The Contradiction of World History

By H. Haines Brown, Central Connecticut State University <>, rev. 9–94

This paper was originally presented at a New England Regional World History Association conference session held at Bentley College on April 23, 1994. It has an associated bibliography.

I. Introduction

Although bad form I must first beg the reader's indulgence. This paper intends to show that world history is a contradictory process; that is is possible to represent it as such in thought; and that doing so probably offers significant intellectual and social rewards. It is hard to imagine how this can be done without considerable intellectual risk and without a density of argument that will impose on the reader's patience. My only justification for doing so is that I believe the approach sketched here is far better suited to the study of world history than conventional efforts and is more responsive to emergent social needs.

The world histories of past historians are monuments to intellectual heroism and literary brilliance. Their works ingratiate themselves because their authors usually share with readers a common culture or social experience; we continue to read them with pleasure and benefit as mirrors of their times or for their literary appeal.

However, the world historiography of recent times has not much advanced beyond eighteenth-century conceptions; the tradition no longer offers a developing school of interpretation from which the beginner might confidently start. Indeed, it can be argued that, given the metaphysical basis of eighteenth-century historiography, we have yet to arrive at a scientific representation of world history (we certainly don't identify an obsession with the keen observation of empirical facts with the scientific method). The approaches in vogue today are only variations on eighteenth-century European Enlightenment historiography and, given the development of both science and of social needs, naturally fail to support a world historiography that is coherent, scientific, and socially meaningful.

This is a severe judgment that demands far more justification than I can give it here, but it is useful if it encourages a systematic critical introspection. Nevertheless, we readily admit that bourgeois historiography has its virtues. In the course of the nineteenth and twentieth century there have been significant advances in historiographic methodology, and a good beginning has been made toward a historiography that is ecumenical in its embrace of all times and places.

However, "world" history is more than this. We are rapidly becoming world citizens, and as such need to represent world history as a whole and as a process amenable to change through human struggle. World historiography must therefore engage the world as a whole, not as the sum of its parts; it must respond to the world's enormous empirical diversity, not retreat to a vacuous description causal relations; it must integrate the rich complexity of life in terms of determinant relations, not reduce the the whole to one aspect of which all others are epiphenomena; it must be "scientific" in the sense that historiography stands in a determinant relation with all other areas of knowledge and excludes supernatural or metaphysical essences; and it must support current struggles to create a better world.

As we enter the twenty-first century, we find ourselves in a culturally and socially complex world in which the meaning of world history must of necessity transcend national tradition and even a shared culture or participation in a global market. Arguably, the only way to support a future development of world historiography is to join universality with specificity, a scientific approach that remains socially responsible.

II. The Contradictions of World History

In traditional terms one would sharply distinguish world historiography from the objective process of world history itself. In terms of that tradition, the facts offer an objective ground from which the historian infers the patterns and forces that gave shape to the course of history. The resulting conception of world history is inherently subjective, but constrained by the historian's responsiveness of the factual evidence to become a close approximation or analogy of " wie es eigentlich gewesen."

In terms of 20th century science, this seems naive. The dichotomy between a subject in the present and an object in the past appears artificial. There is no question whatsoever in terms of modern science that the object acquires existence through the actions of a subject, and all that exists is a present. In this paper I hope to explore a way to overcome the traditional dichotomies. by employing a probabilistic causality.

Because this represents an ontological break, I will reverse the usual approach. Rather than assemble an argument from agreeable axioms and uncontested evidence to arrive at a conclusion made compelling by the force of logic, I begin with the conclusion. Following the suggestion of scientific realism, we begin with a conclusion based on the world as we actually experience it, and then work back from there to build the intellectual apparatus sufficient to represent the world as we know it in thought.

We must also not exclude the social aspect of this task. A scientific methodology was the crowning laurel of nineteenth-century European historiography, and it is significant that this coincided with the evolution of historiography as an ideological prop for the modern nation state. Despite the usual practice, one cannot really understand a historiography without placing it in relation to its social context.

For example, Leopold von Ranke died in 1886, and the high point of his career roughly coincided with the emergence of the racism, imperialism, and mass democracy that were the concomitants of capitalist industrialization. Mass democracy implies the conversion of historiography from a hobby of the few written for the few, such as Sir Walter Raleigh's futile effort to escape "death row," to an important instrument of mass socialization. Eric Hobsbawm has nicely discussed this in terms of the inculcation of "civic religion." The age of imperialism implies that historiography should be reformulated as the history of nations (a political unit defined by its cultural tradition, by its immutable past) so that the world conquest by European nations would serve to demonstrate the inevitability of the world dominance of capitalism.

It is not surprising, then, that as the person most closely associated with the bourgeois scientific method in historiography, von Ranke was also the author of an important multi-volume Welgeschichte that is transparently Eurocentric. In the sense that the nation was private culture raised to the political level, any conception of history in terms of private interest and power inevitably reduced world history to the history of the world's nations, and the outcome of history legitimated the private sphere that rose to world dominance. The rising proletariat, having no economic power of their own, were offered through the placebo of world history an opportunity to glory in the global dominance of their bourgeois nation, to which they offered taxes and military service in wars of imperial expansion. The lesson was that you have more to gain through supporting the existing capitalist order than by class struggle simply because there was no viable alternative.

The inadequacy of this nationalist perspective on world history became apparent with the tragedy of the First World War (see on this H. G. Well's The Outline of History [1918- 19]), and today we see trends which suggest a dissolution of the nation before long. However, in spite of certain efforts, no real alternative to nationalist history has appeared. If we no longer reduce world history to the history of European nations quite to the extent we once did, it is still defined in terms of the capitalism that in fact emerged in an association of Western states and with Western culture. To point out that European capitalist world domination was not inevitable only asserts that European domination was not inevitable, not that capitalist domination was not inevitable. Capitalism remains the necessary logic of historical development and capitalist market relations the only basis of world history in bourgeois historiography.

Academic world historiography, then, has in the course of the twentieth century become unhinged from the nation state. This loss of material foundation has deprived bourgeois academic world historiography of its social purpose. Therefore its logic has become essentialist, a feeble effort to represent volunteeristic capitalist relations as the mainspring of all history (even in some cases, prehistory). This retreat to Hegelian objective idealism, as in Janet Abu-Lughod's, Before European Hegemony (New York, 1989), seems remote from modern science as well as from social relevance. As a result, academic history seems in decline.

This is not true, however, of the popular historiography taught in schools or found in the press, which therefore has greater ideological significance. At the popular level historiography is obsessed with the potentials we inherit from the past, with antiquities, national heritages, roots, and with the present manifestations of hallowed tradition. Our roots define us; our identity and capability are inherited and therefore immutable. This seems the deterministic alter ego of volunteeristic bourgeois academic historiography, for which history is driven by the optimal decisions of those in power. In popular historiography, there is no power, no choices to be made, for we are the prisoners of a past which is beyond change (Bernal's suggestion that we may be able to choose among alternative pasts really does not change the feel-good opiate of an absorption by our roots). While one's self-esteem may change, people are not really empowered by consciousness alone. A consciousness's of one's roots mitigates against even the possibility of a world history. This inward-turned self-absorption has an obvious ideological function.

Once Western capitalism gained world hegemony, thanks in part to the Second World War, free choice in the construction of our past began to substitute for the power to shape our future; consumerism substituted for democracy. It seems that the picking over the junk heap of history in order to take possession of some particular past to satisfy some present need mitigates against any concern for the process of history itself. The notion that historic consciousness is a cornerstone of human liberty strikes people today as only quaint, not as a tragic failure of the human spirit. In its place, we have a consumerist model of history that not only reduces world history to an array of distinct self-contained traditions which might amuse us, but also denies that history is a meaningful process at all. The adamant denial of human progress that one so often hears is not, of course, a considered reflection upon the actual historical record (few seriously suggest we would be better off as paleolithic hunters and gatherers), but simply a collapse of the spirit because we no longer are able to see history as a meaningful process that would give some point to struggle in the present. The ideological function of capitalist historiography has ended by destroying the possibility of a world history and a world historiography.

The same thing is true of historiographic methodology, for the more it progressed, the more a world history seems an impossibility. For example, the advance of scientific methods has unearthed great masses of information that far exceeded the ability of any single individual to master. Just as heavy industry deprived small enterprises of economic significance, the combination of overwhelming factual material with the methodological demand that we take it all into account and do so with the utmost accuracy made the lone historian's task almost impossible. That several remarkable world histories have nevertheless been written in the twentieth century should not obscure the growing difficulty of the task and the enormous cost, both personal and institutional, that it now entails. World history today must be a global enterprise that draws upon the intellectual resources of the entire world, such as bringing the ideals of the Annales School into the age of the computer.

The Annales School reached out to historians who had been excluded by the establishment and to the kind of evidence that had not been useful in terms of traditional political history, and it demonstrated how rewarding new kinds of evidence could be. It was not simply a new kind of evidence, but organizing a multiplicity of diverse evidence which lacked the inherent rationality of political history. However, the new array of sources and techniques ended by making it impossible for any one individual to master the whole, and as a result, historiography becomes incoherent. The Annales School succeeded in bringing distinct kinds of evidence into a relation, but the relation remained empty as long as what is united is defined empirically__in terms of distinctions. The Enlightenment view that the mere interaction of distinctions spontaneously results in the emergence of something new has proved a chimera.

There is an economic side to the conflict between the requirements of a world history and the resources brought to bear on it. The costs of historical research have risen as a result of its methodological sophistication, and while wealthy societies can perhaps still afford to bask in the glory of their national history, most nations lack the wealth to do so. If the rich significance of a particular past is a function of amount of resources deployed in its study, the shape of world history ends a function of the relative national wealth. This is perhaps why, despite the constant pleas for a more balanced world history, the Western tradition continues to occupy a third or more of our textbooks. The Monumenta Germanica Historica is the kind of resource needed for a scientific historiography, but only if it is liberated from the national self-obsession that made its construction worth the enormous effort. Today, no poor country could possibly afford a Monumenta (or its archaeological and oral equivalents) on which to base its own particular tradition. If there is to be a scientific world historiography, it must be a shared enterprise that draws upon the wealth of the entire world. However, such an enterprise would remain Utopian if it aimed to incorporate all national traditions while offending none. The answer is that what distinguishes people in terms of power, wealth and culture cannot serve to define their contribution to world history, but only a shared relation that is a function of their distinctions, but does not reduce to them. Otherwise world historiography is either pulled apart by the distinctions and competing interests it seeks to contain or becomes so flatly innocuous as to betray its scientific or liberating pretensions.

It is good to remind ourselves of the positive achievement of past world historians, for if the truth were told, we still really have little idea how to represent and explain the course of world history. Arguably, world history is a project that has yet begun. True, world historians have discovered a few rough patterns, skillfully chronicle the rising and falling of empires, ferret out hidden interconnections, extract commonalities, and manage to lend the past a coherence that manifests the writer's personal perspective or chosen theme. But all this supports effective pedagogy and expository writing more than it does scientific understanding. Any meaningful shape we manage to find in the past that is purchased by a crude reductionism or willful subjectivism necessarily remains illusory. Oswald Spengler, for example, lent coherence to an enormous sweep of the past with such elan that he figures greatly among our century's world historians despite his obvious weaknesses. He was admired and imitated by Arnold Toynbee, among others, but if we were to emulate his methods today, we would find ourselves either ignored or discredited as unscientific and not up to the high standards of the historical profession. There is, in short, a contradiction between the meaning we draw from the study of world history and the scientific methods of the profession that legitimate those conclusions.

One contradiction often mentioned in connection with world history is that its treatment is usually, if not always, "Eurocentric." That is, the focus of our attention, the font of initiative, or the measure of significance are European-centered. At one time Europe represented itself as a universal civilization, and so Eurocentrism made sense. Today, however, Eurocentrism is taken to be a major weakness present in virtually all representations of world history. It might seem that the contradiction between the particular (Eurocentric) perspective of the is purely subjective, but arguably the subject and object of historiography are not categorical opposites, as is usually assumed, but aspects of a single process, having a particular perspective of the individual historian as one of its dimensions and our universal perspective as social being as another. Eurocentrism, in this case, can be considered a manifestation of an inherent contradiction of world historiography, not just a personal shortcoming of some historians that might be corrected.

