Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A History of Civilizations by Fernand Braudel

  • "'We have reached a phase where we are discovering both the limited validity of the concept of civilization and the need to transcend that concept...The phase of civilizations is coming to an end, and for good or ill humanity is embarking on a new phase' -- that of a single civilization which could become universal." - 8, Raymond Aron
  • "Society and civilization are inseparable: the two ideas refer to the same reality." - 16
  • "For Levi-Strauss, then, primitive cultures are the fruit of egalitarian societies, where relations between groups are settled once and for all and remain constant, whereas civilizations are based on hierarchical societies with wide gaps between groups and hence shifting tensions, social conflicts, political struggles, and continual evolution." - 17
  • "In Europe from the sixteenth century onwards (and probably earlier), the ultimate phase of civilization wears the emblem of capitalism and wealth." - 20
  • "The history of a civilization, then, is a search among ancient data for those still valid today." - 24
  • "Every generation, at all events, likes to contradict its predecessor; and its successor will do the same and more." - 25
  • "A civilization generally refuses to accept a cultural innovation that calls in question one of its own structural elements." - 29
  • "A civilization attains its true persona by rejecting what troubles it in the obscurity of that no man's land which may already be foreign territory. Its history is the centuries-long distillation of a collective personality, caught like any individual between its clean, conscious objective and its obscure, unconscious fate, whose influence on aims and motives is often unobserved." - 31-2
  • "A civilization, then, is neither a given economy nor a given society, but something which can persist through a series of economies or societies, barely susceptible to gradual change." - 35
The Near East

  • "Muslim Civilization, like Western civilization, is derivative -- a civilization of the second degree [Albert Weber]. It was not built on a tabula rasa, but on the lava of that fluid, lively and motley civilization which preceded it in the Near East." - 43
  • "Islam has never enjoyed stable sufficiency, still less abundance. Any abundance has always been temporary, the fruit of a passing fashion for some luxury item, or the privilege of some especially fortunate town." - 59
  • Islam "brought together the three great cultural zones of the Old World -- the Far East, Europe and Black Africa. Nothing could pass between them without its consent or tacit acquiescence. It was their intermediary." - 62
  • "For four or five centuries, Islam was the most brilliant civilization in the Old World. That golden age lasted, broadly speaking, from the reign of Mamun, the creator of the House of Science in Baghdad...to the death of Averroes, the last of the great Muslim philosophers, which took place in Marrakesh in 1198." - 73
  • "Paradoxical as it may seem, Islamic civilization as a whole, between 813 and 1198, was both one and many, universal and regionally diverse." - 77
  • "In the tenth century when the Muslim empire split, each region recovered something of its independence...A new geographical pattern began to take shape." - 78-9
  • "Muslim humanism...five names stand out: Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Al-Gazali and Averroes." - 81
  • "Al-Kindi sailed on religious waters that raised no storms; Avicenna was undeniably idealistic; Averroes was a philosopher for the end of the world. Al-Gazali, the defender of the faith, made his own the stubborn dogma of early Muslim theologians: he sought to ignore or even to destroy peripatetic philosophy, for his own thought led him into very different, mystical paths. He renounced the world to take up the white woolen mantle of suf warn by the Sufi, adherents of mystical faith rather than rational theology. They were known as 'God's fools'." - 84
  • "The seasons of history cause the flowers and the fruit to fall, but the tree remains. At the very least, it is much harder to kill." - 87
  • "the essential, insistent characteristic of Islam today is precisely its internal divisions, the insidious fragmentation of its identity and its lands." - 95
Black Africa
  • "On the one hand, the colonists' contribution partially destroyed old structures; on the other, it replaced them very imperfectly." - 103
  • "In itself, mechanization is not a civilization." - 113
  • "The first of these Niger empires, Ghana, seems to have been established around AD 800...Attacked by the Muslims, the capital was captured and destroyed in 1077. But because the trade in gold continued..., another Empire soon came into being slightly to the East...This was the Mali Empire." - 128
  • "The Atlantic sea-route discovered by the Portuguese became the new channel for Black African gold, and although this did not kill the Saharan trade it greatly weakened it." - 129
  • "It has to be recognized, frankly, that the European slave trade stopped at the very moment when America no longer urgently needed it." - 132
