new stabl e state was ta ki ng pl ace, as urban cul tu re sl oWl y
detached i tsel f from the organi c constrai nts of fami nes and epi demi cs,
t he population of institutions t hat i nhabi ted European ci ti es u nderwent a
momentous tra nsformati on of i ts own .
Mi l i tary, medi cal , educati onal , and j udi ci al i nsti tut i ons became, i n a
very real sense, much more "bi ol ogi cal " t han before: t hei r hi erarch i es
now rel i ed l ess on tradi ti on and symbol i c gestu res and began to exerci se
157
2: FESH AND GENES
power i n a for m i ncreasi ngl y tai l ored to the functi on i ng of the h u man body.
Al though the h u ma n popul ati on expl osi on t hat bega n i n the mi d ei gh­
teenth century d i d not cause thi s transformati on ( i n armi es, for exampl e,
the process had started i n t he si xteenth centu ry), i t di d hel p the new
breed of organi zati ons to spread among the i nsti tuti onal popul ati on.
The bi rt h of the modern hospi tal i s a good exampl e of t he i nsti tuti onal
transfor mati ons tak i ng pl ace. Western doctors had si nce Anti qu ity
acqui red medi ca l knowl edge al most excl usi vel y from ol d a uthori tati ve
texts (t hose of Gal en, for exampl e). The emergent medi cal professi on , i n
contrast, organi zed i tsel f arou nd hospi tal s and cou l d for t he fi rst ti me
break away from text ual and concentrate on bi ol ogi cal bodi es. 131 More­
over, t hi s epi stemol ogi cal break di d not precede the creati on of hospi tal s,
but rather was preci pi tated by i t. The new hospi tal s embodi ed a new
and di fferent use of space, one t hat al l owed cl ose observati on of di sease
and i sol ati on of i ts cause. Si nce ocean trade routes were channel s where
merchandi se, money, i deas, and germs al l fl owed together, naval hospi ­
tal s provi ded t he perfect mi l i eu for di sentangl i ng t he compl ex combi na­
ti on of factors t hat caused epi demi cs:
A port, and a mi l i tary port i s -wi th i ts ci rcul ati on of goods, men si gned
up wi l l i ngly or by force, sai l ors embarki ng and di sembarki ng, di seases and
epi demi cs -a pl ace of deserti on , smuggl i ng, contagi on: i t i s a crossroads
for dangerous mi xtu res, a meeti ng- pl ace for forbi dden ci rcul ati ons. The
n aval hospi tal must therefore treat, but i n order to do thi s i t must be a
fi l ter, a mechani sm that pi ns down and parti ti ons; i t must provi de a hol d
over thi s whol e mobi l e, swar mi ng mass, by di ssi pati ng the confusi on of i l l e­
gal ity and evi l . The medi cal supervi si on of di seases and contagi ons i s
i nseparabl e from a whol e seri es of other control s: t he mi l i tary control over
deserters, fi scal control over commodi ti es, admi ni strati ve control over
remedi es, rati ons, di sappearances, cures, deaths, si mul ati ons. Hence the
need to di stri bute and parti ti on off space i n a ri gorous manner. 132
Not onl y hospi tal s but a whol e segment of the popu l ati on of i nsti tuti on s
changed du ri ng the ei ghteenth centu ry. The change may neverthel ess be
u seful ly descri bed i n medi cal terms. Foucaul t pi thi l y characteri zed t he
gui di ng pri nci pl e be h i n d t hi s i nsti tuti onal transformati on i n t he phrase:
"treat ' l epers' as ' pl ague vi cti ms' . "133 I n Europe, peopl e sufferi ng from
l eprosy ( Hansen's di sease) had tradi ti onal l y been deal t wi t h by confi ni ng
t hem to speci al bui l di ngs (l eprosari a) usual l y bui l t outsi de the wal l s of
medi eval towns. There were about ni neteen thousand such l eprosari a by
the t hi rteenth centu ry. 13
4
The peopl e of a pl ague stri cken town, on the
158
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A.D.
ot her hand, were ha ndl ed i n a very di fferent way, at l east i n t he Medi ter­
ranean nati ons that had establ i shed quarant i ne regu l ati ons as earl y as
the fifteenth century. Rat her t han bei ng removed from soci ety and l umped
toget her i n one i sol ated pl ace out of si ght, t hey were i nstead pi n ned to
thei r resi dences and observed careful l y day after day by speci al heal th
i nspectors, who regi stered thei r condi t i on i n wri ti ng, creati ng a fl ow of
reports l i n ki ng the observers to a central command. Hence, t hese two
i nfecti ous di seases el i ci ted di fferent i nsti tuti onal responses, a n d the
i nsi ghts gl eaned from one coul d be combi ned wi th t hose ar i si ng from the
other -and appl i ed to non medi cal probl ems. "The l eper and hi s separa­
ti on; the pl ague and i ts segmentati ons. The fi rst i s marked; the second
anal ysed and di stri buted . . . . Two ways of exerci si ng power over men, of
control l i ng t hei r rel ati ons, of separati ng out t hei r dangerous mi xtu res. "
1
35
Accordi ng to Foucau l t, t he t hree el ements en u merated a bove -system­
ati c spati al parti ti on i ng, ceasel ess i nspecti on , and permanent regi stra­
ti on -wh i ch had bee n put to work i n the open space of the town, were now
combi ned i n a novel way and a ppl i ed to the cl osed space of t he hospi tal .
Ei ghteenth-centu ry hospi tal s became opti cal machi nes, pl aces where
t he penetrati ng cl i n i cal gaze coul d be trai ned and devel oped, as wel l as
wri ti ng machi nes, "great l aboratori es f or scri pt uary and docu mentary
methods, "136 where every detai l about vi si ts, checku ps, dosages or pre­
scri pti ons, was carefu l l y recorded. To t hi s extent, these modern "l epro­
sari a" had i ndeed i nter nal i zed the quarant i ned u rban center. On t he ot her
hand, by admi n i steri ng tests and exami nati ons on t he basi s of whi ch i ndi ­
vi dual s were compulsorily assigned to certai n categori es (heal thy/si ck,
normal /abnor mal ), hospi tal s were adapti ng the strategy of bi nary di vi si on
and brandi ng t hat had been used i n "treati ng" l epers. I n short, the di sci ­
pl i nary approaches to di sease control di d not represent an advanced
"stage" i n the evol uti on of power; rat her, they were new el ements added
to a mi xtu re of materi al s t hat had been accu mul ati ng for centu ri es.
Neverthel ess, what di sti ngui shes t he seventeenth and ei ghteenth cen­
tu ri es i n thi s regard i s t he "epi demi c" spread of the pl ague approach to
control . Before thi s strategy became mi neral i zed i n t he form of hospi tal s,
i t exi sted as a di spersed set of tacti cal conti ngency pl ans, heuri sti c
reci pes, and more or l ess rati onal i zed pol i ci es, wi th whi ch cou ntri es bor­
deri ng the Medi terranean attempted to cope wi th the t h reat of bi ol ogi cal
contagi on. The formal pol i ci es had spread wi del y i n the south, but were
u nabl e to penet rate t he towns of the nort her n regi ons becau se a di ffer­
ent t heory of epi demi cs had become "endemi c" t here. Medical profes­
si onal s i n t hese ci ti es bel i eved t hat "mi asmas, " nonorgani c ema nati ons
from decomposi ng organi c matter, caused i nfecti ous d i sease, not germs
159
2: FeSH AND GeNeS
passi ng from one body to the next. Agai nst t hi s noxi ous, putri d ai r, t hey
t hought, t he met hods of u rba n quarant i ne were usel ess, and they bl ocked
al l efforts to i mpl ement quara nt i ne pol i ci es unt i l about 1880. I n t hat year
wi th t he ai d of a much i mproved mi croscope, sci enti sts soon establ i shed
the exi stence of i nvi si bl e mi croorgani sms. The mi asma theory became
exti nct and quaranti ne methods soon penetrated al l t he ci ti es of Europe
and her col on i es, and even some I sl ami c towns. 137
Thi s is only hal f of t he story, however. As Foucaul t remi nds us, in addi ­
ti on to for mal i zed and rout i n i zed pol i ci es that may be transferred as a
whol e from one organi zati on to a nother of the same ki nd, there are al so
methods and procedu res t hat may di ffuse i ndi vi dual l y t hrough di fferent
types of organ i zati ons: i nfor mal techni ques of notat i on and regi strati on;
heu ri sti c methods for creati ng, correl ati ng, stori ng, and retri evi ng fi l es;
routi nes for compari ng docu ments from di fferent fi el ds to create cate­
gori es and determi ne averages; techni ques for the use of parti ti ons to
organ i ze space; and methods to conduct i nspecti ons on and supervi se
the be havi or of the human bodi es di stri buted i n that space. Thus, even
though the spread of for mal i zed pol i ci es from the Med i terranean to t he
nort h was effecti vel y bl ocked by the mi asma theory, t hi s i nformal compo­
nent coul d sti l l spread contagi ousl y, from one i nsti tuti onal host to the
next, i ncl udi ng nonmedi cal i nsti tuti ons. As new archi tect ural desi gns for
al l these i nsti tuti ons and new exami nati on and documentati on tech ni ques
were devel oped, the "l epers" (st udents, workers, pri soners, sol di ers)
were i ndeed t reated as pl ague vi cti ms: careful ly assi gned to thei r pl aces,
t hei r behavi or (and mi sbehavi or) systemati cal l y watched and recorded i n
wri ti ng. Thi s i s not to i mpl y, however, that medi cal i nsti tuti ons were the
sol e source of these di sci pl i nary i n novati ons. Armi es were al so great i n no­
vators i n t hi s area, as were some educati onal organ i zati ons. Foucaul t
exami nes the hypothesi s that these i nformal tech ni ques may have spon­
taneousl y come together and i nterl ocked to form a sel f-organ i zed mesh­
work, or an "a nonymous strategy" of domi nati on. I n hi s words, what
formed t hi s strategy was
a mul ti pl i city of often mi nor processes, of di fferent ori gi n and scattered
l ocati on, whi ch overl ap, repeat, or i mi tate one another, support one
another, di sti ngui sh t hemselves from one another accordi ng to thei r
domai n of appl i cati on, converge and gradual l y produce the bl uepri nt of a
general method. They were at work i n secondary educati on at a very earl y
date, l ater i n pri mary school s; they sl owl y i nvested the space of the hospi ­
tal ; and, in a few decades, they restructu red the mi l i tary organi zati on. They
someti mes ci rcul ated very rapi dly from one poi nt to another (between the
160
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
army and the techni cal school s or secondary school s), someti mes sl owly
and di screetl y (the i nsi di ous mi l itari zati on of the l arge workshops). On
al most every occasi on, they were adopted i n response to parti cul ar needs:
an i ndustri al i n novati on, a renewed outbreak of certai n epi demi c di seases,
the i nventi on of the ri fl e or the vi ctori es of Prussi a . . . . Smal l acts of cu n­
ni ng endowed wi th a great power of di ffusi on, subtl e arrangements, appar­
entl y i n nocent, but profoundl y suspi ci ous, mechani sms that obeyed
economi es too shameful to be acknowl edged, or pursued petty forms of
coerci on.
1
3
8
I n addi ti on to entangl i ng h uman bodi es i n a net of wri t i ng and observa­
ti on , some of t hese i nsti tuti ons (mostl y ar mi es, but al so school s) cap­
tu red the energy of t hese bodi es t hrough the use of conti n uous physi cal
exerci ses, both for t rai n i ng and puni shment, and a system of commands
based on si gnal s t hat t ri ggered i nstant obedi ence. Toget her, al l t hese el e­
ments produced great "economi es of scal e. " I n the Dutch armi es of the
si xteenth centu ry, for i nstance, the operati on of l oadi ng and fi ri ng a
weapon was fi rst anal yzed i nto i ts mi crocomponents (forty-two separate
acti ons, each associ ated wi th a speci fi c command), then " reassembl ed"
i n a way that reduced wastefu l movements and i mproved coordi n ati on .
An army of sol di ers wh o h a d " memori zed" t hese effi ci ent sequences i n
t hei r bodi es by means of conti nuous dri l l i ng became more t h a n t h e s um
of i ts parts: an offi cer's command coul d tri gger a synchroni zed seri es of
acti ons (a l arge nu mber of wea pons fi ri ng si mu l taneously) produci ng a
"sol i d" wal l o
f
meta l l i c proj ect i l es, whi ch had a greater i mpact on enemy
l i nes than random shooti ng. 139 Col l ecti vel y, t han ks to thi s d i sci pl i nary
tech n i que, these sol di ers had now i ncreased t hei r power, but i nd i vi dual l y
t hey had compl etel y l ost control over t hei r acti ons i n the battl efi el d.
"Di sci pl i ne i ncreases the forces of the body ( i n economi c terms of ut i l i ty)
and di mi ni shes t hese same forces ( i n pol i ti cal terms of obedi ence). "
14o
U nl i ke sl avery or serfdom, wher ei n the body is appropri ated as an
undi fferenti ated whol e, here t he mi crofeatures of bodi l y acti ons were
what mattered. The new goal was to study bodi es and break down t hei r
acti ons i nto basi c trai ts, and t hen t o empty t hem of t hei r know- how and
reprogram t hem wi t h fi xed routi nes. The resu l ti ng i ncrease i n the "pro­
ducti vi ty" of sol di ers expl ai ns why Dutch armi es were so successful i n the
battl efi el d. Al t hough d ri l l and di sci pl i ne di d not repl ace the ol der and
cruder a pproaches (sl avery, serfdom) but si mpl y became a new addi ti on
to the growi ng reservoi r of ways of harnessi ng the power of the hu man
body, t hei r spread neverthel ess took on epi demi c proporti ons due t o t he
economi es of scal e they ge nerated:
161
2: FESH AND GENES
The style of army organi zati on that came i nto bei ng in Hol l and at the cl ose
of the si xteenth century . . . spread . . . to Sweden and the German i es, to
France and Engl and, and even to Spai n before the seventeenth cent ury had
come to a cl ose. Du ri ng the ei ghteenth century, the contagi on attai ned a far
greater range: transformi ng Russi a u nder Peter the Great wi th near revol u­
ti onary force; i nfi l trati ng the New Worl d and I ndi a as a byprod uct of a gl obal
struggl e for overseas empi re i n whi ch France and Great Britai n were the
protagoni sts; and i nfecti ng even such cul tu ral l y al i en pol ity as that of the
Ottoman empi re.
141
Thus far we have descri bed two l i nes of bi ol ogi cal hi story. On one
hand, t he ei ghteent h cent ury saw Europe di gesti ng the worl d, tra nsform­
i ng i t i nto a su ppl y zon e for the provi si on of energy and raw mater i al s, a
proce- s-s t hat, at l east - i n t he ca-se of the neo- Europes, i nvol ved a great
ecol ogi cal and cul tu ral homogeni zati on. On the ot her hand, European
nati on-states began di gesti ng thei r mi nori ti es, i n t he sense that the new
di sci pl i nary i nsti tuti ons embodi ed homogeni zi ng cri ter i a of normal ity to
whi ch everyone was now made to confor m. Much as standard Engl i sh or
French were normati ve cri teri a emanati ng from capi tal ci ti es and i mposed
on l i ngui sti c mi nori ti es el sewhere (Wel sh, Scotti sh, I ri sh; Languedoc,
Catal an, Proven<al ), so the tests admi ni stered by var i ous i nstituti ons to
deter mi ne mi l i tary perfor mance or heal t h status fai l ed to refl ect the cul ­
t ural di versi ty encompassed wi t hi n the borders of n ati on-states such as
France and Engl and.
As popul ati on growt h i nten si fi ed i n Eu rope after 1 750, t he new masses
began to be " processed" t hrough the exami ni ng, regi steri ng, and parti ­
ti on i ng mach i nes t hat hospi tal s, factori es, school s, and other i nsti tuti ons
had become. These i nsti tuti ons acted as sorti ng devi ces, weedi ng out cer­
t ai n i ndi vi dual s from t he reser voi r of " normal " ci ti zens who were used to
fi l l h i erarchi cal structu res wi th i nternal l y homogeneous ran ks. Si mul tane­
ousl y, surpl us masses we re bei ng exported wi th u n precedented i ntensity
to t hose temperate areas of the worl d where repl i cas of u rban and r ural
Europe -u p t o t he l ast weedy detai l - had been created. I n t hose ecol ogi ­
cal l y homogeni zed regi ons, si mi l ar i nsti tuti ons proceeded to exami ne,
docu ment, and di sci pl i ne t he mi grati ng human masses.
We must not, however, l ose si ght of the fact that j ust as the creati on of
the neo- Eu ropes i nvol ved not onl y humans but al so crops and l i vestock,
so the new di sci pl i nary i nsti tut i ons processed more t han h uman bodi es:
ani mal s and pl ants, too, fel l u nder a net of wri ti ng and observati on.
Exami ni ng t hi s ot her hal f of our bi ol ogi cal hi story, i t s nonh uman hal f, wi l l
al l ow us t o expl ore t he rol e t hat economi c i nsti tuti ons pl ayed i n the
162
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
process of organi c homogeni zati on. I n parti cul ar, bi g busi ness's ent ry
i nto agri cu l tu re provi ded t he i mpet us to appl y di sci pl i nary techni ques to
t he members of the ext ended h uman fami ly. Anti markets had been
i nvol ved i n the fl ow of bi omass to some extent ever si nce ci ti es such as
Ven i ce and Amsterdam swi tched to exter nal suppl i ers for t hei r food a nd
dedi cated t hei r own l and to a vari ety of speci al i zed cash crops, i ncl udi ng
oi l , wi ne, mul berri es, hemp, and fl ax. Tradi ti onal l y weal thy merchants had
pu rchased l and as a passport t
o
nobi l i ty; i n contrast, the i nfi l trati on of
the soi l by anti markets was a n economi c i nvestment, and so brought wi th
i t the ki nd of rati onal i zati on that yi el ds economi es of scal e.
142 But not
u nti l the seventeenth and ei ghteenth centu ri es di d ant i market i nsti tu­
ti ons' i nvol vement i n agri cu l ture i ntensi fy, eventual l y to the extent t hat i t
sought to control not on l y fl esh but genes.
Apart from the sugar i mported from col oni al pl antati ons, t he fl ow of
bi omass t hat fed the expl odi ng popul ati on of n i neteent h-centu ry Engl and
came from regi ons of her cou nt rysi de t hat had u ndergone an "agrar i an
revol uti on" between 1650 and 1800. An i mporta nt component of t hi s rev­
ol uti on was t he devel opment of new techni ques for breedi ng l i vestock.
The genes of farm ani mal s had been u nder h uman cont rol for a l ong
ti me, of cou rse, managi ng to escape onl y u nder rare ci rcu msta nces (when
domesti cates became feral ). But a more systemati c (i f presci e nti fi c)
attempt at mani pul at i ng the fl ow of genes t hrough generati ons di d n ' t come
u nti l t he agrari an revol uti on . The Dutch bred much l arger cattl e whi l e the
Bri ti sh bred s heep t hat produced su peri or wool , and as t hese breedi ng
practi ces spread, so di d the use of conti n uous observati on and regi stra­
ti on , wh i ch al one made more preci se geneti c cont rol , and the consequent
(someti mes damagi ng) geneti c homogeni zati on , possi bl e:
At the ti me of the I ndustri al and Agrari an Revol uti ons both pedi grees and
economi c data were recorded . Offi ci al central i zed records of pedi grees were
i ntroduced wi th the fou ndi ng of the General Stud Book in 1791 and Coates'
Herd Book i n 1882. Many of the geneti c advantages and l i mi tati ons of pedi ­
gree records are obvi ous. The most seri ous l i mi tati on has been the gradual
bui l d- up of a pedi gree mysti que, i . e. that ped i gree ani mal s are "su peri or, "
"prepotent" etc. by vi rtue of thei r pedi gree. Thi s has l ed many breeders to
concentrate on the reprod ucti on of a stereotype -the extreme of whi ch ca n
be seen i n a n umber of modern dog breeds where the condi ti on has often
resu l ted i n the i nci dence at h i gh frequency of u ndesi rabl e genes . . . . [Some
pedi gree monopol i es and regul atory acts] certai nl y i mproved the l ower l evel
of non-pedi gree Engl i sh cattl e by el i mi nati ng casual mati ng wi th "fri nge"
bul l s of often i nferi or qual ity. However, such l i censi ng acts have tended to
163
2: FLESH AND GENES
become too ri gi d i n appl i cati on, faci l i tati ng the "fossi l i zati on" of certai n
breeds i n the face of changi ng economi c requi rements
.
14
3
Hi stori cal l y, pedi gree breeds have al ways tended to become hi erarchi ­
cal struct ures, wherei n a smal l , domi nant grou p of breeders su ppl i es
genes to subordi nate ran ks, cal l ed "mul ti pl i ers, " whi ch i n t ur n pass them
on to yet l ower ranks, i n a compl etel y top-down gene fl ow. Thi s ti ghtl y
co nstrai ned fl ow was su pposed to guarantee u ni formi ty and superi or
qual i ty, and yet there i s evi dence t hat bottom- up fl ow can, i n some ci r­
cumsta nces, produce breeds superi or to homogen i zed pedi grees. l
44 At
fi rst, however, the pedi gree breeds' producti vity was great, and t hi s
al l owed t he hi erarchi cal pedi grees t hat emerged i n eighteenth-centu ry
Engl and (especi al l y sheep a nd pi gs) to t hri ve and t hen spread, ai ded by
l arge agri cult ural shows Where new machi nery a nd champi on breeds
were exhi bi ted. 145 Thus, much as transocean i c navi gat i on had accel erated
the geneti c homogen i zati on of certai n parts of the worl d ( by al l owi ng
massi ve transfers of speci es), the creat i on of monopol i es and ol i gopol i es
around the fl ow of l i vestock genes fostered the destructi on of geneti c
heterogeneity i n Europe.
These geneti cal l y "wel l - di sci pl i ned" ani mal s were onl y one component
of the agrar i an revol uti on. There were new crops as wel l , parti cu l arl y
fodder crops, and a few new machi nes (the seed dr i l l , for exampl e), but
the most i mportant i n novat i on was t he i ntroducti on of more routi n i zed
met hods for the product i on of food, for both humans and l i vestock. And,
of cou rse, typi cal of any endeavor of ant i market i nsti tuti ons, these meth­
ods were i mpl emented on a l arge scal e. The new synergi sti c combi n ati on
of el ements was cal l ed "the Norfol k system, " after the regi on i n Engl and
where it fi rst tri umphed. We must di sti ngui sh, however, two d i fferent
components of t hi s system. Unl i ke the case of l arge-scal e management
and l abor di sci pl i ne, the basi c meshwork that gave the new system i ts
sel f-sustai na bi l ity was not i ntroduced by bi g busi ness but was the creati on
of market economi es. The dyn ami c ci ti es of fi fteenth-centu ry Fl anders
(Bruges, Ypres, Ghent) sti mul ated t hei r cou ntrysi des i nto produci ng
the basi c i n novati ons. I n Fl anders, as one emi nent hi stori an has put i t,
urban l i fe spread l i ke "an i nfecti on whi ch roused the peasant from hi s
age- l ong torpor. " 14
6
At the ti me of the Norfol k system's creati on -t hat i s, before it was
adopted by ant i market i nsti tuti ons and before i t was cal l ed the Norfol k
system - the most wi despread system of agri cul tu re consi sted of si mpl e
crop rotati on: a farm was d i vi ded i nto two (or more) parts, one used for
grai n crops and t he other l eft fal l ow, not to let the soi l "rest" (soi l s do
164
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A.D.
not sponta neously recover thei r ferti l i ty in a si ngl e season), but to al l ow
"farmers to keep weeds at bay by i nterrupt i ng t hei r natu ral l i fe cycl e
wi t h t he pI OW. " 1
47 Denyi ng soi l n utri ents to weeds and keepi ng predators
from eati ng l i vestock were the pri mary ways i n whi ch humans shortened
food chai ns; consequently, crop rotati on was a cruci al component of the
ol d method. The Fl emi sh contri buti on to the agri cul tu ral i ntensi fi cati on was
to el i mi nate the fal l ow peri od by al ter nati ng grai n crops wi th fodder crops
(such as cl over). As t he Dutch hi stori an Jan De Vri es has argued, popul a­
t i on growth often trapped t he ol d method i nto a vi ci ous ci rcl e: as demand
for human food i ncreased, more l and was devoted t o grai n producti on
and l ess to pasture, whi ch di mi ni shed herd si zes as wel l as t he amou nt of
manure avai l abl e, and t hi s in turn reduced soi l fert i l i ty. As yi el ds decl i ned,
a hi gher percentage of the l and had t o be used for grai n, exacerbati ng
the overal l decl i ne. 14
8
Tu r ni ng t hi s vi ci ous ci rcl e i nto a vi rtuous ci rcl e i nvol ved reorgani zi ng
the rotat i on system so that arabl e l ands coul d contri bute to t he fodder
su ppl y. Thi s meant pl anti ng cl over (or, l ater on, al fal fa or t urn i ps) i nstead
of l ett i ng l and l ay fal l ow. Feedi ng these crops to cattl e, i n tu rn, al l owed
herds to i ncrease i n si ze and hence to mul ti pl y ma nure suppl i es. More­
over, conti nuousl y feedi ng man ure back i nto the soi l , as wel l as usi ng fod­
der crops to bi nd the soi l and prevent i t from escapi ng the system vi a
water or wi nd erosi on, meant tightening the nutrient cycles, a process that
takes pl ace spontaneousl y i n matu re ecosystems and greatl y contr i butes
to t hei r resi l i ency.
Fl anders, a hi ghl y urbani zed area, was among the l east feudal i zed
regi ons i n Europe, whi ch goes a l ong way i n expl ai ni ng why the new agri ­
cu l tural methods devel oped there. That the regi on was not feudal , how­
ever, does not mean i t was "capi tal i st. " As I have repeatedl y pOi nted out,
pri vate property and commerci al i zati on do not necessari ly i mply the pres­
ence of anti markets. I ndeed, De Vri es expl i ci t ly marks t hi s di fference by
devel opi ng two separate model s to anal yze t he evol uti on of t hi s agri cul ­
tural regi me, one based on market i nvol vement, the other ant i market. 149
The Fl emi sh method, fu rt her devel oped i n the Netherl ands, soon found
i ts way to Engl and, where it was empl oyed on a l arge scal e and subj ected
to di sci pl i nary management. Onl y after the Engl i sh modi fi ed the system
was t here a truly "capi tal i st" agri cul ture. I n ei ghteent h-centu ry Engl and,
vast tracts of l and were submi tted t o the new i ntensi ve methods a nd
encl osed on al l si des wi th hedges. Landowners and the farmers of l arge
hol di ngs reaped the benefi ts of the new producti vi ty, whi l e countrysi de
strata (l andl ords, tenants, and de- ski l l ed l aborers) hardened, reduci ng
t he n umber of i ntermedi ate cl asses (smal l hol ders, ru ral tradesmen)
. l
5o
165
2: FESH AND GENES
These "wel l di sci pl i ned" l ands fed the growi ng Bri ti sh popul ati on, a sub­
stanti al porti on of whi ch woul d provi de the raw muscu l ar energy and
ski l l s for the new i ndustri al towns and conu rbati ons for two centu ri es.
By the mi d 1800s, l arge-scal e agri cu l tu re i n Engl and was ecl i psed by
si mi l ar but eve n l arger enterpri ses i n the neo-Eu ropes: the Uni ted States,
Austral i a, a nd Argenti na. I n these pl aces (as wel l as i n Si beri a) the mesh­
work that characteri zed the Norfol k system acqu i red new nodes (i n the
form of new machi nes, such as McCormi ck' s reaper, whi ch automated
some aspects of harvesti ng) and much greater propo rti ons. 151 Moreover,
the very ti ght n utri ent cycl es t hat characteri zed the Norfol k system were
suddenl y spl i t wi de open as natural and arti fi ci al ferti l i zers began to be
used i n agri cu l tural producti on. 152 I n the Un i ted States, for exampl e,
ferti l i zer began to fl ow i n from as far away as Chi l e. 15
3
Not onl y were the
nutri ent cycl es opened to i n puts from di stant ori gi ns, thei r outputs
Were al so di vorced from the soi l : the ni trogen and phosphorous i n many
ferti l i ze rs were not compl etely a bso rbed by pl a nts (al most hal f of these
nutri e nts was wasted) and escaped the Norfol k system, seepi ng i nto the
grou ndwater and overenri chi ng i t i n a process ca l l ed eutrophication. 154
Moreover, every nutri ent fl ow that came from outsi de the farm was one
more poi nt of entry for ant i mar kets, and, hence, represented a further
l oss of control by the food producers. A ce ntury l ater, as we wi l l see,
corporati ons woul d ge neti cal ly engi neer crops that requ i red excessi ve
ferti l i zati on, t hus etch i ng entry poi nts for anti markets i nto the crops'
very genes.
Al though t hi s ki nd of near-total geneti c control over the fl ow of pl ant
bi omass woul d not be real i zed unti l t he l ate twenti eth century, t he di sci ­
pl i ni ng of pl ant genes was al ready practi ced i n the l ate ni neteenth and
earl y twe nti eth ce nturi es. Pl ant pedi gree hi erarchi es l agged behi nd thei r
l i vestock cou nterparts, but when they fi nal l y materi al i zed t he degree
of h uman control ove r t hem was much greater. And t hat mani pu l ati on
of pl ant genes woul d l ead t o a process of geneti c homogeni zati on that
dwarfed al l ear l i er homogeni zi ng trends.
As ofte n the case, more than one ki nd of i nsti tuti on was i nvol ved i n
t hi s process. I n parti cul ar, certai n gove rnment agenci es i n t h e neo­
Eu ropes l ed the way to the creati on of pl ant pedi grees. I n 1862, as t he
western fronti er was offi ci al ly opened i n the Uni ted States, a department
of agri cu l tu re (the USDA) was created for the pu rpose of col l ecti ng, prop­
agati ng, a nd di stri buti ng seeds for crop pl ants. Land-grant u ni versi ti es
and exper i me ntal -agri cul t ure stati ons were al so created to hel p devel op
better pl ant vari eti es and mul ti pl y them; that i s, pl anti ng them onl y as a
sou rce of geneti c materi al s.
1
55
166
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
The fi rst pl ant to be capt ured i n the net of observati on a nd wri t i ng was
corn, chose n for the accessi bi l ity and mani pul abi l i ty of i ts sexual orga ns.
By 1896, one of the agri cul t ural stati ons had devel oped the techni que of
inbred lines: repeatedl y crossi ng a gi ven strai n wi th i tse l f, unti l certai n
genes were el i mi nated and others dri ven t o fi xati on. Despi te the "pedi ­
gree mysti que, " i t soon became obvi ous that such extreme homogenei ty
actu al l y had damagi ng effects on the pl ants, but by 1905 a new tech­
ni que had been devel oped t o compensate for thi s: crossi ng two di ffe rent
i nbred l i nes of corn kept the "desi rabl e" trai ts i n the i r progeny whi l e el i m­
i nati ng some of the undesi rabl e ones. Thi s process produced what came
to be known as " hybri d corn" :
Al though hybri d corn was fi rst i ntrod uced to farmers i n 1926, onl y about
one percent of the acreage i n the Corn Bel t was pl anted to hybri d vari eti es
by 1933. Thi s changed rapi dl y, however, and by 1944 more than ei ghty­
eight pe rcent of the Corn Bel t was pl anted to hybri d corn. Yiel ds i ncreased
dramati cal ly; "corn power" had arri ved . . . . Wi th hybri d corn, only those who
knew the parent l i nes and breedi ng sequence knew how to make the hi gh­
yie l di ng hybri ds -cal l ed a "cl osed pedi gree" i n the busi ness -and thi s
knowl edge was legal l y protected as a trade secret. More i mportantly from
the busi ness stand poi nt, fa rmers cou l d not save and reuse hybri d seed the
fol l owi ng yea r and obtai n the same yiel d, si nce "hybri d vi gor" woul d decl i ne
wi th conti nui ng use of the seed. Farmers had to retu rn to the seed compa­
ni es to buy new seed each year. 15
6
Hybri d corn was the product of one homogeni zi ng operati on (whi ch cre­
ated the parent i n bred l i nes) fol l owed by one or more heterogeni zi ng
operati ons (crossi ng the i nbreds to mai ntai n hybri d vi gor). Howeve r, due
t o the hi erarchi cal struct ure of pedi grees and of the ol i gopol i sti c practi ces
beh i nd thei r spread, the whol e process was crowned wi th another (a nd
more powerfu l ) homogen i zati on: i n the ni neteenth century the gene pool
of Ame ri can corn was ri ch i n vari ety, but by Worl d Wa r I I most of those
ge nes had been dri ven out and repl aced by the cl oned geneti c materi al s
from a few parental l i nes.
At the ti me, thi s process was consi dered "progress, " but the homoge­
ni zati on of the Corn Bel t (and ot her food-produci ng regi ons) was i ndeed
extremel y dangerous. Al though crops and l i vestock have from anci ent
ti mes been as suscepti bl e to epi demi cs as human popul ati ons, a certai n
degree of heterogenei ty i n t hei r geneti c makeup protected them from
exti ncti on. Whi l e some of the i ndi vi dual pl a nts i n a fi el d woul d peri sh
u nder the onsl aught of d i sease, others woul d su rvi ve a nd cont i nue the
167
2: FLESH AND GENES
l i ne. But when 80 percent of the pl ants i n a gi ve n popu l ati on are vi rtual l y
cl ones, the moment a new mi croorgani sm hi ts 011 a "ge neti c wi ndow, "
there are no obstacl es to i ts spread. Thi s is exactl y what happened sev­
eral decades ago, when a new fu ngus found an entry poi nt that enabl ed
i t to el ude hybri d cor n's defenses:
Reprod uci ng rapi dl y i n the un usual l y warm and moist weather of 1970,
[t he fungus' s] spores carri ed on the wi nd, the new di sease began movi ng
northward toward a fu l l -scal e i nvasi on of Ameri ca's vast corn empi re . . . .
The new fu ngus moved l i ke wi l dfi re through one corn fi el d after another.
I n some cases it wou l d wi pe out an enti re stand of corn in ten days . . . .
The fungus moved swiftly through Georgi a, Al abama, and Kentucky, and
by June its ai rborne spores were headed strai ght for the nati on's Corn
Belt, where ei ghty-five percent of al l Ameri can corn i s grown.
I57
As i t happened, afte r a good part of the year's crop had been destroyed,
a change i n the weat her and emerge ncy measu res t hat were taken saved
the day. But the epi demi c had al ready made cl ear the dangers of homog­
eni zat i on and the l ong-te rm consequences of deci si ons made t hree or
four decades before. Moreove r, afte r the i n i ti al successes wi th cor n,
hybri di zati on techni ques spread t o ot her pl ants (e. g. , al fal fa and sorgh u m)
and t hen, i n the 1940s, to an i mal s -fi rst ch i cke ns and l ate r on cattl e.
I5
8
The resul t i ng geneti c u ni for mi ty has made many i ndustri al i zed nati ons
"gene poor" countri es that now vi ew wi th envy the geneti c resou rces of
thei r "gene ri ch" underdeve l oped nei ghbors.
Even before hybri di zati o n techni ques had "geneti cal l y di sci pl i ned"
cor n, the ear l i er successes of l i vestock pedi gree hi erarchi es had i n spi red
some sci enti sts to dream of appl yi ng sel ecti ve breedi ng tech ni ques to
h uman bei ngs. I n the seco nd hal f of the ni neteenth centu ry, whe n Fra n­
ci s Galton coi ned the term "e ugen i cs, " a wi despread movement sought to
gi ve di sci pl i nary i nsti tuti ons control ove r the fl ow of human geneti c mate­
ri al s. The movement gai ned momentu m i n the ea rl y twe nti eth centu ry,
parti cul arl y after the redi scovery of Mendel ' s work on heredity and the
establ i s h ment of genes as the ca rri ers of heredi ta ry i nfor mati on. The
i dea of " i mprovi ng" h u man bei ngs through sel ecti ve breedi ng was not
new (i t is at l east as ol d as Pl atoI59), but i n the earl y twenti eth ce ntu ry it
meshed wel l wi t h the devel opment and spread of hospi tal s, pri sons, and
ot her i nsti tuti ons that routi nel y parti ti oned, exami ned, and docume nted
h uman bei ngs. I n ot her words, whi l e the dream of "geneti c hygi ene" may
be ol d, the tool s for i ts i mpl eme ntati o n were j ust reachi ng matu ri ty and
spreadi ng through t he popul ati on of i nsti tut i ons. Speci al organ i zati ons
168
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
such as the Eugen i cs Record Offi ce came to l i fe i n the Un i ted States (as
wel l as i n Engl and and Germa ny) and took on the task of subj ect i ng the
human gene pool to the syste m of conti nuous wri ti ng and observati on:
Researchers at or affi l i ated wi th these l aboratori es gathered i nformati on
beari ng on human heredity by exami ni ng medi cal records or conducti ng
extended fami l y studi es, often rel yi ng upon fi el d-workers to construct trai t
pedi grees i n sel ected popu lati ons-say, the resi dents of a rural commun ity
-on the basi s of i ntervi ews and the exami nati on of geneal ogi cal records . . . .
By 1926, as a resul t of its surveys and studi es, the Eugeni cs Record Offi ce
had accu mul ated about 65, 000 sheets of man uscri pt fi el d reports, 30, 000
sheets of speci al trai ts records, 8, 500 fami l y trai t schedu l es, and 1, 900
pri nted geneal ogi es, town hi stori es, and bi ogra phi es.
16
o
Al though the sci enti fi c val ue of most of these data was mi n i mal (onl y
the rel ati vel y few heri ta bl e trai ts that depended on a si ngl e ge ne coul d be
trapped i n thi s net), i ts soci al conseq uences were not. I nformed by very
pri mi ti ve t hi n ki ng about ge neti cs, where even the most compl ex d i sposi ­
ti ons we re rei fi ed i nto si mpl e enti ti es and l i n ked wi th si ngl e ge nes, Ameri ­
can eugen i ci sts managed to i nvol ve severa l i nsti tuti ons di rectl y i n the
control of the fl ow of human geneti c materi al s. Begi n n i ng wi th I ndi ana i n
1907, over twenty states passed compul sory steri l i zati on l aws i n an ove rt
atte mpt to el i mi nate certai n ge nes from the pool . Despi te t he fact that
most of th ese "genes" we re spuri ous (e. g. , drunken ness, feebl emi nded­
ness, and vagrancy "ge nes"), thousands of peopl e were steri l i zed and
conti nued t o be forcefu l l y di sconnected from t he ge ne pool even after the
euge ni cs movement had di ed. Addi t i onal ly, fear i ng t he great i nfl ux of
southern European bl ood, the tai l end of t he massi ve human wave that
came to the neo-Eu ropes i n the ni neteenth and twenti eth ce ntu ri es, i mmi ­
grati on authori ti es passed l aws to restri ct the ki nd of ge nes that came
i nto the Uni ted States. Al t hough the I mmi grati on Restri cti on Act of 1924
di d not expl i ci tl y ph rase i ts pol i cy i n eugeni c terms, i t i s cl ear (as Ste phen
Jay Goul d has argued) that i t was i ntended to favor the entry of nort hern
Europea n "stock" at the expense of gene pool s deemed i nferi or.
161
The practi ce of i mmi grati on control is parti cu l arl y rel eva nt here because
i t i nvol ved a new type of exami nati on techni que that i s sti l l used today as
a "sorti ng devi ce": the I Q test. Ori gi nal l y created (by Al fred Bi net between
1905 and 1908) as an ai d to detect chi l dren who may need speci al educa­
ti on, i t was transformed by Ameri can eugen i ci sts i nto a routi ne devi ce fo r
testi ng and ra nki ng al l chi l dren and adu l ts accordi ng to t hei r (su pposedl y
he ri tabl e) menta l worth.
16
2 An essence of "rati onal ity" was post ul ated,
169
2: FLESH AND GENES
rei fi ed i nto a "thi ng" i n the brai n, and then associ ated wi th a si ngl e "gene"
whose presence or a bse nce from the gene pool was suscepti bl e to i nsti tu­
ti onal mani pu l ati on. Rega rdl ess of the fact that the test mostl y measu red
fami l i a ri ty wi th Ameri can cul t ure, maste ry of the "the arcana of bowl i ng,
commerci al products, and fi l m stars, "1
6
3 it became a routi ni zed proce­
dure to br and i mmi gra nts accordi ng to thei r geneti c en dowment. I t was
al so di rectl y co n nected wi t h the steri l i zati on campai gn, si nce l ow I Q
scores were t hought t o si gnal "feebl emi ndedness, " a su pposedl y heri ta­
bl e condi ti o n t hat e ndangered the i ntegri ty of the Ameri can gene pool .
Al though eugeni cs was eventual l y di scredi ted when Nazi Germa ny
showed the wo rl d j ust what such geneti c "i mprovement" coul d l ead to i f
i mpl emented on a l arge enough scal e, thi s di d not mean that the hu man
body esca ped t he net of wri ti ng and obse rvati o n i nto whi ch i t had been
drawn two or t hree ce ntu ri es ear l i er; there were ot her means of co ntrol ­
l i ng i ts capabi l i ti es whi ch were- unrel ated to crude geneti c cl eansi ng
campai gns. We may di vi de these i nto two types, fol l owi ng the di sti ncti on
bi ol ogi sts make between soma and germ line: the l atter refers pri mari l y
to cel l s wi th reproducti ve ca pacity (eggs and sperm), but may al so be
sai d to i ncl ude al l the ti ss ues and orga ns that ma ke up our reproducti ve
system, whi l e the for mer i ncl u des al l t he ot her systems (di gesti ve, mus­
cu l a r, nervous, etc. ) that form the rest of the body. I n terms of soci al
co ntrol over t he soma, i t has pri nci pal l y been the mal e body t hat has
suffered the effects of di sci pl i nary techn i ques. Not onl y were dri l l and
survei l l ance devel oped i n excl usi vel y mal e armi es, but l arge masses
of mal e bodi es were used as can non fodder from the Napol eoni c Wa rs
t hrough Worl d War I . ( I n the l atter, an enti re generati on was used to
" feed" enemy arti l l ery. ) I n terms of t he ge rm l i ne, on t he ot her hand,
the femal e body has bor ne the bru nt of i ntense exami nati o n and regi s­
trati on tech ni ques.
A very i mportant i nsti tut i onal encroachment on t he germ l i ne occu rred
i n the Un i ted States du r i ng the ni neteenth centu ry t hrough the ascen­
dance of obstet ri cs and gynecol ogy. Between them, these new speci al ti es
managed i n a few decades to acqui re a vi rtual monopoly over the meth­
ods and pract i ces used to assi st i n chi l dbi rt h. " I n the [ea rl y] twe nti eth
centu ry, physi ci ans pus hed for ' obstet ri cal refor m, ' whi ch l argel y el i mi ­
nated mi dwi ves and moved bi rth from the home to t he hospi tal . Whi l e i n
1900, fewer t han 5 percent of Ameri ca n women del i vered i n hospi tal s,
by 1940, about hal f di d and by 1960, al most al l
.
"
164
As medi cal studi es
( by doctors) have reveal ed, duri ng the pe ri od of ti me i n whi ch hospi tal s
took over from tradi ti onal practi ces thi s cruci al posi ti on i n t he fl ow of
geneti c mate ri al s, obstetri ci ans were causi ng more damage to women
170
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
t han mi dwi ves ever di d. Aggressi ve use of forceps tended to resul t i n
torn bi rth canal s, a n d l ack of hygi ene spread di seases among t h e i nfants:
I ncreased physi ci an attenda nce at bi rth di d not resul t i n i mproved outcome
for mothers and ba bi es. As the percentage of bi rths attended by mi dwi ves
decreased from 50 to 15 percent, peri natal i nfant mortal i ty i ncreased. Dur­
i ng the fi rst decade of the twenti eth centu ry, mi dwi ves in New York were
si gni fi cantly su peri or to doctors in preventi ng sti l l bi rths and chi l dbed fever.
For exampl e, Newark's mate rnal mortal ity rate of 1. 7 per 1, 000 from 1 914
to 1916 among mothers del i vered by mi dwi ves compared most favorabl y to
the 6. 5 per 1, 000 rate in Boston, where mi dwi ves were ban ned.
165
I n t he l ong r u n , as rat i onal i zati on and routi ni zati on gave ri se to econo­
mi es of scal e, hospi tal s may have become better pl aces fo r humans to
be bor n, at l east in te rms of decreased mortal ity. The probl em, as wit h
assembly- l i ne factori es, was that thi s i ncreased "producti vity" came wi t h
hi dden costs i n terms of l oss of control (for t he women gi vi ng bi rth). As
wi th al l di sci pl i nary i nsti tuti ons, a true accounti ng must i ncl ude those
forces t hat i ncrease ( i n economi c terms of uti l ity) and those that decrease
(i n pol i ti cal terms of o bedi ence). Sedated women gi vi ng bi rth i n hospi tal s
not onl y l ost co ntrol over deci si o ns made duri ng l abor (fo r i nstance,
whether or not any surgi cal i nterventi on i s requi red) but al so over ot her
fu ncti ons l ater on:
I n the 1930s physi ci ans began repl aci ng the woman's breast mi l k (whi ch an
earl y Gerber adverti sement for baby formul a cal l ed "a vari abl e excreti on")
wi th formu l a, a prod uct i ncreasi ngly avai l abl e from drug and mi l k compa­
ni es . . . . To di scou rage nursi ng on demand, they separated mother and
chi l d. They establ i shed ru l es requi ri ng feedi ngs at i nterval s of no l ess than
four hou rs . . . . I n the nurseri es, babi es were fed suppl emental bottles wi th­
out the mother's knowl edge. Conseque ntly, the babi es were not hu ngry
when brought to the mother. Wi thout suffi ci ent suckl i ng the mother's mi l k
dri ed up . . , . By t he 1940s the proporti on of women breast-feedi ng, wi th or
wi thout suppl emental bottl es, had dropped to 65 percent. By 1956, it was
down to 37 perce nt; by 1966, 27 percent.
16
6
Despi te the current revi va l of mi dwi fery (and breast feedi ng), t he tra ns­
fe r of bi rth from pri vate homes to publ i c spaces of o bservat i on and wr i t­
i ng was an i nsti tuti onal encroachment on t he human germ l i ne. And t hi s
takeove r compl emented the earl i er snar i ng of our soma i n a si mi l ar net of
compu l sory tests and records. The Fre nch mi l i tary, wh i ch pi oneered t he
171
2: FESH AND GENES
routi n i zati on of i ndustri al producti on i n its ei ghteent h-ce ntury arsena l s,
was per haps the fi rst to combi ne the effects of dri l l wi th those of hygi ene
and medi ci ne to produce not onl y obedi ent but heal thy bodi es. The mas­
si ve ar mi es of urban proporti ons wi th whi ch Napol eon conquered Eu rope
were epi de mi ol ogi cal l y aki n to ci ti es. Only the combi ned effects of com­
pu l sory vacci nati on, a ri t ual attenti on to cl eanl i ness, and a medi cal corps
wi th a cl ear chai n of command made possi bl e these otherwi se i mprudent
mi xtu res of recrui ts from regi ons not normal l y i n cl ose contact wi th one
anot her.
167
Thus fa r we have expl ored the two hal ves of our bi ol ogi cal hi story, the
hi story of our own fl esh and bl ood as wel l as the nonhuman genes and
bi omass un der ou r control . However, as we have al ready see n, the hi story
of u rban al i me ntary pyr ami ds needs to be compl emented by anal ysi s of
the l arge r bi ol ogi cal meshwork of whi ch ci ti es and towns are a part. More
speci fi cal ly, we need to return to the mi croscopi c component of those
food webs, the worl d of i n fecti ous di seases that conti nue to feed on our
bodi es and he nce short-ci rcui t ou r ti ghtl y focused bi omass fl ow. More­
over, mi croorgan i sms i nteract not onl y wi th ou r organi c bodi es but al so
wi th our i nsti tut i ons, exert i ng sel ecti on pressu res on t hem and thereby
acti ng as sort i ng devi ces for the routi nes that these i nsti tuti onal repl i ca­
tors transmi t verti cal l y and hori zontal ly.
Much as the pl ague sti mul ated the creati on of the methods and rout i nes
that woul d l ater on mi neral i ze i nto hospi tal s, the chol era epi demi cs of
the ni neteenth and twenti et h centu ri es catal yzed i nto exi ste nce a n u mber
of urban i nsti tuti ons concerned wi th publ i c heal th and hygi ene. I n Bri ti sh
towns, l ocal boards of heal th emerged as a respon se to the fi rst outbreak
i n 1832. A second wave hi t i n 1848, and thi s ti me a central i zed agency
was created to i mpl ement fa r-reachi ng programs of publ i c sani tati on.
Chol era i s a waterborne di sease, and so the response t o i t necessari l y
i nvol ved new systems of water suppl y and sewage di sposal . The i ntrusi ve
character of t he i nfrastructu re that was needed (pi pes ru nn i ng under pri ­
vate property, for exampl e), as �el l as the then-domi nant mi asma theory
of epi demi cs (wh i ch favored ai r and earth as transmi tters), generated
resi stance to the proj ect, and i t took the i ntense fear t hat chol era i nspi red
to overcome these obstacl es. Si mi l ar si tuati ons cropped up i n ot her parts
of Europe, as wel l as i n the l ands Europeans had settl ed:
Spreaq [of the new pol i cies] to other countri es occurred rel atively rapi dly,
though not i nfrequently it took the same sti mul us of an approachi ng
epi demi c of chol era to compel l ocal vested i nterests to yi el d to advocates
of sa ni ta ry reform. Thus, in the United States, i t was not unti l 1866 that
172
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
a comparabl e Boa rd of Heal th was establ i shed i n New York Ci ty, model ed
on the Bri ti sh prototype and i nspi red by i denti cal apprehensi ons of the
i mmi nence of a new chol era epi demi c. I n the absence of thi s sort of sti mu­
l us, such a great ci ty as Hamburg persi sted i n postponi ng costly i mprove­
ments of its water suppl y unti l 1892, when a visitati on of chol era proved
beyond al l reasonabl e doubt that a contami nated water suppl y propagated
the d i sease.
16
8
McNei l l cal l s chol era the fi rst lli ndustri al di sease" not because it ori ­
gi nated i n factory towns (i t di d not) but because i t had reached Europe
from I ndi a thanks to new tra nsportati on technol ogi es such as the
steamshi p and the rai l road. Th ese chan nel s al l owed mi croorgan i sms to
travel fart her and faster t han ever before: a chol era epi demi c that began
i n Bengal i n 1826 reached easter n Eu rope in 1831, the Un i ted States i n
1832, a n d Mexi co i n 1833.
16
9 Consequentl y, chol era al so catal yzed the
fi rst attempts at i nter nati onal cooperati on i n respondi ng to epi demi cs.
(As earl y as 1831, Europeans were col l aborati ng wi th Egypti an authori ti es
i n tracki ng the cou rse of t he di sease. ) When steamshi ps bega n con nect­
i ng t he worl d' s mari ti me gateways arou nd 1870, the range of habi tats
t hat coul d be col on i zed not onl y by germs but by weeds (rats and thei r
fl eas) i ncreased greatl y. I n the 1890s, a new epi demi c of buboni c pl ague
broke out i n Chi na and by 1894 had reached Canton and Hong Kong.
From there steams hi ps carri ed the i nfected rats and fl eas to ot her ports,
from whi ch, i n t urn , the di sease spread i nto bu rrowi ng rodent communi ­
ti es el sewhere. Al though i nte rnati onal teams of doctors and a number of
prophyl acti c measures managed to contai n t he spread of pl ague to
huma ns, even today new versi ons of pl ague are evol vi ng i n undergrou nd
rodent "ci ti es, " some capa bl e of i nfect i ng peopl e:
Pl ague was brought by shi p to the northwest of Ameri ca around 1 900.
About 200 deaths were recorded i n the th ree-year San Franci sco epi demi c
whi ch started j ust after the earthquake i n 1 906. As a resu l t, the western
part of the U. S. A. , parti cu larly New Mexi co, i s now one of the two l argest
resi dual foci of pl ague (in mi ce and vol es parti cul arly) in the worl d -the
ot her i s i n Russi a. The pl ague baci l l us has spread steadi l y eastwards from
the west coast and in 1984 was found among ani mal s in the mi d-west. The
wave front has moved on average about 35 mi l es a year . . . . I f, or rather,
when, pl ague reaches the east coast of the U. S. A. wi th its large urban
areas, the potenti al for a seri ous epi demi c wi l l be consi de rabl e. New York,
for exampl e, has an esti mated rat popu l ati on of one rat per hu man; and
mi ce -al so effective di sease carri ers -probabl y nu mber more.
17
0
173
2: FESH AND GENES
As t hi s exampl e i l l ust rates, the fact t hat modern medi ci ne has gai ned a
l arger measure of control over mi croorgani sms does not mean t hat we
have ceased to form a mes hwork wi t h bacteri a, vi ruses, pl asmodi a, fu ngi ,
and ot her "weeds. " But t he command el ements i n t he overal l mi xtu re
have i ncreased, and t hi s has had i mport ant hi stori cal consequences. To
begi n wi th , t he medi cal and publ i c heal t h i nsti tuti ons that were generated
i n our cl ash wi th epi demi cs managed to push ci ti es across a t hreshol d
around the year 1900: for the fi rst ti me i n the mi l l en n i u m (and perhaps i n
hi story) l arge ci t i es were abl e to reproduce t hei r human popul ati ons wi th­
out a constant fl ow of i mmi grants from t he cou ntrysi de. The ci ty became,
i n a sense, sel f-reproducti ve.
Then i nter nati onal emi grati on fl ows recei ved a boost as mi l i tary medi ­
ci ne, now abl e to i mpl ement hygi eni c and i mmunol ogi cal programs by
command, a l l owed ar mi es to break away from ol d bi ol ogi cal regi mes and
opened new areas for col oni zat i on. Some of t he great col oni al enterpri ses
of the l ate ni neteent h centu ry-t he openi ng of the Panama Canal by the
Un i ted States (i n 1904) and the carvi ng up of the Afri can cont i nent by
several European powers -were made possi bl e by the i ncreased control
over mal ari a and yel l ow fever achi eved by mi l i tary medi ci ne. The vector
of bot h di seases (mosqu i toes) was brought i nto the di sci pl i nary net by a
ri gorous sani tary pol i ce "supported and s ustai ned by meti cu l ous obser­
vat i on of mosqui to n u mbers and patterns of be havi or. "
l71
But t he real breakt hrough in the attempt to submi t mi croorgani sms to
pyrami dal control occu rred when l aboratori es l earned how to tur n mi crobe
agai nst mi crobe on an i nd ust ri al scal e. Thi s took pl ace du ri ng Worl d War I I ,
wi t h t he devel opment of a seri es of new chemi cal s, such as peni ci l l i n and
sul fas. When the term antibiotic was i ntroduced i n 1942, i t was defi ned as
any chemi cal s ubstance produced by a mi croorgani sm capabl e of di stu rb­
i ng a vi tal l i n k i n the metabol i sm of anot her one, t hus ki l l i ng it or i nhi bi t­
i ng its growt h
.
l
7
2 (Today some a nti bi oti cs are chemi cal l y synthesi zed, so
the defi n i ti on has been broadened . ) These natu ral l y occu rri ng su bstances
may be the product of arms races between mi crobes (si mi l ar to t hose
between predators and t hei r prey), and t hei r exi ste nce had been known
for several decades pri or to t he war. But not u nti l t he 1940s di d t he war
on di sease possess the i ndustri al met hods needed to force a "mi crobi al
prol etari at" t o mass- produce t hese chemi cal weapons.
