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Development of Civil Societies

Updated: Apr 16, 2022

Development of Civil Societies


By Mark Shubert


In the state of nature, the individual is the sovereign. They have all of their natural rights; the right to claim the world, the right to create laws, the right to judge others based on those laws, and the right to execute others based on those judgements. In this state the individual is naturally free and naturally secure but that is not the most free or secure they could get. No matter how strong willed an individual is, alone in the great expanse, they are not free to do as they please but instead are bound by constant concerns since the only rational drive is self preservation; that preservation is challenged everywhere in the state of nature. In this individual state of sovereignty, the highest identity is the individual and nothing else matters to that individual other than their own preservation, rights, and happiness.

To better secure oneself in nature, the individual figured out that cooperating with other individuals was requisite. This alliance of individuals became the new sovereign, a new identity, a civil society; this first civil society was the family. In order for the family to have power, individuals needed to give up certain natural rights and entrust them to the sovereign, usually to a person who embodied the familial sovereign. Here the workload necessary to survive can be divided up, specialized, and more productive. Individuals can also live longer, not only physically longer, but also their identity since they now identify with a family that can theoretically last forever while an individual cannot. The constituents of a healthy family will have that family’s identity as their highest if not their only identity. However, the development into more complicated societies is not absolute and some constituents of the family might reject the family identity and desire a new identity that being their individual identity or a new family identity either by starting their own family or by taking over their family.

To better secure one's family in nature, a family figured out that cooperating with other families was requisite. This alliance of families became the new sovereign, a new identity, a more complicated civil society; this being the tribe. In order for the tribe to have power, families needed to give up certain rights and entrust them to the sovereign, usually to a person who embodied the tribal sovereign. Here the workload necessary to survive can be divided up further, more specialized, and more productive. This allowed the society time and manpower to research and develop capital, both physical and human capital, which advanced society economically. A healthy tribe had its constituents view the tribe’s identity as their highest identity. But, this does not mean that individual or familial identities were abolished. Some families might even reject their tribal identity and desire a new identity by seceding and starting a new tribe or by taking over their current tribe. A family who values its family identity over its tribal one, while recognizing the necessity of being in a tribe, would try to position itself at the top and keep the other families below them in a power hierarchy. They convince the other families into believing that they support the tribal identity for all families, but in reality they only care about their particular family and are willing to use other families as a barrier to the elements of nature. These are the first petty dynasties.

This process of establishing one family over all others included changing the identity of the tribe, which is supposed to be higher than any one family, to be attached to that family. England is the Windsor family and the Windsor family is England. And that family is willing to throw all other English families into the meat grinder of nature before themselves. But there is never just one family who desires this, but many and there have been many dynasties throughout the world. Many families who do not identify their family as being a part of a tribe but instead view the tribe as being a part of the family. This has been the cause of so much devastation, intrigue, war, and unrest. Families are not the only ones to do this, but individuals as well. These tyrants, viewing their individual identity as higher than any other, will use all others as they see fit.

To better secure one’s tribe in nature, a tribe figured out that cooperating with other tribes was requisite. This alliance of tribes became the new sovereign, a new identity, a more complicated civil society; this being the city. In order for the city to have power, tribes needed to give up certain rights and entrust them to the sovereign, usually to a person who embodied the urban sovereign. Here the workload necessary to survive can be divided up further, more specialized, and more productive. This allowed the society time and manpower to research and develop capital, both physical and human capital, which advanced society economically. A healthy city had its constituents view the city’s identity as the highest identity. But, this does not mean that individual or familial, or tribal identities were abolished. Some tribes might even reject their urban identity and desire a new identity by seceding and starting a new city or by taking over their current city. If a tribe values its identity over the urban one, it will try to establish itself at the highest strata of society and would disregard other tribes. The individual who established itself as the hierarch of its family, could also establish its family as the hierarch of its tribe, and from there establish its tribe as the hierarch of the city. This hierarchy convinces the other tribes, and families, and individuals that the city’s identity, which they all belong to, is attached to that one tribe or family or individual. In other words, those other tribes are persuaded that the urban identity is embodied in a single tribe.

This state of sovereignty being at the city state is what most people think about when they think of civilization but the development of families and tribes played a crucial part in laying the foundation, both physical and social, for city states. This is understandable, since writing was invented only after the first city states started to form. Writing as a technology that could only be afforded by the economy of a city. There is also little archeological evidence that paints a clear picture of what life was like before or outside of urban life.

To better secure one’s city in nature, a city figured out that cooperating with other cities was requisite. This alliance of cities became the new sovereign, a new identity, a more complicated civil society; this being the nation. In order for the nation to have power, cities needed to give up certain rights and entrust them to the sovereign, usually to a person, but more so nowadays a congress of representatives who embodied the national sovereign. Here the workload necessary to survive can be divided up further, more specialized, and more productive. This allowed the society time and manpower to research and develop capital, both physical and human capital, which advanced society economically. A healthy nation had its constituents view the national identity as the highest identity. But, this does not mean that individual or familial, or tribal, or urban identities were abolished. Some cities might even reject their national identity and desire a new identity by seceding and starting a new nation or by taking over their current nation. If a city values its identity over the national one, it will try to establish itself at the highest strata of society and would unequally treat other cities. The hierarchy of the city can then establish its city as the hierarch of the nation. This hierarchy convinces the other cities that the national identity, which they all belong to, is attached to that one city. In other words, those other cities are persuaded that the national identity is embodied in a single city.

