From what I said in the previous chapter, it should now be clear that the shift from low-energy society to one using surplus energy to do many previously impossible things requires very extensive charges in both the function and the structure of any society. I have been talking primarily about the changes within the boundaries of states legitimately governing known areas. But changes within states force changes in relations between states. All kinds of social and physical actions are altered. So domestic politics and interstate politics are inextricably tangled with each other.
In domestic relations, there has come to be general acceptance of the idea that government should indicate the limits within which institution, including the state itself, should function.
In interstate relations, no such agreement exists. Far-reaching institutions such as churches, corporations, labor organizations, international public unions, and international administrative agencies claim the right to control certain functions without let or hindrance by the national state. Yet sovereignty implies that the state implicitly or explicitly sanction every legal act within its borders. So, if the state has the obligation to set limits on acts within its own territory, having unilaterally determined what those limits are, then the claims of “outsiders” must become subordinate to the power of the state. This requires that the state actually be able to enforce its edicts if and where other controls which the state might use have proved to be inadequate. Each state, then, must control sufficient energy to overcome the efforts of any group, originating within or without the state, which seeks to resist or to evade its legitimate power.
Energy and international position
One set of limits on the power of the state is thus imposed by the amount and kinds of energy that can be converted at the will of those who are subject to control by that state. But even if it becomes clear that enough energy is produced within the territory it governs, the question still arises, “How much of the energy produced can be used as the state ordains?” Some theorists have been so concerned about how the power of government can be restrained that they never ask whether the restraints on its ability to control and direct the flow of energy may render it incapable of doing what has to be done to protect and preserve the society within which it operates. This may come because of its inability to control the power or domestic organizations. It may also come because it is not able to resist power exercised by foreign states. In either case, if the state does not have the power to enforce its edicts, it can no longer guarantee that what is commanded in its name will actually take place. Law becomes merely the statement of a pious wish.
Democratic theory holds that the power of government is made legitimate by the values of the people it governs. It assumes that in practically every case, the hierarchy of values motivating the individual citizen has the same supreme values; these, the values that will be sought at the sacrifice of any others held by those individuals, constitute the pattern identified with nationality. The theory recognizes that there are values attached to lesser areas such as the feudal domain and to still smaller units such as those occupied by the tribe and kinship groups. Loyalty to larger and more universal units such as the church or an international labor organization is also taken for granted. Nevertheless, it is expected that wherever national welfare requires it, any such obligation will be subordinated to the demands of the nation.
This ideology accompanied the rise of the political organizations that became supreme in the West. In the name of the nation, old empires were overturned. Centuries-old allegiances proved inadequate to ensure the survival of feudal principalities and ancient provinces. Nationality replaced ultimate fealty to clan and tribe.
But this concept or ideal sets limits on the size of the state, as efforts to establish multinational states in Europe have shown. Within the borders of one state, it was not possible for more than one nationality to achieve its supreme values. Given two or three different sets of supreme values, each regarded as being final by one segment of the population, subordination of one or another segment was inevitable. Often, the subordinated minority immediately denied the legitimacy of the government which subjected it. Since, in democratic theory, it is the nation that must serve as the unit in which evidence of consent to government is to be demonstrated, the area of the legitimate state must coincide with that in which a national group has in the past developed. Such areas are frequently small and it is possible within their borders to generate only limited amounts of energy. As has been shown, high-energy technology requires for its efficient operation extensive land areas and sizable populations. Therefore, small states are often unable to produce the force necessary to carry out their edicts when confronted by the power of a large aggregation, whether such power takes the form of an agency of a great corporation, a church, or another state. If they remain weak, they are unable to guarantee the enforcement of law, which is their fundamental reason for being; if they seek to enlarge their power, they must come to govern areas in which that power will by their own principles not be legitimate. Countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway, that have abided by these principles and remained nation-states, have slowly lost the ability to determine their own power position. Other democratic European states, like France and Germany, have at times disregarded the limits on their legitimate exercise of power and, in so doing, have produced conflict between their professed principles and their actions. They also produced such extreme reactions by other nations that the resulting coalition defeated them.
