Voodoo Science and the Industrial Revolution

My fundamental thesis is that the history of the last 500 years is the shift in rule of most societies from rule by a hereditary military aristocracy and their descendants to a commercial elite and their descendants. We are told this has been the transition from superstition, ignorance and arrogance to enlightened, rational rule and the partial truth of this is what has allowed it to go on for so long. How much longer can this last?

The hereditary military aristocracy had a fairly long run as systems go. It lasted from around the 700’s (not coincidentally, the rise of Islam) to around the 1600’s. It was based on the military value of the mounted knight, who needed years of training and huge amounts of money to buy and maintain armor, weapons and horses. In the feudal system, the king gave control over some land and the right to the income derived from it so he would have time and money to train and equip himself. In return for this he pledged to the king a certain number of days per year of military service, maybe a month or so. Usually this position would be passed along to his son.

The professional warriors would spend their days riding, hunting, jousting, possibly in some other sports that would improve and maintain their fighting skills. The peasants worked in the fields. If you were a peasant this wouldn’t seem like such a good deal. There were many peasants and few knights, so theoretically a revolution was possible. But the poor never lead revolutions. They are too tired. The knights made the situation more palatable by behaving well (chivalry) and occasionally dying gory deaths. An idea that the nobility were smarter and better than the small middle class, who were smarter and better than the peasants, was promoted everywhere. The bumbling peasant who needs wise leadership from a gentleman warrior is a figure of drama and literature from Shakespeare to Kurosawa.

The end of the mounted knight is credited largely to gunpowder but also to the revival of the phalanx by the Swiss and others. The Swiss became a powerful military force with their disciplined phalanxes of foot soldiers wearing no armor and carrying 21-foot long pikes. The point and ferrule were three feet long, so anyone approaching the phalanx would be skewered before he could cut off the head with a sword, so as long as the pikemen stayed on their feet and in ranks they were invulnerable to attacks by horsemen and most foot soldiers. The Swiss were so successful with this they became in high demand as mercenaries, the origin of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard. Gunpowder made the phalanx as well as the knight obsolete, but Switzerland is today as independent as it is possible for a country to be in the global system. The phalanx is a powerful image of unity, adopted as a symbol of such by Spanish nationalists in the 1930’s, just as Italian nationalists of the era adopted the better-know symbol of the fasces.

The pikemen didn’t need armor, which is very expensive, or horses, which are very expensive not only to buy but to feed. They didn’t need the extensive training necessary to effectively use a sword or lance on horseback. They didn’t the possibly theatrical individual bravery of the single combat warrior. What they needed was iron discipline to stand shoulder to shoulder. If they could maintain that no one with edged weapons could defeat them and they even had a chance against single-shot firearms.

The Swiss pikemen didn’t need professional warriors trained from boyhood by their fathers and others on estates supplying them with the income for armor, horses and swords to lead and fight for them. They led and fought themselves. As the Reformation came to Switzerland, a clergy trained from boyhood in ancient and esoteric languages and texts became optional as well- you could buy the book yourself and read it in your own language.

The Swiss phalanx then is superficially an image of democracy. Superficially, because you can’t take a random selection of humans and make a phalanx out of them. Nevertheless, the idea that bravery and discipline were limited to a certain class had been dispelled. If common men could defeat men of status and pedigree in battle, what else could they do?

This process picked up steam in the Industrial Revolution. Non-aristocratic but intelligent without the authority of the nobility or clergy discovered many new things.  Common men could perform many functions beyond simple farm labor. The future seemed to belong to nations that could use the great mass of their people, not just the few. Napoleon created the first great nationalist army in France. The Royal Navy took middle-class men and made captains out of them, and grabbed men off the streets or out of the fields and made sailors out of them, and took control of the world’s oceans. The Dutch created a huge trading empire ranging all the way to Indonesia. Manufacturing went from a process conducted in small family-operated shops by craftsmen who jealously guarded their knowledge and skill to a mass activity employing a larger and larger portion of the population.

The nations of southern and eastern Europe did not participate in this process to the same extent, although ironically some made it possible. Other than Spain and Portugal, they did not have access to the Atlantic and thus world trade. They were debilitated by the fight against Islam. Northern and western Europeans were free of this scourge because southern and eastern Europeans had stopped its advance and driven it back in Spain and Austria. The world trade that enriched England and the Netherlands was made possible by the voyages of Vasco de Gama, who found a sea route to Asia around the southern tip of Africa, broke the monopoly of Arabs on trade between Europe and Asia and made the Arab world economically irrelevant until the discovery of oil there. Germany was late to the game as well, not uniting politically until 1870, but pursuing nationalism aggressively in the 19th century.