Eurocentrism can mean that the relative importance we ascribe to various pasts are functions of their importance today. Because Europe has conquered much of the world in modern times and capitalism dominates the international economy, historians representing those particular interests naturally see the present condition of the world as the end of history, an Owl of Minerva that reveals the truth of the past. In this view, the so-called Western tradition is given a disproportionate emphasis, say a quarter or more of the chapters in a textbook, because the outcome of history demonstrates the inherent superiority of the white race and of West European institutions and culture. This attitude may be a natural one, but has serious flaws. It sees the present as the end of the historical process, and therefore in some way a valid measure of its hidden essence, rather than only a passing phase that is as different from the past as it will be from the future. People who find that united struggle in the present is basis of the future are less inclined to see the present as the end of history. In their view, since there is no final word in history, there is no outcome by which to measure the past. Also questionable is the assumption that the present is fundamentally a realization of potentials inherited from the past. This reduces the richness of the past to those threads that happen to extend into the present; it underestimates the extent to which we struggle in the present to free ourselves from the prison of circumstances inherited from the past; and it fails to see that history is an emergent process in which a future is more than the sum of what went before. If the present were simply a result of the past, human history would never have emerged in the first place

It is interesting how the prevailing historiographic tradition makes objectivity a fetish, but at the same time employs the fleeting present as the universal measure of historical significance. Indeed, another kind of Eurocentrism is where the periodization and categories appropriate to European history are universalized as a Procrustean Bed into which all societies are expected to conform. For example, historians still carelessly use the term "Middle Ages" outside the European context; pastoral societies are marginalized as "barbarian" and unworthy of serious attention; and market integration, economic dynamism, and technological growth become a universal measure of the success of past histories, largely because those characteristics are important to capitalist market dominance today. Also Eurocentric is the imposition of achievement as a behavioral norm manifesting European superiority rather than a requirement of life in the face of deepening contradictions - contradictions often resulting from European expansion. Also arguably Eurocentric is a fixation on history as the roots of a person's or a society's identity and the definition of possibilities in the present. This is so embedded in Western culture that it is hard to convince many Western historians that historiography can be anything other than this. However, a comparison of traditions today suggests that the obsession with roots is really quite parochial. While the past is often perceived as the source of norms or heroic example that people today might emulate, this is not the same as the assertion that material potentials that actually empower are inherited from the past. It is hard to convince historians that the fate of most people depends as much on their struggle in the present as it does than anything inherited from the past.

I have touched upon ways in which the subjective effort to grasp world history seem increasingly contradictory, but I would like to broaden this point to suggest that world history is itself contradictory in an objective sense. I believe the contradictory nature of world historiography is the reason for its bifurcation into popular narratives on one hand and a pointless textbook encyclopedism on the other. The more an account of the world's past satisfies social. moral, or pedagogical aims, the less it seems to withstand the critical scrutiny of the profession; at the same time, academic historiography that satisfies scholarly standards fails to respond sufficiently to social needs to earn needed public support. While a few historians apparently choose to glory in this failure, it really does not make sense. What is more fascinating than the grand sweep of human history, and surely the tools now available for its study suffice to make our understanding scientific. How could we possibly fail? And yet the better we succeed at one aspect of world history, the more we fail at the other. The people of the world today require a satisfactory conception of the world's past, but the scientificity that would make that conception worthwhile seems also to make a universal history impossible.

It is much discussed and apparently self-evident that when we speak of "world history" we wish to imply more than an either an encyclopedic collection of regional histories or an empty universal history detached from specifics. Both approaches recall former kinds of world history, but today we recognize that if a world history exists at all, it must have a specificity of its own that distinguishes it from the sum of its parts. And yet, to be anything more than idle metaphysical speculation, it must at the same time be constrained by or in some way a result of those parts. This, of course, is an example of the classic philosophical dilemma of "wholes and parts." This issue is less debated today, for it seems our inability to grasp situations where wholes do not reduce to their parts is more an artifact of our conceptual categories than the nature of things. As a result, the issue has shifted from the realm of philosophy to the welcoming embrace of systems theory or hierarchy theory, where it is presumed that wholes, while inseparable from their parts, do not reduce to them. Because of modern science, we no can no longer in good conscience employ conceptual categories in which every complexity consists of simple irreducible atoms, which of course makes any discussion of wholes inevitably metaphysical from the start. Examples of irreducible wholes, such as climate or biological life, surround us, and historians admit that when using such terms as "society," "culture," "class," "era," or "civilization," despite an embarrassing inability to define them. Such terms refer to wholes that evidently are real enough.

Although we now live more comfortably with wholes and parts, that does not mean the contradiction disappears. We continue to have a need to think of wholes, parts, and the parts of parts, but in a way that one term is not defined as the negation of the other so that their reconciliation becomes impossible. Instead, we should try see partiality and wholeness as contradictory aspects of a single reality. Just as atoms reduce to combinations of quarks that are probably inseparable and thus not reducible, each level has the qualities of both wholeness and being a part of something more universal. It is not easy to break the habit of seeing some things as wholes and other things as its parts, but the tendency today is to employ these terms to refer to the contradictory aspects of all things. This is by no means a novel suggestion. For example, Arthur Koestler (Beyond Reductionism, 1969) addressed this problem directly when he proposed the term "holon" for any level that has both a particularity that distinguishes it from all else, and a universality that unites it with all other things. As we now realize, his recommendation failed because it did not grasp that the reconciliation of particularity and universality is process, not merely a formal juxtaposition of opposite categories. However, his argument does illustrate an effort to develop conceptual categories suited to contradictory realities rather than to begin with categorical opposites that are irreconcilable and then try to make reality conform to them.

The need to reconsider the problem of wholes and parts is not simply an issue of intellectual development. It is more than a philosophic dilemma, for it is also a social problem. In the past, historians had a notion of the world's whole that was usually defined in religious or metaphysical terms, but today we can speak of world integration in material terms: an integration of world markets, a homogenization of urban culture, a shared international concern for the environmental deterioration and equitable access to environmental resources, and concerns for the condition of women, for peace and for democracy are newer and more profound than many people realize. We are coming to live in a new kind of world that brings with it a sense of togetherness. Today, in a very immediate and tangible way, no man is an island. In terms of world history, perhaps the classic response to this new world in which we live is the writing of Geoffrey Barraclough. He pointed out that a world history is necessitated by the fact that we live in a global village that shrinks daily. If we are to live in this world as its responsible citizens, then it would be wise, indeed necessary, for us to understand the history of all the world's peoples.

I'm sure this view is welcomed by every world historian, but I wonder if Barraclough's rationale really stands up to critical inspection. I agree that social interaction has intensified remarkably at all levels in recent times, in the sense of its frequency, its geographic extent, and in terms of its effect. Undoubtedly it is wise in such a circumstance for those few who play an active role in international relations to be aware of diverse world cultures. But Barraclough implies more than this, for he assumes that historical understanding plays a key role in responsible world citizenship, and this sense of history must be the possesses of the broad masses today. Like World Systems Theory, his notion of world history reflects the prevailing conception of world history today. Indeed, his elegant pen contributed mightily to the hegemony of this view. The understanding of world history we are likely to encounter in Western academic circles is probably not the fruit of Christian eschatology, the French Enlightenment, Hegelian or Marxist speculation, or, sadly, what might be useful in the twenty-first century. It is clearly an expression of the eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment. It is important that we point to Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith, among others, not to accuse them, but to demonstrate the particularity of the dominant view of world history today so that we might examine it critically and escape any claim it might have for being universal.

It is a conception of world history remarkably free of social contradictions, and while it prevails today in much of the world, it rests on an eighteenth-century atomistic representation of society as an assembly of individuals, each in possession of a particular "talent" or specific productive resource. It is a world in which it is fair to assume that, unlike today, every individual is not only empowered through the private possession of a "talent," but motivated by a self interest that implies a self-transcendence, a contradictory combination of self-denial and self-assertion. Although probably Christian in origin, by the time of Newton (note that Adam Smith was an amateur astronomer) this urge for self-transcendence had become mystical "sympathies" inherent in the nature of every atom. To reduce that inner tension, each individual places his personal talents or resources into a relation with the resources of his social or natural environment that end by increasing his capacities to act by an increase of his own talents and wealth. If this is the result of the relations between the individual and his circumstances, then the relation was considered to be "rational" (not only the origin of the word rationality, but also its association with the concept "civilization," so that to be civilized means to be greedy). To act rationally, one must not only have a keen sense of one's own particular talents, discovered though an investigation of their origin and development in time ( the study of history as the search for one's "roots"), but also a sense of what opportunities exist in one's environment, won, I gather Barraclough apparently feels, through a study of world history.

My purpose here is not to deride this train of thought, for I rather admire its sophistication and coherence, but simply to point out that it is one-sided. Like any ideology, it flows naturally from its starting assumptions. Because starting assumptions are usually left implicit and therefore unexamined, constructive debate between its advocates and the advocates of other paradigms becomes difficult if not impossible. One simply adopts it because it satisfies or rejects it because it does not, and I believe the basic reason for satisfaction depends on one's class participation. If true, then the future of world historiography probably depends more on our social engagement than our academic papers and scholarly debates, as unpopular as this might be among academicians.

First, I believe this conception of world history is one-sided because its axioms are much the product of a particular cultural tradition and tend to support the particular interests of the ruling class in that tradition. Unless we are wedded to an extraordinary missionary zeal to Westernize the entire world, such an ideology can make no claim for actual or potential universality. Arguments that people the world over are accepting Western values must distinguish between the underlying Christian internal contradiction that drives one toward self-transcendence, or whether capitalist imperialism creates a situation in which one is forced to seek economic progress because the consequences of not doing so have become disastrous. It is one thing to observe that developing nations everywhere are seeking rapid economic development, and it is quite another to infer from this they embrace Western values or capitalist economics.

The second reason that I consider the prevailing view of world history one-sided is that its atomistic assumption fails to explain why development actually takes place and therefore why there is at all an emergent whole we might legitimately call "world history." If indeed, the result of rational interactions (a world system) is an increase in the Wealth of Nations or the well-being of people as a whole, then there is a benefit found in the whole that is not intrinsic to its parts. The rise of this benefit has become the prevailing conception of world history. However, it does not necessary follow from an assumption that people are inclined to "truck and barter," that an emergent benefit for the whole network of interrelations naturally follows. An mere interrelation of distinctions most probably will result in a homogenization of differences and mutual dissipation (otherwise, according the Second Law of Thermodynamics, we would have perpetual motion). If I mix hot and cold water, luke-warm water is the likely result. If an improbable outcome nevertheless does occur from some interaction, then it requires special explanation; it can't just be taken for granted to flow from a union of static empirical distinctions. Adam Smith at least had the good sense to look closely at the effect that a division of labor had on productivity, but today simple commercial exchanges are sometimes presumed to have the effect of creating new value, which serves to hide the true source of value.

This is why the presence of a psychic drive within human nature toward self-transcendence is more than an intellectual fancy, for it is the underpinning of a conception of the whole in which new value emerges from individual struggle to enhance value through relations with the whole. Of course, given a reasonable amount of luck and skill, an individual will profit from the social relations into which he chooses to enter. But, everything else being the same, those relations in themselves represent a zero-sum game. The benefit of one individual or nation can only be at the expense of others, for without taking into account the dissipation of the natural environment (i.e., economic production), world history would represent perpetual motion. Perhaps one is not obliged to explain the inner spring of action if one denies that historiography is a social science, for then one can employ Christian or Newtonian metaphysical assumptions without any shame. Surely Barraclough was right to the extent that it behooves individuals who have the power to act upon the world stage to be aware of world history, but it remains to be seen whether the world is best represented as a network of exchanges between reasoning, informed, self-interested, and empowered individuals or whether it is merely an effect effect of contradictory social relations. Historically, the economic integration of the world today resulted to a significant extent from colonialism, imperialism, and war, none of which seem to be the manifestations of free exchanges between rational law-abiding citizens of modest and comparable means.

So far I have focused on the affinity of world systems theory and Smithian capitalist ideology, but the same argument that world history is the manifestation of a contradiction within its active units could be made in terms of less sophisticated versions of world history. For example, a common way to represent a whole such as world history is to define it as an "expressive totality:" the whole is a manifestation of some principle or factor that is universal and therefore presumably lurks in each of its parts. For example, a popular world history textbook (Anthony Esler, The Human Venture. Englewood Cliffs, 1986) starts with the confident assertion that the whole of human history is but a manifestation of a Promethean human nature, of mankind's creative spirit. Perhaps this is only a rhetorical flourish, but we must nevertheless take it seriously, for it is all we have by way of a needed presentation and defense of his book's basic assumptions. Esler's is also an Enlightenment view of world history, but this time we witness the ascription of a quasi-divine urgency to human nature. Most historians would not take Esler's rationale for world history seriously. They are quite aware that a universal is insufficient to explain particulars, and so the various manifestations of human creativity that Esler discovers in the past do not explain the past, but only demonstrate that some people have been creative. And even this trivial point is circular, for how does one discover creativity without presuming its definition based on observation of history? To say that world history is a manifestation of mankind's Promethean nature is therefore necessarily a priori and unsubstantiated, and, more importantly, is a statement about human nature, not about world history.