Al though ant i bi oti cs di d prove deci si ve i n wi n ni ng t he fi rst battl es,
t hey di d not al l ow medi cal i nsti tuti ons to wi n the war. The probl em was
t hat, as i t t u rned out, mi crobes offered t hese weapons a constantl y mov­
i ng target. The fl ow of genes i n mi croorgan i sms, un l i ke l arge ani mal s
and pl ants, i s not ri gi dl y hi erarchi cal ; even t hose mi crobes t hat repro-
174
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
duce sexual l y ( and t hus channel genes "verti cal ly," as we do) al so com­
mu ni cate " hori zontal l y" wi th one anot her, freel y t ransferri ng pi eces of
geneti c i nfor mati on across strai ns and even speci es. Soon after Worl d
War I I , genes t hat conferred resi stance to anti bi oti cs were promptl y t rans­
ferred from one speci es of bacteri um to a nother. Si nce peni ci l l i n's i ni t i al
use i n 1941, a majori ty of i ts targets (staphyl ococci ) have become resi s­
tant to i t. 173 Pumpi ng massi ve amou nts of anti bi oti cs i nto ani mal and
h u man i ntesti nal tracts worsened t he si tuati on by creati ng t he pe rfect
envi ronment for the sel ecti on (on a n equal l y massi ve scal e) of new resi s­
t ant strai ns; Today, nearl y every di sease known to medi ci ne has become
resi stant to at l east one a nti bi oti c, and several are i mmu ne to more t han
one. I t seems cl ear now t hat we wi l l conti nue t o form a mes hwor k wi th
the mi croworl d despi te al l the advances i n medi cal sci ence. A si mi l ar
poi nt appl i es to pl ant and i nsect "weeds. " Beca use of t he massi ve appl i ­
cati ons of DDT (and ot her members of i ts chemi cal fami ly) t o shorten
u rban food chai ns, some sci enti sts bel i eve t hat t he on ly weeds that wi l l
be around i n urbani zed regi ons by the year 2000 are t hose resi stant to
these pesti ci des . 1
74
Th us, a new arms race devel oped, t hi s ti me between hi erarchi cal med­
i cal i nsti tuti ons and the rapi dl y evol vi ng meshwork of mi crobes. I n the
l atest rou nd of t his contest, t he very machi nery behi nd the hori zontal
transfer of ge nes among bacteri a was recruited to serve t he bacteri a's
very enemy. The mechani sm i nvol ves at l east two components: j umpi ng
genes and a vector of tran smi ssi on (pl asm i ds, transposons). The d i scov­
ery t hat pi eces of geneti c i nformati on can move around in a chromo­
some dates to the l ate 1940s, but i t took decades before the ent renched
orthodoxy coul d accommodate the new i deas. Today we k now t hat genes
not onl y can move a rou nd i nsi de the n ucl eus, they can al so "j ump" out
i nto the cytopl asm and become i ncorporated i nto organel l es (such as
pl asmi ds), whi ch reproduce on thei r own wi t hi n t he cel l . Pl asm i ds can
t ravel from one cel l to a not her (or one bacteri um to a not her) and del i ver
the "j u mpi ng gene, " whi ch t hen i ncorporates i tsel f i nto t he n ucl ear DNA
of the new cel l and t hus becomes heri tabl e. Thi s mechani sm may expl ai n
how resi stance t o a nt i bi oti cs spread so rapi dl y among t he popul ati on of
mi crobes.
Wi t h the di scovery of gene-spl i ci ng and gene-gl ui ng enzymes, as wel l
a s t h e ot her tech ni ques of bi otechnol ogy, h u ma n researchers were abl e
to expl oi t t hi s mechani sm and take geneti c materi al s from· one l i vi ng
creatu re, attach t hem to a pl asmi d (or other vector), and t hen i nj ect t hem
i nto a d i ffere nt creatu re, i n effect, creati ng "chi meras" : ani mal s, pl ants,
or mi crobes wi th the geneti c characteri sti cs of two or more di fferent
175
2: FESH AND GENES
speci esY5 The practi cal val ue of chi meras for the ar ms race between
medi cal i nsti tuti ons and mi crobi al evol uti on i s thi s: genes t hat code for
speci fi c enzymes (or ot her protei ns) wi th potenti al medi cal appl i cati ons
can now be i ncorporated i nto an easy-to-cul ti vate cel l , usi ng i ts own
machi nery to "transl ate" t he gene i nto a protei n . By cl oni ng thi s chi meri c
cel l repeatedly, l arge popul ati ons of protei n producers can be created
a nd thei r product harvested t h rough a vari ety of methods.
Paradoxi cal ly, the very proced ures empl oyed to deny mi croparasi tes
access to the u rban fl ow of bi omass al l owed macroparasites (especi al l y
anti market i nsti tuti ons) to i nsert t hemsel ves at multi pl e poi nts i n t he food
chai n. As we saw above, t hi s trend began wi th the i ntroducti on of chemi ­
cal ferti l i zers (as wel l as herbi ci des and i nsecti ci des), whi ch are manu­
factu red f ar from the farm and whi ch spl i t open t he n utri ent cycl es t hat
had been cl osed for centuri es. Whi l e a century and a h al f ago Ameri can
farms produced most of what t hey needed (ru n ni ng on ti ght nutri ent
cycl es), today t hey recei ve u p to 70 percent of thei r i n puts ( i ncl udi ng
seed) from the outsi de.
176 Bi otech nol ogy is accel erati ng t hi s trend, but i t
di d not create i t.
Take, for exampl e, the green revol uti on of the 1950s. New pl ant hybri ds
wi th genes t hat di rected most photosyntheti c acti vity to the producti on of
edi bl e grai n (as opposed to i nedi bl e stems) were i ntrod uced i n the Thi rd
Worl d, wi th t he admi rabl e goal of maki ng those cou ntri es n utri ti onal ly sel f­
suffi ci ent. And, i ndeed, t he much hi gher yi el ds of t hese "mi racl e" pl ants
di d for a whi l e strengt hen the food base of cou ntri es such as Mexi co, t he
P hi l i ppi nes, and I ndi a. The catch was t hat the new breeds requi red l arge
amou nts of outsi de i nputs (ferti l i zer) to perform t hei r mi racl es, and i n the
a bsence of chemi cal ferti l i zer t hei r yi el ds were not nearl y as i mpressi ve.
The si tuati on was si mi l ar to t hat of steam power: i n order to get hi gh out­
puts of mechani cal energy, i ntense i nputs of coal were needed. I n other
words, t hi s ki nd of set u p profi ted f r om economi es of scal e and t herefore
benefi ted l arge farmers, tri ggeri ng a process of consol i dati on i n whi ch
many smal l farms di sappeared. Open n utri ent cycl es al so made farmers
vu l nerabl e to outsi de monopol i es: when t he Arab oi l cartel began rai si ng
pri ces i n t he earl y 1970s, ferti l i zer costs i ncreased dramati cal l y a nd t he
green revol uti on col l apsed. Worse yet, cl ones of the new pl ants now domi ­
n ated t he l ocal ge ne pool s and many geneti c mater i al s of tradi ti onal vari ­
eti es (whi ch di d not depend on ferti l i zer) had been l ost, maki ng i t very
hard to t urn back t he cl ock.
ln
The homogeni zati on of t he geneti c base of crops and l i vestock reached
h i gh peaks of i ntensi ty i n the l ast few decades. And t he genes that are
bei ng sel ected now, u nl i ke duri ng the Green Revol uti on, are not t hose t hat
176
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
i ncrease the nutri ti onal val ue of bi omass, but rather i ts adaptability to homo­
geneous factory routines. For i nst ance, i n t he 1950s and 1960s, manufac­
tu rers of farm machi nery worked toget her wi th pl ant breeders to fi t new
vegetabl e vari eti es to t he demands of routi ni zat i on and rati onal i zati on.
Genes t hat caused vegetabl es t o yi el d u ni form s hapes and si zes, as wel l as
t o matu re si mul taneousl y t o al l ow harvest i ng at t he same t i me, made i t
easi er to adapt vegetabl e producti on to machi nes and to factory schedu l es:
Crops i n the fi el d must fi rst meet the tests of yi el d, uniform growth, and
si mu l taneous maturi ty. After thi s, thei r frui t or kernel s must be abl e to wi th­
stand the rigors of mechani cal harvesti ng, repeated handl i ng, and vari ous
ki nds of transport from one poi nt to another. l\ext come the tri al s of steam­
i ng, crushi ng, or canni ng. I n some cases, the raw agri cul tural crop must
"store wel l " or "travel wel l , " or be good for freezi ng or fryi ng. And genes are
the keys to meeti ng each of these steps in the food- maki ng process; the
genes that control the fi el d-to-tabl e characteri sti cs of every crop from broc­
col i to wheat. In thi s process the genes that matter are those of yi el d, ten­
si l e strength, durabi l i ty, and l ong shel f l i fe. However, the genes for nutri ti on
-i f consi dered at al l -are for the most part i gnored.
178
I n some cases, the geneti c materi al s be hi nd "wel l -di sci pl i ned" processi ng
properti es are i n di rect opposi ti on to t hose i mprovi ng n utri ti onal val ue
(t hat i s, breedi ng f or one el i mi nates t he other). Consequentl y, the l atter
cou l d very wel l di sappear from these new pl ants, and as cl ones of the
new vari eti es spread, t he genes of ol d vari eti es wi l l begi n to di sappear
from t he gene pool . Hence, t he evol ut i on of crops (and l i vestock) i s tru l y
bei ng d ri ven from t he processi ng end of the food chai n . A few centu ri es
ago, cul t ures ( I sl ami c, Eu ropean) were the mai n vectors for the t ransmi s­
si on of genes across ecosystems; today, corporati ons have i n heri ted t hi s
homogeni zi ng task. IVcDonal ds, for i nst ance, is now the mai n agent of
propagati on of the genes be hi nd t he Burbank potato; the Adol ph Coors
Company, of t he ge nes for t he Moravi an I I I barl ey; and t he Quaker Oats
Company, of the geneti c base of a few vari eti es of whi te corn hybri ds.
179
Bi otech nol ogy is bound to i ntensi fy t hi s homogeni zat i on even more.
Al though most bi otechnol ogi cal i n novati ons were devel oped by smal l
compan i es, t hese i nnovators are bei ng di gested t hrough verti cal a nd hori ­
zontal i ntegrati on a nd i ncorporated i nto the ti ssues of mul t i nat i onal cor­
porati ons, i n many cases t he same ones who al ready own seed, fert i l i zer,
and pesti ci de di vi si ons. Rather t han t ransferri ng pest- resi stant genes i nto
new crop pl ants, t hese corporati ons are permanently fi xi ng dependence
on chemi cal s i nto crops' geneti c base. For i nstance, corporat i ons such as
177
2: FESH AND GENES
DuPont and Monsanto, wh i ch create weed ki l l ers, need to devel op crops
t hat wi t hstand these chemi cal attacks. Thus they are transferri ng the
genes from weeds t hat have devel oped resi stance to these substances to
new crop vari eti es, and thereby geneti cal l y freezi ng far mers' dependence
on exter nal i n puts. 180
Farm ani mal s are sufferi ng a si mi l ar fate. For i nstance, "wel l -d i sci pl i ned"
pi gs and cows -t hat i s, l i vestock t hat are capabl e of wi thsta nd i ng the
stresses of confi nement and t hat possess the u ni for m characteri sti cs
demanded by meat- packagi ng speci fi cati ons -are today bei ng bred or
engi neered. Moreover, the techni ques used t o exerci se ti ghter control
over the fl ow of genes across a ni mal generati ons (arti fi ci al i nsemi nati on,
i n vi tro ferti l i zati on, and embryo transfer) were soon appl i ed t o hu mans,
once the techni ques had proven themsel ves "safe" a nd effecti ve. Need­
l ess to say, despi te t he recent revi val of eugeni cs (exempl i fi ed, for exam­
pl e, i n the creati on of hu man sperm banks
lB
I) and the ongoi ng human
ge nome program (whi ch ai ms for compl ete geneti c sel f-knowl edge by t he
fi rst decade of t he new mi l l enni um) , the homogeni zi ng consequences for
our speci es wi l l not be nea rl y as d ramati c as for our crops and l i vestock.
Gi ven t hat our fl esh does not fl ow i n t he u rban food pyrami d, we hardl y
ri sk bei ng forcefu l l y "evol ved" by food processors a nd packagers. And
yet, as we saw before, t here are r eal dangers i n human ge neti c mani pu l a­
ti on, t hough the dangers l i e el sewhere.
The i nsti tuti onal strategi es of conti n uous exami nati on and recordi ng
t hat had been devel oped to fi ght the pl ague were fi rst appl i ed to hu mans,
and onl y l ater t o pl ant a nd ani mal pedi grees. Geneti c tests, such as those
bei ng devel oped to screen us for heri tabl e di seases (t he mai n rati onal e
behi nd the hu man genome program), wi l l be added to the growi ng arse­
nal of exami nati on procedu res al ready used by many i nsti tuti ons to
scree n a nd sort hu man bei ngs. Moreover, many of the geneti c di seases
t hat wi l l i n the near futu re become detectabl e through geneti c testi ng lack
any effective medical treatment or cure. U nder these ci rcumstances, al l a
geneti c test wi l l do is brand certai n i ndi vi dual s as carri ers of the di sease.
Thus, as some cri ti cs of geneti c testi ng have argued, "We ri sk i ncreasi ng
t he n u mber of peopl e defi ned as u nempl oyabl e, u neducabl e, or u ni nsur­
abl e. We ri sk creati ng a bi ol ogi cal u ndercl ass. "
IB2
I n thi s chapter we have fol l owed t he hi story of the di fferent bi ol ogi cal
components of urban dynami cs. These must be added to the fl ows of
mi neral matter- energy t hat traverse Western urban soci eti es . We have
noted repeatedl y t hat, i n addi ti on to the constructi on materi al s for our
homes and bodi es (stone and genes, l i ve and fossi l energy), a vari ety of
"cu l tu ral materi al s" fl ow t hrough and accu mul ate wi t hi n our ci ti es. How-
178
BIOLOGICAL HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
ever, wi th some excepti ons, we have used t hi s phrase i n a l argel y
metaphori cal way, to suggest that, i n t hi s case too, we are deal i ng wi t h
nothi ng but "stuff. " I t i s ti me now t o attempt t o exci se t hi s metaphor, t o
expl ore cu l tu ral accu mul ati ons i n det ai l and deci de whether t hey, too, are
merel y sedi mentati ons hardened by ti me and scul pted by hi story, i nter­
cal ated heterogenei ti es con nected by the l ocal acti on of catalysts, repl i ­
cat i ng structu res bl i ndl y expl ori ng a space of possi bi l i ti es. The fol l owi ng
chapter focuses o n l angu age, of al l the di fferent mani festati ons of human
cul tu re, not onl y because i t i s t he one struct ure t hat makes us u n i que
among l i vi ng creatu res, but al so because l i ngui sti c structu res have u nder­
gone a si mi l ar process of i ntense homogeni zati on, i nvol vi ng a vari ety of
i nsti tuti ons, such as academi es and school s, newspapers and news agen­
ci es. Our expl orati on of the routi n i zati on and u ni for mat i on of l i ngui sti c
materi al s wi l l reveal t hat an even wi der segment of the popul ati on of i nsti ­
tuti ons was i nvol ved i n creati ng the homogen i zed worl d we i n habi t today.
179
= m

Linguistic History:
1000-1700 A. D.
Hu man l anguages are def i ned
by t he sou nds, words, and
grammat i cal construct i ons t hat
sl owl y accu mu l ate i n a gi ven
commu n i ty over centu ri es.
These cu l tu ral materi al s do
not accu mu l ate rando8l y but
rat her enter i nto systemat i c
rel at i onsh i ps wi t h one anot her
as wel l as wi t h t he h u man be­
i ngs who serve as t hei r organ i c
su pport . The "soni c matter" of
183
3: M�M�S AND NORMS
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$0J ¯G$, W0|G$, ð ¯ G C0¯$I | JCI ' 0¯$ C0¯$I ' IJI·
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6v6¯I J ð ' | V G6v6' 006G ' ¯I0 00G6| ¯ ¯|6¯C!,
184
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
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LJIC!. )
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185
3: MEMES AND NORMS
pl ays i n these t heori es. Much as reproduct i ve i sol ati on consol i dates l oose
accu mu l ati ons of genes i nto a new a ni mal or pl ant speci es, communica­
tive isolation transforms accu mul ati ons of l i ngui sti c repl i cators i nto sepa­
rate enti ti es. I n the words of the evol uti onary l i ngui st M. L. Samuel s:
I t i s . " the mere fact of isolation o r separati on of grou ps that accounts for
al l si mpl er ki nds of [ l i ngu i sti c] di versi ty. Compl ete separati on , whether
through mi grati on or geographi cal or other barri ers, may resul t i n di al ects
bei ng no l onger mutual l y i ntel l i gi bl e; and t hus, i f t here is no standard l an­
guage to serve as a l i nk between them, new l anguages come i nto bei ng.
Lesser degrees of i sol ati on resul t i n what i s known as a di al ect conti nuum­
a seri es of systems in whi ch those nearest and most i n contact show onl y
sl i ght di fferences, whereas the whol e conti nuum, when consi dered from
end to end, may show a l arge degree of total vari ati on. Di al ect conti nua are
normal l y "hori zontal " i 6- di l
T
ensi
o
n ;
l :
e. they occu py a regi on i n whi ch fresh
di fferences . . . conti nual l y appear as one proceeds f r om one vi l l age to the
next; but i n l arge towns t hey may al so be "verti cal , " i . e. the di fferent
groups bel ong to di fferent soci al strata i n the soci al scal e. 2
Thus, t he fl ow of norms t hrough generati on s (and across commu ni ti es)
may resul t i n both meshworks and hi erarchi es. A conti n u u m of di al ects i s
a meshwor kl i ke col l ecti on of heterogeneous el ements t o t he extent t hat
each di al ect retai ns i ts i ndi vi dual i ty and is arti cul ated wi th the rest by
overl appi ng wi th its i mmedi ate nei gh bors. It is t hi s a rea of overl a p-the
common sou nds, words, and constructi ons between nearby di al ects ­
t hat arti cu l ates t he whol e wi thout homogeni zati on: two di al ects on t he
outski rts of t he conti nua may be qui te di fferent (or even mutual l y uni ntel ­
l i gi bl e), and yet they are con nected to each ot her t hrough i ntermedi ate
di al ects. For i nstance, t he di al ect of medi eval Pari s ( now referred to as
"Franci en") was connected to t he domi nant di al ect of I tal y (Tuscan) by
many i ntermedi ate for ms: a whol e set of French , Franco- Provenral , and
Gal l o- I tal i an di al ects. ( Rat her sharp t ransi ti ons, or isoglosses, do occur i n
t hi s conti n u u m. ) 3
Conversely, the domi nant vari ants of the l anguage of a gi ven ci ty, as
wel l as di al ects t hat have become "standard" (such as written Lati n i n the
Mi ddl e Ages), are rel ati vely homogeneous enti ti es, i n whi ch the norms
have been fi xed ei ther t hrough the del i berate
i ntervent i on of an i nsti tuti on (i n the case of "standards") or by the " peer
pressure" exerci sed by the members of a soci al strat um on each other.
These more or l ess u n i for m accumul ati ons of norms are ranked accord­
i ng to t hei r presti ge, wi th the standard l anguage and the el i te's di al ect
186
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
occupyi ng t he top of the pyrami d. Of cou rse, here as el sewhere, on l y mix­
tures of meshworks and hi erarchi es are found i n real ity, and a ny gi ven
di al ect l i kel y bel ongs si mu l taneousl y to a verti cal h i erarchy and to a hor i ­
zontal conti nuum.
The accel erati on of ci ty bu i l di ng i n t he years 1000-1300 affected i n
many ways t he l i ngu i sti c mater i al s t hat had accu mul ated i n Eu rope i n t he
previ ous mi l l en n i u m. I n t hose th ree centu ri es t he Romance l anguages
were cryst al l i zi ng i nto the forms wi t h whi ch we are today fami l i ar. These
stabl e enti ti es emerged from the conti n u u m of spoken- Lat i n di al ects
whi ch coexi sted wi th the standard wri tten form i n al l t he areas t hat had
been su bjected to t he i mperi al rul e of Rome. I n terms of presti ge, the
homogen i zed standard was cl earl y at t he top (and woul d conti nue to be
u nt i l the seventeenth centu ry), but soci al su peri ori ty di d not transl ate
i nto l i ngui sti c producti vi ty: the wri tten form, preci sel y because of i ts
much-admi red "frozen" body of norms, was l argel y ster i l e, i nca pabl e of
gi vi ng bi rt h to new l anguages. The meshwork of "vul gar" Lat i n, on t he
other hand, contai ned sou nds, words, and constructi ons t hat repl i cated
with variation a n d we re therefore capabl e of fuel i ng l i ngu i sti c sel ect i on
processes and generati ng new structu res. As t he soci ol i ngu i st Al berto
Varvaro puts i t, the di vergence of the di al ects that woul d become
Romance l anguages began centu ri es earl i er and was kept i n check onl y
by the power of the presti gi ous spoken nor m of Rome:
I n I mperi al ti mes the l i ngu i sti c worl d of Lati n had several i mportant prop­
erti es: a mi nori ty endowed wi th enormous pol i ti cal , soci al , economic and
cul t ural presti ge was absorbi ng a l arge majori ty who were l ess and l ess con­
vi nced of thei r own ori gi nal and di verse i denti ti es ¤ . . . I n fact, onl y Basques
and Bretons avoi ded Lati ni zati on; even the Germans, despi te the fact that
they now hel d power, gave way to thi s trend in al l the areas where they were
not i n a maj ority. Yet, if we go back to the centuri es of the Empi re, the Lati n
spoken by these recently Lati ni zed masses u ndoubtedly tol erated i nfri nge­
ment of the norm . . . , Li ke al l nonstandard phenomena i n al l l anguages,
some were wi del y tol erated and some l ess so, and some were repressed as
bei ng too popul ar (soci al l y and/or geographi cal ly). 4
Thi s state of affai rs, i n whi ch vari ati on wi thi n the meshwork was kept
from d i vergi ng too much, changed radi cal l y wi th the col l apse of t he
Roman Empi re and t he concomi tant weakeni ng of t he hi erarchi cal norm.
Thi s resu l ted, accordi ng t o Varvaro, i n "the l oss of t he centri petal ori enta­
ti on of the vari ati on . "5 I n the centu ri es l eadi ng to the second mi l l en n i um,
onl y amon g t h e feudal a n d eccl esi asti cal el i tes i n t h e di fferent regi ons
187
3: MEMES AND NORMS
was t here a ny sense of " uni versal i sm" wi th respect to the Lat i n l anguage.
The r ural masses were l eft free to rei nvent thei r l anguages and to forge
l ocal i denti ti es
. The questi on now i s, At what poi nt i n t i me d i d t he speak­
ers of t hese d i vergi ng d i al ects begi n to "feel " t hey were usi ng d i fferent
l anguages? Before the year 1000, wi th one excepti on, hardly any of t hese
low- presti ge d i al ects had a defi ni te name or i dentity. "These forms may
have been named by t he name of a vi l l age or di stri ct, when need arose,
but more probably never recei ved a name at al l . "6 Most l i kely, al l these
peopl e percei ved t hemsel ves as speaki ng the same l anguage, t he spoken
versi on of standard wri tten Lati n. Li ngui sti c sel f-awareness (as wel l as t he
names of t he new enti ti es) requ i red cul tural di stance from t he l i ngui sti c
meshwork i n whi ch t hese Lati ni zed masses were i mmersed and vi ewi ng
the whol e from a hi erarchi cal poi nt of vi ew. Not unti l the year 813 was t he
fi rst name for a vul gar vari ant i ntroduced : "Rusti ca Romana, " whi ch l ater
became vernacul ar Ol d French.
Thi s i ntroduct i on, and t he awareness of l i ngu i sti c di vergence that i t
i mpl i ed, came i n t he context of t he l i ngui sti c reforms t hat t he court of
Charl emagne i ntroduced i n the ni nt h centu ry. The speci fi c ai m of the Car­
ol i ngi an reforms was to reverse the "erosi on" of wri tten Lati n, as wel l as
t o set standards of pronunci ati on f or t he readi ng of Lat i n al oud, parti cu­
l arly when readi ng from the Bi bl e. Un l i ke the spontaneous evol uti on of
d i al ects, t hi s act of standardi zati on i nvol ved a del i berate act of pl an ni ng
as wel l as a si gnifi cant i nvestment of resou rces (educati onal , pol i ti cal ) to
gi ve wei ght to t he new sta ndards:
The traditi on of readi ng Lati n al oud as an arti fi ci al l anguage, a sound for
each written l etter . . . has the ai r of bei ng obvi ous, and as though i t had
been forever present. But someone, somewhere, had to establ i sh that as a
standardi zed nor m, for it coul d not ari se natural ly i n a nati ve Romance
community. There was a conti nui ty through the years between Carol i ngi an
and I mperi al Lati n i n the vocabul ary and syntax of the educated, for these
coul d al ways be resurrected from cl assi cal books by anti quari ans, but what
we now thi nk of as tradi ti onal Lati n pronunci ati on had no such di rect conti ­
n uity wi th that of the Empi reJ
The Carol i ngi an reforms were i nsuffi ci ent i n t hemsel ves t o create sta­
bl e enti ti es wi th stabl e names out of t he changi ng "soup" of the di al ect
conti nuum, and several other pl an ned i nterventi ons were necessary to
preci pi tate t he evol uti on of Romance vernacul ars. I n t he centuri es after
the refor ms, h i erarchi es of towns began to form wi th i ncreasi ng i nten­
si ty from the el eventh centu ry on, and t he l ocal di al ects of each of t hese
188
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
u rba n settl ements acqu i red a degree of presti ge commensurate to i ts
rank. The most presti gi ous d i al ects were t hose of regi onal capi tal s (Fl o­
rence, Pari s) and core gateways (Ven i ce). Si mu l taneously, t he i ntensi fi ca­
ti on of commerci al and gover nmental acti vity wi t hi n t hese and ot her
towns began t o create ( or reacti vate) a mul ti pl i city of new uses for written
language. Li censes, certi fi cates, petiti ons, denu nci ati ons, wi l l s, and post­
mortem i nventori es bega n to be written wi th i ncreasi ng frequency and
keepi ng records became part of t he dai l y routi ne of every merchant or
bu reaucrat.
8
At t he t i me of the Carol i ngi an reforms, al l fou r domai ns of practi cal
l i teracy-busi ness, gover nment, ch urch, and home -were domi nated by
standard Lati n. But t he ri se i n demand for wri ti ng ski l l s forced urban
el i tes, parti cul arl y t hose who spoke t he most presti gi ous di al ects, t o devi se
fi xed ort hographi es for t hei r spoken l anguages and to enforce them as
a standard . Accordi ng to the l i ngu i sti c hi stori an Ri chard Wri ght, wri t i ng
systems (such as t hat of Ol d French) di d not evol ve spontaneousl y but
were t he resul t of a pl an ned response to speci fi c probl ems of commu ni ca­
ti on. 9 The devel opment of wri tten forms of the vari ous vernacu l ars, i n
tu r n, acted a s a conservati ve pressure on urban di al ects, reduci ng vari a­
ti on and hence sl owi ng down thei r evol uti on. Thi s decel erati on may have
been percei ved by contemporary speakers of a gi ven di al ect as t he emer­
gence of a stabl e enti ty, a n i mpressi on rei nforced by t he more or l ess
si mul taneou s appearance of a name for t he wri tten form. But i t i s not t he
case t hat speakers of a di al ect had become aware of i ts di vergence from
spoken Lat i n and t hi s awareness provoked them to devi se a l abel for t he
new l anguage. The d i vergence di d i ndeed exi st as an obj ecti ve p henome­
non, but it was too sl ow and fuzzy ( i . e. , Lat i n di verged i nto a conti n u u m
of di al ects) t o be di rectl y percei ved wi thout a n i nst i tuti onal i nterventi on .
Th e process t hrough whi ch t h e emergi ng Romance l anguages acqui red
names rai ses some i nteresti ng questi ons regar di ng the natu re of "nam­
i ng" i n general . Accordi ng to Gott i ob Frege's sti l l - i nfl uenti al theory, t he
connecti on between a gi ven name and i t s referent i n the real wor l d i s
effected t hrough a mental enti ty (or psychol ogi cal state) t hat we cal l "t he
meani n g" of t he name. (Frege cal l ed i t t he "sense" of a name, and Fer­
di na nd de Saussu re, hi s contemporary, cal l ed it t he "si gn i fi ed. ") Thi s
meani ng, once grasped by a speaker, i s su pposed t o gi ve hi m or her
"i nstructi ons" (necessary and suffi ci ent condi ti ons) t o i denti fy t he obj ect
or event t hat the name refers to. So, for exampl e, the meani ng of t he
words "ti ger" or "zebra" al l ows t hei r users t o grasp t hat whi ch al l ti gers
or zebras have i n common (i . e. , t hat whi ch makes them members of
t hat category) and hence endows spea kers wi th the abi l i ty to use t he
189
3: MEMES AND NORMS
names correctl y ( i . e. , to appl y t hem to the ri ght category of enti ti es).
l0
The probl em here i s, of cou rse, that ti gers or zebras do not have an
essence i n common. They are hi stori cal construct i ons, mere agglomera­
ti ons of adapti ve tra i ts t hat happe n to have come toget her t hrough evo­
l uti on and acq ui red stabi l i ty (at l east, enough for us to name them)
t hrough reproducti ve i sol ati on. However geneti cal l y homogeni zed they
may be, the exter nal appearance of t hese ani mal s sti l l reveal s a wi de
range of vari ati on, and, hence, l i ke di al ects, they form a conti nuum of
overl appi ng forms.
A ri val theory of refere nce has been put forth by several phi l osophers,
i ncl udi ng Saul Kri pke and Hi l l ary Put nam, who deemphasi ze the "i nsi de
the head" aspects of reference a nd stress the hi stori cal and soci al
aspects of l a nguage. The basi c i dea i s t hat al l names work l i ke p hysi cal
l abel s: they do not refer to an obj ect vi a a mental enti ty; but di rectly,
the way the word "thi s" does. (Thi s is tech ni cal l y expressed by sayi ng
that al l names have an "i ndexi cal component" and hence t hat they are
al l l i ke proper names. ) Names ma nage to "sti ck" to t hei r referents
because of the pressures that speakers pl ace on one a nother: there i s a
causal chai n l eadi ng from my use of a word, to the use by the person
who taught i t to me, to the use by hi s or her teacher, and so on, al l t he
way to the ori gi nal "bapti smal ceremony" t hat i ntroduced t he l abel . l
Hence, one's cur rent usage of a term i s "cor rect" onl y t o t he extent that
i t i s con nected to the whol e history of uses of a name. Accordi ng to t hi s
theory, names do not gi ve every speaker t he means t o speci fy referents:
for many words, onl y certai n experts ca n confi rm the accu racy of the
usage. For exampl e, i f t hrough geneti c engi neeri ng we coul d bui l d ani mal s
t hat l ooked l i ke ti gers or zebras but were a geneti cal l y di sti nct speci es,
the meani ng of "ti ger" and "zebra" wou l d be of l i ttl e hel p to establ i sh cor­
rect reference. We wou l d have to rely, as Putnam says, on a soci al di vi ­
si on of l i ngu i sti c l a bor whi ch gi ves groups of experts (geneti ci sts, i n t hi s
case) t he authori ty t o confi rm whet her or not somet hi ng i s t he actual ref­
erent of a word, as deter mi ned at i ts bapti smal i ntroducti on.
Putnam does not deny t hat we carry certai n i nformati on i n our heads
regardi ng a referent, such as a few i denti fyi ng trai ts for ti gers (bei ng
quadru pedal and ca r n i vorous, bei ng yel l ow wi th bl ack stri pes, and so on).
But t hese i tems are i n many cases oversi mpl i fi cati ons (he cal l s t hem
"stereotypes"), and fa r from representi ng some essence t hat we grasp,
these stereotypes are merel y i nformati on that we are u nder a social oblig­
ation to l ear n when we acqui re the word. 12 Hence, several soci al factors
come i nto pl ay i n expl ai ni ng how l abel s "sti ck" to t hei r referents: t he hi s­
tory of t he accumul ated uses of a word, t he rol e of experts i n determi n-
190
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
i ng i ts refe rence, and the obl i gatory acq ui si ti on of certai n i nformati on
whi ch counts as part of ou r abi l i ty to u
s
e the word.
The causal theory of refere nce may be used to i ncrease our u nder­
standi ng of l i ngui sti c hi story i n two di ffe rent ways. On t he one hand, by
emphasi zi ng the soci al practi ces i nvol ved i n fi xi ng the reference of a
term, nondi scursi ve practi ces t hat i ntervene i n real i ty become especi al l y
i mporta nt. Thus, successful reference is not purel y l i ngui sti c a nd entai l s
experti se i n the mani pul ati on and transformati on of the obj ects a nd
eve nts whi ch serve as the refe re nts of words -regardl ess of whether
t hi s experti se i s conce ntrated i n a smal l number of peopl e d ue to
di vi si on of l abor. I n the pa rti cul ar case of the names of the Roma nce
l anguages, t hi s i nterventi on i n real ity took the form of expert grammari ­
ans assessi ng degrees of di vergence among di al ects and devi si ng
spel l i ng sta ndards. It al so i nvol ved i nsti tuti onal enforcement of t hese
sta ndards, resul ti ng i n the arti fi ci al i sol ati on of some di al ects and t he
conseq uent i ncrease i n thei r stabi l ity and durabi l ity. On t he ot her hand,
by showi ng t hat the meani ng of a word i s not what al l ows i ts users to
deter mi ne i ts correct reference, i mpl i es that not hi ng i n t he meani ngs of
terms l i ke "French di al ect" or "French l anguage" (referri ng to the
descendants of Occi tan and Franci en , respecti vel y) ca n hel p us estab­
l i sh some essenti al di fference between them. Our use of the term
"French l anguage" woul d be correct to t he extent t hat it conforms to the
hi story of i ts uses, a hi story whi ch began wi th an i nsti tuti onal bapti sm,
and does not depend on ou r grasp of some essenti al features of Fran­
ci en. (Franci en di d possess certai n di sti ngui shi ng features, but t hese
featu res were shared by many nearby di al ects and, hence, di d not
defi ne t he essenti al i denti ty of the di al ect of Pari s. ) I n t hi s sense, we
may rega rd the di st i ncti on between "di al ect" and "l a nguage" as com­
pl etel y arti fi ci al , drawn by soci al conse nsus, and whatever feat ures users
associ ate wi th t he l abel "French l anguage" (an esse nti al "cl ari ty" or
" rati onal ity," for exampl e), as not hi ng more t han a stereotype transmi t­
ted t hrough soci al obl i gati on. 1
3
The concept of soci al obl i gati on i s cruci al to an understa ndi ng of not
onl y nami ng but l anguage i tsel f. If sou nds, words, and constructi ons
are i ndeed repl i cators, and i f, unl i ke memes, they do not repl i cate
t hrough i mi tati on but t hrough enforced repeti ti on, t hen t he key questi o n
becomes, How exactl y are l i ngui sti c norms enforced? I n what se nse are
t hey soci al l y obl i gatory? The speci al case of standardi zed norms offers
no di ffi cul ty si nce the enforcement i s performed by i nsti tuti ons, i ncl udi ng
school s and cou rts a nd govern mental offi ces, where t he sta ndard i s used
to carry out everyday acti vi ti es. But what about t he popUl ati on of norms
191
3: MEMES AND NORMS
that form the di al ect conti n u um? Soci ol i ngui sts answer t hat, wi th respect
to di al ects, it is i nformal soci al networks that operate as enforcement
mechanisms. 14
To study the soci al network of a town where a parti cul ar di al ect i s spo­
ken, one wou l d compi l e for every i nhabi tant the l i st of hi s or her f ri ends,
as wel l as fri ends of f ri ends. Certai n properti es of these two ci rcl es wou l d
then be anal yzed: How wel l do the f ri ends of an i ndi vi dual ( and the
fri ends of hi s or her f ri ends) know one another? Do they i nteract wi th
each ot her i n mu l ti pl e capaci ti es (as nei gh bors, co-workers, ki n) or onl y i n
speci al i zed ci rcu msta nces? How l i kel y i s i t that t hey wi l l remai n wi thi n the
n etwor k after they move up or down the soci oeconomi c h i erarchy? Those
networks where there i s l i ttl e soci al mobi l ity and where the members
depend on each ot her soci al l y or economi cal l y are cal l ed "hi gh-densi ty"
(or "cl osed'�) networks. 15 .
Smal l medi eval towns and vi l l ages woul d l i kel y have been popul ated
by one or more hi gh- den si ty networks, and cl osed networks sti l l exi st i n
wor ki ng-cl ass and eth n i c commu n i ti es i n moder n ci ti es. On the other
hand, those towns i n the Mi ddl e Ages where a mi ddl e cl ass was formi ng
and soci al mobi l ity i ncreasi ng were characteri zed by l ow-densi ty (or
"open") networks. (Need l ess to say, any gi ven town may contai n both
extremes and a vari ety of networks of i ntermedi ate densi ty.) For our pur­
poses here, what matters is that hi gh-densi ty networks act as effi ci ent
mechani sms for enforci ng soci al obl i gati ons. An i nd i vi dual bel o ngi ng to
s uch a co mmun i cati on n et depends on oth er members not onl y for
symbol i c exchanges but al so for the excha nge of goods and servi ces.
The onl y way to preserve one's posi ti on i n a network, and hence to enjoy
th ese ri ghts, is to honor one's obl i gati ons, and t he fact that everyone
knows each ot her means that any vi ol ati on of a group norm qui ckl y
becomes common knowl edge. I n short, density i tsel f al l ows a networ k
t o i mpose nor mati ve consensus on i t s members.
Hi gh-density networks are espeCi al l y i mportant to soci ol i ngui sti cs
because they provi de researchers wi th answers to the questi on of how
l ocal di al ects are abl e to survi ve despi te the pressu res of an i nsti tuti onal
standard. ( How, for exampl e, have so many di al ects of Fr ench su rvi ved
to thi s day when the mass medi a and the system of compu l sory ed uca­
ti on rel entl essl y promote standard French?) The answer i s that l anguage
conveys not onl y referenti al i nformati on but i nfor mati on about group­
membershi p. The sou nds, l exi con , and grammati ca l patterns characteri s­
ti c of a l ocal di al ect are part of t he shared val ues that bi nd the members
of a dense network toget her and hence commu n i cate i nformati on about
sol i darity and l oyal ty. I n tech ni cal terms, th e repl i cators that characteri ze
192
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A.D.
t he di al ect of a dense network are sai d to be tra nsmi tted as a hi ghl y
focused set of norms, whi l e t he d i al ects of the u pwardly mobi l e mi ddl e
cl asses fl ow as more diffuse sets of norms . Paradoxi cal ly, the groups
i n the very top soci al stratum (where, by defi ni ti on, no u pward mobi l ity
i s possi bl e) form dense networks, too, and the norms of thei r di al ects
a re al so h i ghl y focused. The di fference i s, of cou rse, that the norms of
el ite di al ects are hi ghly presti gi ous whi l e t hose of l ocal d i al ects are not,
and may even be soci al l y sti gmati zed.
16 The other d i fference is that
el i tes, after maki ng thei r di al ects the standards, have access to the i nsti ­
tuti onal means to i mpose t hei r norms on a much wi der speech commu­
ni ty, parti cul arl y on those wi th aspi rati ons of u pwa rd mobi l ity whose
di ffuse l i ngu i sti c norms are prone to succu mb to standardi zati on .
The noti on of an i nfor mal soci al networ k is al so hel pfu l i n u nderstand­
i ng the rol e that i ndi vi dual s (a nd the styl i sti c vari ati ons to whi ch t hese
i ndi vi d ual s gi ve ri se) pl ay i n the evol uti on of l angu age. As Labov notes,
a gi ven i ndi vi dual vari ant does not enter thi s evol uti onary process u nti l
i t has stabi l i zed i n a porti on of a commu n i cati on network -that i s, u nt i l i t
has become collective. I n other words, the sou rce of l i ngui sti c change i s
not the i di osyncrati c habi ts of an i ndi vi dual (and certai nl y not what goes
on i nsi de hi s or her head) but a vari ant pattern shared by a group and
used to commu ni cate wi th ot her groupsY From thi s poi nt of vi ew, speak­
ers are not eval uated accordi ng to thei r i ndi vi dual psychol ogi cal proper­
ti es but accordi ng to the properti es of the l i n kages that bi nd t hem to one
another. l8 Gi ven a network of a certai n densi ty, the hi gher t he l ocal pres­
ti ge of an i ndi vi dual , or the l arger the number of h i s or her contacts, the
more l i kel y i t i s that a vari ant ori gi n ated by that i ndi vi dual wi l l become
col l ecti ve and event ual l y become part of the accu mul ated heri tage.
I n summary, we may pi ctu re medi eval Europe as a l arge popul ati on of
repl i cati ng l i ngui sti c norms undergoi ng a vari ety of transfor mati ons and
sel ecti on pressu res: becomi ng more focused i n some areas and more di f­
fuse i n ot hers, retai n i ng a meshwor k of co nnecti ons i n some parts whi l e
e l sewhere breaki ng down i nto hi erarch i es around promi nent u rban cen­
ters . Some of these accumu l ati ons became consol i dated through i sol ati on,
becomi ng more i nter nal l y homogeneous, whi l e ot hers retai ned a hi gher
degree of heterogenei ty by coexi sti ng wi t h ot her di al ects i n di fferent types
of contact situations. The study of contact between l a nguages i s i mportant
i n hi stori cal l i ngu i sti cs beca use i t bri ngs to l i ght the d i fferent forms of
hori zontal fl ow between di al ects, as opposed to the verti cal fl ow of norms
t hrough generati ons. I n addi ti on to the fl ow of l i ngu i sti c materi al s be­
tween nei gh bori ng di al ects i n a conti n u u m, l anguage may be affected by
fl ows of non l i ngui sti c materi al s, such as the mi grati on of a popu l ati o n of
193
3: MEMES AND NORMS
speakers who are the organi c su bstrat um of a di al ect. As we saw before,
cu rrent maps of the geographi cal di stri buti on of l angu ages coi nci de i n
many parts wi th geneti c maps - not because genes determi ne l anguages,
but beca use bot h travel together duri ng mi grati ons, as wel l as duri ng col ­
oni zati on and conquest.
The di fferent contact si tuati ons created by mi gratory movements are
exempl i fi ed by the bi rth of t he Engl i sh l anguage i n t he centuri es l eadi ng
to the second mi l l en n i u m. The basi c l i ngui sti c materi al s out of whi ch Eng­
l i sh evol ved were fi rst brought to Bri tai n i n the fi fth centu ry by Teutoni c
i nvaders (J utes, Angl es, Saxons) who di spl aced i ts ori gi nal i nhabi tants,
the Cel ts. Al though the Cel ts were not extermi nated (onl y d ri ven west­
ward) t hey were l argel y repl aced i n most areas of t he i sl and wi thout much
i ntermi xture. I n most cases, t he di recti on of l i ngui sti c fl ow i s from t he
conqueror to- the conquered's l anguage; consequentl y t he fl ow of Cel ti c
norms i nto t he l a nguage of t he i nvaders was mi ni mal . I n the fol l owi ng si x
centu ri es, on the ot her hand, the basi c raw mater i al s provi ded by the
Angl o-Saxon di al ects came i nto contact wi th several other l anguages (Lati n,
several Scandi navi an di al ects, Nor man French), whi ch i nfl uenced t hei r
evol uti on i n a more d ramati c way. Some Lati n terms fl owed i nto Engl a nd
from conti nental Europe as pa rt of the mi l i tary, economi c, and soci al traf­
fi c between Romans and Teutons. But the real i nfl uence of Lati n norms
on t he "sou p" of Ger mani c re pl i cators came at the end of the si xt h cen­
tu ry, when Pope Gregory the Great commi ssi oned Sai nt August i ne "to
l ead a mi ssi onary band of forty monks i n a peacefu l i nvasi on of Bri tai n
for t he pu rpose of t ur ni ng t he warl i ke Teutons away from thei r pagan cus­
toms, heathen bel i efs, and vengeful practi ces. "
1
9 The Ch ri sti ani zati on of
Bri tai n (or rather, a re-Ch ri sti an i zati on, si nce there were al ready nati ve
Cel ti c Chri sti a ns) caused not onl y a l arge fl ow of Lati n words to Ol d Eng­
l i sh, but al so promoted t he creati on of school s and a system of wri ti ng. 2
0
Conversi on to Ch ri sti a ni ty was effected here, as on the Conti nent, not by
co
n
verti ng each i ndi vi dual i n habi tant but by the more effi ci ent procedu re
of fi rst bri ngi ng the ru l i ng el i tes i nto t he fol d. Hence, t he fl ow of words
from Lat i n penetrated the l anguage from the top and fl owed downward.
The next great i nfl ux of al i en norms i nto the sti l l mostl y Germani c mes h­
work of d i al ects, took t he opposi te route, penetrat i ng Ol d Engl i sh from
t he bottom up. Thi s was due to several waves of Scandi navi an i nvasi ons
t hat took pl ace from t he ei ghth to t he el eve nth centuri es. Al though as
t ur bul ent mi l i tari l y as those staged ear l i er by Teutoni c tri bes, i n the end
t hese i nvasi ons resul ted i n coexi stence and i ntermarri age. I n these cen­
turi es, Scandi navi an words such as "they," "though, " and about ei ght
hundred others were added to the mi xture.
21
194
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
By the tur n of the mi l l enni um, Ol d Engl i sh had evol ved t hrough several
types of contact: one caused the repl acement of Cel ti c norms, anot her
fostered coexi stence between di fferent Germani c norms, and, i n between,
sti l l anot her faci l i tated a cu l tural penetrati on by Lati n nor ms. The trans­
formati on of Ol d Engl i sh (whi ch is cl oser to German) i nto Earl y Mi ddl e
Engl i sh (whi ch i s recogn i zabl e as "Engl i s h") took pl ace i n yet anot her con­
tact si tuati on : t he whol esal e repl acement of the l ocal el i te by a forei gn
one. I n the el eventh centu ry, as the di fferent di al ects of French were
fi nal i zi ng thei r di fferenti ati on from Lat i n, the French-speaki ng Nor mans
staged a successfu l i nvasi on of Engl and and ru l ed t hat cou ntry for nea rl y
a cent ury ( 1066-1154) . The Ol d Engl i sh-speaki ng nobi l ity vi rtual l y ceased
to exi st, and even the h i ghest offi ces of the church fel l i nto Norman
hands. French became t he l a nguage of t he el i tes for over two centu ri es,
whi l e Ol d Engl i sh became t he l ow- presti ge di al ect of t he peasant masses.
I n thi s way, t he Norman Conquest affected Ol d Engl i sh much the way the
col l apse of t he Roman Empi re affected Lati n, as we observed earl i er. As
one hi stor i an puts i t:
The most i mportant si ngl e i nfl uence of the l\orman Conquest upon Engl i sh
was the removal of the conservative pressu res that tended to i mpede its
evol uti on. As the tongue of a subj ugated cou ntry Ol d Engl i sh l ost presti ge.
West Saxon was no l onger the l i terary standard of the conquered Bri tons,
and the Angl o-Saxon scri bal tradi ti on was suppressed. Nei ther church
nor state had much ti me to gi ve to the l anguage of the Engl i sh peasants,
and the soci al l y and i ntel l ectual ly el i te coul d not be bothered wi th i t. Under
such condi ti ons of l ai ssez fai re, the l anguage benefited from a return to
oral pri macy: col l oqui al use determi ned usage and vari ant di al ect forms
competed for acceptance. Unhi ndered by ru l es of prescri pti on and pro­
scri pti on, the Engl i sh peasants . . . remodel ed the l anguage wi th tongue and
pal ate. 22
Thus, t hanks to t he forcefu l removal of an emergi ng standard (West
Saxon), t he fl ow of norms th rough several generati ons of Engl i sh peas­
ants became more fl ui d, the amount of vari ati on i ncreased, and t he
whol e conti nuum of d i al ects evol ved faster. By t he ti me t he Engl i s h el i tes
redi scovered thei r nati ve l anguage i n the t hi rteenth centu ry, i t had
al ready changed i n dr amati c ways. I n parti cu l ar, i t had been transformed
from a synthetic l anguage i nto a mostl y analytic one. These terms refer to
al ter nati ve ways i n whi ch l anguages express certai n grammati cal fu nc­
ti ons. A synt heti c l a nguage expresses fu ncti ons l i ke t he gender a nd n um­
ber of nouns, or the tense of verbs, vi a certai n l i ngui sti c parti cl es cal l ed
195
3: MEMES AND NORMS
i nfl ecti ons. Moder n Engl i sh retai ns a few of these (the -s for pl ural and
t he -ed for past tense), but most of t he i nfl ecti ons from Ol d Engl i sh have
been dropped. I nfl ecti oned l anguages are free to posi ti on words i n sen­
tences i n several al ter nati ve ways (si nce they carry grammati cal markers
wi th t hem), whi l e l anguages that have l ost thei r i nfl ecti ons express gram­
mati cal funct i ons t hrough a fi xed word order (e. g. , subj ect-verb-object).
Gi ven that word order captu res very economi cal l y t he l ogi c behi nd a sen­
tence, these l anguages are cal l ed anal yti c.
Eth nocentri c l i ngu i sts i n the past (parti cul arl y t hose studyi ng Engl i sh
a nd French) di dn' t see i n the transformati on from syntheti c t o anal yti c a
si mpl e swi tch from one set of grammati cal resources to a not her equiva­
lent one, but rat her a move up t he l adder of progress, as if an i nternal
dri ve for greater cl ari ty (rati onal ity) were gu i di ng the evol uti on of l an­
guages. But si mi l ar grammati cal si mpl i fi cati ons occur i n l anguages that
chauvi ni sti c speakers of Engl i sh or French woul d never consi der to be on
t he s ame l evel as thei r mother tongue. These are t he so-cal l ed trade jar­
gons, or pidgins, l i ke the famous Sabi r, or Medi terra nean l i ngua fra nca, a
l ong- l i ved di al ect wi del y used i n the Levant trade begi n n i ng i n the Mi ddl e
Ages. The study of pi dgi ns i s parti cu l arl y rel evant here not onl y for the
l i ght i t t hrows on t he di st i ncti on between anal yti c and syntheti c, but al so
because it i l l ustrates yet a not her type of contact si tuati on that affects l i n­
gu i sti c evol uti on : t he transi tory l i ngu i sti c contact created by mi l i tary or
trade encou nters between al i en cul t ures.
The ori gi ns of Sabi r are obscure. One theory post ul ates that i t was
bor n of the Cr usades, begi n n i ng i n the year 1095. I f so, the Jerusal em
battl efi el ds woul d have been i ts pl ace of bi rt h, from whence i t spread fol ­
l owi ng mi l i tary a nd merchant movements. 23 Cri ti cs of thi s theory poi nt
out that as l ate as t he t hi rteenth centu ry many Levant trade documents
were wri tten not i n Sabi r but i n a changi ng hybri d of I tal i an, French, and
Lati n. Sabi r may have emerged shortl y after, and t hen , t hanks t o i t s si m­
pl i city, repl aced those ear l y hybri ds. On the ot her hand, i t may never
have exi sted as a si ngl e enti ty but as a seri es of pi dgi ns, each drawi ng on
di fferent Romance l anguages for i t s l exi cal materi al s. 24 For exampl e, i n
t he earl y Mi ddl e Ages t he vocabul ary of Sabi r may have rel i ed mostl y on
borrowi ngs from t he di al ects of Genoa and Veni ce, si nce t hose ci ti es dom­
i nated trade wi th t he Levant. When l ater on the Portuguese found al ter­
nate routes to the l uxury mar kets a nd bega n to break t he monopol y of
the I t al i an ci ti es, Sabi r's vocabu l ary changed accordi ngly. At any event,
Sabi r i s ra re among pi dgi ns because of i ts l ongevi ty (i t di ed onl y i n the
earl y twenti eth centu ry, as the Ottoman Empi re col l apsed). Most pi dgi ns
emerge a nd di sappear as t he short- l i ved contact si tuati ons t hat gi ve ri se
196
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
to them come to an end. But pi dgi ns endure wherever contact between
al i en cul tu res has been i nsti tuti onal i zed, as happened, for exampl e, at
sl ave tradi ng posts and on sugar pl antati ons.
One di sti ncti ve featu re of pi dgi ns -what di fferenti ates t hem from si m­
pl e mi xtures -i s that t hey greatl y si mpl i fy t he set of norms from whi ch
they were deri ved. Many redundant featu res of l anguages (such as
t he ver b "t o be") are el i mi nated, si nce t hei r mai n fu ncti on i s t o make
speech more sel f-contai ned or redu ndant ( i . e. , l ess dependent on contex­
t ual cl ues for correct i nterpretati on). Wi thout t hese resou rces, pi dgi ns
become more dependent on context, so t hat, i n a sense, behavi ora l
acts such a s poi nti ng t o referents become part o f t h e "grammar" o f the
pi dgi n. Yet, far from bei ng degenerate tongues t hat devol ved from thei r
"master" l anguages, pi dgi ns are creati ve adaptati ons of l i ngui sti c
resou rces. 25 Sl ave pi dgi ns, for exampl e, were not a ki nd of "baby tal k"
created by the master to commu ni cate wi th hi s sl aves, but a creati ve
adaptati on by sl aves from di spa rate l i ngui sti c backgrounds to communi ­
cate wi th one a nother. 26
Due to t hei r sti gmati zat i on as "i nferi or" l anguages, pi dgi ns di d not
become a seri ous subj ect of study u nti l rel ati vel y recentl y. Today, the
fi el d i s growi ng expl osi vel y as ethnocentri c prej udi ce gi ves way to a more
obj ecti ve approach. Si mul t aneously, t he emphasi s has changed, and l i n­
gui sts are l ess i nterested i n pi dgi ns as di sti nct enti ti es t han i n " pi dgi ni za­
ti on" as a general process t hat may or may not create a stabl e enti ty.
Before t hi s swi tch i n approach, t he creati on of stabl e enti ti es was seen
as a si mpl e process consi st i ng of two successi ve stages: fi rst, a "target"
l anguage (e. g. , the l anguage of the sl ave master) was si mpl i fi ed a nd a
pi dgi n was created . Then, when t he sl aves were set free, the fi rst genera­
ti on of chi l dren who l earned the pi dgi n as a mother tongue re-created
many of the redundant features that had been stri pped away, and a new
entity emerged: a creole. (Of cou rse, not only chi l dren parti ci pate i n t hi s
recompl exi fi cati on of t he pi dgi n; adul t speakers may al so contri bute by
borrowi ng i tems from ot her di al ects. )2
7
Al t hough t hi s process of crystal ­
l i zati on of new creol e l anguages vi a enri chment of a pi dgi n is sti l l of great
i nterest to l i ngui sts (si nce i t represents an accel erated versi on of l i ngu i s­
ti c evol uti on, one t hat is compressed i nto one or two generati ons) ,
today's emphasi s i s more on the processes of pi dgi ni zati on a nd creol i za­
ti on i n general , whet her t hey resu l t i n new stabl e enti ti es or not :
A l i near model of two di screte steps, as i mpl i ed by the standard concepti on
of pi dgi n and creol e, may oversi mpl i fy the compl exity of the hi stori cal cases
to the poi nt of di storti on, and i n i tsel f contri bute to the di ffi cu lty of i nter-
197
3: MEMES AND NORMS
preti ng the evi dence. Wi thi n a si ngl e regi on there may coexi st, conti guously,
more than one stage of devel opment. And there may i ndeed be more than
two stages -a pre- pi dgi n cont i nuum, a crystal i zed pi dgi n, a pi dgi n undergo­
i ng de-pi dgi ni zati on (reabsorpti on by i ts domi nant sou rce), a pi dgi n under­
goi ng creol i zati on, a creol e, a creol e undergoi ng de-creol i zati on.
2
8
A number of l i ngu i sts and phi l osophers of l anguage have noted t he si mi ­
l ar i ty between t he contact si tuati ons gi vi ng ri se to t hese processes and
t hose behi nd t he emergence of t he Roma nce l anguages a nd Engl i sh. Thi s
i s not to say t hat t he Romance l anguages or Engl i sh shoul d be consi d­
ered pi dgi ns or creol es, but they may al so have u ndergone si mpl i fi cati ons
and recompl exi fi cat i ons. For i nstance, t he l oss of i nfl ecti on a nd the fi xi ng
of word order whi ch di sti ngu i sh a nal yti c l anguages such as Fr ench and
Engl i sh can al so be observed i n the evol uti on of many pi dgi ns. The removal
of a domi nant norm (West Saxon i n the case of Ol d Engl i sh, Roman Lat i n
i n the case of Ol d French) , whi ch i ncreases vari ati on and hence the speed
of di vergent evol uti on, i s al so a const ant factor i n the devel opment of
pi dgi n i zed l anguages. On the ot her hand, t he expandi ng vocabul ary and
mu l ti pl yi ng uses of l angu age (i n educati on, l aw, etc. ) that characteri ze
creol es are al so part of t he bi rth process of domi nant l anguages (as when
Pari si an French repl aced Lat i n or when London's Engl i sh repl aced Nor man
French).
2
9 Thus, t he popu l ati on of l i ngui sti c repl i cators t hat i nhabi ted
Eu rope i n the Mi ddl e Ages may be seen as havi ng u ndergone processes
not onl y of focusi ng and di ffusi on (i n soci al networ ks) and hi era rchi zat i on
(i n u r ban centers) but al so of pi dgi n i zat i on and creol i zati on.
