The goal of this chapter is to show how the larger ecological variables largely set the patterns within which our selected nations worked towards industrialized modernity. Those nations lucky enough to become democracies did so not because of their superior cultures, moral values, or people. They did so because favorable ecological forces produced favorable political forces that made it possible to democratize. This approach is a much superior one to alternative perspectives, which all are tinged by racism and culturism.

The chart summarizes the key factors affecting national moves towards democracy or other alternatives. (See chart below.) From the chart it is apparent that the same political difficulties facing the various nations during feudalism are the same difficulties affecting their political course through the process of industrialization. In other words, the degree of unity or disunity largely determines the ease or difficulty of making the transition towards democracy.


Industrialism itself is the application of energy-harnessing inventions aggregated in factories to produce mass quantities of manufactured goods. Since the start of the movement in the eighteenth century, the industrial revolution has become the primary social, political, and moral problem facing the developing nations. Many nations were able to break with feudalism and establish a market-oriented society with a large class of merchants and traders. Then industrialization created a class of entrepreneurs working to establish various types of factories. Along with the growth of factories came the growth in the numbers of factory workers. This group of people became so large, and their ways of life so different from that of the farmers, that they became a working "class."

Karl Marx's description of the underlying problem in capitalist industrialization was the correct one. There was indeed a growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals, as large firms began to swallow small ones. This was not only a serious economic problem, but it created serious social and political problems as well. Socially, the problem was one of considerable exploitation of the working class in the sense that capitalists forced men, women, and children to work long hours under very unhealthy, back-breaking conditions. Politically, the problem was that a few wealthy men could virtually buy any legislation favorable to themselves or to their businesses.

In the absence of any form of regulation of business activity, the entrepreneurial class became unprecedentedly wealthy, while the workers were subject to extremely ill treatment. For those nations, such as England and France, that were relatively advanced by the eighteenth century, the problem was that the working class became so large that these usually stable societies now had to face the prospect of a working class revolution. For those eighteenth century nations not so economically advanced, the problem was how to overcome political obstacles that prevented the establishment of industrialization. Even today, many nations have not been able to overcome these political obstacles and have remained economically backward.

The transition to industrialization and democracy is never an easy one. In the histories of all nations there is considerable violence. None of the countries, not even England, went through the processes of modernization and industrialization without violence. Just as with feudalism, those nations having the easiest path from industrialism to democracy are characterized by considerable political unity. This is true of England and France where a good deal of modernization had taken placed before the onset of the industrial revolution. The worst scenario applied to that nation least unified politically, namely India. India's present-day democratic government can be traced directly to the unity imposed by the British occupation of that nation. And yet, the weak role of the state under democracy has been a definite limitation on the rate of India's industrialization.

Excluding England and France, the other nations had not modernized very far when the industrial revolution started. Therefore, they found themselves falling rapidly behind England and France. In order to play catch up, the governments of these nations took a more substantial role in fostering industrialism. Japan, too socially and politically unified, turned to state fascism. The other nations were less politically unified. Nevertheless, the German state played a crucial role in the industrialization of Germany. Unfortunately, the many wars of the Germans created the conditions for the rise of fascism under Adolph Hitler. Through the efforts of such monarchs as Peter and Catherine the Great, the Russian nation made some progress towards modernization, but Russia still found itself considerably behind the west. In this situation, one would expect the state to take a more active role in helping to industrialize the nation. Unfortunately, the system inherited from the earlier Mongolian occupations made the Russian state more interested in repression than in fostering industrialization. The end result was a revolution that led to a communist state. Given how far behind peasant China was compared to the west, the Chinese government would naturally take an active role in industrialization. It did so, and used the communist ideology to justify the necessity for centralized rule.

England provides an example of a relatively smooth transition through the industrial revolution to full democracy with all classes having the right to vote. As we have seen, one of the reasons why England made the transition was that it was a relatively democratic country before the onset of the industrial revolution, with an egalitarian tradition going back to the thirteenth century.