The role of nationalism
The narrow limits imposed by the principle of national self-determination are shown by the decline of power in the West. In part, this decline is attributable to the geographic location of the resources necessary to the use of high-energy technology, but largely it is due to the paralyzing dilemma that arises from the idea of the finality of the nationalism as the basis of the state. Strengthened by its early success, the idea of the supremacy and finality of nationalism has been so reified that the continuing economic and military disasters, which have often followed its pursuit, have not succeeded in destroying it. Conflict has continued for centuries among Poland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and the states which were included in the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Together, they occupy an area geographically adequate for a very powerful state, but no such state has emerged. Few, if any, legislative acts made in the name of any one of these nations would be considered legitimate in the area where another of them governs, and efforts to integrate them by political or military means have produced resistance which, when the opportunity arose, took the form of the reemergence a “nationalist” party.
The effort to integrate these nations economically by insisting that price considerations should override all other factors, and that each state be required to sanction all international acts which would result in profit to the trader or industrialist has met with equally strong or even greater resistance. In many cases, the consequence of the operations of the free international market may be as disastrous to some groups and regions as would any contemplated political act. So, for example, the functions of the common market are limited.
In areas other than Western Europe, the difficulties of using nationalism as a basis for legitimate government are greatly multiplied. Very large areas of the world have not yet developed anything comparable to what is called nationality in the West. In these areas, the simple village systems based on prevailing low-energy techniques are unable to maintain for long those relations among peoples from which national self-consciousness seems to emerge. Nor have they been able to utilize successfully either the territorial and functional division of labor of the political integration and centralization which capitalizes on such consciousness.
Centralization of power in low-energy societies seldom adds much to the prospect for local survival. Moreover, as has been shown, the growth of population, necessitating the use of very infertile land and decreasing the surplus energy available from plants, reduces the likelihood that in the future the kind of system of production that benefits from centralized control will appear.
Outside Europe, much of the nationalism which does exist stems from the European origin of the dominant elements of the population.
The present governments of the United States, Canada and some of the Latin American countries became legitimate only after the Indians had been exterminated, forced to migrate, or assimilated into the culture of the whites. In these states, much of the Indian cultures, which for a long time characterized those who governed in the Western Hemisphere, were destroyed. European conquerors brought their own cultures. Such cultures became the primary basis of emerging nationalities that serve to legitimatize present American governments. Other American states are based on nationality, which depends more closely on the Indian cultures of the pre-Columbian era. Many of these states are so weak that their sovereignty is only a convenient fiction supported by such devices as the Monroe Doctrine. In others, tribal and religious organizations and the operations of foreign corporations, acting without the sanction of nationality, actually determine much of what government does.
The new nationalities in the Western Hemisphere are the result of forced growth sustained by new technology and stimulated by modern means of communication, education, and propaganda. In many cases, national self-consciousness as contrasted with a kind of nostalgic identification with the mother country has only recently developed.
The Western idea that nationality is the only legitimate basis for statehood is of recent origin. As we have indicated, it is an outgrowth of the proposition that only democratic government is legitimate and that nationality represents the highest values of man. In fact, in most places in the world, government antedated nationality and contributed much of the emergence of the nationality which later made it legitimate. This has been conveniently overlooked by those who regard the continued existence of small European nationalities as an end justifying any cost entailed in maintaining them, but look on the demise of long-established non-European civilizations as a mere incident in the history or “progress.”
In some Balkan states, in the Near East, in India, in China, in fact in most of Asia and Africa, the idea of nationality has no such supremacy as that which made it a successful base for the legitimacy of state power in the West. Here, religion, caste, tribe and other units of identification are often more effective than is nationality in securing supreme allegiance from person and groups. These communities still endow their members with such values that the national state is not able to make a successful claim to legitimacy for any very large range of functions. In these areas, the assertion that a government speaks for the nation may have very little significance in determining, for example, whether treaties, which the government makes, will be honored by those over whom it claims sovereignty, and whether the government can enforce its laws or the contracts made under its presumed protection. Assumption by the state of functions previously considered to be within the sphere of some other institution may produce the same kind of reaction as the claims made in the name of the English monarch once aroused in the American colonies.
