Sociology of Plural Jurisdictions

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Mark Douglas Whitaker:


"First, this work promotes and provokes a different system of thought or ontology for sociological methods, social theory, economics, and for historical sociology. This ontology focuses our epistemology or data analysis onto a topic rarely researched though it should be: the sociology of plural jurisdictions. This involves their rarely discussed material-ideational ‘infrastructural’ qualities (instead of only their more remarked-upon violence), and how jurisdictions change over time unpredictably by open choices of strategies and tactics and their more regular implications of different kinds of choices, only notable in comparative retrospect. Moreover, a sociology of plural jurisdictions means how singular jurisdictions are strategically and tactically built with and against the historical choices and interactions of other jurisdictions instead of ever being a history in themselves. This means a sociology of plural jurisdictions is unable to escape addressing that these innately plural jurisdictional dynamics exist only in particular geographic spaces and times. Spatial and temporal interactions in the particularities of the geographic and historical case help define their general interactions theoretically, instead of history being extraneous to generalization and theory. Within this particular geographic context of such plural jurisdictional dynamics, the history of sited environmental conditions and communities in the plural, in interaction with plural distant delocalized elites themselves battling each other for jurisdictional hegemony over and against particular regions, is a very different three-position dynamic. This plural jurisdictional dynamic as a triple-positional dynamic will be called their unpredictable trialectical dynamics, a name coined to be distinct from false claims about predictable futures of dialectical dynamics. Such a trialectical dynamics is contrary to current social theory and historiographic ideas even though it is documented well by historians working on their cases who are as shy about formulating social theory as social scientists are in integrating unpredictable human actors in open historical cases. Plus, in comparative retrospect, such trialectical ideas allow us to build a trellis upon which to hang comparative historical studies of jurisdictions. From that can be asked are there any examples of more regular or less regular choices of jurisdictional change patterns over time that help us understand our past, present, or our future choices of human or environmental history? There are.

One of the greater misleading ideas of past historiography concerning jurisdictions has been the narrative motif of ‘rise and fall.’ It presumes that jurisdictions develop in only states, and when states are presumed to ‘disappear,’ that jurisdictions disappear as well. Therefore, little ‘history’ is written beyond the ‘fall’ of a state and before the ‘rise’ of the next one, even though history continues per se, and it is only a statist historiography that has a problem integrating such continuities and changes. This had led people to stop writing more continuous jurisdictional histories about the periods of states into the periods between states which are still full of jurisdictions and ongoing flows of jurisdictional change from one state into the next one. This is a major rationale why people have ignored the historiography of ongoing jurisdictional transformations and their ongoing smooth or rough progression in history's jurisdictional flows — better characterized more neutrally as states into other states, and simply jurisdictional arrangements into other jurisdictional arrangements. So it is time to kill off the more hagiographic narrative about ‘rise and fall’ of states (in which the middle temporal zones between periods of major states are rarely researched and left in the dark) for more social scientific analysis of ongoing historical changes in jurisdictions in general more empirically, i.e., in a phrase, about the ongoing transformations of jurisdictions or ‘states into states.’ This would be a study of the ongoing jurisdictional changes of formal institutions, formal policy, and informal political dynamics of hegemony changes in space and over time. It is time for more social scientific empirical analysis of history’s jurisdictional transformations.

Moreover, it is time to discuss jurisdictions as phenomena beyond merely the idea of a state as equally phenomena throughout social life and environmental life, as well. Equally throughout these contexts, it is time for the exchange of information and ideas about jurisdictional transformations beyond state transformations, the implications of different choices of jurisdictional change upon political, social, and environmental issues, and even how the case can be made that jurisdictional changes cause and drive human history and environmental history.

Questions and answers about the causes of human and environmental patterns in world history have previously been built from very selective data, singular case analysis, and limited time periods. Instead, if we track back the history of ongoing jurisdictional changes for the past 5,000 years far more comparatively, what might we learn about any more durable jurisdictional dynamics or jurisdictional changes anywhere in the world, past or present? In this way we learn about jurisdictional phenomena that have always existed though have rarely been analyzed in terms of ongoing open choices of different jurisdictional changes, aggregated jurisdictional alliances, and ever-shifting jurisdictional hegemonies in time and over geographic space. In short jurisdictions have rarely been analyzed for social and environmental implications of different jurisdictional changes: for how different choices and ongoing trends of jurisdictional changes cause growing democratization, cause growing tyranny, cause growing environmental degradation and/or cause growing sustainability.