No industrializing country, including Britain, was prepared for the problems accompanying the phenomenal growth of the working class during industrialization. A great deal of class strife divided Great Britain. Indeed, there was considerable resistance from the upper class and the bourgeoisie to the demands of the workers. This resistance left a legacy of resentment among members of the British working class that still exists today. England, however, was able to meet the challenge of industrialization and adjust to it, keeping its democratic government.

As far back as the 1820s, Britain had embarked on the first stage of those political reforms that were to make her a modern democratic state. The First Reform Bill of 1832 actually increased the number of voters by about 50 percent so that virtually all the middle class got the vote. The Second Reform Bill came in 1867, introduced by the Tory leader in the Commons, Benjamin Disraeli. The bill gave the vote to householders, who were settled men owning or paying rent on their dwellings. Now that most of the working class had the vote, they promptly turned the Tories out of office in the 1868 general election.

The Liberal party introduced the reforms of 1884 and 1885, which gave the vote to all except lodgers and women. Another step forward came in 1911 when the House of Lords lost the power to veto legislation that did not specifically appropriate money. Then, in 1918, a reform bill gave the vote to all men over twenty-one and to women of the age of thirty and over. And, finally, the last barrier to completely free voting came in 1928 when a bill gave women the vote at age twenty-one. Following the great world depression of the 1930s, Britain established a welfare state committed to meeting many of the basic needs of its people.

Revolutionary Development: France

In contrast to England, the forces of the ancient regime in France were so strong that only a revolution could remove them. This, however, left a legacy of bitterness that exacerbated the conflicts that still existed in that nation. Moreover, the French revolution of 1789 was not immediately successful in bringing reforms. In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte came to power, and he eventually appointed himself Emperor of France. The Napoleonic wars finally ended in 1815 with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. The end result was a thoroughly frightened continental Europe determined to stop the spread of revolutionary fever.

In post-Napoleonic France, the Bourbons returned. King Louis XVIII (1814-1824), a younger brother of Louis XVI, became the nation's ruler. Of course, the royalists knew that they could not revive the ancient regime the way it used to be, so the new king accepted for the Charter of 1814 that established a constitutional monarchy. And yet, fewer than 100,000 of France's thirty millions had the right to vote. The next king, Charles X (1824-1830), aroused great opposition when he tried to turn back the clock on reforms. The July Revolution of 1830 resulted in the replacement of Charles X by Louis Philippe, the Duke of Orele'ans. The new regime enlarged the suffrage to slightly more than 200,000 Frenchmen, but these were largely landowners, investors, and businessmen.

Further reforms came in 1848 with the forced resignation of King Louis Philippe. The following election was a landmark in European history for almost the entire adult male population voted. This, however, did not end the divisions within French society. The first large-scale outbreak of class warfare appeared in the summer with nearly 15,000 people killed. In reaction to this horror, France became a virtual military dictatorship.

The French designed a formal constitution for the Second French Republic, formed in November 1848. The elections in December resulted in Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of the great Napoleon, capturing the presidency. The new president made himself Emperor Napoleon III. Fortunately, under the new emperor, political life in France gradually took on a pattern of parliamentary government, but disastrous defeats of the nation's military forces during the Franco-Prussian War put an end to the so-called Liberal Empire.

They say the third time is a charm. France's first two republics had ended in a Napoleonic empire. The Third Republic began in 1870 after a Parisian mob forced a rump legislative assembly to decree the fall of the Second Empire. The new creation was just in time to see the fall of Paris to the Germans in January 1871. Nevertheless, the constitution of 1875 created a strong enough government to withstand further political crises.

Compared to the relatively calm politics of England, France was a virtual cauldron. Its internal differences continued to plague its politics. This is reflected in the greater number of political parties in France. This political disunity further harmed the French nation so that even in the twentieth century France remained a land of small farm-owning peasants and small family-controlled industries.