So, when the national state calls upon its citizenry to sacrifice some value, which is higher in the personal hierarchy of many people than is the survival of that state itself, the result is a refusal to perform as the state has ordered. Those who govern are then faced with the alternative of abandoning their position or attempting to use physical coercion.
Even in areas where national consciousness exists and its supremacy is not questioned, problems in regard to values arise, for there may be disagreements as to the ordering of the values placed just below those upon whose supremacy there is general agreement. What constitutes a legitimate function of the state is a concept that varies form group to group. For some, the protection of the rights of the property owner are the most significant obligation of government; for others, the efforts of the state to provide for the common defense or the general welfare justifies whatever invasion of property rights may be required. For some, protection and the preservation of racial or religious distinction is an obligation of the state. For others, the very presence of segregation is itself evidence that the state has failed to protect those values which justify its existence. Demands are made by one group for state intervention to prevent the financial disaster that may otherwise fall upon them because of the operations of the market. These demands are countered by the insistence of another group that such intervention is outside the legitimate sphere of the state’s functions. The claims of such international organizations as churches, corporations, and cartels present further complications. Through them, power originating outside the state may be brought to bear to alter the decisions which otherwise would be reached through the interplay of forces within the state. Thus, the nationality which represents an old agreement on values may fail as a means of defining legitimate state power when, because of new and differing experiences, there are widespread changes in values. It becomes less and less possible at any given time to generalize as to what will be considered legitimate by the people said to constitute a nation, and therefore, less and less possible to predict whether or not the agents of a state will meet with resistance or acquiescence if they attempt to carry out a given pattern of acts. This applies both internally and externally.
The demands for services such as communication and transportation have frequently resulted in the formation of international bodies, like the Universal Postal Union, which to all intents and purposes, enact the legislation necessary to carry out their functions. Agents of the state may then be held remiss if their failure to enforce the international code results in disruption of a desired service. States acquiesced for years in the gold standard, which effectively deprived them of the ability to determine the value and character of the money in use within their boundaries. Today, the value of many national currencies is fixed by the willingness of the International Monetary Fund to provide backing at a particular price.
The increasing use of technological standards in various fields has similarly required abdication by the national state of its otherwise legitimate power. At present, the requirements of military alliances have even standardized the weapons and the tactics by which many states are to be defended.
Many of those who recognize that nationality can no longer serve as the basis for setting the legitimate geographic boundaries for some functions performed by the state have seized upon these developments as evidence that a world state is not only immediately necessary but also ultimately inevitable. Using generalizations derived from experience in the areas where high-energy converters have already had wide use, they project the limitless diffusion of high-energy technology as a basis for the universal state, the appearance of which they consider merely a matter of time.
The world state
This work has shown that there is no such inevitability connected with high-energy technology. The changes that low-energy societies must undergo in the process of adopting that technology, affect everything from the functions of the family and the nature of personality of the rate of the population growth, the ratio of land to population, and the character of groups in political control. Almost nothing that gives life meaning in a low-energy society is left undisturbed by the transition to high-energy converters. The introduction of these conditions means disaster to some of the strongest and most deeply entrenched groups in the community. Since the traditional right to control lies with them rather than with the would-be innovators, it is unreasonable to expect that they will teach respect for and devotion to those who are destroying them. Rather, they can be expected to exert great efforts to expel the disturbing agents of high-energy society and to reaffirm all the values connected with the ancient way of life. Acts of government which repudiate these old values will be rejected by the people with scorn and derision and, if there is thought to be the least chance for success, with armed rebellion.
Where peaceful transition appears to be taking place, it sometimes means only that successful physical resistance is thought to be impossible. In these cases, instead of open organized opposition, the state may be confronted with anxiety accompanied by apathy and the complete failure on the part of individuals to take any action that they are not specifically ordered to take. The spontaneous and willing effort of the individual seeking to make a “success” of himself in terms of internalized goals is completely lost, and the cost of change is increased by the inefficiency with which new roles are carried out and new converters used.