Nevertheless the English- in America as well as England- developed a sense of superiority, centered largely around the non-conformist Protestant fear and contempt for Catholic and Orthodox religion. The idea that “Nordics” were inherently superior became especially current in the immigration debates in the late 19th and early 20th century in the US. (As we know now from genetic studies, the English are mostly Celtic and only have Germanic ancestry in small numbers in the male line.)

Certain ideas that had reigned for hundreds of years by the late 19th century reached a tipping point at that time. For a long time the ideas that science and reason were better guides than tradition, that the old nobility had little or limited credibility to lead, and that the common peasant could be transformed into something greater with education had paid great dividends to those who practiced them. Tradition and the nobility lost their last bit of prestige in World War I, and the progressives were firmly in control. The idea that any subset of people were superior seemed to be gone forever. The doctrine of what Moldbug calls “Human Neurological Uniformity”, as opposed to the Sailerian concept of “Human Biodiversity”.

Because these ideas are the basis of progressive rule, rather than traditionalist or nationalist rule, to question them is to question the legitimacy of our government, and this is not permissible. Questioning things is of course the basis of scientific and rational rule, but this paradox is one of the things you aren’t supposed to notice. The shock conservatives have expressed over the Richwine affair is that the guy was a Harvard PhD, for crying out loud, and his ascension was approved by high-level Harvard professors. His dissertation was a separate thing from the Heritage Foundation study and the material within only part of its assertions, but it certainly provided the intellectual foundation for it. Harvard is the Vatican of the Cathedral. Its intellectual imprimatur validates almost everything the system thinks and commands.

The early progressive skepticism about southern and eastern Europeans is used to attack any current application of HBD. Ta-Nehisi Coates does this using quotes from such progressives as Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard. These men were clearly and obviously wrong. By any measure of technology, art, and usually science, the Italians were and are superior to the English. The genius of the English was military but above all in business.

But because HBD is wrong about Europeans, that does not mean it is wrong about Africans and Amerindians.

Human neurological uniformity is true- if you are talking about Europeans. Mass education will provide common people with skills for a better society- if you are talking about Europeans. The common man can with minimal guidance be depended on to behave in a pro-social manner and do the right thing- if you are talking about Europeans.

The progressives took the credibility of HNU developed through the demise of the armored knight, the rise of nationalism and the Industrial Revolution to create the voodoo sciences, the social sciences of sociology, psychology, anthropology and economics- all based on the idea, in their progressive forms at least, that there is no difference between races, no differences between genders, all forms of sexual behavior are healthy and positive, and that the human character is infinitely malleable to be formed for their purposes. This was obviously not true as early as the 1960’s, but people were paid well enough to keep their mouths shut. That arrangement seems to be running out of both money and credibility.

The trouble with beating someone with a stick is that if you do it long and hard enough, eventually it will break. Progressivism is an elitist ideology, and logically would reject HNU, as it initially did. Then almost as soon as it adopted it, it tried to apply it places it did not work. And yet it can’t abandon HNU. Moldbug has said words to the effect (You try finding it, in his impenetrable forest) that he wishes the Cathedral would just declare victory, realizing all its real opponents are long dead. Foseti seems to want the same thing- the system we have now, just acknowledging reality. But the system depends on HNU because it can’t admit the existence of any elite other than its own moral elite or priesthood. Neoreaction in general looks to a technocratic elite that seems to overlap substantially with the people running things now.

The trouble the elite has is the people won’t follow a priest, only a warrior- unless the priest is also a warrior, as may have been the case in the Crusades. A warm handshake between the traditional classes is their worst nightmare. All forms of leftism- from Bolshevik communism to Victorian capitalism- depend on official equality, but with a moral elite controlling all- in other words unofficial equality.

Nationalism recognizes there are differences between people, even in the nation, and sets about trying to unite the classes rather putting one in power over the other.

