《Bran-New + A Bold New Interpretation Of Modern History As a Struggle of Balance Of Power Between 3 Economic Groups 》David Priestland - MERCHANT, SOLDIER, SAGE : A New History of Power
This New York Times bestseller in paperback edition is a bran-new book and nicely wrapped with protective book-wrapper. The original new book is sold at usual price RM71.00. Now here Only at RM18. A bold new interpretation of modern history as a struggle between three economic groups From historian David Priestland, Merchant, Soldier, Sage is a remarkable book that proposes a radical new approach to how we see our world, and who runs it, in the vein of Francis Fukuyama's The End of History We live in an age ruled by merchants. Competition, flexibility and profit are still the common currency, even at a time when Western countries have been driven off a cliff by these very values. But will it always be this way? David Priestland argues for the predominance in any society of one of three broad value systems - that of the merchant (commercial and competitive); the soldier (aristocratic and militaristic); and the sage (bureaucratic or creative). These 'castes' struggle alongside the worker (egalitarian and artisanal) for power, and when they achieve supremacy, they can have such a strong hold over us that it is almost impossible to imagine life outside their grip. And yet there does come a point of drastic change, usually because one caste becomes too dominant. The result is economic crisis, war or revolution, and eventually a new caste takes over. Priestland argues, we are now in the midst of a period with all the classic signs of imminent change. As the history of the last century shows, there is good reason to be fearful of the forces that this failure may unleash. Merchant, Soldier, Sage is both a masterful dissection of our current predicament and a brilliant piece of history. The world will not look the same again. A really useful way of looking at history through a different lens and one that can convincingly help explain the rise of Donald Trump and Brexit (crucially, this book was published in 2012 before this was apparent to most commentators). It also provides a better understanding of the political tensions surrounding the Euro project and the current struggle within the Democratic Party to focus on economic issues (paying attention to the neglected issues of the workers) or the interests of a culturally tolerant class (the creatives, who are less concerned with economic inequality, but far more concerned with autonomy and cultural freedom). Like the best history, this gives one a framework for understanding the recent past, the present, and ideally, a way to navigate some of the trend changes in the future. Highly recommend. -------------------------------------------------- The Guardian Review: In this concise but extremely ambitious book, the Oxford historian David Priestland sets himself the task of taking the long view of the financial crisis that afflicts the world today. His argument is that the year 2008, when the credit crunch began, is as important as 1917, the year of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, or 1945, when the second world war came to an end. Four years on, the crisis shows no sign of coming to an end, and political systems, economies and societies seem in a state of disarray – even looming collapse. How has all this come to pass? Why have we got to such a crisis? Such questions, Priestland suggests, can only be answered with the help of history, "the only kind of guide we have to the future". If the crisis has done one thing, he suggests, it has been to discredit the simplistic view of history that recognises in it nothing but progress towards a liberal, free-market, capitalist, democratic present and future. Capitalism comes in many forms, and if the recent development of China shows anything, it is that democracy doesn't have to come with it. Historical change isn't impelled solely or even principally by the conflict between economically based classes, as Marx believed, or by the clash of ideologies, as the last of the great optimists, the American academic Francis Fukuyama, assumed. In practice, both play a part. It makes more sense, says Priestland, to look not at the interaction of abstract forces but at the concrete competition for power between three major groups in society over the ages – or, as he calls them, "castes", each with its identity and purposes rooted in an ethos closely linked to occupation and social function. The first of these is the merchant caste, or in modern parlance, the capitalists, promoting the values of business competition and the market. The second is the soldier caste, originating in the warrior aristocracy of the feudal middle ages and emphasising heroism, aggression and discipline. The third is the sagely or clerical-intellectual caste, dating from the days of the monks in medieval Christian society and finding its present-day embodiment in the bureaucrat, the technocrat and the expert. Over the centuries, these three castes have struggled for supremacy over the broad mass of peasants and, more recently, workers. This struggle, he boldly declares, has been "the locomotive of history". When one or other of these castes becomes too dominant, crisis usually ensues and it is replaced by another. The dictatorial and hierarchical rule of the soldier caste is destroyed by defeat in over-ambitious military action; the hidebound and ossified rule of the sage caste leads to revolutionary uprisings designed to widen participation in the state; the unconstrained dominance of the merchant caste leads to economic instability and inequality, fuelling social conflict and sparking revolution. Most of