The arc of history is long, but how do we bend it?

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Onto this great and ready stage, Nature (or God or Providence) periodically sends a Great Man…

Interesting - this idea is hard-coded into the Civilization games.


Marxism isn’t comparable to Whig history nor does it claim that there are teleological “great forces” independent of human agency. If anything, Marxist historiography emphasizes the collective agency of ordinary people as the motor of history. That progress is possible but it isn’t inevitable and requires struggle to achieve it. Like the whole point of historical materialism is to show that any given society is the product of human activity, specifically how people are socially organized to produce and reproduce the things they need to live. That how societies have been organized changes, and more importantly can be changed through conscious action. The wealth gap in 1789 was the product of human agency, and so was the revolution that followed.

To call it the “inevitable interactions of proletariat and bourgeoisie” is to misrepresent Marx’s point. It’s not “inevitable” because of the “tidal forces of our history”, but that conflict occurs precisely because people don’t take a set of social relations as immutable, and are constantly trying to change them, especially if they are being exploited.

Because society is a very complicated fish tank. Because we still have a lot to learn about the causes and secret motions of society.
But if there is a dam right now, ready to break and usher in a change, Great Forces are still shaped by human action. Our action.

Which actually makes this essay both funny and good in a way, because while it rejects a strawman of Marx, it basically reproduces his concept of historical progress and change. That society is made by us, and by knowing how, we can change it to something better.



Interesting anthropological experiment for The Youths: describing why and how the Civ games are a product of a very Western perspective on history and human achievement.

This isn’t controversial - Civ games kind of wear this on their sleeves - but it’s a little surprising to me that it’s never addressed and considered.

If you were a Hadza game designer hired to work on Civ 7, what changes might you want to make to the game in light of your own view of history, empire, and technology? What victory conditions might you suggest?


Just going to leave this here.


Only the Sid version. The original is all Great Forces.


I have seen the game for sale, back when board game stores existed. I had no idea it predated the computer game. Cool.


Progress good? Yes and no. For example: Doubling people’s life expectancies and quality of life with the progression of medicin; good. Facebook; bad.

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Love that huge triangle to the left of the circle.


I’m not sure I agree with that comic. There is no history without people, even with random shit happening, it’s happening to people and people are making choices based on things outside of their control.

[ETA] Or as Marx put it:

That end line is one of my favorite quotes by Marx, easily.


On top of that, the preceding paragraph of the piece has one of the greatest burns ever.

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Caussidière for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire. [emphasis mine]


Indeed! If Marx were around today, he’d be a delight on the twitters with his witty rejoinders…


tfw: Ur an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something ur fixedly contemplating. Ur eyes are staring, ur mouth is open, ur wings are spread. This is how one pictures u, the angel of history. Ur face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, u see one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of ur feet. U would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in ur wings with such violence that u can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels u into the future to which ur back is turned, while the pile of debris before u grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

Walter? Is that you?

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