  • "Africa is not really one entity...It was effected above all by Islam, with its social and intellectual prestige and its admittedly mediocre Koranic schools...The second great outside influence was that of Christianity, which generally developed where trade was most intense." - 138
  • "Senghor [former president of Senegal] has even spoken of an African 'physiology' which dictates a certain 'emotive attitude' to the world, so that 'the magic world is more real to the Black African than the visible world' -- a path to knowledge, in fact." - 150
The Far East
  • In northwest China "the nomads were former peasants. The development of more advanced agriculture had forced out those less able to master it, towards the mountain country of the 'forest-eaters', and above all to the edges of the deserts and the steppes...In this way, civilization had been 'the mother of barbarism': it had turned farmers into nomadic shepherds." - 165
  • "For India as for China, these tidal waves of invasion meant repeated destruction and setbacks. In the long run, both absorbed their invaders, but at very great cost." - 167
  • "In the third century, Chandragupta and Ashoka founded the first Empire, which united Afghanistan and all of India except the southern tip of the Deccan, always beyond the conqueror's grasp." - 167
  • "The civilizations of the Far East were entities which very early achieved remarkable maturity, but in a setting that made some of their essential structures almost impervious to change. This gave them astonishing unity and cohesion. But they also found it extremely difficult to adapt themselves, to want to evolve and to be able to. It was as if they had systematically rejected the idea of growth and progress." - 168
  • "Unlike the West, which clearly separates the human from the sacred, the Far East makes no such distinction. Religions is involved with all aspects of human life: the state, philosophy, ethics and social relations. All fully partake of the sacred; and this is what gives them their perennial resistance to change." - 169
  • "In the most agnostic or the most conformist of the Chinese there is a latent anarchic and mystic...The Chinese are either superstitious or practical, or rather they are both at once." - Marcel Granet, 171-2
  • "It was clearly rationalist, in reaction against ancient religion; but it was also a reaction against the rhetorical excesses of the sophists...Confucianism, in fact, was a return to order in three respects -- intellectual, political and social." - 175
  • "In the face of Confucianism, the traditionalist partisan of social order, Taoism was always the symbol of individualism, personal freedom and rebellion." - 181
  • "The basis of Chinese society was largely agricultural and proletarian, with an enormous mass of needy peasants and impoverished city-dwellers...everyone constantly wished a violent death on usurers and moneylenders." - 193
  • "From the sixteenth century onwards, China was in touch with European trade." - 199
  • "The Opium War of 1840 to 1842 opened five treaty ports to Westerners, including Canton and Shanghai (by the Treaty of Nanking). The T'ai-p'ing rebellion enabled the Westerners to intrude further, in 1860, and secure the opening of seven more treaty ports." - 200
  • "The double problem remained difficult to solve. The Western 'Barbarians' had to be driven out; but to achieve this China had to learn the science and technology of the West." - 203
  • "The first humiliation was for China to find herself reduced to being one nation among many: the second was to be dominated by the Barbarians with their science and their arms. Chinese nationalism today, fierce and virulent as it is, can be seen as revenge -- the firm decision to become a great nation, the great nation" - 213
  • "In the South [of India] is Deccan, a region of conservative peoples and civilizations, obstinately resisting change." - 217
  • "Throughout India's history, whenever its richest regions were no longer flourishing under the stimulus of large-scale trade, the great unifying Empires crumbled." - 227-8
  • "The turbid waters of Hinduism -- of Indian civilization itself -- submerged Buddhism as they did Jainism...the saint or 'renouncer' would always attract a following. Bowed down by the weight of a close-knit, inescapable society, the dominant religion allowed individual liberty only in the form of abnegation, of 'non-action'." - 231
  • "Even before the defeat of the French in 1763, Robert Clive's victory at Plassey...on June 1757, in effect inaugurated British India." - 237
  • "By 1604, when they drove the Portuguese out of Malacca, the Dutch had become the rulers of the whole Indonesian archipelago" - 263
  • "There was already by now [2nd -3rd c. AD] a political and religious system, whose primitive beliefs deified the various forces of nature. Profoundly conservative, Japan never abandoned this religion, which long afterwards, in the nineteenth century, came to be called Shinto (the way of the Gods)." - 279
  • "the Empire gave way to the Shoguns, who ruled Japan from 1191 to 1863 -- the seemingly interminable counterpart of the Middle Ages of Europe." - 283
  • "Japan's break with the outside world lasted more than two centuries, until the Revolution which began the Meiji era in 1868, soon followed by the intense industrialization of the country." - 290