It would be easier to argue that the real world history we have experienced is a contradictory process. For example, while the notion of a global village appeals to our moral sensibilities, these villagers obviously don't get along very well. Indeed, divisions seem to deepen as our world gets smaller. Familiarity might sometimes encourage brotherly love, but just as often it has bred contempt, fear and loathing. One result of our gathering into a global village has been not only a greater awareness of the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, but an actual widening of that gulf and a deepening of hostilities. It would not be difficult to give examples of how ideological or cultural differences have also led to increasingly bitter antagonisms such as ethnic cleansing and racial exploitation. The suggestion that a knowledge of world history will make us all happy bed partners seems extraordinarily naive and probably gives undue weight to mental attitudes at the expense of competing economic interests. Do we attribute Hitler's manic aggressiveness to his not having studied enough world history? If world history is to support responsible world citizenship, then it must be a world history that admits honestly and fully the contradictory nature of the world in which we live. But this is made difficulty by the ideological nature of the prevailing representation of world history. Even the term "citizenship" is loaded in favor of the prevailing ideology, for its definition presumes the existence of a commonwealth of which the citizen is a member, and the evidence for any such world commonwealth is difficult to find. An honest look at the real world in which we live reveals not only real differences and even antagonisms, which I suppose are to be expected under any circumstance, but the interdependency of the development of some social groups only at the expense of others, which I would call a contradictory relation. That world history is actually contradictory, seems an inescapable conclusion when the real world in which we live is looking at honestly.

World history also represents the contradiction between the particular and the universal. If by the particular we mean the empirical qualities that distinguish things, and if by universal, the virtually limitless network of causal relations that link particulars within a global whole, then the warp of history is surely the particular and its woof the universal. Historical explanation that reduces on one hand to the immediate causal relations of lonely atoms, taking all other atoms as static and given, or on the other hand reduces it to a manifestation of some universal principle that exists independently of particulars or expresses their common inner essence, leaves us all dissatisfied, I am sure. There does seem to be a contradiction between the universal and particular in history, but if we consider each aspect as entirely separate from the other and their relation is indeterminant, we are bound to be dissatisfied. Somehow we must bring the particular and universal into a determinant relation, but as long as each is defined in static terms which are independent of the other as categorical opposites, that task becomes impossible. The "thicker" our description of local affairs, the less relevance local events will have for world history; and the to the extent we attempt to generalize about the broader process of world history, the more our generalizations fail to capture the rich diversity of particulars. Since we can't run from the real contradiction between the particular and universal in world history, we should embrace it.

An example of the difficulties we face otherwise is seen when historians appeal to a common mentality in their historical explanation. Mark Bloch, for example, in The Historian's Craft (New York, 1953), argued to the effect that the past is intelligible to us because of the commonality of the human psyche. If I understand him correctly, Bloch is saying that there is a universal human nature that enables us to place ourselves in the situation of historical actors and therefore to understand their reactions to circumstance. There are many problems here. One is the presumed contradiction between mind and matter, which comes down to a contradiction between freedom and determinism in history. It is the freedom of the mind (due to the proximity of the historian's mind to God?) that enables us to reach out, escape the historical constraint of circumstance, and locate ourselves in the place of someone standing under radically different circumstances than our own. Although metaphysical, perhaps this assumption could be defended, but the point is that it contradicts the other assumption that supports Bloch's position. It is the determination of circumstance that makes a person's reactions to that circumstance intelligible. If our actions become meaningful because they are constrained by circumstance, then they become unintelligible to something in a different circumstance; if the other person understands why we act as we do because we share a mentalité free of circumstance, then that person cannot understand us unless our circumstances are much the same. Freedom becomes essentially mental, but always at war with material circumstance. This categorical distinction is based on the presuppositions that the essence of the mind is metaphysical freedom and that of matter is unequivocal determinism. The only way that emergent world history makes sense, then, is to see it as essentially metaphysical, perhaps in the manner of Hegel. No historian today wants to do that, but as long as freedom is defined as the absence of constraint, there seems no way to reconcile freedom and determinism in history to achieve explanation beyond the trivial.

It seems that we encounter contradictions wherever we look at world history. Time as we experience it has shape or quality, but historians tend to analyze history in terms of static units that deprive time of its character. For example, history seems to consist of a great mass of trivial events, but the prevailing conception of history has no idea how to link these petty events to the the whole of world history except through causal chains that end begging explanation. For example, the diffusion of technology from one people to another once seemed unproblematic, but we now realize that treating technology in atomistic terms is problematic and far from straight forward. We can no longer assume that the benefit of a technique is inherent within it. Perhaps even more important than a technique's inherent qualities are the social conditions that encourage its adoption and diffusion (Joel Mokyr, The Lever of Riches. Oxford, 1990). A new technique might seem a boon in the short run, but ultimately it could lead to social tension or environmental damage. In other words, the significance of an event must lie in its relation to circumstance, its universal dimension, while our inheritance of Newtonian atomism encourages us to define techniques, events, or even the stages of history in terms of intrinsic qualities. Without a universal dimension that makes events or techniques aspects of a process, time ends nothing more than abstract indicator of mere sequence.

The time we experience has structure, but the atomistic periodization we employ to capture that structure at best only infers it. We employ terms like neolithic "revolution" not just because a neolithic era seems to represent a coherence that persists for a while, but also because it implies a general improvement in some fundamental respect. Since persistence is a relative, and since many aspects of life will persist, the distinction of those persistent qualities that are symptomatic inevitably involves subjective choice. In this case, economic progress becomes the divining rod by which to choose among persistent qualities. We should not confuse this uncertainty about the measurement of historic progress or sophomoric questions about whether the present is really an improvement over the past with doubts that there is an overall cumulative or progressive trend in history. Despite the obvious catastrophes of our own era and despite a recent more positive estimation of hunting bands. I doubt many historians would seriously recommend we trade places with people in 30 Kyr B.P. There has undoubtedly been progress since the "cave." It may not be measured in terms of morality or social justice or even the material wellbeing of each individual, but it can be measured in terms of raw power to change things, which is one definition of freedom. Modern industrial society and paleolithic hunting and gathering are not just different "life styles" among which we might choose according to our personal needs or whim, for both options are embedded in an irreversible arrow of time. A choice between them has never seriously existed, any more for us than it doe for our paleolithic predecessors.

Although the arrow of time is a fundamental concept in historiography, historians have great difficulty defining it. Our experience of history suggests that civilizations really do typically start out with characteristics we associate with youth, slowly "mature," at least in the sense that word is used in systems theory, and eventually reach an advanced age of declining flexibility and vigor. An overly facile organic analogy has led some to suggest that these qualities are illusory, but that throws the baby out with the bath. Time is not just an abstract measure of sequence, but a real dimension of historical processes. While there undoubtedly is a contradiction between being and becoming if we defining them as a categorically opposite and therefore without possibility of a determinant relation, and then it becomes impossible to reconcile them as aspects of world history.

So far I have suggested that every aspect of world history indicates that it is a contradictory process, but the concepts usually employed by historians to grasp that process tend to reduce it to categorical opposites that are irreconcilable. While this helps us to understand in intellectual terms why historians find it so difficult to advance their grasp of world history significantly beyond its eighteenth-century European roots , it also trivializes the issue as if it were merely a mistake in judgment or an unfortunate effect of the weight of tradition. I would like to conclude this section, therefore, with a closer examination of this ideology, but now in terms of modern scientific thought instead of a vague and remote cultural heritage. It is important to understand not only how much the historiographical edifice depends on a few dubious assumptions, but also why those assumptions are sociologically compelling.

Roughly coincident are the Age of Empire, the Second Industrial Revolution, and the development of the modern working class movement. Just as the Big Mac (1968 A.D.) symbolizes the end of Western Civilization, the machine gun symbolizes an era in which instruments of mass coercion came to support support both empire abroad and industrial "peace" at home. It would be easy to show that the natural sciences played a central role in these developments, but the story is well known. Rather, I wish to look at the ideology of modern science, which for the sake of convenience I will here refer to as positivism. With the development of an élite culture in the Renaissance, pure science became detached from the practical concerns of artisanry, and, with a few exceptions, lost much of its relevance in daily life. Shelley's Frankenstein, however, shows that pure science might have a certain moral ambivalence, an impudent appropriation, as it were, of God's creative power. Any doubts, however, about either the immediate practicality of science or its moral status were dispelled toward the end of the nineteenth century by its association with European prosperity and world dominance. The natural sciences offered the new form of capitalism the legitimation it needed.

In simple terms, scientific ideology was based on the practical concerns of daily life. It was assumed that everything is adequately defined as a set of intrinsic qualities that distinguish it from other things. These qualities are the thing's empirical dimension. Now, a rather arbitrary distinction was drawn between empirical qualities that persist in time and space and accidental qualities which do not. In response to the practical needs of daily life, persistent qualities were deemed more real, or essential, while accidentals were dismissed as after the fact, superficial, and the result of special circumstance. It was possible to distinguish essential qualities from accidents simply through observation and generalization, But the essential behavior of things was something else. The constant conjunction of certain events might imply a causal relation of particular things, but to discover laws you need to set things in motion and predict the outcome. To prevent accidentals from obscuring essential behavioral properties, it was necessary to invent the laboratory, the walls of which either prevented any outside accidental contamination or at least enabled the scientist to compensate for it. One could be sure, then, that in the laboratory things behave in accordance with their essential nature. Therefore, successful predictions implies that the scientist has discovered the essential nature of things.

This model is so conventional that it is hard to grasp just how ideological and one-sided it is. Every student of elementary physics well knows that laboratory experiments never really come out like the textbook says they should, and with feelings of considerable guilt must fudge the results. Later on, standard deviation offers a catharsis for these guilt feelings, but by that time the basic ideology has been implanted. Nevertheless, the fact remains that natural laws are probabilistic in nature, and therefore determinism is never unequivocal. Every situation is in some way unique. The natural processes we study combine a universal dimension acquired through their relation to the cosmos as a whole, and a particular dimension as a result of their being a specific instance occurring under unique conditions. Contrary to the covering law explanations of positivism, where explanation consists in subsuming the particular under the universal, the real world fully embraces both. Historians have been so preoccupied explaining why covering--law explanation is inappropriate in history and contrary to human freedom that they are unaware that natural scientists no longer employ nineteenth century positivist assumptions except for narrow problems. C. P. Snow's The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959) offers an example of how a presumed antagonism between art and science becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In short, world history seems to be a contradictory process. While it surely has parts, or, more properly, units of analysis, our clear impression nevertheless is that there is such a thing as a world history that does not reduce to those parts. World history also strikes us as representing a unity in which everything is both a particular and a universal. While a familiar enough notion in some of the world's major philosophical or religious systems, we find it difficult to represent world history this way because the conceptual equipment we usually employ defines particularity and universality as opposites without any possible determinant relation; something must be one or the other, but not both. We also clearly perceive that world history is a realm of freedom and of necessity, but one always seems to jostle the other. We assume the individual is mysteriously creative, but our explanations often presume the individual is determined by circumstance; we posit the presence of creative individuals to explain historical emergence, although in most of world history these agents are necessarily anonymous and irretrievable, so that our explanations end being metaphysical. We have no doubt whatsoever that world history is a process in which qualities are perpetually transformed, and yet we try to represent it as if it were experienced by empowered individual observers whose experience of space and time is necessarily egocentric and constrained, and who therefore are naturally inclined to make persistence and homogeneity the essence of things. Without being able to represent world history from the perspective of a social universal, so that diversity and change become essential, the effort at world historiography seems doomed right from the start. And, finally, it is a process that must be at once objective, if we are to escape solipsism, and subjective, if it is to be useful and relevant to the requirements of the coming century. However, it is conventional to define each term as the categorical opposite of the other rather than as aspects of a single contradictory reality. In short, it seems a hopeless enterprise to go on trying to represent contradictory processes such as world history in terms that are inherently reductionist and static.

The categories in terms of which world history is represented reduce that contradictory process to categorical opposites that make the explanation in world history difficult if not impossible. If so, then world historians inadvertently betray their pedagogical and social responsibilities. For this reason, the prevailing conceptual categories in terms of which world history is usually represented are not compelling. There are both objective and subject reasons why we should look beyond the intellectual tradition that emerged in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe, however well-entrenched, sophisticated, and undeniably successful in some respects that tradition is. A crippled intellectual grasp and social inadequacy force us to consider whether alternatives might not suit our purpose better. In the next section, I propose such an alternative, one that posits contradictions as being essential to all reality, and it develops the conceptual equipment needed to represent contradictory processes in thought. I will not presume to elaborate a complete theory. What follows is only a hypothesis aimed to show that alternatives are not only possible, but are worth developing.