Rome for example, was a city that ruled cities. The head of the state of the Roman nation. However, other cities had ambitions too, and either seceded or tried to take over the Roman nation. Rome was not a healthy nation given this inequality and disconnect of identity. Why should another city be subservient to the city of Rome? Rome did provide protection and economic growth but there were many negative attributes to being under the Roman yoke including high taxes, no citizenship especially the further you are from Rome, a change to your culture or religion, or social norms, and there was always the threat of the Roman military sacking their own cities just to pay their soldiers. These injuries caused by Rome outweighed the benefits of Rome especially in the later years of the Empire when Rome could not continue defending or securing the loyalty of its vassal cities.

To better secure one’s nation in nature, a nation figured out that cooperating with other nations was requisite. This alliance of nations became the new sovereign, a new identity, a more complicated civil society; this being the civilization. In order for the civilization to have power, nations needed to give up certain rights and entrust them to the sovereign, usually to a person, but more so nowadays a congress of representatives who embodied the civilized sovereign. Here the workload necessary to survive can be divided up further, more specialized, and more productive. This allowed the society time and manpower to research and develop capital, both physical and human capital, which advanced society economically. A healthy civilization has its constituents view the civilized identity as the highest identity. But, this does not mean that individual or familial, or tribal, or urban, or national identities were abolished. Some nations might even reject their civilized identity and desire a new identity by seceding and starting a new civilization or by taking over their current civilization. If a nation values its identity over the civilized one, it will try to establish itself at the highest strata of society and would unequally treat other nations. The hierarchy of the nation can then establish its nation as the hierarch of the civilization. This hierarchy convinces the other nations that the civilized identity, which they all belong to, is attached to that one nation. In other words, those other nations are persuaded that the civilized identity is embodied in a single nation.

The United States of America is a civilization state since it is made up of “nations.” People today do not call the states in the USA “nations” but before the union, citizens of the several states or colonies viewed their own respective state/colony as a unique country or nation. Also the states are not city states since they consisted of several cities making them nations. Unless, we create a new categorization for “states” to be their own political identity but states/provinces/prefectures were not sovereign but usually subservient to another power. If you think that this includes the pre-union colonies that's fair, but remember a couple sovereign nations joined the union such as Texas and Hawaii. All other states were subservient to another sovereign whether that be the British, French, Russian, Mexican, or Spanish.

The civilization state is the highest state of the sovereign today and it is not yet the most common state, that being nations. The next step, however, could be continental, where civilizations congress into one sovereign. We are seeing the foundation of this kind of state in the European Union but it has yet to become the sovereign of its constituents. Right now it is more like a confederacy of nations than a defined continental state. After this would be a hemispheric or universal state depending on how society develops in the future, I don’t know, I do not have a magic orb.

A few clarifications are in order:

When sovereigns “join” to form a new sovereign this process is not always consensual, like with Rome conquering other states to form a nation.

When a sovereign “figures out” that they would be more secure in nature if they cooperated with other sovereigns this process is not always rational but a necessity pressured by war or environmental happenstance.

When a new state of sovereignty is formed that does not mean that it becomes popular immediately; development is slow given the complexities of societies, however, due to technological advancements, societal developments are faster than they ever were before. Given this, though, some areas are still run by tribes or city states despite nation states being the more common state of sovereignty.

When a new state of sovereignty is formed, that does not mean that it is stable, it could very well collapse back into the previous states of sovereignty. The reasons for collapse are plenty, but a major reason is the issue of identity. If a state is built off of a specific identity and that identity is no longer commonly supported or subscribed to by the people, then it is weak and under threat of a new more popular identity. This is why the only truly civil society is a society whose identity only consists of universal values. Universal values, after all, are universally supported making that identity the most secure.

When a sovereign identity, at any state, is embedded in a single person or a single organization that is not open to the public, that is called a principality; when a sovereign identity, at any state, is embedded in a congress of representatives that is open to public elections and participation that is called a republic.

A healthy or civil society would have these states in their proper order, meaning that no sub state is at the level of a higher state which requires equal treatment of the states on each level. The identity of a single individual cannot be at a level higher than that of the individual or else it breaks equality and allows for the threat of war as other individuals, desiring that same position will try to take it for themselves. This desire comes from the state of nature, the desire to be safe, free, and happy, and since more developed societies have more power to fulfill that desire, individuals will try to take it for themselves. This explains the cults of personalities that people try to conjure up for themselves. This needs to be abolished in order for a society to be equal and therefore civil. No individual should be under another. This can be applied to any level of the state of sovereignty. If a civilized state is forming it needs to make that civilized identity the highest identity for if nationalism is the highest identity then it will be harder to form a civilized identity. An example would be British nationalism which was strong enough for Britain to secede from the European Union, a prenatal civilized society.

Dictatorships are examples of individuals who make their individual identity higher than their superior identities. Monarchical dynasties are examples of families who make their familial identity higher than their superior identities. Tribal identity differs greatly depending on which continent you observe; in some places tribes are defined clearly and in others they are not. More segmented societies have clear tribal lines and more integrated societies are more difficult to identify. However, in integrated societies like in Western Europe or North America those who identify with a certain tribe associated their identity with an economic class. The wealthiest families in one city state or nation state often married another wealthy family of another city or nation instead of marrying with a poor family of the same city or nation. So in some areas tribal identity is closely tied to economic status.

These have only been about political identities, there is an infinite number of identities that exist which only complicates an already complicated topic. There are countless religious identities, social identities, cultural identities, racial identities, etc.

Here is the rub of societal development, since it is difficult for people to be rational in the first place, but also difficult for people to agree to subscribing to identities that they were not raised in. Since rationality is a rarity, the course of societal development has been paved with sword and blood instead of reason and negotiation.

Also sorry for the repetition, I wanted to make a point.

This essay has been inspired by Locke’s “Second Treatise on Government” and Kant’s “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” along with other various essays about societal development and human history. I suggest you all read these since they are enlightening.

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