Carroll Quigley – Tragedy & Hope (fragment)

Stages in Western civilization


Of these the first and third were periods of “automatic control” in the sense that there was no conscious effort at a centralized system of economic control, while the second and fourth stages were periods of conscious efforts at control. These stages, with approximate dates, were as follows:

  1. Automatic control: manorial custom, 650-1150
  2. Conscious control
  3. Municipal mercantilism, 1150-1450
  4. State mercantilism, 1450-1815
  5. Automatic control: laissez-faire in the competitive market, 1815-1934
  6. Conscious control: planning (both public and private), 1934


The shift was also associated with what we might call a change from a two-class society to a middle-class society. Under industrial capitalism and the early part of financial capitalism, society began to develop into a polarized two-class society in which an entrenched bourgeoisie stood opposed to a mass proletariat. It was on the basis of this development that Karl Marx, about 1850, formed his ideas of an inevitable class struggle in which the group of owners would become fewer and fewer and richer and richer while the mass of workers became poorer and poorer but more and more numerous, until finally the mass would rise up and take ownership and control from the privileged minority. By 1900 social developments took a direction so different from that expected by Marx that his analysis became almost worthless, and his system had to be imposed by force in a most backward industrial country (Russia) instead of