George Walford: How It Began

Only the expedient ideology has shown itself universally indigenous. The others may have originated independently in more than one location, but their presence over most of the world has to be ascribed to transmission, evidenced by the spread of the activities indicating their presence. The ideology of principle / domination, bringing with it agriculture and the state, can be said with some confidence to have originated in the Fertile Crescent and spread from there, while precision, after some transient early appearances elsewhere, including a brilliant flash in ancient Athens, located itself in western Europe. This has meant that only there were its successors, the eidodynamic ideologies, able to emerge without external stimulation.

For the greater part of the world the ideologies beyond expediency came as responses to external stimuli rather than as wholly native growths, and it is the capacity for this response, rather than emergence de novo locally, that entitles us to treat them as the fruit of innate abilities. The pattern of events suggests that ideological development was not inevitable; the greater part of the world, including Europe, gives us no ground for thinking that principle / domination ever would have developed beyond its early appearances in big-men and chiefs had it not been for the stimulation (usually unintentional) provided by the first empires. Much the same can be said, with the necessary changes, for the appearance, later, of precision activities; over most of the world these came as a response to western Europe.

The European contribution provides the ideological basis for sophisticated technologies, for the internal combustion engine, chemical fertilizers, developed grains, atomic power and parliamentary democracy, and these with their consequences fill our screens and newspapers, tempting us to regard them as the important things. We could do with a new proverb, about the man with a saucer in front of his eyes who said there was no sun. The really great advances we owe to ideologies which flourished long before Europe had come out of the primeval forest: community, speech and the use of fire to universal expediency; writing, agriculture and the state to principle / domination from the Middle East.

from Ideological Commentary 57, August 1992.