About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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22 Responses to Voodoo Science and the Industrial Revolution

  1. Jim says:

    Celtic vs. Germanic is a linguistic difference not a genetic difference. There is not a lot of genetic difference between say the Irish, English or North Germans. For Europe as a whole there is more genetic variation although it is relatively small compared wth genetic variation across the world. Genetic differences do not necessarily correlate very closely with either national or linguistic boundaries. Northern Italians are rather different genetically from Southern Italians. On the other hand although Hungarians speak a Uralic-Yukagir language they do not differ genetically much from nearby Slavic speakers.

    You seem to use the term “Celtic” in opposition to “Nordic” but this is a confusion of categories. Celtic speaking Irishmen are for the most part “Nordics” genetically.

    • My point is the English regarded themselves as a different and superior race from the Irish.

    • RS says:

      > There is not a lot of genetic difference between say the Irish, English or North Germans. For Europe as a whole there is more genetic variation although it is relatively small compared wth genetic variation across the world.

      Most alleles don’t do anything. The apparent uniformity of European genomes doesn’t mean much. Russians are far more violent than Dutch, closer to Blacks. But Europe is united by intelligence, considerable audacity, extreme creativity, and hot girls.

      > Genetic differences do not necessarily correlate very closely with either national or linguistic boundaries.

      But sometimes they do. Especially, I’d guess, when you are talking about rather primordial, rather deeply different language groups like Celtic and Germanic that existed in a tribal world. Bear in mind Germanics did not even expand from Scandinavia until ~300 BC. There were no Celts in Scandinavia and no Germanics outside it. And until the Romans conquered some Celts, there were no known empires or lingua francas in the Northwest to mix things around: there were tribes. That’s not to say lingua francas or empires (especially loose ones) could not exist in early times: indeed such may be the origin of the Slavic language family, which is shallowly differentiated and seems to have been spread pretty recently.

      As for the idea that English are definitely almost all Celtic, never heard of it, not very inclined to believe it.

      • RS says:

        > That’s not to say lingua francas or empires (especially loose ones) could not exist in early times

        Or that people didn’t move around until the Late Roman Voelkerwanderung. Celts attacked Hellas in like 500 BC or something, I forget when. They lost.

        But in general I don’t think early NW Europe had great shifts of power or language beyond those associated with considerable racial/subracial change (ie, the Germanic expansion). In contrast to the Eastern Med, where there was a ton of crazy shit going on. All kinds of people had all kinds of complex migrational and imperial interactions there way before 500 BC, which I guess is how Jesus wound up speaking Aramaic. The history of Egypt and the Levant and Mycaenean world are pretty interesting if, like me, you have been accustomed to thinking of the world as starting in 500 BC.

        For instance, Linear B, the Greek writing system extinguished during the Greek Dark (Homeric) Age, isn’t just found in Crete and the islands. There are many tablets of it buried on the Hellenic mainland in Thebes. But the classical Hellenes knew nothing about this — even though they were in some contact with Egypt both before and after the illiterate Darkness, and Egypt never had a dark age. But apparently Egypt had no historians or chroniclers of foreign races who could clue the Greeks in to their history. The classical Greeks may have known about the ruined Mycaenean palaces, or maybe not, but if so I don’t think they knew what it was. The Greek dark age was a total amnesia, not like the postroman darkness where you at least still had plenty of people understanding Latin throughout Europe, and maybe a few(?) understanding Greek.

        The classical Hellenes did know that the Doric vs Iono-Attic dialects were associated with culture and were basically subracial, and had a puzzling disjoint geographic distribution seeming to indicate a Dorian expansion.

      • Recent genetic studies show most of the English ancestry goes back thousands of years, before the invasions, I don’t know if that makes them Celtic or not, but not German or Scandinavian.

  2. Red says:

    ” any measure of technology, art, and usually science, the Italians were and are superior to the English. The genius of the English was military but above all in business.”

    Uh, the motherfucking practical steam engine, IE the greatest invention of all time? All modern engineering/chemistry/physics comes out of northern Europe.

    As far as the common people are able to do awesome things: Most of the really outstanding commoners were the bastard spawn of the upper classes. During the middle ages there was continual genetic pressure pushing the worst people down and out of the gene pool while best of the upper class won battles and lived and passed those genes to all levels of society.

    Feudalism produces superior people. It’s no mistake that the most civilized people in the world where found in the west and in Japan. Both had a long and bloody feudal history which created the awesomeness that you see draining away today.

