Cratic Phases in History

Book: Philosophy of Crisis.

Chapter XIII

To corroborate our theory of the cycle of vicious forms, we shall examine the cratic phases in History. Wouldn’t they be under the rein of certain preset principles, such as the one in which every tension is always the field of a constant shock between the vectors of conservation and destruction, and that the final victory of the latter is, in the cosmic world, a law?

Things are not eternal. They disappear, not only via the natural development of their tensional process, but also by the antagonist action of other tensions within the environment. No human society lasts eternally, nor are eternal their component elements.

A longer or shorter perdurability of a social form does not imply eternization, incompatible with a succeeding cosmos that goes through cycles of forms, which, although repetitive and, therefore, affirmative of – on its formal aspect – a hint of eternity, does not prevent the transience of the singular, which “perform” life – as demonstrated throughout the cosmos – from the physical-chemical to the sociological spheres.

Consequently, History is not exception to the rule (shall we remember the anankê of the Greeks, the dharma of the Hindu, the “cycle” of the Egyptians, etc.). The presence of the kratos (power, in Greek) within the social constitution as a cohesive force, “coherencing” the social tension, is inevitable in History. But it is appropriate to distinguish them, since a deficient clarification on the subject leads to false interpretations in accordance to desires and opinions of ideological groups, interested on justifying certain practices and attitudes.

If we consider the kratos as social cohesion force, as supra individual and above the groups, we shall consider this force:

  1. a) As corresponding to cohesion (Pythagorean tónos arithmós) as what gives coherence (cum – haerens, of haereo, attached, united, joint together, therefore heritage) to society, considered as tension;
  2. b) As structured in a political organism (aside) that appears in History from the simplest forms of centralized power (council of elders, etc.) to Modern State.

In the first case, cohesion (tónos) gives force to society; in the second, force gives cohesion. There are medium examples of the participation of both. There is an inversion of vectors, which change – of order, only – allows a clear distinction.

There are, in Sociology, many ways for the emergence of social cohesion forces, such as ways of persuasion (religions, etc.), ways of constraint (the State, in all its modalities; morality, under some aspects, etc.) and the exchange of benefits (common interests, kinship bonds, etc.).

The kratos, structured in an organism of centralizing power (with degrees of centralization, corresponding to the interchange of the historical process of the cultural cycles, as we shall see), is what properly characterizes the cracy, which carry out the cratesis, the action of political domination over the variety of social strata.

However, the kratos is structured in different configurative ways, with beginning, development, and depletion, according to the historical cycles.

Considering, for instance, the four periods of the historical cycles, established by Spengler, three corresponding cratic phases could be included:

To the juvenile period of cultural[1] formation, three cratic phases can easily be distinguished in History, although their roots and prolongations can intersect with others:

1) Theocratic phase: Every culture, when tensionally structuring, do so under a theocratic form. A divinity gives the ruling laws of the social order. An enlightened one, a figure to become mythical and scumbling the line dividing history and legend, receives from divinity the applicable law of the new society. This human figure could become divinized. He appears as a god or a man ascending to divinity. Rama amongst the Aryans, Mohammad amongst the Arabic, Moses amongst the Jew, Christ amongst the Christians, Thoth (or Hermes Trismegistus) amongst the Egyptians, are divine men or incarnated divinities giving a new law, a new order.

Society is structured upon a cohesion given by consensus. The sage exercises the kratos without restrictions. It is a form of absolutism, but accepted and not totally imposed, since founded on consensus and on an acknowledgement of a divinity, which has chosen an interpreter to translate into human language the divine will.

Around this divine personage – physical or spiritually present – an order of hieratic, sanctified men is structured, who comply with and enforce the law. Then, a second cratic phase is progressively structured:

2) Hierocracy (hieros, holy man): The sanctified men (priests) structure the social kratos. They are representative and compliant of the law. This period (of the brahmanin, amongst the Hindu; of the great priests in Egypt; with correspondence in every great civilization, needless to mention), prolonging for a longer or shorter time, beholds the great clashes between orthodoxes and heretics (such as the charvakas, in India, the gnostics, in Christianity, etc.). Those heresies comprise an entire range of affirmations, from the intransigently purist to the deniers of the law. Some movements of destructive opinions appear. Materialist ideas and anticlerical movements act efficient and energetically[2]. This moment of religious cohesion reflux gives rise to a movement of ethical flux, of a more aggressive spirituality towards maintaining the cohesion order. Jainism, the rshis of India and Western asceticism are examples, with correspondents easily found in every other culture.

