Cruelty and Decay in Two Empires: China and Rome

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Cruelty and Decay in Two Empires: China and Rome

Postby wolfhnd on February 24th, 2010, 9:02 pm 

This article caught my attention and I would like to hear comments about the subject.

Paralith edits: Here is the article's abstract, and I have attached the full text of the article to this post.

Moore wrote:This article addresses the rise of poverty, violence, and decay in the pre-indus- trialized societies of the Roman and Chinese Empires. Major similarities between the declines of these two Empires include the unchecked authority of those in charge, an arbitrary market meant to serve the elite, and the costs of financing wars and luxury living. This is contrasted with the rage and unruliness of large numbers of lower class members who lacked the basic necessities of life, including food and work. One difference is that strong ethnic self-awareness in China survived the collapse of the empire, whereas Romersquos willingness to grant its land to foreigners contributed to subsequent fragmentation.
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Moore - 2004 - Cruelty and Decay in Two Empires China and Rome.pdf
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Re: Cruelty and Decay in Two Empires: China and Rome

Postby Forest_Dump on February 24th, 2010, 11:08 pm 

Okay, I have downloaded it and will probably print it up tomorrow. Now, why am I reading this again?
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Re: Cruelty and Decay in Two Empires: China and Rome

Postby Forest_Dump on February 25th, 2010, 9:41 am 

I did a quick scan of the first two pages to figure out which Chinese empire was being talked about since I have covered both China and Rome in archaeology (but am seriously considering dropping a lot of it, particularly for the later stuff because there is not much "archaeology" beyond recovering statues and reading the PR of old kings). But it looks to me that this is more pure history so perhaps you could save me some time by cutting to the chase. I will grant for now a premise that power corrupts and with corruption comes bad things to the little people whether this is done by despots in politics or even corporate tyrants who can buy despots and other politicians whether in one company towns or entire countries. Is there anything else I should be looking for here?
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Re: Cruelty and Decay in Two Empires: China and Rome

Postby wolfhnd on February 25th, 2010, 9:00 pm 

It appears as kind of a chicken and egg thing. Did decay increase cruelty or does cruelty lead to decay? The author doesn't really provide any convincing evidence. While certain expression of cruelty are clearly a result of an attempt to diminish social dissolution by terror, it is also clear that mob violence is at least as cruel as the tyrannical variety and equally responsible for continued loss of social order. On the balance it seems that the evidence suggests that starvation or the threat there of, being a symptom of the decline of social order, is most responsible for an escalation in cruel acts outside of war than tyranny. This of course only works if you assumes a numerical value for cruelty and you do not measure the spiritual misery imposed by tyranny. Man does not live by bread alone.
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Re: Cruelty and Decay in Two Empires: China and Rome

Postby Forest_Dump on February 25th, 2010, 10:55 pm 

Certainly environmental decay will lead to a collapse but I am not sure "cruelty" would do it. Think of it this way. The Aztecs could be called cruel but it appears they were still expanding when the Spaniards showed up (who, by the way. I wouldn't call any less cruel).
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Re: Cruelty and Decay in Two Empires: China and Rome

Postby jebus on March 22nd, 2010, 4:07 pm 

In both empires, Rome especially, the rampant cruelty performed by the ruling class was done so as a desperate solution to the ever-worsening economic and demographic problems. Cruelty and the collapse of both empires is, in my opinion, was predicated on the logistic incapability of both empires in meeting their peoples' basic needs. In both cases, the consequence of unchecked growth and inappropriate leadership resulted in riotous movements within the lower classes (the Roman "rabble" and the Taiping Rebellion). The proceeding oppression, which was ultimately unsuccessful and misguided, only exacerbated the fragmentation of these empires. In retrospect, though, the administration of cruelty was really the only enforceable solution to the empires' woes. Unforeseeable factors (population growth) and self-perpetuating corruption limited the scope of the emperors' ability to correct internal and external strife.
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Re: Cruelty and Decay in Two Empires: China and Rome

Postby Iolo on February 2nd, 2011, 1:07 pm 

It seems to me that the economic decline of the Western Empire came from spending more and more on fewer and fewer troops, who were often pulled away from the work of defending the borders to support power-plays by their generals. It meant that fewer and fewer citizens had anything to gain, while the Germans, especially, were quickly catching up and beginning to take over. It must have been a pretty dreary life to be forced to follow your father's profession or run towns at a loss, and if we look at Britain as a case in point, the people seem finally to have got sick of the whole business and kicked out the imperial authorities in 410, or so Zosimus says). What I think British archaeology IS showing is just how big the population was back then (estimates based on particular landscape-studies are going up as high as six million), while studies of Anglo-Saxon boats suggest (on the evidence so far) that any shift of population was miniscule - which could well mean the population preferred Barbaria to Romanitas and joined the German gangs. The Roman plebs, on the other hand, were pretty well off, surely? I don't know enough about China to argue, but it seems to have lasted better, doesn't it?

I realize I'm picking up an old thread, but I find this interesting.
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