It is true that the effectiveness with which low-energy societies can directly oppose with physical force the power that can be brought to bear against them by those possessed of high-energy converters is declining. If all that they seek is subordination or extermination of a people, a few individuals wielding great industrial power can impose their rule on many equipped only with the products of low-energy converters. It is no longer conceivable, for example, that natives no better equipped than were the Maori could force the British to a stalemate on the battlefield, but on the other hand, the conditions under which most Western nations began industrialization no longer exist. Low-energy societies often have natural resources which are sought by people from industrial areas. The results of colonialism have been to introduce western methods and implements of warfare so the power of people in low-energy areas to resist further social change has grown. The developed states have competed to see which could sell or give more weapons to the rulers whose favor they sought. Today, the guerilla can make it extremely difficult for any civil government that they oppose, to rule and maintain the conditions necessary to operate in the ways required by the use of large amounts of surplus energy. There are further limits that grow from the ends sought by the industrial states themselves. Those ends frequently require the perpetuation of trade, and trade remains profitable only if the resistance of the native does not become too great or his productivity too low. Similarly, if low-energy peoples are expected to provide manpower for armies, their way of life must not be too much disrupted lest they become unfit for that use.
The great advantages, which those who live near surplus-producing natural resources have gained from high-energy technology, are not always available to induce other people, less advantageously situated, abandon their current methods of production. As has been pointed out, in many areas it would be foolish for the people to attempt the transition, for they would sacrifice surplus energy currently in hand for doubtful returns in the future. There is nothing, then, about high-energy technology itself, that guarantees its universal adoption and it cannot be assumed as a sure base for the universal culture that would legitimatize the power of a world state.
There are other advocates of the world state who are willing to concede that nothing so “materialistic” as technology will serve to provide universal values but who insist that certain great ideas can do this. They view culture as being composed entirely of symbols which are manifestations of these ideas. Some among them hold that the culture of the future revolves around the ideas which they regard as having been solely responsible for capitalism, democracy, and Christianity. Science and technology, though they are frequently regarded as being antithetic to those ideas, are nevertheless included in the pattern of these ideologists; they can “prove” to their own satisfaction that because modern means of communication permit the ideas to be diffused, they must result in a universal culture. There are, however, other people in other parts if the world for whom other ideas, such as communism and Buddhism, provide the answer for the new tomorrow. For these idealists the future of the world is foreordained. It must, first of all, go through some holocaust which will cleanse it of all those who hold the ideas which represent error, after which all the world will live under the beneficent control of the idea which they hold to represent self-evident truth.
Even accepting the premise that any one set of ideas, if universally taught by mass communication, can become the basis for all societies, it does not at present appear probable that the people adhering to any one of the great ideologies now claiming to be universal will be able to secure the controls necessary to impose a single set of values upon the world. Of the contending forces now existing, several have within their power the ability to establish those values which can be created by means of mass communication. Because communication agencies must act from some secure political and geographical base, located at some point or points supplied with resources that include large amounts of energy, it is likely that future control over communication will generally coincide with the existing distribution of power in the world.
To secure uniform results from communication, one agency would have to control all the territory in the world to prevent rival communication agencies from being set up. Moreover, such an agency would have to know what everybody must be made to think and believe in order to act in all the various ways that people must act to keep a high-energy society going. Given the limited knowledge man possesses concerning the necessary relations between ideas, ideals, morals, social structure, and technology, achieving this hardly seems conceivable. So, it seems improbable that “one world” will be created through propaganda and other means of spreading an ideology. If this is true, it cannot be presumed that common values created by a universal ideology will so operate as to induce those who now control large amounts of energy to distribute it and its products equally throughout the earth. Thus, ideology seems to offer no more certainty of creating the conditions necessary to make world government legitimate than does the automatic spread of technology.