That activity generates the formation of a third cratic phase:

3) Aretocracy (arete, virtuous): The kratos is dominated by virtuous (in the Greek sense of the term) men, a courageous and faithfully impetuous group uniting material force to the power of faith. Power no longer belongs to the priests (men endowed with sacer, with sacrality) only, but to a sacrality amongst the earthly life through the fulfillment of ethical-religious principles; the virtuous men. This transition from religious to secular power, structured with the germ of separation, progressively rising, impels the economically dominant classes – still not politically dominant – to dispute it.

The first revolution comes, ascending to the kratos the:

4) Aristocracy: The “better ones” (aristós) demand more rights and gradually take over the temporal power. Clashes between those and the priests are inevitable and the centralizing figure of power, referred since the three first phases as a supreme representative, is the Great Priest, chosen amongst his equals. Begins, in this period, a gradual preparation for the first great social revolution, the aristocratic, which creates restrictions to power. The inevitable clashes result in an alternation of power, with sometimes the rule of the priests, sometimes the rule of the aristocrats. This period of turmoil compels a continuing centralization of power – of an earthly sort. The aristocrats choose their king (rex, rajah, etc.). However, this king is still a par, chosen amongst equals (for instance, the election of kings amongst Polish nobles and Asturian nobles).

The disturbances, provoked by the rise of a new class of nobles, compel for a hypertrophy of the political kratos. Hence, the ruler, supported by a small, but united group, structures the:

5) Oligarchy: A monarch, supported by a small chosen group of lords (oligós), exercises the kratos. The separation between temporal and religious power develops in a way that the latter looses its role of superordinate to become subordinate. The priests are bound to spiritual matters and gradually subordinate to the interests of the new dominant castes.

Absolutism emerges, so to appear the:

6) Monocracy: The rule of a powerful king, although supported by a group. The supervening excesses incite the ambitions of new classes, already holders of economical power, but aspiring the political one, such as the merchants (bourgeoisie, vasyas, etc.), which through republican ideals (the public thing, res publica) causes the second great social revolution, which is:

7) Democracy: Herein concludes the second period of the cultural cycle, ending the classical period to initiate the period of social decline. The separation between political and religious kratos is complete. The ascension of the lower classes raises to power the representatives of economical interests. It is no longer a spiritual aristocracy or the aristocracy of blood, but the aristocracy of money. Therefore, democracy turns into:

8) Plutocracy: The kratos of the plutoi, of the rich ones. The businessmen, coming also from aristocracy, foundation of the plutocratic kratos, end up by being ruled by the interest of the richest ones, controllers of capital. Therefore, the rise of:

9) Argirocracy (argiros, silver): Money is the common denominator of all things. Businessmen turn the State into a merely economic business, a big corporation, and the consequent demoralization provokes upheavals leading to the third great social revolution:

10) Ochlocracy (ochlos, street masses): The rule of the “popular will”, of the masses, of destructive chaos, which, overwhelming everything with its vortex, closes the third period of the cultural cycle and start the final phase of the civilization debauchery. Chaos demands order, therefore:

11) Caesarocracy: The kratos is given to powerful men, supported by military forces, as the only way of salvation from inevitable chaos. It is the period of bloody wars against other nations, leading to the final destruction of the political kratos or the invasion by outsiders, facilitated by the internal degeneration of society. It gradually befalls, after extensive erosion, the final phase:

12) Acracy: It no longer has a centralized power, but an atomized or fragmentary one, or the substitution for a new order, imposed from outside and the transformation of the people, who represented the culture, to the situation of fellah, in the worst case scenario.

During those final periods, with sudden recurrences to many of the past beliefs, a new ideal emerges, under a cooperative basis by the consensus being articulated with other people, structuring to deliver a new cultural tension, with new possibilities, incarnating in the figure of a great saint (from the present or the past), who inaugurates, once again, a Theocracy, and the cycle of cultural tension resumes, presenting the same kratos avatars, and fulfilling the cycle of vicious forms.