Such i s, i n so many words, t he l i ngu i sti c vi ewpoi nt adopted by Gi l l es
Del euze and Fel i x Guattar i , who cal l t hose l anguages that have ri sen to
t he top of a h i er archy " maj or" l anguages and those for mi ng a meshwork
of di al ects "mi nor" l anguages. Yet t hey do not use t hese terms to refer
pr i ma ri l y to stabl e enti ti es (some more homogeneous, some more hetero­
geneous) but rat her to t he processes (becomi ng maj or, becomi ng mi nor)
t hat affect t he popul at i on of nor ms as a whol e:
Shoul d we i denti fy maj or and mi nor l anguages on the basi s of regi onal si tu­
ati ons of bi l i ngual i sm or mul ti l i ngual i sm i ncl udi ng at l east one domi nant
l anguage and one domi nated l anguage . . u ? At l east two thi ngs prevent us
from adopti ng thi s poi nt of vi ew . . . . When [modern] French l ost i ts worl d­
wi de maj or functi on i t l ost nothi ng of i ts constancy and homogenei ty. Con­
versely, Afr i kaans attai ned homogeneity when i t was a l ocal l y mi nor
l anguage struggl i ng agai nst [ modern] Engl i sh . . . . I t i s di ffi cul t to see how
the uphol ders of a mi nor l anguage can operate if not by gi vi ng it (i f onl y by
198
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A.D.
wri ti ng i n it) a constancy and homogenei ty maki ng i t a l ocal l y major l an­
guage capabl e of forci ng offi ci al recogni ti on . . . . But the opposite argu ment
seems more compel l i ng: the more a l anguage has or acqui res the charac­
teri sti cs of a major l anguage, the more i t i s affected by conti nuous vari a­
ti ons that transpose i t i nto a "mi nor" l anguage . . . . For i f a l anguage such as
Bri ti sh Engl i sh or Ameri can Engl i sh i s maj or on a worl d scal e, i t i s necessar­
i l y worked u pon by al l the mi nori ti es of the worl d, usi ng very di verse proce­
dures of vari ati on. Take the way Gael i c and I ri sh Engl i sh set Engl i sh i n
vari ati on. Or the way Bl ack Engl i sh and any number of "ghetto l anguages"
set Ameri can Engl i sh i n vari ati on, to the poi nt that New York i s vi rtual l y a
ci ty without a l anguage. 3
o
To retu rn to the Mi ddl e Ages, t he accel erated u rban i zati on t hat produced
regi onal hi era rchi es of towns created several hi gh- presti ge vernacul ars
for each port i on of t he conti n u u m of Lat i nate di al ects. Each regi onal capi ­
tal wi tnessed t he ri se of i ts own var i ant to t he status of a l ocal l y "maj or"
l angu age, whi ch had i ts own writ i ng system and accumu l ated presti ge at
the expense of a n umber of "mi nor" vari ants spoken i n low- rank smal l
towns and r ur al suppl y areas. Th us, the conti n u u m of Fr ench di al ects was
di vi ded i nto two regi ons str uggl i ng for su premacy: a fami l y of southern
di al ects cal l ed l angue d' oc and a not her fami l y spoken i n t he north and
center, known as l angue d' o'il , whi ch i ncl u ded t he Pari si an vernacul ar
(Fra nci en) as wel l as t he var i ant t hat t he Nor mans had i mposed on Bri tai n.
Not hi ng i nt r i nsi cal l y l i ngu i sti c was t o determi ne t he outcome of t hi s
struggl e between l angue d' oc and l angue d' o' l . On the contrary, the
ascendant presti ge of l angue d' o'il was the res u l t of a vari ety of nonl i ngui s­
ti c events. The successf u l col oni zati on of t he Bri ti sh I sl es by t he Nor ma ns
was one such event, as was t he Al bi gensi an Cru sade, whi ch benefi ted
Franci en at the expense of Occi tan, a member of the l angue d' oc fami ly.
A rat her precoci ous pol i ti cal central i zati on around Pari s added to t he
moment u m, as di d extensi ons i n the usage of ver nacul ar, s u ch as t he
tra nsl at i on of t he Bi bl e (i nto Franci en) i n t he year 1250 by schol ars at
t he U ni versity of Pari s. 3
1
Ot her emergi ng Romance l anguages fol l owed si mi l ar l i nes. On t he I ber­
i an Pen i nsu l a, severa l regi onal vari ants devel oped, and Catal an began to
di verge f rom the rest (known col l ecti vel y as t he Hi spano- Romance
di al ects) arou nd the ni nt h centu ry. The di al ect that wou l d eventual l y ri se
to the top, Casti l i an, was at fi rst a rat her peri pheral var i ant spoken i n t he
regi on t hat l ater (arou nd 1035) became t he Ki ngdom of Casti l e. Casti l i an's
potenti al ri val s, Leonese and Aragonese, were at t hat t i me more presti ­
gi ou s and more i n keepi ng wi th the Romance l a nguages s poken outsi de
199
3: MEMES AND NORMS
t he peni nsul a. The ri se of Casti l i an began wi th t he war agai nst I sl am,
whi ch had col oni zed t he southern regi ons of the peni nsul a for ei ght cen­
t uri es. The Ki ngdom of Casti l e pl ayed the most i mportant rol e i n the war
of reconquest, begi n n i ng wi th the captu re of Tol edo i n 1085. Through the
presti ge won duri ng t he war, as wel l as the mi grati on of Casti l i ans to set­
t l e t he reconquered terri tori es, t he cul tural and terri tori al i nfl uence of
Cast i l i an grew at the expense of other H i spano- Romance di al ects, most of
whi ch, forced to the defensi ve, eventual l y wi thered away.3
2 After t he
reconquest, Tol edo' s new Casti l i an- speaki ng el i tes, together wi t h those
from Sevi l l e, fur ni shed the materi al s from whi ch the Spani sh l anguage
eventual l y evol ved.
Un l i ke France and Spai n, where pol i ti cal central i zati on came rel ati vel y
early, I tal y and Ger many wou l d remai n fragmented for centuri es because
of t he opposi ti on to central. rul e by thei r i ndependent ci ty-states. Thi s
fragmentati on, or rat her resi stance to homogeni zati on, acted as a l i ngui s­
ti c centri petal force. Certai n u rban vernacul ars rose to promi nence, but
thei r tri umph was l ess cl ear-cut and l i ngu i sti c domi nance often shi fted
between regi ons. For i nstance, the di al ect of the ci ty of Lubeck became
the standard of the powerfu l Hanseati c Leagu e; but when the commerci al
success of t he l eague waned, other German vari ants became domi nant. 33
I n I taly, the Tuscan di al ect had enj oyed a pri vi l eged status si nce the fou r­
teenth centu ry; it had been adopted not onl y by t he papal court but by a
number of l i terary wri ters, whi ch greatl y i ncreased its presti ge. However,
each I t al i an ci ty-state retai ned its own l ocal vari ant for centu ri es (t hat i s,
t he vari ant used by i ts el i tes), and l i ngui sti c u ni fi cati on was not attempted
u nt i l the ni neteent h centu ry.34
Besi des these l ocal movements i n whi ch a few vari ants were "becom­
i ng maj or" rel ati ve to the rest of the conti nu um, t here was a gl obal strug­
gl e between t he l ocal maj or l anguages and t he u ndi sputed gl obal maj or:
wri tten Lati n . Thi s struggl e, whi ch took pl ace between t he t hi rteenth and
ei ghteenth centuri es, i s known as the " ri se of the vernacul ars. " Lati n,
whi ch i n t he earl y years of the Roman Empi re had been a mi nor l anguage
in compari son to Greek, bega n t he new mi l l enn i u m greatl y strengt hened,
for several reasons. I ts r ol e as the offi ci al l anguage of t he church had
been codi fi ed i n t he year 526 wi th t he Benedi cti ne Ru l e, whi ch gave i t a
central pl ace i n monasti c l i teracy and manuscri pt producti on, a ,stat us
rei nforced by t he Carol i ngi an refor ms. The central i zati on of rel i gi ous
power and consol i dati on of eccl esi asti cal hi erarch i es between the years
1049 and 1216 al l owed the i nsti tuti onal i zati on of Lati n as the obl i gatory
medi u m for t he conduct of mass, whi l e the vernacul ars were forbi dden
from pl ayi ng thi s rol e. 35 Fi nal ly, the l i ngui sti c heterogeneity prevai l i ng i n
200
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A.D.
Europe created the need for a l i ngua franca for i nternati onal commu ni ca­
ti on, and Lati n easi l y ecl i psed Sabi r and t he other l ow-status pi dgi ns
(such as Mozarabi c) that may have performed t hi s rol e.
But t he agri cu l tu ral and commerci al i ntensi fi cati ons that began com­
pl exi fyi ng urban l i fe from the el eventh centu ry on soon al tered Lati n's
status. The uses for wri ti ng greatl y di versi fi ed, and t he demand for l i ter­
ate i ndi vi dual s greatl y i ncreased in admi n i st rati on, l aw, and commerce.
The establ i shment of cat hedral school s and u rban u ni versi ti es shi fted
the center of educati on toward the new towns and away from ru ral
monasteri es. ( I n I tal y t here were even some l ay school s where t he
i nstr ucti on was conducted i n t he vernacu l ar. ) Lay offi ci al s gai ned i ncreas­
i ng i mporta nce at t he expense of the cl ergy, at l east wi t hi n t he worl d of
secu l ar admi ni strat i on. Fi nal ly, t here were processes affecti ng not t he
i nsti tuti onal but the organi c su bstratu m of Lati n, such as t he Bl ack
Pl ague of the fourteent h centu ry. As Wi l l i am McNei l l suggests, "The ri se
of vernacu l ar tongues as a medi um for seri ous wri ti ng and t he decay of
Lati n as a lingua franca among t he educated men of Western Eu rope was
hastened by t he di e-off of cl eri cs and teachers who knew enough Lati n
to keep t hat anci ent tongue al i ve. "36
The battl e between the domi nant u rban vern acul ars and Lati n was not
a struggl e to domi nate t he tongues of the masses, but rat her a struggl e
to domi nate the l angu age of publ i c i nsti tuti ons. The di al ects of t he l ower
strata of medi eval soci ety were ti ghtl y bound u p wi th t hei r speakers and
mi grated wi th t hem and t hei r genes. A di al ect's hi ghl y focused set of
norms i s more easi l y ki l l ed (by repl aci ng one popul ati on of speakers wi t h
a not her) t han absorbed by al i en l anguages. For t hi s reason , whi l e pres­
ti ge determi nes the rel ati ve posi ti on of a di al ect in a hi erarchy, and hence
i ts short-term desti ny, the sheer weight of numbers deci des i ts u l ti mate
fate. Nor man French, for exampl e, however presti gi ous i t may have been
as the offi ci al l anguage of the Engl i sh ari stocracy, never had a chance to
t ake over as the l anguage of the Engl i sh masses. 37
Si mi l arly, wri tten Lat i n was i n no posi ti on to compete wi th the vernacu­
l ars. Du ri ng the peri od of rapi d urban i zat i on that began i n the el eventh
centu ry, t he popu l at i on of Eu rope dou bl ed, and wi th i t t he number of ver­
nacu l ar speakers. But t he French of t he Pari si an el i tes, for exampl e, was
never i n competi ti on wi t h Lat i n as a popu l ar l angu age for France but as
t he offi ci al l anguage i n French courts, govern ment offi ces, and pl aces of
hi gher l ear ni ng. Franci en, too, began competi ng wi th Lat i n as the l an­
guage of i nternati onal di pl omacy. I n t hi s case, raw numbers cou nted l ess
t han accumu l ated presti ge: "French's l ong peri od of predomi nance as
the maj or i nternati onal l anguage of cul tu re and di pl omacy l ong antedates
201
3: MEMES AND NORMS
i ts general use as spoken l a nguage i n France: by t he end of the seven­
teenth centu ry, French had i n effect repl aced Lat i n i n the former rol e . . .
at a ti me when Fra nci en was t he nati ve tongue of per haps a quarter of
the popu l ati on of France. "3
8
Franci en had achi eved the status of a "norm to ai m for" by the t hi r­
teenth centu ry, i n terms of u noffi ci al wri ti ng a nd cu l ti vated speech , but i t
di d not overtake Lat i n u nti l a seri es of fifteenth- and si xteenth-centu ry
edi cts, such as t he Edi ct of Vi l l ers-Cotterets of 1539, made i ts use obl i ga­
tory i n offi ci al wri ti ng. 39 I n Engl and, too, we fi nd that certai n i nsti tuti onal
i nterventi ons changed t he status of the Engl i sh l angu age th rough a seri es
of offi ci al acts, such as the Statute of Pl eadi ng enacted by Pa rl i ament i n
1362, whi ch made Engl i sh t h e offi ci al l anguage o f t h e Bri ti sh cou rts.
Court records, however, were sti l l kept i n Lati n, and the statute i tsel f was
wri tten i n French . Yet, by 1489, " Henry VI I put an absol ute end to the
use of French i n the statutes of Engl a nd. Wi th t hat act the l anguage t hat
had gone u ndergrou nd i n 1066 emerged compl etely tri umphant over for­
ei gn domi nati on . "4
0
These offi ci al acts, whi ch tra nsformed the status of
Engl i sh, French, and Lati n more or l ess "i nstanta neou sl y, " are speci al
cases of what t he "ord i nary l anguage" p hi l osopher J . L. Austi n cal l ed
"speech acts" : soci al acti ons performed by the very utterance of a stri ng
of words. Commands, such as t he order to use Engl i sh or French i n cer­
tai n offi ci al contexts, are one type of speech act. The maki ng of promi ses
or bets, the i ssuance of war ni ngs, verd i cts, or j udi ci al sentences, the
bapti zi ng of a n obj ect or a person, and many ot her verbal acti ons t hat
carry wi t h t hem soci al obl i gati ons and consequences are al so exampl es
of speech acts.
Accordi ng to Austi n, speech acts i nvol ve a conventi onal procedure t hat
has a certai n conventi onal effect, and the procedu re i tsel f must be exe­
cuted correctly, compl etel y, and by the correct persons u nder the ri ght
ci rcumstances. 41 The decl arati on of Engl i sh as the offi ci al l anguage of
gover nment, for i nstance, had to be made by a person wi th the authori ty
to i ssue such decl arati ons and i n the ri ght i nsti tuti onal setti ng. Not j ust
any utterance of the words " I decl are you the offi ci al l anguage" carri es
the i l l ocuti onary force of a command. Thi s si mpl y emphasi zes the fact
t hat we are not deal i ng here wi th a purel y l i ngui sti c process but wi th
a compl ex si tu ati on i nvol vi ng h i erarchi es, chai ns of command, a nd the
means to enforce obedi ence. Austi n di sti ngui shes those speech acts
performed i n j udi ci al cou rts ( and ot her i nsti tuti onal setti ngs), where the
procedure i s so rout i ni zed t hat what cou nts as "correct" i s cl ear to every­
one, from t hose speech acts used i n everyday l i fe, where the procedures
are not ri gi d or formal a nd where, t herefore, t here i s more room for a m-
202
L INGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
bi gui ty. Neverthel ess, as we saw above, communi cati on networks may act
as enforcement mecha ni sms for promi ses or orders even i n the absence
of expl i ci t cri teri a for t he correct performance of a speech act.
We may compare the i nstanta neous tra nsformati ons i n status whi ch a
command, gu i lty verdi ct, or death sentence effect wi th the phase tra nsi ­
ti ons t hat materi al s u nd ergo at certai n cri ti cal poi nts. Much as l i q u i d
water suddenl y swi tches from one stabl e state to anot her and begi ns to
become sol i d i ce when the temperat ure or pressure reaches a parti cul ar
t hreshol d, so a gui l ty verdi ct may abruptl y change the soci al status of a
person, who wi l l be swi tched from a state of free moti on to one of con­
fi nement. However frui tfu l thi s compari son may be, at the very l east i t
cal l s attenti on t o the fact t hat much as geneti c repl i cators i mpi nge on the
worl d as catal ysts for chemi cal phase transi ti ons, so l i ngui sti c repl i cators
affect real ity by catal yzi ng certai n "soci al phase t ransi ti ons. "42
I n addi ti on to the offi ci al speech acts t hat abruptly changed t hei r
status, the domi nant vernacu l ars of each regi on needed t o enri ch t hei r
reservoi rs of expressi ve resou rces i n order t o effecti vely chal l enge the
i nternati onal standard. No offi ci al decl arati on cou l d have made French
or Engl i sh the offi ci al medi um i n whi ch t o conduct gover nment busi ness
i f thei r vocabul ari es had not contai ned al l the techni ca l words requi red
i n j udi ci al , l egi sl ati ve, d i pl omati c, mi l i tary, and admi ni strati ve commu ni ca­
ti ons. One means of i ncreasi ng vocabul ary was to use t hese l anguages'
word-for mi ng resou rces to generate the needed l exi cal i tems. Li teratu re
pl ayed a key rol e i n t hi s respect, enri chi ng the expressi
v
e resources of
the ascendant di al ects whi l e i ncreasi ng t hei r cul tu ral presti ge.
The ascendant di al ects al so expanded t hei r l exi cons by borrowi ng
words from ot her l anguages a nd t hen adapt i ng t he borrowi ngs to l ocal
usage. These l i ngui sti c fl ows from one popul ati on of norms to another
di spl ay some i nteresti ng patt er ns t hat i l l umi nate a number of t he i nter nal
featu res of l anguage. For i nstance, al though the i ndi vi dual words of a l an­
guage a re free to repl i cate from one cul tu re to anot her as memes (that
i s, by i mi tati on or bor rowi ng), a l anguage' s sou nds and grammati cal pat­
terns, parti cu l arl y t hose t hat are cent ral to a l anguage's ( hi stori cal ) i den­
ti ty, t end t o move toget her wi t h i t s speakers. Furt hermore, words rel ated
t o questi ons of everyday su rvi val , u nl i ke tech ni cal or l i terary words, do
not di ffuse wel l among di fferent l anguages.
Modern Engl i sh, for i nstance, sti l l contai ns a n a rchai c resi due of Ol d
Engl i sh words, surrou nded by the vast cosmopol i ta n vocabul ary that i t
accumul ated sl owly, vi a di ffusi on ( i . e. , vi a vari ous fl ows of memes). The
words "fat her, " "mother, " "chi l d, " "brother, " "meat, " and "dr i nk, " as wel l
as t hose t hat express basi c acti vi ti es such as "to eat, " "to sl eep, " "to
203
3: MEMES AND NORMS
l ove, " and "to fi ght, " deri ve di rectly from the Germani c vocabu l ary of Ol d
Engl i sh. On the ot her hand, most of t he techni cal vocabul ary for eccl esi ­
asti cal matters "'l owed i nto Engl i sh from Lati n du ri ng the peri od of Chri s­
t i ani zati on. (About 450 Lati n words were i ntroduced i nto Engl i sh du ri ng
t hi s peri od. ) Mi l i tary, l egal , gover nmental , and medi cal terms (as wel l as
some cu l i nary and fashi on vocabul ary) entered the Engl i sh reservoi r i n
l arge numbers (about ten thousand French words) duri ng t he Nor man
occupati on. Soon after the occu pati on ended and Engl i sh mi l itary vi cto­
ri es made t he French seem l ess of a threat, l arge qu anti ti es of Pari si an
French words began to fl ow i nto Bri tai n, peaki ng i n i ntensi ty between the
years 1350 and 1400. 43 The di recti on of thi s fl ow of memes ran from the
l anguage t hat had accumu l ated more presti ge and l exi cal compl exity to
the l ess presti gi ous and compl ex one. Thi s i s, of course, a rel ati ve d i sti nc­
ti on: whi l e French was for a l ong ti me more cul tural l y presti gi ou s t han
Engl i sh , dur i ng the fi fteenth and si xteenth centuri es i t was " i nferi or" to
Spani sh and I tal i an and many Spani sh and I tal i an words fl owed i nto
France from those two cou ntri es. 44
The many hundreds of French words t hat fl owed i nto Mi ddl e Engl i sh
suffered di fferent fates. Some of them were si mpl y taken as they were,
but many were assi mi l ated i nto l ocal di al ects. Borrowed French and Lati n
words often coexi sted wi th thei r Engl i sh synonyms, i nstead of di spl aci ng
one a nother or hybri di zi ng. I n the fi fteenth centu ry Engl i sh devel oped a
t ri l evel system of synonyms wi th di fferent l evel s of presti ge: common­
pl ace Engl i sh ("ri se, " "ask"), l i tera ry French ("mou nt, " "questi on"), a nd
l earned Lati n ("ascend, " " i nter rogate"). As one hi stori a n puts i t, t hi s
accu mul ati on of synonyms al l owed "for a greater di fferenti ati on of styl es
- i n both for mal and i nfor mal usage . . . . Thus the nati ve Engl i sh vocabu­
l ary i s more emot i onal and i nformal , whereas the i mported French syn­
onyms a re more i ntel l ectual a nd for mal . The warmth and force of the
former contrasts wi th the cool ness and cl ari ty of the l atter. I f a speaker
ca n be i nt i mate, bl u nt, and di rect i n basi c Engl i sh, he can al so be d i s­
creet, pol i te, a nd courteou sly el egant i n the di cti on of borrowed F rench. "45
Thi s hi erarchy of synonyms is a speci al case of what soci ol i ngu i sts
cal l "styl i sti c strati fi cati on, " that i s, t he ra nki ng of a l anguage's di fferent
registers, whi ch are reserved for use i n parti cul ar si tuati ons: a casual reg­
i ster, to be used wi th fri ends a nd fami l y; a formal regi ster, whi ch is used,
for exampl e, i n i nsti tuti onal si tuati ons or si mpl y when t al ki ng to strangers
or su peri ors; and a tech ni cal regi ster, u sed at work or when commu ni ­
cati ng wi t h other professi onal s. Of cou rse, t he vocabul ari es of these regi s­
ters need not come from di fferent l anguages. The di sti ncti on is drawn
more i n terms of the amou nt of care that one puts i nto the creati on of
204
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
sentences du ri ng a l i ngui sti c exchange (or, i n the case of techni cal regi s­
ters, by the use of speci al vocabul ari es or techni cal j argon). 46
Engl i sh speakers i n t he Mi ddl e Ages and Renai ssance presu mabl y en­
gaged i n regi ster swi tchi ng accordi ng t o t he degree of for mal ity of a si tua­
ti on. Outsi de of London , t hey l i kel y al so engaged i n a rel ated process
cal l ed code swi tchi ng. Due to geographi c i sol ati on, the fl ow of l i ngu i sti c
repl i cators t hat made up Ol d Engl i sh had generated fi ve di fferent "speci es"
of Mi ddl e Engl i sh (Southern, Kenti sh, East Mi dl and, West lVi dl and, and
l'ort humbri an). Whi l e t he di al ect of London had by the fi fteenth centu ry
become the most presti gi ous form of Engl i sh, i t di d not repl ace t he other
di al ects but, rat her, was added to the popul ati on as a superimposed norm.
Thi s mea nt, for i nstance, t hat a speaker of Kenti sh who al so knew t he
London di al ect woul d i ndeed swi tch codes when tal ki ng t o di fferent peo­
pl e, usi ng a l ocal code i n tal ki ng to a nei ghbor and an i nterregi onal code
i n addressi ng someone from t he capi tal . Ot her cou ntri es, such as I ta ly
and Germany, where pol i ti cal u ni fi cati on came l ate, remai ned much more
l i ngui sti cal l y fragmented; consequentl y, t hei r i n habi tants practi ced code
swi tchi ng on an even more extensi v

basi s. 47
Code and regi ster swi tchi ng are fu rther exampl es of contact between
di fferent di al ects, a ki nd of " i nternal contact" t hat t ends t o make t hem
l ess i nter nal ly homogeneous. I n deed, when one compares any act ual l an­
guage' s i nternal vari ety-keepi ng an eye on i ts coexi st i ng regi sters a nd
codes -wi th "l anguage" as i magi ned by structu ral l i ngui sts and semi oti ­
ci ans, the most stri ki ng di fference i s the hi gh degree of homogeneity
t hat l i ngu i sti c t heori sts take for gra nted. The semi oti ci an seems to al ways
have i n mi nd a si mpl e communi cati on between a speaker and a l i stener,
wherei n bot h speak preci sel y t he same l anguage wi th i denti cal ski l l .
Th i s oversi mpl i fi cati on becomes al l t he more obvi ous when one studi es
cou ntri es where stabl e bi l i ngual i sm is the norm, such as Bel gi um or
Canada, not t o menti on I ndi a, whi ch today recogni zes fourteen offi ci al
l anguages. I n t he Mi ddl e Ages and t he Renai ssa nce i t was not u ncom­
mon for peopl e to be mul t i l i ngual : Chri stopher Col umbus, for exampl e,
spoke Genoese as hi s mother tongue, wrote some Lati n, and l ater
l earned Portuguese and Spani sh. 4
8
As Labov stresses, command of a real
l anguage, u n l i ke t he si mpl i sti c characteri zati on of l i ngu i sti c competence
made by the structur al i st school , i nvol ves the abi l ity to deal wi th great
amou nts of heterogeneity.
Hence, behi nd a ny u ni form set of l i ngu i sti c norms t here must be a
defi ni te hi stori cal process t hat created t hat u ni formity. The processes of
homogeni zati on t hat were at work on t he I ndo- Eu ropean di al ects that
became t he Romance and Engl i sh l anguages may be sai d to have come
205
3: MEMES AND NORMS
i n two great waves. The fi rst wave took pl ace as part of the general pro­
cess of urban i zati on: the ascendancy of the London and Pari s (and
other) d i al ects to t he top of the l i ngu i sti c hi erarchy, l eadi ng to thei r adop­
ti on as offi ci al l anguages of gover n ment commu n i cati on and l ower ed u­
cati on . Thi s fi rst wave i nvol ved both u n pl an ned processes (i ncl ud i ng
posi ti ve feedback; for i nsta nce, the more l i teratu re appeared i n a gi ven
di al ect, the more vi abl e a l i terary medi um that d i al ect seemed to ot her
wri ters) and i nsti tut i onal speech acts that tri ggered s har p transi ti ons i n
the status of certai n ver nacu l ars. Ot her t han the effort to create wri ti ng
systems for t he el i te di al ects, t he fi rst wave di d not i nvol ve great
amou nts of l i ngui sti c "sel f-awareness, " t hat i s, consci ous a nal ysi s of
the i nter nal resou rces of a l anguage and del i berate pol i ci es to extend or
fi x those resou rces. The si xteenth and seventeenth centu ri es, however,
wi tnessed the emergence of the fi rs! efforts at what we wou l d today cal l
"l i ngui sti c engi neeri ng. " The second wave of homoge ni zati on i nvol ved
i nsti tuti onal pol i ci es ai med at the del i berate "sl owi ng down or compl ete
stoppage of l i ngui sti c change, " or, i n ot her words, "the fi xati on forever
of a u ni form nor m. "
4
9 That t hi s goal has tu rned out to be u nattai nabl e
i n practi ce (to t hi s day mi nori ty l anguages th ri ve al ongsi de the stan­
dards) does not mean t hat the i nsti tuti onal enterpri ses t hat Spai n, I taly,
and France embarked u pon d u ri ng t hi s peri od di d not have great hi stori ­
cal consequences.
The second wave may be sai d to have begu n i n Spai n, when for the
fi rst ti me the grammar of a Romance di al ect (Casti l i an) was systemati ­
cal l y set fort h. Unl i ke wri tten Lati n, whi ch as a "dead" l ang' Jage had to
be transmi tted i n school s by means of explicit rules, the vari ous regi onal
di al ects of Spa i n were l ear ned at home as one' s mot her tongue. The
grammar i ans of the Renai ssance di d not di scover the "real " ru l es of l an­
guage (not even Chomskyans today have achi eved t hi s), and they di d not
cl ai m to have done so. El i o Antoni o de Nebri j a, who publ i shed the fi rst
grammar of Casti l i an fi fteen days after Col umbus had sai l ed to "di scover"
Ameri ca, was qu i te consci ous t hat hi s i nventi on was an arti fact ("arti fi ci al
Casti l i an" he cal l ed i t5
0
), but one t hat had great potenti al as an i nstru­
ment of homogen i zati on . As the soci ol i ngui st Ei nar Haugen wri tes, "The
cl ose con necti on of grammar and pol i ti cs i s shown i n t he fact that the
fi rst Spani sh grammar a ppeared i n 1492 and was dedi cated to Queen
I sabel l a; i t was i ntended to be a compani on of the Empi re, the author wrote,
and shoul d spread Spani sh [i . e. , t he Casti l i an di al ect] al ong wi th the r ul e
of the Spani ards. "51
Accordi ng to I van l i l i ch, both Col u mbus and Nebri j a came to the queen
t o propose compl ementary projects: one t o extend royal power i nto new
206
L INGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
l ands, the ot her to i ncrease the i n ner cohesi veness of the soverei gn
body vi a a homogeneous l anguage. U nl i ke cl assi cal Lat i n, whi ch had
been "engi neered" so t hat the speech patterns of Roman senators and
scri bes coul d be regu l ated, the target of Nebri j a's proposed refor ms
was not t he l anguage of the Spani sh el i tes but t he u n bound and u n­
governed l anguage of the masses. Moreover, to t he extent that the mul ti ­
pl i city of di al ects l ea rned i nformal l y at home were su perseded by an
arti fi ci al ("Casti l i a n") l anguage taught for mal ly, l i ke Lati n , as a s et of
ru l es, Nebrj j a's grammar was t he fi rst step toward what centu ri es l ater
wou l d become a compul sory educati on system based on a standardi zed
l anguage. I n a way, as I I l i ch remarks, t hi s meant repl aci ng the autono­
mous l i ngui sti c resources of di al ect speakers wi th a reservoi r control l ed
by i nsti tuti ons and gi ven to the masses as a gi ft from above. 52 I n the
end, Nebri j a's proj ect fai l ed to gai n i nsti tuti onal support from the royal
cou rt , but the same concern wi th creati ng arti fi ci al l anguages t hat wou l d
be "pure" and "l ong l asti ng" wou l d reappear e l sewhere i n di fferent
forms.
I n I taly, for exampl e, t he Tuscan (i . e. , Fl orent i ne) di al ect had come to
pl ay the same domi n ant rol e as the Casti l i an, Pari si an, and London di a­
l ects. Tuscan had been "creol i zed" (en ri ched) by several wri ters ( Dante,
Boccacci o, Petrarch) who not on l y enl arged i ts reservoi r of expressi ve
resou rces but al so i ncreased i ts presti ge rel ati ve to the di al ects of ot her
i mportant ci ti es (Ven i ce, Genoa, Mi l an). I n 1582, the fi rst i nsti tuti on
speci fi cal l y desi gned to act as a brake o n l i ngui sti c change was born i n
Fl orence: t h e Academy o f Language, a n organ i zati on dedi cated t o t he
creati on and di ssemi nati on of arti fi ci al Tuscan t hrough the publ i cati on
of grammars, di cti onari es, orthogra phi es, and other for mal codi fi cati ons
of l anguage. 53 Thi s project, l i ke Nebri j a's, proved hard t o achi eve i n
practi ce, parti cul arly because the pol i ti cal strengt h of the ci ty-states
retarded n ati onal u n i fi cati on u nti l the ni neteenth centu ry.
Sti l l , the Fl orenti ne Academy of Language had a more concrete i nfl u­
ence, i nspi r i ng the creati on of si mi l ar i nsti tuti ons i n nascent n at i on­
states such as France, where a n organi zati on model ed on t he I t al i an par­
adi gm was born i n 1637 as part of Ri chel i eu's pl an to u nify t he cou ntry.
The French Academy had as its expl i ci t mandate t he pu ri fi cati on a nd
per petuat i on of the French l anguage, or as one of i ts members put i t, to
"fix l anguage somehow and render it durabl e. "54 By 1705 the academy
coul d boast that i f onl y the words i ncl uded i n i ts offi ci al di cti onary were
used, French wou l d remai n fi xed for al l ti me.
Thi s second wave of homogeni zati on, l i ke the fi rst one, di d not prod uce
master l anguages t hat compl etel y repl aced the di al ect conti n u a of t hei r
207
3: MEMES AND NORMS
respecti ve cou ntri es. The academi es si mpl y added one more set of norms
to t he exi st i ng popul ati on, a new set wi t h a hi erarchi cal structu re super­
i mposed on t he meshwork of di al ects. As the French l i ngui st Antoi ne
Mei l l et sai d, standard French " has never been the l anguage of any but a
few peopl e and is today not the spoken l anguage of anyone. "55 The new
arti fi ci al ru l es of grammar and spel l i ng, the pyrami dal vocabul ari es con­
tai ned i n di cti onari es, and the ot her devi ces of "l i ngui sti c engi neeri ng"
(such as books on rhetori c and poeti cs) affected most of al l the formal
regi ster of the l anguages i n questi on, l eavi ng the casual regi ster mostl y
u ntouched. (The techni cal regi ster of French woul d not be affected u nti l
the ei ghteenth centu ry, when Lavoi si er and others hel ped fi x the way i n
whi ch suffi xes and prefi xes shoul d be used to coi n new sci enti fi c terms. )
However, i t was preci sel y the for mal regi ster that needed to be standard­
i zed_ i f t he vernacu l ars were t o tri u mph over Lati n . Hence, i n t he general
process of t he r i se of the vernacu l ars, standardi zat i on di d have a l asti ng
i mpact. The other deci si ve el ement i n thi s l i ngui sti c war was provi ded
by technol ogy: the pri nt i ng press.
Al though the concept of movabl e type may not have ori gi nated wi th
Johan nes Gutenberg (t here are Chi nese, Korean, and even Dutch ante­
cedents), he was certai nl y t he fi rst to i mpl ement a practi cal way of
automati ng wri ti ng. Several techni cal probl ems were sol ved d u ri ng the
1440s (adj ustabl e mol ds for casti ng du rabl e type and a speci al i nk sui t­
abl e for metal type were devel oped), whi ch enabl ed Guten berg to create
a machi ne t hat, when meshed wi th the burgeoni ng paper i nd ustry,
brought down t he cost of reproduci ng texts consi derabl y and al l owed t he
true mass di ssemi nat i on of the wri tten word . Of the twenty-four t housand
non-Greek works pri nted i n Europe before 1500, about 77 percent were
in Lat i n, the rest in vernacul ar. But the number of wor ks pri nted i n the
vernacul ars i ncreased over t he years and the vernacu l ars predomi nated
by the end of the seventeenth century. 56 The Protestant Reformati on, by
champi oni ng the transl ati on of the Bi bl e i nto vernacul ars, deal t a power­
ful bl ow to Lat i n's domi nati on of eccl esi asti cal ri tual s and, more i mpor­
tantly, educati on. Thus, i n one sense, the pri nti ng press ai ded some mi nor
l anguages i n t hei r struggl e agai nst a maj or l anguage. And yet, gi ven t hat
t he maj or- mi nor di sti nct i on is enti rel y rel ati ve, the pri nti ng press si mu l ta­
neousl y ai ded l ocal l y maj or l anguages (t he ri si ng standards) i n thei r
struggl es agai nst potenti al l ocal ri val s.
Moreover, si nce the very exi stence of a wri ti ng system exerts a homog­
eni zi ng i nfl uence on a l anguage and acts as a brake on l i ngu i sti c change,
the mechani cal reproduct i on of texts ampl i fi ed i n several ways thi s con­
servati ve trend. I n Engl and, whe re Wi l l i am Caxton i ntroduced the pri nti ng
208
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
press i n 1476, the pri nted word promoted the wri tt en standard of t he
el i te London di al ect as a brake on l i ngui sti c vari ati on. As t he h i stori an
J ohn Ni st has wri tt en, "Al ong wi th extendi ng l i teracy a nd expandi ng pop­
ul ar educati on, the pri nti n g press became a powerful cu l tural force t hat
put back i nto the l anguage what had been l ost wi th the Norman Conquest
-t he conservati ve pressu res of sel f-awareness a nd soci al snobbery. " 57
Engl i sh pri nters, o n the ot her hand, l ocked i nto type cert ai n spel l i ng rul es
t hat di d not enti rel y correspond t o t he phonemes of E ngl i sh, sou nds t hat
were, at any rate, changi ng as t hese norms were bei ng frozen . And yet,
as Ni st puts i t:
More i mportant than ei ther the orthographi c conservati sm or the phono­
l ogi cal i nconsi stency wrought by the pri nti ng press was the mi staken
noti on that Engl i sh is pri mari ly the written word. The grapheme and the
vi sual morpheme began to domi nate the l i terary i magi nati on, and the
raw power of the oral tradi ti on gradual ly gave way to the el egant refi ne­
ment of the si l ent l i terary. I n ti me, the di vorce between the spoken and
the written was l egal i zed by the authori tari a n grammari ans of the ei gh­
teenth century and thei r hei rs. 58
I woul d l i ke to concl ude t hi s secti on wi th a bri ef descri pti on of those
processes affecti ng l i ngui sti c evol uti on whi ch are internal to l anguage .
F or exampl e, a t t h e very same ti me t hat pri nters a n d grammari ans were
attempti ng to freeze set correspondences between sounds and wri tt en
si gns i nto a spel l i ng standard, the Engl i sh l anguage was u ndergoi ng a
dramati c change i n its sou nd system. Thi s tra nsi ti on , whi ch i nvol ved sev­
eral generat i ons of speakers, goes by t he name of t he Great Vowel Shi ft :
When Chaucer di ed i n 1400, peopl e sti l l pronounced the e on t he end
of words. One hundred yea rs l ater not onl y had i t become si l ent, but
schol ars were evi dentl y unaware that i t ever had been pronou nced . . . .
[Thus] i n a rel ati vely short peri od the l ong vowel sounds of Engl i sh . . .
changed thei r val ues i n a fundamental and seemi ngl y systemati c way,
each of them movi ng forward and u pward in the mouth. There was evi ­
dently a chai n reacti on i n whi ch each shi fti ng vowel pushed the next
one forward: The "0" sound of spot became the "a" sou nd of spat, whi l e
spat became speet, speet became spate, and so on. The "aw" sound of
law became the "oh" sound of close, whi ch in turn became the "00" sound
of food. Chaucer's Iyf, pronounced "I eef, " became Shakespeare's life,
pronounced "I afe, " became our " l i fe. " Not al l vowel s were affected. The
short e of bed and the short i of sit, for i nstance, were unmoved, so that
209
3: MEMES AND NORMS
we pronou nce those words today j ust as the Venerabl e Bede sai d them
twelve hundred years ago. 59
No one is exactl y sure what started t hi s "chai n react i on" of shi fti ng
vowel s. I t coul d have been an arti cul atory shortcut, i n whi ch the "l east
effort" pri nci pl e favored the stabi l i zati on of a new sou nd i n a gi ven speech
commu ni ty; i t coul d have al so been a mere mi stake i n pro n u nci ati on
whi ch spread by i mi tati on ; or, fi nal l y, i t cou l d have been a n ew vari ant
sound i ntrod uced i nto a commu n i ty t hrough one of t he many di fferent
ki nds of contact si tu ati on. I n a way, the tri gger for t he Great Vowel Shi ft
is its l east i mportant aspect compared wi th the dyn ami cal changes
u n l eashed by the catal yst. Gi ven t hat there i s no i ntri nsi c connecti on
between t he sou nds that make u p a word and t he meani ng (or obl i gatory
semanti c i nformati on) carri ed by the word, the useful ness of a gi ven set
of sou nds i s guaranteed by the more or l ess systemati c contrasts that
they have wi th o ne a nother. I f one of t he sou nds moves toward another,
thereby reduci ng t he contrasti ve power of bot h, t he second sou nd must
move as wel l . Thi s "push-chai n" dynami c t hen conti n ues u nti l a whol e
seri es of sou nds has acqu i red a new posi ti on that preserves the ori gi nal
contrasts. Si mu l taneousl y, t he "empty space" l eft behi nd by the very fi rst
movement may now tri gger anot her seri es of moti ons by an unrel ated
seri es of sou nds to "fi l l " t hat empty sl ot. Li ngu i sts cal l t hi s secondary
reacti on "drag chai n" dynami cs. 6
o
The fact t hat t hese i nternal rearrangements occu rred l argely u ncon­
sci ousl y over several gener ati ons cou l d mi sl ead us i nto t hi nki ng t hat t hey
were t he prod uct of an i nternal dri ve i n l anguage. Al though compl etel y
ci rcul ar shi fts l i ke t hi s one may be consi dered " homeostati c mecha­
ni sms" (and may be sai d to endow the system of sounds wi th a certai n
degree of autonomy from grammar, vocabul ary, a nd soci al pressu res),
t hey can be expl ai ned usi ng the same mechani sm t hat expl ai ns other
(l ess autonomous) changes i n l anguage: an i nterpl ay of vari abl e l i ngu i sti c
repl i cators a nd the sort i ng devi ce consti tuted by sel ecti on pressu res (i n
t hi s case, the need to preserve the fu ncti onal i ty of l anguage i n everyday
commu ni cati on tasks). 61 Moreover, push- and drag-chai n dynami cs and,
more general ly, sl ow swi tches from one stabl e state to anot her may occur
not on l y i n t he soni c su bstance of t he spoken chai n, but al so i n the real ms
of vocabu l ary a nd syntax.
For exampl e, certai n words (such as the verbs "to get" or "to do") may
become sl owl y empti ed of t hei r l exi cal meani ng and become "grammati ­
cal i zed, " that i s, sel ected to become rel ati vel y "meani ngl ess" parti cl es
used to express grammati cal fu ncti ons. The desemanti zati ol1 of words as
210
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
a means of recrui ti ng new grammati cal devi ces i s a sl ow and u nconsci ous
process and provi des us wi t h yet one more sou rce of heterogeneity.
Thi s i s, in fact, the type of heterogeneity t hat Labov stresses t he most:
t he exi stence i n a l anguage of variable rules. 62 A good exampl e is provi ded
by the grammati cal i zati on of the verb "to do, " whi ch was recru i ted as a
devi ce to express negati ve and i nterrogati ve cl auses. I ts desemanti zati on
occu rred sl owly, begi n n i ng i n t he t hi rteenth centu ry, but i t remai ned
onl y a peri pheral grammati cal devi ce u nt i l t he end of the fi fteent h. Then,
du ri ng the years 1535-1625 i t was pressed i nto servi ce t o perform an
i ncreasi ng n u mber of syntacti cal fun cti ons, l ater on decreasi ng i n range
u nti l sett l i ng i nto t he rol e it pl ays today. The i mportant poi nt here is t hat,
despi te i ts growi ng range of fu n cti ons, "i t was by no means obl i gatory i n
t hem a t t h e en d of t h e si xteenth centu ry (e. g. goest thou, he goeth not
were sti l l common), whi l e i n aHi rmati ve cl auses it was . . . i n free vari at i on
wi t h the si mpl e ver b forms for the expressi on of tense. "63
Today, of course, t he use of "to do" is obl i gatory to express some gram­
mati cal fu ncti ons i n Engl i sh, whi ch means that over a peri od of several
centu ri es the grammati cal rul es for the use of thi s desemanti zed parti cl e
transmuted from opti onal and vari abl e to categori cal . Accordi ng to Labov,
l i ngui sti c competence shoul d be defi ned in such a way as to i ncl ude t he
abi l ity t o handl e these vari abl e ru l es, at di fferent states of t hei r evol uti on .
Moreover, h e attacks t he tradi ti on (among Saussu rea ns a nd Chomsky­
ans) of concentrat i ng on a study of standard l anguages preci sel y beca use
thei r arti fi ci al homogeneity obscures t he exi stence of n on u n i form, chang­
i ng grammati cal devi ces. (Labov, for i nstance, fi nds a vari ety of vari abl e
ru l es i n hi s study of Bl ack Engl i sh -r ul es t hat do not exi st at al l i n stan­
dard Ameri can Engl i sh. 64) When we add t his i nternal , systemati c sou rce
of vari ati on to al l t he ot her sou rces t hat we have exami ned so far, t he
pi ct ure of l anguage t hat emerges i s one of a heterogeneous mi xtu re of
norms i n constant change, very di fferent from the tradi ti onal vi ew of a
ti mel ess, u ni versal struct ure i sol ated i n its "synchroni c" heaven from al l
t he tu rmoi l arou nd i t. As Del euze a nd Guattari put i t: "You wi l l never fi nd
a homogenous system t hat i s not al ready affected by a regu l ated, con­
t i nuous, i mmanent process of vari ati on (why does Chomsky pretend n ot
to u nderstand t hi s?). "65
Furthermore, t hi s vari abl e sou p of l i ngui sti c (repl i cati ng a nd catalyzi ng)
materi al s was constantl y i ntermi ngl i ng wi th al l t he other materi al a nd
energeti c fl ows that we have exami ned i n thi s book. Ci ti es, parti cul arl y
l arge ci ti es, were the pl aces where the strangest mi xt ures of food and
genes, money and words, were concocted. The i ntensi ty of trade, whi ch
contri buted to soci al mobi l ity (and the creati on of a mi ddl e cl ass), de-
211
3: MEMES AND NORMS
tached some peopl e from t hei r ori gi nal commun i cati on networks (and
from dependence on rel ati ves and nei ghbors for thei r l i vel i hood), decreas­
i ng the conservati ve pressu res t hat group l oyal ty put on l i ngui sti c change,
and al l owi ng the downward penetrati on of the standard . Al so, mi ddl e­
cl ass speakers, i n t hei r anxi ous usage of the hi gh-presti ge vari ant i n t hei r
now more i mpersonal and fragme nted soci al networks, tended t o " hyper­
correct" t hei r di al ectal speech, addi ng an addi ti onal sou rce of vari ati on
a nd heterogenei ty.55 On t h e other hand, t h e constant fl ow of rural i mmi ­
grants whi ch kept ci ti es al i ve a nd growi ng al so brought i n l i ngui sti c mate­
ri al s that contri buted much to the formati on of ghetto di al ects. 57 Large
ci ti es, t herefore, contri buted not onl y to a defocusi ng of the norms (by
pryi ng open soci al networks vi a u pward mobi l ity) but al so to the creati on
of new cl osed networks and, hence, new focused eth ni c vari ants:
Large ci ti es bri ng together the cri ti cal mass of si mi l ar peopl e needed to
found communi ti es. Whi l e the I ri sh i n smal l Leicestershi re vi l l ages were
forced to bl end in with the nati ve Engl i sh, those in Gl asgow began Cathol i c
churches and cl u bs, bui l di ng communi ti es around thei r ethni c l oyal ti es . . . .
Large ci ti es . . . produce strongl y arti cul ated val ue systems rather than i so­
l ated i ndi vi dual s. They are not mel ti ng pots, but mosai cs of di sparate
groups, each of whi ch fights to mai ntai n its own i dentity. At fi rst gl ance,
thi s vi ew of ci ti es i s puzzl i ng, for how can a pl ace be bot h i mpersonal and
cul tu ral l y i ntense? How can an i ndi vi dual be both anonymous and cl osel y
i nvol ved i n a speci fi c su bcu l tu re? The answer i s that ci ti es contai n both
l arge-scal e and smal l -scal e envi ronments. Al though i n pu bl i c pl aces -the
stores, offi ces, streets, and l arge i nsti tuti ons -contacts are rel ati vely bri ef
and anonymous, there i s a separate, private soci al l i fe to be found on the
l evel of fami ly, nei ghbor hood, cl ub, and et hni c group that operates wi th
di fferent rul es. 58
Urban centers, by housi ng dynami cal mi xtu res of energy, matter, and
catal yti c repl i cators of di fferent ki nds (genes, memes, norms, routi nes),
greatl y i nfl uenced l i ngu i sti c evol uti on before the seventeenth centu ry.
After t hat t hey wou l d conti nue to pl ay i mportant rol es, but now as part
of l arge r soci opol i ti cal enti ti es: as the capi tal s of the emergi ng nati on­
states. Whi l e before t he French Revol ut i on arguments in favor of devel op­
i ng and extendi ng the power of standard French were made i n the name
of " rati onal ity, " du ri ng and after t hat great t uri ng poi nt the standard
began to be defended i n terms of "nati onal i sm" : one nati onal l anguage,
one homoge neous i denti ty for al l ci ti zens, one set of l i ngu i sti c resou rces
to al l ow central gover nme nts to tap i nto the reservoi rs consti tuted by
212
L INGUISTIC HISTORY: 1000-1700 A. D.
thei r growi ng popul ati ons. I wi l l ret urn to t hese " nati onal i st" waves of
homoge ni zati on whi ch, i n the l atter part of the mi l l enni um, began to
affect the l i ngui sti c "stuff" that had accu mul ated not onl y i n Europe, but
i n many pl aces outsi de of i t.
213
Arguments and Operators
I have argued that structures
as different as· sedimentary
rock, animal species, and
social cl asses may be viewed
as historical products of the
same structure-generating
processes. (Or more accu­
rately, of different concrete pro­
cesses embodying the same
abstract machine or engineer­
ing diagram. ) Does language
embody an abstract machine
215
3: MEMES AND NORMS
too? The accu mu l at i ons of l i ngu i st i c materi al s
t hat are sorted i nto homogeneous sets and
cemented toget her t h rough i sol at i on are
exampl es of st rat i f i ed systems, a n d, hence,
l a ngu age ca n be sai d t o embody t h i s (dou bl e­
a rt i cu l at i on) a bstract machi ne. Si mi l a rl y, i nso­
fa r as the sou n ds, words, and const r uct i ons
of a l anguage a re vi ewed as repl i cators, l a n ­
guages a l so embody a n abstract probe head ,
or searc h i ng devi ce. But t he quest i on 'we
must add ress now i s t h i s : I s t here an a bstract
mach i ne t hat i s speci f i c to l a ngu age? I n ot her
words, do t he processes responsi bl e for t he
generat i on of ph rases and sentences embody
an engi neer i ng di agra m t hat di st i ngu i shes t h e
str uct u re of l a ngu age f rom t h e st r uct u re of
rocks, pl a nts, and a n i ma l s?
Chomsky bel i eves t hat t h i s di agram
def i nes a n abstract robot embodi ed i n ou r
brai ns, a n automaton ca pa bl e of prod uci ng
every val i d sent ence i n a gi ven l angu age. I n
1959, Chomsky post u l ated t he exi stence of
fou r di fferent types of abst ract automata
whi ch d i ffer i n t hei r degree of compl exi ty:
f i n i te- state automata are the si mpl est type,
fol l owed by context- sensi t i ve robots , context­
free robots , and f i na l l y Tu r i ng mac h i nes. 69
216
ARGUMENTS AND OPERATORS
Choms ky argued t hat a l a ngu age cou l d be
seen as made u p of two components , a di c­
t i onary (or reservoi r of words) and a set of
rules determi n i ng how t hose words may be
combi ned to make l egal sequences (we l l ­
formed sentences) . Th us, gi ven a set of sen ­
tences, t he robot (a context- free automaton)
cou l d tel l whet her t hey bel onged t o a gi ven
l a ngu age si mpl y by a ppl yi ng t he ru l es . To t he
robot, a sentence was no more t ha n a string
of inscriptions (whet her t he i nscri pt i ons were
on cl ay, pa per, or a i r was i mmateri al to i t) ,
and the ru l es were reci pes to test t hese
stri ngs for membersh i p i n t he set of val i d
st ri ngs. Th i s model was su pposed to ca ptu re
t he grammat i cal i ntu i t i on t hat a l l ows spea k­
ers of Engl i s h t o tel l t he d i fference between
"Col orl ess green i deas sl eep fu ri ousl y" a n d
" Sl eep green col or l ess f u r i ousl y i deas" (one a
gra mmat i ca l l y va l i d st ri ng, t he ot her i nval i d) ,
even t hough bot h st ri ngs are semant i ca l l y
mea n i ngl ess .
When it came t i me to produce new stri ngs
(as opposed to checki ng t hem for va l i d i ty) ,
t he ru l es were di vi ded i nto two types : one set
generated t he basi c l ogi cal s kel eton of a sen ­
tence ( i ts deep str uct u re) , wh i l e severa l ot her
217
3: MEMES AND NORMS
sets transformed t hi s naked sentence, fl eshi ng it out wi th the materi al s
of a real l angu age. (These two components of a grammar are cal l ed
"generati ve" and "tra nsformati onal , " respecti vel y. ) The ge nerati ve com­
ponent of the automaton was assumed to be i nborn and to capt ure al l
that i s un i versal about l a ngu age (t hat i s, al l that rema i ns constant across
di ffere nt l anguages and i s unaffected by thei r parti cul ar hi stori es). Coul d
we consi der thi s robot the abstract machi ne of l angu age? Del euze and
Guattari , among ot hers, answer t hi s questi o n negati ve l y:
Our cri ti ci sm of these l i ngui sti c model s i s not that they are too abstract
but, on the contrary, that they are not abstract enough, that they do not
reach the abstract machine that connects l anguage to the semanti c and
pragmati c contents of statements, to col l ecti ve assembl ages of enunci a­
ti on, to a whol e mi crppol i ti cs of the soci al fiel d . . . . [T] here i s no l anguage
i n itsel f, nor are there any l i ngu i sti c un iversal s, onl y a throng of di al ects,
patoi s, sl angs, and speci al i zed l anguages. There i s no i deal spea ker-l i stener,
any more than there is a homoge neous l i ngu i sti c commu ni ty. Language
is, i n Wei nrei ch's words, "an essenti al l y heterogeneous real i ty." There i s no
mother tongue, onl y a power ta keover by a domi nant l anguage withi n a
pol i ti cal mu l ti pl i city
' ?o
I n essence, what Del euze and Guattari oppose is the postu l ati on of a
" uni versal core" (or synchroni c di mensi on) of l anguage, si nce thi s rel egates
soci al processes (su ch as pi dgi n i zati on , creol i zati on , or standardi zati on)
to a secondary rol e, affecti ng at most t he tra nsformati onal component of
the grammar. What they propose i nstead is to gi ve hi stor i cal processes
a more fu ndamental rol e by model i ng the abstract mach i ne of l angu age
not as an automati c mechan i sm embodi ed i n i ndi vi dual brai ns but as a
.i agram gove rn i ng the dynami cs of col l ecti ve human i nte racti on. The
mai n probl em to be sol ved i f we are to i mpl ement thei r proposal l i es i n
fi nd i ng a val i d means of tra nsferri ng t h e combinatorial productivity of t he
automaton, its abi l i ty t o prod uce an i nfi ni te nu mber of se ntences out of
a fi ni te stock of words and combi nati on ru l es, to the patterns of behavi or
generated by di fferent soci al dynami cs. One possi bl e sol uti on may be
to assu me t hat the post ul ated grammati cal r ul es do not exi st i n ou r
brai ns but are i nstead embodi ed i n soci al i nsti tuti ons. The probl em wi th
thi s sol uti on i s t hat, as i s wel l known, h uman bei ngs do not l earn thei r
mot her tongue as a set of ru l es. I ndeed , i t was the wel l -docu mented abi l ­
ity of chi l dren to l ear n l anguage by bei ng exposed to adul t conversati on
(t hat i s, wi t hout bei ng expl i ci tl y t ol d what the rul es are) that moti vated
the postu l ati o n of an i n bor n automaton i n the fi rst pl ace. But i f a set of
218
ARGUMENTS AND OPERATORS
ru l es i s not the sou rce of t he combi nato ri al producti vi ty of l anguage, t hen
what i s?
One possi bl e answer is that words carry wi th them, as part of thei r
mean i ng, "combi nato ri al constrai nts" t hat al l ow them to restri ct the ki nds
of words wi th whi ch t hey may be combi ned. That i s, i n t hi s vi ew i ndi vi d­
ual words carry i nformati on about thei r freque ncy of co-occu rre nce wi th
ot her words, so that, as a gi ve n word i s added to a sentence, thi s i nfor­
mati on exe rts demands on the word or ki nd of word that may occu r next.