III. In Search Of A Categorical Alternative

I suggest the place to start is with the world of experience. The previous section suggested that the world of world history is one of contradictions, and so we must start by asking, how can we represent contradictory processes in thought? The first thing that is clear is that we cannot do so in terms of the categories that are useful in daily life. In daily life, we rely on persistence of empirical qualities in time and place. Without persistence in time we have no way to estimate the effect of our actions; we are like a newborn child for whom space and time are hardly dimensions at all. Unless our environment is essentially coherent, we loose any sense of cause and effect, we become disoriented, and our actions meaningless. We are no longer able to map our world or communicate with others in terms of shared categories. We need to wake up in the same world in which we went to sleep, and when I ask my dinner partner for a fork, that is what I expect to get. To construct categories based on empirical persistence is not only practical in daily life, it is fundamental to it.

World history is clearly not daily life, and there is no compelling reason why we should universalize the categories of daily life to encompass all phenomena. Certainly the the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics persuade us of that. If there is reason to doubt that the conceptual categories suited to daily life apply as well on the far broader stage of world history, we should be willing to abandon them if viable alternatives exist.

What clearly distinguishes world history from daily life is its chronological and geographic scope. As the scope of our interest widens in time, the more change it encompasses, and persistence accordingly looses its sway. In the broad sweep of history, it seems that empires are always rising and falling and revolutions expected. Nothing is stable, but a mere flash in an ever rolling stream of change. In daily life, on the other hand, we need and indeed can usually presume persistence; it is change that draws our attention and demands explanation. In world history change is the norm, and so it is persistence, such as the epochs or periods into which history is divided, that demand explanation. The same generalization applies to empirical diversity. The narrow scope of daily life means that we are surrounded by what is for the most part familiar, by friends and neighborhood and by the culture to which we have become acclimatized. People who live in an alien culture, such as travelers in a distant land or cultural or racial minorities adjusting to a dominant regime, find that daily life eventually becomes exhausting, draining energy and enthusiasm. As the scope of historiography widens, the more diversity it encompasses, and in world history, there seems hardly any uniformity at all. It is the persistent exceptions, such as civilizations or cultural horizons, that must be explained.

My argument here is simply that there is a relation between the scope of historiography and the character of the object observed, that world history is really different than short range history. Note, however, that my argument tends to presume its own conclusions, and when it is also pointed out that it implies an intimate and inescapable relation between the subjective factor (the historian's chosen scope of concern) and the objective factor (the nature of world history itself) in historiography, undoubtedly many readers will step back in alarm. The conventional assumption is that a subjective factor represents a personal or social bias that contaminates the validity of scientific findings and therefore should be avoided at all cost. I suspect I really need more than a couple facile generalizations concerning the implications of a widened historiographic scope.

One additional argument has already been presented, which is that what we know of world history clearly suggests that it is contradictory and therefore quite incompatible with the presumed coherence and persistence of daily life. The scope of this paper prohibits my developing other arguments at length, and so I will here just note two possibilities and leave it to my listener's imagination to construct them at length. One argument would be that the advance of science tends to increase the complexity of our world in space and time. The more we know of things, the more complicated they become in empirical terms and the more we are aware of subterranean or minuscule change. One implication might be that in the coming century, only world historiography will be considered really "scientific," while the usual short-range national or topical histories will seem very one-sided and incomplete.

For example of how the advance of science dissolves historic categories is the fate of feudalism in European historiography. Before the mid-twentieth century there emerged, if not a consensus, then at least a wide agreement within an influential body of historians, that "feudalism" existed and could be defined fairly simply as a constant conjunction of certain persistent and therefore symptomatic institutions such as vassalage and fief. No sooner, though, did world historians begin to use this definition at the level of world history, when the students of European feudalism who created that definition based on the European example began to doubt its validity in Europe. The reason for this doubt was the advance of historiographic science, which revealed not only the absence of vassalage or fiefs in much of "feudal" Europe, but the actual diversity of both institutions required definitions so broad as to be virtually useless. Slowly, as historiographic science advanced, "feudalism" shrank in scope, ending up in twelfth-century Isle de France. Then, like the Cheshire Cat, it entirely disappeared except for its smile. The smile of feudalism resides in the titles of our book chapters and our lectures. Should anyone ask us just what feudalism means, they are likely to be told that the concept has only pedagogic utility or is merely a convention, perhaps a literary artifice, that need not be taken seriously. To the extent scientific understanding is generally considered in the modern world a litmus test of validity, then the advance of historiographic science should dissolve the self-sufficiency of short range historiography and define the legitimacy of all historiography in terms of its relation to world historiography. We are not at this point yet, but perhaps in the global society of the twenty-first century, all historiography that has any claim to scientific legitimacy will be represented as local manifestations of one world historiography.

The second argument that I ask you to elaborate in your imagination is a sociological one. Modern historiographic science matured primarily in the hands of a single social class working within the single culture of Western Europe. It was a noteworthy achievement, of which we all are beneficiaries, but it was also very constrained and one-sided. For example, it perceived a social diversity of historians to be a danger, for at the time it was assumed that what was incoherent could not be truthful in a scientific sense. Scientific truth was an important source of historiographic legitimacy. Understood, but not stated, was that the coherence of the historiographic product was less a result of successful science than a manifestation of the class position, race, culture and gender shared by historians. Should the body of historians become socially diverse, so too would the axioms and social values implicit in historiography, and this would cast doubt on its scientific validity. For example, early in the twentieth century, there was a rigid academic establishment in France that rigorously excluded Jews and Marxists because they were presumed not to share the basic social values of the establishment. Even the subject of social history itself was seen as implicitly subversive and illegitimate at a time when the working class movement was becoming a social force threatening to the establishment upon which historiography depended. This obsessive fear on the part of the ruling class meant that some people of remarkable talent were blocked from a scholarly career. So a number of them banded together to form the Annales School, which was an open intellectual forum independent of government-controlled pedagogical institutions, welcomed all ideological persuasions, and between the covers of its journal created an opportunity for the cross-fertilization of academic specialties to constitute a universal (it was presumed) "social history." This grand liberal experiment was a remarkable success in that a number of brilliant historians found an opportunity through an association with the Annales School to blossom and publish their work. Without their contributions, twentieth-century European historiography would be sadly impoverished. But the Annales School was also a failure. It is not a "school" at all in the sense of a coherent perspective that, like a scientific paradigm, might develop in time, but long remained simply a liberal open forum of ideas, in which brilliant sparks could be struck by a handful of individuals once free of traditional fetters. Sadly, the Annales School after the Second World War became part of the pedagogical establishment, and soon enough this forced adventurous scholars to flee its embrace to find more breathing space. Today, we historians are no longer white, elderly, petite bourgeois males bearing proudly the culture of Western Europe; we are highly diverse in terms of gender, social class, geographic location, and ethnic origin. Because of our diversity, we can no longer aspire to a lunar vantage point well above the social fray that might support a pure objectivity. We now know that the basis of such social indifference was in fact not a separation from social engagement, but the result of an affiliation with a ruling class that claimed universality. As the body of world historians increases in its empirical complexity, an adequate conception of world history will have to embrace their social diversity. The adequacy of a conception of world history will feeds on social diversity rather than war against it. Since one cannot become socially disembodied, the only social location adequate to a world history is a social perspective that is universal, not in the empirical terms of social domination, but universal in its embrace of all empirical distinctions.

IV. Process

I have suggested four reasons why an approach that is appropriate in daily life, and which acquires legitimacy from its practicality in that sphere, is inadequate for grasping world history. Two of these reasons I have elaborated briefly. So the field is now clear to infer from our experience of the complex, indeed, contradictory, evanescent process of world history the kind of conceptual equipment necessary to represent it adequately in thought. I approach the heart of my theme, and so I must take care. This will undoubtedly strike the reader as dry and tedious, but please bear with me. The first step will be to represent a "process" in thought. It is rather fashionable these days to say that we should think of all things as processes, and quantum mechanics provides a warrant of natural science for doing so. However, in the social sciences, despite the immediacy of social processes, and despite some sociological attention to this matter, mainstream historiography does not even seem to grasp the need to do so. The time dimension remains in bourgeois historiography external to things, simply an abstract indicator of a sequence of events. Only dialectical materialism has attempted to represent change as essential to all things and to make time a real dimension, but this approach is both little understood and in need of development. This paper tries in a small way to correct this.

In daily life we usually define things as a set of their distinguishing qualities called empirical qualities. Empirical qualities that persist are called essential and serve to distinguish categories, while qualities that do not persist are deemed mere accidentals and only distinguish individual things within categories. Although I probably don't have to illustrate this simple point, it is perhaps better to err on the side of caution.

The Western historiographic tradition concerns itself almost entirely with temperate zone cultivating societies, and only very recently are there historians who can legitimately claim to represent other social formations such as hunting-gathering and nomadic pastoralism. This means there is a profoundly sedentary and closed bias in Western historiography, which perhaps contributes to its peculiar inability to reconcile Being and Becoming and its fondness for conceptually isolated units of analysis. The only serious challenge to the prevailing bourgeois historiography in the West has come from Marxist historiography, which uniquely represents interests specific to the modern working class, which was called "dangerous" because its members are, like restless barbarians, not encumbered with ownership of productive property. From an urban, settled, and exclusive perspective, the world is divided between us and them, between the "good guys" and the "bad guys." The good guys are called "civilized," while the bad guys are the "barbarians." The basic difference between them is that civilization implies the perpetuation of value, particularly property values, while barbarians are indifferent to persistence, and so are unreliable, unintelligible, lawless, and anarchic. "Civilization," then, has come to be defined as a social group able to protect wealth to ensure its persistence (urbanized), as having the persistent norms needed for regular social intercourse (law), the use of an abstract value to reduce diversity of values to a single measure that is independent of diversity (money), and an ability give language a persistent form (writing), etc. In other words, while the much used term "civilization" is highly ideological in origin and function, it is defined simply as a bundle of empirical traits such as the ones here listed. What helps make such a definition ideological is that it defines the persistent aspect of things as good, and the evanescent aspect of things, associated with nomadic, rootless, propertyless, lawless, or stateless barbarians, as bad. If we define things as bundles of empirical qualities, we make their essence self-contained, entirely internal. Therefore, without recourse to the metaphysic of Newton's sympathetic atoms, change must come from without, such as barbarians pounding at the gate and challenging the civilized folk huddled within to become creative and meet that challenge. Of course, if the source of change is external, then historical explanations inevitably are subject to infinite regress, so that historians shun the company of other sciences, for they find it difficult to establish a determinant relation with all other sciences. And this is why world historians need barbarians so badly. One can always make them appear ex machina just at the right moment to act as independent agencies of change, for barbarism is defined as the negation of civilization, as the absence of persistent value. One does not have to ask seriously why they do the things they do.

My object is not to discount empirical distinctions, for they are part of the essence of historical explanation. Students may complain that history seems only a mountain of trivia, and historians in the secrecy of their hearts know that they are right. The alpha and omega of history is empirical particularity. As historians, we need to embrace empirical diversity to its farthest reaches, shrink back in fear of bland generality, discover and welcome the differences between each and every individual person, social groups, and all the societies of world history. However, if the empirical dimension comes to represent the entire essence of things, then empirical diversity becomes the enemy of historical explanation, reducing it to mere narrative or description. The empirical dimension of things in itself implies unintelligible particularity, the irrelevance of isolation, and change that defies explanation. The point is not to denigrate empirical particularity, but to discover a way to glory in diversity so that it does not cripple our scientific intentions. To do so, however, we must add a additional essential characteristic of everything, a second dimension that brings unity to all things and gives them life.

This second dimension is a causal relation. I will call this relation the abstract dimension of things because it is a relation of empirical qualities, and therefore not reducible to those qualities. I recognize that there are several ways we might use the term abstract to refer to the relation of things, but here I mean by it a causal relation. Simply put, all I want to do is to represent a causal relation, not as something that can relate things only after they have already been defined in terms of their qualities, but as an essential dimension of things; not as something that arises from empirical qualities, but as something that coexists with empirical qualities and has a dialectical relation to those qualities. This is a lot to think about, and so let me go back and develop it point by point.