India is an example of one of the least fortunate nations in the world, and its present political difficulties reflects this. Great Britain dominated India starting with the British victory in 1757 at the Battle of Plassey, where the forces of the East India Company led by Robert Clive defeated the nawab of Bengal. Given the terrible disunity of Indian society, British occupation did have the fortunate consequence of providing some administrative and linguistic unity. Indeed, India's democratic government is the direct result of the British occupation.

In 1917 the British issued a declaration on Indian self- government. To put further pressure on the British, through the years 1920 to 1922, Mahatma Gandhi led a noncooperation movement against the occupiers. This was followed in the years 1930 to 1931 by the civil disobedience movement. The clouds of oncoming war, and then World War II itself, put the independence movement on hold. Following the end of the war, in 1947 Britain granted India and Pakistan their independence. The following year India suffered through the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Assassination still plagues India with the more recent assassinations of both Mrs. Gandhi and her son.

India has been able to continue her democratic form of government, despite the disunity of the country. Nevertheless, there remain so many fundamental divisions within Indian society that the nation is still mired in economic and political stagnation. Perhaps if the government had more power to carry out modernization, India would be further along in its course of industrialization.


We last left Germany as a much divided nation -- split by religious and ethnic differences among its various princely states. German unification soon changed this. Unfortunately for the world, Germany's path toward modernization resulted in near world disaster.

The man most responsible for German unification was Bismarck, who towered over Prussia from 1862 to 1871. This member of the Prussian landed nobility (the Junkers) tirelessly worked for Prussian domination over the non-Austrian German states.

In 1861 William I (1861-1888) became the king of Prussia. The new ruler found just what he was looking for in Bismarck for here was a man who did not care for the niceties of democratic government and parliaments. The king appointed Bismarck to be prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. Again and again, Bismarck dissolved the parliaments, keeping the more democratic forces in a constant state of confusion. In 1870, following the German victory in the Franco-Prussian war, Bismarck saw King William I of Prussia proclaimed Emperor of Germany in the great Hall of Mirrors in Louis XIV's palace at Versailles. Bismarck became chancellor of the German Empire from 1871 to 1890. In 1890, when he successfully competed in a power struggle with William II, the emperor commanded Bismarck to resign.

The fact that it was the Kingdom of Prussia that master-minded German unification largely determined the militarism, the authoritarianism, indeed, the whole social and cultural tone of the Germany of 1914. The authoritarian culture of Germany, once beset by defeat in World War I, and consequent depression and runaway inflation, resulted in the rise to power of a former corporal in the German army, Adolph Hitler. Supported by the middle class and some farmers, Hitler established a system of government known as national socialism. Once in power, the fascists began eliminating the working class opposition of socialists and communists. Hitler then led Germany into the Second World War. Following the end of the war, the victorious allied forces established a democratic system of government in Germany. This democratic government still continues to this day. Thus, it took defeat in war and forced reorganization by the Allied forces to overcome Germany's inability to solve its many internal divisions and set up a democratic government.


The case of Japan illustrates the dangers of a society that is too homogeneous. This does not mean, however, that there was little violence in Japanese history. In fact, there was considerable violence as feudalistic group fought against feudalistic group. Nevertheless, when the final victorious feudalistic group came to power, it was very united with little internal opposition to its plans for forced industrialization. Instead of opposition between nobles and kings, the nobles benefited by the deification of the king as a living god. Given this, resistance to authority was not only treasonous, but blasphemy also.

The victorious feudalistic group in Japan established the Tokugawa regime, which lasted from 1600 to 1868. During this feudalistic period, the country became divided into fiefs (hans), each supervised by the Tokugawa, but governed autonomously by a lord (daimyo).

In 1609, the Dutch established a trading post at Hirado, an island off the north west coast of Kyushu. (The island is now an almost indistinguishable part of Nagasaki.) By 1617, the Tokugawa rulers decided to close their lands entirely to foreign dangers. They literally sealed off Japan, with just a few exceptions, for more than two centuries.

