Four Magisteria

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= "the four magisteria: science, industry (also called technomics or economics), culture, and politics". [1]


Robert Conan Ryan:

"The commons, as an organizational form, existed historically in the cultural sphere ... this cultural sphere faced a changeover from religious authorities to public arts and discourses during the industrial era.

Commons historically were extremely localized. They were community places such as pastures, or community services such as volunteer mutual aid groups. Religious organizations were the dominant commons based structures .until the scientific revolution.

Science and business (Technomics-see below) have since legitimated some global forms of the commons during the industrial Era. However, they subjugated these commons to their own Magisterial powers and authorities. Science commons also became captured by, and shaped by, academic institutions with national interests (political authorities).

.. to create liberated commons, they must have their own magisterial powers. 

I claim that culture already does this but culture has its back up against the wall. It is becoming the weakest of Four Major Magisteria, with the least influence or independence.

If we created a global civic commons system of nongovernmental organizations, it would need to avoid surrendering its powers to existing political, industrial, and scientific institutions, or else become trapped in the Max Weber Iron Cage of rationality." (


Robert Conan Ryan:

"Excerpts from my book (rough draft) - "The Sixth Paradigm".

In this excerpt, I talk about the enlightenment and first industrial revolution from a new perspective. I argue that modernity emerged when science and technomics became separate institutional authorities from culture (religious/artistic/ethno-national authorities, most especially) and from politics (state/military/judicial authorities). I refer to these as the four magisteria: science, industry (aslo called technomics or economics), culture, and politics.

Historical cycles have been observed since the dawn of civilization. Yet, the cycles of local civilizations have only recent converged into one world system. Prior to the Industrial Era, science and industry both lacked institutional independence from culture or politics. Thus, the waves of history were dominated by the interplay of civilization-level cultural and political institutions. Shortly after their inception, science and technomic institutions became globalized authorities.

For example, France took up the Metric system in 1799, but the global scientific community did so shortly thereafter. Not long after England established limited liability corporations, independent of the powers of Parliament, the rest of the world followed suit. Thus, revolutionary changes in science and technomic institutions tend to be swift and global.

In contrast, wavy patterns in cultural and political history were found everywhere, but prior to the Enlightenment were only synchronized at the level of "civilizations" that recognized the same standard institutions. For example, feudal powers rose and fell based on cycles in regional hearths. After the rise of science and technomics, humanity slowly but inevitably pushed the globalization and formalization of cultural and political thought, thereby leading towards global institutional syncronicity. Thus, we can define the Industrial Era (1690s- present) in terms of the establishment of a "Four Magesteria" knowledge system.

The scientific "revolution" did not begin with universities. Universities predated the official recognition of science in Europe as an independent "Magisteria" - i.e., the highest level of institution in human society with its own leadership and authority. many colleges existed in Medievial Europe, dating roughly about 1100 onwards. But the scientific magisteria became separate from the doctrines of religion (culture) or politics (the day-to-day concerns of the aristocracy) when the British and French royal academies of sciences formed in 1662 and 1666, respectively.....As an interesting aside, the British society referred to their newly legitimized scientific journal papers as "transactions", whereas the French called them "memoires". The true purpose of these journals were to establish scientific facts that had the same authority in society as religious or political facts. The scientific Magisteria entered its growth phase when the French, during their own political and cultural revolution, established the metric system as its objective standard for scientific measures (1799).

I refer to the fourth Magisteria as the "Industrial Magisteria". It "objectifies" and standardized the value of business economic trade, and also technologies themselves, acting with strong independence from the other three institutional authorities. I merge technology and economics into a single magisteria because they are currently inseparable value systems and institutional structures. There is a future possibility of this changing. For example, technology could become entangled with scientific authority moreso, if we were to restructure our isntitutions such that technological value and progress was overseen moreso by scientific planning and expertise than by financial institutions. Indeed, this is a strong possibility if we objectify value using physics instead of subjective market approaches.