The sociology of plural jurisdiction is a blueprint for a very different scientific study of history, one that opens up the study of the dynamics of both time and geographic spatial and arrangements of hegemony in any of our social and material constructs, instead of just as a narrative about time. Plus, comparative history of actual cases and their dynamics is the path to greater certitude instead of cherrypicked singular cases and selectively applied or selectively ignored data. Many past social scientists have studied societies in order to classify them statically as without history or without geographic variegations. Others studied societies to posit something about functions and integrations, an equally poor frame as if airy interpretations of function and cherrypicked data about integration served as a substitute for the hard data of ongoing historical interactions and mechanisms. Others studied societies as if everything was presumed to be a conflict, something which can only be done if one cherrypicks data in the other direction. To the contrary, in a sociology of plural jurisdictions, studying societies to understand the history of their ongoing changing of jurisdictions is a novel concept. The world's history is only recovered by tracking such particular cases of the event-upon-event of past jurisdictional hegemonic arrangements and the plural jurisdictional dynamics of interactions out of which they derive. From present jurisdictions we can determine vanished ones. The present arrangement of jurisdictions and their plural dynamics help us to discuss and to hypothesize about the past arrangement of jurisdictions and their dynamics, and vice versa. Therefore, the comparative history of jurisdictional changes helps us to understand the ongoing chosen changes of our human history and our environmental history and the similar and different paths that can be chosen in time and space. What I have already documented in three cases of ongoing jurisdictional change in the book Ecological Revolution (2009), in China, Japan/Korea, and Europe, I propose for the whole world in this book, past and present, because these trialectical dynamics are so similar, past and present, to our collective chagrin (which will become clear in time as you read this book) though to our social scientific enjoyment at such regular patterns of dynamics. This is because plural jurisdictional dynamics and their more or less regular chosen jurisdictional changes seem the same everywhere and anywhere. Past or present, there are similar choices of ongoing jurisdictional transformations to discuss for their implications on social and environmental issues. This makes this book the first non-Eurocentric universal history as well.

In short, jurisdictions are a nuanced strategic and tactical record of our choices in human history and in environmental history, past or present, in any region of the world, because jurisdictional changes can cause changes in human history and in environmental history whether toward environmental degradation or toward sustainability, whether toward tyranny or toward democracy. This study provides theoretical terms for such a trialectical dynamics by ranging across the comparative investigation of plural jurisdictions in particular spaces over time, to their strategic jurisdictional interactions, to individual and aggregate unpredictable shifts in jurisdictional/interpretational support and opposition. The interaction of jurisdictional, social, and environmental changes in history is created by such different open choices of strategies and tactics and by the implications that these are unpredictable open-ended choices at root, though in comparative retrospect, findings of more regular generalized knowledge about such jurisdictional dynamics, choices and implications of choices as well. As a result, many terms throughout this book are suggested to help us describe the phenomena of jurisdictional interactions more plainly, and then from that terminology it is easier to code, to measure and to track how such jurisdictional changes take place in history. This can be for coding singular cases or for coding comparative study if there are any regularly chosen patterns of jurisdictional change to analyze in history, so far at least."


"Such a sociology of jurisdictions and trialectics is the philosopher’s key to understanding human history, human-environmental history, and histories of environmental degradation and sustainability. From that, it is useful equally to formulate better and different paths toward environmental sustainability as well. It is equally the key to understanding world history’s contextual and highly episodic rise and fall of democratization, new religions, or empirical science. Thus, a sociology of jurisdictions and trialectics equally helps us formulate knowledge toward a better route both to sustainability and to more durable democratization, simultaneously.

To summarize what will follow, a sociology of jurisdictions and trialectics leads to a new philosophy of history, a new political philosophy, a new philosophy of religion, and a new philosophy of science. This new philosophy of history is about trialectical dynamics of such plural jurisdictions as the same, past and present, and given the same choices, with similar trends as past, at least in comparative retrospect so far. The new political philosophy is about how to design better political relationships in all four venues of jurisdiction toward greater democratization and sustainability by attempting to avoid the bad degradation and tyrannies of the past that more regularly in comparative retrospect come with trialectical dynamics. The new philosophy of religion is about many points, with the main one being the crucial aspects of environmental risk politics in massive religious changes in history, and contexts of the invention of novel religions as environmental opposition—including though hardly limited to the axial religions. This new philosophy of science is toward more justifiable social science methods that are less reliant on deductive beginnings from mutually hostile and mentally dichotomized reductionisms. These have been evinced by those other seven schools of thought, analysis, and policy mentioned above, and by the fact that the ‘big six’ in the classical sociological tradition were mentally dichotomized reductionisms battling each other instead of additively helping each other found a new social science. Removing these shared hamstrings in past social thought lets us run further than others did with their more hobbled and limited perspectives.

In short, this work is a prolegomena to a sociology of jurisdictions and trialectics that has huge implications for altering much about the way we interpret history, society, economics, religion, science, and human-environmental interactions."


  • Whitaker, Mark. D. 2020. “Chapter 1: Introduction,” in Trialectics, or a Green Theory of History. Manuscript. Quote as draft. [email protected]