Japan enjoyed considerable peace during its two centuries of isolation, but the nation fell behind the west in terms of economic development. This did not change until 1853 when the American, Commodore Matthew Perry, paid a four-ship visit to Tokyo Bay. By this time, the basic political and economic structure of Japan had long needed overhauling. The feudalistic oligarchy was very unpopular because of its ineffective government, its greedy tax-collection, and the resulting economic misery. Discontent grew especially among two important social classes, the urban middle class of merchants and craftsmen and the samurai, a military caste now threatened with impoverishment and political eclipse. These social pressures, more than outside western influence, forced the modernization of Japan.

In 1866, the warriors of the Choshu han (at the southern tip of Honshu) defied the shogunate on the ruling as regards foreigners. The resultant military action of the shogun failed, and in 1868 the Tokugawa regime ended. The Tokugawa shogun handed back his authority to the emperor. A coalition of the Choshu, Satsuma, and Tosa hans announced the "restoration" of imperial rule.

The new Meji regime came to power in 1868, marking the beginning of Japan's modernization. The Emperor Meiji was still a boy, so the samurai governed in his name. In 1873, the new administration stripped the warrior caste of its prestige and power by granting rather small stipends and by decreeing universal military service. In 1876 the government ordered the samurai not to wear swords, the badges of their superiority. Some of the samurai resisted, but the new conscript army bloodily crushed the rebellion. It took only nine years to deprive the samurai of all their special privileges, and Japan started the great change that industrialized the society. This, however, did not mean that the samurai no longer had any influence on Japanese government, as we shall soon see.

The new regime had used the slogan of "repel the barbarians," but the new rulers realized they did not have the weapons to resist the west. So they decided to industrialize. The government subsidized factories and, when these were successful, turned them over to private enterprise.

By 1889, a reaction set in to the foreigners who had helped teach the Japanese how to industrialize. The government dismissed many foreign teachers. In order for the new oligarchy to obtain international recognition, the emperor bestowed a constitution on his subjects, with a bicameral diet composed of a noble House of Peers and an elected House of Representatives. The architects of these changes, however, were not democrats. They were aristocrats, ambitious young samurai, supported by allies from the business world and determined to make Japan over from above as they wished. A small group of aristocrats dominated the emperor and the state. The ministry was responsible not to the diet, but to the emperor, and hence to the dominant ruling class.

The militancy of the new rulers led to unfortunate results. In 1931, they took the first step to World War II by invading Manchuria. The course of events eventually led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. The eventual defeat of the Japanese allowed the United States to rework Japanese society into the modern democratic system the country now has. Thus, Japan, like Germany, only became a democratic government through military defeat and subsequent forced governmental reorganization.


Russia is an example of a nation that made a terrible political mistake. The creation of the military-service gentry among the nobles led to a fundamental split between this group and the more traditional nobility group. This in turn created a disastrous division among the nobles, thereby letting the tsar dominate Russian politics.

Despite the efforts of Peter the Great (1689-1725) and Catherine the Great (1762-1796) to modernize Russia, the basic structure and culture of the nation had not fundamentally changed. In fact, Catherine herself had turned her back on the Enlightenment philosophy she had once espoused because she feared the possible revolutionary consequences for Russia of the French Revolution of 1789.

Depending on the good will of the Russian nobility, Empress Catherine could not touch one of the most fundamental supports of Russian feudalism, the institution of serfdom. In the Charter of 1785, the nobles received exemption from military service and taxation and secured absolute mastery over the fate of their serfs and their estates. It was not until 1861 that the Russian serfs gained emancipation. But the end of serfdom did not bring an end to the misery of the former serfs. The commune system took the place of the proprietor, and a form of economic slavery replaced serfdom.

The failure to adjust willingly to the currents of the times, and the attempt to preserve autocratic rule produced unparalleled discontent in Russia. The many military disasters that befell the Russian forces in World War I added to the discontent of the Russian people. Nicholas II (1894-1917) proved to be the last of the tsars, for in 1917 dissatisfaction bubbled over into revolution. The Russian revolution involved a number of different classes, but it was definitely an urban revolution as opposed to the peasant-like nature of the later Chinese communist revolution. The Russian communists seized power in the confusion that arose during the revolution. The new Soviet leader Nikolai Lenin immediately withdrew Russia from participation in World War I.