We are heirs of an intellectual tradition that gets very uncomfortable whenever inanimate things become independent agencies. "Vitalism" is one of the great sins of Western historiography, for it implies that inorganic things acquire the capacity of living things to be self-acting. In the face of this common assumption, it is important to insist that today there is no question whatsoever that the concern is misplaced. Quantum mechanics rest on the assumption that all things are processes, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics insists that all processes as a whole must dissipate. We will look at this more closely, but for the moment it is safe to say that everything in the universe, whether organic or not, in itself on the whole invariably moves toward dissipation, which in cosmology is called heat death. That is, laws of symmetry imply that all reality is indeed connected, and universal dissipation implies that directed change must be deemed essential to all things. Secondly, the development of systems theory since the Second World War has amply demonstrated that inanimate natural processes, such as tropical storms, can act as though aiming toward a goal such as homeostasis and can even be "creative" in the sense that they can give rise to highly improbable states, including ones with improbable concentrations of free energy to do work. In terms of modern science, it is not only scientifically respectable to assume that things are processes, and can even be directed processes, but it is now scientifically suspect if one does not. All things are active agents of change, for, as part of the cosmos, they inevitably participate it its dance of death. In short, all things have within them a causal mechanism, not only as an implication of cosmology, but also for specific reasons to which I return. Therefore, historical explanation should no longer assume that the agency of change is always external, but is, rather, an inevitable systemic property. Because the means of dissipation are causal relations, the cosmos rushes toward its heat death as long as there are such relations, and death occurs when they cease. For this reason, it is safe to assume that the units of historiography are causally connected. Anything lacking this abstract dimension is only a temporary aberration that is almost by definition irrelevant.

While we have redefined how to represent things in thought so that they might conceived as processes, our task is not finished. It is quite in accord with modern science to represent things in terms of two dimension, so that they are at once particulars, in the sense that their empirical dimension distinguishes them, and also universal in that the abstract dimension causally links one particular to all other particulars in the universe. However, merely admitting these two dimensions does not carry us far, especially if they are left as categorical opposites. If so, the thing so defined becomes ambivalent, subject to a Heisenberg indeterminacy, even unintelligible for to describe it kills it as a process, and to see it as part of a process prevents our being able to describe its qualities accurately. To avoid this ontological trap, it is necessary to define each dimension in terms of the other, to see them as a dialectical unity. To do so is simple enough. First, all we need to do is to represent the empirical dimension of things as the effect of all the causal relations into which it entered in the past, and the abstract dimension as a present effect of the constraints imposed on causal relations by empirical structures. In principle, and to a large extent in practice, and certainly in all matters historical, we represent any situation in history as an effect of past events. This is simple enough. But the other relation is subtle. That is, universal dissipation means that we can assume that all things are causally related, but the specifics of that causal relation remain unknown to us until we specify the empirical dimension of the things so related and any possible intermediate mediating structures ("mediations"). That is, I am not trying to represent causal relations per se as the effect of empirical potentials, but their specificity as the effect of empirical constraints. This might seem a fine point, but it is not, really, as will be seen.

V. Contradiction

The reader might infer that by defining things as processes in this way, we are also attributing to them a time dimension: the empirical dimension of things is the effect of the past, and the abstract dimension is an effect of the present. However, we have not really gained a time dimension for things, for there is still no future beyond saying that the future remains open. Also, we have defined only the poles of a time dimension, not the contingent or real time dimension of processes, where time becomes a function of the state of the process and therefore an essential quality rather than an external and unconnected conceptual frame. Historians in particular, must grasp real time as a real third dimension of all processes. When we speak of a person as youthful or aged, we are not so much referring to an external measure of years, but to behaviors and appearances that express an internal time. That is how some people can strike us as prematurely old or eternally youthful. To make time a real dimension of things, which is to say, to represent time as contingent upon the state of a system, and the see the state of the system as a function of its internal clock, we must give time a direction, not just the poles of past, present, and future. Here we discuss the arrow of time as contradiction, but that does not complete our analysis of the time dimension in history.

Fortunately I don't have to belabor the point about an arrow of time, for system aging has been very thoroughly and persuasively discussed in terms of systems theory. Historians have always sensed that the pattern of social development is in some ways analogous to an organic life-cycle. Although we know today that this is only an analogy, it does not dismiss the reality of this pattern of change that is meaningful, not because it is predictable or cyclic, but because there is a relation between past, present, and future. We must go beyond a superficial and rather dangerous biological analogy to articulate the developmental dynamics of social systems in their own terms. This should not be too difficult, for systems theory demonstrates that speaking of social development in terms of, say, the formative, classic, and militaristic phases seen by anthropologists, is by no means a metaphysical and thus irresponsible flight of fancy.

To acquire an arrow to time for processes, which is to say, to represent them as irreversible, it is conventional to call upon thermodynamics. Let me say first, however, that I am not suggesting we should import into historiography the methods and laws of thermodynamics. This has been tried, and while it surely has some use, I doubt that it is a key to unlock all mysteries. All I want to suggest here is that, in terms of hierarchy theory, human history (oosphere) should be considered a specification or a particular constraint upon the biosphere, and the biosphere in turn is a specification or particular constraint upon the more universal physical processes of the cosmos. Each level has its own distinctive mode of behavior, laws, unique features and limitations, but each must at the same time satisfy the laws of more universal levels. That is, humans might be like gods in many respects, but unlike gods, they have to eat breakfast just as any animal does; humans might be self-directed biological organisms, but when they loose their balance, they still must obey the laws of gravity and fall down. So, when I now speak of thermodynamic processes, I am not trying in any way trying to reduce history to physics. Rather, I am exploring the necessary determinate relation between these distinctive levels. A great weakness of Western historiography has been its inability to establish a determinate relation between human affairs and the natural world without seriously compromising human freedom, creativity, and the distinctiveness of human life.

As mentioned before, all processes as a whole inevitably participate in the cosmic rush toward eventual heat death. I start by converting such a statement into terms that are more useful to the historian. First of all, it is usual to think of all things as ongoing processes without beginning or end, and so we look at them in terms of cross sections in time. One cross section is called an initial state, and another an outcome. Both are usually just passing moments in a continuum chosen for convenience, but an initial state must at least, by definition, come before an outcome, for time has a direction. We don't assume a process necessarily starts at that initial state nor that it ends with the outcome. Now, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that for any process taken as a whole, the outcome state must be more probable than the initial state. In terms of physics, this is called an increase in the system's entropy, but I think it wise to avoid the term in the social sciences. Because we are talking about a process, we can assume that the initial state has x options of change. These options are called the "degrees of freedom" present in that state. Then, if there are no constraints upon these x degrees of freedom, so that random, then there are be x possible outcomes, each having the same probability (1/x). Therefore, any real outcome will have a probably of 1/x, which is less than x. Therefore, if there are no constraints on the degrees of freedom present in some initial state, any outcome will very probably be probable in relation to the initial state. Order becomes disorder, but there is also disordered energy, and it is heat. This is why in cosmology the end of time is called a heat death. I will speak of this cosmic tendency for order to become trash and for energy to become heat as dissipation. In short, everything on the whole is a dissipative process.

A dissipative process as a process that has an outcome that is more probable than an initial state. In human history, we often represent dissipation in terms of prediction. Because the outcomes of a dissipative process are more probable than an initial state, the outcomes are relatively predictable. Naturally, we are surrounded by dissipative processes, but what we have come to appreciate more and more recently, is that almost as common as dissipative processes are processes that really don't dissipate at all.

Chaos theory offers many examples. When we look at the natural processes such as cosmology, geology, mineralogy, climatology, and evolutionary biology, we see remarkable examples of order arising out of disorder, of outcomes that are improbable in relation so an initial state. So human history, which historians have long insisted is creative and yields improbable outcomes, is by no means unique in that regard. One thing we can say for sure about human history is that outcomes are rather unpredictable, but so is the weather. Although in history we do not lack for examples of dissipation, what draws our attention, and even that of anthropologists, is not so much dissipation, as it is the emergence of order, novelty, new stages of progress, the apparently spontaneous emergence of the extraordinary. We are naturally inclined to focus our attention on these and to disregard dissipation (it is said that historians love the winners in history), but there is no doubt that we cannot understand these more interesting and extraordinary developments without taking fully into account their determinant relation to dissipation. Let's approach this from a realist perspective. We know there are processes that don't dissipate if, for no other reason than the fact that we, as biological individuals or social beings, represent processes that move toward an outcome less probable than some initial state. My apologies to doting parents, but it seems that newborn infants are much the same, but every adult is an extraordinary and unique individual. I will follow convention again and call such processes that move in a direction that is opposite to dissipation in terms of the relative probability of outcomes, emergent processes. An emergent process, simply, is a process having an outcome less probable than an initial state.

We know without question that there are emergent processes, but we also know that the Second Law of Thermodynamics says that all processes on the whole must dissipate. How to we reconcile these points? The way this is usually done is to say there can be an emergent process only if it is coupled to another process that is sufficiently dissipative so that their net direction is one of dissipation. That's the reason for the words "in itself" in the discussion so far, for that excludes any other process. My interest is not thermodynamics here, but the implications for human history of its dependence on a dissipative process. Before exploring this, let me summarize here by saying that since emergence can not take place without being wedded to dissipation, what we expect to find in history is the unity and interdependence of two processes that are opposite with respect to the relative probability of their outcomes in relation to their initial states.

So far we suggest that we cannot understand emergence unless it is coupled to dissipation, where that coupling is obviously causal. This in itself does not explain much, for it two dissipative processes are coupled they will probably just go on happily dissipating together in a dance of death. We need something more to explain world history as a contradictory process. There has to be a certain condition that results in one of those processes becoming emergent, and this must be my next concern. Before I turn to that, however, let me say that a term that can well be applied to a dissipative process that drives an emergent process is "environment," either natural or social. Therefore, the dissipation of a natural and/or social environment is a necessary engine for the emergence of history.

What, then, causes the outcome of a process to be less probable than its initial state? We find an answer by recalling our discussion of degrees of freedom. If there are constraints upon the degrees of freedom that are not present in an initial state, then the actual outcome will no longer be able to access some of the states that were initial possibilities. Then the probability of an actual outcome will be less than its probability defined by the degrees of freedom existing in the initial state. That is, a constraint on the causal relation of two processes causes one of them to have an improbable outcome and the other process to dissipate more so that their sum remains one of dissipation. Let me give a simple example. Say my initial state is to wander about a city in search of my mother-in-law's address. At each corner I have four degrees of freedom: I could go straight ahead, go back, left or right. The chances of my stumbling on the correct address this way are very small. But now I acquire a map, and my new knowledge of the map constrains my choices so that at each corner, I know exactly which way to turn. Now the chance of my finding my mother-in-law is assured. The map is an empirical structure that constrains a causal relation between a dissipative engine (my efforts cause me to perspire probable molecules and to give off heat) and my walking so that the outcome of finding the address that is highly improbable in terms of the initial state becomes highly probable thanks to the map. A constrained causal relation between two processes ensures that the dissipation of one serves as an the engine for the emergence of the other.

Let me illustrate this again in terms of crystallography, where highly improbable structures routinely emerge. Suppose we start with a supersaturated solution of copper sulfate, and posit two degrees of freedom for each copper sulfate molecule: either remain in solution or bond with another molecule. That choice might seem a matter of indifference, but it turns out that the energy state of a molecule in solution is higher than molecules that are bonded together, and so the law of universal dissipation says that on the whole the molecules in the solution will tend to bond with each other. This drive to form bonds offers a thermodynamic engine, but so far we have no reason to assume anything more emerges than an amorphous mass of copper sulfate. However, the physical properties of the copper sulfate molecule, which are only marginally relevant to whether or not the molecules will bond and therefore external to the initial state definition, constrain the bonding options in certain specific ways. These ways are called "packing rules." The result of packing rules are molecules that enter into a definite relation with one another to constitute a lattice structure and eventually a regular crystal. In short, the dissipative process of molecular bonding offers an engine for the emergence of an improbable ordered molecule, but it is the constraint imposed on degrees of freedom by packing rules that assure that this engine actually does give rise to the crystalline structure and it defines the shape of that structure. Both coupling to a dissipative process and a constraint on that dissipation not intrinsic to the initial state defines the specific form that emerges. The abstract causal relation and the empirical specifics of the constraining structure are equally necessary to the process of emergence, and so are two interdependent and essentially necessary dimensions.

