Production Revolutions and Periodization of History

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* Article/Chapter: Production Revolutions and Periodization of History: A Comparative and Theoretic-Mathematical Approach. Leonid Grinin. Chapter 1 of the book: Macrohistory and Globalization.

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"In this chapter we suggest a model of periodization of historical process based on our theory of historical process (see also Grinin 1998b, 2000, 2003a, 2003b, 2006b, 2007b, 2007f, 2009b). Thus, here we shall concentrate on a brief description of the essence and chronology of periodization; we shall also demonstrate the possibilities of mathematical modeling of temporal processes and temporal cycles in historical development. It is important to state the following reserve- tion: this periodization can only be applied to world historical process (further denoted as ‘historical process’) and to a considerable (but not to the full) degree to the evolution of World System (interpreting it after the manner of Andre Gunder Frank [Frank 1990, 1993; Frank and Gills 1993; Korotayev, Grinin 2006; Grinin and Korotayev 2006, 2009a]). Thus, our periodization refers only to macroevolutionary processes, and therefore can be directly applied to the histories of particular countries and societies only by means of special and rather complicated methodological procedures. Its task is to define a scale for measurement of processes of the humankind's development (or at least of the evolution of World System) and to mark possibilities for intersocietal comparison. A few words are necessary in order to clarify our understanding of the ‘historical process’ notion (for more detail see Grinin 2003a; Grinin and Korotayev 2009a). The first point to be made is that this notion is in no way synonymous with ‘world history’.

Of course, the notion of historical process is based on world history facts, but firstly, there have been chosen only those facts that are the most important from the point of view of process and changes; secondly, this set of facts has been ordered and interpreted in accordance with the analyzed spatial and temporal scales, trends and logics of historical development of humankind as a whole, as well as the present-day results of this development. In other words, historical process is in no way a mechanical sum of the histories of numerous peoples and societies, it is not even just the process of temporal movement and development of these people and societies. The historical process is a growing and even cumulative process of societal integration that has a certain direction and result. The notion of the historical process of humankind does not imply that humankind has always been a real system.

It implies the following:

(a) that we select a respective scale for our analysis;

(b) that we take into account the fact that throughout all the periods of the historical process societies, civilizations and its other subjects have been developing unevenly, i.e. at a different rate of social progress. Among other things from the methodological point of view it indicates that for the analysis of historical process the most important role is played by the model of the influence produced by more developed regions on the less developed ones;

(c) the interaction scale expands from one period to another until it reaches the scale of the whole planet;

(d) hence, the historical process of humankind is, first of all, the process of movement from autonomous and isolated social mini-systems towards the formation of the present extremely complex system of intensely interacting societies;

(e) when (and if) humankind gets transformed into a subject whose development as a whole is determined (at least partially) by a general and explicitly expressed collective will, the historical process in its current meaning will come to its end, and this will lead to a transition to a new generation of processes."