The Soviet government proved just as paranoid and inflexible as virtually all Russian governments before it. The mass eliminations of opposing forces under Joseph Stalin were particularly brutal. Stalin and other Soviet leaders used the power of the state, just as Germany and Japan had, to industrialize the nation. This helped enable the Soviet Union to repel the German invasion of their country during the Second World War.

With heavy military expenditures and by a massively inflexible party bureaucracy, the Soviet economy was not able to keep pace with the economically more dynamic west. This led to such economic stagnation that the Soviet leadership under Micahel Gorbachev decided to abandon the centrally controlled economic system for a more market-driven economy and a democratic political system. The terrible economic plight of the former Soviet Union, combined with the difficulties involved in switching to a capitalist economic system and to democracy, led to a breakup of the union, largely along ethnic lines. Russia still faces great difficulties ahead under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin.


Like Russia, the creation of a separate privileged group in Chinese society weakened the ability of the nobles to offset the powers of the emperor. The mandarin class of scholarly bureaucrats often worked at odds with the nobles, yielding in domination by the king. Imperialism, however, added an extra dose of difficulties in the path of China's attempt to modernize.

About the time the first Europeans were setting up permanent trade relations with China, the last of the "barbarian" conquests took place. Early in the seventeenth century, Mongolian tribes established a state of their own in eastern Manchuria to the north of China proper. In 1644 the Mongols seized the Chinese capital of Beijing and established the Manchu dynasty that lasted until 1911.

China's need to cope with the increasingly aggressive demands of western traders overwhelmed her attempts to face the problems of modernization. In the late eighteenth century, European merchants in China, prevented from engaging in the free trade they sought, took matters into their own hands. British merchants began supplying Chinese smugglers with small quantities of opium from India. Thousands of Chinese became addicted. By 1795, British merchants imported around 1,000 cases of opium and by the late 1830s, 40,000 cases. This led to the Opium War of 1841-1842, which resulted in the opening of China to further western domination and exploitation.

The destruction caused by civil wars and insurrections, combined with frequent famines and floods, resulted in the stagnation or regression of the agrarian economy in China in the second half of the nineteenth century. There was little help from the merchants, who had grown rich by trading with the foreigners. The merchants lacked enthusiasm because the interest rates for industrial projects were only eight to ten percent, which did not match the annual profits of 20 to 50 percent that they could make in the more traditional investments such as agricultural loans, older Chinese banks, pawnshops giving loans against security, and land (Gernet 1982:571). Furthermore, there was neither a strong central government nor regular resources in China, and Chinese agriculture was in no condition to support a thrust toward modernization.

In June 1900, what came to be known as the Boxer Rebellion started. This was an attempt to expel the "foreign devils," but combined western forces put down the rebellion. The forces of the Empress Dowager were so weak that she had to grant permission to the western navies to patrol China's territorial waters.

The Manchu dynasty came to an end in 1911. Starting in that year, the leader Sun Yat-sen established the Republic of China. Sun Yat-sen died in 1926. His brother-in-law, Chiang Kai-shek, led a coup against the government. Once having achieved power, the new leader proceeded to eliminate communist influences in the government. The 1931 Japanese invasion of China put further struggle with the communists on the back burner, as both sides turned to fight the invaders.

After World War II, civil war broke out between republican and communist forces. In 1949, the communists, under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung, overthrew the republic. This was not a revolution carried out by the working class, but rather another traditional Chinese peasant revolt. This revolt, however, was of a different sort, for the leadership was committed to the communist philosophy and the modernization of China. This was indeed something new under the sun for China. Due to the nature of the rebellion, and indeed the nature of Chinese society, the Chinese communist government was very different from that of the Soviet Union. For one thing, it proved to be much more flexible than the Soviet style of communism. The works of Marx had to be modified to fit the needs of the Chinese way of doing things. China is still a communist society, although slowly adapting to marketing forces.


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