Priestland's book is devoted to a narrative account of recent history seen in terms of the competition between these three castes. The focus here is on the inexorable rise of the merchant, beginning in England and the Netherlands in the 17th century, gathering pace and spreading geographically in the early industrial age, and coming temporarily to grief in the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Thoroughly discredited, the merchant caste gave way in a country like Germany to a modernised version of the rule of the warrior under the Nazis, in Soviet Russia to an unstable alliance of martial bureaucrats and ideologues under Stalin, in Scandinavia to the rule of Social Democratic sages keeping the warriors and merchants under their thumb. If the merchant caste was discredited by the Depression, the soldier caste lost its legitimacy after the vast catastrophe of the second world war, and for a while the Social Democratic model provided stability and progress. But this sagely rule got into trouble too, its bureaucratic dullness and elitism alienating women, youth, minorities and "1960s creatives", its managerial claims destroyed by its failure to control the economic crisis that followed the huge global oil price hikes of 1973-74. This allowed the merchant caste to make a comeback, which it did with a vengeance towards the end of the 20th century. Today, Priestland says, the merchant caste rules alone in the west. Wherever you look, you find it in charge. In the UK, Margaret Thatcher brought business values into the heart of government and there they have stayed. In the US, Alan Greenspan's Federal Reserve unleashed an era of unbridled financial expansion. In Russia, the collapse of communism opened the way to a decade of free-for-all capitalist competition with huge fortunes being made by a few and a collapse in living standards suffered by the many. Everywhere, trade unions were vanquished, the public sector assaulted and diminished, while what was left of it was subordinated to commercial values. The destruction of New York's twin towers by Islamist terrorists led by Osama bin Laden (a warrior, according to Priestland, a sagely fanatic in the eyes of President George Bush) prompted the resurgence of the warrior ethos, represented most crudely by the US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld ("We've got to do Iraq," he said before the invasion: "There just aren't enough targets in Afghanistan. We need to bomb something else to prove that we're, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kind of attacks"). Yet the self-evident pointlessness of the Iraq war and the huge costs it incurred – human, political, financial – shoved the warrior ethos back into its box. Only in Russia, where the consequences of merchant rule were spectacularly awful, did the warrior caste come back to power, in the shape of Vladimir Putin. In the west, continued merchant rule brought "economic insecurity, corrosive inequality and potential environmental catastrophe", with unbridled and unregulated financial competition leading from 2008 onwards to unprecedented financial collapse, government indebtedness and political instability with no foreseeable end. Priestland's solution, predictably enough in a book coming from an Oxford don, is more sagely power. Yet there are few signs of this happening, and, drawing on the example of the 1930s, he warns darkly that "the year 2008 has set the world on a course towards potential conflict, and the domestic and international forces that brought us the violence of the 1930s and 1940s are with us today" – not least in a China that has close similarities with the kaiser's Germany in its synthesis of nationalism and merchant power, though it's clearly less militaristic. If sages are to be reinstated in positions of power, they need, according to Priestland, to forge alliances with others, above all with creative groups and with workers. Yet this is where his model begins to come apart, for these two elements in society remain shadowy figures in the background all the way through his book. He clearly believes in democracy, but by portraying history as a struggle between elites he takes it out of the picture, reducing the vast majority of people to passive objects of the ongoing fight for supremacy by their superiors. This is history from above with a vengeance. Moreover, by forcing so much into such a simple straitjacket of historical categories, he lets himself in for a whole range of dubious generalisations and obvious oversimplifications. Are we really ruled by merchants for example? Have the military in the US really been sidelined? Is China really like Wilhelmine Germany? At the end of almost every paragraph readers will surely feel the word "but" coming to their lips. Priestland is of course aware of the complexities of political structures, but he leaves himself too little space to explain how and why alliances between his castes occur, and how the different groups modify and intermingle their values and behaviour with those of the others; if he'd done that, then the detail would have submerged his schema out of existence. Nevertheless, it's a schema well worth pondering and reflecting on. And among the many contributions to the dissection of our current predicament, this is surely one of the most thought-provoking. About the Author David Priestland has studied Communism in all its forms for many years, in both Oxford and Moscow State Universities. He is University Lecturer in Modern History at Oxford and a Fellow of St. Edmund Hall, and the author of Stalinism and the Politics of Mobilization. The Red Flag was shortlisted for the Longman/History Today prize.
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