Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Grand Scheme of Things (Concepts and Theories)

Over the course of the past year, I have been developing a theory behind dynastology that may bring its importance to the forefront of certain circles of the field of social science. Ultimately, I argue that dynasties are an essential building-block toward the creation of a republic. That's right, I just jumped from a monarchy to a monarch-less republic in a single sentence! The idea came to me while I was pondering things for many long hours at Buck Bay mini golf at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, my current employment until I finally get my dream job, whatever that may be. Anyway, let's discuss the idea that I formulated. Thanks goes to my anthropology class for first putting this nugget into my brain.

Basically, government forms over time to suit the people that are governed. Certain styles suit different peoples, but all eventually lead to a republic. Once a republic is born, it can revert back to other states, but at some point, all governments will achieve a republic, if only for a while:

Governmental transition from nomadic communalism to a republic:

  • Nomadic tribes settle down, eventually causing authority to settle on a
  • Big Head, who is elected to lead aspects of the society until he becomes a
  • Chieftain, who maintains the authority of a Big Head full-time and may eventually establish a
  • Monarchy, where he is the ultimate authority in the society, eventually passing the title to his heir which creates a
  • Dynasty, wherein a single family rules, which helps to centralize the state even while the dynasty slowly grows corrupt, which leads to an
  • Autocratic government, which breeds contempt among the people, leading to an effort to rein in power, either by revolution, which can cause a
  • Republic, wherein the people rule directly or through intermediaries chosen for the task, or through constitutional reforms by elected officials within the monarchy, who slowly grow in power to eventually make a
  • Constitutional monarchy, which eventually finds the monarch to be unnecessary, thereby forming a
  • Republic

Storming of the Bastille, Paris, France, 1789

As you can see, the dynasty is the single most important part in this transition from nomadic tribe to a republic. A single corrupt leader, monarch or dictator, can be dealt with and a new one will take his or her place. But a dynasty is semi-permanent and slowly looses the loyalty of the people through centralization, corruption, and decadence. As you can see in the French Revolution, people grow weary of decadence and may react violently if it continues for too long. Even in the American colonies, which were colonies of Britain, the people reacted to the increasing centralization of power in London and the corruption rampant in the colonial governments. In both cases, the autocratic governments were not listening to the people, and so the people rebelled, overthrew the dynasty (not just the monarchy, but the entire system of inherited power) and installed a republic.

Other countries have taken different paths. Most eastern European states such as Greece, Yugoslavia, and Romania had kings during the first half of the 20th century. But one -by -one, the governments asked the monarchs to step down, despite their considerable limitations as constitutional monarchs. Ultimately, the people fear that a constitutional monarch will take on autocratic powers, so they depose that monarch before it's too late.

My theory further states that a predictable cycle develops after a republic is declared:

  • The Republic grows stagnant and corrupt, causing the people to become needy for a centralizing force, which can allow for a
  • Dictator to come to power, often in the form of an autocratic president or prime minister, who can either return the country (voluntarily or forcibly) to a
  • Republic or constitutional monarchy, or take on regal bearings and turn it into a
  • Monarchy, which then repeats the process above.

The Rikstag Parliament of the Weimar Republic after the Nazis gained a majority, 1933
Thus the system can continue. Spain and Germany followed this exact path. Both were republics in the 1930s but dictators rose to power—Franco and Hitler—who kept some of the republican systems in tact but destroyed the very things that made it a republic: the democratic power of the people! When Franco finally died, he returned the country to the previous dynasty in the form of Juan Carlos, expecting the grateful king to continue Franco's dictatorship. Instead, Juan Carlos slowly -but -surely restored the democracy of the state and became a constitutional monarch, largely voluntarily. Hitler, on the other hand, never seemed to have planned for a continuation of his "reign". When he died and the allies occupied Germany, both governments—the Americans’ and the Soviets’—installed republican governments. The Soviets, of course, installed a "People's Republic" which was mostly another dictatorship under the vassalage of Moscow, while the other Allies installed a true republic, which eventually outlasted its neighbor and unified the state. In both cases, a democracy returned.

Yet how important is the dynasty to this system? Well, it certainly is not that necessary once a country becomes a republic. But many countries have yet to reach that point and countries can always reinstall a monarch years (or centuries) later. In fact, many European countries have large pro-monarchy parties that wish to reinstall a previous dynasty as constitutional monarchs, since they do provide nice figureheads to stick on a coin. Ultimately, the dynasty is what forms the country. It's up to the country to keep it that way. Think of the development of Europe during the past 1000 years. Spain began as hardly anything, yet piece -by -piece, mostly through dynastic marriages in the House of Ivrea and Trastamara, it became one large country, even inheriting Portugal for a spell. France is another amalgam of different territories unified through the dynastic politics and marriages of the House of Capet. Italy, on the other hand, was conquered by the House of Savoy and forced into becoming one country, but the dynasty was still the glue that held it together. And Germany, a quite populous state today, began as more than 300 micro- states that slowly were inherited or conquered by a few larger states before being ultimately consumed by Prussia and the House of Hohenzollern.
Territorial Divisions of Modern-Day France

Austria, Russia and the Ottoman Empires, perhaps, provide the saddest cases in point. All were formed from a great diversity of peoples that could not get along entirely yet somehow did. The dynasties were the glue that held them together. Yet the House of Habsburg's war against the Allies in 1914 brought it into conflict with its Slav and Magyar populations, ripping the nation to pieces. The House of Romanov's oppression of the people finally went too far when the people were forced to fight in Europe for something they did not understand. And the House of Osman spent so many centuries backstabbing and bickering, that the people didn't know whom to follow anymore, so they just up and started their own states. In all three cases, the governments were overthrown by the people because the dynasty that had formed them had let them down. This is what happens to dynasties: they are there to let the people down. A monarch can be replaced, but a dynasty is a part of the country itself. When a dynasty falls, the government changes.
The Former States of the Austrian Empire, 1914 and 1994 (Russia should read Ukraine)

 The last thing I discovered in this theory is where former colonial states belong. Most of them are technically republics but with varying degrees of dictatorships and autocracies in place. That is because they never were able to develop through the progression. The West came in during the 18th and 19th centuries and simply replaced the native governments with their own. Thus, while many of the African and South American governments were anything from nomadic leaderless tribes to autocratic dynastic states, they never made their own jump to a republic. The republic was forced on them. Thus, they skipped a step...or five. A country cannot do well in the world today if it skipped steps. The more steps it skips, the more likely it will fail. That explains why so many African countries do not function like proper republics: they never experienced the transition from their former governmental type to their current. And, in most cases, they never had a dynastic monarchy to unify the country into one people. While the Bretons, and Provençal and Lorrainers and Burgundians and Gascons are all today self-proclaimed as French, the many tribes of South Africa do not see themselves as South Africans, rather they see themselves as Zulus or Boers or some other tribe. They are not a stable nation because they never were built up by a dynasty to rally around.
Tribal Divisions in Nigeria and Cameroon. Note where the international borders are placed.
Thus, the dynasty is the glue that unites the people, even once the dynasty itself is gone. Today, I very much doubt anyone in Germany would claim that they are Germans because of the House of Hohenzollern. But that dynastic house glued Germany together and holds it there today. It was they who made the German ethnicity a reality. And it was the House of Hanover that made the American ethnicity a reality, because it was THAT dynasty's politics that forced our creation.

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