    • RS says:

      Medieval and Renaissance Italy were red hot, but most would consider Newton + Darwin to be the best scientific showing by any nation, steam engine ain’t exactly chopped liver either. Darwin was less potent and original than Newton, but still the rightful king of bio. I’m not even very Anglophile ; certainly wish they had lost to Bonaparte or the Kaiser.

  3. Heil Hizzle Mein Nizzle says:

    Every time I look at one of the “good guy” progressive overlords like Bloomberg or Gore, I think of what Ersnt Junger said in his novel “The Glass Bees”:

    “What is it about the monsters of our time, that they not only insist on ruling us, but also that we regard them as saints?”

  4. zhai2nan2 says:

    >All forms of leftism- from Bolshevik communism to Victorian capitalism- depend on official equality, but with a moral elite controlling all- in other words unofficial equality.

    This is a seriously awesome essay, but I think I have spotted a small typo. The above should probably read:
    “All forms of leftism- from Bolshevik communism to Victorian capitalism- depend on official equality, but with a moral elite controlling all- in other words unofficial inequality.”

    A more serious question is whether the mounted, armored knight had any meaningful variation.

    I am particularly interested in how the Cossacks, the Poles, and the Byzantine armored cavalry were different from the Western European knights.

    As far as I can tell, the Western Europeans had relatively few mounted knights, whereas the Poles seem to have had a huge fraction of their population in the knightly class.

    • Talking out of my ass, I will say that Eastern Europe is much more open country, all the way through Asia. You would need many more horsemen, but lighter armed and more maneuverable. A horseman with a smaller horse and little armor would be higher status than a peasant infantryman, but not as high status as a knight with heavy armor and weapons. I read someplace the equipment of a mounted knight amount to several years of the gross product of a farming community. More and less expensive horsemen would make for a different culture.

      • TE says:

        In the case of Poland it’s actually the opposite. They had some of the heaviest, most expensive, and most effective cavalry of all late 15th to early 17th century European nations– the famed Polish winged hussars (which evolved from Serbian and Hungarian hussars).

        The Polish hussars were pretty much the best cavalry for about two centuries and continued to be effective even against pikemen, archers and musketmen in a time when most European nations were abandoning heavy cavalry in favor of lighter cavalry. They were often able to win even when severely outnumbered such as at Kircholm where ~3,500 Polish-Lithuanian soldiers (2,500 of them hussars) defeated ~12,000 Swedes with a full speed cavalry charge– with only 100 Poles killed and ~8,000 Swedish dead. Or at Klushino where 6,500 Polish soldiers (5,500 hussars) defeated 35,000 Russians.

        The problem was that they were extremely expensive to maintain and extremely difficult to supply and resupply. Though they usually had low losses of men, the expensive and difficult to train battle horses died fairly frequently in battle and were hard to replace; and their expensive lances were broken every battle. Thus they were rarely able to field much more than about 3,000-6,000 winged hussars for the whole Commonwealth at any given time.

        The lighter and more maneuverable horsemen was more the case for Russian, Cossack and Tatar forces. In the Khmelnitski uprising, Cossack cavalry never stood a chance against matched in even numbers against Polish hussars in open battle, but they did find success by using their wagons as barricades (nullifying a cavalry charge), setting up traps and earthworks, and in light skirmishes.

        As to Poland having more knights, more Poles were nobles in general. For much of the middle ages roughly 10% of Poles were noblemen. This led to the odd situation where you had quite a few dirt poor nobles, and contributed to the fatal lack of effective centralization of the Polish government.

      • I would say I know a fair amount about military history (military education, casual reading) but had never heard any of this before. American education is very Anglocentric- we study what the English did and it’s treated as world history.

  5. RS says:

    Possibly, the problem with the Swiss model is they would have needed heavy armor if others had adopted the phalanx. The Ancient Greek type ‘phalangists’ were able to render cavalry quite secondary, but they needed heavy armor to face other phalanxes in hours-long pike clashes. That word you always see, ‘hoplite’, means heavy-armored foot soldier.

    I guess what I don’t grasp is why mounted men became decisive in the first place, after the end of Western Rome, when they hadn’t been. I vaguely recall that some think it was the advent of the stirrup, while others deny this up and down. Perhaps, just speculating, it has something to do with improved armoring of man and horse.