This example is perhaps pedestrian enough to show why emergent structures are common in nature. It has been pointed out by cosmologists that the highly improbable order called the Big Bang arising from the perfect vacuum was improbable and so had to return to the most probable state of a perfect vacuum, but this dissipation created improbable structures that defined and slowed the dissipation by giving it a time dimension. That is why there is both matter and time in the universe. However, we need to keep in mind that such inorganic processes are also quite different from world history. While a crystal represents an improbable order (minimum entropy), it has no free energy to do anything. It is a dead fossil of a process that reaches fulfillment through death. Human history is quite the opposite. The amount of free energy, which is a measure of a society's capacity to do things or shape its future, has increased remarkably throughout history. Our social capacity today to do good or ill is today enormous. We should note, however, that an improbable concentration of free energy is just one of many options of the emergence of an improbable state, so that while a crystal might lack power, a tropical storm is one of the most intense concentrations of free energy on earth. A power to act, then, is not peculiar to the human or even natural realm. Another distinction between crystal formation and human history is that the constraints on molecular degrees of freedom are qualities intrinsic to the molecule. In human history, however, the constraints are mediating structures that are separate and are therefore capable of development. This creates possibilities for emergence that are quite foreign to the crystal.

This raises a point of enormous importance for human history. In terms of thermodynamics, attention focus on both emergence and dissipation, but for the historian, clearly it is the emergent process of human history that has significance. Although modern environmental concerns rightly draw attention to the effects of dissipation in our natural environment, dissipation is not the proper concern of historians. Usually we can just presume that a social group depends on a dissipating environment for its emergence and let it go at that. However, we cannot be so indifferent about the mediating structure that constrains the relation of an emergent social group and its dissipating environment, for today, social capacities have developed to the point that the mediation comes to express social needs. In the biosphere, the mediation between a biological organism and nature is largely genetically determined, and so, like the qualities of copper sulfate molecules, is relatively fixed except for random variation thanks to the life cycle. However, in human history, the mediation becomes detached because an emergent quality of human society shapes it in a way that frees it from the prison of circumstance. Once free to develop, it starts to become an expression of social development until today, when the mediation is capable of expressing social needs. Without developing the point, the historian is necessary drawn to the mediation between society and the natural environment because it's development is intimately connected with the story of human liberation. I conclude simply that mediating structures that support emergence of human capacities are of fundamental importance to our understanding of long range historical processes. A "mediation," then, is simply a structure that constrains the causal relation between processes so that the dissipation of one serves as the engine for the emergence of the other, and it constrains the specific qualities that emerge.

Our progress toward a definition of the time dimension of historical processes has been slow, but we have taken a big step in that direction. We started out with the problem of how to represent processes in thought and ended by suggesting that doing so required defining things in terms of two dimensions, an empirical dimension that defines their particularity, and a universal dimension that indicates their being causally coupled to a greater whole. I then distinguished processes in terms of whether they are dissipative or emergent because it is emergent processes that interest the historian and typify history. However, an emergent process cannot be understood except in relation to a dissipative process constrained by a mediation so that emergence must take place and takes place in a certain way.

Well, admittedly, all this is getting a little cumbersome. Fortunately there is an old term that captures it very nicely, which is contradiction. While there are hints that authors in the distant past recognized the existence of contradictory processes and even discussed them a bit, perhaps the classic analysis in modern terms is the foundation work of Frederick Engels, The Dialectics of Nature(New York, 1940). Despite his good beginning (not everyone would agree with me on that point) and despite the very heated, often tortured discussion that ensued from it and still goes on today (for which see the bibliography originally appended to this paper, there results little agreement over exactly what contradiction means, although people recognize contradictory processes when they see them. This might license me to use the term any way I wanted, but I believe that I'm really unpacking and elaborating its definition more than revising it when I suggest that contradiction refers to two processes that, because their relation is mediated, become interdependent and opposite in terms of the probability of their outcomes in relation to their initial states.

V. The Real Time of Deepening Contradiction

While a unity and mediated interdependence of two opposite processes might well be considered the basic conceptual tool needed to grasp such contradictory processes as world history, nevertheless, much more needs to be said. A major concern, for example, is the one which I raised but did not resolve. Just how do we define the time dimension of a contradictory process? While a contradictory process is driven by the thermodynamic engine of dissipation, its specific character and time dimension is constrained by the structures to which it gives rise. More accurately, the empirical structures that emerge from a constrained dissipation define the probability distribution of possible outcomes. For example, while dissipation of gravity causes a rock to roll down a hill, the unevenness of the terrain slows the descent and is likely to define a resting place short of the bottom. Also, unless the rock happens to be perfectly round (all its degrees of freedom are symmetrical in terms of probability), its shape will also come to determine the final resting point. But even that final resting place is really only a temporary slowing of dissipation, for, given sufficient millions of years, "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low." So, while dissipation is the engine of change, its specific pattern and timing depends on the specific empirical structures that constrain it, including the improbable structures created by that dissipation. The point is that real time is more than just the direction or arrow often mentioned, but has a texture and extent that are functions of a system's changing state.

Recalling the example of the crystal, the difference in the energy potential of the molecules in solution and bonded molecules represents an engine of dissipation, a driving force which is a function of that potential energy differential. However, the actual course of the dissipation depends on the packing rules, which define a state of minimal energy potential. The molecules seek the lowest energy potential and therefore enter into the most probable relation available to them defined by those rules. I expand once again on this because historians often make an analogy between the formation of a civilization and a crystallization process. We are now in a better position to understand the justification for doing so. In terms of human history, the greater our ability to harness environmental dissipation to our purposes through the mediation of labor, the faster does historical change occur. But, for a given level of technological development, which is to say, for a given potential energy differential, there is simultaneously the formation of a highly improbable and distinctive structure, which historians often call a "civilization," Needless to say, the emergence of a civilization is not really a crystallization process, but it is similar in that a distinctive and improbable structure emerges from a constrained dissipation, and once that character has evolved, it tends to persist relatively unchanged until the civilization ends. In recognition of an initial emergence of a distinctive structure, anthropologists speak of a "formative phase." Because of the problematic meaning and ideological associations of the word "civilization," some historians find the term "social formation" to be more descriptive and less troublesome, and therefore I will adopt it here as we proceed to analyze the formative process.

I wish to look more closely at this formative processes. To say that it is driven by environmental dissipation does not carry us very far because it leaves out the specificity that gives meaning to the historical process. In order to reintroduce the empirical dimension we note that dissipation is the engine that allows the outcome of our actions to be improbable social structures and emergent qualities that escape the probable outcome of a mere adaptation to circumstance. But it is these same emergent structures that also come to constrain the dissipative process. The result of this is that the structures that arise from our past actions define the probability distribution of possible futures. What future we achieve, however, depends on how much we struggle in the present to avoid a probable income. The dissipative process does not cause our actions to have improbable outcomes, but defines how hard we must struggle to achieve them.

Struggle against what? It is the struggle against the probable outcome of mere adaptation to circumstance. The parts of a system, unless their relation is mediated, will adapt to one another, so that the relation of their empirical qualities becomes probable. This is why we eventually can explain the qualities of one part by reference to other parts, and why the whole strikes us as having the rationale of an ideal type. This system state in which the parts have acquired a most probable relation is usually called a "functional coherence," and movement toward a functional coherence is what anthropologists call a formative phase of social evolution. The social formation is a stable functional order that distinguishes one society from another. Since early civilizations often emerge from comparable circumstances, social formations can be classified into various types. However, because emergent processes tend to amplify random deviations, each social formation is also unique and easily distinguished from all other civilizations, even of the same type. This evolution of society naturally draws our attention, but it can only be understood as standing in mediated relation with a dissipative process. When that dissipative process is the natural environment and the mediation is labor, the contradiction is called economic production.

In a sense there is an unending war between the tendency of unmediated parts to move toward a functional coherence and the possibility, created by a mediated relation of processes, to struggle for an improbable outcome. The failure of traditional historiography to incorporate the productive process systematically into its analysis necessarily attributed to human action a metaphysical creative capacity that could only be embedded in human nature. In fact, this is the main distinction between the major schools of world historiography today. The traditional bourgeois view sees social emergence as the result of the creative action of empowered individuals interacting within a social order, whether it be that of politics or a sphere of commercial circulation, while the working-class perspective naturally represents labor as the source of emergent value because it works, not within an ordered situation, but in a contradictory situation. But this conclusion that we are constantly being pulled in opposite directions has a profound implication, for it means that functionality is always contested.

If our needs represent a consciousness that the conditions for functional coherence are not entirely satisfied, and if the parts that make up that functional coherence are constantly emerging and acquiring novel distinctiveness, then the emergence of social capacities and the emergence of social needs are really opposite sides of the same coin. The emergence of social capacities disturbs an existing functional coherence and gives rise to needs. There is no necessary reason to assume that emergent capacities will be functional in relation to other parts of the system, and, in fact, because those emergent capacities are improbable in relation to the past, there is good reason to assume that they must be dysfunctional. This tendency of contradictory systems simultaneously to give rise to emergent capacities and emergent needs that the emergent capacities fail to address is often called a deepening contradiction. It provides a system with a life line, for eventually we see the heights of sophistication, wealth and power accompanied by inflexibility, unimaginativeness, and ineffectiveness in the face of crisis. Everything else being the same, not only does it point to the end of the social formation, but even specifies the symptoms of its aging process.

In sum, the dissipation of the natural environment through economic production supports social evolution, and for a given level of productivity, that development creates a certain potential, the dissipation of which moves society toward the functional coherence of a stable and distinctive social order. Historians usually refer to this process as social "evolution," although the word can mean quite different things in different contexts. Anthropologists prefer somewhat less ambivalent terms and speak of a "formative phase" culminating in a "classic phase" of complete social crystallization. Because a crystal lacks the capacity to harness free energy and a consciousness of how that energy could be used to prolong its life, its development counters the conditions that made its development possible in the first place. However, in human history, strategies such as empire are used to maintain a potential for development, and so a classic phase might well be followed by militaristic phase in which a potential for further development is won by expropriating potentials from neighboring societies.

In the case of a crystal, the more the crystal grows, the lower the saturation of molecules in solution. Therefore its pace of evolution begins to slow and eventually comes to a virtual halt. In more general terms, the emergent process reduces the potential of its environment to drive an emergent process. So time for that system has not only a beginning and ending, but also a texture, for rate of emergence slows.

The situation is rather different in human affairs. For one thing, the relation of human society and the natural environment is not mediated by inherited molecular or genetic traits that for all intents and purposes are fixed or vary randomly, but by labor, which is and labor is subject to directed change. However, in order to grasp labor's change, we must represent it as a process and therefore as having two dimensions: an empirical dimension, called forces of production, and an abstract dimension, perhaps best called labor power. For reasons ready indicated, the forces of production are explained as the cumulative effect of past production. For example, tools and technology are forces of production, and tools therefore are understood as the effects of past production on materials drawn from the natural environment, and technology as the cumulative effect of past production on mental culture. Without taking labor power consideration, labor would slowly acquire the qualities that are most probable in relation to social capacities and natural potentials. The result would be a highly perfected structure that eventually cease to develop. Labor power, however, frees the development of labor from the force of circumstance. The only way it can do so, however, is if it couples labor to something outside the productive process itself so that labor ceases being purely adaptive.

This is not the place to draw conclusions about the stages of historical development, and so my points here are meant only to illustrate a method. During the Archaic Stage (paleolithic and neolithic), for example, mental life freed itself of mere adaptation, which is to say, from the drive toward the functional coherence of a most probable relation of mental life and immediate circumstance. To explain the emergence of a power of reasoning and communication that escaped immediate circumstance without recourse to a metaphysical definition of human nature that explains nothing, we must assume that the relation of mental and social processes has become mediated by a structure that was the effect of prior biological emergence. The name usually given to this mediation is superstructure, but it is not conventional to project superstructure back to the origins of humanity. However, it is thanks to the superstructure of ritual and belief that there emerged an aspect of mental life that no longer had to adapt to natural circumstance. Because this mental life escaped the burdens of social reproduction, it is natural to call this emergent mental capacity a supernatural community of ancestors or gods. A dissipation of social potentials through sacrifices, for example, supported a part of mental life free of the natural pressure to adapt to circumstance.

Since we have posited a second emergent process thanks to the constraint of superstructure on the dissipation of its social environment, we have introduced a second contradiction. This second contradiction is usually called a social contradiction because it is the mediated (by superstructure) unity and interdependence of two opposite social processes. The first contradiction, which is the mediated (by labor) unity and interdependence of an emergent social part and a dissipating natural environment is appropriately called a principal contradiction because it creates the capacities, the dissipation of which supports the social contradiction. However, it is more common to speak of the principal contradiction simply as economic production. Once again, it is not conventional to project a social contradiction much before the end of the Archaic Stage and beginning of the Ancient Stage of history, although if is possible to think of the supernatural community as a social community, then its relation with the natural community of producers is indeed a social contradiction. However, this is to some extent merely a question of terminology. In sum, if we are to understand how human history escapes the prison of its own success, why we are not just highly evolved hunter-gathers today, then we must represent human society in term of two linked contradictions. The principle contradiction supports the emergence of social capacities in terms of existing circumstance, while the social contradiction supports an emergence that is independent of circumstance so that human society can eventually come to master its own destiny. In computer modeling, systems that behave in such a way are called K-2 systems because they consist of two relations of production and therefore two coupled contradictions.