(For exampl e, afte r addi ng a defi n ite arti cl e to a stri ng, the fol l owi ng posi ­
ti on i s constrai ned to be occu pi ed by a nou n. ) Combi natori al prod ucti vi ty
wou l d not resul t from a central i zed body of ru l es, but from a decentral ­
i zed process i n wh i ch each word locally restricts the s peaker's ch. oi ces at
each poi nt i n th e constru cti on . One versi on of thi s al ter nati ve way of
handl i ng the prod ucti on of se nte nces was proposed l ong ago by the l i n­
gui st George K. Zi pf, who was perhaps t he fi rst to st udy l a nguage as
"stuff, " that i s, as a l arge body of materi al i nscri pti ons exhi bi ti ng certai n
stati sti cal regu l ari ti es. Zi pf cal l ed t he tendency of words to occur next to
each ot her t hei r degree of crystal l i zati on: "To i l l ustrate the comparati ve
degrees of dependence of words i n sentence-struct ure, l et us perfor m
an i magi nary experi ment. We may t ake as materi al a vast nu mber of
Engl i sh se ntences, j ust as they are spoken, say a mi l l i on of them. Fi gu ra­
ti vel y spea ki ng we shal l now dash these sentences on the fl oor wi th such
force that they wi l l break, and pi eces of them wi l l scatter. Of cou rse,
some of the words, bei ng more crystal l i zed i n arrangement than others,
wi l l cohere. Defi ni te and i ndefi ni te arti cl es wi l l ad here to th ei r nouns,
a uxi l i ari es to t hei r ve rbs, preposi ti ons to fol l owi ng obj ects. "71
The l i ngu i st Zel l i g Harri s, who i ntrodu ced the noti on of "transforma­
ti on" i nto l i ngui sti cs in the earl y 1950s (and so is no stranger to the
Chomskyan paradi gm), has devel oped a way to take meta phori cal
descri pti ons l i ke t hi s and tra nsform them i nto a mathemati cal theory of
l angu age t hat comes ve ry cl ose to the abstract machi ne we are l ooki ng
for. Accordi ng to h i s theory, the constrai nts or demands that words pl ace
on one another are transmi tted as soci al l y obl i gatory i nformati on. ( I nfor­
mati o n" is bei ng used here in the sense of "physi cal i nformati on, " the
ki nd measu red i n bi ts, not t he semanti c i nformati on used i n di cti onary
defi ni ti ons. ) Har ri s expl i ci tl y devel ops hi s model of the soc i al t ransmi s­
si o n of combi natori al constrai nts i n evol uti onary terms, wi th di fferent
constrai nts (or rather, the se ntences constructed wi t h t hei r he l p) compet­
i ng for the same "i nfor mati onal ni ches. "72 He rejects the concept of an
u nchangi ng, homogeneous core of l angu age, and t herefore hi s theory
al l ows us to approach the qu esti on of di al ecta l vari ati on (a nd the essen-
219
3: MEMES AND NORMS
t i al heterogenei ty of l angu age) di rect l y: not onl y is l anguage i n constant
change, wi t h t he strengt h of the constrai nts varyi ng al ong a conti n u u m
from opti onal t o obl i gatory, bu t t h e rates of change themsel ves may be
di fferent fro m di al ect to di al ect. Hi s vi ew of l angu age i s compl etel y hi stor­
i cal ; the source of t he constrai nts themsel ves is the gradual sta ndardi za­
ti on (or conventi o nal i zati on) of customary usage. Thus, despi te the fact
t hat cha nges in syntax may occur much more sl owl y t han changes i n
ot her aspects of l anguage, t he syntacti cal el ement i s not i sol ated from
sema nti cs and pragmati csJ3
Harri s cl assi fi es th ree mai n types of combi natori al co nstrai nts. The
si mpl est one i s what he cal l s "l i kel i hood constrai nts, " i nformati on carri ed
by words a bout the words wi th whi ch they tend to combi ne more fre­
quently as a matter of actual usage. That i s, a word l i ke "ti ger" carri es
i nformati on to the effect t hat i t typi cal l y co-occu rs wi th ot her words (such
as "fi erce" or "hu nti ng") but not others ("pol i te" or "danci ng"). Not t hat
t here is a speci fi c rul e barri ng these combi nati ons; rather, as a matter of
statistical fact, i n a gi ven speech commun ity these words occu r i n certai n
combi nati ons much more frequentl y t han i n ot hers. (The ph rase "da nc­
i ng ti gers" does occu r i n chi l dren's books, but compared wi th the overal l
usage of those two words i n actual speech, t hi s combi n ati on i s rare. ) For
a gi ven word, t he set of its most frequentl y co-occurri ng words (a fuzzy
set si nce i t is i n co nstant change, contracti ng and expandi ng) i s cal l ed i ts
"sel ecti on, " and i n Harri s's model i t i s thi s sel ect i on set t hat forms the
"core mea ni ng" of the word. (Hence, the meani ng of words woul d be
deter mi ned by thei r combi nabi l ity, not thei r i denti ty. Formal di cti onary
defi ni ti ons and i nfor mal stereotypes emerge from conventi onal i zati on of
l i kel i hood co nstrai nts. )74
A second type of co nstrai nt, t he most fundamental to t he structu re of
. l a nguage, accordi ng to Harri s, i s the operator- argu ment constrai nt, whi ch
model s t he acti o n that verbs, adverbs, adj ecti ves, preposi ti ons, and ot her
l i ngu i sti c modi fi ers have on t hei r obj ects. Un l i ke the l i kel i hood constrai nt,
the operator-a rgu ment constrai nt bi nds together not i ndi vi d ual words
but cl asses of words. A gi ven operator, once i ncl uded i n a sentence,
demands an argu ment of a certai n cl ass. Thi s constrai nt, too, adds i nfor­
mati on to t he sentence: the more u nfami l i ar the argu ment su ppl i ed for a
gi ven operator, the more i nformati ve it wi l l be. Of al l the d i ffere nt l i ngu i s­
ti c fu ncti ons t hat t hi s constrai nt may be used to model , Harri s stresses
the operati on t hat verbs perform on the nou ns that serve as t hei r su b­
j ects and obj ects, si nce t hi s operati on yi el ds the basi c st ructu re of sen­
tences. As i s wel l known, sentences afford t hei r users the means to
perform two di fferent fu ncti ons: to identify for an audi ence the objects or
220
ARGUMENTS AND OPERATORS
eve nts to whi ch the s peaker is referri ng and to say somet hi ng about those
objects or events. The operator-argu ment constrai nt, when used to l i n k
verbs and nouns, adds t o a sente nce t h e meani ng of "aboutness, " the
abi l ity to refer not on l y to i ndi vi dual object s and events but al so to com­
pl ex situations. ?5
Fi nal ly, Harri s post ul ates a t hi rd type of constrai nt, whi ch he cal l s " re­
- ducti on. " Whenever the l i kel i hood t hat two words wi l l co-occur becomes
very hi gh, the amou nt of physi cal i nformati on thei r co-occu rrence adds to
a sentence i s correspondi ngl y l ow; t hat i s, i t adds very l i ttl e i nfor mati on
t hat ca nnot be su ppl i ed by the spea ker or l i stener. I n those condi ti ons,
one of the two words may be reduced i n form (becomi ng a suffi x or prefi x
attached to the other word) or even el i mi nated al toget her. However, even
when a word has been "zeroed, " the l i ttl e i nformati on it used to carry i s
sti l l t here (or may be reconstructed by the spea ker or l i stener), so t hat
after successi ve reducti ons the resu l tant si mpl er forms may ca rry (i n a
very compressed way) a rather compl ex meani ng. Harri s uses thi s t hi rd
ki nd of constrai nt to expl ai n t he ori gi n of some cl asses of words (such as
adverbs, pronou ns, and some conj uncti ons) as wel l as of the di ffe rent
affi xes. ?
6
I n ot her words, the reducti o n constrai nt al l ows Har ri s to gi ve a
hi stori cal account of the ori gi n of t he mai n word cl asses, cl asses wh i ch
are taken as gi ven (as u nexpl ai ned pr i mi ti ves) i n the Chomskya n theory.?7
Thi s is one of the reasons why Del euze and Guattari vi ew the Chom­
skya n automaton as "not a bst ract enough. " The robot i s capa bl e of
expl ai ni ng the producti on of one set of forms (t hose of sentences) but
onl y by assu mi ng anot her set of forms (t hose of ru l es and pri mi ti ve word
cl asses). I n Harri s's model , on the ot her hand, l angu age i s a thoroughl y
hi stori cal product (t he cumul ati ve resu l t of rest ri cti ons i n the occu rrence
of word s rel ati ve to one anot her), and combi natori al constrai nts are tru l y
morphogeneti c: as new constrai nts emerge from co nventi o nal i zat i on of
customary usage, ch angi ng the probabi l i ti es that words wi l l co-occu r, l an­
gu age structu re sel f- organi zes as a process i nvol vi ng successive depar­
tures from equiprobability (i . e. , randomness) in t he combi nat i ons for med
by repl i cati ng norms. ?
8
Thi s sce nari o meshes wel l wi t h some of the i deas we devel oped ear l i er.
I n parti cu l ar, the emerge nce of l a nguage may now be seen as the resul t
of a dou bl e arti cul ati on : an accu mu l ati on formed by a sorti ng devi ce con­
sol i dated t hrough an act (or successi on of acts) of conventi onal i zati on or
i nsti tuti onal i zati on. However, thi s di agram may be too si mpl e eve n to
account for sedi mentary rocks, whi ch al so grow and devel op t hrough
accretion, t hat i s, the amassi ng of fu rt her materi al s and the prol i ferati on
of exi sti ng structu re. Langu age, too, i n Harri s' s vi ew, i s an accreti onary
221
3: MEMES AND NORMS
struct ureJ9 I n parti cu l ar, once certai n hi gh frequency co-occu rrences
have become obl i gatory constrai nts, speakers begi n to construct new
patterns by analogy to previ ousl y i nsti tuti onal i zed ones. Pri or struct u res
cou l d, al so prol i ferate by recursion: operator-argu ment pai rs, for exampl e,
t hemsel ves cou l d be made the argument of a I-l i gher-I evel operator.
Hence, posi ti ve-feedback l oops devel op where struct ure (consol i dated
acc
u
mu l ati ons) favors accreti ons, whi ch i n t ur n generate f urther struc­
t ure. Moreover, the creati on of new patterns by anal ogy to previ ousl y
accumul ated ones (or by recu rsi ve appl i cati on of exi st i ng constrai nts) i s
what generates a system t hat, i n retrospect, may appear to consi st of a
set of ru l es. 8
0
(Of cou rse, some l anguages, such as standard Engl i sh or
French, are sets of r u l es, and t hey are taught t o grammar school chi l dren
as such. The questi on i s whet her t he l anguage t hat t hose chi l dren l earn
at home i n a n u nt utored way i s al so a set of ru l es or rat her a set of nor­
mati ve combi nator i al constrai nts. )
Another feat u re of Harri s' s t heory may hel p us meet Del euze and
Guattari 's demand t hat t he abstract di agram be "abstract enough . " I de­
al ly, the abstract machi ne post ul ated to accou nt for t he generat i on of l i n­
gu i sti c forms shoul d not be the abstract machi ne of language ( i n whi ch
case i t woul d be hard to di sti ngu i sh i t from a n "essence" of l anguage),
much as the abstract probe head we di scussed before i s not the abstract
machi ne of life (si nce i t may be "i ncarnated" in any popul ati on of repl i ca­
tors, not on l y genes). Si mi l arl y, an "abstract enough" di agram that
expl ai ns t he generati on of stri ngs of l i ngui sti c i nscri pti ons shoul d i deal l y
expl ai n the mor phogenesi s of other ( nonl i ngui sti c) stri ngs. I n ot her
words, l anguage may not be the onl y structu re t hat can be vi ewed as a
system of demands or of requi red repeti ti ons. Whi l e t he struct ure of l an­
guage is u ni que, the constrai nts t hat generate it are not . (Bei ng t he sub­
ject of a verb is u n i q uel y l i ngu i sti c; havi ng the occu rrence of certai n
t hi ngs depend on t he occu rrence of ot her cl asses of t hi ngs, i s not. )
Harri s shows how by maki ng t he combi natori al constrai nts more ri gi d
we ca n generate stri ngs of i nscri pt i ons l i ke t hose bel ongi ng to systems of
l ogi c or mat hemati cs, whi l e by maki ng them more fl exi bl e we can pro­
duce musi cal stri ngs. For exampl e, weak conversat i onal (or di scursi ve)
demands constrai n t he successi ve order of sentences i n ordi nary l an­
guage. I f we strengt hen t hose demands, so that sentences must now fol ­
l ow one a not her i n a prescri bed manner (and i f we fu rt her demand t hat
t he sequence begi n wi th sel f-evi dent truths and concl ude wi th a sentence
as true as t he previ ous ones), t he resul t is a l ogi cal or mathemati cal proof
struct ure. I f we change the operator-argument hi erarchi cal constrai nt a nd
demand that on l y t he operator carry constrai nt-based i nformati on , we
222
ARGUMENTS AND OPERATORS
t hereby transform the argument i nto a variable a nd the operator i nto a
function. (That arguments i n mathemati cs exerci se no constrai nts is what
makes i t a sci ence of rel ati o ns, t hat i s, of operators. )81 On the other hand,
i f i nstead of fi xi ng the operator-argument rel ati on we make i t vari abl e, so
t hat "many vari ed rel ati ons exi st between a l onger musi cal l i ne and i ts
su bsegments, " we can generate structu res l i ke t hose exhi bi ted i n musi cal
composi ti ons. 8
2
Thi s i s not to deny t hat expl i ci t rul es exi st i n mathemati ­
cal o r musi cal systems, much as they do i n standardi zed l a nguages. The
questi o n i s whether mathemati cs or musi c coul d have o ri gi nal l y devel ­
oped as a decentral i zed system of constrai nts that onl y l ater was formal ­
i zed as a central i zed body of ru l es.
I n addi ti on to provi di ng us wi th an "abstract enough" di agram of l an­
guage, Harri s's theory al so meets the ot her requ i rement we fou nd l ack­
i ng i n Chomsky's robot: that the abstract machi ne be di rectl y con nected
to a soci al dynami cs. Speci fi cal ly, the core of Harri s's model i nvol ves a
process t hro ugh whi ch stati sti cal regu l ari ti es i n usage a re gradual ly tra ns­
formed t hrough sta ndardi zati o n i nto requ i red constrai nts. But t hese i nsti ­
tuti onal requ i reme nts wou l d have no real i ty i f t here was no mechani sm
t hrough whi ch soci al obl i gati ons cou l d be enfo rced. I t may be argued t hat
to be compl ete Harri s's t heory demands some ki nd of norm-enforcement
mechani sm, such as t hat provi ded by soci al netwo rks. We saw befo re
t hat, i n soci ol i ngui sti cs, the degree of densi ty of a netwo rk (roughly, the
degree to whi ch, for every member of a commun ity, t he fri ends of hi s or
her fri ends know each other) and i ts degree of mu l t i pl exi ty (t he degree to
whi ch hi s or her l i fe-su pport acti vi ti es depend on t hose fri ends and fri ends
of "fri ends) are vi ewed as t he parameters t hat defi ne i t s effi cacy as a
norm-enforcement devi ce. I n a sense, t hese parameters defi ne t he inten­
sity of our attachment to a gi ven commu n i ty or group, a nd the norms
enfo rced wi t hi n a networ k draw t he bou ndari es t hat defi ne t he i denti ty of
t hat communi ty o r group. Thus, a vi ew of l anguage i n terms of const rai nts
o n word combi nati on di rectly i nvol ves questi ons of t he effects t hat grou p­
membershi p has o n i ndi vi dual s, a nd, i n that sense, it meets Del euze
and Guattari 's requi rement t hat "col l ecti ve assembl ages of en u nci at i on"
be made an i nt ri nsi c compo nent of t he abstract machi ne of l anguage.
I s it possi bl e to extend (or compl ement) Harri s's model so t hat a si mi ­
l ar abstract di agram expl ai ns n ot o n l y the form and fu nct i on of i ndi vi dual
sentences but al so t he hi st ori cal o ri gi n of l arger l i ngu i sti c struct ures, such
as di scou rses? Or more speci fi cal ly, i s t here an abstract machi ne that ca n "
expl ai n i n soci odynami cal terms the emergence of di scou rses expressi ng
worl dvi ews (coherent sets of val ues and bel i efs)? A model created by t he
ant hropol ogi st Mar y Dougl as comes cl ose to defi n i ng such an abstract
223
3: MEMES AND NORMS
machi ne, and i t may be l i nked wi th Harri s's theory of l anguage si nce i n
Dougl as's model t he i ntensi ty wi t h whi ch i ndi vi dual s are attached to a
grou p al so defi nes an i mportant feat u re of "col l ecti ve assembl ages. "
Anot her eq ual l y i mportant trai t of grou p dynami cs defi nes not whom we
i nte ract wi t h, but how we i nteract; i t does not bestow grou p-me mbershi p
but control s behavi or i n the wi der soci al context wi t hi n whi ch the group
fu ncti ons. Dougl as, who cal l s these two aspects of soci al dynami cs "grou p"
and "gri d, " one measuri ng the i ntensity of group al l egi ance, the ot her
the i ntensity of central i zed regul ati on , has created a t heory of the sel f­
organ i zati on of worl dvi ews, i n whi ch the ki nd of cosmol ogi es that emerge
in di ffere nt commu ni ti es depend di rectl y on the val ues of the "group"
and "gri d" parameters. When appl i ed to speci fi c soci al grou ps (Dougl as' s
model d oes not apply to ent i re soci eti es), t hese two pa rameters defi ne an
abstract di agram wi t h fou r possi bl e stabl e states t hat act as "attractors"
for bel i efs and val ues as they organi ze i nto a coherent set. Or rat her
(si nce she model s not t he dynami cs of bel i efs but t he dynami cs of groups
of believers), t he two parameters defi ne a l i festyl e ( more or l ess hi erarchi ­
cal , more or l ess grou p-dependent) and peopl e coerce one another to fu l l y
devel op t he i mpl i cati ons of that l i festyl e. The res ul tant worl dvi ews act as
attractors i n t he sense t hat "the fo ur extreme gri d/group posi ti ons on the
di agram are l i abl e to be stabl e states, steadi l y recr u i ti ng members to
thei r way of l i fe, whi ch i s at t he same ti me i nevi tabl y a way of Jtou
g
�t
:
"83
When both the group and gri d parameters have h i gh val ues, the com­
mu ni ty i n questi on not onl y has a strong sense of sel f-i denti ty (t he group
may spend much energy pol i ci ng bou ndari es and el aborati ng ru l es of
admi ssi on) but i t i s al so wel l i ntegrated i nto l arger soci al grou ps. Li fe
wi t hi n a gover nment mi l i ta ry i nsti tuti on such as t he ar my or navy wou l d
serve as a good exampl e of thi s l i festyl e, but so woul d the cu l tu re of any
hi erarch i cal bu reaucracy. Keepi ng the val ue of grou p al l egi ance hi gh but
l oweri ng the val ue of regu l ati on (and i ntegrati on i nto a l arger whol e)
resul ts i n sectari an l i festyl es wi th strong group i denti ty but a weak sense
of responsi bi l ity to conform to any norms t hat hol d outsi de the grou p. I f
both parameters are set at a l ow i nte nsi ty, group members refrai n from
drawi ng strong bou ndari es around them (they rat her engage in netwo rk­
i ng; gi ven the l oose group demands, everyt hi ng seems open for negoti a­
ti on), and t hey tend to parti ci pate in those areas of pu bl i c l i fe that are
l ess central i zed and hi era rchi ca l . (A smal l - busi ness ent repreneur wou l d
be a good exampl e here, but not the manager of a l arge corporati on, par­
ti cu l arl y if he or she parti ci pates i n t he corporate cu l tu re. ) Fi nal ly, t here
are those who do not bel ong to cl osed groups but nevert hel ess have l i ttl e
room to maneuver a round regul ati ons and are, i ndeed, bu rdened by t hem:
224
ARGUMENTS AND OPERATORS
As I see it, three corners exert a magneti c pul l away from the mi ddl e; i nd i ­
vi d ual i sts extol l i ng a cul tu re of i ndi vi dual i sm tend to become more and
more uncommitted to each ot her and more committed to the exci ti ng gam­
bl e for bi g pri zes. Egal i tari an i deal i sts commi tted to a sectari an cul ture
strongly wa l l ed agai nst the exteri or, become more and more enraged
agai nst the outsi de soci ety and more jeal ous of each ot her. The su pporti ve
framework and i ntel l ectual coherence of a hi erarchi cal and compartmental ­
i zed soci ety nurses the mi nd i n cogent metaphysi cal specul ati ons vul nera­
bl e to di sorder and i ndependence . . . . The fou rth corner, the ful l y regul ated
i ndi vi dual s unaffi l i ated to any group, is pl enti ful l y i nhabi ted in any compl ex
soci ety, but not necessari ly by peopl e who have chosen to be there. The
groups [bureaucraci es or sects] expel and downgrade di ssenters; the com­
peti ti on of i ndi vi dual i sts . . . pushes those who are weak i nto the more regu­
l ated areas where thei r opti ons are restricted and they end by doi ng what
they are tol d. 84
Al though Dougl as' s model may have to be enri ched in several ways,
even i n t hi s si mpl e form (wi th two parameters generati ng fou r possi bl e
states) i t meshes wel l wi th t he i deas we have expl ored i n t hi s book. Fi rst
of al l , i t attempts to capt ure some of t he feat u res of group dynami cs
behi nd t he genesis of form at t he l evel of coherent di scou rse. That thi s
morphogeneti c process may t ur n out to be more compl ex does not
depri ve her hypotheti cal model of val i di ty as a fi rst approxi mati on , parti c­
u l arl y i f the model i s gi ven a nonl i near dynami c formu l ati on so that the
fi rst th ree co rners of the di agram become true attractors. (A catastrophe
t heory versi on of Dougl as's model does exi st and poi nts i n t he di recti on
t hat t hi s refo rmul ati on wou l d have to take.85) Addi ti onal l y, t he model i s
i ntended to be used i n a bottom- u p way, to be appl i ed to t he study of
speci fi c co mmuniti es, where t he constrai nts t hat t he hol ders of a wo rl d­
vi ew exert on one anot her can be fu l l y speci fi ed. I n ot her words, t he
scheme i s not supposed t o appl y to soci et i es as a whol e but onl y to
smal l er su bsets thereof, wi t h ci ti es or nati on-states model ed as compl ex
mi xt ures of several types of worl dvi ew.86 On the other hand, Dougl as' s
model has l i mi tati ons: i t onl y capt u res processes that take pl ace within
organi zati ons or col l ecti vi ti es, and hence cannot account for the effects of
the transmi ssi on of i deas and routi nes between the members of an ecol ­
ogy of i nsti tuti ons or, i ndeed, for any effect on the form of d i scou rses
whi ch the i nteracti ons between i nsti tuti ons may have (e. g. , the i nterac­
t i ons between hospi tal s, school s, pri sons, and factori es).
Retu r ni ng to the questi on of the a bst ract machi ne of l anguage, both
Harri s and Dougl as have co ntri buted cruci al i nsi ghts i nto the essenti al l y
225
3: MEMES AND NORMS
collective character of t hi s machi ne. I n bot h l i ngui sti c evol uti on and worl d­
vi ew devel opment t here are, no dou bt, many co ntri buti ons and i nnova­
ti ons by i ndi vi du al s. But i n many cases i t i s the posi ti on of an i ndi vi dual
i n a commu n i cati on network t hat determi nes t he fate of hi s or her contri ­
buti on. Co nseq ue ntl y, the accu mu l ati on and consol i dati on of l anguages
and worl dvi ews i s a col l ecti ve enterpri se, not the resul t of i ndi vi dual sel f­
expressi o n. Moreover, to the extent t hat the resu l ti ng l i ngu i sti c and di s­
cu rsi ve forms are transmi tted to new generati ons (or new members)
t hrough enforced repeti ti on, t hese fo rms are repl i cato rs; hence we need
to use "popu l ati o n t hi nki ng" to descri be t hei r evol uti onary dynami cs.
Th i s, too, fo rces on us the need to approach the subj ect i n terms of col ­
l ecti vi ti es rat her t han i ndi vi dual s. On the other hand, the col l ecti ve
dynami cs may be such (l ow grou p/l ow gri d) that i ndi vi du al s may pl ay si g­
ni fi ca nt·rol es i n the fate of these accumul ati ons. But even so, i t may be
argued t hat t hi s extra room to maneuver i s afforded to i ndi vi dual s by the
stabl e state governi ng the col l ecti ve dynami cs, and i n any case t hose i ndi ­
vi du al s owe t hei r surpl us freedom to the fact that t hey are con nected to
decentral i zed structu res (such as ma rkets), whi ch are every bit as col l ec­
ti ve as t he most routi ni zed hi era rchy.
B?
We may now pi ct ure the struct u re-generati ng processes beh i nd i ndi vi d­
u a l sentences as embodyi ng an abstract machi ne operati ng on the basi s
of combi natori al constrai nts t ransmi tted as repl i cators. The process of
t ransmi ssi on i tsel f i nvol ves col l ecti ve mechani sms of enforcement, whi ch
are al so part of the abstract machi ne of l angu age and whi ch may be
used to accou nt for t he emergence of coherent struct ures made out of
many sentences (di scou rses embodyi ng speci fi c worl dvi ews). Now we
must retu rn to the hi sto ri cal devel opment of both these components of
t he abstract machi ne and exami ne t he hi story of t hei r mu l ti pl e and
compl ex i nteracti ons.
226
Linguistic History:
1700-2000 A. D.
The ei ghteent h centu ry wi t­
nessed two dramat i c devel op­
ments t hat were to affect
profou ndl y t he fate of t he l i n ­
gu i st i c mi xtu res of Eu rope:
t he ri se of nat i onal i sm and
t he growt h and spread of di s­
ci pl i nary i nst i tut i ons. On one
hand, the proj ect of nat i on
bu i l di ng was an i ntegrat i ve
movement, forgi ng bonds t hat
went beyond t he pri mordi al
227
3: MfMfS AND NORMS
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228
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LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
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0u\ \0 06|0ð ¯6¯\ C06|C| 0¯$, ¯0\ \0 !u ¯Gð·
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W' | ' 0u\ \0 ðu\00ð\ ' C G0C | ' ' \V . . . . 1¯6
`ð 00' 60¯ | C |69| 06 Wð$ ¯0\ !ð| 0!! ð¯G W' \ ¯
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06 ¯ 0! \ ¯ 6 C0u |\$, 0u\ ð' $0 \ ¯ 6 06 ¯ 0! \ ¯6
Cð00$. 1¯6 ¬00ð¯ |6!6|6¯C6 \ ¯ð\ ðCC00·
0ð ¯ | 6G \ ¯ | $ !0| 0ð\ | 0¯ C6|\ð ' ¯ | V 06ð|$ W' \ ¯
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0¯ ' | 0$00¯6|$ W6|6 $66H| ¯9 | ¯ \¯6 0ðC\ ð
0| | 0ð| 00G6| !0| \ ¯6 C0¯$\|uC\ ' 0¯ 0| |6C0¯·
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!0||ð\ ' 0¯ C06X' $\, 0u\ \ ¯6V |6ðC¯6G ð ¯ ' 9¯6|
06ð H 0! ' ¯\6¯$' \V G u || ¯9 \ ¯6 ¬6v0' J\ | 0¯ 0!
1789 \ ¯ð¯ | ¯ 0\ ¯6| Lu |006即ð\ ' 0¯$ . ' ¯ 0ð|·
229
3: MEMES AND NORMS
ti cul ar, the revol uti onary ar mi es, l ater to become t he core of the Napo­
l eoni c war machi ne, were the perfect embodi ment of both projects. These
were ci ti zen armi es, u n l i ke the mostl y mercenary armi es that had hereto­
fore domi nated European warfare, and therefore l arger and stronger i n
moral e. They were a man i festati on of t h e fact that t h e new soci al pact
had transformed t he growi ng popul ati on of France i nto a vast reservoi r of
manpower, to be tapped not onl y for pol i ti cal parti ci pati on i n the new
democrati c i nsti tuti ons, but al so as a massi ve sou rce of new recrui ts. I n
order to fu ncti on as part of a l arger machi ne, however, these masses
wou l d need to be "processed" by means of novel methods of dr i l l and
exerci se and conti nuous observati on and exami nati on, whi ch al one cou l d
transform these human raw materi al s al ready possessed of nati onal i sti c
fervor i nto effi ci ent components of a new combi natori al cal cu l us i n t he
battl efi el d (e. g. , the tacti cal system of Jacques-Antoi ne de Gu i bert). 9
o
Both t he meshwork of di al ects and t he superi mposed hi erarchi cal
standard l anguages were affected i n a vari ety of ways by these two soci al
proj ects. Around 1 760 ( i n France as wel l as i n ot her cou ntri es), di al ectal
vari ati on came to be seen not as a questi on of i nferi or rati onal ity rel ati ve
to the standards, but as a probl em of the state: an obstacl e to uni fi ca­
ti on and nati onal consol i dati on, a potenti al sou rce of l ocal resi stance to
i ntegrati on i nto t he l arger soci al body. Du ri ng the French Revol uti on, t hi s
new atti tude toward l anguage l ed t o i ntol erance, not onl y toward ari sto­
crati c Lat i n, but al so toward t he di al ects and patoi s (di al ects wi thout a
wri ti ng system) t hat t he maj ori ty of French ci ti zens spoke, but whi ch now
represented provi nci al i sm and backwardness to the Pari si an el i tes. Thi s
l i ngu i sti c chauvi ni sm was expressed t hus by a revol uti onary i n 1 794:
"Federal i sm and su persti ti on speak Breton; emi grati on and hatred of t he
Repu bl i c speak German; t he cou nterrevol uti on spea ks I tal i an, and fanati ­
ci sm speaks Basque. "91 Du ri ng these t ur bul ent yea rs, speaki ng French
came t o be seen as a pol i ti cal act, an expressi on of pat ri oti sm. Revol u­
ti onari es were di vi ded as to what cou nted as "pol i ti cal l y correct" French
(t he sanscu l ottes wanted i t "brutal and vul gar, " whi l e the l eaders of the
French nati onal assembl y preferred i t "free, bol d and manl y"), but they
were u n i ted i n t hei r common di strust of t he di al ects, whi ch t hey bel i eved
the enemy mi ght use to fragment and margi nal i ze the masses. 9
2
The study of Greek and Lati n i n school was vi ewed by revol uti onari es
as a transmi ssi on of dead knowl edge t hrough dead l anguages and was
eventual l y forbi dden. ( Napol eon, a cl assi ci st hi msel f, wou l d rei nstate the
i nstructi on of Lati n i n school s l ater on. ) The cou nterrevol uti on, on the
ot her hand, defended Lati n on t he grou nds that i t al l owed the dead to
speak to t he l i vi ng, t hus provi di ng cont i nu ity wi th t he cl assi cal past, a
230
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
conti nu ity t hreatened by the ri si ng vernacu l ars. Behi nd thi s st ruggl e over
t he rel ati ve meri ts of maj or l anguages (both si des despi sed mi nor l an­
guages), there was a phi l osophi cal atti tude toward l anguage in general
that fou nd expressi on i n t hese years and l ai d the fou ndati on of the di s­
pute. The i dea that t he structu re of l anguage determi nes t he struct ure of
percepti on may have ori gi nated wi t h Di derot and Condi l l ac, and i t fi rst
acqui red pol i ti cal overtones duri ng t he French Revol uti
q
n. Bot h si des
took thi s i dea very seri ously. The revol uti onari es fou nd covert, oppres­
si ve meani ngs hi di ng behi nd ol d words (especi al l y behi nd ari stocrati c
ti tl es and names) and added to t hei r pol i ti cal agenda the "rel anguagi ng"
of everyt hi ng, from t he French cal endar to pl ace- names. The cou nter­
revol uti on, on its si de, saw its enemi es as "d ru n k on syl l abl es; ri oti ng i n
an orgy of words, i ssui ng from suffocati ng ri vers of speeches, books
and pamphl ets. "93 A fu ndamental mi sunderstandi ng of the meani ng of
certai n words (e. g. , egaJite, volonte), the royal i sts bel i eved, had shaped
t he revol uti onari es' t hought processes and di storted thei r percepti on
of t hi ngs.
Whatever the meri ts of t hi s vi ew of the natu re of l anguage and percep­
ti on, a nati onal l anguage was fel t necessary because onl y t hrough l i ngui s­
t i c u nity coul d t he emergi ng el i tes mobi l i ze t he masses for peace and for
war. A u n i form means of commun i cati on was needed to transmi t t he new
pol i ti cal i deal s to t he peopl e and al l ow t hei r parti ci pati on i n a nati onal
pol i ti cal process. I t was al so necessary as a means of exhortati on (to t ap
i nto t he human reservoi r by mani pul ati ng nati onal i sti c feel i ngs) and as an
i nstrument of command i n t he army. Thi s l atter task became even more
i mportant as Napol eon transformed warfare from t he dynasti c duel s
typi cal of t he ei ghteenth centu ry to t he ki nd of "total war" wi th whi ch we
are fami l i ar today, a form of warfare i nvol vi ng t he compl ete mobi l i zati on
of a nati on's resources. I n thi s regard, one of the most i mporta nt "i n no­
vati ons" of t he Revol uti on was t he creati on of a recru i tment system t hat
amou nted to u n i versal conscri pti on or compul sory mi l i tary servi ce. 94
The transformati on of the French popul ati on i nto a human reservoi r to
be mobi l i zed for total war was i ni ti ated by an i nsti tuti onal speech act, a
decree i ssued by t he Nati onal Conventi on i n August 1793:
. ' . al l Frenchmen are permanentl y requ i si ti oned for servi ce i nto the armi es.
You ng men wi l l go forth to battl e; marri ed men wi l l forge weapons and
transport mu ni ti ons; women wi l l make tents and cl othi ng and serve i n hos­
pi tal s; chi l dren wi l l make l i nt from ol d l i nen; and old men will be brought to
the pu bl i c squares to arouse the cou rage of the sol di ers, whi l e preachi ng
the u nity of t he Repu bl i c and hatred agai nst ki ngs. 95
231
3: MEMES AND NORMS
Of cou rse, as wi th a l l speech acts, thi s decree' s power to catal yze a
major soci al change depended on many nonl i ngu i sti c factors, such as the
exi stence of a growi ng u rban popul ati on wi thout cl ear economi c prospects
and an admi n i strati ve apparatus capabl e of hand l i ng the bu rea ucrati c
tasks demanded by such a massi ve mobi l i zati on. 96 The efficacy of t he
decree al so depended on an i ntensi fi cati on of the uses of di sci pl i ne,
su pervi si on, and exami nati on. A si mi l ar remark can be made about the
i nsti tuti onal speech acts that abol i shed the use of Lati n and no n-Pari si an
di al ects d u ri ng the Revol uti on. I n parti cu l ar, the "Frenchi fi cati on" of the
provi nces was not a proj ect t hat cou l d be real i sti cal l y carri ed out at the
end of the ei ghteenth centu ry, becau se there was yet an i nsuffi ci ent n u m­
ber of teachers. (Thi s process wou l d have to wai t about a hundred years,
unti l 1881-1884, when pri mary ed ucati on i n standard French was made
c
Ompul sory.97) Add i ti o nal l y, school s had to be tra nsformed i nto di sci pl i ­
nary i nsti tuti ons, a sl ow process that had begu n before the Revol uti on.
Throughout the ei ghteenth and ni neteenth centu ri es, school s evol ved wi th­
i n a compl ex i nsti tuti onal ecol ogy (th at i ncl uded hospi tal s and barracks,
pri sons and factori es), i ncreasi ng thei r use of wri ti ng to record i ndi vi d ual
di fferences, of repeti ti ve exerci ses for both trai ni ng and pu ni shment, and
of a system of command based on si gnal s that tri ggered i nstant obedi ­
ence. As Foucaul t observes, "The trai ni ng of school -chi l dren was to be
ca rri ed out i n t he same way [ as i n t he army] : few words, no expl anati on,
a total si l ence i nterru pted onl y by si gnal s - bel l s, cl appi ng of hands, ges­
t ures, a mere gl ance from the teacher. "98
One s houl d be carefu l , however, about extrapol ati ng Foucau l t's fi ndi ngs
to other countri es, because ei ghteenth-century France was a pi oneer i n
t hi s regard . Her arsenal s and armori es were at t hi s t i me devel opi ng one
of t he key el ements of mass prod ucti on ; her l anguage academy was t he
worl d's l eadi ng standardi zi ng i nsti tuti on; and, fi nal ly, most other nati ons
i mpl emented democrati c i nsti tuti ons and repl aced t hei r a ri stocraci es wi th
meritocraci es wi t hout pai nfu l revol uti ons and over much l onger peri ods
of ti me. Engl and (where t hese cha nges were effected onl y after seven
decades of soci al reform, 1832-1902) i s i l l ustrati ve here preci sel y because
i t i nvol ved such di fferent condi ti ons. I n parti cul ar, a key el ement of the
process of nati on bui l di ng -one that Fra nce was l ate i n i mpl ementi ng­
was the creati on of a n ati onwi de market. As we observed i n the fi rst chap­
ter, u nl i ke l ocal and even regi onal markets, nati onal markets were not
sel f-organi zed mes hwo rks but i nvol ved a good deal of command el ements
emanati ng from the capi tal ci ty. I f Pari s pl ayed the rol e of i ntel l ectual hot­
house, where the i deas and energy behi nd the Revol uti on accumu l ated
and synthesi zed , London pl ayed the rol e of a huge economi c mach i ne
232
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
ani mati ng trade fl ows t hroughout Engl and. Bot h capi tal s were u l ti matel y
parasi ti c, and yet t hey were al so essenti al to the process of forgi ng a uni ­
fi ed, hi erarchi cal nati onal entity out of a meshwork of provi nces and
regi o ns:
These towns . . . re presented enormous expenditu re. Thei r economy was
onl y bal a nced by outsi de resou rces; others had to pay for thei r l uxu ry. What
use were they therefo re, in the West, where they sprang up and asserted
themsel ves so powerful l y? The answer i s that they produced the modern
states, an enor mous tas k requ i ri ng an enormous effort. They produced the
nati onal mar kets, without whi ch the modern state woul d be a pure fi cti on.
For, i n fact, the Bri ti s h market was not bor n sol el y of the pol i ti cal uni on of
Engl and wi th Scotl and ( 1 707), or t he Act of Un i on wi th I rel and ( 1801) , or
because of t he abol i ti on of so many tol l s . . . or because of the speedi ng up
of transport. . . . I t was pr i mari l y t he resul t of t he ebb and fl ow of merchan­
di se to and from London, an enormous demandi ng central nervous system
whi ch caused everythi ng to move to i ts own rhythm, overtu rned everythi ng
and quel l ed everythi ng. 99
Here, too, we fi nd the same combi nati on of i nsti tuti onal speech acts
i nstantl y creati ng pol i ti cal un i ons or destroyi ng economi c obstacl es (tol l s),
and an energeti c and materi al process (i nte nsi fi ed trade fl ows) sustai ni ng
the effi ci ency of those l i ngui sti c catal ysts. The most i mportant form of
merchandi se fl owi ng from London i n the ei ghteenth centu ry, i n terms of
i ts effect on l i ngui sti c materi al s, were the "l i ngu i sti c engi neeri ng" devi ces
consti tuted by aut hori tati ve (and authori tari an) di cti onari es, grammars,
and gui des to proper pronunci ati on. Unl i ke i n France, t hese woul d not be
the product of gover nment i nsti tuti ons (academi es) but of i ndi vi dual s tak­
i ng advantage of the emergi ng nati onal market, whi ch ampl i fi ed t hei r
efforts as much, or more, than any nati onwi de orga ni zati on cou l d. These
devi ces, perhaps best i l l ustrated by Samuel Johnson's di cti onary of 1755,
had a l ong- l asti ng effect on the Engl i sh sou p of l i ngu i sti c repl i cators,
i ncreasi ng i ts homogen i zati on and the subordi nati on of al l ot her di al ects
to the wri tten standard of London. The soci al dynami c of London and
ot her l arge towns, where t he mi ddl e cl ass was growi ng i n nu mber and
i mportance, greatl y faci l i tated t he penetrati on of these devi ces, si nce, as
we observed earl i er, i t i s i n SOCi al l y mobi l e cl asses t hat t he pressures
from soci al networks to preserve l ocal l i ngu i sti c patter ns as badges of
i denti ty are at thei r weakest.
When Dr. Johnson pu bl i shed the fi rst edi ti on of hi s d i cti onary, London
had al ready experi enced a whol e century of authori tari an atti tudes
233
3: MEMES AND NORMS
toward l anguage, mostl y i nspi red by wri ters such as J ohn Dryden,
Dani el Defoe, and Jonat han Swi ft. These wri ters pu bl i cl y decri ed t he
"corru pti on" of the Engl i sh l anguage by spontaneous l i ngui sti c change
and l amented the l ack of an academy on the French model to protect
the "pu ri ty" of the l anguage by fi xi ng i t i n its pure state for al l ti me.
(Defoe, for i nstance, wanted to make the coi ni ng of new words as cri mi ­
nal as coi ni ng money. )
l
OO
But not hi ng came of these cal l s for l i ngu i sti c
reform u nti l Dr. Johnson's di cti onary codi fi ed the l exi cal featu res of Eng­
l i sh, that i s, recorded " reputabl e" vocabu l ary and exh i bi ted "correct"
pronu nci ati on patter ns:
So strong was t he soci al i nfl uence of Dr. Johnson that hi s work became
synonymous wi th the word dictionary itsel f, and the di cti onary domi nated
Engl i sh l etters for over a centu ry and remai ned in use u nti l 1900. One mea­
sure of the di ctatori al power of lithe Di cti onary" i s the fact that a Bi l l was
thrown out of Parl i ament i n 1880 si mpl y because one of its words had not
been recorded by Dr. Johnson. Thi s mysti cal power soon extended to ot her
di cti onari es i n the l atter hal f of the ei ghteenth centu ry, especi al ly wi th
regard to proper pronu nci ati on. Speakers of mi ddl e-cl ass di al ect, eagerl y
engaged i n soci al cl i mbi ng, wanted authoritative keys to the arti cul ati ons of
pol ite soci ety. As a resul t of thi s ready-made market, pronunci ati on dictio­
nari es thri ved duri ng the l ast three decades of the eighteenth century.
10l
A few years after Dr. Joh nson's di cti onary was u n l eashed on t he popu­
l ati on of l i ngu i sti c repl i cators, decreasi ng the i ntensi ty of thei r vari ati on, a
se ri es of nor mati ve and prescr i pti ve grammars began to be pu bl i shed
wi th the ai m of reduci ng the syntacti c habi ts of London 's u pper cl asses to
a set of codi fi ed pri nci pl es. Al t hough by today's sta ndards t hei r efforts
were not sci enti fi c (t hey used synt heti c Lati n grammar as a ki nd of " uni ­
versal grammar" to codi fy Engl i sh, whi ch had al ready become an analyti c
l angu age), the earl y grammars had a great i mpact i n t hei r ti me and many
of t hei r prescri pti ons and proscr i pti ons (e. g. , di scou ragi ng the endi ng of
sentences wi t h prepOSi ti ons and the spl i tti ng of i nfi ni ti ves) are sti l l wi t h
us today.
102
Toget her with di cti onari es, these mechan i cal l y reproduced
sets of norms furt hered the London standard's domi nati on of ot her di a­
l ects. However, much as standard French woul d need to wai t for compUl ­
sory pri mary school to become a true homogeni zi ng force, so wou l d
standard Engl i sh remai n a coexi sti ng (i f more presti gi ous) norm u nti l
1870, when pr i mary school i ng was decl ared "uni versal " and chi l d ren
began to l earn Engl i sh twi ce: once as a l i vi ng l anguage at home and agai n
as a set of codi fi ed r ul es at school .
234
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
Thus, i n the ei ghteenth and ni neteent h centu ri es, standard French and
Engl i sh conti n ued t o wi den t hei r power base at home. They al so began,
vi a col oni al i sm and conquest, t o spread around the wor l d. At t hi s poi nt,
despi te the growi ng si ze and power of the Bri ti sh Empi re, Engl i sh was sti l l
i nferi or t o French (and even t o I tal i an and Spani sh) i n terms of i nterna­
ti onal presti ge. But thi s woul d soon change, and duri ng the fol l owi ng cen­
t ury the number of Engl i sh speakers i n the worl d woul d ri se sharpl y
(al most tri pl i ng between 1868 and 1912), as woul d i ts rank i n the gl obal
pyrami d of col oni al i st standards.
10
3 Eventual l y (i n ou r own centu ry), Eng­
l i sh wou l d chal l enge French for the rol e of "worl d standard. " But even
before the twenti eth centu ry, the col oni al competi ti on among the Eu ro­
pean powers - and the concomi tant spread of t hei r l anguages t hroughout
the worl d -was al ready an i mportant el ement of a process t hat woul d
eventual l y l ead to gl obal confrontati on.
Western col oni al i sm was reprod uci ng, on a worl dwi de scal e, t he condi ­
ti ons i n whi ch Eu rope fou nd i tsel f at the tur n of the mi l l enni um. I nstead
of one i mperi al standard (wri tten Lati n) i mmersed i n a compl ex mi xture
of vernacu l ars, now a vari ety of standards (fi rst Spani sh, Portuguese, and
Dutch and l ater on Engl i sh and French) coexi sted and i nteracted wi th an
even more vari ed combi nati on of l ocal l anguages. The si tuati on was not,
of course, exactl y anal ogous si nce the sou p of l i ngui sti c materi al s sur­
roundi ng wri tten Lati n was l argel y made u p of di vergent forms of spoken
Lati n , whi l e i n the centuri es between 1500 and 1900 Eu ropean l anguages
came i nto contact wi th popu l ati ons of norms whi ch had been shaped and
scu l pted by di sti nct and di verse hi stori cal forces. Fu rt hermore, the num­
ber of di fferent contact si tu ati ons that were created du ri ng these cen­
tu ri es exceeded t hose t hat exi sted when the Roma nce l anguages were
formi ng. Thus, whi l e commerci al contacts i n bot h peri ods produced trade
pi dgi ns (Medi terranean Sabi r and Chi nese pi dgi n Engl i sh, respecti vel y),
onl y t he second peri od produced si tuati ons where new stabl e l anguages
coul d crystal l i ze. I ndeed, as Del l Hymes has sai d of modern pi dgi ns and
creol es:
Thei r very existence i s l argely due to the processes -di scovery, expl orati on,
trade, conquest, sl avery, mi grati on, col oni al i sm, nati onal i sm -that have
brought the peopl es of Europe and the peopl es of the rest of the worl d to
share a common desti ny. More than any vari ety of l anguage, they have
been part of these acti vi ti es and transformati ons . . . . And whi l e these l an­
guages have come i nto bei ng and exi sted l argel y at the margi ns of hi stori cal
consci ousness -on tradi ng shi ps, on pl antati ons, i n mi nes and col oni al
armi es, often u nder the most l i mi ti ng or harshest of condi ti ons -thei r very
235
3: MEMES AND NORMS
ori gi n and devel opment u nder such condi ti ons attests to fundamental char­
acteri sti cs of l anguage and human nature. 104
Sl ave pl a ntati ons are perhaps u ni que among t he di fferent contact si tu­
ati ons generated by the expa nsi on of Europe. Pl a ntati ons became veri ta­
bl e "l i ngui sti c l aboratori es" where brand- new l a nguages were produced
out of el ements of Afri ca n di al ects and a streaml i ned versi on of a maj or
Europea n l a nguage. As we a rgued above, far from bei ng "corru pt i ons" of
the master's l a nguage, pi dgi ns must be vi ewed as creati ve adaptati ons
devel oped by t he sl aves t hemsel ves i n order to commun i cate wi th each
ot her. As one l i ngu i st poi nts out, "Al l t he earl y accou nts (dati ng from t he
ei ghteenth century i n Jamai ca, for exampl e) report t hat t he wh i te pl ant­
ers and t hei r fami l i es were l earn i ng the creol e from t he sl aves, not vi ce
versa. " 10
5 Sl aves needed to i nvent t hei r own l i ngua fra nca because pl anta­
ti on owners del i beratel y purchased Afri ca ns wi th di fferent l i ngui sti c back­
grou nds to prevent t hem from communi cati ng wi th one another, hence
reduci ng t he ri sk of i nsu rrecti on .
So far I have been usi ng t h e term pidginization t o refer t o a n y process
of reducti on or si mpl i fi cati on of l i ngui sti c resources, i ncl udi ng the conver­
si on of a synt heti c i nto an anal yti c l anguage. Al though t here are l i ngu i sts
who use the term i n t hi s sense (e. g. , Wi l l i am Samari n
l06
), Hymes has
obj ected t hat si mpl i fi cati on al one cannot accou nt for the bi rth of (more or
l ess) stabl e e nti ti es, such as the precursors of Jamai can Engl i sh and Hai t­
i an French. Hymes adds t he requi rements that t he n ew, si mpl i fi ed pi dgi n
be used by several grou ps (each wi th its own mot her tongue di sti nct from
the pi dgi n) and t hat t here be an admi xtu re of l i ngu i sti c materi al s from
di fferent sou rces. To t hi s i t shoul d be added t hat the l anguage bei ng
pi dgi ni zed - i n the case of pl a ntati ons, t he master' s l anguage -must be
absent bot h as a sou rce of sti gmati zat i on and as a reference model . That
i s, t he crystal l i zat i on of a pi dgi n i nvol ves a barri er (geographi cal or soci al )
t hat di stances t he emergi ng enti ty from t he conservati ve tendenci es of
the presti gi ous target l anguage. Onl y u nder t hese condi ti ons ca n a pi dgi n
achi eve autonomy from t he domi nant norm, and it is t hi s autonomy t hat
defi nes it as a separate entity.
107
Anot her di fference between t he pi dgi ns generated by European col o­
ni al i sm and t hose t hat emerged (before and after) as t rade j argons is t hat
t he pl antati on pi dgi ns, after t hei r sl ave speakers became free, soon
evol ved i nto more du rabl e enti ti es cal l ed "creol es. " One way i n whi ch pi d­
gi ns avoi d exti ncti on i s preci sel y by reen ri chi ng t hemsel ves wi th many of
the redu ndant feat ures el i mi nated duri ng the si mpl i fi cat i on process and
by di versi fyi ng i n t he nu mber and type of uses t hey can be put t o. Accord-
236
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
i ng to one i mportant t heory of creol i zati on, recogni zi ng that many pl a nta­
ti on creol es are a one-generati on process, chi l dre n pl ay a cruci al rol e i n
a creol e's recompl exi fi cati on. Chi l dren's abi l i ty t o do t hi s may be expl ai ned
as deri vi ng from i nternal l i ngu i sti c structu res ( i . e. , Chomsky's robot) t hat
a re uni versal to al l l a nguages and expressed most fu l l y i n t he cri ti cal
yea rs of chi l d hood when l anguage acqui si t i on i s easi er. (Thi s i s the cu r­
rent expl a nati on for t he creol i zati on of Hawai i an pi dgi n, for exampl e. )
108
On t he ot her hand, t he rol e of chi l dren i n t he creol i zati on of pl antat i on
pi dgi ns may be expl ai ned i n t er ms of sOci ol i ngui sti c constrai nts. Gi ven
that adu l ts who have j ust u ndergone t he tra nsi ti on from sl avery to free­
dom ca nnot be expected to feel a great deal of l oyalty to t hei r pi dgi n
(wh i ch was not a badge of l ocal i denti ty), t hey do not be have toward i t as
a tradi ti onal norm to be preserved. Therefore, as they transmi t t hese
norms to t hei r offspri ng t hey exert very l i ttl e effort to suppress novel
utterances, so that many nonstandard words or phrases su rvi ve and are
eventual l y used to reen ri ch t he pi dgi n.
10
9 As usual , we may expect com­
pl ex and va ryi ng mi xtu res of t hese and ot her factors to be responsi bl e for
speci fi c creol es around the worl d. More i mporta ntl y, varyi ng mi xtures of
factors wi l l be acti ve i n di fferent regi ons of the same cou ntry, as i n t he
separate pl antati ons of Jamai ca. When one speaks of t he crysta l l i zati on
of a creol e (or a pi dgi n) as a separate e nti ty, one must al so keep i n mi nd
that t hese novel enti ti es are sti l l part of a conti nuum of di al ects, much
as nonstandard Engl i sh or Fr ench are i n t hei r home cou ntri es. Therefore,
to speak of Jamai can or Hai ti an creol e i s to refer to that segment of a
conti n u u m of vari at i on whi ch exhi bi ts t he maxi mum di vergence "from t he
standard but whi ch i s sti l l con nected t o ot her porti ons of t he meshwork.
l1o
Today, t he majori ty of creol e speake rs l i ve i n t he Cari bbean I sl ands
(about si x mi l l i on), al t hough t here are al so smal l er popu l at i ons i n western
and sout her n Afri ca and southern and sout heast Asi a. The Cari bbean i s
nu meri cal l y domi nated by French- based creol es, but a mi l l i on and a hal f
Jamai can creol e speakers speak an Engl i sh-based di al ect. The absence
of Spani sh a nd Portuguese creol es i n t hi s regi on is puzzl i ng, gi ven t hat
t hey are wi del y spoken i n Asi a and that Spai n and Portugal 's presence i n
t he Cari bbean antedates by more t han a centu ry t he arri val of t he French
and Bri ti sh. (Papi amento i s t he onl y exampl e of a Spani sh- Portuguese
creol e, but i t i ncorporates so many Dutch and Engl i sh el ements t hat i t i s
al most a creol i zed Esperanto. )
1
11
The hi stori an Si dney W. Mi ntz offers one expl a nati on for t hi s apparent
anomal y i n terms of t he demographi c and soci al condi ti ons t hat sus­
tai nedjhe speci al contact si tuat i on outl i ned above. As he says, pl anta­
ti ons were not real commun i ti es but soci al l y arti fi ci al col l ocati ons of
237
3: MEMES AND NORMS
sl aves and masters the pol i ti cal basi s of whi ch was raw physi cal force.
I n t he Cari bbean, pl antati ons were part of a repeopl i ng of "popu l ati on
vacu ums" created by European weapons and di seases. Al l pl a ntati ons i n
Ameri ca had t hi s i n common. But there were di fferences as wel l : "Gener­
al l y speaki ng, the Hi spano-Cari bbean col oni es were never domi nated
demographi cal l y by i n habi ta nts of Afri can ori gi n; moreover, i n those
col oni es movement from the soci al category of ' sl aves' to that of ' free­
men' was al most al ways relatively rapi d and relatively conti n uous. "1l2
By
t he ti me t he nu mber of Afri can sl aves i ncreased si gni fi cantl y in Spai n's
col on i es ( I ate-ei ghteent h-centu ry Cuba and Puerto Ri co), the i sl ands
had al ready ceased to be popu l ati on vacuums and were now peopl ed by
speakers of Spani sh.
These di fferences (demographi c composi ti on and degree of soci al
mobi l ity) di rectl y affected the condi ti ons under whi ch stabl e enti ti es arose.
The more numerous the sl ave popu l ati on rel ati ve to the masters and the
sl ower t he " phase transi ti on" from sl avery to freedom, the more di stant
and i naccessi bl e the domi nant l i ngu i sti c norm woul d be for the sl aves,
a ci rcu mstance t hat promoted the autonomy of the pi dgi ns and creol es.
Ot her ci rcumstances were al so " barri ers" to the nor m, such as the atti ­
tude of the whi te col oni sts toward t hei r homel and. "Whereas the Spani sh
settl ers i n Cuba and Puerto Ri co soon came t o vi ew t hemsel ves as
Cubans or Puerto Ri cans, t he French and Bri ti sh col oni sts apparentl y
tended to see t hemsel ves as Europeans i n temporary exi l e. "II3 One factor
affecti ng t hi s atti tude was t he ri gi dity of admi ni strati ve control exe rci sed
by t he capi tal s and metropol i ses of Eu rope: the more ri gi d and u n com­
promi si ng t he col on i al pol i cy, t he easi er for t he col oni sts t o establ i sh a
l ocal i dentity. Thi s i n t ur n may have affected other factors, such as the
growt h of an i ntermedi ate mul atto cl ass, whi ch depended on t he readi ness
of the col oni sts to mi x raci al l y ( hi ghest among the Spani sh, l owest among
t he Bri ti sh, wi th t he French i n an i ntermedi ate posi ti on). These i nte rmedi ­
ate cl asses (and thei r l i mi ted but real soci al mobi l ity) affected the soci ­
ol i ngui sti c si t uati on, decreasi ng the focus of the transmi ssi on of l i ngu i sti c
repl i cators and hence the ease wi th whi ch the emergent norms cou l d
become autonomous.
I n su mmary, whi l e t he di al ects of Par i s and London wer e bei ng arti fi ­
ci al l y frozen t hrough standardi zati on i n t hei r home cou ntri es, el sewhere
t hei r consti tuti ve nor ms were bei ng operated on by those u nder Europe's
col oni al r ul e, produci ng t he opposi te resul t. That i s, whi l e academi es (or
the combi nati on of nati onal markets and l i ngu i sti c engi neeri ng devi ces)
were consol i dati ng a pyrami d of di al ects i n Europe, the major European
l anguages at t he top of t hose hi erarchi es were bei ng rescul pted and
238
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
adapted for di fferent pu rposes by mi nori ti es a round the wor l d, resu l ti ng
i n a conti nuum of vari ati on of whi ch t he crystal l i zed creol es represented
onl y one (maxi mal l y di vergent) segment. As we move on i nto the ni ne­
teenth centu ry, other contact si tuati ons created mi xtu res of factors and
i nteracti o ns between l ocal and European l anguages whi ch resul ted i n di f­
ferent appropri ati ons of Engl i sh and French. Duri ng t he ni neteenth cen­
tury, the conti nent t hat u nderwent t he most i ntense form of col oni al i sm
was Afri ca, whi ch was carved u p between Bri tai n, Fr ance, Germany, and
other Eu ropean powers. These cou ntri es assumed control of di fferent
regi ons, most of whi ch were l i ngu i sti cal l y heterogeneous, encl osed t hem
wi t hi n arbi trary borders (that i s, fronti ers cutti ng across preexi sti ng
eth ni c and tri bal bou ndari es) , and i mposed thei r l a nguage as t he offi ci al
tongue of col oni al admi n i strati on.