  • "Before the outbreak of war in 1942, fifteen families at most accounted for more than 80 percent of Japan's capital." - 293
  • "By comparison with other countries, Japan is not particularly religious, not particularly concerned with the after-life. In this, it is the opposite of India." - 300
  • "The history of Europe has everywhere been marked by the stubborn growth of private 'liberties', franchises or privileges limited to certain groups, big or small. Often, these liberties conflicted with each other or were mutually exclusive." - 307
  • "There could be no feudalism, in Europe or elsewhere, without the previous fragmentation of a larger political entity...the huge Carolingian Empire -- the first 'Europe', its name affirmed as such (Europa, vel regnum Caroli)" - 313
  • "complete liberty could be achieved only through material prosperity sufficient to enable certain specially favoured towns not merely to guarantee their economic survival but also to provide for their external defence. These were city-states." - 320
  • "The [developing territorial] States [of Europe] were aided by the loyalty of the masses, who saw the Monarch as their natural protector against the Church and the nobles." - 323
  • "Every State wanted to be isolated, uncontrolled and free; reasons of State became the ultimate law." - 323
  • "The will of the sovereign invaded the State. 'Das Ich wird der Staat' -- 'The I becomes the State' -- wrote a German historian." - 324
  • "Economic liberalism, which presupposed equal competition among individuals, was no more than a pious fiction. The more time went by, the more the enormity of that fiction became obvious." - 330
  • "With Catholicism, spiritual conflicts are in that sense public; one is obliged to state one's position. In Protestant society such conflicts certainly exist, but they take place in private." - 356
  • "Europe has always been, and still is, revolutionary. All its history confirms that fact. But at the same time it has always been, and still is, endlessly counter-revolutionary." - 356
  • "A 'real' revolution is always against a modern State: that is essential. And it always comes from within, with a view to the State's reforming itself." - 357
  • "You are lost if you forget that land belongs to no one and its fruits belong to everyone." - Rousseau, 362
  • "The textile industry, however, was the main driving-force...being both a producer of basic necessities and a provider of luxuries. According to Max Weber, the textile industry's ups and downs dominate all the material past of the West.: - 378
  • "State capitalism has become a leading feature of the scene. In the 'nationalized' sectors of those economies where state control has increased, the State itself has become an industrialist and a banker." - 387
  • "Originally chamber music meant secular music, or that of the court as distinct from that of the Church...Chamber music was above all a form of dialogue: it was the art of conversation." - 402
  • "Through their literature, nations once more become characters, individuals whom once can try to analyse -- even to psychoanalyse -- with the help of this essential evidence." - 406
  • "For centuries, Europe has been enmeshed in what has amounted to a single economy." - 407
  • "Unity by force always failed. The only moral of this monotonous story is that violence has never been enough to enable anyone to seize the whole of Europe." - 418
  • "With the end of France's Empire in America in 1762, Britain's aid to the colonies at once became less vital and her demands upon them became more onerous." - 466
  • "It mattered little that the American Constitution was thought to be revolutionary, new, egalitarian and fair, in so far as it sought to balance against each other the impulses of the human animal, always selfish and fierce." - 468
  • "The Founding Fathers believed that a well-thought-out State would check interest by interest, class by class, faction by faction, and one branch of government by another, in a harmonious system of mutual frustration." - Richard Hofstadter, 469
  • "the economic evolution of the United States has compelled the Federal State to intervene, with care, as a 'countervailing power'...What it now had to do was to analyse in depth the various elements in the economic situation, to predict its likely development, using all the tools of modern economic science, and to be ready at any time to act in this sector or that, whether to mop up unemployment, stimulate production, curb inflation or whatever was needed." - 494
  • "The golden rule for world peace is surely to think with, not against; and for a whole generation both the United States and the Soviet Union obstinately thought against each other." - 502
  • "the American writer is an as asocial being who is not content merely to express his revulsion or his unease at the world around him, but lives out his rebellion and constantly pays the price in pain and solitude." - 504
  • "The break with France in 1763 was a wound that has still not healed: the French Canadians felt shamelessly abandoned." - 510
  • "Russian territory acted as an enormous frontier zone between Europe, which it protected, and Asia, whose violent blows it painfully absorbed." - 528

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