Formational and informational conceptions of history
The formational conceptions of history are most spread among economists. They are based on the purely outer (material) factors. The typical of the formational conceptions are those pointing out concepts of basis and superstructure as key-ones (e. g., the Marxist theory). Basis is a set of the producing relations compounding the economic structure of society and determining the system of the ideology forms of the social life. Basis supposes a superstructure necessary for its providing. Superstructure is a set of ideas and ideology relations together with the institutes and organizations embodying them, proper for the regarded society. Basis and superstructure form the so-called socio-economic formation or the social system type considered in the unity of all its aspects: the mode of producing, the state of science and art, the entire diversity of all the intellectual sphere, the state of family and everyday-life relations and the whole way of life .
The formational approach is convenient first of all for the analysis of the economic history and no wonder that the main representatives of it are economists or economists-historians (for example, the French historian, specialist in the field of the economic history F. Braudel the author of the famous 3-volumed work “The Material Civilization, Economics and Capitalism in 15─18 Centuries”
The informational theories of history began to appear nearer to the end of the 20th century. Their appearing was connected with the informational technologies development. In 1984 the book by an American philosopher and sociologist E. Toffler under the title “The Third Wave” was published at first. It opened the way to informational theories in the philosophy of history. According to Toffler’s theory, the human civilization passes in its development three stages or waves: agrarian, industrial and informational civilization. Primitive cultures were referred to the so-called pre-civilization stage. Every wave of civilization has its own peculiarities and laws of development proper only to it and not to the other one. The peculiarities and laws are determined by the mode of producing dominant in the stage and by the corresponding to it values. So the main mode of producing at the agrarian wave is agriculture. Accordingly, the chief value is ground and all the society’s life is adjusted to it. Lands were divided into agricultural units ruled by governors, the feudal lords, who came out also as warriors the defenders of peasants working on the ground. The feudal lords created a hierarchy according to which all the lands were shared. At the head of the hierarchy a monarch (a king or similar) stood. The feudal monarchy was the most widespread form of the state power that corresponded to needs of the agricultural producing in a full measure. Literacy, education and a high culture were a fortune only of higher classes: the main part of population did without education and was quite illiterate. The agrarian wave lasted approximately from IV─III millenniums B.C. till 17 century A.D.
The main mode of producing in the industrial stage is a machine production (in plants and factories). The machine production needs quite different conditions and people for its functioning. The workers working at machines ought to have a minimum of education (at least to be able to read and count) for working effectively. The common, mass education becomes a vital necessity in the industrial stage. And it appears. The machine production implies also a strict and accurate coordination of different men and groups of men and, therefore, the ideal of the industry stage society becomes a disciplined man/woman able to fulfill proper operations correctly and quickly. Whence the secondary school becomes not only an institution giving an education but also a system of disciplinary training, whose aim is to prepare a disciplined worker ready to function like a machine and be a part of one gigantic industrial mechanism. The industrial era is the era of mutual coherence, when the absolute majority of people wake and get up at the same time, have breakfast, go to work and come in the same time. They read also the same newspapers and magazines, have the same amusements, watch the same films and movies etc. In short, this is the time of masses. A human becomes merely a little screw in the giant mechanism of industry. The feudal monarchies have gradually disappeared to this time, parliament democracies better satisfying the needs of industry production have come instead of them. The main form of state is the national state. It allows to fix up a segment of the industrial market and to provide better conditions for its development.
From the second half of the 20th century the transition to the third stage has been started manifesting itself. It manifests itself with many and not always visible changes incomprehensible to the majority of people. For example, the youth doesn’t want to follow their fathers’ way and work in industry, spending all their day time in a plant or factory (that was without saying among the senior generation). The youth doesn’t appreciate the senior generation’s values as well. The senior people regard it as all the grounds crushing and the world end approaching. But of course, it’s not so. Simply the youth is more susceptible to the coming changes and has started already living in future. The Future changes are conditioned by the emergence of informational technologies. It’s told “God created human, human created computer”, i. e. the appearing of computers means a revolution in all the life evolution. Information technologies allow a worker to plan his work on his own without breaking the common structure of producing. The worker can even stay at home and work there, communicating with his work-giver through internet. The necessity in discipline training falls down. Coordination between different subjects of the producing process becomes subtler and needs no such rude forms as before. It’s impossible to say for sure what’ll be further, for all laws and already known regularities of social development refer to previous stages, the new one has just begun.
Other manifestations of the informational society are the following. Beginning from the 70s of the 20th century all newspapers and magazines circulation and books editions started falling down. They fell but instead of it their diversity on the contrary grew up. A lot of new editions for different very narrow and specific groups appeared, that couldn’t be even imagined in the previous stages. In short, the era of masses finishes and the time of little groups (of associates) has come. Changes affected politics as well. The national state which was the main form of political life till now is pressed from two sides (from above and below). On the one hand local communities and lands demand more and more authorities for themselves, restricting thereby the central government; on the other hand new super-national formations (such as The European Union or North-American Union) step on the politic arena. The educational system requires changes too. The discipline training (necessary at the industrial stage) turns out to be useless and ineffective in the informational society. The new age production requires not disciplined but creative and self-disciplined workers. The reform of the educational system that would allow to prepare a new type of workers is an urgent task for all states that achieved the informational stage in their development. The changes touched the family life as well. If for the agrarian society a broadened family (where several generations lived and kept house together) and for the industrial society the so-called corpuscular family (wife, husband and their children) were characteristic, so for the informational society some forms of free family living are appropriate. No wonder the rate of divorces is growing in modern developed countries.
In short, all flows and changes, we live in the time of changes and can say nothing for sure (neither good nor bad) of what the coming day will bring to us.
Control questions and exercises
1. What are historism and anti-historism?
2. Analyze and compare the concept of civilization in theories of Spengler and Toynbee.
3. Analyze and compare peculiarities of civilizational, formational and informational theories of mankind development.