Monday, May 4, 2020

4/4/20 Piketty “Capital & Ideology” p. 52

This blog has been disused for a while. Hardly anybody ever read it, so I decided to hardly ever write for it. But now I’ve decided to use it, for a while at least,  to start posting comments on things I am reading, copied from my notebooks. These are not edited, and particularly not made to function as stand-alone essays. I.e., I have not tried to paraphrase the arguments from the books that I may be discussing. The first book I’m doing this with is Thomas Piketty’s “Capital and Ideology”. Page references are to the 2020, hardcover, English language edition, published by Belknap Press.

4/4/20 Piketty “Capital & Ideology” p. 52

Sometimes I think Piketty does not know how much of historian he is not.

I’ve been trying to project his tripartite model onto the classical, and, to a lesser extent, the ancient world.  Greece and (pre-Christian) Rome didn’t really have a priestly class. They didn’t really have a military class, either. The main categories were citizen, non-citizen free people, and slaves. In later Roman society, the military was professionalized, as was the (Christian) priesthood, but powerful landowners stood apart, not primarily military nor priestly (nor clerical, intellectual, or administrative). The military was not a socially privileged class in the way of the Medieval nobility, although it could provide a path, for some, to wealth and political power, even supreme civil power.

It seems to me the trifunctional society in Europe rose from the barbarian invasions. The ruling class was, perforce, military, since the conquerors consisted of a numerically small military elite. The clerical class they inherited by their adoption of Christianity, and the clerics were useful to the rulers because, (1) they believed their souls needed saving, and, (2) they needed scribes and clerks (and disdained to do that work, themselves, and, (3) because they needed some respectable class to absorb second, and especially third, fourth, etc. sons in a society committed to non-partible inheritance (although that wasn’t true in all parts of Europe, I guess.)

For the ancient (Mediterranean) world, I don’t know enough. Based on what I do know, the trifunctional society MAY have fit at least some cultures in the Middle East. Not sure about Minoan and Mycenean societies. It seems a stretch to apply it to Egypt.

May have fit China, Japan, Korea better, especially if the clerical class is understood to be a class of educated administrators, and not necessarily religious.  India, okay probably, although the caste system was more complex. [He actually has a much more thorough discussion of this, later in the book.]

I think it’s a stretch at best to try and fit this “trifunctional” model on the Muslim world, also. Maybe. Not sure.

I mean, I don’t know enough about all these societies, but based on what I do know, trying to divide their social arrangements into these three specific classes seems to do violence to the facts.

[See additional comments made on 4/12/20.]

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