About the cratic phases, it is important to make a few comments to corroborate our statements. One shall not forget the variable and the invariable in History, for those forms repeat themselves through fluxes and refluxes, through the alternation of positive and oppositive statements, as the contest of parties or the progressive and conservative perspectives, between revolutionist and involutionist, arising in every moment to control the events, but those same forms do not repeat themselves as typically historical singularities, rather with their peculiar characteristics, differential notes, by which they structure a oneness with the human occurrences.

In the democratic period, for instance, a plain republicanism is not a requirement, since a monarch can, as seen so many times in History, represent the interests of the classes that holds the movable, commercial or industrial properties, such as, in our civilization, Napoleon and Bismarck represented interests of bourgeois origin.

It is also verifiable periods of restoration of previous forms, by a casualty of events, but always of short extent. For instance, fluxes and refluxes of absolutism can be understood when a new ruling group rises and establishes greater liberty for its equals while restricting it for the adversaries.

On the other hand, the combination of emerging and predisposing factors, forming the genuine arithmoi pleithoi, determines various situations that can explain the great variance of the historical events and shall be subject of further studies.

In definitive, one must look at those cratic phases as forms, and consider them analogical throughout the various cultural cycles, always bearing in mind the dialectical presence of the variable (singular) besides the invariable (formal)[3].

Summarizing what we have examined, it never hurts to repeat that the cratic phases do not obey a mechanical precision. One can mathematize the events of physical chemistry, when in a macroscopic plane, since, in microphysics, current science finds a certain difficulty for a mathematization, in a merely quantitative sense. The atom reveals, in its inner constitution, the presence of intensist aspects that cannot be reduce to quantitative numbers. As well as in the field of Biology, one shall verify that life cannot be reduced to quantitative numbers, in the same extent that this can be verified in Psychology and Sociology.

If natural sciences can use – to a certain success – quantitative mathematics, the same cannot be said concerning cultural sciences. It can only exist a greater or lesser rigor, analogically corresponding to a mathematical accuracy of the formers. If human history succeeded as succeed the events of physical chemistry, we should have to exclude from it the bionomics and psychological, in which there is place for freedom and unpredictability.

Therefore, the cratic phases we examined do not succeed exactly in a mechanical sequence, but show fluxes and refluxes, accelerations and delays, levels of various intensities, that prevents us from considering them as exact, but only as rigorous. If applying what had been said about the cycles of vicious forms to the cratic phases, we realize that the kratos keeper meets the period of decline exactly after becoming absolutist, provoking the rise of oppositions.

The law of alternation is present in the events of History.

Absolutism happens in those moments in which the natural force of a doctrine or a cratic phase falters and the use of means to give cohesion facilitates the admission of less categorized representatives. Our current days offer profuse examples, for instance. All cratic forms are initially presented to guide society and headed by true idealists, acting through uncorrupted intentions. Throughout the time, there is a march towards inferior forms, thus a constantly repeated phrase, “this is not how we have dreamed”.

And so it happens because the keeping of power is followed by certain benefits that incite the ambition of many who look at it as an end rather than a means, and aspire power to enjoy it. Politics, the technique of harmonizing individual and social interests, becomes, on those moments, a technique of conquest and maintenance of power. Thus, the means substitute the ends and the march towards decline is inevitable. There is always a historical crisis, since there is always a separation between rulers and ruled ones, and the battle for power is an aggravating constant.

The crisis is immerged within the historical lives of the people and knows its moments of intense aggravation of diacrisis amongst rivals and of sincrisis – even if imposed by circumstances – amongst partisans. History is the great field of crisis.

In the study of historical facts, we can analyze the emergent and predisposing factors, separate them for examination, prolong on our scrutiny, but the crisis shall aggravate have we forgotten to return them to the “concretion” they belong.

Examples are clarifying. Geographical factors, encompassed within ecological ones, are undoubtedly predominant upon the choosing of agricultural production. Cattle raising is established where feasible. The forms of artisanal production depend upon geography. The Arabic of the desert, for example, cannot become a farmer. Pottery cannot appear where there is no clay. Only a subsequent development of technology could enhance the mastery over geography. Human adaptation depends on the circumstances of the geographical environment.