VI. Progress in History: Revolution

So far we have offered a way to represent things so that we can understand why social capacities continue to emerge rather than, like a crystal, come to some natural conclusion. However, there is another side to this question that is just as important as emergent capacities, and that is emergent needs. If we are to understand human agency as a constraint upon dissipation that makes emergent capacities possible, then we need also to ask why such change is also necessary. Common sense based on practical experience suggests that without struggle, despite a wealth of capabilities, progress does not take place, for the most probable outcome is stagnation where needs are not met either because capacities are insufficient or because the capacities are of a kind that ill-suits needs. Here I wish to consider the systemic reasons why emergent capacities cannot be employed to meet emergent needs unless there is a struggle to transform the two mediations, either superstructure or labor. To meet emergent needs, not only must capabilities emerge, but they must have a functional relation to those needs. Here is where the problem lies.

The definition of the word "needs" has often been controversial, and so I here adopt a common one. By needs I here mean an awareness of what is necessary for society to maintain a functional coherence. However, if society is an emergent process, then the present state always challenges the functionality inherited from the past. Put more simply, as social capacities emerge, so too must social needs. If we really did manage to satisfy our needs, then that would be evidence that we have stagnated. Unfortunately, this general point does not carry us very far. The crux of the matter is that emergent capacities cannot be employed to satisfy those emergent needs. This is because in human history we have experienced systems consisting of the coupling of a principal contradiction mediated by labor and a social contradiction mediated by superstructure. Therefore there are two sets of emergent capacities and two sets of needs. The whole point of such a coupled contradiction was to liberate emergent capacities from the pull of remaining functional in relation to labor and the natural environment, and the social contradiction exists because it dissipates the emergent capacities in the social environment that could be used to meet needs arising from the principal contradiction. Because the development of mediations is cumulative, the price of liberation from the force of circumstance is a system with a life span. It experiences a deepening contradiction in that there are structural constraints that cause an increasing disjuncture between emergent capacities and emergent needs. In the course of time, social development becomes ever more sophisticated and rigid, but the impressive capacities this implies are increasingly irrelevant to mounting needs that reflect a declining functionality of the whole. The deepening contradiction is the real time dimension of such contradictory systems.

In fact, in the course of human history we see a periodic transformation of social systems in which non- functional capacities inherited from the past are made functional by a transformation of the mediations. Because this transformation is to achieve mediations that are improbable, it entails considerable struggle, and so these transformations are remarkable, such as being fast, noisy and dramatic, or involving pendular swings over a significant length of time. In either case, historians have found these systemic transformations absorbing, and it involved such a transformation of the basic quality of life that it was won the label revolution. More accurately, revolution refers to a transformation of the mediated causal relations between emergent and dissipative processes, termed relations of production, that overcomes the contradiction of the past by creating a new one for the future. Such a struggle to transform the mediations by means of developed capacities implies new relations of production and therefore new social classes in the sense of a social group that emergences thanks to the relation of its members to a common dissipating environment. That is, a social class is a relation of production, and therefore it is what must struggle to bring its emergent capacities to bear on the mediations in order to transform them. Human history in fact has always struck historians as consisting of stages of relatively smooth evolution punctuated by periodic revolutionary transformations. The advantage of seeing these social processes in terms of contradictions is that historians today are finally in a position to grasp why these revolutions are both necessary and possible.

Since our purpose here is not to write a world history, but only to show that alternatives to the usual way of seeing things is possible, I must forgo the interesting challenge of testing whether this approach proves fruitful in specific situations. But I cannot entirely disregard the broader implications. A succession of contradictions, in which each new stage escapes the deepening contradiction of the past by employing its emergent capacities to transform the mediations and therefore the constraints on productive relations, implies historical progress. Because of deepening contradictions in our own time, people have naturally become rather pessimistic about social progress. An advantage of representing things in terms of contradictions is that it implies that a growing sense of crisis is inevitably accompanied by the emergent capacities needed to create a new order that escapes the old contradiction. Without an understanding that life is contradictory, we become pessimistic, failing to grasp why our enormous capacities are so inadequate to our needs. An awareness of the broad sweep of history clearly reveals the existence of progress, however little historians are able to define it. But seeing history in terms of contradictions implies that progress is a combination of an emergent power and the struggle to employ that power to restructure the modes of production, the interdependence of a principal and a social contradiction, that we have experienced so far n history. There is no question whatsoever that human power has increased throughout history, for good or ill, and implicitly, most historians see historic stages in terms of progress. No one can seriously recommend we retreat to the prehistoric cave, and it would be unwise to recommend to the average person today to trade places with the average person in the Ancient Mode of Production. In fact today the "consumer" of historiography is the great mass of people, which is to say, the working class, and to a large extent they are able to attend school to study history only because the factory has freed them from the drudgery of the plow. Without the factory system, most of our students would be needed on the farm. So, in the most narrow and selfish sense, historians must thank historical progress for their employment.

Are we doomed, then, to tread the difficult road that leads aimlessly from one stage of history to another indefinitely into the future? Apparently not, for there is good reason to think we are approaching its end today. A consideration of the historical process reveals that the development of labor is not simply cumulative, but is transformed by periodic revolution in an interesting direction. In the feudal mode of production, labor arguably became subject to private interest and was no longer just the cumulative effect of past production. The petty private production that historians usually take to characterize the feudal economy implies the producer had conscious control over means of production so that development became possible through struggle. With the bourgeois revolution, labor ends being the manifestation of individual capacities and becomes a manifestation of the capacities of society as a whole, although a regime of primate appropriation that is at the heart of the bourgeois superstructure means that the enormous economic surplus that emerges cannot readily be used to meet social needs. But the working- class development necessary for the bourgeois regime, as marked by mass education and democracy, makes it possible for the first time for social needs to determination labor through social democracy. If we can breathe new life into the labor movement, mass education, and popular democracy, we can struggle to conflate the two contradictions that have defined history so far into a single contradiction. I am fully aware that this is both highly speculative and controversial, but all I wish to do is to suggest that viewing history in terms of contradictions might point in a direction of future struggle to escape the symptoms of a self-destructive pessimism that currently surround us. As world historians who prepare youth for life in the future, certainly our conception of world history must respond to the crisis of the present. Otherwise we betray the trust that society places in us.

We began with the question of time, and I return to it now, for revolution creates a time for world history that is in addition to the time of the deepening contradiction of any particular social evolution. The whole of human history seems to be a revolution in which a capacity of consciousness has, over the millennia, come to transform the mediation between society and the natural environment. It is creating a new contradiction and therefore perhaps the real beginning of human evolution. It is in this perspective of the revolution of world history that the real unity of world history emerges. The struggle of all people in all times and places to overcome contradictions has contributed to the emergence of the capacities we can possess today in order to begin the true evolution of human society. Even those societies that disappeared without trace are part of world history, for each emerged thanks to a constraint upon environmental dissipation. If there is a future in which mankind as a whole constrains its relation with the natural environment, then each society in the past played its role in the human revolution because each society arose from a dissipation of the natural environment. It is this hope for the future that creates a world history that is anything more than a meaningless collage of all particular histories.

The importance of revolution that appears in the broader sweep of world history also casts light on struggle. We know there is no gain without pain, no progress without struggle. As labor responds to emergent needs, it represents the struggle of people to achieve improbable outcomes. But our explanation of history is in terms of causality, and causality in a traditional sense makes a fool of struggle. How can history be at once a manifestation of human liberty and at the same time take on meaning because the force of circumstance determines the outcome of any situation. To resolve this, I return to the starting point of scientific realism: start with the world as we know it, and then develop the science necessary to bring it within our grasp. In fact we struggle to overcome the circumstance of what we inherit from the past to shape our future in spite of history's burden. While constrained by the potentials acquired from the past, we manage to achieve a future that is not the outcome of their most probable relation. The only way to reconcile freedom and determinism is through a probabilistic causality. Indeed historical explanation always employs the vocabulary of probability, as a cursory examination of textbooks and monographs clearly shows.

Unfortunately, a probabilistic vocabulary is not the same as probabilistic explanation, for it is merely a description of what is observed in history. The prevailing school of historiography founds its explanations on a simultaneous employment of the unequivocal determinism of positivism and an a complete absence of determinism in theology, where essential human freedom was won by Adam and Eve. Because this is not very satisfactory, some historians have looked hopefully to discussions of probabilistic causality in modern physics as possibly reconciling determinism and freedom. Unfortunately, the typical explanation of probabilistic causality in physics makes the uncertainty of outcomes an artifact of our lack of knowledge of the determining factors. Because our knowledge is incomplete, our predictions are are necessarily approximate and are expressed in terms of a probabilistic vocabulary. This allows us to embrace a probabilistic causality while nevertheless resting secure in Einstein's belief that God does not play dice. I wish this left historians dissatisfied, for it implies that essential people lack free choice, and our actions only appear to be free because our awareness of the forces acting upon us is imperfect.

It is sometimes recognized that an objective probabilistic causality would be preferable. That is, we could reconcile historical explanation with the assumption of human dignity and freedom if God did, in fact, play dice so that processes were objectively probabilistic in nature. However, this has evaded most historians because they are unable to see beyond their one-dimensional view of things. If they were to define the units of history in terms of three dimensions, an empirical dimension that distinguishes them, an abstract dimension that unites them causally with all else, and a third dimension of real time, marked by a deepening of contradictions, then an objective probabilistic causality necessarily follows. This is because everything then becomes a process that is in principle coupled to the cosmos as a whole, so that outcomes are necessarily equivocal. If we define empirical units in terms of one dimension, then to a large extent the outcome of their interactions is unequivocal (the many-body problem, of course, limits the validity of even this simple statement). But if the units are processes, then their impact on one another becomes fuzzy. Historical units seen as processes are not self-contained, fort their abstract dimension smears them out to engage all that is. As Lenin once put it, the electron is "inexhaustible." Instead of saying that event A unequivocally determines event B, so that knowing A allows us to predict B, representing A and B as processes means that A only defines the probability distribution of all possible Bs. And this, of course, is exactly the way historians habitually speak. However, in the prevailing historiography, although the past is dead and gone, it is assumed that we inherit from it potentials that are "realized" when joined together in a certain way. An ability to predict the outcome of these combinations and then making an optimal choice in establishing the connections so that the desired outcome is achieved has, since the eighteenth century defined rationality. The problem here is that if history is the realization of potentials inherited from the past, then history would wind down or dissipate, rather than emerge. Most people laugh at the dream of perpetual motion, but historians usually represent history exactly that way: you get all sorts of good things happening simply by using resources that were a product of the past.

To grasp history as an emergent process, then, we here represent the inheritance of the past as merely constraints on dissipation taking place in the present to define the probability distribution of possible future outcomes. In this way, human intentions, ideas, and plans gain historical efficacy. How otherwise can a simple idea have power to change things? In itself it can not unless we assume, as nineteenth-century European historians often did, that mental life harnesses God's power to our purposes. While an idea lacks real power to cause change, it can constrain dissipation and thereby alter the probability distribution of possible outcomes. This does not require real power any more than does a sieve, which, by constraining the dissipation of gravity to determine the size of the grains of sand passing through it, has a creative power to create the order of sorted sand.

VII. Implications for World History

The aim of this paper has been to suggest that world history is indeed contradictory, and so we should make every effort to understand it as a contradictory process; it is not impossible to do so. This could be the end of it, but today we appreciate that there are any number of different "paradigms" in terms of which we might legitimately represent world history, each of which possesses a certain virtue. It is no longer easy to assume that among competing hypotheses, at most one of them is true, and therefore all the others are false. Traditional criteria of truth remain useful, of course, but in many cases they are insufficient to choose among competing hypotheses. We no longer assume that areas of knowledge are compartmentalized and are unrelated to other dimensions of life. Consequently, we must take into account a much broader array of criteria of validity. We sometimes must consider the moral and social dimensions a hypotheses and its relation to other fields of knowledge. Such an admission that truth is relative is by no means a submission to relativism. It just removes easy certainties. Therefore, I need consider the relation of the approach outlined here to an array of issues that are not intrinsic. If this approach offers a reasoned answer to a number of classic problems which have always profoundly disturbed Western historiography, that in itself suggests we should give it some serious consideration.