Much as di fferi ng atti tudes toward admi ni strati ve pol i cy resu l ted i n
di fferent l i ngui sti c outcomes i n t h e case of pl antati on creol es, so, too, i n
t he conquest of Afri ca: Engl and ( and Germany) fol l owed a pol i cy of " i ndi ­
rect ru l e, " accordi ng to whi ch exi sti ng i nsti tuti ons wer e al l owed to sur­
vi ve and were used to govern t he col ony; France, on t he other hand, was
more i ncl i ned to export her own i nsti tuti ons i nto her col oni es. These di f­
ferent atti tudes were al so refl ected i n t he (expl i ci t or i mpl i ci t) l i ngui sti c
pol i ci es of t he conqueri ng powers. The Fre nch projected thei r l anguage
(whi ch t hey bel i eved to embody u n i versal val ues of cl ari ty and rat i onal ity)
wi th mi ssi onary zeal , whi l e t he Germans were contemptuous t hat "l esser
breeds" woul d express t hemsel ves i n German and t herefore di d not export
t hei r l anguage to t he col oni es. Engl a nd was i ntermedi ate between t he
two, not acti vel y promoti ng Engl i sh but wi l l i ng to bestow i t o n t he el i tes of
t he regi ons u nder her ru l e. For t he same reasons, t he Fr ench empha­
si zed assi mi l ati on and hence were much l ess tol erant of l ocal l anguages
(and cul tu re), whi l e t he Bri ti sh and Germans stressed soci al di stance and
al l owed t hei r l anguages to coexi st wi t h l ocal vari eti es. 14
The mai n di fference between t he l i ngu i sti c contact si t uati ons t hat arose
i n ni neteenth-cent ury Afri ca and those that occurred ear l i er on Cari bbean
sl ave pl antati ons i s t hat t he former di d not occur i n a popul ati onal ( and
therefore l i ngui sti c) vacu um, but rat her i nvol ved a coexi stence of di ffer­
ent peopl es and l anguages. I n parti cul ar, t he conqueri ng l i ngui sti c norms
from Europe faced t hree strong ri val s i n Afri ca: Arabi c (mostl y i n the
north), Hausa (the presti gi ous l anguage associ ated wi th t he pomp and
spl endor of t he ru l i ng el i te i n northern Ni geri a), and fi nal l y Swahi l i (a l an­
guage of creol e ori gi ns whi ch had by t hen become a l i ngua franca on so
l i ngui sti cal l y heterogeneous a conti nent). Wri tten Arabi c had, at t hi s
poi nt, t he sol i dity of a standard l a nguage, gi ven the tendency of its users
239
3: MEMES AND NORMS
to i mi tate t he l anguage of t he Koran, whose every word was su pposed
to have come di rectl y from the mouth of God. Hausa and Swahi l i were
al so " I sl ami zed" to a certai n exte nt, and yet Swahi l i , due to its rol e as a
l i ngua fra nca (and hence t he tendency of its consti tuti ve norms to repl i ­
cate across et hni c and tri bal fronti ers), was more ecumeni cal t han Hausa
or Arabi c. l5
From t he perspect i ve of the conqueri ng powers t here were two reasons
to get i nvol ved i n l i ngui sti c matters. On one hand, gover nment i nsti tu­
ti ons were i nterested i n tappi ng i nto the reservoi r of Afri can peopl es for
meni al cl eri cal posi ti ons. (Later on, duri ng the two worl d wars, t hei r i nter­
ests wou l d sh ift to converti ng t hi s reservoi r i nto a sou rce of recrui ts for
Western armi es. ) The col oni al gover nments needed, t herefore, a l an­
guage of admi n i strati on as wel l as a l anguage of command. On the ot her
hand, Afr i ca u nderwent the - most i ntense Chri sti ani zati on of any conti ­
nent after 1800, a process that i nvol ved eccl esi asti cal i nsti tuti ons (or
thei r mi ssi onary representati ves) not onl y i n t he effort to di ffuse t hei r
spi ri tual val ues among t he su bject popul ati on, but al so to spread a West­
ern-styl e educati onal system. Here t he need was twofol d: a common l an­
guage of i nst ructi on (typi cal l y a Western one) was necessary, but so too
was the el aborati on of l ocal l anguages i n order to transfor m them i nto
vehi cl es for spi ri tual commun i cati on. (Mi ssi onari es, for exampl e, devi sed
orthographi es, grammars, and di cti onari es for many Afri can vernacul ars
i n order to transl ate the Bi bl e i nto t hem and preach to the l ocal s i n t hei r
mot her tongue. ) These two di fferent forms of cu l t ural assi mi l ati on often
came i nto confl i ct: t he Bri ti s h and German pol i cy of usi ng exi sti ng i nsti tu­
ti ons to gover n meant t hat, wherever t hose i nsti tuti ons were I sl ami c,
the regi ons u nder t hei r control were off- l i mits to the Ch ri sti ani zers.
1l6
Bot h Bri tai n and Germany pi cked Swa hi l i ( i n addi ti on to Engl i sh or
German) a s t hei r l anguage of admi ni st rati on a n d command. Unl i ke
Hausa, whi ch was strongl y i denti fi ed wi th a speci fi c tri bal el i te, Swahi l i
was a mor e eth ni cal l y neutral di al ect . I t was l i kel y t he Germans i n Tan­
ganyi ka who gave Swahi l i the greatest i mpetus. Ger man mi ssi onari es
hel ped codi fy some of i ts feat u res and extend i ts uses. By 1888, news­
papers were bei ng publ i shed i n Swahi l i . The Bri ti sh, on t he ot her hand,
adopted Swahi l i i n a more subordi nate rol e (for i nstance, for use i n the
l ower cou rts, whi l e Engl i sh st i l l domi nated the hi gher cou rts). 117 The soci ­
ol i ngu i sti c si tuati on of the di fferent Afri can terri tori es al so i nf l uenced
gover nment pol i cy on l anguage. I n Tanganyi ka, where there was more
l i ngui sti c fragmentat i on (t here were no l arge ki ngdoms a round whi ch l i n­
gui sti c l oyal ti es mi ght have coal esced), Swahi l i seemed to be the onl y
choi ce. I n Kenya, t he popu l ati on was much more concentrated i nto l i n-
240
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
gu i sti cal l y homogeneous bl ocks i n the wel l -watered hi ghl ands (each bl ock
separated by l and ecol ogi cal l y u n recepti ve to European settl ement), so
t he domi nant l ocal di al ect, whatever i t happened to be, was as good a
choi ce as Swa hi l i as t he l anguage of admi ni strati on . (Thi s ambi guous rol e
wou l d l ater on have consequences for Swahi l i . After i ndependence, Ta n­
ganyi ka, now reba pti zed as Tanzani a, adopted i t as a nati onal l anguage.
Kenya di d not. )1
l8
Regardl ess of these l ocal vari ati ons, Swa hi l i was al ways subordi nate to
Engl i sh. Even i n posti ndependence Tanzani a (where street si gns, coi nage,
pu bl i c noti ces, and town meeti ngs use Swah i l i ), thi s creol e i s used onl y
for pr i mary educati on, whi l e Engl i sh remai ns t he vehi cl e for hi gher edu­
cati on and i nternat i onal commu ni cati on ( hence, i t i s t he l anguage associ ­
ated wi t h soci al mobi l ity). Al though onl y a few el i tes (e. g. , i n Li beri a)
speak Engl i sh as t hei r fi rst l anguage, i t has become the most i mportant
second l anguage i n two-t hi rds of Afri ca. Under t hese ci rcu mstances, i t
has become i mportant for Angl ophone Afri cans to appropri ate Engl i sh for
themsel ves and set it i n vari ati on so that it can evol ve i nto a creol e
u ni quel y sui ted to thei r l i ngu i sti c needs. 119
I n t he l i ngui sti c conquest of Afri ca, Engl i sh di d better t han French,
whi ch became t he second l a nguage of onl y one-thi rd of Afri can speakers.
But as i mportant as Afri ca was i n t he contest between t hese two l an­
guages, t he deci si ve battl es i n thi s ri val ry woul d be fought on other conti ­
nents. I n parti cul ar, Engl i sh became the l anguage of fou r out of fi ve
neo- Eu ropes (though i t shared the fourt h, Canada, wi th French). Because
of t he extreme ferti l ity of t hese temperate zones, Engl i sh speake rs mul ti ­
pl i ed at a si gni fi cantl y faster rate than French speakers. As i n ot her
col oni es, sett l ers i n t he United States, Austral i a, and New Zeal and rei n­
j ected t hei r col oni al l a nguage wi t h heterogeneity, as t hey entered i nto a
numbe r of di fferent contact si tuati ons t hrough whi ch l i ngui sti c i tems
from forei gn tongues penet rated Engl i sh. Settl ers adopted a nu mber of
terms, parti cul arl y names of pl aces and u nfami l i ar pl a nts and a ni mal s,
from Nati ve Ameri cans and Austral i an Abori gi nes. Yet, as happened to
Cel ti c in rel ati onshi p to Old Engl i sh, t he norms borrowed from t he subj u­
gated peopl es had a very hi gh deat h rate (e. g. , of t he 130 terms Ameri ­
can Engl i sh borrowed -From t he Al gonqui an fami l y of I ndi an l anguages,
onl y a fou rt h have su rvi ved to the present day).
120
Contact wi th col oni sts
from ot her cou ntri es (France, Spai n , and Hol l and, i n t he case of t he
United States) al so produced a fl ow of l i ngui sti c l oans of varyi ng du rabi l ­
i ty, as di d the l anguages swept i n by several waves of i mmi grati on. (Ger­
man seems to have been t he fi rst i mmi grant l anguage to have had a
mar ked i nfl uence on Ameri can Engl i sh. )
241
3: MEMES AND NORMS
However, by t he mi d ni neteenth centu ry, technol ogi cal devel opments
were worki ng agai nst t hese heterogeni zi ng forces. I n parti cul ar, t he i nten­
si fi cati on i n the speed of l ocal and gl obal communi cati ons brought about
by steam power ( i n l ocomoti ves and transocean i c s hi ps) and e l ectri city
(tel egraphs) meant t hat one i ndi spensabl e el ement i n t he creati on of new
l anguages, i sol ati on after contact, was now harder than ever to achi eve.
As we have observed, the enti ti es t hat form out of a fl ow of repl i cators
(whet her genes, memes, or norms) t hat has been sorted by sel ecti on
pressu res need t o be i sol ated from ot her repl i cati ve fl ows i n order t o con­
sol i date i nto a new e ntity. The barri ers t hat create t hese i sol ated pockets
of repl i cators can be of di fferent types. To di stance and geographi c i n­
accessi bi l ity, we must add the emot i onal barri er consti tuted by l oyalty to
a l ocal vari ant (i n dense soci al networks), the mechan i cal barri er of di ffer­
ent arti cu l atory systems ( hard-to- pronou nce forei gn words), and even
conceptual barri ers (words are not readi ly transferred to or from a l an­
guage t hat has no "words" i n t he I ndo- Eu ropean sense). The l i ngui st
Kei th Whi n nom argues t hat t hese fou r types of obstacl es to l i ngui sti c di f­
fusi on have cl ose cou nterparts i n t he case of geneti c repl i cators (ecol ogi ­
cal , behavi oral , mechani cal , and geneti c barri ers).
121
I n t he case of Ameri can and Commonweal th Engl i sh, onl y the fi rst two
barri ers (di st ance and l oyal ty) coul d have pl ayed a rol e in t he generati on
of new enti ti es, much as t hey di d centu ri es before when Mi ddl e Engl i sh
devel oped i nto fi ve di st i nct di al ects. But as shi ps, t rai ns, and tel egraphs
began to "shorten" geographi cal di stances, onl y l oyal ty t o l ocal vari ants
remai ned as a defense agai nst homogen i zati on. Under t hese ci rcu m­
stances, Ameri can Engl i sh di d not devel op i ts own strongl y i ndi vi duated
di a l ects, but on l y weakl y di fferenti ated "regi onal i sms. "
122
On a more
gl obal l evel , t he i ntensi fi ed speed of commun i cati ons meant that Bri ti sh,
Ameri can , and Commonweal t h Engl i sh (at l east i n t hei r standard ver­
si ons) woul d from now on tend to converge rat her t han di verge. I n a
sense, steam transformed Engl i sh i nto a si ngl e "nor m pool" much as i t
hel ped mi croorgani sms for m a si ngl e di sease pool . Al ongsi de t hi s l ong­
term process, however, t here were shorter-term processes t hat rei nj ected
heterogeneity i nto the di fferent pool s of l i ngui sti c repl i cators, taki ng
advantage of t he one barri er t hat had not col l apsed u nder t he wei ght of
i ndustri al i zati on: emoti onal attachment to vari ants t hat served as l ocal
i denti ty badges.
I n t he Un i ted States t here wer e di fferent versi ons of t hi s emoti onal
attachment, rangi ng from t he nat i onal i sm of Noah Webster, who between
1 783 a nd 1828 pu bl i shed grammars and spel l ers a!d t he l ocal equ i val ent
of Dr. Joh nson's aut hori tati ve di cti onary, to t he emergence of bl �ck ver-
242
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
nacul ar Engl i sh, per haps t hrough creol i zati on of a pl antati on pi dgi n . To
t hi s al ready compl ex mi xtu re of repl i cators, t he ni neteenth centu ry woul d
add yet another el ement, whi ch had both homogeni zi ng and heterogeni z­
i ng effects: the fi rst mass medi um, t he l arge-ci rcul ati on newspaper.
Al though t he one-pen ny newspaper was born i n Engl and i n 1816, t he
tendency of t he Bri ti sh gover nment t o control the press t hrough taxes
made i t hard for t hi s new medi um to spread i n London as fast as i t di d i n
New York Ci ty, where n umerous cheap newspapers began to appear i n
t he 1830s. (Freedom of t he press, a pri nci pl e fi rst codi fi ed i n t he Un i ted
States Consti tuti on , was partl y a response to efforts by the Bri ti sh col o­
ni al admi ni strati on to tax prerevol ut i onary Ameri can newspape rs. )
12
3 I n
one- penny papers such as t he New York Sun (1833) o r t he New York Her­
ald ( 1835), "cri me and scandal " j ou r nal i sm fi rst fou nd expressi on. Gi ven
t he popul ar appeal of these themes and of t he personal i zed, sensati onal ­
i sti c styl e of presentati on, t hese papers were t he fi rst t o bri ng massifica­
tion of opi ni on and commerci al adverti si ng toget her. The pr i nci pl e of
freedom of t he press was concei ved to encou rage an ol der type of news­
paper, servi ng as "the means of communi cati on between t he gover nment
and i mportant groups i n soci ety, or between members of t he same grou ps
chal l engi ng for pol i ti cal power, "1
24 and yet i n the end i t was the commer­
ci al type that came to prevai l . ( Hence, t he pr i nci pl e di d not l ead to a "free
marketpl ace" of i deas, but to a general contracti on of opi ni on. )
The very i dea of massi fi ed adverti si ng meant that l arge-ci rcu l ati on
newspapers were not i n t he busi ness of sel l i ng i nformati on t o peopl e, but
rat her of sel l i ng the attention of their readers t o commerci al concerns. I
have al ready menti oned several ways i n whi ch l anguage was used i n the
n i neteenth centu ry to tap i nto t he reservoi r of resources consti tuted by
t he growi ng urban popul ati ons in order to mobi l i ze t hem for pol iti cal par­
ti ci pati on or mi l i tary servi ce. Mass adverti si ng added yet anot her way
of expl oi ti ng thi s reservoi r, by mobi l i zi ng t hei r attenti on. At fi rst, bot h
markets and anti markets used thi s new resource, but our experi ence i n
t he twenti eth century cl earl y i ndi cates t hat bi g busi ness was soon t o be
the mai n benefi ci a ry of t hi s novel way to tap popul ati onal reservoi rs.
The new mass medi um i tsel f woul d soon j oi n the ran ks of the anti ­
market. I ndeed the onl y cl ear tendency t hat one can di scer n i n i ts two­
h u ndred-year hi story i s preci sel y a tendency toward i ncreased concen­
t rati on of ownershi p and i ncreased scal e of producti on (bot h of whi ch
th reaten t he freedom of t he press).
12
5 These tendenci es wer e al ready di s­
cerni bl e i n t he ni neteenth centu ry. On one hand, t he producti on of l arge­
ci rcul ati on papers depended on access to expensi ve tech nol ogy, such
as t he rotary press (capabl e of pri nti ng twenty thousand papers i n one
243
3: MEMES AND NORMS
hou r), new pa per- prod ucti on techni ques (wood pul p repl aced rags as the
pri nci pal raw materi al by the 1880s), and even page composi ti on vi a key­
boa rds (the Li notype of the 1890s). Thi s meant that as a busi ness, news­
paper publ i shi ng became heavi l y capi tal i zed, whi ch acted as an entry
barri er for new entrepreneu rs. Al so, the fi rst casu al ti es of ci rcul ati on
wa rs, such as the one fought by Pu l i tze r and Hearst i n the 1890s, were
often smal l newspapers.
1
26
Furt hermore, some segments of the i ndustry began to engage overtl y
i n anti competi ti ve practi ces, such as the fo rmati on of a cartel by si x New
Yo rk pa pers, whi ch resu l ted i n the formati on of the Associ ated Press i n
the 1860s, a news agency t hat monopol i zed access t o two of the l argest
Europea n news agenci es, the French Havas and the Bri ti sh Reuters.
These two agenci es i n t ur n had si gned an agreement i n 1859 (together
wi th the German news agency Wol ff) to carve u p the worl d i nto spheres
of i n fl uence, wi th each agency havi ng a vi rtual monopol y to sel l i nterna­
ti onal news servi ces to t hese capti ve markets. Reuters got the Bri ti sh
Empi re pl us Chi na and Japan. Havas acqui red co ntrol over the French
empi re and Spai n, I taly, and Lati n Ameri ca, whi l e Wol ff monopol i zed
access to Germany, Russi a, and Scandi navi a.
1
2
7 Al though the profi ts that
these agenci es generated were never great (as compa red wi th other anti ­
market i nstituti ons at the ti me), the agenci es nevert hel ess accu mul ated
a great deal of power, whi ch they exerci sed, fo r exa mpl e, by protecti ng
t hei r turf from t he nu merous nati onal news age nci es t hat were devel op­
i ng at the t i me.
The overal l effect of mass newspapers and news agenci es was homog­
eni zi ng. Newspa pers ai med t hei r presentati on to the l owest common
denomi nator, whi l e news agenci es attempted to create a prod uct that
wou ld be accepta bl e to al l t hei r subscri bers ( i . e. , newspa pers wi t h vastl y
d i fferent edi to ri al pol i ci es), whi ch meant that rat her than ai mi ng for
obj ecti vi ty t hey ai med fo r wi del y accepta bl e neutral ity. "The agenci es
assu me that a un i form ed i tori al approach i s not only possi bl e but al so
desi ra bl e. A gover nment cri si s is covered i n the same way whether it hap­
pens i n Ni geri a or Hol l and. Si mi l ar sta ndards are appl i ed whether the
story i s bei ng sent to Paki sta n or Argenti na. A si ngl e, obj ecti vely veri fi ­
abl e account of each event [whi ch i n most cases means q uoti ng a rel i abl e
offi ci al sou rce] i s the bedrock of agency reporti ng
. "
1
2
8
I t is t hi s homoge- .
ni zati on of poi nt of vi ew, ampl i fi ed by the news agenci es' gl obal reach,
that i s the real probl em wi th the agenci es today, not some overt conspi r­
acy to di ffuse "ca pi tal i st i deol ogy" t hrough the Thi rd Worl d. I n l i ngu i sti c
terms, by spreadi ng standard Engl i sh and French (and, to a l esser
degree, Ger man, Spani sh, and Arabi c), news agenci es al so i ntensi fi ed t he ·
244
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
repl i cat i ve power of the norms that make u p those l a nguages. Today, for
exampl e, the l i ngu i sti c fl ow from the Associ ated Press i s about seventeen
mi l l i on words a day, most i n Engl i sh but some i n Spani sh. Reuters emi ts
si x mi l l i on words a day, the maj ori ty i n Engl i sh but some i n French and
Arabi c, whi l e Agence Fra nce Presse (t he successor of Havas) puts out
about t hree mi l l i on French words a day
. 1
2
9
On the other hand, l arge ci rcu l ati o n newspapers (as wel l as adverti si ng
agenci es and to a l esser extent the "tel egraphi c styl e" of the news agen­
ci es) al so i nj ected heterogeneity i nto the sta ndard l anguages. Thi s i s onl y
an apparent paradox, si nce the standards that the popul ar press te nd to
"su bvert" have al ways been upper-cl ass di al ects, and, in thei r search for
wi dened appeal , newspapers tend to use words and syntax that are not
necessari l y accepted as correct by that cl ass. "Large-ci rcul ati on jour nal ­
i sm provi ded the means not only of renewi ng t he l anguage but al so of
sancti oni ng i ts col l oq u i al usage and of el evati ng the spoken sta ndard to
the wri tte n. Jour nal i sts . . . keep cl ose to the accents of the h u man voi ce
and an oral tradi ti o n co nstant ly i nforms t hei r wri ti ng. "
1
3o
The dynami cs of
thi s heterogeni zati on revol ve arou nd the fact that even the standard l an­
guage has di fferent regi sters (t he for mal , the col l oq ui al , the techn i cal ),
and when they meet "i nter nal co ntact si tuati ons" ari se. The col l oq u i al
regi ster of t he standard, for i nstance, i s i n cl ose contact wi th nonstandard
segments of l anguage, such as sl angs anq j argons. Due to these "con­
tact surfaces, " l i ngui sti c materi al s el aborated as sl ang ca n fl ow upward
t hrough t he i nformal regi ster i nto the formal . One l i ngui st predi cts, for
exampl e, t hat as a resul t of the mass medi a "sl ang wi l l rapi dly ri se to the
l evel of the col l oq ui al and t he col l oq ui al to the l evel of t he standard. As a
co nsequence of the speed-u p of acceptabi l i ty . . . a modern caval i er atti ­
tude towards new word formati ons, syntacti cal i di oms, and speci al i st j ar­
gons wi l l al so i ntensi fy. "
1
3
1
Here we shoul d bri ng the separate l i nes of our argu ment toget her.
Col oni al i sm, on one hand, and tech nol ogy, on the ot her, greatly i ntensi ­
fi ed the repl i cati ve power of the standard nor ms. Many regi ons that had
formerly housed t hei r own co mpl ex mi xtu res of l i ngu i sti c materi al s were
now homogen i zed to a certai n extent by the i nvasi on of powerf ul sta n­
dard repl i cators. For the same reason, however, the standard repl i cato rs
came i nto contact wi th ot hers t hat, despi te thei r l ow presti ge, were ca pa­
bl e of i nj ecti ng them wit h a degree of heterogenei ty. Whet her the contact
si tu ati o ns were external or i nter nal , the effect was the same: a porti on
of t he frozen standard was set i nto vari ati on agai n. Further ki nds of con­
tact wou l d soon a ppear as ni neteent h-centu ry technology bega n to affect
the soci al structu re of Europe. I n parti cul ar, the growth of i ndustri al
245
3: MEMES AND NORMS
conu rbati ons i n Engl and (a nd el sewhere) and t he mi gratory movements
from t he r ural areas t hat provi ded coal -dri ven towns wi th workers created
novel mi xt ures of di al ects as wel l as a new soci al strat um: the i ndust ri al
prol eta ri at . The l i mi ted soci al mobi l i ty of these workers and thei r need t o
devel op a l ocal i dentity i nevi tabl y affected t hei r transmi ssi on of l i ngu i sti c
n orms, creat i ng new vari eti es of spoken Engl i sh.
I n t he l ast decades of the ni neteenth centu ry, these i ndustri al masses
came to be seen as a da nge rous cl ass, the barbari ans at the gate, "crea­
t u res wi th strange anti cs and manners [who] dri fted t hrough the streets
hoarsel y cheeri ng, breaki ng i nto fat uous i rri tati ng l aughter, si ngi ng quai nt
mi l i tant songs. "
1
32 The l a nguage of t hese "barbari ans" was percei ved by
standard speakers as a nonl anguage, noi sy and di sarti cu l ated, wi th a
superabu nda nce of negati ves and a si mpl i fi ed grammar and voca bul ary.
( I n short, the same traits t hat coul d be used to i denti fy any creol e arou nd
t he worl d. ) Yet, these same masses woul d come to be percei ved as poten­
ti al al l i es (and wou l d event ual l y be granted the ri ght to vote) when Worl d
War I tran sfo rmed t he new con u rbati ons (as we! 1 as t he ol der u rban cen­
ters) i nto reservoi rs of recru i ts to be conscri pted.
Two educati on acts (one i n 1870, the ot her i n 1918) made school i ng i n
t h e standard obl igato ry (and were correctl y percei ved by defenders of
l ocal di al ects as an extermi nati ng fo rce, al ong wi th the press, rai l roads,
tour i sm, and l ater rad i o). Both acts were i nsti tuti onal responses to the
n eed to assi mi l ate the masses i nto soci ety, to make them "arti cu l ate, " so
t hey mi ght better parti ci pate i n democrati c i nsti tuti ons and understa nd
the l anguage of command i n the armed forces. The di sci pl i nary mea­
s u res envi saged by refor mers i ncl uded systemati c trai ni ng i n sta ndard
sounds (l eadi ng to u n i form pron u nci ati on), l exi cal trai ni ng (to secu re
cl ari ty and correct ness), and trai ni ng in readi ng al oud (to secu re proper
i ntonati on). Sl ang and j argon wer e vi ewed as dangerous, a "means of
conceal i ng secrets or as i ntenti onal l y u ndi gn i fi ed su bsti tutes. "133 How­
ever, t he effect of compu l sory educati on was not to erase l i ngu i sti c cl ass
d i fferences: rat her t han l earni ng the "cl assl ess" sta ndard as thei r excl u­
si ve new l anguage, st udents of worki ng-cl ass background si mpl y l earned
to swi tch codes; that i s, t hey l earned to depl oy the sta ndard in certai n
si tuati ons, whi l e switchi ng back to thei r nati ve vari ety i n t h ei r own homes
and nei ghborhoods. 134
Thus, u ni versal school i ng, col o ni al i sm, and earl y mass medi a, whi l e
extendi ng the reach of the sta ndard, al so brought i t i nto contact wi th
ot her l anguages, codes, or regi sters, ensu ri ng that i t woul d be rei nj ected
wi th heterogeneous el ements and set i nto va ri ati on agai n . Gi ven t hat non­
standard speakers show a greater creati vity i n the coi ni ng of new words
246
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
and syntacti cal con struct i ons, the contact between sta ndard and non­
standard speakers prevented sta ndard l a ngu ages from becomi ng "dead
tongues, " l i ke wri tten Lati n, and con nected t hem to fresh reservoi rs of
l i ngu i sti c resou rces. However, the mere fact that a vari ety of l i ngu i sti c
repl i cators exi sted di d not mean t hat t he exi sti ng sel ecti on pressu res
woul d al l ow these novel vari ants to reenter t he standard. I n parti cul ar,
sti gmati zati on by s peakers of t he presti gi ous sta ndard (a nd by t he i nsti ­
tuti ons t hey control l ed) often kept even badly needed repai rs from bei ng
sel ected i n :
Soci al i nfl uences o n grammati cal form may l ead to si tuati ons si mi l ar to
those ari si ng from taboo in l exi s . . . [with the di fference that] the forms
are rejected only i n the standard l anguage, and l ess i n di al ects. Si nce the
standard l anguage i s thus automati cal l y cut off from i ts normal sou rces of
repl eni shment, its grammati cal system may be l eft i ncompl ete. The best­
known exampl e i s the pronoun of the second person : the fami l i ar and less
pol ite form thou was repl aced by the ori gi nal ly pl ural you, and the gram­
mati cal system has, ever si nce, l acked the means of di sti ngui shi ng si ngul ar
and pl ural i n the second person. The reason for thi s i s not the l ack of sl ot­
fi l l ers, si nce new forms l i ke youse, youse 'uns, you all, y'all have ari sen to
complete the system in di al ect. But these forms are rejected as vul gar, and
i n pol ite Engl i sh the l ack has therefore to be remedi ed by vari ous l exi cal
means accord i ng to context and register, e. g. you people, my friends, you
chaps, those present. 135
Despi te these shortcomi ngs, i t i s obvi ou s t hat t he standa rdi zati on of
a l a nguage does offer "economi es of scal e. " One economi st argues, for
exampl e, that i n an i nsti tuti onal setti ng bi l i ngual i sm and its need for
transl ati on can be highl y i neffi ci ent, i nvol vi ng dupl i cati on of personnel
and pri nted materi al . Thi s i s parti cu l arl y true of cou ntri es wi th a compl ex
di vi si on of l abor (wi th i ts mu l t i pl i cati on of techn i cal regi sters) and a hi gh
degree of i ndustri al i zati on. 136 Standardi zati on al l ows a more effi ci ent
accumu l at i on of techni cal voca bul ary and a faster di ssemi nati on of new
l exi cal i tems across t he economy. Pol i ti cal ly, a standard l a nguage al so
offers an effi ci ent medi u m for the u ni fi cati on of a cou ntry and the tap­
pi ng of its human resou rces. As t he soci ol ogi st of l anguage Jos hua Fi sh­
man put s i t , a stan dard l anguage offers nati on bui l ders the promi se of
rapid integrative returns on a large scale. 137 I t i s beca use of these econo­
mi es of scal e that l i ngui sti c standardi zati on became a central i ssue
among nati ons l ate i n achi evi ng pol i ti cal u ni fi cati on , whet her i n t he n i ne­
teenth centu ry (e. g. , I tal y and Germany) or i n the twenti et h, when t he
247
3: MEMES AND NORMS
col on i al worl d broke down and the search for nati onal u ni fi cati-on became
i nternati onal .
Fi shman di sti ngu i shes several roads t o nati onhood. On one hand, t here
is the road that France, Engl and, and Spai n fol l owed, whi ch he cal l s the
"State-to- Nati on" strategy.
13
8
Thi s i s t he strategy fol l owed by terri tori es
where a number of central i zed (and central i zi ng) i nsti tuti ons happened to
accu mul ate over the centu ri es (a royal house, central i zed gover nment tra­
di ti ons, educati onal systems, certai n commerci al and i ndustri al patterns,
a strong u rba n capi tal to synthesi ze centuri es of shared experi ences i nto
a "grand tradi ti on"). These are the cou ntri es t hat cal l ed t hemsel ves " hi s­
tori c nati ons, " a cl ai m to l egi ti macy used to j usti fy the di gesti on of t hei r
mi nori ti es: Wel sh, Scots, and I ri sh i n Engl and; Bretons, Normans, Gascons,
and Occi tans i n Fra nce; Gal i ci ans, Catal ans, and Basques i n Spai n. On
the ot her hand, t here are those terri tori es t hat accu mu l ated i nsti tuti ons,
but i n a decentral i zed pattern ( I ta l y and Germany, and al so Greece,
Hu ngary, and Pol and). These cou ntri es fol l owed what Fi shman cal l s the
" Nati on-to-State" strategy. Here, rather than a shared i nsti tuti onal past,
eth ni c u ni queness and coherence was emphasi zed as a form of l egi ti ma­
ti on . The peopl e of these terri tori es al ready thought of t hemsel ves as a
nati on (et hni cal l y) i n t he process of bui l di ng central i zed i nsti tuti ons.
Whi l e those who fol l owed t he fi rst road tended t o emphasi ze l ogi c and
rati onal ity as t hei r cri teri a for l i ngu i sti c standardi zati on, t hose who fol ­
l owed the second route spoke of "act ual usage" and "authenti ci ty" as t he
o nly l egi t i mate measuri ng r od f or a nati onal l i ngui sti c standard. 139 Wi th
the comi ng of t he twenti eth centu ry nati on bui l di ng ceased to be a West­
ern phenomenon and became t he goal of every col ony t hat had achi eved
i ts i ndependence, of terri tori al enti ti es that had never been col oni zed
(e. g. , Tu rkey after Worl d War I ), and even of those mi nori ti es wi thi n a
state whom central i zati on had not managed to suppress ( I ri sh, Bretons).
I n al l cases, the "questi on of l anguage" pl ayed a cruci al rol e, and l ocal
l anguages (Tu rki sh), l i ngua fra ncas (Swahi l i , Mal ay), and even pi dgi ns
( New Gui nea Pi dgi n, now known as neo-Mel anesi an) became targets for
l i ngui sti c engi neeri ng and sta ndardi zati on.
Accordi ng t o Fi shman, whi ch mi xture of strategi es prevai l ed depended
on whet her t he new cou ntri es had a si ngl e u ni fyi ng tradi ti on to use for
t he l egi t i mati on of t hei r el i te's proj ects or whether t hey had several or no
tradi ti ons to rel y on. Those who cou l d appeal to a si ngl e grand tradi ti on
(Tur key, I srael , Thai l and, Somal i a, Ethi opi a)14
0
emphasi zed authenti city;
those with no tradi ti on (the Phi l i ppi nes, I ndonesi a, Tanzan i a, Cameroon), 141
rati onal ity and i nstru mental ity; whi l e t hose wi th several competi ng tradi ­
ti ons ( I ndi a, Mal aysi a), some compromi se between the twO. 142 I n al l these
248
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
cases, the process of standardi zati on (fi rst, "codi fi cati on, " or the mi ni ­
mi zati on of vari ati on, t hen "el aborati on, " the di versi fi cati on of the i nsti tu­
ti onal uses of the standard), whi ch had taken centu ri es to achi eve i n
Engl and and France, was compressed i nto a few decades.
143
Regardl ess of t hei r di fferent si tuati ons, these cou ntri es faced a si mi l ar
chal l enge as t hey engaged i n nati on bui l di ng: how t o transform t hei r pop­
u l ati ons i nto a reservoi r that cou l d be tapped for pol i ti cal , mi l i tary, and
economi c mobi l i zati on . I n the process of i ntegrati ng thei" r masses i nto a
uni fi ed nati on, they needed t he "economi es of scal e" offered by standard
l anguages. They al so needed to catch u p wi th the West as far as enri ch­
i ng t hei r vocabu l ari es to confront the compl exi ti es of new technol ogi es
and organ i zati onal strategi es (especi al l y i n t he mi l i tary, but al so i n corpo­
rati ons), and thi s they coul d do ei ther by borrowi ng words (as Engl i sh di d
centuri es ear l i er, when i t was a mi nor l anguage) or by devel opi ng the
i ndi genous word-for mi ng resou rces of thei r own standards.
Whi l e the ol d col on i es were tryi ng to achi eve t he same effi ci enci es of
standardi zati on as thei r ex-col oni al masters, t he l anguages of the two
"l i ngui sti c superpowers" (French and Engl i sh) were competi ng to become
the fi rst gl obal supe rsta ndard. Before Worl d War I I , Fr ench was wi thout
questi on the i nternati onal standard, havi ng al ready become the l anguage
of many el i tes around t he worl d and hence the most presti gi ous medi um
for di pl omati c and cul tural commun i cati on. Al though certai n setbacks i n
t h e l ate ni neteenth centu ry had di mi ni shed French presti ge (such a s t he
defeat to Prussi a i n 1870-1871 ), France had agai n emerged after Worl d
War I as t he cu l tu ral cente r of the wor l d. Because of i ts l ong-standi ng l i n­
gui sti c preemi nence, F rance had not fel t the need to create speci al i nsti ­
tuti ons to di ssemi nate i ts standard around the worl d, wi t h the possi bl e
excepti on of t he Al l i ance Frantai se, whi ch was establ i shed i n t he 1890s.
Yet, after t hei r armi es were shattered by the Nazi s and t hei r cou ntry was
i sol ated from the outsi de worl d for several years, French speakers
emerged i n 1945 to confront a di fferent l i ngu i sti c si tuati on : Engl i sh was
now the l anguage of sci ence and tech nol ogy, and i t was begi n ni ng to chal ­
l enge French as the chosen l anguage of t he worl d's el i tes. ( Russi an, too,
began to repl ace French among the Eastern Eu ropean el i tes who had
been pul l ed i nto the Sovi et sphere of i nfl uence. )l4
France's l oss of its former col oni es (Lebanon and Syri a by 1946, I ndo­
chi na by 1954, Tu n i si a and Morocco by 1956, Al geri a by 1962) was a n
added bl ow to t h e gl obal presti ge o f i ts l anguage, al though Engl i sh was
al so sufferi ng si mi l ar setbacks around the worl d. Ameri cani sms, wh i ch
had begu n to i nfi l trate Bri ti sh Engl i sh after Worl d War I , were now i nvad­
i ng Fra nce at what seemed to the French an al ar mi ng rate. "Areas of
249
3: MEMES AND NORMS
greatest i nfecti on were sports, t he worl d of beauty parl ors (magazi nes
such as £lIe), toy stores and danci ng. " 145 French grammar i tsel f was bei ng
penetrated: k and y entered some spel l i ngs, the form of the pl ural became
somewhat i nconsi stent, and affi xes such as "-rama, " "su per-, " and "auto­
" enj oyed great di ffusi on among t he French popul ati on of repl i cat i ng
norms. By t he earl y 1950s, over 20 percent of al l books were publ i shed i n
Engl i sh (l ess t han 10 percent i n French), and 50 percent of t he worl d's
newspapers and 60 percent of t he worl d' s broadcasts were in Engl i sh.
146
I n response to these ci rcu mstances, when Charl es de Gau l l e retu rned
to power, "Fr ance began to embark u pon a posi ti ve and aggressi ve pol i cy
i n regard to t he radi ati on of French. "147 I n 1966 a publ i c organi zati on
was formed speci fi cal l y to promote t he di ffusi on of French ( Haut Co mi te
pou r l a Defense de l a Langue Fran\ai se), a year after Lyndon Johnson
i naugu rated an offi ci al campai gn t o teach Ameri can Engl i sh abroad. Doc­
uments from t hese years arti cu l ate t he offi ci al stance toward l i ngui sti c
radi ati on i n the same terms i n whi ch the French l anguage had been
vi ewed si nce Lou i s XI V: a l anguage embodyi ng "eter nal val ues" (such as
cl arity and l ack of ambi gu ity) and " uni versal ity" (referri ng to a human
condi ti on beyond ti me and space). Hence, i mposi ng Fr ench on other
peopl es was not a form of l i ngui sti c i mperi al i sm but part of t he ci vi l i zi ng
mi ssi on of France, a l i berati on of t hose peopl es from t hei r backward
provi nci al i sm. 14
8
Of cou rse, gi ven t hat French is a hybri d (of Medi terran­
ean and Germani c materi al s) and t hat the Pari si an di al ect won i ts pl ace
t hrough power, t hi s l egi t i mi zi ng nar rati ve was a fabri cati on by the el i tes.
Nevert hel ess, the pol i cy pai d off: i n 1967, t hanks to the votes of France's
former Afri can col oni es, French was accepted on t he same l evel as
Engl i sh i n t he U ni ted Nati ons. ( I n 1945, to the great embarrassment and
shock of French speakers, thei r l anguage had been acknowl edged by the
U. N. as one among many, by a margi n of onl y one vote. )149
We have al ready di scussed t he di fferent col oni al i st atti tudes toward
l ocal l anguages, and noted t hat t he French general l y assumed a more
aggressi ve stance t han t he Bri ti sh or Germans. Robert Phi l l i pson's anal y­
si s of l i ngu i sti c i mperi al i sm accepts t hi s to be true i n t he case of Afri ca
but warns agai nst oversi mpl i fyi ng the qu esti on. (For exampl e, i f one com­
pares French I ndoch i na to Bri ti sh I ndi a, the rol es seemed to be reversed ,
wi th t he French di spl ayi ng more tol era nce of i ndi genous l anguages t han
t he Bri ti sh. )150 Phi l l i pson al so argues that, even t hough t he two l i ngui sti c
su perpowers have ceased to domi nate thei r former col oni es pol i ti cal ly,
t hey sti l l have homoge ni zi ng effects on t hei r cu l tu res t hrough the educa­
ti onal systems bot h superpowers are spreadi ng t hroughout the devel op­
i ng nati ons wi th fu nds from t hei r gover nments. "J ust as school s were t he
250
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
pri nci pal i nstrument for al i enat i ng i ndi genous mi nori ti es from t hei r l an­
guages and tradi ti onal cu l tu res ( as i n the case of t he Wel sh, t he Ameri ca n
nati ve peopl es, a n d t h e Aust ral i an Abori gi nes), i t i s school s i n Afri ca
whi ch are sti fl i ng l ocal l anguages a nd i mposi ng al i en tongues and val ­
ues. " 151 Al t hough Phi l l i pson admi ts t hat, u n l i ke French, no "master pl an"
for t he spread of Engl i sh was ever arti cul ated i n Bri ti sh or Ameri can i nsti ­
tuti ons, the growt h of Engl i sh teachi ng as a professi on, "mo nol i ngual and
angl oce ntri c, and [tendi ng] to i gnore the wi der context of i t s operati ons, "
produced homogeni zi ng effects i n whi ch Engl i sh t ended to repl ace or di s­
pl ace ot her l anguages. 15
2
I n addi ti on to the educati onal push, bi g busi ness fostered t he spread
of Engl i sh and French , bol steri ng thei r stat us as i nternati onal standards.
I have al ready menti oned t he i nternati onal news agenci es, t he "bi g fou r"
whol esal ers of l i ngui sti c materi al s: Reuters, AP, UPI , and t he French AFP.
(These corporati ons a l so manage l arge fl ows of i mages, but text ual news
conti n ues to be t hei r core busi ness. ) To grasp t he i ntensi ty of t he l i ngui s­
ti c fl ow t hey handl e one n eed only l ear n t hat a su bscri ber to al l fou r news
servi ces wou l d recei ve on average 300, 000 words a day. And technol ogy
is furt her i ntensi fyi ng t hi s fl ow: whi l e t he ol d Tel etype del i vered 60 words
per mi nute, today's computers and satel l i tes al l ow 1 , 200 words per mi nute
to cross cont i nents i n a format that can be fed di rectl y i nto a newspaper's
computeri zed typesetter. 153
Si nce t he ni neteenth centu ry, news agenci es have di vi ded t he worl d
among t hemsel ves: at present, francophone Afri ca bel ongs to AFP; angl o­
phone Afri ca to Reuters; Lati n Ameri ca to AP and UPI . El sewhere they
engage i n fi erce ri val ry, but of cou rse thi s i s ol i gopol i sti c competi ti on, not
real market competi ti on. The news age nci es have come to embody a true
anti market struct ure, that i s, one domi nated by manageri al hi erarchi es
and not by owne rs or t hei r representati ves. 154 Although t hey are not
engaged i n a conspi racy to promote "capi tal i st val ues" arou nd t he worl d,
t hey do have a strong homogeni zi ng effect, ari si ng from t he routi ni zati on
and standardi zati on of poi nt of vi ew (wi t h t he concomi tant di stort i ng si m­
pl i fi cati on) and, ul ti mately, from t he very form of the flow, t hat i s, a fl ow
emanat i ng from very few pl aces to a l arge n u mber of su bscri bers. Thi s
type of "floW ( a "one-to- many" fl ow) guarantees t hat t here wi l l be a smal l
n u mber of producers of t hi s type of "l i ngu i sti c product" and a l arge n um­
ber of consumers. The one-to- many str uct u re of news del i very was even­
t ual l y bui l t di rectl y i nto t he technol ogi cal i nfrastructu re used to manage
the fl ow. I n the 1 950s, for exampl e, Reuters' fi nanci al servi ces di vi si on
began t o bui l d i ts own (Tel etype-based) communi cati ons network for t he
del i ve ry of i ts product (commodi ty and stock market news). By 1963, t he
251
3: MEMES AND NORMS
I nter nati onal Fi nanci al Pri nter began operati ons, but the real takeoff di d
not occur u nti l t he sl ow, bul ky, and noi sy tel epri nte rs were repl aced by
vi deo termi nal s i n t he 1970s. ( By 1982, Reuters al one had over t hi rty
t housand ter mi nal s i n ei ghty- one cou ntri es. )155
However, by t he t i me thi s one-to- many network mat u red, other net­
works began offeri ng t he possi bi l ity of a radi cal l y di fferent paradi gm: t he
many-to-many del i very system made possi bl e by t he I nternet, the l argel y
sel f-organi zed i nternati onal meshwork of computers whi ch formed over
the past two decades. Al though the I nter net (or rat her its precu rsor, t he
Arpanet) was of mi l i tary ori gi n ( and i ts decentral i zed desi gn a way t o
make i t resi sta nt t o nucl ear attack), t he growth of i t s many-to- many struc­
t ure was not somet hi ng commanded i nto exi stence from above but an
appropri ati on of an i dea whose moment um sprang from a decentral i zed,
l argel y grassroots movement. Howard Rhei ngol d, i n hi s hi story of the
I nter net, has brought to l i ght t he way i n whi ch geographi cal l y di spersed
commu n i ti es emerged as computeri zed communi cati ons, ori gi nal l y
i ntended for techn i cal (sci e nti fi c or mi l i tary) commu ni cati on , were trans­
formed i nto a medi um su pport i ng a vari ety of di ffe rent forms of conversa­
tion. One exampl e is t he so-cal l ed Usenet, a di scussi on system ori gi nal l y
desi gned for techni cal support but qu i ckl y adapted by its users for many
ot her pu rposes:
Usenet i s a pl ace for conversati on or pu bl i cati on, l i ke a gi ant coffeehouse
wi th a thousand rooms; i t i s al so a worl dwi de di gi tal versi on of the
Speaker's Corner i n London's Hyde Park, an unedi ted col l ecti on of l etters
to the edi tor, a fl oati ng fl ea market, a huge vanity pu bl i sher, and a coal i ­
ti on of every odd speci al -i nterest group in the worl d. I t is a mass medi um
because any pi ece of i nformati on put onto t he Net has a potenti al worl d­
wi de reach of mi l l i ons. But it di ffers from conventi onal mass medi a i n
several respects. Every i ndi vi dual wh o has the abi l ity t o read a Usenet post­
i ng has the abi l ity to repl y or to create a new posti ng. I n tel evi si on, news­
papers, magazi nes, fi l ms, and radi o, a smal l nu mber of peopl e have the
power to deter mi ne whi ch i nformati on shoul d be made avai l abl e to the
mass audi ence. I n Usenet, every member of the audi ence i s al so poten­
ti al l y a publ i sher. Students at u n i versi ti es i n Taiwan who had Usenet access
and tel ephone l i nks to rel ati ves i n Chi na became a network of correspon­
dents d uri ng the 1989 Ti ananmen Square i nci dent. . . . Usenet i s an enor­
mous vol u nteer effort. The peopl e who created i t di d so vol u ntari l y and put
the software i n the publ i c domai n. The growi ng megabytes of content are
co ntri buted by vol u nteers.
1
56
252
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
The mai n effect of t he I nternet's many-to- many structu re, i n terms of
t he fate of l i ngu i sti c repl i cators, may be i ts potenti al for a demassi fi cati on
of t he popul ati on , t hat i s, i ts potenti al t o create smal l , geographi cal l y
di verse communi ti es l i n ked by common i nterests and i nfor mal conversa­
ti ons. Had the traffi c i n computer networ ks been domi nated by t he
exchange of mi l i tary or sci enti fi c i nformati on, we woul d expect t o see a
much hi gher degree of formal ity i n the norms ci rcu l ati ng t hrough com­
puters. But because the network was transformed i nto a conversati onal
medi um by i ts own users (not onl y Engl i sh speakers but French speakers
too, who transformed a one-to- many data del i very servi ce, Mi ni tel , i nto a
many-to-many chat system
1
57), we may specul ate that t he col l oqui al regi s­
ter wi l l be strengt hened by the new medi um, and t hi s despi te the fact
t hat the I nternet transports mostl y wri tten text. (For i nstance, on one
real -ti me chat system, t he I RC, correcti ng mi sspel l i ngs as one wri tes i s
consi dered bad form; hence t he enforcement of standard spel l i ng, and
even grammar, i s weak or nonexi stent. )
Whi l e the vast amou nts of l i ngu i sti c repl i cators that ci rcu l ate t h rough
t he I nter net are therefore bou nd to be col l oqu i al Engl i sh, t hey are never­
t hel ess English, whi ch rai ses a number of questi ons. On one hand, t here
is nothi ng su rpri si ng about t hi s si nce Engl i sh l ong ago (si nce at l east
Worl d War I I ) became t he i nternati onal l i ngua franca of hi gh tech nol ogy.
As one aut hor puts i t, "When a Russi an pi l ot seeks to l and at an ai r fi el d
i n At hens, Cai ro or New Del hi , he tal ks t o the control tower i n Engl i sh. " 15
8
Si mi l arly, for reasons havi ng very l i ttl e to do wi th its l i ngu i sti c properti es,
Engl i sh became the l anguage of computers, both i n t he sense that for­
mal computer l anguages t hat use standard words as mnemoni c devi ces
(su ch as Pascal or Fortran) use Engl i sh as a source and i n the sense t hat
tech ni cal di scussi ons about computers tend to be conducted i n Engl i sh
(agai n, not su rpri si ngly, si nce Bri tai n and t he U ni ted States pl ayed key
rol es i n t he devel opment of t he tech nol ogy)
. On t he ot her hand, cou nter­
i ng t he l i ngui sti c homogen izati on that thi s i mpl i es, due to its rol e as a l i n­
gu a franca, Engl i sh is bei ng changed and adapted by forei gn users i n
many di fferent ways, parti cu l arl y wh e n i t i s taken a s a sou rce of l oan
words. The Japanese are famous for t he way t hey mi ni atu ri ze what t hey
borrow from Engl i sh : "moder n gi rl " becomes "moga, " "word processor"
i s short ened to "wa- pro, " and "mass commun i cati ons" to "masu- komi . " 159
The i nternati onal communi ti es t hat today fl ou ri sh on t he I nter net may
one day create anot her Engl i sh, one where Japanese mi n i atu ri zati ons
are wel comed (and so everyone engages i n masu-koming i nstead of mass­
communi cati ng) , where pri de of the standard is seen as a forei gn emo­
ti on , where a conti nuum of neo-Engl i shes fl ou ri shes, protected from t he
253
3: MEMES AND NORMS
hi erarchi cal wei ght of "recei ved pronu nci ati ons" and offi ci al cri teri a of
correctness. Thi s woul d, of cou rse, depend on how many other cou ntri es
embrace the I nternet as a means to bui l d non nati onal (and non nati onal ­
i sti c) communi ti es. 160
But i t wi l l al so depend on what kind of international­
ism becomes predomi nant on the I nternet i tsel f. As we observed in the
fi rst chapter, as anti market i nsti tuti ons became i nternati onal they
l au nched an attack on nati onal gover nments. The central state, a cher­
i shed part ner of anti markets for so l ong, suddenl y became a ri val and
an obstacl e t o i nternati onal expansi on. Al though anti market i nsti tuti ons
had an earl y presence i n the computer meshwork, today they are set
to i nvade the I nter net wi th u n precedented force.
161
I t i s possi bl e that
the meshworks that have al ready accumul ated wi t hi n t he I nter net wi l l
prove resi l i ent enough to su rvi ve the attack and conti nue to fl ouri sh. I t i s
al so possi bl e i n the next decades that hi erarchi es wi l l i nstead accu mu­
l ate, per haps even changi ng the network back i nto a one-to-many system
of i nformat i on del i very.' The outcome of t hi s struggl e has certai nl y not
been settl ed.
Per haps t he most i mportant l esson to be l earned from t he I nter net
experi ence may be that t he possi bi l i ti es of demassi fi cati on whi ch it has
opened up have, i n a sense, very l i ttl e to do wi t h futu ri sti c tech nol ogy.
Al though many see thi s computer meshwork pri nci pal l y as a val uabl e
reservoi r of i nfor mati on, i ts mai n contri buti on may one day be seen as a
catalyst for the formati on of communi ti es (and hence as a reservoi r of
emoti onal , techn i cal , and ot her types of support). Si nce communi ti es
bound by common i nterests exi sted l ong before computers, it i s not as i f
we have now entered the next stage i n the evol uti on of soci ety (the "i nfor­
mati on age"). Rat her, computer meshworks have created a bri dge to a
stabl e state of soci al l i fe whi ch exi sted before massi fi cati on and conti nues
to coexi st al ongsi de i t. The effects of one-to-many mass medi a made thi s
adj acent stabl e state hard to reach, but they di d not l eave i t behi nd as a
"pri mi ti ve" form of organi zati on. H umani ty has never been movi ng "verti ­
cal ly" up a l adder of progress, but si mpl y expl ori ng "hori zontal l y" a space
of possi bi l i ti es prestructu red by stabl e states.
No doubt, the di ffe rent dynami cal processes that have shaped h u man
hi story are changi ng t hi s space as we move, new stabl e states appeari ng
whi l e ot hers di sappear or l ose stabi l i ty. The stabl e state defi ni ng a com­
mun ity of mut ual l y supporti ng members obvi ousl y had not di sappeared,
rat her we had dri fted away f r om i t , and computer networks may now
bri dge t hat gap. On the ot her hand, if the val ue of computer networks i s
t hi s ( nonfutu ri sti c) catal yti c rol e, thei r fut ure wort h wi l l depend enti rel y
on t he quality of the communi ti es that devel op wi t hi n t hem. Moreover,
254
LINGUISTIC HISTORY: 1700-2000 A. D.
these commu nal meshworks wi l l embrace peopl e wi th di verse pol i ti cal
i ncl i nati ons (i ncl udi ng fasci sti c communi ti es), so that the mere exi stence
of "vi rtual commun i ti es" wi l l not guarantee soci al change i n t he di recti on
of a fai rer, l ess oppressi ve soci ety. To paraphrase Del euze and Guattari ,
never bel i eve t hat a meshwork wi l l suffi ce to save US. 16
2
255
Conclusion and
Speculations'
I n terms of t he non l i near
dynami cs of ou r pl anet , t he
t h i n rocky crust on wh i ch
we l i ve and whi ch we cal l ou r
l and and home i s perhaps
t he eart h's l east i mportant
component . The crust i s, i n ­
deed, a mere harden i ng wi t h i n
t h e greater system of u nder­
grou nd l ava f l ows wh i ch , orga­
n i zi ng t hemsel ves i nto l arge
"conveyor bel ts" (convect i ve
257
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
C6' ' $) , ð |6 I ¯6 ¯¨ ð | ¯ !ðCI0| | ¯ I ¯6 96¯6$' $ 0!
I ¯6 '0$I $ð ' ' 6¯I ð¯G ð 00ð |6¯I' V G u |ð0' 6
$\ | uCIu |6$ 0! I ¯6 C|u$\V $u |!ðC6 . L| \ ¯6|
G |6C\' V, v| ð v0' Cð ¯ | C ðC\ ' v| \V, 0| ' ¯ G' |6C\| V, 0V
!0|C' ¯9 C0¯\ ' ¯6¯\ð| 0' ð\6$ I0 C0' | | G6, \ ¯6|60V
C|6ð\ ¯9 \ ¯6 9|6ð\ !0' G6G '0u ¯\ð ' ¯ |ð¯96$, ' \
' $ \¯6 $6' !· 0|9ð ¯ ' Z6G ðCI | v| \V 0! ' ðvð ! ' 0W$ \ ¯ð\
' $ ð\ \ ¯6 0|| 9' ¯ 0! 'ð¯V 960' 09| Cð| !0|¯¨ $. ' !
W6 C0¯$' G6| I ¯ð\ I ¯6 0C6ð¯ | C C| u$\ 0 ¯ W¯' C¯
\ ¯6 C0¯I ' ¯6¯\$ ð |6 6006GG6G | $ C0¯$\ð¯\' V
06| ¯9 C|6ð\6G ð ¯ G G6$\|0V6G | 0V $0' ' G| Í ' Cð\ ' 0¯
ð¯G |6 06' I ' ¯9) ð¯G I ¯ðI 6v6¯ C0¯\ ' ¯6¯\ð'
C| u$\ | $ u ¯G6| C0¯$\ð¯\ 6|0$' 0¯ $0 \ ¯ð\ ' \$
0ð\6| ' ð| $ ð|6 |6CVC' 6G | ¯\0 \ ¯6 0C6ð ¯ , \ ¯6
|0CH$ ð¯G 00u ¯\ð | ¯$ \ ¯ð\ G6! | ¯6 \ ¯6 00$\
$\ð 0' 6 ð ¯ G G u |ð0' 6 \ |ð' \$ 0! 0u | |6ð| | \V W0u | G
'6|6| V |6 0|6$6¯\ ð | 0Cð| slowing down 0! \ ¯ | $
! ' 0W| ¯9 |6ð | ' \V. ' \ ' $ ð| 00$\ ð$ | ! 6v6|V 0ð|\
0! \ ¯6 '| ¯6|ð ' W0| ' G C0u ' G 06 G6! | ¯6G $' 00| V
0V $06C' !V ¯9 ' \$ C¯60| ' Cð' C0000$' I | 0¯ ð ¯ G
' I$ speed of flow: v6|V $' 0W !0| |0CH$, !ð$\6|
!0| | ðvð .
