Abortive Paradigmata

4 January 2011


In this rough timeline divided in increments of two thousand years, the traditional dates of Christian historiography are on the left, and dates in terms of “Before Present” (BP) are on the right.

In The Next Axial Age I characterized axialization as the process that occurs across diverse civilizations within a common historical paradigm when that historical paradigm achieves a level of maturity that allows civilizations of the paradigm in question to deliver themselves of their definitive formulations of the myths of these civilizations. In my expositions of integral history I have divided up human history into the nomadic paradigm, the agricultural paradigm, and the industrial paradigm (and I have further suggested potential paradigmata to come in Three Futures).

In The Axialization of the Nomadic Paradigm I argued that the axialization of the nomadic paradigm came very late in the development of that historical paradigm, that the axialization of the agricultural paradigm came relatively late in the development of agricultural civilizations but still relatively much more rapidly (by an order of magnitude) than the axialization of the nomadic paradigm, and I postulated that the axialization of the industrial paradigm will come — if it does come — an order of magnitude sooner than the axialization of agricultural civilizations.

If the next transition to a new integral paradigm — be it singularization, pastoralization, extraterrestrialization, or something else entirely — occurs before the industrial paradigm reaches maturity and the industrialized civilizations are able to produce their definitive account of themselves in mythological terms, then there is a sense in which we can say that the industrial paradigm is (or would be) an abortive paradigm. One could refer to an Aristotelian natural teleology as implying that an historical paradigm achieves its fulfillment in axialization, and without achieving this axialization — in the case of abortive paradigmata — an historical paradigm could be said to have failed in the only way in which history could be said to fail anything.

With or without this evaluative judgment on the success or failure of a division of integral history (i.e., with or without natural teleology in respect to axialization), a distinction between fulfilled and unfulfilled paradigmata is useful: some divisions of integral history reach maturity in axialization, while others may not. This in itself is interesting, and may be the ground of a further distinction. In The Fractal Structure of Exponential Growth I discussed the increasingly rapid pace of historical change. If, in the future, one division of integral history follows the next with such rapidity that none come to full fruition in axialization, then we can made a broad historical distinction between those integral divisions that did come to fruition in axialization prior to the “speed up” of history, and those after the “speed of” of history that never come to fruition, and which take with them their modus vivendi of the masses into oblivion without ever leaving a definitive account of themselves. This, too, could be taken as a particular mode of historical being — a new kind of division in integral history — and for this I do not yet have a name. I will be thinking it over until I come up with a name for this potential future — and when I do, Three Futures will need to be revised as Four Futures — but even if I don’t yet have a name for it, the idea of it is clear enough.

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2 Responses to “Abortive Paradigmata”

  1. southwerk said

    Have a happy new year! I will visit you regularly and advertise your posts when I can.
    James Pilant

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