Technomic (industrial)institutions gained official independence only slightly later than science. In roughly the 1690s, England debuted the Bank of England, the insurance Society of Lloyd's [of London], and the London Exchange. The latter two began in British coffee houses but rapidly rose to formal institutions. Prior to the legitimation of financial institutions, the management of business and technology was mostly in the hands of guilds, who operated under a joint religious (cultural) and political (aristocratically justified and titled) authority that recognized production "goods" as literal "moral" goods. For example, the Worshipful Society of Grocers, a London guild, was responsible for asserting that its grocery practices were good and proper in the eyes of god and the crown, not just in the eyes of trade partners. (to this day, some conservative-voting British people still converse about the propriety of a type of food, such as "proper" British fish and chips, in the sense that Guilds meant!)

Industrial magisterial powers took the sense of cultural and political propriety out of the valuation of business and technology to create what we often refer to in common parlance as "capitalism" - i.e. the abstraction of value based on finance. However, I object to this slang definition because "Capitalism" can refer to a range of phenomena; this is because even communist societies in the 20th century used technomic abstractions and authorities to manage value by technomic authority - indeed, many varieties of technomic authority were tried and tested in the 1800s, some of them "anti-capitalistic" and yet also based on financial facts with independence from the other Magisteria. It is more clear to argue that technomic magisterial powers are rarely challenged in the modern world, since the invention of legally authoritative stock markets, central banks, and insurance companies that establish financial facts independently of other institutions. Financial facts anchor the value of objects across time to mathematical rules and accounting systems. Business can thereby objectify the value of both old investments and nacsent technologies still under development. Technomic authority became all-pervasive in the global economy -- that is, beyond financial markets -- with the formal recognition of corporate limited liability in the early 1800s. The degree of magisterial independence differs by country and culture, but multinational corporations dominate the global business landscape. Nearly 80% of all assets in the world are managed by technomic institutions with strong indepedence -- and limited liability, and financial facts, often prevail over facts formed by other magisteria.

During the Industrial Era, cycles in innovation are caused by major institutional changes in each of the Four Magesteria. Although they have independent powers (authority), the primacy of science tends to shape waves in the other three. Thus, once scientific facts are established, the other three magisteria begin revision of their own facts. Most especially, culture has become entrained to the "public sphere" of ideas instead of religious prophecy, and the public sphere showed a preference towards "secularist" arts and societies grounded somewhat by public understandings of science. Technomics is second in prominence because formal business organizations are the primary source of modern wealth; however, because of the dominant role of technology for modern militaries, changes in modern politics became tightly temporally locked into changes of technology and bureaucracy.

Still, each magisteria maintains sufficient institutional divisions, and domains of knowledge, to prevent some totalizing scientific authority from engulfing them all (although some radicals would argue this "scientocracy" would be a positive step for humanity).  Incremental revisions to domain-specific knowledge persists until enough motive exists to challenge the fundamental principles and structure of major institutions. Rival ideas emerge that force institutional revolutions to take place in semi-regular intervals. When taking an aggregated sample of the key evolutionary events in the world system, we can see a pattern of waves at roughly 50 (technomic/political) and 80 year (science/cultural) intervals.  

1660-1770 = Enlightenment (pre-Industrial period). During this period, seed forms and early prototypes for the first paradigms of the Industrial Era are established. However, local civilizations are still entrained to the culture / politics axis. At the end of this incubation period, we see 4 clearly delineated types of institutions and the emergence of global long waves that entrain to the leading world institutions (most of which are located in the West).

This is a condensed version of the timing of the four Great Waves, and how they are generated within four separate magesteria. the complete version explains each one independently and gives more precise dating for each. Thus, take these dates as a convenient and incomplete simplification for the moment. Note also that prototypes and early ideas always occur, but these dates are rough estimations of when institutional upheaval, and wave upswings from the trough, take place." (


Industry/politics science/ culture

  • 1770-1820 1st 1780-1860 1st (liberal)
  • 1820-1870 2nd 1860-1940 2nd (modern)
  • 1870-1920 3rd 1940-2020 3rd (postmodern)
  • 1920-1970 4th 2020-2100 4th (metamodern)
  • 1970-2020 5th
  • 2020-2070 6th