C| '' | ð|' V, 0u | ' ¯ G' v| G uð| 00G ' 6$ ð ¯ G ¯' ¯G$
ð|6 06|6 C0ð9u ' ð\ ' 0¯$ 0| G6C6' 6|ð\ | 0¯$ | ¯ I ¯6
! ' 0W$ 0! 0' 00ð$$ , 96¯6$, '6'6$ , ð¯G ¯0|0$.
|6|6, \00, W6 0| 9¯\ 06 G6! ' ¯6G 00\ ¯ 0V \ ¯6
'ð\6|| ð' $ W6 ð|6 I6000|ð|' | V 0' ¯ G' ¯9 0| C¯ð ' ¯ ·
258
CONCLUSION AND SPECULATIONS
' ¯9 I0 0u | 0|9ð ¯ | C 00G| 6$ ð ¯ G Cu | Iu |ð | '| ¯G$
ð¯G 0V I ¯6 I ' '6$Cð ' 6 0! \ ¯6 0| ¯ G| ¯9 006|ð·
I | 0¯ . Õv6| I ¯6 '' | ' 6 ¯ ¯ ' ð , | \ ' $ \ ¯6 ! | 0W 0! 0' 0·
'ð$$ I ¯ |0u9¯ !00G W6 0$, ð$ W6| ð$ \ ¯6 ! ' 0W
0! 96¯6$ \ ´ |0u9¯ 96¯6|ðI | 0¯$, \ ¯ð\ 'ð\\6|$ ,
¯ 0\ \ ¯6 00G' 6$ ð¯G $06C 6$ \ ¯ð\ 6'6|96 !|00
\ ¯6$6 ! 0W$. Õu | ' ð¯9u ð96$ 0ðV ð| $0 06 $66¯
0v6| \ | ¯¨ 6 ð$ 00'6¯\ð|V $' 0W' ¯9 G0W¯$ 0|
\ ¯ | CH6 ¯ | ¯9$ ' ¯ ð ! ' 0W 0! ¯0|0$ \ ¯ðI 9' v6$ | | $6
I0 𠯨 u | \ | IuG6 0! G ' !!6|6¯\ $\| uCIu |6$. P¯G ð
$ ' 0' ' ð| 00' ¯\ ð00| ' 6$ \0 0u | | ¯$\ | Iu\ | 0¯$, W¯' C¯
0ðV ð' $0 06 C0¯$' G6|6G \|ð¯$' \0|V ¯ð|G6 ¯ ' ¯9$
' ¯ \ ¯6 ! ' 0W$ 0! 00¯6V, |0u\ ' ¯6$, ð ¯ G 0|6$\ ' 96 ,
ð ¯ G, | ! I ¯6V ¯ðv6 ðCG u | |6G ð 06| 0ð ¯6¯\ 0u | | G·
| ¯9 \ 0 ¯0u$6 \ ¯ 6', ' ¯ I ¯6 0| ¯6|ð' ! ' 0W$ !|00
W¯| C¯ \¯6 C0¯$\| uC\ ' 0¯ 0ð\6|' ð $ G6|| v6 .
1´ | $ 000H ¯ð$ C0¯C6| ¯6G ' \$6 ' ! W| I¯ ð ¯ ' $·
\0|| Cð| $u |v6V 0! \ ¯6$6 ! | 0W$ 0! ¨$Iu !!, ð$ W6| |
ð $ W' \ ¯ \ ¯ 6 ¯ð|G6¯ ' ¯9$ \ ¯6'$6 ' v6$, $' ¯C6
0¯C6 \ ¯6V 606|96 \ ¯6V |6ðC\ 0ðCH 0¯ \ ¯6
! ' 0W$ \0 C0¯$\|ð| ¯ \ ¯60 ' ¯ ð vð| | 6\V 0! WðV$.
P| I ¯0u9¯ \ ¯ ' $ $ ' 00' 6 $\ð\606¯I Cð 0\u |6$ \ ¯6
9| $\ 0! \ ¯6 000H, | \ 0u$\ 06 Gu ð | ' ! | 6G | ¯ $6v·
6|ð' WðV$. Õ¯ 0¯6 ¯ð¯ G, \¯6 ! | 0W$ 0! 'ð\6| | ·
ð' $ W¯0$6 ¯| $\0|V W6 G6$C|' 06G ' ¯v0' v6G 00|6
\ ¯ð¯ | u$\ 'ð\\6|· 6¯6|9V. 1¯6V ð' $0 | ¯C| uG6G
information, u ¯G6|$\00G ¯ 0\ ' ¯ $\ð\ | C \6| 0$
259
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
as mere physi cal patterns (measu red in bi ts) but in dynami c terms, as
patterns ca pa bl e of sel f-repl i cati on and cata lysi s. That i s, we have con­
si dered not onl y genes, memes, and norms, but a l so the "phenotypi c"
effects of these repl i cators, t hei r abi l i ty to tri gger i ntensi fi cati ons or
di mi nuti ons i n t he fl ows of matter-energy and t hei r a bi l i ty t o swi tch from
one stabl e state to anot her t he st ructu res that emerge out of t hese fl ows.
On t he other hand, among these structu res we di sti ngui shed coagu l ati ons
that have u ndergone a process of homogeni zati on, whi ch we cal l ed hierar­
chies (or more general ly, strata), from those wherei n heterogeneous com­
pone nts were arti cu l ated as such, whi ch we referred to as meshworks (or
more ge neral ly, self-consistent aggregates).
We repeatedl y saw that hi erarchi es and mes hworks occur mostl y in mi x­
t ures, so i t i s conven i ent to have a l abel to refer to t hese changi ng com­
bi nati ons. I f the hi erarchi cal components of the mi x domi nate over t he
meshwork components, we may speak of a hi ghl y stratified str uct ure,
whi l e the opposi te combi nati on wi l l be referred to as havi ng a l ow degree
of strati fi cati on. Moreove r, si nce meshworks gi ve ri se to hi erarchi es and
hi erarch i es t o meshworks, we may spea k of a gi ven mi xtu re as u ndergo­
i ng processes of destratification as wel l as restratification , as its propor­
ti ons of homogeneous and hete rogeneous components change. Fi nal l y,
si nce what tru l y defi nes the real worl d (accordi ng to t hi s way of vi ewi ng
thi ngs) are nei ther u ni form strata nor va ri abl e meshworks but the
u n formed and unstruct ured fl ows from whi ch these two deri ve, i t wi l l al so
be usefu l to have a l abel to refer to thi s speci al state of matter-energy
i nformati on, to thi s fl owi ng real ity ani mated from wi t hi n by sel f-organ i zi ng
processes con sti tuti ng a veri tabl e nonorganic life: t he Body wi thout
Organs ( BwO). As Gi l l es Del euze and Fel i x Guatta ri wri te:
The organ i sm i s not at al l the body, the BwO; rather it is a stratum on the
BwO, i n other words, a phenomenon of accumul ati on, coagul ati on, and
sedi mentati on that, i n order to extract useful l abor from the BwO, i mposes
upon i t forms, fu ncti ons, bonds, domi nant and hi erarchi zed organi zati ons,
organi zed transcendences . . . . [T] he BwO is that gl aci al real i ty where the
al l uvi ons, sedi mentati ons, coagul ations, fol di ngs, and recoi l i ngs that com­
pose an organi sm-an d also a si gni fi cati on and a su bject -occur. l
The l abel i tsel f i s, of cou rse, i mmateri al a n d i nsi gn i fi cant. We cou l d as
wel l refer to thi s cau l dron of nonorga ni c l i fe by a di fferent name. (El se­
where, for i nstance, we cal l ed i t the "machi n i c phyl u m. ")2 Un l i ke t he
name, however, t he referent of t he l abel i s of extreme i mportance, si nce
the fl ows of l ava, bi omass, genes, memes, norms, money (and ot her
260
CONCLUSION AND SPECULATIONS
"stuff") are the sou rce of j ust a bout every stabl e structu re that we cher­
i sh and val ue (or, on the contrary, that oppresses or ensl aves us). We
cou l d defi ne the BwO i n te rms of these u nformed, destrati fi ed fl ows, as
l ong as we keep i n mi nd that what cou nts as destrati fi ed at a ny gi ven
ti me and in any gi ven s pace i s ent i rel y rel ati ve. The fl ow of genes and
bi omass are " u nfor med" i f we compare t hem t o any i ndi vi dual organi sm,
but the fl ows themsel ves have i nter nal forms and fu ncti ons. I ndeed, i f
i nstead of taki ng a pl anetary pe rspecti ve we adopted a cosmi c vi ewpoi nt,
our enti re pl a net woul d i tsel f be a mere provi si onal harde ni ng i n the
vast fl ows of pl asma whi ch permeate the un i verse.
Pl asmas, cl ouds of el ectri fi ed el ementary parti cl es that have l ost
even thei r atomi c forms, a re (as fa r as we know) t he state of matte r­
energy wi th t he l east amount of i nternal struct ure, and yet they are
capabl e of supporti ng a vari ety of sel f-organ i zi ng processes. However,
rat her t han i denti fyi ng t he BwO wi th the pl asma that fi l l s our u n i verse,
we shoul d t hi nk of i t as a limit of a given process of destratification: pl as­
mas may i ndeed be such a l i mi t when we t hi nk of mi neral struct ures,
but not i f we t hi nk of geneti c materi al s. The more or l ess free and
unformed fl ow of genes t hrough mi croorgani sms may be a bette r i l l us­
trati on of what the BwO of a fl ow of repl i cators may be. On the other
hand, an egg (and al l the sel f-organi zi ng processes t hat ani mate i ts cyto­
pl asm) is a good i mage of a BwO in the flow of bi omass: an unfor med
body of energeti c and mi nera l materi al s havi ng t he potenti al to gi ve ri se
to a vari ety of organs once i t i s ferti l i zed and begi ns devel opi ng i nto
an embryo. 3
I t woul d, of cou rse, be possi bl e to frame my concl udi ng remarks wi th­
out usi ng t hese terms, and t hroughout thi s book I have attempted to
ca rry on my argu ment wi th a mi ni mum of strange-soundi ng j argon.
There are, however, two adva ntages to i ntroduci ng t hese terms at t hi s
poi nt. Fi rst, t hey al l ow for a more compact descri pti on : any struct ure
that matters as far as h u man hi story is
,
concer ned may be defi ned by i ts
degree of strati fi cat i on, and changes i n composi ti on between command
and market components may be defi ned as movements of destrati fi ­
cati on and restrati fi cati on . Seco nd, havi ng establ i s hed the pl ausi bi l ity of
t hi s phi l osoph i cal stance t hrough an anal ysi s t hat never strayed far from
hi stori cal real i ti es, t hi s compact set of terms wi l l al l ow me to concl ude
t hi s d i scussi on i n a more specu l ati ve vei n whi l e keepi ng i t from dri fti ng
away from the i deas we have al ready expl ored.
Hu man hi story has i nvol ved a vari ety of Bodi es wi t hout Organs. Fi rst,
the sun, that gi ant sphere of pl asma whose i ntense fl ow of energy dri ves
most processes of sel f-organ i zati on on our pl a net and, i n the form of
261
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
grai n and fossi l fuel , of our ci vi l i zati ons. Second, t he l ava "conveyor bel ts"
that dri ve pl ate tectoni cs and are responsi bl e for the most general geo­
pol i ti cal featu res of our pl anet, such as the breakdown of Pangaea i nto
our cu rrent conti nents, and the su bsequent di stri buti on of domesti cabl e
speci es, a di stri buti on that benefi tted Eurasi a over Ameri ca, Afri ca, and
Ocean i a. 4 Thi rd, t he BwO consti tuted by the cou pl ed dynami cs of the
hydrosphere and atmosphere and thei r wi l d vari ety of sel f-organi zed enti ­
ti es: hu rri canes, tsunami s, pressure bl ocks, cycl ones, and wi nd ci rcu i ts.
As we saw, the conquest of the wi nd ci rcu i ts of the Atl anti c (t he trade
wi nds and the westerl i es) al l owed the transformati on of the Ameri can
conti nent i nto a vast su ppl y zone t o fuel t he growt h of t he European
u rban economy. Fourt h, t he geneti c BwO consti tuted by t he more or l ess
free fl ow of genes t hrough mi croorgani sms (vi a pl asmi ds and ot her vec­
tors), whi ch, u nl i ke t he more strati fi edgeneti c fl ow i n ani mal s and pl ants,
has avoi ded human control even after the devel opment of anti bi ot i cs.
Fi ft h, t hose porti ons of the fl ow of sol ar energy t hrough ecosystems
(fl esh ci rcul at i ng i n natu ral food webs) whi ch have escaped ur bani zati on,
parti cu l arl y ani mal and vegetabl e weeds, or rhi zomes (the BwO formed
by an u nderground rodent ci ty, for exampl e). 5 Fi nal ly, our l anguages al so
formed a BwO when t hey formed di al ect conti nua and ci rcu mstances
conspi red to remove any strat i fyi ng pressu re, as when t he Norman
i nvaders of Engl and i mposed French as t he l anguage of t he el i tes, al l ow­
i ng t he peasa nt masses to create t he Engl i sh l anguage out of an amor­
phous sou p of Ger mani c norms wi th Scandi navi an and Lati n spi ces.
(Because al l fi ve of these BwOs, unl i ke pure pl asmas, retai n forms and
fu ncti ons, t hey may be consi dered exampl es of a l ocal BwO, t hat i s, l ocal
l i mi ts of a process of destrati fi cat i on, and not the BwO, taken as an
a bsol ute l i mi t. However, for si mpl i ci ty, I wi l l conti nue t o refer t o t hese
l i mi t states i n the si ngu l ar. )
I have attempted here to descri be Western hi story i n the l ast one thou­
sand yea rs as a seri es of processes occu rri ng i n t he BwO: pi dgi ni zati ons,
creol i zati ons, and standardi zati ons i n t he fl ow of norms; i sol ati ons, con­
tacts, and i nsti tuti onal i zati ons i n the fl ow of memes; domesti cati ons, fer­
al i zati ons, and hybri di zati ons i n t he fl ow of genes; and i ntensi fi cati ons,
accel erati ons, and decel erati ons i n the fl ows of energy and materi al s.
Ci ti es and t hei r mi neral exoskel etons, t hei r shortened food chai ns, and
thei r domi nant di al ects are among t he structu res we saw emerge from
these nonl i near fl ows. Once i n pl ace, t hey reacted back on the fl ows,
ei t her to i n hi bi t t hem or to fu rt her sti mul ate t hem. I n ot her words, ci ti es
appeared not onl y as structu res operati ng at a certai n degree of strati fi ­
cat i on (wit h a certai n mi x of market and command components), but t hey
262
CONCLUSION AND SPECULATIONS
themsel ves performed destrati fi cati ons and restrati fi cati ons on the fl ows
that traversed them. And a si mi l ar poi nt appl i es to the popul ati ons of
i nsti tuti ons that i nha bi ted these urban centers as wel l as to t hei r popu l a­
ti ons of human mi nds and bodi es.
The concept of t he BwO was created i n an effort to concei ve the gene­
si s of form (i n geol ogi cal , bi ol ogi cal , and cu l tu ral structu res) as rel ated
excl usi vel y to immanent capabi l i ti es of the fl ows of matter-energy i nfor­
mati on and not to any transcendent factor, whether pl atoni c or di vi ne. To
expl ai n t hi s i n herent morphogeneti c potenti al wi thout snea ki ng trans­
cendental essences t hrough t he back door, Del euze and Guattari devel ­
oped thei r theory of abstract machi nes, engi neeri ng di agrams defi ni ng
t he struct u re-generati ng processes t hat gi ve ri se t o more or l ess perma­
nent forms but are not u n i que to t hose forms; that i s, t hey do not rep­
resent (as an essence does) t hat whi ch defi nes the i dentity of t hose
forms. Attractors are t he si mpl est type of abstract machi ne, operati ng at
the l evel of nonl i nea r, destrat i fi ed fl ows. Attractors represent patterns of
stabi l i ty and becomi ng t hat are i n herent i n abstract dynami cal systems
and may be "i ncar nated" i n a vari ety of actual physi cal systems. For
exampl e, one and t he same peri odi c attractor may be i nstanti ated by l ava
or wi nd i n a convecti on cel l , t he spontaneous rhyt hmi cal behavi or of crys­
tal radi os, peri odi c behavi or in el ectroni c ci rcui ts or chemi cal reacti ons,
and even the behavi or of an economi c system du ri ng a busi ness cycl e.
A dynami cal system whose behavi or i s governed by t hese endogenousl y
generated stabl e states i s furt her characteri zed by a certai n nu mber of
key parameters. At any one moment i n the system's hi story i t i s t he
degree of intensity of t hese parameters (t he degree of temperatu re, pres­
sure, vol ume, speed, densi ty, and so on) t hat defi nes t he attractors avai l ­
abl e to t he system and, hence, t he type of forms it may gi ve ri se to.
(That i s, at cri ti cal val ues of these parameters, bi fu rcati ons occur whi ch
abru ptl y change one set of attractors i nto anot her. )
Si mi l ar consi derati ons appl y to t he more compl ex abstract machi nes
t hat emerge from t hese si mpl e ones. The two most general abstract di a­
grams that we exami ned were those behi nd the formati on of strata and
sel f-consi stent aggregates. The hi e ra rchy-generati ng machi ne i nvol ved a
process of doubl e arti cu l ati on, t hat i s, a sorti ng operati on t hat yi el ds a
homogeneous di stri buti on of el ements and a consol i dati on operati on that
defi nes more or l ess permanent structu ral l i n kages between sorted mate­
ri al s. The meshwork-generati ng machi ne, on t he ot her hand, arti cul ates
di vergent but parti al l y overl appi ng components by t hei r fu ncti onal compl e­
mentari ti es, usi ng a vari ety of l ocal i ntercal ary el ements as wel l as endog­
enousl y generated stabl e states. Then we di scovered t hat, if and when
263
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
the materi al s on whi ch a sorti ng devi ce operates acqui re the abi l ity to
re pl i cate wi th vari ati on, a new abstract machi ne e
r
erges, in the form of a
bl i nd probe head capa bl e of expl ori ng a space of possi bl e forms. Fi nal ly,
wi th the creati on of soci al networks capabl e of acti ng as enforcement
mechani sms for the tran smi ssi on of norms, an abstract machi ne operat­
i ng by means of combi natori al constrai nts was made possi bl e, defi ni ng
the str uctu re-generati ng process be hi nd some l i ngui sti c structu res.
These other a bstract mac hi nes may al so be vi ewed as equi pped wi th
"knobs, " control l i ng parameters whose i ntensi ty defi nes the dynami cal
state of the structu re-generati ng process. For i nstance, we saw that i n
Mary Dougl as's theory of t he genesi s of di scu rsi ve for m (coherent worl d­
vi ews) t he i ntensity of al l egi ance to a grou p, as wel l as the i ntensity of
outsi de regul ati on to whi ch the group must conform (t hat i s, the val ues of
the grou p-and-gri d parameters), defi nes t he sta bl e states to whi ch a col ­
l ecti vi ty of bel i evers (and t hei r bel i efs) wi l l be drawn. I n Zel l i g Harri s's
theo ry of l anguage, on t he other hand, the degree of var i abi l ity of the
operato r-argu ment constrai nt, as wel l as the strength of constrai nts on
sequences of i nscri pti ons, determi nes whether the sequences generated
wi l l be of the l ogi co-mathemati cal , l i ngu i sti c, or musi cal type. Ot her key
parameters a re those control l i ng t he strength and t horoughness of t he
sorti ng process and the degree of consol i dati on or reproducti ve i sol ati on
of t he dou bl e-arti cul ati on machi ne; or the degree of connecti vi ty that
deter mi nes when a meshwor k becomes sel f-sustai ni ng; or the rates of
mutati o n and recombi nati on that defi ne the speed of the probe head, as
wel l as the strength of t he fl ow of bi omass and of the coupl i ng between
coevol vi ng speci es-parameters that defi ne the ki nd of space that the
probe head expl ores. Hence, usi ng these abstract di agrams to rep resent
what goes on i n the BwO i s equ i val ent to usi ng a system of representa­
ti on in terms of intensities, si nce i t i s ulti matel y the i ntensi ty of each para­
meter that determi nes the ki nd of dynami c i nvol ved and, he nce, the
character of t he str uct ures t hat are generated. I ndeed, one way of pi ctu r­
i ng the BwO is as the "gl aci al " state of matter-energy i nformati on resul t­
i ng from t ur ni ng al l t hese knobs to zero, that i s, to t he ab.sol ute mi ni mum
val ue of i ntensi ty, bringing any production of structured form t o a halt. As
Del euze and Gu attari wri te:
A BwO is made in such a way that it can be occupi ed , popu l ated onl y
by i ntensi ti es. Onl y i ntensi ti es pass and ci rcul ate. Sti l l , the BwO is not a
scene, a pl ace, or even a support upon whi ch somethi ng comes to
pass . . . . It is not space, nor i s it in space; i t is matter that occupi es space
to a gi ven degree-to the degree correspondi ng to the i ntens i ti es prod uced.
264
CONCLUSION AND SPECULATIONS
It is nonstrati fi ed, unformed , i ntense matter, the matrix of i ntensity, i nten­
si ty = 0 . . . . Producti on of the real as an i ntensi ve magni tude starti ng at
zero.
6
To vi ew human hi story as unfol di ng i mmersed in thi s cau l d ron of
nonorgani c l i fe i s one way to el i mi nate noti ons of progress or u ni l i neal
devel opment. I ndeed, the th ree na rrati ves I used to approach t he geol og­
i cal , bi ol ogi cal , and l i ngui sti c hi stori es of t he West were framed not i n
terms of "man" and hi s man i fest desti ny, but i n terms of stuff undergo­
i ng di fferent ki nds of intensification. I n those th ree nar rati ves we u sed
t he year 1000 as a degree zero of i ntensity for the West, whi l e the power­
ful agri cu l tu ral i ntensi fi cati on that occurred before t he t ur n of the fi rst
mi l l enni um was seen as havi ng j ump-started the abstract machi nes and
begun t he process of stru ctu re formati on agai n. Thi s i ntensi f i cati on i n
t ur n acted as a tri gger for a whol e seri es of fu rther i ntensi fi cati ons:
of densi ty of settl ement and degree of rn i neral i zati on; of t he vel oci ty and
quanti ty of money i n ci rcu l ati on; of t he accu mul ati on of know-how and
formal knowl edge; of the formati on of u rban hi erarchi es and the prol i fer­
ati on of l i nks among mari ti me gateways; of the di vergence of spoken
Lati n vari eti es and t he standard i zati on of wri ti ng and spel l i ng systems.
Later on, i ntensi fi ed col oni al i sm and conquest, routi ni zat i on and rati onal ­
i zati on, money and knowl edge accumul ati on, and fossi l - energy fl ow
resu l ted i n the sel f-sustai ned i ntensi fi cati on known as the I ndustri al Rev­
ol uti on. I n both peri ods, t here were cata lysts of d i fferent ki nds ( money,
technol ogy, know- how) effect i ng and sustai ni ng the i ntensi fi cati ons. And
i n both peri ods, t he very fl ows triggered by one catalyst became tri ggers
for yet ot her fl ows, the whol e assembl age of trigger fl ows acqu i ri ng auto­
catal yti c dynami cs. (On l y i n the second peri od, i t was argu ed, di d t hese
trigger fl ows form a cl osed ci rcui t of enough compl exi ty to become a sel f­
sustai ni ng autocatalyti c l oop. )
Al t hough both meshworks and hi erarchi es arose from t he fi rst u rban
i ntensi fi cati on ( 1000-1300 A. D. ), t he overal l effect of t he accel erati on of
city bui l di ng i n Europe was destrati fyi ng. As Braudel observed, u rban
centers i n t he West were veri tabl e accel erators of hi stori ca l ti me as wel l
as machi nes for t he brea ki ng of ol d bonds ( such as those chai ni ng peas­
ants to t hei r feudal l ords). But here we must be carefu l i n ou r eval ua­
ti ons, si nce at al l poi nts t here were coexi sti ng hi stori es movi ng at
di fferent speeds or wi th d i fferent degrees of destrati fi cati on: the r ural
masses moved at one speed , t he u rban ma rkets at a faster r hyt hm, whi l e
commerci a l and fi nanci al anti markets achi eved the greatest degree of
mobi l ity. For exampl e, the fl ows of money t hat markets used to mobi l i ze
265
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
t he food su rpl uses prod uced i n r ural regi ons acq ui red new properti es i n
t he hands of anti market i nsti tuti ons, detachi ng t hemsel ves from any par­
ti cu l ar fl ow of matter-energy and i nvadi ng any economi c acti vi ty where
profi ts were parti cul arl y i nte nse.
Moreover, before the I ndustri al Revol uti on, the cutti ng edge of anti ­
market devel opment was represented by the mari ti me gateways (Veni ce,
Genoa, Amsterdam) t hat were the most destrati fi ed -t hat i s, the l east
attached to t he l and for i ts agri cu l tu ral resou rces (t hey were al l ecol ogi ­
cal l y depri ved) -as wel l as the l east concerned wi th the government and
control of l arge terri tori es. As Pau l M. Hohenberg and Lynn Hol l en Lees
note, these gateways had cl oser ti es to overseas col oni es and to one
anot her t han t o t he terri tori es at t hei r backs. On t he ot her hand, when
t he destrati fi ed f i nanci al fl ows t hat these gateways ( and t he regi onal capi ­
tal s cl osel y associ ated wi th them) generated were i nvested i n mi nes or
protoi ndustri al acti vi ti es, the structu res generated were extremel y strati ­
fi ed and hi erarch i cal , ri val i ng those of contemporaneous mi l i tary i nsti tu­
ti ons (such as the a rsenal of Veni ce) i n thei r degree of central control and
i ndustri al di sci pl i ne. Del euze and Guattari , noti ci ng thi s apparent para­
dox, wri te t hat i t was "preci sel y because the bou rgeoi si e was a cutti ng
edge of deterri tori al i zati on, a veri tabl e parti cl e accel erator, that i t al so
performed an overal l reterri tori al i zati on. "7 Al though t hei r expl anati on of
thi s paradox i s rat her compl ex, we can summari ze i t i n a general hypoth­
esi s: that the creati on of novel hi erarch i cal struct u res t hrough restrati fi ca­
ti on i s performed by the most destrati fi ed el ement of the previous phase.
We may agree wi t h t hi s i mportant hypot hesi s as l ong as we do not vi ew
t he restrati fi ed resul t of t he powerfu l destrati fi cati on t hat mobi l e anti ­
markets represented as a soci etywi de system (capi tal i sm), but si mpl y as
a new breed of organi zati ons (and i nsti tuti onal norms) t hat added them­
sel ves to t he exi sti ng ecol ogy of i nsti tuti ons, i nteracti ng wi th them and
t he tri gger fl ows u nder t hei r contro/ . Resi sti ng t he temptati on to reduce
compl ex i nsti tuti onal dynami cs to a si ngl e factor (e. g. , anti market eco­
nomi cs) i s even more i mportant when consi deri ng t he great ci rcu i t of tri g­
ger fl ows t hat formed the basi s for t he I ndustri al Revol uti on. No doubt,
anti markets pl ayed a key rol e i n t he conj u ncti on of tri gger fl ows (coal ,
steam, cotton , i ron, raw l abor, ski l l s) that made up t he factory towns and
t he i ndustri al con u rbati ons. But here, too, ot her destrati fi ed el ements,
other parti cl e accel erators were necessary: the Bri ti sh gover nment
dest rati fyi ng its terri tory by abol i shi ng tol l s and tari ffs and creati ng a
nati onal market, and dest rati fyi ng i ts taxati on and fi scal system by creat­
i ng t he Ban k of Engl and and t he very noti on of nati onal debt. I n France,
t he army was becomi ng t he most destrati fi ed i n Europe, l eadi ng not onl y
266
CONCLUSION AND SPECULATIONS
to Napol eon's fantasti cal l y mobi l e war machi ne but si mu l taneou sl y to a
greater restrati fi cati on : the conve rsi on of warfare from the l i mi ted dynas­
ti c duel s of the ei ghteenth century to the "total war" wi th whi ch we are
fami l i ar today, i nvol vi ng the compl ete mobi l i zati on of a country's
resources by a central i zed govern mental agency.
Moreover, not only were there several parti cl e accel erators mobi l i zi ng
tri gger fl ows of di fferent ki nds, there wer e coexi sti ng moti ons of destrati ­
fi cati on of intermediate intensity whi ch con nected these fl ows, generati ng
meshworks of di fferent ki nds: peasant and smal l -town markets; symbi oti c
nets of smal l producers engaged i n vol ati l e trade and i mport su bsti tuti on;
l arge ci ti es and i ndustri al hi nterl ands operati ng vi a economi es of aggl om­
erati on; al pi ne regi ons el aborati ng i ndustri al paradi gms di fferent from
those of t he coal conurbati ons, i n whi ch ski l l s and crafts were meshed
together i nstead of bei ng repl aced by routi nes and central i zed machi nery.
What use is t here i n movi ng our l evel of descri pti on to t he BwO if we are
not goi ng to take advantage of t he heterogeneous mi xtu res of energy and
genes, germs and words, whi ch i t al l ows us t o concei ve, a worl d i n whi ch
geol ogy, bi ol ogy, and l i ngu i sti cs are not seen as t hree separate spheres,
each more advanced or progressi ve than the previ ous o ne, but as t hree
perfectl y coexi sti ng and i nte racti ng fl ows of energeti c, repl i cati ve, and
catal yti c materi al s? What use i s t here i n maki ng thi s move, i f we are t o
crown the whol e exerci se wi t h a retu rn to the great master concept, the
great homogeni zati on i nvol ved i n the noti on of a "capi tal i st system"?
On t he contrary, we must be cauti ous when depl oyi ng ou r conce pts, not
only when we peri odi ze human hi story, but al so when we t hi nk of ou r
evol uti on from geol ogi c and organi c strata:
It is di ffi cul t to el uci date the system of the strata without seemi ng to
i ntroduce a ki nd of cosmi c or even spi ri tual evol uti on from one to the ot her,
as if they were arranged in stages and ascendi ng degrees of perfecti on.
Nothi ng of the sort. . . . I f one begi ns by consi deri ng the strata i n them­
sel ves, i t cannot be sai d that one i s l ess organi zed than the ot her . . . .
[T] here i s no fixed order, and one strat um can serve di rectly as a substra­
tum for another wi thout the i ntermedi ari es one wou l d expect from the poi nt
of view of stages and degrees . . . . Or the apparent order may be reversed,
wi th cul tural or techni cal phenomena provi di ng a ferti l e soi l , a good sou p,
for the devel opment of i nsects, bacteri a, germs or even parti cl es. The
i ndustri al age defi ned as the age of i nsects . . . . [On the other hand] i f we
consi der the pl ane of consi stency [t he BwO at the absol ute l i mit of destrati­
fi cati on] we note that the most di sparate thi ngs and si gns move upon i t: a
semi oti c "fragment rubs shoul ders with a chemi cal i nteraction, an el ectron
267
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
cl ashes i nto a l anguage . . . . There i s no " l i ke" here, we are not sayi ng "l i ke
an el ectron, " " l i ke an i nteracti on, " etc. The pl ane of consi stency i s the abo­
l i ti on of al l metaphor; al l that consi sts i s Real . 8
Thus, acco rdi ng to Del euze and Guattari , in te rms of the strati fi ed
and the destrati fi ed, h u man hi story i s not marked by stages of progress
but by coexi stences of accu mu l ated materi al s of di verse ki nds, as wel l as
by the processes of strati fi cati on and destrati fi cati on t hat these i nteract­
i ng accumu l ati ons undergo. I n t hi s sense, we coul d characteri ze our
era as t he "age of i nfor mati on" or, equal l y val i dl y, as t he "seco nd age of
i nsects and germs, " gi ven t he si gn i fi cant accu mu l ati ons of i nsecti ci de­
and anti bi oti c-resi stant genes whi ch our agri cu l tu ral and medi cal prac­
ti ces have i nadvertentl y fostered si nce Worl d Wa r I I . And as I attempted
to show i n t hi s book, t hese mi xtures of coexi sti ng " ages" are not some­
t hi ng new but have al ways characteri zed h uman hi story. Medi eval towns
were both l i ngui sti c and epi demi ol ogi cal l aboratori es, and many t hi ngs
accu mul ated wi thi n thei r wal l s: money, ski l l s, weeds, cattl e, manu scri pts,
presti ge, power. I n the ni neteenth centu ry, as chol era epi demi cs were gi v­
i ng ri se to pu bl i c heal t h organi zati ons, the i nani mate power of coa l and
steam was transformi ng t he worl d not onl y i nto a si ngl e d i sease pool , but
al so i nto a si ngl e norm pool (at l east for some maj or l anguages, such as
Engl i sh and French), and, of cou rse, a si ngl e worl d- economy. Rats and
t hei r fl eas and germs were travel i ng i n t he same t ransoceani c shi ps t hat
brought to t he neo-Eu ropes mi l l i ons of peopl e, as wel l as a great vari ety
of ot her st uff: raw materi al s, si l ver, l uxury i tems, domesti cated speci es,
i nvestment capi tal , weapons, and so on.
I n t ur n, t he ni netee nth centu ry wi tnessed t he prol i ferati on of i nsti tu­
ti ons dedi cated to di sentangl i ng t hese da'ngerous mi xt ures: naval hospi ­
tal s and school s, pri sons, and factori es. These i nst i tuti onal sort i ng
devi ces bega n to process pa rti cu l ar fl ows and to assi gn each geol ogi cal ,
bi ol ogi cal , and l i ngu i sti c component i ts "proper" pl ace. As Foucaul t has
shown, the sorti ng operati on was carri ed out i n t hese i nsti tuti ons vi a spa­
t i al parti ti oni ng and standardi zed tests of di fferent ki nds, as wel l as by
an el aborate record-keepi ng system to store the resu l ts of t hose exami ­
nati ons. I n terms of abst ract di agrams, there is no di fference between
these i nsti tuti ons and the ri vers t hat sort out the sedi ment t hat forms
certai n rocks, or the ecol ogi cal sel ecti on pressures t hat sort genes i nto
speci es. (That i s, in al l t hree cases we have an operati on of sorti ng, cl as­
si fyi ng, or "terri tori al i zi ng. ") But what woul d correspond to the second
operati on, t he cementi ng toget her of t he sedi ment or t he reproducti ve
i sol ati on of the speci es acti ng as a ratchet mechani sm? (That i s, the "cod-
268
CONCLUSION AND SPECULATIONS
i ng" of permanent arch i tectu ral rel ati ons between pe bbl es, or the "cod­
i ng" of a speci es as a sepa rate reprod uct i ve entity t hrough changes i n i ts
mati ng cal l s, scent, or vi sual marki ngs. )
I n hi s readi ng of Foucau l t, Del euze has gi ven us some cl ues regardi ng
t hi s second arti cul ati on. He uses t he terms "content" and "expressi on" to
refer to t he two a rti cu l ati ons and warns u s not to confuse t hem wi t h the
ol d phi l osophi cal di sti ncti o n between substa nce a nd form. I nstead, each
a rti cU l ati on i ncl udes bot h forms and su bstances: sedi ment i s not on l y an
accumu l ati on of pebbl es (su bstance), i t i s a n accu mu l ati on di stri buted i n
homogeneous l ayers (form); i n t ur n, cementi ng t hese pebbl es toget her
establ i shes spati al l i nks among pebbl es (form) and creates a materi al
entity of a l arger sca l e, a sedi mentary rock (su bstance). The same hol ds
true for i nsti tuti onal enti ti es, such as hospi tal s, school s, and pri sons:
Strata are hi stori cal formati ons . . . . As "sedi menta ry beds" they a re made
out from thi ngs and words, from seei ng and speaki ng, from the vi si bl e and
the sayabl e, from bands of vi si bi l ity and fi el ds of readabi l ity, from contents
and expressi ons . . . . The content has both a form a nd a su bsta nce: for
exampl e, the fo rm is the pri son and the substa nce is those who are l ocked
up, the pri soners . . . . The expressi on al so has a fo rm and a su bsta nce: for
exampl e, the form is penal law and the su bstance is "del i nquency" in so far
as it is the obj ect of statements. 9
Al t hough t he sorti ng ope rati ons carri ed out i n hospi tal s, school s, bar­
racks, and pri sons i nvol ved d i fferent types of exami nati on (not j ust vi sual
exami n ati ons), the homogeni zati ons they effected on the fl ow of human
bodi es were i n deed i nte nded not to fuse those bodi es i nto an undi fferen­
ti ated mass but, on the co ntrary, to make visible t hei r i ndi vi du al di ffer­
ences so t hat they coul d be properl y di stri buted i nto the r anks of the new
meri tocraci es. At the same ti me -i n a distinct and separate operati on , par­
ti cu l ar di scou rses (med i cal , pedagogi cal , penal ) were ge ne rated i n and
arou nd t hese i nsti tuti onal set ups and codi fi ed and consol i dated the
resul ts of the sorti ng process i nto l arger-sca l e enti ti es: organ i zed medi ­
ci ne and the educati on a l a nd penal systems. (These enti ti es were i somor­
phi c wi th sedi mentary rock, usi ng "vi si bi l iti es" as thei r pebbl es a nd
"sayabi l i ti es" as t hei r cement. )
But i t wou l d be wrong to th i nk t hat strata are the l ast word i n t hi s
respect. Even if we agree t hat certai n i nsti tuti ons pl ayed the rol e of fi rst
arti cul at i on, and that cert ai n types of knowl edge perfor med t he secon d
one, t hi s wou l d onl y gi ve us a n account o f o n e form o f power a n d knowl ­
edge, formal power and knowl edge. But i n addi ti on to strati fi ed, for mal
269
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
power, there rs power of the mes hwork type , that is, destrati fi ed power
operat i ng vi a a mu l t i pl i ci ty of i nformal constra i nts. I n thi s book we treated
these constra i nts as catal ysts, or tri gge rs, that pl ay the rol e of i ntercal ary
el ements in the fo rmati on of meshworks. Al though i n chemi stry the fu nc­
ti on of catal ysts i s vi ewed si mpl y i n terms of i n hi bi ti o n or sti mu l ati on, i n
t he more abst ract sense i n whi ch I have used t he term t he nu mber of di f­
ferent constrai n i ng fu ncti ons that a tri gger may pl ay shou l d be concei ved
"as a necessa ri l y open l i st of vari abl es expressi ng a rel ati on between
forces . . . consti tut i ng acti ons u pon acti ons: to i nci te , to i nduce, to seduce,
t o make easy or di ffi cul t, t o en l arge or l i mi t, t o make more or l ess proba­
bl e, and so on.
" l
0
Other abstract machi nes must be added to t hose behi nd the genesi s of
mes hworks and hi erarchi es to gi ve a fu l l er characteri zati on of the com­
pl ex hi story of Weste rn i n$ti tuti onal ecol ogi es. As we noted, many hi erar­
ch i cal organ i zati ons wi th routi n i zed acti vi ti es may use these routi nes as
a ki nd of "organi zati onal memory.
"
When these organ i zati o ns reproduce
(Le. , when a commerci al orga ni zati on opens a new branch or a govern­
ment i nsti tuti o n repl i cates i n i ts overseas col oni es), these routi nes are
passed on to t hei r progeny wi t h vari ati on , and thi s al l ows popul ati ons of
such organ i zati ons to embody an abstract probe head. A si mi l ar poi nt
a ppl i es to i nsti tuti onal norms (l egal , commerci al , l i ngui sti c) transmi tted
t hrough soci al obl i gati o n and to i nformal be havi oral patterns (memes)
repl i cated t hrough i mi tati on. Addi ti on al l y, model s l i ke those created by
Dougl as suggest that yet ot her st ruct u re-generati ng processes may oper­
ate within fo rmal organ i zati ons and i nformal networks, affecti ng the way
in whi ch t hei r constit uent i ndi vi dua l s i nte ract, and t he worl dvi ews those
i nteracti ons generate.
Thi s l i st of abstract machi nes is probabl y not exhausti ve; there may
certai n l y be others, gove r ni ng dyn ami cs i n areas outsi de the scope of thi s
book. And, i ndeed, even i n the ar eas we di d expl ore t here may be al te r­
nati ves (or addi ti ons) to the di agrams here proposed. But whether these
or other di agrams are used to model the structu re-ge nerati ng processes
i nvol ved i n the genesi s of soci al forms, what matters i s expl ai n i ng thi s
genesi s i n an enti rel y bottom-u p way. That i s, not si mpl y to assume t hat
soci ety forms a system, but to account for thi s systemati ci ty as an emer­
gent property of some dynami cal process. Thi s is very di fferent from
t he top-down method that orthodox soci ol ogi sts and other soci al sci en­
ti sts use when they begi n t hei r anal ysi s at the l evel of soci ety as a whol e,
j usti fyi ng t hat a pproach eit her by usi ng the i ndi vi du al organi sm as a
meta phor for soci ety, as in fu ncti onal i st soci ol ogy, or on t he basi s of an
i magi nary dyn ami cs, as i n Marxi st soci ol ogy's di al ecti cs. On the other
270
CONCLUSION AND SP�CULATIONS
hand, the opposi te mi stake (i l l ustrated by orthodox mi croeconomi cs)
must al so be avoi ded: atomi zi ng soci ety i nto a set of i ndepende ntl y act­
i ng i ndi vi dual s. Rather, we must tCke i nto accou nt that the l arge r-sca l e
structu res that emerge from the acti ons of i ndi vi dual deci si on makers,
such as formal organi zati ons or i nfo rmal networks, have a l i fe of t hei r
own . They are whol es that are more t han the sum of thei r parts, but
whol es that add themselves to an existing population of individual structures,
operati ng at di fferent scal es (i ndi vi dual i nsti tuti ons, i ndi vi dual ci ti es, i ndi ­
vi dual compl exes of ci ti es, and so on). As Del euze and Gu attari put i t:
We no l onger bel i eve i n a pri mordi al tota l i ty that once exi sted, or i n a fi nal
totality that awaits us at some future date. We no l onger bel i eve i n the dul l
gray outl i nes of a drea ry, col orl ess di al ecti c of evol uti on, ai med at formi ng a
harmoni ous whol e out of heterogeneous bi ts by rou ndi ng off thei r rough
edges. We bel i eve onl y i n total i ti es that are peri pheral . And i f we di scover
such a total i ty al ongsi de vari ous separate parts, it i s a whol e of these parti c­
ul ar parts but does not total i ze them; it i s a unity of al l those parti cu l ar
parts but does not uni fy them; rather it i s added to them as a new part fab­
ri cated separate ly.
ll
From the perspecti ve of a bottom-up met hodol ogy, it i s i ncorrect to char­
acteri ze contemporary soci eti es as "di sci pl i nary, " or as "ca pi tal i st, " or,
for that matter, " patri archal " (or any ot her l abel t hat reduces a compl ex
mi xt ure of processes to a si ngl e factor), u nl ess one can gi ve the detai l s of
a structu re-generati ng process t hat resu l ts i n a soci etywi de system. Cer­
tai n i nsti tuti o nal forms may i ndeed prol i ferate i n a popu l ati on, but even
when thi s l eads to the exti ncti on of pri or forms thi s shoul d not be treated
as the ach i evement of a new un i fi ed stage of devel opment. Moreover, a
gi ven prol i ferati on of i nsti tuti ons may be the resu l t of an i nten si fi cati on of
previousl y exi st i ng processes. I n the case of uti l i tar i an rati onal i zat i on, as
Foucaul t says, "the cl assi cal age di d not i n i ti ate i t; rat her i t accel e rated i t,
cha nged i ts scal e, gave i t preci se i nstru ments. "1
2
No dou bt, an i ntensi fi ­
cati on may l ead to the crossi ng of a thres hol d, as i n the cri ti cal poi nt of
compl exi ty at whi ch autocatal yti c l oops become sel f-sustai n i ng, l eadi ng to
i ndustri al ta keoff. Or i t may l ead to the creati on of trul y novel types of
i nsti tuti on. But the resul ti ng emergent structures si mpl y add themsel ves
to the mi x of previ ousl y exi sti ng ones, i nteract i ng wi th t hem, but never
l eavi ng them behi nd as a pri or stage of devel opment (al though, perha ps,
creati ng the condi ti ons for thei r di sappearance).
Thi s bri ngs us to the questi on of the pragmati c uses of th ese i deas.
The l ast t hree or fou r centu ri es have wit nessed an i ntense homogen i za-
271
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
ti on of t he worl d (bi ol ogi cal ly, l i ngu i sti cal ly, economi cal l y), a fact t hat i n
i tsel f wou l d seem t o recommend t he i nj ecti on of a heal thy dose of hetero­
geneity i nto the mi x. Or, i n the short hand we have been usi ng, the worl d
has become so greatl y st rati fi ed t hat the onl y way out i s to destrati fy i t.
But t here are several t hi ngs wrong wi th t hi s knee-j erk response.
Fi rst, al though i t i s true t hat nati on-states swal l owed thei r mi nori ti es
and di gested them by i mposi ng nati onal standards for l anguage, currency,
educati on, and heal th, t he sol uti on to thi s i s not si mpl y to break u p t hese
l a rge soci opol i ti cal enti ti es i nto smal l er ones (say, one for each mi nori ty:
for i nstance, t he way Yugosl avi a was broken up i nto ter ri tori es for Serbs,
Croats, and other mi nori ti es). To si mpl y i ncrease heterogeneity wi t hout
a rti cu l ati ng thi s di versi ty i nto a meshwork not only resu l ts i n fu rther
confl i ct and fri cti on, i t rapi dly creates a set of smal l er, i nter nal l y homo­
geneous nati ons. ( Hence, t he bal kani zati on of the worl d wou l d i ncrease
heterogenei ty onl y i n a ppearance. )
Second, even i f we manage t o create l ocal con necti ons between hetero­
geneous el ements, t he mere presence of an emergent meshwork does not
i n i tsel f mean that we have gi ven a segment of soci ety a l ess oppressi ve
struct ure . The natu re of t he resul t wi l l depend on the character of the
heterogeneous el ements meshed toget her, as we obser ved of commu ni ti es
on the I nter net: t hey are u ndou btedl y more destrati fi ed t han those sub­
j ected to massi fi cati on by o ne-to-many medi a, but si nce everyone of al l
pol iti cal stri pes -even fasci sts -can benefi t from thi s destrati fi cati on, the
mere exi stence of a computer meshwork i s no guarantee that a better
worl d wi l l devel op there. Fi nal ly, i ncreasi ng the proporti on of meshwork i n
t he mi x i s i ndeed destrati fyi ng, but we sti l l need t o be cauti ous a bout the
speed and i nte nsity of t hi s destrati fi cati on, parti cul arl y i f i t tu rns out to
be true that "the most destrati fi ed el ement in a mi x effects the most ri gi d
restrati fi cati on" l ater on:
You don't reach the BwO, a n d its pl ane of consi stency, by wi l dl y destrati fy­
i ng . u . . I f you free i t wi th too vi ol ent a n acti on, if you bl ow apart the strata
wi thout taki ng precauti ons, then i nstead of drawi ng the pl ane you wi l l
be ki l l ed, pl u nged i nto a bl ack hol e, or even dragged towards catastrophe.
Stayi ng strati fi ed -organi zed, si gni fi ed, subj ected -i s not the worst
that can happen; the worst that can happen i s i f you throw the strata i nto
demented or sui ci dal col l apse, whi ch bri ngs them back down on us
heavi er than ever. Thi s is how i t shoul d be done: l odge yoursel f on a stra­
t um, experi ment wi th the opportuni ti es i t offers, fi nd an advantageous
pl ace on i t, fi nd potenti al movements of deterritori al i zati on, possi bl e l i nes
of fl i ght, experi ence them, produce flow conj uncti ons here and there, try
272
CONCLUSION AND SPECULATIONS
out cont i nuums of i ntensi ti es segment by segment, have a smal l pl ot of
new l and at al l ti mes.
13
Al l these precaut i ons are necessary in a worl d t hat does not possess a
l adder of progress, or a dri ve toward i ncreased perfecti on, or a promi sed
l and, or even a soci al i st pot of gol d at the e nd of the rai n bow. Moreover,
t hese war ni ngs deri ve from a recogni ti on t hat our worl d is gover ned not
onl y by non l i near dynami cs, whi ch makes detai l ed predi cti on and control
i mpossi bl e, but al so by nonl i near combi natori cs, wh i ch i mpl i es t hat t he
n u mber of possi bl e mi xtu res of meshwork and hi erarchy, of command
and market, of central i zat i on and decentral i zati on, a re i mmense and t hat
we si mpl y can not predi ct what the emergent properti es of these myri ad
combi nat i ons wi l l be. Thus the cal l for a more experimental atti tude
toward real i ty and for an i ncreased awareness of t he pote nti al for sel f­
organi zati on i n herent i n even t he humbl est forms of matter-energy.
When we t h i n k that t he maj ori ty of eq uati ons used i n sci ence a re l i n­
ear and t hat a l i near concepti on of causal ity domi nated Wester n thought
for over two mi l l en n i a, we may be i ncl i ned to thi n k that our l ack of fami l ­
i arity wi th questi ons of sel f- organi zed heterogeneity and our tendency to
thi n k about compl exi ty i n terms of homogeneous hi erarchi es deri ve from
t he way we represent the world to ourselves. 1\0 doubt, t he e ntrenchment
i n the academi c and sci enti fi c worl ds of certai n di scu rsi ve practi ces
i nformed by l i near t hi nki ng and l i near representati on i s i ndeed part of
our probl em. But to try to reduce a compl ex si tuati on to a q uesti on of
representati ons i s, i n t ur n, a homogen i zi ng force very much al i ve today
among soci al cri ti cs. Here we have argued that both the world of objective
referents and the world of labels and concepts have undergone processes of
uniformation and standardization, so that bot h di scu rsi ve and nondi scu r­
si ve practi ces need to be ta ken i nto accou nt when traci ng t he hi story of
our homogeni zat i on.
I n short , as our i ndustri al , medi cal , and educati onal systems became
routi ni zed, as they grew and began to profi t from economi es of scal e, l i n­
ear equati ons accu mu l ated in t he physi cal sci ences and equ i l i bri um t heo­
ri es fl ou ri shed i n the soci al sci ences.
14 I n a sense, even though the worl d
i s i n herentl y nonl i near and fa r from equi l i bri u m, i ts homogeni zati on
meant t hat t hose areas t hat had been made u n i for m began behaving
objectively as l i near equ i l i bri um structu res, wi th predi ctabl e and control ­
l abl e properti es. I n ot her words, Western soci eti es transformed the obj ec­
ti ve worl d (or some a reas of it) i nto t he type of struct ure t hat wou l d
"correspond" to thei r t heori es, so that t he l atter became, i n a sense, sel f­
fu l fi l l i ng propheci es.
273
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
Today, our t heori es are begi nni ng to
,
i ncorporate nonl i near el ements,
and we are start i ng to t hi nk of heteroge neity as somet hi ng val uabl e, not
as an obstacl e to uni fi cati on. Negat i ve and posi ti ve feedback have been
added to ol der l i near noti ons of causal i ty, enri chi ng our conceptu al reser­
voi r. Even some materi al s (such as fi bergl ass and ot her composi tes) have
i ncreased ou r awareness of the l i mi tati ons i mposed by u ni formity and ou r
awareness of t he great advantages of meshworks i n i ndustri al desi gn.
1
5
I n short, ou r theori es are sheddi ng some of thei r homogenei ty. Al though
thi s i s a wel come devel opment, we sti l l have to deal wi th the worl d of ref­
erents, wi th the thousands of routi ni zed organi zat i ons that have accumu­
l ated over the years, wi t h t he spread of standardi zed l angu ages, and
wi t h the homogen i zed gene pool s of our domesti c pl ants and ani mal s, to
menti on onl y the exampl es di scussed i n t hi s book. Changi ng our way of
t hi n ki ng about t he worl d i s a necessary fi rst step, but i t i s by no means
su ffi ci ent: we wi l l need to destratify reality itself, and we must do so wi th­
out the guarantee of a gol den age a head, knowi ng fu l l we l l the dangers
and possi bl e rest rati fi cati ons we may face.
I t i s i mportant, however, not to confuse the need for cauti on i n ou r
expl orat i on of t he nonl i near possi bi l i t i es of (economi c, l i ngui sti c, bi ol ogi ­
cal ) real i ty, and the concomi tant abandonment of utopi an eu phori a, wi th
despai r, resentment, or ni hi l i sm. There i s, i ndeed, a new ki nd of hope
i mpl i ci t i n t hese new vi ews. After al l , many of the most beauti ful and
i nspi r i ng t hi ngs on our pl anet may have been created t hrough destrati fi ­
cati on. A good exampl e of t hi s may be the emergence of bi rdsongs: the
mouth became destrati "f i ed when i t ceased to be a stri ctl y al i mentary
organ, caught up i n t he day-to-day eati ng of fl esh, and began to generate
ot her fl ows (memes) and st r uctu res (songs) where t he meshwork el ement
domi nated t he h i erarchi cal . 1
6
The emergence of orga ni c l i fe i tsel f, whi l e
not representi ng a more perfect stage of devel opment t han rocks, di d
i nvol ve a greater capaci ty t o generate sel f-consi stent aggregates, a sur­
pl us of consi stencyY The human hand may al so have i nvol ved a destrati ­
fi cati on, a compl ete detachment from l ocomoti ve fu nct i ons and a new
coupl i ng wi th the external envi ronment, i tsel f fu rt her dest rati fi ed when
t he hand began convert i ng pi eces of i t (rocks, bones, branches) i nto
tool S.
1
8 Thus, despi te al l t he cauti onary tal es about si mpl i sti c cal l s for
anarchi c l i berati on, t here i s i n t hese new theori es a posi ti ve, even j oyful
concepti on of real i ty. And whi l e t hese vi ews do i ndeed i nvoke the "death
of man, " i t i s onl y t he death of t he "man" of the ol d "mani fest desti n i es, "
not t he deat h of human ity and i ts potenti al for destrati fi cati on. 19
274
Notes
I NTRODUCTI ON
1. See I lya Prigogi ne and I sabel l e Stengers, Order Out of Chaos: Man 's New
Dialogue with Nature (New York: Bantam, 1984). Prigogi ne and Stengers write:
"We have seen new aspects of ti me bei ng progressi vel y i ncorporated i nto physi cs,
whi l e the ambi ti ons of omni sci ence i nherent i n cl assi cal sci ence were progressi vel y
rejected . . . . I ndeed, hi story began by concentrati ng mai nl y on human soci eti es,
after whi ch attentio n was gi ven to the temporal di mensi ons of l i fe and geol ogy. The
i ncorporati on of ti me i nto physics thus appears as the l ast stage of a progressi ve
rei nserti on of hi story i nto the natural and soci al sci ences" (p. 208) .
On the rol e of mi nor fl uctuati ons in determi ni ng the future hi story of a system
after a bi fu rcati on, see ibid. , ch. 6.
2. The term "f i tness" has in fact changed in meani ng wi th neo-Darwi ni sm. I n
the ni neteenth century it denoted a set of apti tudes a nd adapti ve trai ts necessary
for survi val ; today it si mpl y means ferti l ity or, rather, t he number of offspri ng
reared to reproducti ve age. Thi s has taken away the heroi c connotati ons of the
term "fittest," whi ch i s what Soci al Darwi nists expl oi ted i n thei r raci st theori es. I t
has al so made i t rel ati vel y strai ghtforward ( i f somewhat tautol ogical ) to defi ne opti ­
mal fi t: the genes that survi ve are the ones that create more reproduci bl e copi es
of themsel ves. I n thi s sense, opti mal ity (and the l i mi ted rol e for hi story that it
i nvol ves) may sti l l have a pl ace in evol uti onary theory. But when it comes to opti ­
mal i ty of adaptive traits not directly related to reproduction, the i dea that nat ural
sel ecti on can scul pt pl ant and ani mal bodi es that are opti mal l y adapted to thei r
envi ronments has been l osi ng ground. I n parti cul ar, the i ntroducti on of theori es of
sel f-organi zation and nonequi l i bri um, nonl i near dynamics i nto the formal i sm of
neo-Darwi ni sm, has made it cl ear that sel ecti on pressures cannot achi eve opti mal
resul ts, parti cul arly i n cases of coevol uti on, as i n predator-prey arms races. On the
ot her hand, some sci enti sts (Bri an Goodwi n and Francisco Varel a, for exampl e) are
275
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
so i mpressed by spontaneous morphogenesi s that they err i n the opposi te di rec­
ti on, denyi ng any i mportant role to natural sel ection. Here I will adopt the posi ti on
that both sel ecti on and sel f-organi zati on matter i n the accumul ati on of adapti ve
trai ts, as argued in Stuart Kauffman, The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and
Selection in Evolution ( New York: Oxford Uni versi ty Press, 1993), esp. ch. 3.