The examination of other factors can improve the comprehension, such as the influence of ethnical factors, a mesh of emergent and predisposing aspects, since cooperating the bionomic, the psychological and the historic-social, which allow us to understand Toynbee’s theory of challenge and response. Different civilizations, facing the same challenge, either natural or from other human sets, respond differently and such heterogeneity depends greatly on ethnical conditions.

Some civilizations, faced with aggressions, bow, while others, react. One cannot establish a social mechanics, for each historical fact demands a a posteriori analysis of the factors cooperating to its occurrence. The historiologist (and historiology is a future science to be built about the historical facts) is endued with the mission of searching for the invariables, which may arise given the cooperation of factors. Maybe one day (we hope, nearby) the historiologist could establish those invariables and state, given certain circumstances, the probabilistically result, in a larger or lesser degree.

The current state of the historical studies can already allow the establishment of some rules with certain rigor. For instance, in a typically maritime society, individualism prevails, whilst in a typically continental one, there is a greater subordination of the individual downwards society. The former tends to value the individual, establish individualist laws and have a tendency to liberalism, to facilitate individual initiative, and, consequently, they are more tolerant and even cosmopolitan, since maintaining trade relations with foreigners in a more regular basis. And since the trade is never restricted to material goods, but includes the exchange of ideas, it results in a greater scientific progress, greater development of rationalism and a tendency to build universal religions.

Typically territorial societies have an immovable wealthy and the law is predominantly feudal. And, reticent towards the trade with other people, they are, consequently, intolerant. Nationalism is exaggerated and religion is provincial. There are examples throughout History in all cultural cycles, but herein we shall point out the aspects favoring the comprehension of our Philosophy of Crisis.

In a typically maritime society, sincrisis is achieved by the aggregation of atomized individuals. In a typically continental one, sincrisis is achieved by the subordination to the nation. In the first case, diacrisis is processed by individualism, whilst, in the second, by social strata, classes, castes, much more scattered than in the former. Both societies demonstrate the crisis, but under different aspects and different levels of aggravation.

The first one tends to the vicious forms by the inevitability of State bureaucratization, which creates subsequent hierarchization that, consequently, shatters solidarity, since social strata will be founded on created interests – thence, inevitable collapse. The second, founded on feudalism, tends to build a State under the dominance of hierarchically superior classes. The rise of oligarchy, throughout the time, should incite the inevitable reaction of the lower classes. Bureaucratization is also foreseeable, as well as the State separating from society (therefore aggravating the crisis) that should provoke a clash, so to befall collapse, and, in both types of society, the cycle of vicious forms occurs as an invariable, despite of the variables that belong to the field of History[4].

Similarly to human beings, there are no eternally young societies. History is a monotone report of ascensional forms, which emerge fraught with possibilities but come to an end after a long itinerary of inevitable degeneration. Although melancholic, our affirmation is true. Crisis has been always installed within human societies, not only within individual relations, but also with groups and even within society as a whole.

Crisis is inevitable, and its emerging sincrisis and diacrisis always cause the same alternation such as going from one extreme to another. The observation of such facts can naturally lead the student towards a pessimist attitude. However, there is always something within us rebelling against the pessimism that sometimes presides over us.

There is a desire within us to surpass crisis, or even avoid it. Or, once we become aware of it, defeat it. And what is the history of the great ideas if not the constant search for a solution that exhilarate us, but posterior facts persist to impugn? Society is such as ill body to which so many have offered their therapeutics. A therapy for crisis: that is what mankind has always desired. And never, so it seems, it has been so wished such as nowadays.

But can one deny the problem that, due to its complexity, demands so much of our efforts? How could we propose a therapy for a hitherto unknown disease? Therefore, in order to advise a therapy, matter that we firstly analyze, as better as possible, the features of the crisis. Once again, it is clear that the solution for human problems cannot prescind the cooperation of the philosopher, since crisis is undoubtedly a great philosophical problem[5].


[1] Henceforth, in the classical sense of the word, meaning civilization, unless stated otherwise. (TN)

[2] We know this phase in our civilization and in other cultures, such as the Hindu, with the fight of the Charvakas, Buddhists, of the materialist Kesakambali, of Kashyapa, which provoked the ethical emphasis of Jainism.