Regional bases of energy use
A good deal of evidence has been presented at various points in this work to show that the conditions required to cause a people or culture to move along the continuum from low- to high-energy society involve more than common desire on the part of a people make such a move. It is necessary to ascertain whether or not the energy required to make the transition possible is available and what the values are of those who control that energy. In the case of a region which contains the sources of energy within its boundaries, transition depends on whether dominant groups will aid or prevent the rise to power of those favoring a technology that would unseat many of them. In some areas, it is clear that local resources are inadequate to provide a base either for the transition to high-energy technology or for its subsequent maintenance; here, low-energy technology will continue to prevail unless some outside agency provides the means. In such cases, transition depends on whether groups which have such means can be discovered, whether their values are such as to induce them to make the means available, and whether their power and influence in their own society are sufficient for them to be permitted to carry out the necessary transfers of energy and/or its products.
The recent relative decline of international trade
In England in the nineteenth century, those who wanted to “export capital” were free to do so; that is, they could, in exchange for claims on the future productivity of foreigners, transfer their own claims on current English goods and services to individuals who could exercise the claims to accumulate converters abroad. This is not completely true of England today, nor is it true in many other cases. The size of the share of production going to “capitalists” has been greatly reduced in the course of the development of the modern industrial society. Labor organizations and management now appropriate to themselves much of what once could have been claimed as profits, and governments tax away a large part of this source of investment.
In addition, states regulate foreign investment as part of the implementation of their foreign policies. Domestic groups have put first claim on investable funds by forcing governments to issue debentures, the funds from which go to maintain “full employment” in the industrial state, or to carry out some other function such as investment for national defense. Even the portion then left to the saver cannot always be invested at will, for groups within his own state may have succeeded in having restrictions placed on the import and export of specific goods, which restrictions may reduce the probability that a specific investment can be made to pay.
The attractiveness of an area as a field for investment is also affected by the government of the state of which it is a part. When a government is controlled by groups which seek to preserve the existing order or to reserve future opportunities for their own citizens, it can make investment very unattractive to foreigners. Even where the government itself is friendly, investment is not necessarily secure, for great damage can be done to industrial installations by minorities which have active support among the populations.
Changes in technology itself are also constantly affecting the profitability of foreign trade with low-energy areas. The organic products which once were staples of trade are increasingly subject to competition from products synthesized from raw materials found within the areas currently controlled by industrialized states. Indigo gave way to aniline dyes and nylon has taken much of the market once supplied by silk. It and other synthetics threaten wool and cotton. Shellac, varnish, linseed, and tung oils are being supplanted by synthetic lacquers and plastics. Paper takes the place of jute in some types of bagging. Henequen, in less demand for cordage, must also compete with wire rope and nylon. The preserving function of spices has been rendered obsolete by modern methods of canning and refrigeration, and many flavorings are now made synthetically. Perfumes are being made from coal-tar and petroleum residues. The list is long and growing, and there is a constant decrease in opportunities for profit arising from the differences in plant and animal life that justified trade at a distance in the days of the supremacy of sail.
An increasing proportion of the goods imported by industrial states is in the form of minerals. Since most of these are not found in great quantities in the alluvial plains which support large populations using low-energy technology, mining usually takes place where the native population is small and its members are not able to demand much for their labor or for the exhaustion of “their” natural resources. Minerals found at sites where a considerable portion of the proceeds has to be turned over to the local population must compete for development with rich sources in unpopulated areas and with less rich deposits so located that high-energy technology reduces the economic cost of the product made from them. If foreign ores cost too much, they may be replaced through the concentration and beneficiation of domestic ores, or the discovery of new alloy substitutes. Even if the costs of foreign ores are low enough for transportation to be added without making them higher than the costs of goods from local sources, the fact that local production in the industrial state will help provide “full employment” or meet some other political goal may prevent the export of the capital required to secure the exploitation of distant mineral resources.
Food itself once represented a large part of the product exported from low-energy societies to compensate for their imports. The export of food was frequently possible only because slavery or feudalism or the abundance of land served to create a ratio of land to population such that surplus food was available. Many of these areas have undergone revolutions which destroyed the power of slave owners and landlords and have as a consequence ? witness Japan, Eastern Europe, the West Indies, and parts of the old Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch empires ? seen so great an increase in their populations that the local demand for food now absorbs almost, if not a all, the food that they can produce. In an earlier chapter, we discussed the way agriculture in the United States is changing, so that in the future the amount of food that will be exported will probably decline relative to world population. On the other hand, the increased use of machine cultivation and of irrigation, synthetic fertilizers, new methods of selecting and breeding plants and animals, hybridization, insect and pest control, and other improvements are more easily adopted in the commercial farms of the industrial states than to those of the low-energy societies. These facts have made it possible for some of the Western nations to raise their own food economically if and as the mounting cost of imported food makes this desirable. The fact that dependence on imported food renders a state vulnerable to those who can cut off its food supply has led some states to subsidize their food raisers instead of using comparable amounts of energy to protect and reward distant food-producing areas.
