Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Neil Faulkner on the Roman Empire

Insurrection in the cities of Iraq. Mass resistance across Palestine. Foreign troops bogged down and facing defeat. A crisis for western imperialism in the Middle East. This may sound like a description of the world today. But the date was 117 AD and the policies of bull-headed Roman emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) had set the region alight.

More where that came from here. Incidently, Neil Faulkner gave what I thought was a pretty damn convincing talk at this years Marxism festival on how one needed a combination of the Australian archeologist Gordon Childe, the Marxist historian G.E.M. de Ste Croix, author of Class Struggles in the Ancient Greek World and Tony Cliff to understand how a combination of brutal class struggle from above driven by the dynamics of military competition shaped society in the ancient and indeed mediaeval world, but how what Childe called 'progressive social evolution' ensured a level of human progress, against the grain of the imperialism and barbarism of slavery and serfdom, as it were. I think that was kind of the basis of his argument, off the top of my head (apologies if this is wildly wrong). I was convinced, though slightly less so after the discussion which stressed the crucial issue of concrete historical context and the difficulties of making a grand narrative cover the distance of time and space in the way Faulkner was attempting to do. And truth to say, I had developed even more doubts with Faulkner's argument after reading this review of Faulkner's book Rome; Empire of the Eagles by Steve Roskams, which defends the central importance of the profits from slavery to the ancient world. Still, its all good stuff...I'm off now to watch The Dark Knight [not sure why you need to know this last bit, but anyway]...

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