I t i s from Kauffman t hat I take the term "meshwork, " whi ch fi gures promi nentl y
t hroughout thi s book. The term appears i n Stuart Kauffman, "Random Grammars:
A New Cl ass of Model s for Functi onal I ntegrati on and Transformati on i n the Bi ol ogi ­
cal , Neural and Soci al Sci ences, " i n 1990 Lectures in Complex Systems, eds. Lynn
Nadel and Dani el Stei n (Redwood Ci ty, CA: Addi son�Wesley, 1991), p. 428.
As i mporta nt as Kauffman's work has been i n gi
'
vi ng sel f-organi zati on a pl ace i n
evol uti onary theory, Kauffman sti l l seems marri ed t o an ol d ph i l osophy of sci ence
accordi ng to wh i ch sci enti sts di scover "un iversal l aws" that, together with a
descri pti on of i niti al and bou ndary condi ti ons, can then be used to derive predi c­
ti ons purel y mechan i cal l y (Le. , by means of deducti on). Thi s phi l osophi cal i n heri­
tance from the now-defunct posi ti vi st movement (cal l ed the nomologi cal -deducti ve
model of sci enti fi c expl anati on) needs to be rejected to take ful l advantage of the
new knowl edge generated by nonl i near sci ence. On al l t hi s, and for a ful l expl ana­
ti on of what the new paradigm means for bi ol ogy and phi l osophy of sci ence, see
Davi d J. Depew and Bruce H. Weber, Darwinism Evolving: Systems Dynamics and the
Genealogy of Natural Selection (Cambri dge, MA: MI T Press, 1995), esp. chs. 1 3-18.
3. Art hur I beral l , "A Physi cs for the Study of Ci vi l i zati ons, " i n Self-Organizing
Systems: The Emergence of Order, ed. Eugene Yates (New York: Pl enum, 1987), pp.
531-33.
4. Arthur I beral l , Toward a General Science of Viable Systems ( New York: McGraw­
Hi l l , 1972), pp. 211 and 288. I n thi s work, I beral l views the transi ti on from agri cul ­
tural to urban humani ty as a bi furcati on from a "l i qui d-dropl et" ph ase to a
"pl astic-sol i d" one (p. 211). I n hi s l ater work, thi s transi ti on is vi ewed di fferentl y.
The swi tch to urban l i fe i s vi ewed l ess as a resul t of the crystal l i zati on of a bu reau­
crati c el ite and i nstead as caused by the sel f-organ izati on of trade flows between a
smal l number of settl ements. Or, in physi cal terms, trade among a smal l number of
l i qui d settl ements is vi ewed as creati ng a sel f-sustai ni ng convection cell, si mi l ar to
the ones that gi ve ri se to period i c wi nds (e. g. , trade wi nds, monsoons) . I n short,
whi l e i n hi s early work I beral l vi ewed the comi ng of urban l i fe as an equilibrium
phase transition (al bei t i nvol vi ng noneq ui l i bri um structures, such as el i tes pl ayi ng
the rol e of di sl ocati ons [ibid. , p. 208]), he later thought of i t as a nonequilibrium
transition: "But si mply because that matter condensati on ph ase transi ti on took
pl ace [e. g. , the appearance of sedentary agri cul tural communi ti es], that di d not
consti tute the transi ti on to ci vi l i zati on. That represented a second transi ti on, no
l onger a phase transi ti on, but a hyd rodynami c transi ti on, a transi ti on l i ke the tra n­
siti o n from l ami nar to tu rbul ent fl ow, and for the same reason, fl ow convecti on, a
276
NOTES
nonl i near dynami c process" (Art hur I beral l , "The Bi rth of Ci vi l i zati ons, " i n The
Boundaries of Civilizations in Space and Tme, eds. Matt hew Mel ko and Lei ghton R.
Scott [Lanham, MD: Un i versity Press of Ameri ca, 1987], p. 217).
5. J. D. Becker and E. Zi mmerman, "On the Dual i sm of Dynami cs and Struc­
ture, " in The Paradigm of Self-Organization, ed. G. J . Dal enoort (London: Gordon
and Breach Sci ence Publ i shers, 1989), p. 100. The authors ci te a cl assi fi cati on of
self-organ izi ng phenomena i n th ree sepa rate cl asses, accord i ng to the type (or
absence) of energy flow through a system: (a) conservative (crystal l izati on, poly­
merizati on), (b) di spersi ve (sol i tons), and (c) di ssi pati ve (chemi cal cl ocks). A good
di scussi on of t he di spersi ve type may be found in Davi d Campbel l , "Nonl i near Sci­
ence: From Paradi gms to Techni ca l iti es, " i n From Cardinals to Chaos, ed. Naci a
Grant Cooper (Cambri dge, UK: Cambri dge Un i versity Press, 1989), p. 225. The
work of Prigogi ne (see note 1 above) i s essenti al to understandi ng the di ssi pati ve
type. The mathematics of attractors and bi fu rcati ons are best expl a i ned in I a n
Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics o f Chaos (Oxford, UK: Basi l Bl ackwel l ,
1989), ch. 6.
6. The mai n cri ti que of the attempt to reduce sel f-orga ni zati on to the three
types menti oned i n note 5 i s George Kampi s, Self-Modifying Systems in Biology and
Cognitive Science (Oxford, UK: Pergamon, 1991 ) , ch. 5. Kampi s correctl y argues
that even though the three orthodox types of sel f-orga ni zati on gi ve ri se to emer­
gent or synergi sti c properti es, they can not deal wi th novel emergent properties. Thi s
is particu l arl y cl ear in the case of dyn ami cal systems governed by attractors si nce
these stabl e states are topol ogi cal properti es of phase space, and phase spaces (by
defi niti on) i ncl ude all the possible states for a gi ven system. It fol l ows that (by defi n i ­
ti on) no trul y novel states ca n be represented i n phase spaces. Thi s cri ti ci sm is not
fatal to those branches of nonl i near sci ence that deal wi th the fi rst t hree types of
sel f-organizati on , si nce novel ty and i n novati on are i ndeed rare phenomena. How­
ever, i t does poi nt out thei r l i mi tati ons and cal l s for a new method (compo nent sys­
tems) that ca n deal with novel ty in terms of combi nati ons of bui l d i ng bl ocks, and
the combi natori al productivity of di fferent bl ocks. Thi s i s why I use the term "non­
l i near combi natorics" to design ate thi s fourth type of sel f-orga ni zati on. Work i n thi s
di recti on i s al so bei ng devel oped at the Sa nta Fe I nsti tute, as i n Fontana's Turi ng
gases or Kauffman's random grammars. See Wal ter Fontana, "Fu ncti onal Sel f­
Organ i zati on in Compl ex Systems, " in Nadel and Stei n, 1990 Lectures in Complex
Systems, p. 407; Stuart Kauffman, "Random Grammars, " in ibid. , pp. 428-29.
7. See, e. g. , Chri stopher G. La ngton, "Arti fici al Li fe, " i n Artificial Life, ed. Ch ri s­
topher G. La ngton (Redwood Ci ty, CA: Addi son-Wesl ey, 1989). There Langton wri tes:
Bi ology has tradi ti onal l y started at the top, vi ewi ng a l ivi ng organi sm as a compl ex bi o­
chemical machi ne, and worked analytically downwards from there -through orga ns,
ti ssues, cel l s, organel l es, membra nes, and fi nal l y mol ecu l es - in its pursuit of the
277
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
mechanisms of l i fe. Arti fi ci al Li fe starts at the bottom, viewi ng an organism as a l arge
popu l ati on of simple machi nes, and works upwards synthetically from there, construct­
i ng l arge aggregates of si mpl e, ru l e-governed objects whi ch i nteract wi th one another
nonl i nearl y i n the support of l i fe-l i ke, gl obal dynamics. The " key" concept i n Arti fi ci al
Li fe is emergent behavior. Natural l i fe emerges out of the organi zed i nteracti ons of
a great number of nonl i vi ng mol ecul es, wi th no gl obal control l er responsi bl e for the
behavi or of every part. . . « I t i s this bottom-up, di stri buted, l ocal determi nati on of
behavi or that Arti fi ci al Li fe empl oys i n its pri mary methodol ogi cal approach to the
generati on of l i fe-l i ke behavi ors. (p. 2)
8. On the new synthesi s of economi cs and soci ol
?
gy (and the reasons why
neoi nsti tuti onal i sm i s not a form of "economi c i mperi al i sm"), see Vi ktor J. Vanberg,
Rules and Choice in Economics (London: Routl edge, 1994), ch. l.
Vi ktor Vanberg and James [uchanan seem very aware of the i mportance of the
i deas of nonequi l i bri um, nonl i near sci ence for the future of both economi cs and
soci ol ogy. These authors i ndeed use certai n i nsi ghts from Pri gogi ne to argue for a
new, nontel eol ogi cal theory of markets and bureaucraci es, one whi ch assumes an
open worl d of possi bi l i ti es. They do not gi ve proper emphasi s, however, t o t he i nter­
pl ay between nonhuman matter-energy and human i nstituti ons, an emphasi s that
i s necessary to trul y i ncorporate Prigogi ne's i nsi ghts i nto the study of human hi s­
tory. See J ames M. Buchanan and Vi ktor J. Vanberg, "The Market as a Creati ve
Process, " i n Philosophy of Economics, ed. Dani el M. Hausman ( New York: Cambri dge
Uni versi ty Press, 1994), pp. 315-28.
The concept of "transacti on cost" i s traced by Ol i ver Wi l l i amson (perhaps its
best- known, al though by no means only, contemporary defender) to the work of the
ol d i nsti tuti onal i st school . See Ol i ver E. Wi l l i amson, "Transacti on Cost Economi cs
and Organi zati on Theory," i n Organization Theory, ed. Ol i ver E. Wi l l i amson (New
York: Oxford Uni versi ty Press, 1995), pp. 207-11.
Eval uati ons of the research program of neoi nsti tuti onal i sm from the poi nt of
vi ew of the phi l osophy of sci ence may be found i n Uskal i Maki , "Economi cs wi th
I nsti tuti ons: Agenda for Methodol ogi cal Enqui ry," i n Rationality, Institutions and Eco­
nomic Methodology, eds. Uskal i Maki , Bo Gustafsson, and Chri sti an Knudsen (Lon­
don: Routl edge, 1993), and, i n the same vol ume, Chri sti an Knudsen, "Model l i ng
Rati onal ity, I nsti tuti ons and Processes. "
For a more general revi ew of method whi ch i ncl udes al so the work of "ol d i nsti tu­
ti onal i sts" (the fol l owers of Vebl en and Commons), see Wi l l i am Dugger, "Method­
ol ogi cal Di fferences between I nsti tuti onal and Neocl assi cal Economi cs, " i n
Hausman, Philosophy of Economics, pp. 336-43.
9. Such a synt hesi s i s hi nted at in Robert Crosby, "Aski ng Better Questi ons, " i n
Cities and Regions as Nonlinear Decision Systems, ed. Robert Crosby (Washi ngton,
DC: AAAS, 1983), pp. 9-12.
278
NOTES
CHAPTER ONE: LAVAS AND MAGMAS
1. See Fernand Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, 1400-1800 (New York:
Harper and Row, 1973). Braudel wri tes: "Geography i n conj uncti on wi th the speed ­
or rather the sl owness -of transport at the ti me al so accounts for the very many
smal l towns . . . . So true was i t that every town wel comed movement, recreated i t,
scattered peopl e and goods i n order to gather new goods and new peopl e, and so
on. It was this movement in and out of its walls that indicated the true town" (p. 389;
emphasi s added).
See al so Gi l l es Del euze and Fel i x Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus ( Mi nneapol i s:
Uni versi ty of Mi nnesota Press, 1987). Del euze and Guattari remark: "The town i s
the correl ate of the road. The town exi sts only as a functi on of ci rcul ati on, and of
ci rcui ts; i t i s a remarkabl e poi nt [a si ngul arity] on the ci rcuits that create i t, and
that i t creates. I t i s defi ned by entri es and exi ts; somethi ng must enter i t and exi t
from i t. I t i mposes a frequency. I t effects a pol ari zati on of matter, i nert, l i vi ng or
human; i t causes the phyl um, the fl ow, to pass through speci fi c pl aces, al ong hori ­
zontal l i nes" (p. 432).
2. I ndeed, the mi neral i zati ons that created our endo- and exoskel etons were
bi furcati ons triggered by two great i ntensi fi cati ons i n the fl ow of energy. The fi rst
one occurred when novel forms of energy storage were "di scovered" by organi c
evol uti on. New mol ecul es cal l ed phosphagens al l owed f or the i mmedi ate provi si on
of energy to exci tabl e ti ssues (muscl e and nerye), a necessary step i n the devel op­
ment of mul ti cel l ul ar moti l i ty. I t was thi s fl ow of energy, further i ntensi fi ed by
i mprovements i n "phosphagen technol ogy," that made the use of bone as a control
el ement vi abl e. See Ronal d F. Fox, Energy and the Evolution of Life ( New York: W. H.
Freeman, 1988), pp. 94-100.
3. Ri chard Newbol d Adams, The Eighth Day: Social Evolution as the Self-Organiza­
tion of Energy (Austi n : Uni versi ty of Texas Press, 1988), pp. 102-105.
4. Robert Carnei ro, "Further Refl ecti ons on Resource Concentrati on and I ts
Rol e i n the Ri se of the State, " i n Hunters in Transition: Mesolithic Societies of Temper­
ate Eurasia and Their Transition to Farming, ed. Marek Zvel ebi l (London: Cambri dge
Uni versi ty Press, 1986), pp. 250-51.
5. Lynn Whi te, J r. , "The Li fe of the Si l ent Majority," i n Medieval Religion and
Technology (Berkel ey: Uni versity of Cal i forni a Press, 1978), pp. 137-42.
6. Spi ro Kostof, The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History
(London: Bul fi nch, 1991), p. 30.
7. Paul M. Hohenberg and Lynn Hol l en Lees, The Making of Urban Europe,
1000-1 950 (Cambri dge, MA: Harvard Uni versi ty Press, 1985), p. 101.
8. Kostof, The City Shaped, pp. 46-47.
9. Ibid. , p. 103.
10. I use the term "di stri buti on system" here i n a very l oose way to desi gnate
any i nsti tuti onal arrangement that affects the flow or al l ocati on of matter-energy
279
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
resources in a gi ven soci ety. Karl Pol anyi cl assi fi ed three types or modes of soci al
i ntegrati on: al l ocati ng resources vi a redi stri buti on, reci procity, and exchange.
These three forms of i ntegrati on are defi ned i n terms of di agrams that pl ot the
i nsti tuti onal i zed pattern of fl ow of resources i n a gi ven soci ety. I f the pattern has
a center, i t i s a "redi stri buti on system"; i f i t i s symmetri cal , i t i s a system of reci ­
proci ty; and i f i t connects random poi nts, a system of market exchange. I do not
subscri be to Pol anyi 's theory and therefore si mpl y adopt the i dea that there are
di agrams that defi ne these fl ow patterns. Despi te hi s i nsi stence that hi s vi ews are
"val ue free" and "obj ecti ve, " Pol anyi cl early vi ews markets in a negati ve l i ght
(based on sel fi sh gai n, wi th an i nvi di ous el ement that mi l i tates agai nst soci al sol i ­
darity) and vi ews central i zed regi mes i n a posi ti ve l ight. See Karl Pol anyi , "Forms
of I ntegrati on and Supporti ng Structure, " i n The Livelihood of Man: Studies in Social
Discontinuity, ed. Harry W. Pearson ( New York: Academi c, 1972), pp. 35-6l.
Braudel has severely cri ti ci zed Pol anyi 's typol ogy for i ts al most "total i ndi ffer­
ence to hi story" and for i ts "al most theol ogi cal taste for defi ni ti on. " See Fernand
Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce ( New York: Harper and Row, 1983), pp. 225-28.
11 . Peter Sawyer, " Earl y Fai rs and Markets in Engl and and Scandi navi a, " i n
The Market i n History, eds. B. L. Anderson and A. J . H. Latham ( London: Croom
Hel m, 1986), pp. 62-64.
I must stress that I use the word "market" pri mari l y to refer to weekl y (or other­
wi se peri odi c) assembl ages of peopl e at a parti cul ar pl ace in town. The reason
for t hi s i s that, as Braudel emphasi zes, i t i s onl y i n these condi ti ons that there i s
enough "transparency" for the parti ci pants to percei ve supply and demand condi ­
ti ons and, hence, for pri ces to set themsel ves. The moment consumers become
di spersed and l i nked onl y through chai ns of mi ddl emen, thi s transparency i s l ost.
Braudel sti l l t hi nks that sel f- regul ati on may occur there (si nce pri ces do osci l l ate i n
uni son over these l arger and di spersed markets), but the exact dynamics that oper­
ate sti l l need to be el uci dated (perhaps vi a bottom-up si mul ati ons). See Braudel 's
di scussi on of "transparency" in The Wheels of Commerce, pp. 28-47; on the com­
pl exity of networks of mi ddl emen, see ibid. , pp. 147-68.
Perhaps the best way to characteri ze the di fference between " markets" as
l ocal i zed pl aces i n town and "markets" as di spersed sets of consumers i s by goi ng
beyond the noti on of "exchange" i nto that of "transacti on" wi th its associ ated
"transacti on costs" (whi ch i ncrease as di spersi on i ncreases and i nformati on
becomes harder to obtai n) . (See my expl anati on of these terms i n the mai n text
and in the fol l owi ng reference. )
There i s another cruci al di fference between the two types of markets: i n the
case of the weekl y marketpl ace, the enti re dynami cs may be di saggregated i nto a
mul ti pl i city of dyadic transactions, whi l e a more di spersed set of consumers may
gi ve ri se to more compl ex network effects. The exempl ary case (i n modern ti mes) i s
that of the "battl e" between VHS and Beta vi deotape formats. Al though Beta was
280
NOTES
general l y acknowl edged to be superi or on purel y techni cal grounds, VHS won the
battl e due to sel f-rei nforci ng dynami cs: any smal l advantage accumul ated by one
format earl y on i n the competi ti on was ampl i fi ed by "network effects" ( i n thi s case,
vi deo-rental stores stocki ng more movi es in VHS) , l eadi ng to the enti re i ndustry
becomi ng l ocked in one standard. Thi s phenomenon ( known as "pat h dependence")
i s wi despread i n the hi story of technol ogy and has become one of the ways i n
whi ch actual hi story i s i ntroduced i n neoi nsti tuti onal i st and nonl i near economi cs.
See, for exampl e, Bri an Art hur, "Sel f- Rei nforci ng Mechani sms i n Economi cs, " i n
The Economy a s a n Evolving Complex System, eds. Phi l i p Anderson, Kenneth Arrow,
and Davi d Pi nes ( Redwood Ci ty, CA: Addi son-Wesl ey, 1988), pp. 10-11.
For the i dea that "i nvi si bl e hand" economi cs si mpl y assumes that suppl y and
demand cancel each other out ( i . e. , that markets cl ear) wi thout ever speci fyi ng the
dynami cs that l ead to thi s state, see Phi l i p Mi rowsky, More Heat Than Light: Eco­
nomics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature's Economics (New York: Cambri dge Uni ­
versity Press, 1991 ) , pp. 238-41. Mi rowsky shows how the concept of the "i nvi si bl e
hand" was formal i zed i n the ni neteenth century by si mply copying the form of equi ­
l i bri um thermodynami cs. ( Hence, in hi s opi ni on, thi s branch of physi cs provi ded
more heat than l i ght. ) El sewhere he warns that recent attempts to appl y I I ya Pri ­
gogi ne's theori es to economi cs are maki ng the same mi stake -for exampl e, assum­
i ng the exi stence of attractors wi thout speci fyi ng j ust what i t is that is bei ng
di ssi pated (i . e. , onl y energeti cal ly di ssi pati ve or "l ossy" systems have attractors).
See Phi l i p Mi rowsky, "From Mandel brot to Chaos i n Economi c Theory," Southern
Economic Journal 57 (October 1990), p. 302.
12. Vi ktor J. Van berg, Rules and Choice in Economics (London: Routl edge, 1994),
pp. 153-55. Karl Marx was perhaps the fi rst to see the i mportant connecti on
between economi c acti vi ty and soci al i nsti tuti ons (hi s "rel ati ons of producti on").
He was al so the fi rst to rel ate these two and the worl d of technol ogy ( hi s "means of
producti on"). However, there are at l east two thi ngs that prevent me from usi ng
Marxi st concepts i n thi s book: the l abor theory of val ue (whi ch Pi ero Schraffa has
cl early shown to be a redundant part of Marxi st economi c theory, a ki nd of fi fth
wheel ) and the bui l t- i n tel eol ogy i n the tradi ti onal Marxi st peri odi zati on of hi story as
a progressi ve succession of modes of producti on (feudal i sm-capi tal i sm-soci al i sm).
I bel i eve that the el ements exi st today to carry out Marx's ori gi nal project i n a way
that avoi ds these and other probl ems. The i deas expressed in thi s chapter are an
attempt t o chart t hi s new territory, though cl earl y a very prel i mi nary one.
13. Ibid., pp. 127-38. Van berg compares hi s own "consti tuti onal " approach to
the questi on of corporate actors to a preval ent soci ol ogi cal approach (based on the
noti on that havi ng goal s i s what gi ves organizati ons coherence) and economi c
approach (based on the noti on that exchanges of i nducements and contri buti ons
are what gi ves organi zati ons thei r coherence). I bel i eve that Van berg's sol uti on,
combi ni ng methodol ogi cal i ndi vi dual i sm and ontol ogi cal hol i sm vi a rul e-gui ded deci -
281
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
si on maki ng, i s the most compati bl e with the phi l osophi cal stance taken in thi s
book and the most coherent means of avoi di ng the "functi onal i st" fal l acy, accord­
i ng to whi ch certai n i nsti tuti ons exi st because they serve the needs of an organi za­
ti on or of soci ety.
A revi ew of the hi story of the "goal " approach to organi zati ons, whi ch reveal s its
dependence on the "organi sm" metaphor, may be found i n John Hassard, Sociol­
ogy and Organization Theory: Positivism, Paradigms, and Postmodernity (New York:
Cambri dge Uni versity Press, 1993), chs. 1 and 2.
14. Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce, p. 91.
15. Bri an Ti erney, The Crisis of Church and State, 1050-1300 (Toronto: Uni versi ty
of Toronto Press, 1988), p. 7.
16. A. R. Bri dbury, "Markets and Freedom i n the Mi ddl e Ages, " in Anderson and
Latham, The Market in History, p. 108.
17. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, pp. 51-53.
18. Ibid., p. 54.
19. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, pp. 394-95.
20. Wi l l i am H. McNei l l , The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Soci-
ety since A. D. 1 000 (Chi cago: Uni versity of Chi cago Press, 1982), p. 49.
21 . Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, pp. 396-97.
22. Whi te, "The Li fe of the Si l ent Majority," p. 144.
23. Howard T. Odum and El i zabeth C. Odum, Energy Basis for Man and Nature
( New York: McGraw- Hi l i , 1981), p. 41.
24. Richard Hodges, Primitive and Peasant Markets (Oxford, UK: Basi l Bl ackwel l ,
1988), p. 102. See al so Del euze and Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, p. 442.
25. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, pp. 47-48.
26. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, p. 332.
27. Wi l l i am Wi sel ey, A Tool of Power: The Political History of Money ( New York:
John Wi l ey and Sons, 1977), pp. 3-4.
28. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, p. 329.
29. Ibid. , pp. 351 and 354-56.
30. On the rol e of rati onal ity and thri ft, see Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce,
pp. 572-80.
31 . Dougl as C. North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Perfor­
mance ( New York: Cambri dge Uni versity Press, 1995), pp. 120-31. North descri bes
thi s i nsti tuti onal evol uti on as occurri ng al ong three mai n fronts: those that i ncreased
the mobi l ity of capital (credit i nsti tuti ons); those that l owered i nformati on-acqui si ­
ti on costs (the pri nti ng of pri ces and exchange rates, the standardi zati on of uni ts of
measure); and those that al l owed the transformati on of uncertai nty i nto risk and
for thi s ri sk to be spread among several agents (i nsurance schemes).
32. Ibid. , p. 127.
33. Gateway ci ti es have pl ayed a key rol e in hi story si nce anci ent ti mes and
282
NOTES
coexi sted wi th both "pri mi ti ve" a nd state soci eti es, suppl yi ng thei r el i tes wi th l uxury
i tems. See Hodges, Primitive and Peasant Markets, pp. 42-5l.
34. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 240.
35. Ibid. , p. 64.
36. Fernand Braudel , The Perspective of the World ( New York: Harper and Row,
1986), pp. 27-3l.
37. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 165. The termi nol ogy
"core, " "semi peri phery," and "peri phery" are typi cal l y associ ated wi th I mmanuel
Wal l erstei n's hi ghl y regarded theory of worl d-economi es. These are the l argest units
of anal ysi s i n economi c hi story, l arge areas of economi c coherence i nvol vi ng trans­
nati onal trade networks and hence encompassi ng terri tori es l arger than countri es
(al though not necessari l y of pl anetary proporti ons, l i ke today's worl d-economy).
Al though I acknowl edge the i mportance of Wal l erstei n's work as a contri buti on to
the empi ri cal study of emergent structures at thi s scal e, the tel eol ogy i nvol ved i n
hi s theory of stages (even though i t i s an i mprovement over the l i near sequence
feudal i sm-capi tal i sm-soci al i sm) and hi s i ntensi fi ed methodol ogi cal hol i sm (now tak­
i ng as its poi nt of departure for a top-down anal ysi s a much l arger entity than a
si ngl e soci ety) prevent me from usi ng hi s theori es in thi s book. See, for exampl e,
hi s stance on "stages" and the need to begi n one's study wi th the l argest "total i ­
ti es, " i n "The Ri se and Future Demi se of the Worl d Capi tal i st System: Concepts for
Comparati ve Anal ysi s, " in I mmanuel Wal l erstei n, The Capitalist World-Economy
( New York: Cambri dge Uni versity Press, 1993).
Fortunatel y, Wal l erstei n's approach i s not the onl y one avai l abl e. Braudel has
devel oped an al ternati ve theory of worl d-economi es that i s (at l east potenti al ly) very
val uabl e for a more bottom-up approach. As I sai d before, the i dea here is to com­
bi ne methodol ogi cal i ndi vi dual i sm and ontol ogi cal hol i sm. That i s, to start at the
bottom wi th i ndi vi dual deci si on makers and transactors and then deri ve subsequent
enti ti es on l arger scal es (i nsti tuti onal organi zati ons, ci ti es, states, worl d-economi es)
one l ayer at a ti me. Hence, thi s approach shares Wal l erstei n's ontol ogi cal hol i sm
(i . e. , the i dea that these l arger enti ti es have an autonomous exi stence i n real i ty)
but not hi s top-down methodol ogy. Braudel 's approach seems an i ntermedi ate one.
Hi s mai n source of di sagreement wit h Wal l erstei n i s over the temporal and spati al
l i mi ts of worl d-economi es. Whi l e for Wal l erstei n onl y Europe gave ri se to thi s phe­
nomenon (other areas of the worl d, such as Chi na or I sl am, created worl d empi res
i nstead), for Braudel these areas had worl d-economi es as real and powerful as those
of Europe, al though wit h some major di fferences, such as the absence of anti mar­
kets and the presence of a semi peri phery: "From earl i est ti mes, the core or ' heart'
of Europe was surrounded by a nearby semi -peri phery and by an outer peri phery.
And the semi -peri phery, a peri cardi um so to speak encl osi ng the heart and forci ng i t
to beat faster -northern I tal y around Venice i n the fourteenth and fifteenth centuri es,
the Netherl ands around Antwerp -was probabl y the essenti al feature of the struc-
283
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
ture of Europe. There does not seem to have been a semi -peri phery around Peki ng
or Del hi , I sfahan, I stanbul or Moscow" ( Braudel , The Perspective of the World, p. 56).
Besi des di sagreei ng on the spati al di stri buti on of worl d-economi es i n hi story,
these authors al so di ffer in the temporal l i mits of these l arge-scal e enti ti es. For
Wal l erstei n the European worl d-economy begi ns i n the si xteenth century, wi th the
fai l ure of the Hapsburg Empi re to create a worl d empi re. Thi s i s, of course, neces­
sary for hi s argument, si nce he needs to convi nce us that there has been onl y
one worl d-economy, and that that worl d-economy may be i denti fi ed wi th "capital ­
i sm. " However, Braudel di sagrees:
I am therefore i ncl ined to see the European worl d-economy as havi ng taken shape
very early on; I do not share wi th I mmanuel Wal l erstei n's fascinati on wi th the six­
teenth century . . . . For Wal l erstei n, the European worl d-economy was the matrix of
capi tal ism. I do not dispute this poi nt since to say central zone [i . e. , what I refer to
here as "core of the Network system"] or capi tal ism i s to tal k about the same real i ty.
By the same token, however, to argue that the worl d-economy bui l t i n the si xteenth
century on its Eu ropean site was not the fi rst to occupy this smal l but extraordi nary
conti nent, amou nts to sayi ng that capital ism did not wait unti l the sixteenth centu ry to
make its first appearance. I am therefore in agreement with the Marx who wrote
(al though he l ater went back on this) that European capitalism -indeed he even says
capital i st production ¯ began in thi rteenth-century I taly. Thi s debate is anythi ng but
academi c. (ibid., p. 57)
Cl early, Braudel hi msel f does not compl etely reject Marxi st approaches to thi s
questi on. (See hi s di scussi on and cri ti ci sm of Wal l erstei n's concept, i n ibid. , pp.
51-57. ) I feel more i ncl i ned to start the anal ysi s of worl d-economi es from scratch
and bottom- up, usi ng nonl i near model s to expl ai n thei r temporal coherence (e. g. ,
economi c waves of di fferent durati ons) and urban dynami cs (e. g. , the anal ysi s of
the Network system of Hohenberg and Lees) to account for its spati al coherence.
Thi s seems to me the onl y way to get ri d of tel eol ogi cal (or stagel i ke) accounts of
hi story sti l l very evi dent i n Marxi st terms such as "l ate capital i sm. " I am aware,
however, that such a sketchy account as I have been abl e to gi ve here wi l l hardl y
seem convi nci ng to anyone who al ready operates wi thi n the Wal l erstei ni an para­
di gm. A seri ous account of thi s and other rel ated i ssues wi l l have to wai t for
another occasi on.
38. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 281.
39. Ibid. , p. 282.
40. Descri pti ons and cri ti ci sms of Chri stal l er's theory may be found i n ibid. , pp.
49-50, and Hodges, Primitive and Peasant Markets, pp. 16-34.
41 . Di mitri os Dendri nos, Urban Evolution (Oxford, UK: Oxford Uni versity Press,
1985), pp. 31 and 45-46; Peter M. Al l en, "Sel f-Organi zati on in the Urban System, "
284
NOTES
in Self-Organization and Dissipative Structures: Applications in the Physical and Social
Sciences, eds. Wi l l i am C. Schi eve and Peter M. Al l en (Austi n: Uni versity of Texas,
1982), pp. 135-36; Peter M. Al l en, "Sel f-Organi zati on and Evol uti on i n Urban Sys­
tems, " in Cities and Regions as Nonlinear Decision Systems, ed. Robert Crosby
(Washi ngton, DC: AAAS, 1983), pp. 39-45.
42. Herbert Si mon, The Sciences of the Artificial (Cambri dge, MA: M IT Press,
1994), pp. 32-36.
43. Ri chard Day, "Adapti ve Economi cs, " in Crosby, Cities and Regions as Nonlin­
ear Decision Systems, pp. 103-39; Ri chard Day, "The General Theory of Di sequi l i b­
ri um Economi cs and of Economi c Evol uti on, " in Economic Evolution and Structural
Adjustment, eds. D. Batten, J. Casti , and B. Johansson (Berl i n: Spri nger Verl ag,
1987), pp. 46-61 ; Si ro Lombardi ni , "Rati onal ity in Di sequi l i bri um, " in Nonlinear and
Multisectoral Macrodynamics, ed. Kumaraswamy Vel upi l l ai ( New York: New York Uni ­
versity Press, 1990), pp. 207-22.
For hi stori cal evi dence that "ski l l s" and not some general "rati onal ity" are what
drove deci si on maki ng i n the early centuri es of the modern European economy,
and that these ski l l s needed to be l earned vi a a system of apprenti ceshi p (sendi ng
sons to tradi ng posts), see Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce, pp. 405-408.
44. Thi s i s a wel l -known resul t in nonl i near economi cs at l east si nce the work of
Ri chard Goodwi n i n the 1940s and 1950s. See, for exampl e, Ri chard M. Goodwi n,
"On Growth and Form i n an Economy," i n Essays i n Nonlinear Economic Dynamics
(Frankfurt: Verl ag Peter Lang, 1989), p. 24. See al so remarks on sel f-regul ati on and
nonopti mi zati on, i n Si mon, The Sciences of the Artificial, p. 43.
45. Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce, pp. 227-28, and The Perspective of the
World, pp. 71-87.
46. That data from several economi c i ndi cators ( GNP, unempl oyment rate,
aggregate pri ces, i nterest rates), begi nni ng i n the early ni neteenth century, di spl ay
an unequi vocal peri odi c moti on of approxi mately fifty years' durati on (cal l ed Kon­
drati eff cycles) i s wel l known at l east si nce the work of Joseph Schumpeter. Several
possi bl e mechani sms to expl ai n thi s cycl i cal behavi or have been offered si nce then,
but none has gai ned compl ete acceptance (most of the model s are top-down). A
bottom-up MI T model endogenousl y generates thi s peri odi c osci l l ati on, wi th the
behavi or emergi ng spontaneousl y from the i nteracti on of di fferent segments of the
popul ati on of organi zati ons, as wel l as nonl i neari ti es (such as del ays). See Jay W.
Forrester, " I nnovati on and Economi c Change, " in Long Waves in the World Economy,
ed. Chri stopher Freeman (Boston: Butterworth, 1983), p. 128. (Thi s vol ume al so
offers a survey of the di fferent theori es of the l ong wave. ) On the M IT model and
t he constructi ve rol e t hat del ays may pl ay, see J . D. Sterman, "Nonl i near Dynami cs
i n the Worl d Economy: The Economi c Long Wave, " i n Structure, Coherence and
Chaos in Dynamical Systems, eds. Peter L. Chri sti ansen and R. D. Parmenti er (Man­
chester, UK: Manchester Uni versi ty Press, 1989).
285
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
47. Thomas F. Gl i ck, "Sci ence, Technology and the Urban Envi ronment: The
Great Sti n k of 1858," i n Historical Ecology, ed. Lester J. Bi l sky ( New York: Kenni kat,
1980), p. 1 28. A more general theory of bureaucraci es in modern democrati c soci­
eti es whi ch shows the processes thro ugh whi ch thei r effi ci ency i s constantl y com­
promi sed by questi ons of power and power struggles may be found i n Terry M.
Moe, "The Pol i ti cs of Struct ural Choi ce: Toward a Theory of Publ i c Bureaucracy," i n
Organization Theory, ed. Ol i ver E. Wi l l i amson ( New York: Oxford Uni versity Press,
1995), pp. 116-49.
48. There are several excepti ons to thi s "ru l e" ( i ndi vi dual deci si on maki ng
affects only one l evel of scal e). One of t hem i nvol ves speci al si tuati ons where the
l evel i mmedi atel y higher (the l evel of i nsti tuti ons) i s near a bi furcati on poi nt i n
its own dynamics. Here the deci si ons a n d acti ons o f i ndi vi dual s may b e ampl i fi ed
and have effects beyond thei r scal e. I have often q uoted Prigogi ne and I sabel l e
Stengers on thi s poi nt:
From the physi ci st's poi nt of vi ew thi s i nvol ves a di sti ncti on between states of the
system i n whi ch al l i ndi vi dual i niti ati ve i s doomed to i nsi gni fi cance on one hand, and
on the other, bi furcati on regi ons i n whi ch an i nd i vi dual , an idea, or a new behavi or
can u pset the gl obal state. Even i n those regi ons, ampl i fi cati on obvi ousl y does not
occur wi th j ust any i nd i vi d ual , i dea, or behavi or, but only wi th those that are "danger­
ous" -that i s, those that can exploit to thei r advantage the nonl i near rel ati ons guaran­
teei ng the stabi l ity of the precedi ng regi me. Thus we a re l ed to concl ude that the
same nonl i neari ti es may produce an order out of the chaos of el ementary processes
and sti l l , under di fferent ci rcu mstances, be responsi bl e for the destructi on of thi s
same order, eventual l y produci ng a n ew coherence beyond another bi furcati on. ( l l ya
Prigogi ne and I sabel l e Stengers, Order Out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature
[New York: Bantam, 1984], p. 190)
49. Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce, p. 315.
50. Jane Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations ( New York: Random House,
1984), p. 40.
51 . Ibid. , p. 50.
52. Ibid. , p. 144.
53. Norman H. Packard, "Dynami cs of Devel opment: A Si mpl e Model for
Dynami cs Away from Attractors, " i n Anderson et aI . , The Economy as an Evolving
Complex System, p. 175. I n the same vol ume, other properti es of economi c mesh­
works are expl ored i n Stuart A. Kauffman, "The Evol uti on of Economi c Webs, "
and John H. Hol l and, "The Gl obal Economy as an Ada pti ve Process. " Besi des thei r
i nsi ghts on meshwork dynami cs, these essays i l l ustrate t hree di fferent approaches
to " nonl i near combi natori cs, " that i s, dynami cs away from global attractors.
54. Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, p. 43.
286
NOTES
55. Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce, p. 379.
56. Braudel , The Perspective of the World, p. 630; and John Kenneth Gal brai th,
The New Industrial State (Boston : Houghto n Mi ffl i n, 1978), p. xvi i .
57. Braudel , The Perspective of the World, p. 631.
58. The type of competi ti on i n whi ch ol igopol i es engage i s of the type studi ed
by game theory. Here every actor (l arge fi rm) must take i nto account the potenti al
reacti ons of other actors to each one of i ts moves, as i t pl ans new strategi es for
future acti on. (For exampl e, a l arge fi rm can not u ni l ateral ly l ower pri ces wi thout
fear of triggeri ng a pri ce war. ) I n a real market, however, there are so many actors
that no one can pl an future cou rses of acti on whi ch take i nto account every poten­
ti al ri val . See John R. Mun ki rs and James I . Sturgeon, "Ol i gopol i sti c Cooperati on:
Conceptual and Empi ri cal Evi dence of Market Structure Evol uti on, " i n The Economy
as a System of Power, eds. Marc R. Tool and Warren J. Samuel s ( New Bru nswi ck,
NJ: Transacti on, 1989), p. 338.
But beyond thi s di fference, the mai n feat ure di sti ngui shi ng sel f-regu l ati ng mar­
kets from ol igopol i sti c competi ti on is that the actors i nvol ved in the former are price
takers, t hat i s, they have no control whatsoever over pri ce determi nati on , whi ch i s
basi cal l y automati c. The l atter, on t he other hand, are price makers, si nce they
establ i sh thei r own pri ces by some heuri sti c procedure, such as addi ng a markup
to the costs of producti on. Orthodox economi sts, accepti ng that ol i gopol i es set thei r
own pri ces, attempt to rescue thei r theory by asserti ng that the pri ce bi g corpora­
ti ons arri ve at i s the one that maxi mi zes thei r profi ts, and si nce t he opt i mal ity of
thi s pri ce i s obj ecti vel y determi ned by outsi de forces, i n a sense, thi s pri ce i s sti l l
setti ng i tsel f. For a nonorthodox repl y and for t he hi story of t hi s controversy see,
for exampl e, Den ni s C. Muel l er, "The Corporati on and the Economi st, " i n Philosophy
of Economics, ed. Dani el M. Hausman ( New York: Cambri dge Uni versity Press,
1994), pp. 293-98.
Orthodox economi sts have found a n equi val ent to the " i nvi si bl e hand" i n ol i gopo­
I i sti c competi ti on : Nash equi l i bri ums, defi ned as a set of strategi es, one for each
pl ayer, such that no pl ayer can i mprove hi s expected uti l ity by uni l ateral ly changi ng
hi s strategy. However, as Mari o Henri que Si monsen shows, thi s i deal outcome may
be, for a vari ety of reasons, i mpossi bl e to achi eve. (Prudence, for exampl e, on the
part of one of the competi ng ol i gopol i stic fi rms, may get i n the way. To achi eve a
N ash state al l fi rms must gambl e on the assumpti on that the rest are shooti ng for
a Nash strategy.) Only the "vi si bl e hand" of government i nterventi on (i n the form of
ol d-fashi oned Keynesi an management of aggregate demand) can sol ve t hi s. See
Mari o Henri que Si monsen, "Rati onal Expectati ons, Game Theory and I nfl ati on ary
I nerti a, " in Anderson et ai . , The Economy as an Evolving Complex System, pp.
205-208.
Market power, i n its di fferent mani festati ons, seems al so the weak poi nt of the
neoi nsti tuti onal i st economi cs on whi ch I have rel i ed up to thi s poi nt. On the ot her
287
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
hand, "ol d" i nsti tuti onal economi sts (e. g. , the modern-day fol l owers of Vebl en) have
never l ost si ght of power. As they poi nt out, there are several ways i n whi ch ol i gopo­
l i sti c competi ti on may be turned i nto cooperati on, whi ch i n thi s case is not some­
thi ng to be val ued posi ti vel y si nce i t i s equi val ent to a monopol i sti c state of affai rs.
( I f Ford, GM, and Chrysl er "cooperate" i n setti ng pri ces, f or exampl e, they become
one bi g monopol y. ) One way i n whi ch thi s transformati on may occur i s i f the board
of di rectors of each fi rm i ncl udes members of the same banki ng or i nsurance com­
pani es. Thi s i s the phenomenon known as "i nterl ocki ng di rectorates" for whi ch
much i ndi rect evi dence exi sts. (Such a structure woul d be, i n effect, a meshwork of
hi erarchi es, i n my termi nol ogy.) See John Murki rs, "Central i zed Pri vate Sector
Pl anni ng: An I nsti tuti onal i st Perspecti ve on the Contemporary U. S. Economy," i �
Tool and Samuel s, The Economy as a System of Power, pp. 285-96.
Despi te the absol ute necessity of di sti ngui shi ng between the market-theoreti c
and the game-theoreti c meani ngs of the word "competiti on, " the di sti ncti on i n
practi ce cannot be appl i ed i n t hi s strongly di chotomi zed way, si nce i t i s cl ear that
some smal l fi rms grow i nto l arge ones, that even ol i gopol i es sti l l deal wi th markets
for some of thei r i nputs, and so on. Hence the need to stress the i dea of "compl ex
mi xtures, " a dynami cs that may not be anal yti cal l y tractabl e and hence may need
bottom- up si mul ati ons to be studi ed.
59. Braudel , The Perspective of the World, pp. 103-104 and 124-28.
60. Braudel wri tes, " I am tempted to agree with Del euze and Guattari that
' after a fashi on, capi tal i sm has been a spectre haunti ng every form of soci ety' ­
capi tal i sm, that i s, as I have defi ned i t [ i . e. , as anti markets]" (ibid., p. 581 ).
61 . Ibid. , p. 559.
62. On the anal ysi s of non- European worl d-economi es, see Braudel , The Per­
spective of the World, pp. 523-29. See al so note 37 above.
63. Ad hoc redefi ni ti on of terms i s one of the strategi es that may i mmuni ze a
theory agai nst fal si fi cati on, accordi ng to Popperi an phi l osophy of sci ence. However,
one does not have to be a stri ct Popperi an ( i . e. , to see fal si fi abi l ity as the l andmark
of sci enti fi c knowl edge) to real ize the dangers i nvol ved in ad hoc redefi ni ti ons. On
the vi rtues and l i mi tati ons of Popper's and Lakatos's approaches when appl i ed to
economi cs, see, f or exampl e, Mark Bl aug, "Why I Am Not a Constructi vi st: Confes­
si ons of an Unrepentant Popperi an, " i n New Directions in Economic Methodology,
ed. Roger E. Backhouse (London: Routl edge, 1994), pp. 109-15.
Braudel hi msel f prefers to keep the word "capi tal i sm" and change i ts meani ng
(so that it refers excl usi vel y to non-market-competi ti on, i . e. , bi g busi ness). How­
ever, such an entrenched meani ng cannot be changed so easi ly. Thi s i s why I prefer
to use a di fferent term al together, and one whi ch bears its i ntended meani ng on
i ts sl eeve. A term l i ke "anti market" i s preci sel y what i s needed here to wrest the
noti on of "market" both from the ri ght (i nvi si bl e handers) and the l eft (commodi ­
fi ers). Thi s, i t seems to me, i s a cruci al move, otherwi se we wi l l be confi ned, when
288
NOTES
thi nki ng about possi bl e routes for soci al devel opment, between two choi ces that
are equal l y hi erarchi cal : capi tal i sm and soci al i sm. On the hi story of the word "capi ­
tal i sm, " see Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce, pp. 232-38.
64. Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce, p. 419.
65. Ibid. , p. 405.
66. Ibid., pp. 97-100 and 390-95. Bi l l s of exchange and other forms of pri mi ­
ti ve paper money, such as banknotes, arose more or l ess spontaneousl y out of
the dai l y acti vi ti es of bi g merchants, and whenever metal l i c money was not pl enti ­
ful enough to catalyze trade. Si mi l arly, banks and stock exchanges emerged fi rst
as i nformal practi ces, becomi ng i nsti tuti ons as the rul es that governed them
hardened i nto formal procedures. Onl y l ater on di d these i nsti tuti onal practi ces
became "mi neral i zed, " as banks and exchanges acq ui red thei r own permanent
bui l di ngs. For exampl e, stocks on government l oans ci rcul ated through the top of
commerci al hi erarchi es ( i . e. , bi g fai rs) as earl y as the fourteenth century. Earl y
stock exchanges were l i ke the upper echel ons of fai rs, onl y operati ng permanently,
ori gi nal l y si mpl y as dai ly meeti ngs of weal thy merchants and brokers at a gi ven
spot in many medi eval ci ti es. By the ti me speci al bui l di ngs were bui l t to house
these meeti ngs, they had al ready devel oped formal rul es for conducti ng thei r
transacti ons. Thus, whi l e the exchange at Antwerp was i n exi stence by 1460, i ts
mi neral izati on di d not occur unti l 1518. And a si mi l ar poi nt can be made about
banks, whi ch emerged as di spersed practi ces, whether of money l enders or the
servi ces that merchant compani es performed for one another, l ater evol vi ng i nto
separate i nsti tuti ons i n Fl orence around the fourteenth centu ry. A banki ng system,
however, woul d take l onger to devel op and cannot be sai d to have been in pl ace
unti l the ei ghteenth century, centered i n Amsterdam, the core of the Network sys­
tem at the ti me.
On the banki ng system's d i ffi cul ty i n establ i shi ng i tsel f, and on the conti ngent
hi story of banks and banki ng, whi ch does not refl ect any underl yi ng rati onal ity, see
John Kenneth Gal brai th, Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went (Boston: Houghton
Mi ffl i n, 1975), chs. 3-.
67. Anne Querri en, "The Metropol i s and the Capi tal , " i n Zone 1/2: The Contem­
porary City ( New York: Zone, 1986), p. 219.
68. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 70.
69. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers ( New York: Random
House, 1987), pp. 22-23.
70. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Ufe, p. 386.
71 . Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, pp. 11-12.
72. McNei l l , The Pursuit of Power, p. 44.
73. Ibid. , p. 45. On Chi na's mi ssed opportunity to "di scover" Europe, see al so
Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce, p. 581, and Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the
Great Powers, p. 7.
289
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
74. Braudel , The Perspective of the World, p. 32.
75. Al fred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe,
900-1900 ( New York: Cambri dge Uni versity Press, 1989), p. lOt
76. Ibid. , pp. 113-14.
77. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 161.
78. City hi erarchi es i nteracted i n ways that promoted autocatal yti c dynami cs.
Urban anti markets, for exampl e, provi ded credi t to fi nance the wars that defeated
every effort to make Europe i nto a homogeneous h i erarchy (for exampl e, Amster­
dam's fi nanci ers su ppl i ed the funds t hat London needed to defeat Napol eon and
thus keep the conti nent a heterogeneous meshwork). On the fi nanci al aspects of
war, and the di fferences between France and Engl and i n t hi s respect, see Kennedy,
The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, pp. 80-85.
79. Mal akondavya Chal l a and Ri chard L. Pfeffer, "Formati on of Atl anti c Hu rri ­
canes from Cl oud Cl usters and Depressi ons;" i n Journal of Atmospheric Sciences
(Apri l I, 1990), p. 909.
80. Harvey Bl att, Gerard Mi ddl eton, and Raymond Mur ray, Origin of Sedimen­
tary Rocks ( New York: Prenti ce- Hal l , 1972), p. 102.
81 . Ibid. , p. 353.
82. Del euze and Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, p. 41. Del euze and Guattari cal l
these two operati ons "content" a n d "expressi on" a n d warn us agai nst confusi ng
t hem wi th the ol d phi l osophi cal d i sti ncti on between substance and form. Content
and expressi on each i nvol ves substance and form: sedi mentati on i s not j ust about
accumul ati ng pebbl es (substance) but al so about sorti ng them i nto uni form l ayers
(form); whi l e consol i dati on not only effects new architectoni c coupl i ngs between
pebbl es (form) but al so yi el ds a new enti ty, a sedi mentary rock (su bstance). I t i s
thi s form of the di agram ( one operati on i nvol vi ng substances and forms, another
operati on i nvol vi ng forms and substances) t hat i s the most abstract and, hence, the
most useful . The parti cul ar i nstanti ati on that I wi l l be usi ng i n t hi s book (sorti ng +
consol i dati on) may be seen as a parti cul ar form of thi s more general di agram.
Actual ly, here Del euze and Guattari i ncorrectl y characteri ze the two arti cul ati ons
i nvol ved i n rock p roducti on as "sedi mentati on-fol di ng. " The correct sequence i s
"sedi mentati on-cementati on. " Then, on a different spatial scale, "cycl i c sedi mentary
rock accumul ati on-fol di ng i nto mountai n. " I n other words, they col l apse two di ffer­
ent doubl e-arti cul ati ons (one uti l izi ng as its starti ng poi nt the products of the pre­
vi ous one) i nto one. I bel i eve t hi s correcti on does not affect thei r u nderl yi ng
argument and i ndeed strengthens i t ( si nce i t shows that the same process may
occur on two di fferent scal es).
83. Ni l es El dri dge, Macroevolutionary Dynamics: Species, Niches, and Adaptive
Peaks ( New York: McGraw- Hi l i , 1989), p. 127.
84. Marvi n Harri s, Cannibals and Kings ( New York: Vi ntage, 1991), p. 104.
85. S. N . Ei senstadt, "Conti nui ti es and Changes i n Systems of Strati fi cati on, " i n
290
NOTES
Stability and Social Change, eds. Bernard Barber and Al ex I nkel es (Boston: Li ttl e,
Brown, 1971 ), p. 65.
86. Ibid. , pp. 66-71.
87. Humberto R. Mat urana and Franci sco J. Varel a, The Tree of Knowledge: The
Biological Roots of Human Understanding (Boston: Shambhal a, 1992), pp. 47 and
115. Other researchers have di scovered that as the l oop adds new nodes i t may
reach a cri ti cal threshol d of compl exity and undergo a bi furcati on, a transi ti on to a
new state where compl exi fi cati on accel erates. (What I referred to above as "i ndus­
tri al takeoff. ") Si nce the states to whi ch a phase transi ti on l eads are in no way
"di rected" or "progressi ve, " changi ng and devel opi ng by crossi ng bi furcati ons are
other ways of growing by dri ft.
88. Prigogi ne and Stengers, Order Out of Chaos, p. 147.
89. Franci sco J. Varel a, "Two Pri nci pl es of Sel f-Organizati on, " in Self-Organiza­
tion and Management of Social Systems, eds. H. Ul ri ch and G. J . B. Probst (Berl i n:
Spri nger Verl ag, 1984), p. 27.
90. Del euze and Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, p. 329.
91 . Mi chael Bi sacre, Encyclopedia of the Earth 's Resources ( New York: Exeter,
1984), p. 79.
92. Del euze and Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, p. 328. The authors constantl y
refer to catalysi s i n thei r theori es of meshworkl i ke structures (rhi zomes, smooth
spaces, etc. ). They tend to vi ew catal ysi s i n terms of one speci fi c (al bei t very i mpor­
tant) type of catal yst: the al l osteri c enzymes di scovered by Jaques Monod, whi ch
are l i ke programmabl e catal ysts, with two heads. "What hol ds heterogeneiti es
toget her wi thout thei r ceasi ng to be heterogeneous . . . are i ntercal ary osci l l ati ons,
synthesi zers wi th at l east two heads" (p. 329).
What i s needed here i s to make the noti on of a "catalyst" more abstract so t hat
the speci fi c functi ons of a chemi cal catalyst (to perform acts of recogni ti on vi a a
l ock-and-key mechani sm, to accel erate or decel erate chemi cal reactions) are not
what matters, but the more general noti on of ai di ng growth "from withi n" or "from
in between. " One step i n thi s di recti on has been taken by Art hur I beral l , whom I
menti oned in the i ntroducti on as a pi oneer in " nonl i near hi story," by defi ni ng cat­
alyti c activity as the abi l ity to force a dynami cal system from one attractor to
another. I n the case of a chemical catal yst the dynami cal system wou l d be the tar­
get mol ecul e (the one to be catal yzed) and the two stabl e states woul d be its "unre­
acti ve" and "reacti ve" states, so that by switch i ng mol ecul es from one state to
another the catal yst accel erates the reacti on. See Art hur I beral l and Harry Soodak,
"A Physi cs for Compl ex Systems, " i n Self-Organizing Systems: The Emergence of
Order, ed. Eugene Yates ( New York: Pl enum, 1987), p. 509.
El sewhere, I beral l notes that , i n t hi s sense, nucl eati on events and di sl ocati ons
may be consi dered to i nvol ve "acts of catal ysi s. " Nucleation refers to the process
t hrough whi ch the structures that appear after a phase transi ti on (crystal s j ust
291
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
after the bi furcati on to the sol i d state, for exampl e) consol i date and grow, as
opposed to reverti ng back to the previ ous state (by crossi ng the bi furcati on in the
opposite di recti on). Typi cal ly, somet hi ng has to catal yze the growth of structure to a
cri ti cal mass (nucl eati on threshol d), after whi ch growth may proceed more or l ess
spontaneousl y. Thi s "somethi ng" may be anythi ng from a dust parti cl e to a defect
in the contai ner in whi ch the crystal l i zati on i s happeni ng. If one careful l y removes
al l parti cl es and defects, one can i ndeed cool down a l i qui d past the bi furcati on
poi nt wi thout crystal l i zati on taki ng pl ace. (Eventual ly, as we cool down further, even
a mi croscopi c thermal fl uctuati on can act as catal yst and trigger the nucl eati on. )
Dislocations, on the ot her hand, are l i ne defects wi thi n the body of the growi ng crys­
tal s whi ch hel p them grow by stori ng mechani cal energy in thei r mi sal i gned ( hence
nonequi l i bri um) composi ng atoms. Thi s stored energy al lows them to promote crys­
tal growth by l oweri ng nucl eati on t hreshol ds. Thus, in thi s abstract sense of "catal ­
ysi s; " -the i ntercal ary events i nvol ved i n the creati on of i gneous rocks are of the
mes hwork-generati ng type. On thi s see Arthur I beral l , Toward a General Science of
Viable Systems ( New York: McGraw- Hi l i , 1972), p. 208.
But we can go further. Defi ned thi s way, "catalysi s" becomes a true abstract
operati on: anyt hi ng that switches a dynami cal system (an i nteracti ng popul ati on of
mol ecul es, ants, humans, or i nsti tuti ons) from one stabl e state to another i s literally
a catalyst i n thi s sense. Hence, we may use thi s defi ni ti on not onl y to move down
from chemi stry (the fi el d of the l i teral a ppl i cati on of the term) to physi cs, wi thout
metaphor, but al so up, to bi ol ogy, soci ol ogy, and l i ngui sti cs. I n thi s book I wi l l use
the term to refer to thi s abstract operator capabl e of constrai ni ng matter-energy
fl ows of di fferent ki nds, by switchi ng them from attractor to attractor. Ci ti es and
i nsti tuti ons, for exampl e, woul d be i nstanti ati ons of thi s operator to the extent that
they ari se form matter-energy flows and deci si on-maki ng processes but then react
back on these flows and processes to constrai n them in a vari ety of ways (sti mul at­
i ng them or i nhi bi ti ng them). On the other hand, as I beral l hi msel f notes, catal yti c
constrai nts may combi ne wi th one another and form l anguagel i ke systems. Another
physi ci st, Howard Pattee, has further el aborated the noti on of enzymes (organi c
catal ysts) as syntacti cal constrai nts, operati ng on a semanti c worl d defi ned by its
stabl e states. Thi s wi l l be i mportant in Chapter Three, where I wi l l di scuss a recent
mathemati cal theory of l anguage (by Zel l i g Harris) based preci sel y on the noti on of
combi natori al constrai nt (whi ch repl aces that of "grammati cal rul e"). On bi ol ogi cal
catal ysts as syntacti c constrai nts, see Howard Pattee, " I nstabi l i ti es and I nformati on
i n Bi ol ogi cal Sel f-Organi zati on, " i n Yates, Self-Organizing Systems, p. 334.