The very high profits which once inspired foreign investment have become increasingly evanescent as the consequences of nationalistic movements have revealed themselves. On the other hand, there are great profits to be had from the sale of new products in the very extensive markets created in the developed states. Increasingly, capital has been invested in or under the tutelage of the states already using large amounts of surplus energy. Some businessmen and the economists who support them seek a return to the Victorian era of “free trade.” But the conditions that then existed no longer prevail. In pursuit of its foreign policy, which set out to bolster up “democratic” and “free enterprise” economies, the government of the United States was forced (as noted earlier) to guarantee “loans” or to grant great infusions of wealth into those states through such devices as the Marshall Plan and its successors.
It is apparent that private investors find investment in low-energy societies less and less appealing. Opposition to continuing subsidy grows. This is not based on ideological premises. International Finance is as much or more an enigma to most Americans as is national finance. Resistance to increased subsidy of foreign industrialization grows from the reaction of specific groups to specific results that they expect will follow from investment in industrial development.
For example, let us look at the alternatives that confronted American producers of steel as the rich iron ores of the Mesabi region of Minnesota declined. One was to abandon mining in the region and import ores from other places where the ore was richer than that which remained in the Mesabi area. The other included the development of new technology that could be used to beneficiate the taconite that was still abundant there. To do so, permitted the continued use of all the capital previously invested there that could be used in getting and handling taconite. It also provided for the survival of public utilities, churches, streets, schools, and privately owned stores, and other business assets as well as residences. How much the decision-makers took into account such assets and how much they considered the potential profit from such action as compared with turning to foreign sources can only be surmised. But, if the decision whether or not to stay with the Mesabi had been adverse, it is highly probable that a governmental corporation that did reckon with the cost of abandonment would have done so even if the ore produced had to be subsidized by taxes, taken in part from the profits gained from the lower ore costs paid by the steel companies that had invested abroad. The Mesabi situation has many counterparts in the industrial states.
The costs of establishing and protecting foreign investment in low-energy societies are reflected in taxes, subsidies, and credit that have largely been advanced by the industrialized countries. Whatever the hope may be for their future liquidation, immediately such costs must be met from the surpluses being produced in currently industrialized states. Within these states, however, increased support is being given to those policies which result in increases in present goods and services. Those able to produce goods with high-energy converters, and without encountering the costs of maintaining long lines of communication and sustaining locally weak or unpopular governments, are more likely to be politically supported than are those who depend on the problematic gains to be made by retaining old trade relations which involve such costs.
For example, rubber, which used to be cited as one of the products which made world trade absolutely necessary, can now be made synthetically. A Texas company producing such rubber can pay wages that permit its workers to educate their children, secure good medical care, provide for their old age, and enjoy automobiles, modern plumbing, telephones, refrigerators, and similar conveniences. Yet it can sell this rubber at a price so low that the Malayan rubber plantation owner, if he is to remain competitive, can only afford to pay his workers much less. If you will recall our earlier discussion about the costs of producing rice in the United States, you will remember that there were high-energy costs in Arkansas, but the price of rice in the world market set the American price, and therefore, the return to the rice farmer. The result was discontented rice farmers in Arkansas. If Malayan rubber is traded for Arkansas rice, neither the rice grower nor the rubber tapper can live very well, for he cannot afford a high price for rice. On the other hand, if there was a switch in Arkansas to say raising beef to be sold to American industrial workers ? thus releasing to other American industries the labor, machinery, and power used in rice farming ? the beef raiser, the Texas rubber producers, and the industrial workers who supplied the housing, refrigerators, automobiles, and other industrial products the rubber workers bought could all enjoy a higher plane of living. This might be disadvantageous to the Malayan, but, in the final analysis, the decision as to whether Americans will continue buying Malayan rubber will be made in the United States, where Texas and Arkansas workers and owners have a vote ? which is true neither of the Malayan worker nor the foreign plantation owner. Unless some strong American groups find very convincing arguments of an ideological or strategic nature which will persuade other American groups to support a policy of subsidizing the Malayan plantation system, it appears probable that domestically produced synthetic rubber will largely replace the natural product in the United States market. The Malayan must find another buyer for natural rubber.