First, in what sense can there be a world history before the advent of significant interactions among the world's peoples. I'm not concerned here about whether the world system began in 3100 B.C. or the nineteenth century A.D. I'm not concerned about the justification for substituting a set of commercial linkages for the "world," so that a constrained commercial hegemony is called a "world hegemony" (by Abu-Lughod, spontaneously and without further ado). And finally, I'm not concerned here about why commercial linkages before quite modern times amount to anything more than epiphenomena of concern to a few merchant princes and their dependents, so that world society is reduced to the society of merchants. Is such a capitalist perspective necessary to any conception of world history? So it might at first seem, for as our awareness of a rich multiplicity of extended cultural contacts extends every further into the dark recesses of history, the less we are impressed by its significance. The old diffusionist theory of historical explanation has given way to greater attention to the social conditions under which innovations are adopted and used in ways that have significant social impact (Joel Mokyr, The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress. New York, 1990). Before significant interaction, then, how can we speak of the history of the world as a whole?

I'm not sure I have an altogether satisfactory answer, but consider this. Although historians quite naturally focus on emergent processes as both interesting and immediately relevant, if these processes are seen as part of a contradiction, as I insist they must be, then the emergence of each society is part of the dissipation of the natural environment. Now, while we can't assume the environment of one society is in communication with the environment of another, when put into the time frame of earth history, each society is contributing to the dissipation of our common environment. The effect of this might not be felt, but in the long run, all people in all times and places, have aged our common world in the sense of deepening its contradiction. So there is a single world history, but only in the context of the history of the earth as a whole. That might have seemed a little theoretical not long ago, but today no society can continue to act as if an island unto itself, not just because we are to some extent commercially and culturally integrated, but because we now share a common natural environment, and the state of that environment is to a significant extent the creation of all societies at all times.

Another way in which the approach to world history sketched here is appropriate for the coming century is that it assumes or points to the necessity of democracy. One reason is that for society to unite and struggle to bend economic capacities to social purpose, people will have to be united in spite of their enormous empirical distinctions in terms of culture, race, and gender. But the social unit implied here, the social class, is defined not in terms of its members empirical distinctions, but in terms of their mode of development, their relation of production. The strength of the world's masses therefore feeds on diversity, and like Antaeus, gains power the more it is in touch with that diversity. Formal unity and even political participation is not enough, for there must be struggle to achieve this improbable outcome. That requires a conception of world history in which there is progress is the result of struggle for an improbable outcome, not of the decisions, however wise, of the ruling class, who are capable only of greater efficiency and functionality, which only further deepens the contradiction of the existing system. Any finally, it is a conception of history that presumes the social development of the great masses of people is the key to the future, not the simple accumulation of enormous masses of material wealth. And finally, by representing world history as a dialectical interplay of ruling class, producing class, and nature, it gives the mass of people a usable past and a sense of their responsibility for the future. It seems to be just common sense that a world history that suits mass industrial society would be a world history in which economic production and the masses of people play a central role, just as a conception of history that makes commercial exchanges central suited nineteenth century conditions when power was held by property owners.

A classic problem in especially long range history is the choice of units of analysis. Such units in conventional Western historiography tend to be defined in terms of qualities that persist in space and time, but this imposes an artificial and often entirely arbitrary norm that erases the rich diversity that actually characterizes history, is constantly brought to life by the advance of science, and is what really makes history so interesting. Some units defined in this way will be less troublesome than others, but they all share the common fault that they are static, hostile both to change and diversity, both of which increase as science advances or the scope of our concern widens. For example, a culture or horizon usually implies that within its compass are shared cultural elements. But problems abound: the horizon tends to be a function of which cultural traits we consider essential; there are obviously cultural distinctions that are necessarily pushed aside as marginal; as things change in time, the cultural coherence become an ideal type resistant to the facts, and thus more a matter of ideology than science. It might trap us into the Parsonian view that norms are fundamental to life, so that ideas become the engines of change, and material considerations are denigrated. Another example of a troublesome unit is civilization. Often this term is devoid of content, and simply designates us as opposed to a barbarian and presumably inferior them. The term civilization is so obviously ideological and so intimately tied to colonial, imperialist, and racist agendas that it should never be used by any self-critical historian.

Another fundamental question troubling to historians is that of social bias. Perhaps one's bias was originally considered a strength, but with the domination of positivist science late in the nineteenth century, all of a sudden, personal bias that arises from one's social location can only caste one's conclusions in doubt and discredit one's professional integrity. Historiography had come to age as ruling-class ideology. It then became the responsibility of each historian to become disembodied, to become either a manifestation of a universal social location (Hegel, I suppose), or, especially after Marxists began to argue cogently that the industrial proletariat represented the real universal class, a metaphysical spirit without any social location. For example of how influential this rather bizarre notion became, the admired world historian, Lefton S. Stavrianos (The World to 1500. Englewood Cliffs, 1982) recommended that we adopt an objective lunar vantage point to grasp world history. No one could possibly take this seriously, and so, regrettably, many have taken the easy way out by couching the search for truth in more cautious terms. For example, in his widely admired development of empiricism, "Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programs (Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, edited by Imre Lakatos and A. Musgrave. London, 1970, pp. 91-195), Lakatos persuasively discusses the subjective component necessarily present in all scientific theory, which puts in doubt traditional means of validation. So he assesses, effectively I think, subjective criteria by which to validate conclusions in terms of scientific programs that lend themselves to the expansion of knowledge, that have, as he puts it, a greater theoretical and empirical surplus, a sort of marginalist theory of science, I suppose, but it does leave on in the danger of skating on thin ice. For example, he admits that one reason we choose one hypothesis over another is simply "existential." Buried in a footnote, I suppose this is harmless enough, and I am sure an investigation of the subjective side of truth and the criteria by which to measure the relative "robustness" of hypotheses is undoubtedly very useful as long as we continue to assume that theories are successive approximations of truth and strive for criteria that are not purely subjective by which to judge them.

he danger becomes readily apparent in the deconstructionist tendency fashionable among some bourgeois historians. The argument, roughly, is that, despite Stavrianos, the impossibility of escape from our social location compels us to admit that truth is socially constructed. That is about where things stood with Thomas Kuhn, Lakatos, and, in fact, twentieth century science in general. But then, the further step is taken, that the social construction of truth exposes the fraudulence of science, revealing it to be only an arbitrary set of conventions or a rhetoric constructed by one social group to legitimate its paradigm in competition with other groups in the market place of ideas. Just as advertising says nothing true about the products we consume, so too, claims of truth should not be taken seriously. While this position is likely to be a decayed product of the natural decomposition of a contradictory intellectual tradition, it is not one that will appeal to global society. Most people have to struggle to make a living, and natural science is clearly a powerful instrument in that struggle. They also must struggle against colonialism, imperialism, and racism and for a more equitable distribution of wealth, and social science is their valued ally. A world history worthy of the twenty-first century must be a world history that has a determinant relation with the natural and social sciences, not one that flees them to embrace literary indulgence, a self-absorbed fixation on roots, or to flee science altogether in flights of irrationality.

It was argued here that we really need to reconsider the whole question of a universal social location, by which I mean a social location that is not defined just in empirical terms, but also has an abstract dimension. Social class in the sense of a shared relation of production does exactly this, for it represents the empirical dimension of peoples' lives as simply empirical constraints inherited from the past, that determine the relative probability of each person joining in united struggle. That means that such a class is universal in the sense that it can embrace all sorts of people. Especially in recent times, with ethnic cleansing, Holocaust, genocide, and growing racism and exploitation, it is hard to imagine how the future could rest on any other social basis. That, of course, does not mean it will, and surely the construction of that basis will require enormous struggle, but the alternative is a very bleak picture for the future.

Another implication of the kind of world history suggested here is that it offers the possibility to grasp the significance of social interaction. The problem I refer to is a bit obscure, but it is nevertheless important. A major concern of the world historian is the impact one society has on another, but we really lack any measure of that impact and leave things to common sense. This often works, but often it does not. For example, common sense would tell us that conquest is not a good thing, so that if one society conquers another, the result is good for it and bad for the other. But things really often turn out to be the opposite. A youthful society might grow and mature through the experience of conquest, perhaps like ancient Sumeria after the arrive of Sargon of Akkad, while an old one, already teetering on the edge of collapse, falls into collapse with a whisper of a push. Diffusion of technology raises the question of whether local social and natural conditions are appropriate for it to blossom, and who knows that the social impact of that development might be? Commerce might lead to the Wealth of Nations or just as well to growing inequality and social instability. In the face of such varied possibilities, it becomes difficult to predict the outcome of interaction, although perhaps outcomes are easy enough to explain after the fact. However, I believe our approach solves all these problems very neatly. That is, the measure of social interaction is the extent to which it deepens a contradiction. Since a contradiction is a widening gap between emergent potentials and emerging needs, whether the interaction brings benefits or woes is not the issue, for both deepen the contradiction. Also, the depth of a societies contradiction, its time dimension, is important in estimating the impact of another society upon it. In other words, the impact of one society on another is to accelerate its development. I would be the first to admit that this point needs elaboration and critical exploration, but it does escape the rather naive way that social interaction is almost always handled in world history that begs the question.

Historians often suggest that periodization lies at the core of historic consciousness, for it locates us in a meaningful process that defines the possibility of progressive struggle. Without periodization we drown in perpetual flux or end the prisoners of an eternal present. Although periodizatsion is obviously fundamental to historiography, historians have found it difficult to place it on a secure foundation. All too often periodization is very artificial, such as political dynasties, which correlate poorly with significant historical change. Or periodization is based on the perpetuation of an ideal type that acquires a life of its own unembarrassed by facts. The term "medieval," for example, which world historians often abhor as profoundly Eurocentric, originally designated a "dark age" between two epochs having virtù as manifested in literary culture. To reduce the essence of a period to just one of its dimensions in this way, and especially the one that happened to be favored by a tiny élite of a particular place and time, and to employ its own subjective judgment about the relative quality of literary culture, and then to employ what that élite judged where the discontinuities in literary quality despite its being gratuitous and clearly ambivalent chronologically, makes the term medieval almost useless even in a European context. The more we know of the past the more complex and diversified it appears and the less persuasive is a periodization based on some facile generalization of certain qualities.

The notion of contradiction solves this problem because the mediations that constrain development define evolutionary continuity, while the struggle to draw upon emergent potentials as the constraints of new relations of production offer a profound structural change. This implies historic stages, and it keeps touch with the observable empirical dimension because new relations of production imply new patterns of empirical change. It also engages the notion of historical progress through struggle, of an interdependence of freedom and determinism, that is needed if we are to be effective actors on the stage of history and shape a future that has more promise than the rather grim direction things are taking at the present.

Finally, the approach here squarely addresses the question of the engine of historical change. The historian of short range phenomena can get along well enough by not worrying too much about units of analysis, historic stages, and the engine of change, but the world historian cannot afford to be indifferent. If the world historian casually adopts the implicit assumptions of short range history, it leads into serious difficulty. In short range history, one event is often explained as the effect of another event, and if there is a constant conjunction of events, one infers a causal relation. This is often (but by no means always) a safe procedure in short range history, but not in world history. In world history, there is too much fluidity and diversity to ascertain constant conjunctions, although considerable efforts have been made in this direction. Piotre Sorokin, is noteworthy because his brilliant and massive output has had so little effect. The opposite is Fernand Braudel, who tried to distinguish three time frames: event time, sociological time, and a time in which change, as in geographic circumstance, is so slow as to be in effect a permanent constraint. He honestly admitted that he never did discover how to relate these three time frames, and so he ended with little more than a time classification that only revealed the necessity for a reconciliation of geography and history. This profound failure has not prevented some historians from holding Braudel up as a great success over sixty years later. The concept of contradiction offers a rather obvious explanation of the engine of change that has the virtue of making the masses historical agents and representing the dissipation of the natural environment as intimately connected with human freedom and social progress.

I hope these examples demonstrate that the adoption of a different set of conceptual tools radically transforms our analysis and presentation of world history. We have suggested the contradiction as the basic conceptual tool of historical analysis because world history strikes us as so contradictory. While I cannot present this is the only legitimate conceptual or that it is undeveloped and undoubtedly weak at points, I believe it does have some unique virtues that impinge on some classic troubling points in world historiography. By engaging the past present and future in terms of a probabilistic causality, by its engaging not only the totality of human history, but the natural environment as well, by incorporating the notion of united struggle as a way to achieve improbable outcomes without recourse to metaphysics, seems to lend this conception of history a universality lacking in the prevailing conception. It suits what we know world history to be like and is more likely to satisfy what are likely to be the social requirements of the twenty first century.