    • cassander says:

      It has more to do with the decline of empire than any particular technology. Maintaining a phalanx requires a lot of disciplined soldiers, which means either a professional standing army, which was too expensive for most medieval kingdoms, or a relatively unique culture, like that of the greek city states or Switzerland. In the absence of disciplined infantry, cavalry becomes far more potent, but as soon as professional militaries came back, first as mercenaries then as national armies, you quickly see cavalry becoming more secondary again.

      • I was listening to a horse guy once, and he was saying that 99% of the time, if a man stands up and waves his arms at a charging horse, the horse will stop- but in the other 1% of times the horse is crazy and will run him over. Disciplined infantry will stand fast, reducing the utility of cavalry.

    • Without stirrups you can’t effectively wield weapons from horseback. Hoplites, or the equivalent, can fight armored horsemen- e.g. Battle of Tours- but it’s pretty difficult. I think the trick the Swiss had was they made the pikes really long, which kept the horse and rider at a distance farther than he could use a sword or a lance.

  6. RS says:

    All forms of leftism- from Bolshevik communism to Victorian capitalism- depend on official equality, but with a moral elite controlling all- in other words unofficial inequality.

    Nationalism recognizes there are differences between people, even in the nation, and sets about trying to unite the classes rather putting one in power over the other.

    Pretty much agree. Even though they didn’t mention Cromwell, a lot of this is loosely related to what Stirner and Nietzsche were talking about with their Hellenism, and their attack on modern moralism.

    One should definitely re-read these recent pieces from you:

  7. Brandon says:

    I like your term “voodoo science”. It says it all.

  8. spandrell says:

    I’ve always found you a great historian, but your conclusions are underwhelming.
    The elite is in no trouble. They have it good, and are in no danger from the people.

  9. During the late medieval period, the introduction of munition armor, or almain river, a type of plate armor that was a fraction of the cost of traditional, fitted plate armor was widely available. It became possible to equip entire army of infantry and cavalry with three-quarter armor.

    The stirrup made horse combat more effective and easier, but there’s a rich history of heavy cavalry tactics before the introduction of stirrup. At the battle of Hastings, the Norman cavalry fought in the traditional manner, holding the spear in the overhand position. And the Norman were able to win when the Saxons broke ranks and exposed their shield wall.

    Shock cavalry, using the couched lanced was not how cavalry was used for most of history. A purely European tactic and lasted only a few hundred years against poor, usually levied infantry made up of peasants. Once profession soldiers and militia started appearing the tactic quickly faded.

    The Byzantine used their cavalry differently, they did not charge enemy position, but trotted to the enemy in a triangular formation. The most heavily armored horsemen were in the center, with lance, and the flanks were made up of archers, to disrupt the enemy line, and the rest of the cavalry were armed with maces. The cavalry was anchored to the infantry, made up of spearmen and archers.(this provided protection from counter chargers and horse archers) The difference between the Byzantine and European model was that the Byzantine preferred a controlled charge, rather then a shock charge because if the charged failed to break the infantry it left the cavalry disorganized.

    The Muslim and other Steppe tribes used lighter cavalry, because their tactics were hit and run. They would feigned retreats and ambush the pursing forces.

    The Swiss pikemen were a poor imitation of the Alexandrian phalangites. The Swiss lacked the combined arms approach the Alexandrian model displayed.

  10. Anomaly UK says:

    The argument that the progress of egalitarianism has gone too far is good, but you don’t comment on whether the egalitarian changes that were successful are themselves still warranted in today’s world. Neither warfare nor industry now rely on masses acting in well-drilled unison. The modern worker has a role much more like a medieval peasant or craftsman (depending on skill level), monitoring or operating machines, than like a 20th-century production-line worker.

  11. Pvt Maggot says:

    thrasymachus33308 at 2:50 pm May 17, 2013

    I would say I know a fair amount about military history (military education, casual reading) but had never heard any of this before. American education is very Anglocentric- we study what the English did and it’s treated as world history.

    Here is a site devoted to Polish military history during the early Modern age


    I don’t think the husaria were any heavier than the heaviest Western cavalry, such as during the War of the Roses or the French Wars of Religion, but they were heavier than all but a small portion of their opponents the Turks and Muscovites. The Tatars and Cossacks had no heavy cavalry.

    A large portion of the Polish forces were lighter (chain-mail wearing pancerni) or completely unarmored rajtars by the later 17th century.

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