There are a great many parallel situations. In each case, one of the factors necessary for rational choice of policy is the computation of the energy costs and gains of alternative courses of action.
We have repeatedly alluded to the fact that many of the geo-political arrangements that now obtain in the world are a consequence of the distribution of power during an era when the use of organic converters and trade carried on by means of the sailing ship set up a pattern which today is in many cases not the most efficient one for exploiting high-energy technology. The acceptance of these arrangements as being “natural” and final has frequently been tied up with the concept that the supremacy of nationality as a set of values is final and that the center of world power is still to be found in the national states of Western Europe, who thus will be able in the future to make the kind of decisions which they made in earlier centuries. Twice the strength of the United States was added to that of England, France, and other countries to secure the preservation of that pattern. In each case the result was abortive; the outcome was a strengthening of forces outside Europe which made the old pattern even more difficult morally, politically, economically, and militarily to sustain. It has become increasingly apparent that the center of physical power is no longer to be found in Western Europe. It further appears that national supremacy also restricts the legitimate power of the Western states in such ways as to make them very vulnerable before the aggregation of power that can be delivered under the control of the United States or the U.S.S.R. and its satellites. A new power pattern is emerging; the old models are outmoded from the point of view of understanding as well as of administering high-energy society.
The state in the future
Many variables enter into any consideration of the future character of political organization. Neither the survival of the sovereignty of the national state, as it is found in Europe, nor the immediate achievement of world state seems probable, but it is not apparent just what the state of the future will be like. Federal systems like those found in the United States and the British Commonwealth offer models for examination, and the poorly defined relationship that prevails among the peoples of the Soviet Union and their neighbors provides material at least for speculation. These three structures differ in some very important ways. It is not easy to say whether the characteristics that they have in common are the reason for their survival or whether it is the differences between them that make it possible for each to survive in its own environment.
It may be possible, however, to determine what some of the future characteristics of political organization are to be, by starting from the fact that whenever other qualities the state of tomorrow may have, by definition it must control sufficient energy to carry out its edicts in the face of resistance or the threat of resistance. If we trace energy back to its sources, we can estimate which are the possible geographical bases for the organization of states actually capable of generating power enough to sustain them. Given an area (or several areas combined) that seems to offer the basis for a viable state based on high-energy technology, we can, thus, look at the way the inhabitants are acting and determine whether or not such a state is likely to emerge.
The very preliminary observations made in this book indicate some of the conditions required for the transition to high-energy society; research along the lines here indicated will show whether or not the necessary steps are likely to be taken. The pertinent facts will include population trends in terms of numbers, composition, distribution, and rate of growth, the rate of accumulation of converters, and evidences of the existence of the values necessary for the emergence of new social structures which can effectively organize high-energy society. These represent limits imposed by social and biological factors, as distinguished from the technological and geographic factors that are necessary if any region is to adopt and sustain a large flow of surplus energy. My thesis in this book is, of course, centered around the limits that are imposed on societies by the size and the nature of the energy available, but it should be clear by now that those limits themselves may, in some cases, depend on the presence of other factors than the existence of fuel or other natural resources in the region being studied. It is highly probable, if what I have discussed in the earlier part of this chapter is true, that many areas where the raw materials needed to exist, the cost involved in making them available in a viable social system are so excessive, the returns so limited, that these sources will never be tapped unless a cataclysmic destruction of the populations now “native” to those countries occurs.
This is a chapter from Energy and Society: The Relationship Between Energy, Social Change, and Economic Development (e-book).
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