[3] Those four periods, with their three phases, has a foundation in human emergence. In all and any society, regardless of the social and economical structure, a classification of four types, founded on human temperaments and characterological aspects, can be seen, as:

  1. Those who have a pronounced inclination to the transcendental, to the mystical, to hear beyond what the things silent about, and, consequently, with an accentuated religious impetus, with stronger virtuous manifestations than others; virtuous men, ascetics, priests, etc., eminently virtuous.
  2. Those who have a pronounced inclination to an aggressive impetus, entrepreneurs of disinterested deeds, loving action for the action, craving to accomplish acts beyond utilitarian interests, proud of their strength, their combativeness, their aggressiveness (warriors, pioneers, errant knights, hunters who are prouder of what they do than of the results they provide, etc.), eminently aristocratic.

Amongst those two types, the scale of values is hierarchically different. The values of religious order stand amongst the first ones, whilst, amongst the second ones, the ethical-aristocratic values equate and merge with the first one.

  1. Those who have a prevalence of utilitarian values, tending towards organizing production and exchanges, able to economical achievements and to an order not properly of the warrior, but of the worker, assuming the direction of production and distribution and exchanges with others.
  2. Those who pronouncedly obey, provide services, execute orders, reveling an inability to become autonomous and tending to become servers of the other three.

In all human beings there is this emergency and, individually, it has larger or smaller levels. We all have some of those four types, indifferent levels. And the prevalence of a level reveals who we are, which does not prevent that, sometimes, someone has a social occupation strange from his main inclination. Those are the unsuitable, misfits, who suddenly rebel and reveal what they are, given certain predisposing circumstances.

The structuring of social classes proceeds through the precipitance caused by predisponency, in which we include the historical-social, allowing the understanding of the variance of the historic actualizations. To sum up, emergency actualizes in the modals proportional to predisponency. This is the reason why a merely historical materialist explanation, such as the Marxist one, cannot concretely reach the formation of social classes, since only consider them as product of a merely economical structure, disregarding the role of emergency.

It is not possible to detail our thesis in this book, as we shall have the opportunity to do so in Philosophy and History of Culture, as well as justify it in light of other studies on the field not only of Sociology, but Anthropology and History. A good foundation for our thesis should efficiently and decisively contribute to build the foundations for a historiology, so to favor a better solution for the social problems, since the usually given solutions, for not considering the emergency, are partials, abstracts, and, consequently, utopians, and failing on their application since not founded on reality, concealed by many.

[4] In our book Philosophy and History of Culture, we analyze the more eloquent facts of History to corroborate our theory.

[5] The cyclical process of a ideological structure or a cultural tension presents, in its phases (corresponding to the cyclical phases of the kratos), the following representatives: at the beginning, the juvenile idealists, enthusiastic advocates; then, the pioneers, who execute the first works, the heroes, the errant knights of ideas; followed by the practical doers, corresponding to the classical period; and, finally, the absolutists, appearing when the intrinsic coherence of the cycles has weakened and is substituted by an imposed cohesion, by a “coercive universalization”, period of absolutism, caesarism, marking the end of the evolutive process and the beginning of inevitable decadence.

Within the economical sector, still evident in our days, it is the period of high capitalism (Hochkapitalismus, by Sombart), of pioneers, of great achievers, imbued of ideals, true heroes, errant knights, such as Mauá (great Brazilian entrepreneur, from the imperial period), amongst us, to finally supervene, the achievers, such as Ford, Siemens, Krupp, etc., following the profiteers, organized in unions, association of classes, with the intent to maintain a cohesion, already impossible, before the adversary onrushes.

The examples we provided are enough to illustrate what is observable in all other sectors, not only economical, but also in the so-called cultural super-structure, ideas, philosophical tendencies, political ideals, religions, etc.

Once again, one should be reminded to consider not those facts mechanically, in a mathematical precision – in its quantitative sense – but in a rigor that reveals an invariable of great importance to the study of historical facts, and that should contribute – if well-oriented – to provide material and formalities that should allow that, from History, one can build a Historiology, a true science of History.

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