93. Gregoi re Ni col i s and I l ya Pri gogi ne, Exploring Complexity ( New York: W. H.
Freeman, 1989), p. 29.
94. Del euze and Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, p. 335.
95. See, for exampl e, Russel l D. Vetter, "Symbi osi s and t he Evol uti on of Novel
Trophi c Strategi es, " i n Symbiosis as a Source of Evolutionary Innovation, eds. Lynn
292
NOTES
Margul i s and Rene Fester (Cambri dge, MA: MI T Press, 1991) , pp. 219-40, and
Peter W. Pri ce, "The Web of Li f e: Devel opment over 3. 8 Bi l l i on Years of Trophi c
Rel ati ons, " in ibid. , pp. 262-70.
96. I n the opi ni on of the ecol ogist Stuart Pi mm, i ntervi ewed in Roger Lewi n,
Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos (New York: Macmi l l an, 1992), p. 126.
97. Si mon, The Sciences of the Artificial, p. 41.
98. North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance, p. 108.
I n real markets beyond a certai n l evel of scal e and compl exi ty, pri mi ti ve money and
i nformal constrai nts are not enough to arti cul ate heterogeneous demands. Mone­
tary systems (wi th a strong hi erarchi cal structure) as wel l as formal constrai nts are
needed to keep transacti on costs down. Accordi ng to North, formal rul es often
form hi erarchi es, too, wi th the rul es at the top of the pyrami d changi ng very sl owl y
and those at the bottom changi ng more swi ftl y: "Formal rul es i ncl ude pol i ti cal (and
j udi ci al ) rul es, economi c rul es, and contracts. The hi erarchy of such rul es, from
consti tuti ons, to statute and common l aws, to speci fi c bylaws, and fi nal ly to i ndi vi d­
ual contracts, defi nes constrai nts, from general rul es to parti cul ar speci fi cati ons.
And typi cal l y constituti ons are desi gned to be more costl y to al ter than statute
l aws, j ust as statute l aw i s more costl y to al ter than i ndi vi dual contracts" (p. 47).
99. Si mon, The Sciences of the Artificial, p. 38.
100. As Del euze and Guattari wri te:
Stati ng the distincti o n i n i ts more general way, we coul d say that i t i s between strati­
fi ed systems or systems of strati fi cati on on the one hand, and consistent, sel f­
consistent aggregates o n the other . . . . There is a coded system of stratifi cati on when­
ever, horizontal ly, there are linear causalities between el ements; and, verti cal ly, hi er­
archies of order between groupi ngs; and, hol di ng it al l together in depth, a successi on
of frami ng forms, each of whi ch i nforms a substance and i n turn serves as a sub­
stance for another form [e.g. , the succession pebbl es-sedi mentary rocks-fol ded moun­
tai ns above] . . . . On the other hand, we may speak of aggregates of consistency when
instead of a regul ated succession of forms-substances we are presented wi th con­
sol i dati ons of very heterogeneous el ements, orders that have been short-ci rcui ted or
even reverse causalities, and captures between materi al s and forces of a di fferent
natu re. (Del euze and Guattari , A Thousand Plateaus, p. 335; emphasis added)
I take it that here the expressi on "reverse causal i ti es" refers to ci rcul ar causal ity or
feedback mechani sms.
101 . Magoroh Maruyana, "Symbi oti zati on of Cultural Heterogeneity: Sci enti fi c,
Epi stemol ogi cal and Aestheti c Bases, " i n Cultures of the Future, eds. Magoroh
Maruyana and Arthur M. Hraki ns (The Hague: Mouton, 1978), pp. 457-58; and
Magoroh Maruyana, "Four Di fferent Causal Metatypes i n Bi ol ogi cal and Soci al Sci ­
ences, " i n Schi eve and Al l en, Self-Organization and Dissipative Structures, p. 355.
293
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
102. An exampl e of the use of the term "anti -Gai an" to refer to posi ti ve feed:
back i s Penel ope J . Boston and Starl ey L. Thompson, "Terrestri al Mi crobi al and
Vegetati on Control of Pl anetary Envi ron ments, " i n Scientists on Gaia, eds. Stephen
H. Schnei der and Penel ope J . Boston (Cambri dge, MA: MI T Press, 1993), p. 99.
A cri ti ci sm of the use of "Gai an" terms as a mere rel abel i ng of posi ti ve and nega­
tive feed back may be found in James W. Ki rchner, "The Gai a Hypotheses: Are They
Testabl e? Are They Usefu l ?" in ibid. , p. 38.
103. Maruyana, "Symbi oti zati on of Cul tural Heterogeneity," pp. 459-0.
104. Ibid. , p. 470.
105. John D. Stei nbruner, The Cybernetic Theory of Decision ( Pri nceton, NJ:
Pri nceton Uni versi ty Press, 1974), pp. 47-55. Thi s book i s about the rol e t hat nega­
tive feedback may pl ay in i nsti t uti ons as a ki nd of homeostati c mechani sm. I n eco­
nomi cs, negati ve feedback appears mostl y in the form of "di mi ni shi ng returns. "
106. Mi chael J. Radzi cki , "I nsti tuti oral Dynari cs, Determi ni sti c Chaos and Sel f­
Organizi ng Systems, " Journal of Economic Issues 24 (March 1990). The author pro­
poses a model of i nsti tuti onal dynami cs as "a mathemati cal pattern of posi ti ve and
negati ve feedback l oops, contai ni ng accumul ati ons or nu meri cal i ntegrati ons that
are j oi ned together by nonl i near cou pl i ngs" (p. 59).
107. George Kampi s, Self-Modifying Systems in Biology and Cognitive Science:
A New Framework for Dynamics, Information and Complexity (Oxford, UK: Pergamon,
1991 ), p. 235. Kampi s wri tes: "The noti on of i mmensity transl ates as i rred uci bl e
vari ety of the component-types . . . . Thi s ki nd of i mmensity i s an i mmedi ately com­
pl exi ty-rel ated property, for i t i s about vari ety and heterogeneity, and not si mply as
numerousness. "
108. Josef W. Konvitz, Cities and the Sea: Port City Planning in Early Modern
Europe ( Bal ti more, MD: Johns Hopki ns Uni versity Press, 1978), p. 73.
109. Hohen berg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 185.
110. Thi s i dea, that there may be fort uitous accumul ati ons of compl exi ty but
not a general dri ve toward compl exi fi cati on has been defended most el oquentl y by
Stephen Jay Goul d. See, for exampl e, "Ti res to Sandal s, " i n Stephen Jay Goul d,
Eight Little Piggies ( New York: W.W. Norton, 1994), pp. 318-24. See al so the opi n­
i ons expressed by Goul d and Ri chard Dawki ns, quoted i n Lewi n, Complexity: Life at
the Edge of Chaos, pp. 145-46.
As far as the evol uti on of tech nol ogy i s concerned, for the i dea that technol ogi cal
devel opment does not fol l ow a si ngl e l i ne, that many possi bl e l i nes are l eft undevel ­
oped, and that there have al ways been di fferent al ternati ves (some more oppres­
sive and control l i ng than others), even for mass producti on, see Seymour Mel man,
"The I mpact of Economi cs on Technol ogy," i n Tool and Samuel s, The Economy as a
System of Power, pp. 49-61.
Thi s is a theme rel ated to Bri an Arthu r's theory regardi ng network external i ti es
due to posi ti ve feedback (the phenomenon i s referred to as " path dependence").
294
NOTES
One of t he possi bi l i ti es i s al ways that a parti cul ar technol ogy wi l l become l ocked i n
the i nferi or standard. A si mi l ar poi nt may appl y to i nsti tuti onal evol ution . See North,
Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance, ch. 11.
111 . Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 185.
112. Ibid. , p. 197.
113. I an G. Si mmons, Changing the Face of the Earth: Culture, Environment, His-
tory (Oxford, UK: Basi l Bl ackwel l , 1989), p. 216.
114. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 243.
115. Si mmons, Changing the Face of the Earth, p. 201.
116. Ri chard Newbol d Adams, "The Emergence of Hi erarchi cal Soci al Structure:
The Case of Late Victo ri an Engl and, " i n Sc hi eve and Al l en, Self-Organization and Dis­
sipative Structures, p. 124.
117. Adams, The Eighth Day, p. 133.
118. George F. Ray, " I nnovati on and Long Term Growth, " i n Freeman, Long
Waves in the World Economy, p. 184.
119. Braudel , The Perspective of the World, p. 548.
120. Ibid., pp. 548-49.
121 . Ibid. , pp. 552-53.
122. Ibid. , p. 560.
123. Lyn n Whi te, J r. , " Pumps and Pendul a, " i n Medieval Religion and Technology,
p. 130.
124. Eugene S. Ferguson, Engineering and the Mind's Eye (Cambri dge, MA: MI T
Press, 1993), pp. 58-59. On t he rol e of i nformati on and ski l l s i n t he I ndustri al
Revol uti on, see I an I nkster, Science and Technology i n History ( New Brunswi ck, NJ:
Rutgers Uni versi ty Press, 1991), ch. 3.
125. Braudel , The Perspective of the World, pp. 277 and 294-95.
126. Ibid. , p. 385.
127. Ibid., p. 588.
128. Carl W. Condi t, " Bui l di ngs and Constructi on, " i n Technology in Western
Civilization, 2 vol s. , eds. Mel vi n Kra nzberg and Carrol W. Pursel l ( New York: Oxford
Uni verSi ty Press, 1967), vol . 1, pp. 374-75.
129. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, pp. 241-42. There, the
authors wri te:
Rai l ju ncti ons such as Crewe and Vierzon joi ned river and canal ports and towns at the
mouth of val l eys as commerci al ly strategic pl aces . . . . The Network System i n the ni ne­
teenth and twentieth centuri es broke free of the constrai nts heretofore i mposed on i t
by ports and strategic crossroads. Al though many tradi ti onal nodes and gateways con­
ti nued to fl ouri sh, the pul l of territori al capi tal s on trade, fi n ance and enterpri se cou l d
grow u nchecked. With thei r concentrati on of power and wealth, these ci ti es com­
manded the desi gn of the rai l n etworks and l ater of the motorways, and so secu red
295
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
the l i nks on whi ch future nodality depended. Where once the trade routes and water­
ways had determi ned urban l ocati on and roles in the urban network, rail transporta­
ti on now accommodated the expansi on needs of the great ci ti es for both local traffic
and di stant connecti ons.
130. Eugene S. Ferguson, "Steam Transportati on, " i n Kranzberg and Pursel l ,
Technology in Western Civilization, vol . 1 , pp. 296-97.
131 . Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, p. 145. See al so Braudel , The
Perspective of the World, pp. 409-10 and 426, on the rol e of mari ti me gateways i n
ei ghteent h-century Ameri can col on i es.
132. Roger Burl i ngame, "Locomoti ves, Rai l ways, and Steamshi ps, " i n
Kranzberg and Pursel l , Technology in Western Civilization, vol . 1, p. 429.
133. Charl es F. O' Connel l , J r. , "The Corps of Engi neers and the Ri se of Modern
Management, 1827-1856, " i n Military Enterprise: Perspectives on the American Expe­
rience, ed. Merrit Roe Smi th (Cambri dge, MA: MI T Press, 1987), pp. 88-9.
134. Robert C. Davi s, Shipbuilders of the Venetian Arsenal: Workers and Workplace
in the Preindustrial City (Bal ti more, MD: Johns Hopki ns Un i versity Press, 1991 ) , p. 44.
135. Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Revi ew
Press, 1974), p. 89.
136. Merri t Roe Smi th, "Army Ordnance and the ' Ameri can System of Manufac­
turi ng, ' 1815-1861, " in Smi th, Military Enterprise, p. 79. The cl assi cal work in thi s
area i s Davi d A. Hounshel l , From the American System to Mass Production,
1800-1932 (Bal ti more, MD: Johns Hopki ns Un i versity Press, 1984), ch. 1. See al so
note 175 bel ow, on the hi story of automati on, and the di scussi on of thi s and ot her
i nteracti ons between mi l i tary and economi c i nsti tuti ons i n Man uel De Landa, War in
the Age of Intelligent Machines ( !ew York: Zone, 1992), ch. 1.
Recently, the purel y mi l i tary ori gi n of the Ameri can system has been chal l enged
i n Donal d R. Hoke, Ingenious Yankees: The Rise of the American System of Manufac­
turers in the Private Sector ( New York: Col umbi a Uni versity Press, 1990). However,
it seems to me that Hoke's cri ti ci sms fal l short. He acknowl edges that the basi c
i dea behi nd the system (a standard model to be copi ed exactly) was born i n French
ei ghteenth-century arsenal s and adopted l ater i n the U. S. through i mi tation -for
exampl e, by the earl y wooden-cl ock manufacturers operati ng on the "putti ng out"
system (whi ch antedated concentrated factory production). Hi s other exampl es
are al l bi g busi ness and so are not real l y counterexampl es but si mpl y exampl es of
convergence toward di sci pl i nary methods by l arge hi erarchi cal organizations. To
pretend that those l arge organi zati ons were bei ng dri ven by "Yankee i ngenuity" i s
nai ve, gi ven the hi erarchi cal nature of those i nsti tuti ons.
137. Braudel , The Wheels of Commerce, pp. 322-25.
138. Some recent nonl i near model s of economi c evol uti on stress the i nteracti on
between two di fferent processes, i n novati on and routi n izati on -that i s, between the
296
NOTES
spontaneous prol iferati on of fl exi bl e ski l l s and procedures and thei r gradual con­
versi on i nto ri gi d, u ni form routi nes. Accordi ng to these model s, the process of i n no­
vati on pushes economi c evol uti on far from equi l i bri um, toward the mul ti pl e forms
of stabi l i ty that characterize sel f-organi zati on, whi l e the process of routi nizati on
bri ngs the economy back to equi l i bri um. See, for exampl e, D. Batten, J. Casti , and
B. Johanson, "Economi c Dynami cs, Evol uti on and Structural Adj ustment, " i n Eco­
nomic Evolution and Structural Adjustment, eds. D. Batten, J. Casti , and B. Johanson
(Berl i n: Spri nger Verl ag, 1 987) , pp. 19-20.
139. Hohen berg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 203.
140. Ibid., p. 202. See al so A. E. Anderson, "Creati vi ty and Economi c Dynami cs
Model l i ng," in Batten et aI . , Economic Evolution and Structural Adjustment, pp.
27-44. Anderson menti ons several wel l -studi ed cases of "creati ve expl osions" i n
urban centers due to economi es of aggl omerati on (deep knowl edge i n a number of
fi el ds and i ntensi ve l ocal i nteracti on). I n addi ti on to thi s, he menti ons the need for
a sponsori ng i nsti tuti on and a percei ved soci al di sequi l i bri um as factors i n the
expl osi ons. The ci ti es and peri ods studi ed are: Fl orence (1400-1500), Vi enna
( 1880-1930), and l'ew York (1950-1980). See esp. p. 36.
141 . Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 207.
142. North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance, p. 121.
143. Ol i ver E. Wi l l i amson, "Chester Barnard and the I nci pi ent Sci ence of Organi ­
zation, " in Wi l l i amson, Organization Theory, pp. 190-99.
144. Thi s poi nt follows from the asset-speci fi ci ty versi on of transacti on cost
theory, but it i s not one whi ch Wi l l i amson hi msel f emphasi zes. He follows Barnard
in hi s concepti on of the empl oyees of a fi rm bei ng there by consensus (at l east
wi thi n a certai n "zone of i ndi fference" wi thi n whi ch they do not mi nd obeyi ng com­
mands). It is Dougl as l'orth who menti ons the decreased bargai ni ng power of de­
ski l l ed workers as a decreased transacti on cost for managers, in North, Institutions,
Institutional Change, and Economic Performance, p. 65.
145. Mi chael Di etri ch, Transaction Cost Economics and Beyond (London: Rout­
l edge, 1994), pp. 20-28. See al so hi s anal ysi s of the evol uti on of producti on meth­
ods from the putti ng-out system to the factory, i n terms of hi s modi fi ed transacti on
cost theory, i n ch. 4.
146. Gal brai th, The New Industrial State, chs. 7 and 15. The cl assi cal study of
the modern corporati on, and of the questi on of the separati on of ownershi p from
control , i s Adol f A. Berl e and Gardi ner C. Means, The Modern Corporation and Pri­
vate Property ( New Bru nswi ck, NJ: Transacti on, 1 991).
147. Nort h traces the ori gi n of thi s organizati onal form to the Commenda, of
Jewi sh, Byzanti ne, and Musl i m ori gi ns. North, Institutions, Institutional Change, and
Economic Performance, p. 127. On the Compan i es of I ndi as as states wi t hi n the
state, see for exampl e Braudel , The Perspective of the World, p. 213.
148. Wi l l i am Lazoni ck, Business Organization and the Myth of the Market Economy
297
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
(New York: Cambri dge Uni versity Press, 1994), p. 5. Li ke Mi chael Di etri ch (see note
145 above), Lazoni ck is cri ti cal of Wi l l i amson's versi on of transacti on cost theory,
and offers an expanded versi on. See al so hi s anal ysi s of why Marxi st economi c hi s­
tori ans fai l ed for a l ong ti me to u nderstand thi s particul ar organi zati onal form (t he
j oi nt-stock company wit h its separati on of control from owners hi p), i n ch. 8.
149. Braudel , The Perspective of the World, pp. 128-31.
150. Roy Lubove, " Urban Pl anni ng and Devel opment, " in Kranzberg and
Pursel l , Technology in Western Civilization, vol . 2, p. 462.
151 . Ibid. , p. 465.
152. Ibid. , p. 466.
153. Jean- Francoi s Hennart, "The Transacti on Cost Theory of the Mul ti nati onal
Enterprise, " i n The Nature of the Transnational Frm, eds. Chri stos N. Pi tel i s and
Roger Sugden (London: Routl edge, 1991), p. 85.
154. Herman E. Krooss and Charl es Gi l bert, American Business History (Engle­
wood Cl i ffs, NJ: Prenti ce- Hal l , 1972), p. 149.
155. Ibid. , p. 155.
156. On thi s form of i nternal i zati on, see Hennart, "The Transacti on Cost Theory
of the Mul ti nati onal Enterpri se, " pp. 93-95. I nternal i zati on of market transacti ons
was practi ced by earl y i ntern ati onal fi rms. Transnati onal corporati ons before World
War I, whether based in London, Amsterdam, Paris, or Berl i n, mai ntai ned a smal l
head offi ce i n those ci ti es whi l e keepi ng al l thei r prod uctive assets abroad. These
fi rms were i n the busi ness of export i ng money, an operati on that can be performed
i n a decentral i zed way by bank l oans and corporate bonds. However, the transacti on
costs i ncurred here (screeni ng borrowers for reputati on or credi t hi story, demand­
i ng col l ateral s, enforci ng payments) may be bypassed by i nternal i zi ng the borrow­
i ng fi rm. Thi s al so i ncreased the power of transnati onal fi rms, si nce by si mpl y
l endi ng money they had no control over how the capi tal woul d be spent.
157. Harol d I . Sharl i n, "El ectri cal Generati on and Transmi ssi on, " i n Kranzberg
and Pursel l , Technology in Western Civilization, vol . 1, p. 584.
158. Hen nart, "The Transacti on Cost Theory of t he Mul ti nati onal Enterpri se, "
pp. 87-88.
159. Peter F Drucker, "Technol ogi cal Trends in the Twenti eth Century," i n
Kranzberg and Pursel l , Technology in Western Civilization, vol . 2, pp. 14-15.
160. Thi s poi nt appl i es regardl ess of whether el ectri cal power was generated
usi ng the fal l i ng water of Ni agara Fal l s or steam turbi nes:
Al most at once the turbi ne began to demonstrate the outstandi ng economi c character­
istic of el ectrical power generati on and tra nsmi ssi on, the reductio n of unit costs wit h
larger si ze . . . . I t was the greater eco nomy of the l arger turbi nes that eroded the origi­
nal cost advantage to the manufacturer to generate hi s own el ectri city. Al ong with the
opportuniti es fo r greater economi c efficiency through l arger si ze were those for
298
NOTES
greater physi cal effi ciency through hi gher steam pressu res and temperatures, as
establ i shed i n the l aws of thermodynami cs . . . . Unit and stati on si ze, temperature and
pressure al l i ncreased wi th the accu mul ati on of experi ence, the devel opment of
i mproved material s and techni ques, and the growth i n power consumpti on wi thi n the
separate power systems. (Bruce C. Netschert, "Devel opi ng the Energy I n heritance, " i n
Kranzberg and Pursel l , Technology i n Wester Civilization, vol . 2, p. 248)
161 . A cotton mi l l in the Un i ted States was the fi rst to be compl etel y el ectri fi ed
i n 1894, when a central el ectri c motor repl aced i ts central steam motor; thi s si mpl e
substi tuti on, however, was not i n i tsel f enough for t he new energy form to take
over. See Harol d I . Sharl i n, "Appl i cati ons of El ectricity," i n Kranzberg and Pursel l ,
Technology i n Western Civilization, vol . 1, p. 578.
162. J. A. Duffi e, "Energy Resources for the Future, " i n Kranzberg and Pursel l ,
Technology i n Western Civilization, vol . 2, p. 288.
163. Hohenberg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, p. 316.
164. Lubove, "Urban Pl anni ng and Devel opment, " pp. 474-75.
1 65. Sharl i n, "El ectri cal Generati on and Tra nsmi ssi on, " p. 585. Sharl i n there
wri tes: "Fi nanci al backi ng for t he Ni agara project came l argel y from Ameri can
sources, though most of t he ni neteenth century Ameri can enterpri ses had been
l argel y dependent on forei gn capi tal , for the most part Bri ti sh. By 1890 Ameri can
capi tal was wel l on i ts way to i ndependence from forei gn sources. "
166. Braudel , The Perspective of the World, p. 629.
167. Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, pp. 183-98. There are other
"transacti ons of decl i ne" behi nd the ki l l i ng of ci ti es, i n whi ch both government and
anti market hi erarchi es are i nvol ved: the war i ndustry. The great i ntensi fi cati on rep­
resented by wars, at l east by the ki nd of total mobi l i zati on of a country's resources
whi ch began wi th Napol eonic warfare, has been wi del y recogni zed as a trigger for
technol ogi cal devel opment. Wars, of course, are al so a maj or form of destructi on
and depl eti on of resources, whi ch is why the nati ons that benefi t from the greatl y
i ntensi fi ed fl ows of matter, energy, and i nformati on are those away from the front,
l i ke the Uni ted States and Japan after Worl d War I . On t hi s poi nt, see Kennedy,
The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, p. 279.
However, when mi l i tary bui l dups do not occur as short, turbul ent spasms, but
as a prol onged process dur i ng peaceti me, they i nterfere i n several ways wi th
economi es of aggl omerati on. For exampl e, they red i rect the fl ow of goods from
smal l towns i nto garri son ci ti es, l i ke J acksonvi l l e, North Carol i na. J acobs argues
that despi te the fact t hat the post exchanges that retai l these goods i n mi l i tary
towns are the thi rd l argest merchandi si ng enterpri se in the worl d, the flow of goods
t hey mobi l i ze i s basi cal l y steri l e (i . e. , not part of any autocatalytic dynami cs), and
i ts consumpti on i s fi nanced by taxi ng weal th-produci ng ci ti es. Thus t he economi es
of aggl omerati on of bi g, heterogeneous urban centers are mi l ked by nati onal gov-
299
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
ernments to fi nance homogen i zed army towns, whi l e smal l ci ti es are excl uded from
the fl ow of potenti al l y repl aceabl e i mports they need to generate thei r own aggl om­
erati on economi es. See J acobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, pp. 184-87.
168. Drucker, "Technol ogi cal Trends i n the Twenti eth Century," p. 11.
169. Gi l bert Ryl e, The Concept of Mind (Chi cago: Uni versi ty of Chi cago Press,
1984), pp. 27-32. Here Ryl e di sti ngui shes between two forms of knowl edge, whi ch
h e cal l s " knowi ng that" and " knowi ng how. " Wi th the possi bl e excepti on of Jean
Pi aget, the study of ski l l and other forms of embodi ed knowl edge has been negl ect­
ed by sci enti sts as wel l as phi l osophers. A few studi es were conducted in the 1920s,
and duri ng Worl d War I I , when a great need arose for sol di er trai ni ng techni ques,
more work was done i n the 1940s. Yet the fi el d remai ned fragmented unti l the
1970s. See H. T. A. Whiti ng, Concepts i n Skill Learning (London: Lepus, 1975) , i ntro.
and pp. 3-6.
Economi sts are fi nal l y catchi ng up with k now-how and repl aci ng homogeneous
rati onal i t wi th heterogeneous probl em-sol vi ng ski l l s. See for exampl e, Richard
Nel son and Si d ney Wi nter, An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (Cambri dge,
MA: Bel knap, 1982), pp. 88-90.
170. Gal brai th, The New Industrial State, pp. 66-67.
171 . An nal ee Saxeni an, "Lessons from Si l i con Val l ey," in Technology Review 97. 5
(J ul y 1994), p. 44.
172. Ibid. , p. 47.
173. Humberto Maturana, "Everyt hi ng I s Sai d by an Observer, " in Gaia, a Way of
Knowing: Political Implications of t he New Biology, ed. Wi l l i am I rwi n Thompson ( Hud­
son, NY: Li ndi sfarne, 1987), p. 73.
174. A good exampl e of thi s uncri ti cal atti tude toward so-cal l ed sci enti fi c man­
agement is Peter F. Drucker, "Technol ogy and Society in the Twenti eth Century," i n
Kranzberg a n d Pursel l , Technology in Western Civilization, vol . 2, p. 25. As Drucker
observes, routi ni zati on did create economi es of scal e, whi ch resul ted i n both l ower
costs and cheaper pri ces for products, as wel l as i n hi gher wages for u nski l l ed jobs
(so that both consumers and de-ski l l ed workers benefi ted somewhat). What he
does not consi der ( or rather, does not val ue) i s t he l oss of control of t he process by
the worker and the further de-ski l l i ng that went wi th it (see ibid. , p. 26). But as
Foucaul t remi nds us, a ful l cost- benefi t accounti ng of routi ni zed, di sci pl i nary opera­
ti ons needs to be performed not o nl y i n terms of economi c uti l ity but al so i n terms
of pol i ti cal obedi ence. And the gai ns (i n terms of economi es of scal e) may be offset
by the costs (i n terms of l oss of control and de-ski l l i ng). I el aborate on this in Chap­
ter Two, but at thi s poi nt what matters is to emphasi ze that the "progressi ve" char­
acter of sci enti fi c management tech n i ques seemed sel f-evi dent not onl y to peopl e
l i ke Drucker but even to those who cl ai med to be the champi ons of the worki ng
cl ass. I t took Marxi sts al most a century to real i ze that Tayl ori sm meant the mi l ita­
ri zati on (not the "sci enti fi zati on") of the producti on process. Leni n, for exampl e,
300
NOTES
wel comed sci enti fi c management i nto revol uti onary Russi a, as one of the "good
t hi ngs" that "capi tal i sm" had created. See Vl adi mi r Leni n, The Immediate Tests of
the Soviet Government, i n Collected Works, vol . 27 (Moscow, 1965).
175. On the hi story of automati on, see J ames R. Bri ght, "The Devel opment of
Automati on, " i n Kranzberg and Pursel l , Technology in Western Civilization, vol . 2.
The evol uti on of the components of the automated factory took pl ace i n the l ast
two centuri es, al ong wi th the i ntensi fi cati on of the process of routi ni zati on, and,
as wi th the l atter, i t i nvol ved a constant i nterpl ay between mi l itary and i ndustri al
hi erarchi es. Bri ght di sti ngui shes t hree di fferent components of automati on:
machi nes t hat perform the producti on operati ons, machi nes that move materi al s
from machi ne to machi ne i n a conti nuous flow, and a system t hat control s and
coordi nates fl ows and machi nes. Each of these three componenents evol ved more
or l ess i ndependentl y, fi nal l y comi ng together i n the 1940s and 1950s i n the Uni ted
States. The fi rst component, mach i nes that perform operati ons l i ke cutti ng, rol l i ng,
or mi xi ng, i s perhaps the ol dest. Bri ght wri tes:
Automati c machi nes for producti on acti ons can be traced back at l east to the earl y
1800's in many fields, and were commonpl ace in al most every fi el d of manufactu ri ng
by the 1870's. I n texti l es, for exampl e, the i ndustry's hi story begi nni ng i n the early
1700's, reflected mechani zati on, the appl i cati on of power to i ntegrati on of successive
operati ons, and automati c control . . . . Perhaps the earl i est system of a utomati c
machi nes . . . for parts manufactu re, as di sti nct from bul k materi al s, was the pul ley­
bl ock machi nery bui l t by Marc Brunei for the Bri ti sh Admi ral ity [1802-1808]. (p. 642)
The second component, the automati c handl i ng of a conti nuous fl ow of materi al s
at di fferent stages of producti on, i s al so very ol d. Al though wi thout a mechani cal
conveyor bel t, some parts of the arsenal of Veni ce as earl y as the fifteenth century
had a pri mi ti ve conti nuous-movement producti on l i ne. An i ndustri al process usi ng
automati c handl i ng wi th a powered conveyor l i ne "was fi rst i denti fi ed i n the bi scuit-
baki ng . . . process at the Deptford Vi ctual l i ng Department of the Engl i sh Navy,
1804-33 . . . . From t he 1830's on there were many attempts at conti nuous process-
i ng. Feedi ng hi des, sewn together as a conti n uous sheet, through tanni ng baths,
conti nuous bri ckmaki ng and sugar-cane processi ng are exampl es. Processi ng whi l e
movi ng gradual l y became a recogni zed i ndustri al pri nci pl e contri buti ng to auto­
mati c operati on" (ibid. , p. 647).
Fi nal ly, the control of thi s conti nuous flow, and i ts synchroni zati on wi th the
machi nes that operate on i t, evol ved from devi ces l i ke the cam, whi ch forces
machi nes to perform a fi xed seri es of operati ons. Sophi sti cated versi ons of devi ces
l i ke thi s were used i n the 1820s i n some Ameri can arsenal s to control the produc­
ti on of weapon parts. The use of punched cards, as i n the l oom devel oped by
Jaquard i n 1804, al l owed the storage of these fi xed routi nes. By Worl d War I , a
301
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
vari ety of el ectri c, hydraul i c, and pneumati c devi ces had been created to perform
sophi sti cated control operati ons, al though sti l l i n ri gi d sequences. Addi ng fl exi bi l ity
to thi s control l i ng machi nery coul d be achi eved ei ther by usi ng negative feedback ­
al though servomechani sms were not real l y common outsi de chemi cal and el ectri cal
pl ants -or by usi ng programmabl e computers, but thi s wou l d h ave to wai t a few
decades more (ibid. , p. 645).
Routi ni zati o n i s preci sel y the process through whi ch these three seri es of opera­
ti ons (to process, to move, to control ) were deri ved in the fi rst pl ace. Human
bei ngs, through the dai l y exerci se of thei r ski l l s, are the source of these operati ons.
But whi l e earl y- ni neteenth-century ski l l ed workers created and control l ed thei r own
operati ons, thei r cou nterparts a hundred years l ater woul d be executi ng a fi xed,
routi ni zed seri es of acti ons that someone el se had devi sed for t hem. I n thi s sense,
t hey were no di fferent from the machi nes that wou l d soon repl ace them. I n a sl owly
i ntensi fyi ng process of routi ni zation, fi rst the producti on, l ater the control opera­
tors were taken out of the autocatal yti c l oop and reduced to i ts external triggers, a
set of compl etel y de-ski l l ed button pushers. The devel opment of "sci enti fi c man­
agement" by Frederi ck Tayl or at the t urn of the centu ry, i n whi ch a worker's opera­
ti ons were carefu l l y broken down i nto thei r components and put back together
agai n i nto a seri es of opti mi zed, homogeni zed operati ons, represents the peak of
t his i ntensi fi cati on. See, for exampl e, Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital, ch. 8.
1 76. See, for exampl e, Thomas W. Mal one and John F Rockart, "Computers, Net­
works and the Corporati on, " i n Scientific American 265. 3 (September 1991 ), p. 13l.
One of the exampl es of agglomerati on economi es menti oned i n thi s arti cl e, a seri es
of texti l e fi rms near Prato, I taly, studi ed by Mi c hael Pi ore and Charl es Sabel , i s al so
menti oned (as al ternati ve to a nti markets and economi es of scal e) i n Braudel , The
Perspective of the World, p. 630, and Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, p. 40.
177. Jacobs, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, pp. 45-49.
178. Ri chard J. Barnett and Ronal d E. Mul l er, Global Reach: The Power of the
Multinational Corporations ( New York: Si mon and Schuster, 1974), p. 40. However,
the authors assu me that al l thi s is expl ai nabl e in terms of the "l aws of capi tal i sm"
and negl ect to menti on the rol e of mi l itary i nsti tuti ons i n the devel opment of opera­
ti ons research duri ng Worl d War I I . On t hat poi nt, see Stephen P. Wari ng, Taylorism
Transformed: Scientific Management Theory since 1 945 (Chapel Hi l l : Uni versity of
Nort h Carol i na Press, 1991 ), ch. 2.
CHAPTER Two: FLESH AND GENES
1 . I an. G. Si mmons, Biogeography: Natural and Cultural (London: Edward Arnol d,
1979), p. 79.
2. Ibid. , pp. 70-72.
3. Paul Col i nvaux, Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare (Pri nceto n, NJ: Pri nceton
Uni versity Press, 1978), pp. 26-27.
302
NOT£S
4. Si mmons, Biogeography, p. 67.
5. James H. Brown, "Compl ex Ecol ogi cal Systems, " in Complexity: Metaphors,
Models and Reality, eds. George Cowan , Davi d Pi nes, and Davi d Mel tzer ( Readi ng,
MA: Addi son-Wesl ey, 1994), p. 424.
6. C. S. Hol l i ng, " Resi l i ence and Stabi l i ty of Ecosystems, " i n Evolution and Con­
sciousness, eds. Eri ch Jantsch and Conrad Waddi ngton ( New York: Addi son-Wesl ey,
1976), pp. 81-82.
7. On ci ti es as "heat i sl ands, " see Joseph M. Moran and Michael D. Morgan,
Meteorology ( New York: Macmi l l an, 1986), pp. 274-76.
8. Thomas F. Gl i ck, "Sci ence, Technology and the Urban Envi ronment, " in His­
torical Ecology, ed. Lester J. Bi l sky (New York: Kenni kat, 1980), p. 126.
9. Fernand Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life ( New York: Harper and Row,
1 973), p. 376.
10. Ibid. , p. 377.
11 . Si mmons, Biogeography, pp. 192-93.
12. Ibid. , pp. 1 96-97. See al so Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Bio­
logical Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 ( New York: Cambri dge Uni versity Press,
1 989), pp. 173-74.
13. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, p. 34.
14. Wi l l i am -H. McNei l l , Plagues and Peoples (Garden City, NJ: Anchor/Dou bl eday,
1976), p. 45.
1 5. Cl aude Levi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked (Chi cago: Uni versity of Chi cago
Press, 1983).
16. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, p. 39.
17. Ri chard Dawki ns, The Selfish Gene ( New York: Oxford Uni versi ty Press,
1990), pp. 19-20.
18. James D. Watson, Molecular Biology of the Gene (Menl o Park, CA: W. A. Bem­
j ami n, 1970), p. 145. Here Watson observes: "Enzymes never affect the nature of
a n equi l i bri um: They merely speed u p the rate at whi ch i t i s reached. Thus, i f the
thermodynami c equi l i bri um i s unfavourabl e for the formati on of a mol ecu l e, the
presence of an enzyme can i n no way bri ng about i ts accu mu l ati on. "
The dependence catalysts (and hence genes) exhi bit wi th respect to energy fl ows
becomes even more pronounced when the thermodynami cs i nvol ved are far from
equi l i bri um. That is, in these condi ti ons genes (or thei r phenotypi c effects) become
mere switchi ng devi ces to pi ck one among multi pl e coexi sti ng equil i bri ums. More­
over, the catal ysts themsel ves are subj ect to a nonl i near combi n atori cs; that i s,
they may enter i nto sel f-sustai ni ng autocatl yti c l oops, wi t h t hei r own i nternal coher­
ence. Al l thi s is parti cul arly cl ear i n the case of the embryol ogi cal process: the
transformati on of a si ngl e-cel l egg i nto a compl ex multi cel l ul ar organ i sm.
Basi cal ly, at the begi n ni ng of t he transformati on the egg may be seen as an
encl osed porti on of the flows of genes and bi omass, that i s, as a n ucl eus and a
303
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
cytopl asm. The l atter i s a source of food, as wel l as a compl ex nonl i near dynami cal
system wi th mul ti pl e equi l i bri ums. It is thi s energeti c fl esh that is the seat of
processes of sel f-organi zati on. For exampl e, if the geneti c i nformati on in the
nucl eus i s removed from a ferti l i zed egg (or neutral ized), the cel l sti l l undergoes
some of i ts bi furcati ons between stabl e states ( i . e. , gastrul ati on). See Vl adi mi r
Gl i si n, "Mol ecul ar Bi ol ogy i n Embryol ogy: The Sea Urchi n Embryo, " i n Self-Organiz­
ing Systems, ed. Eugene Yates ( New York: Pl enum, 1987), p. 163.
The remai ni ng stabl e states, the fi nal form cel l s from di fferent ti ssues take (e. g, .
bone, muscl e, or nerve cel l s), may al so be nonl i near stabl e states, thi s ti me of the
dynami cs of meshworks of gene products (enzymes) or meshworks of regul ator
genes. See Stuart Kauffman, The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in
Evolution ( New York: Oxford Uni versity Press, 1993) , p. 525.
At hi gher l evel s -ti ssues, organs, organi sms-attractors are al so postul ated.
Here i t is "morphogeneti c fi el ds" that do the attracti ng. (The concept of thi s ki nd of
fi el d deri ves, in fact, from very earl y i nteracti ons between nonl i near mathemati cs
[Rene Thoms's catastrophe theory] and embryology [Waddi ngton]. ) The thrust of
thi s early current of nonl i near bi ol ogy is now provi ded by peopl e such as Bri an
Goodwi n . See Bri an Goodwi n, "Devel opi ng Organi sms as Sel f-Organizi ng Fi el ds, " i n
Yates, Self-Organizing Systems, p. 1 76.
19. Howard Pattee, "The Probl em of Bi ol ogi cal Hi erarchy," i n Towards a Theoreti­
cal Biology, ed. C. H. Waddi ngton (Edi nburgh: Edi nburgh Uni versi ty Press, 1968).
20. As the phi l osopher of sci ence El l i ot Sober puts i t, natural ani mal popul a­
ti ons are i ntri nsi cal ly vari abl e: " Uni formity . . . takes some work. Natural Sel ecti on is
one mechani sm that can destroy vari ati on. For i t to act at al l there must be vari ati on
(i n fitness). But once a sel ecti on process begi ns, i t gradual ly destroys the condi ­
ti ons needed for its cont i nui ng operati on. Sel ecti on el i mi nates vari ati on in fi tness,
and thereby bri ngs i tsel f to a hal t" (El l i ot Sober, The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary
Theory in Philosophical Focus [Cambri dge, MA: MI T Press, 1987], p. 159).
21 . Wi l l i am H. Durham, Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity (Stan-
ford, CA: Stanford Uni versi ty Press, 1991), chs. 3 and 6.
22. Ri chard Lewonti n, Human Diversity (Sci enti fi c Ameri can Books, 1982) , p. 123.
23. Ibid. , pp. 115-17.
24. D. F. Roberts, "Mi grati on in the Recent Past: Soci eti es wi th Records, " in Bio­
logical Aspects of Human Migration, eds. C. G. N. Masci e-Tayl or and G. W. Lasker
(Cambri dge, MA: Cambri dge Uni versi ty Press, 1988), p. 67.
25. Kenneth M. Wei ss, " I n Search of Ti mes Past: Gene Fl ow and I nvasi on i n the
Generati on of Human Di versity," i n ibid. , p. 148.
26. Lui gi Caval l i Sforza, "Di ffusi on of Cul ture and Genes, " i n Issues in Biological
Anthropology, ed. B. J. Wi l l i ams ( Mal i bu, CA: Undena, 1986), pp. 13-14. On the gen­
eral i ssue of the competi ti on between "di ffusi on of i deas" and "mi grati on of bodi es
and cul ture" as expl anatory paradi gms i n anthropol ogy, see Wi l l i am Y. Adams, "On
304
NOTES
Mi grati on and Di ffusi on as Ri val Paradi gms, " i n Diffusion and Migration: Their Roles
in Cultural Development, eds. P. G. Duke, J . Ebert, G. Langeman , and A. P. Buchner
(Cal gary: Un i versity of Cal gary, 1978), pp. 1-5. These questi ons are rel ated to t he
i ssue of "cul tural rel ati vi sm, " whi ch I cri ti ci ze bel ow (parti cul arly i n i ts modern
cl i che versi on: "everythi ng i s soci al l y constructed"). The same anthropol ogists who
wrongl y bani shed al l bi ol ogi cal i ssues from consi derati on al so promoted "di ffusi on­
i sm" as the only val i d expl anati on. See below, note 96.
27. Wei ss, " I n Search of Ti mes Past," p. 149.
28. Roberts, "Migrati on i n the Recent Past, " p. 62.
29. Lewonti n, Human Diversity, p. 113.
30. Barry Bogi n, "Rural -to- Urban Mi grati on, " i n Masci e-Tayl or and Lasker, Bio­
logical Aspects of Human Migration, p. 93.
31 . Paul M. Hohenberg and Lyn n Hol l en Lees, The Making of Urban Europe,
1 000-1950 (Cambri dge, MA: Harvard Uni versity Press, 1985), p. 89.
32. Pau l Col i nvaux, The Fates of Nations: A Biological Theory of History ( New York:
Si mon a nd Schuster, 1980), p. 70. I adopt here a few of Col i nvaux's vi ews (e. g. , hi s
theory of soci al ni ches) but by no means h i s enti re outl ook, whi ch i s too determi ni s­
ti c. He attempts to reduce the di versity of forces operati ng in human hi story to a
few ecol ogi cal determi nants, and thi s i mpoveri shes hi s theory.
33. Ibid. , pp. 39-44.
34. Hohen berg and Lees, The Making of Urban Europe, pp. 86 and 97.
35. Ibid. , pp. 79-80.
36. Bryant Robey, Shea O. Rustei n, a nd Leo Morri s, "The Ferti l ity Decl i ne i n
Devel opi ng Countri es, " i n Scientific American 269. 6 (December 1993), p. 60.
37. Mi chel e Wi l son and Frances A. Boudreau, "The Soci ol ogi cal Perspecti ve, " i n
Sex Roles and Social Patterns, eds. Frances A. Boudreau, Roger S. Sennott, a nd
Mi chel e Wi l son ( New York: Praeger, 1986), p. 8.
38. Marvi n Harri s, Cannibals and Kings ( New York: Vi ntage, 1991), ch. 6. I do not
mean to i mply that thi s i s the only, or best, theory of the ori gi n of reproducti ve
strata. I t i s, however, the one most rel evant to my subj ect here (the u rban Mi ddl e
Ages), si nce i t i s precisel y the excl usi on from warri or rol es that i s behi nd the func­
ti on of guardi anshi p.
39. Lewonti n, Human Diversity, p. 109.
40. Edi th Ennen, The Medieval Woman (Oxford, UK: Basi l Bl ackwel l , 1989), p.
267.
41 . Ibid. , p. 36.
42. Ibid. , p. 279.
43. Ibid. , p. 101.
44. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, p. 410. Not only ci ti es affected cl ass
structure; the l atter often i nfl uenced urbani zati on as wel l . As Braudel poi nts out:
305
A THOUSAND YCARS OF NONLINCAR HISTORY
The soci al structures of both I ndi a and Chi na automati cal ly rejected the town and
offered, as i t were, refractory, su b-standard materi al for it. Therefore i f the town di d
not wi n i ts i ndependence i t was not onl y because of the mandari ns' beati ngs or the
pri nce's cruelty to merchants and ordi nary ci tizens. I t was because society was wel l
and trul y frozen i n a sort of i rreduci bl e system, a previ ous crystal l ization. I n t he I ndi es
the caste system automatical l y di vi ded and broke u p every urban commu nity. I n Chi na
the cul t of the gentes was opposed to a mi xture comparabl e to that whi ch created the
Western town -a veritabl e machi ne for breaki ng up ol d bonds. (p. 410)
45. Ibid. , p. 403.
46. Charl es R. Bowl us, " Ecol ogi cal Cri si s i n Fourteenth-Century Europe, " i n Bi l-
sky, Historical Ecology, p. 94.
47. Ibid. , p. 96.
48. Ibid., p. 89.
49. Vernon Hi l l Carter and Tom Dal e, Top Soil and Civilization (Norman: Uni ver­
si ty of Okl a homa P ress, 1974), pp. 7-8.
50. Ibid. , pp. 138-45; and J . Donal d Hughes, Ecology in Ancient Civilizations
(Al buquerq ue: Uni versity of New Mexi co Press, 1975), pp. 116-17.
51 . Bowl us, "Ecol ogi cal Cri si s i n Fourteenth-Century Europe, " p. 96.
52. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, p. 19.
53. McNei l l , Plagues and Peoples, p. 103.
54. Ibid., p. 97. Here McNei l l wri tes:
We may i nfer that by about the begi nni ng of the Christi an e ra, at l east four di vergent
ci vi l i zed di sease pool s had come i nto exi stence, each sustai ni ng i nfections that coul d
be l ethal i f l et l oose among popul ati ons l acki ng any ki nd of pri or exposu re or accumu­
l ated i mmunity. Al l that was needed to provoke a spi l l over from one pool to another
was some acci dent of communi cati on permi tti ng a chai n of i nfecti on to extend to new
ground where popul ati ons were al so suffi ci ently dense to s ustai n the i nfecti on ei ther
permanently, or at l east for a season or two . . . . When . . . travel across the breadth of
the Ol d Worl d from Chi na to I ndi a to the Medi terranean became regul arl y organi zed on
a routi ne basi s . . . the possi bi l ity of homogenizati on of those i nfecti ons . . . opened u p.
It is my contenti on that somet hi ng approxi mati ng thi s conditi on di d in fact occur,
begi nni ng in the fi rst century A. D.
55. Ibid. , p. 116.
56. Ibid., p. 146.
57. Ibid. , p. 150.
58. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, pp. 48-49.
59. Ibid., p. 48
60. McNei l l , Plagues and Peoples, pp. 163-64.
306
NOTES
61 . Ibid. , p. 152. There McNei l l wri tes:
After the Great Pl ague of London, i n 1665, Pasteurella pestis withdrew from northwest­
ern Europe . . . . Quara nti ne and other publ i c heal th measures probably had less deci­
sive overal l effect in l i miti ng the outbreaks of pl ague, whether before o r after 1665,
than other uni ntended changes i n the man ner i n whi ch European popul ati ons co­
existed with fl eas and rodents. For i nstance, i n much of western Europe, wood short­
ages l ed to stone and bri ck house constructi on, and thi s tended to i ncrease the
di stance between rodent and human occupants of the dwel l i ng, maki ng i t far more di f­
fi cul t for a fl ea to transfer from a dyi ng rat to a suscepti bl e human. Thatch roofs, i n
parti cul ar, offered ready refuge for rats; and i t was easy for a fl ea to fal l from such a
roof onto someone beneath. When thatch roofs were repl aced by ti l es . . . opportuni ti es
for thi s ki nd of transfer of i nfecti on drasti cal ly di mi ni shed.
62. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Ufe, p. 38.
63. Fernand Braudel , The Perspective of the World (New York: Harper a nd Row,
1986), p. 117.
64. Archi bal d Lewi s, "Ecol ogy and t he Sea i n t he Medi eval Ti mes (300-1500
A. D. ), " i n Bi l sky, Historical Ecology, p. 74.
65. I a n G. Si mmon s , Changing the Face of the Earth: Culture, Environment, His-
tory (Oxford, UK: Basi l Bl ackwel l , 1989), p. 166.
66. B raudel , Capitalism and Material Ufe, p. 268.
67. Braudel , The Perspective of the World, p. 108.
68. Ibid. , p. 157.
69. Carter and Dal e, Top Soil and Civilization, pp. 151 and 174.
70. B raudel , The Perspective of the World, p. 89.
71 . Ibid., p. 177.
72. El i o Conti , menti oned i n Ferna nd B raudel , The Wheels of Commerce ( New
York: Harper and Row, 1983), p. 256.
73. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Ufe, p. 373.
74. B raudel , The Wheels of Commerce, pp. 229-30.
75. McNei l l , Plagues and Peoples, p. 6. On t he t heme of mi cro- and macropara­
sites, see al so Wi l l i am H. McNei l l , The Human Condition: An Ecological and Historical
View ( Pri n ceton, NJ: Pri nceton U ni versity Press, 1980).
76. B raudel , The Wheels of Commerce, pp. 265-72.
77. Crosby, Ecological lmperiaJism, p. 63.
78. Ibid. , p. 65.
79. McNei l l , Plagues and Peoples, p. 62.
80. Ibid. , p. 63.
81 . Crosby, Ecological Imperialism, p. 99.
82. Ibid. , p. 52.
307
A THOUSAND YEARS OF NONLINEAR HISTORY
83. McNei l l , Plagues and Peoples, p. 178.
84. Ibid. , p. 180. See al so Pi erre Chaunu, quoted i n Pi erre Cl astres, Society
against the State ( New York: Zone, 1987), p. 99. There Cl astres quotes Chaunu's
cl ai m: " I t appears that one-fourth of manki nd was anni hi l ated by the mi crobi c
shocks of the si xteenth century. "
85. McNei l l , Plagues and Peoples, p. 185.
86. Braudel , Capitalism and Material Life, p. 344.
87. Ni l es El dri dge, Macroevolutionary Dynamics: Species, Niches, and Adaptive
Peaks ( New York: McGraw- Hi l i , 1989), pp. 104-105; and J ames L. Goul d and Carol
G. Goul d, Sexual Selection ( New York: Sci enti fi c Ameri can Li brary,
i
989), pp. 80-105.
88. On the rol e of sexual sel ecti on, see Ri chard Dawki ns, The Selfish Gene, p. 158.
89. On the rol e of retrovi ruses i n evol uti on, see E. J. Steel e, Somatic Selection
and Adaptive Evolution (Chi cago: Uni versity of Chi cago Press, 1981), pp. 47-50.
Dawki ns accepts the exi stence of these hori zontal gene transmi ssi ons but rejects
the i dea that they i mpl y Lamarki sm ( i n heri tance of acqui red trai ts) as opposed to a
ki nd of "somati c Darwi ni sm. " See Ri chard Dawki ns, The Extended Phenotype
(Oxford, UK: Oxford Un i versi ty Press, 1990), pp. 166-72. Gi l l es Del euze and Fel i x
Guattari al so menti on thi s phenomenon, whi ch to them provi des evi dence that the
evol uti onary "tree" i s more l i ke a rhi zome. See Gi l l es Del euze and Fel i x Guattari , A
Thousand Plateaus ( Mi n neapol i s: Un i versity of Mi n nesota Press, 1987), p. 10.
90. K. W. Jeon and J. F. Dani el l i , quoted i n Ri chard Dawki ns, The Extended Phe­
notype, pp. 159-60.
91 . John H. Hol l and, Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems (Cambri dge,
MA: M I T Press, 1992), chs. 9 and 10.
92. The term "meme" was i ntroduced i n Dawki ns, The Selfish Gene, ch. 11.
However, the concept needs further el aborati on not onl y to di sti ngui sh i t from other
repl i cators (such as l i ngui sti c norms) but even for appl i cati on to ani mal protocul ­
tures, si nce i t i s hard to show that "true" i mitati on occurs i n the wi l d. See Kevi n N.
Lal and, Peter J. Ri chardson, and Robert Boyd, "Ani mal Soci al Lear ni ng: Towards a
New Theoreti cal Approach, " in Perspectives in Ethology, eds. P. P. G. Bateson , Peter
H. Kl opfer, and Ni chol oas S. Thompson ( New York: Pl enum, 1993). On the use of
memes to i nvesti gate ani mal protocul tures, see John T. Bonner, The Evolution of
Culture i n Animals ( Pri nceton, NJ: Pri nceton Uni versi ty Press, 1980), ch. 2.
93. Dawki ns, The Selfish Gene, p. 24. Here Dawki ns observes: "Genes have no
foresi ght. They do not pl an ahead. Genes j ust are, some genes more so than oth­
ers, and that i s al l there i s to i t. " That i s, genes are j ust replicators, and some repl i ­
cate more than others.
94. Phi l osophi cal ly, besi des showi ng that one and the same abstract machi ne i s
behi nd many di fferent types of phenomena and that therefore i t i s not what gi ves a
gi ven phenomenon its i dentity ( i . e. , it does not consti tute the essence of that phe­
nomenon), we al so need to show that the rel ati on between an abstract machi ne
308
NOTES
and the concrete assembl ages that i nstanti ate it is not one of "transcendence" but
one of "i mmanence." I n other words, we need to show that abstract machi nes do
not exi st i n some transcendental heaven wai ti ng to be i ncarnated i n concrete mech­
ani sms, but that they are intrinsic features of matter-energy fl ows subject to nonl i n­
ear dynamics and nonl i near combi natori cs. Thi s i s, I bel i eve, the posi ti on adopted
by Del euze and Guattari . See, for exampl e, Del euze and Guattari , A Thousand
Plateaus, pp. 266-67.
The si mpl est exampl es of abstract machi nes, such as peri odi c attractors (capa­
bl e of very di verse i nstanti ati ons: crystal radi os, chemi cal cl ocks, Kondrati ev waves
i n the economy, etc. ) are the easi er to expl ai n in these nontranscendental terms.
See, for exampl e, Gregoi re Ni col i s and l I ya Prigogi ne, Exploring Complexity ( New
York: W. H. Freeman, 1989), p. 100.
95. Stuart Kauffman, The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evo­
lution ( New York: Oxford Un i versi ty Press, 1993), chs. 3 and 6.
96. I n the 1980s many of the ori gi nal "discoveri es" of cul tural anthropol ogists
were found to be oversi mpl i fi cati ons or even di storti ons of the soci al real i ti es they
had studi ed. (The most famous debunki ngs were perhaps of Margaret Mead's
cl ai ms that adol escents in Samoa di d not go through si mi l ar a nxi eti es as thei r West­
ern counterparts and that mal es and femal es i n Chambri exhi bi ted an opposite pat­
tern of domi nance as in most other soci eti es. ) On all thi s, and the process through
whi ch cul tural rel ati vi sm became entrenched i n academi c ci rcl es, see Donal d E.
Brown, Human Universals (New York: McGraw- Hi l i , 1991).
The "debun ker, " i n the case of Mead's observati ons on Samoa, was the anthro­
pol ogist Derek Freeman. However, thi s cannot be boi l ed down to a questi on of di f­
ferent i nterpretati ons of the data, each havi ng an equal chance of bei ng val i d. As
Brown puts it, "Mead's book was based on 9 mont hs of fi el dwork when she was 23
years ol d. Derek Freeman . . . conducted 6 years of fi el dwork i n Samoa" (ibid. , p.
16). He then adds: "One can onl y ask how Mead coul d have been so wrong . . . .
Mead went to Samoa wi thout a knowl edge of the l anguage and wi th unfort unate
gaps in her fami l i arity with the extensi ve l i terature on Samoa . . . . When she reached
Samoa she di d not undertake a general study of the Samoan ethos and cul ture but
l aunched di rectly i nto her study of adol escence. Her i nformants were adol escent
gi rl s; nei ther boys nor adul ts were studi ed" (ibid. , pp. 18-19).
The l i st of cri ti ci sms conti nues. One can only wonder how the modern l eft (or
rather, that i nfl uenti al segment of i t, the "soci al constructi oni sts") can pretend to
offer a coherent strategy of resi stance based on such fl i msy foundati ons. I n any
event, the fortress wal l s of cul tural rel ati vi sm wi l l prove a poor defense agai nst the
new da