Created on: 15 June, 2002

anything not referenced is from the encyclopedia britannica

post-capitalism. the new tribalism.
history is written by the victors.
it is a curse to live in interesting times.
I welcome an age which, 500 years from now, will seem uninteresting and opaque to historians.

Overlapping Social Structures

The most striking feature of medieval society was its peculiar diversity and complexity. Although scholars often conceived the world as a hierarchy in which all power was mediated from God according to a single ordered descent, in practice four distinct types of structure coexisted, overlapping and modifying one another profoundly but each with its own laws and objects. The first was the economic structure, essentially a diverse and inefficient agricultural society with islands of commercial activity. The second was the seigneurial, the structure by which this economic activity was adapted to provide a surplus for a small class of lords and occasionally for great merchants. The third was ecclesiastical, in theory an autonomous economy of salvation in which all forms of secular life had their spiritual counterpart. The fourth–and for long the most tenuous–was the centralized monarchical structure of the sovereign state. The triumph of this last over the earlier claims of the church and magnate government marks the end of medieval society.

christian authority

In the late 5th century, when non-Roman forces effectively took over the Roman Empire, several forms of Christian authority were known: the urban hierarchy of bishops, established in or near the major cities and ranked according to geographic diocese; monastic communities, dedicated to spiritual perfection; and isolated holy men unattached to other groups. The faith was represented by a variety of monuments, ranging from cathedral churches, some with magnificent decoration, to isolated rural shrines, often containing the relics of martyrs and saints reputed to work miracles. Overall, the character of each Christian region differed according to the history and method of its evangelization.
Between the 8th and the 15th century it has been calculated that not much more than one-third of the 2,000 bishops appointed to German bishoprics came from nonnoble families, and only five are known to have come from the dependent peasantry that formed the great bulk of the population. Certain monasteries and colleges of cathedral canons were explicitly reserved to those of the most carefully authenticated noble birth

who named the ‘dark ages’?

The term and its conventional meaning were introduced by Italian humanists with invidious intent; the humanists were engaged in a revival of classical learning and culture, and the notion of a thousand-year period of darkness and ignorance separating them from the ancient Greek and Roman world served to highlight the humanists’ own work and ideals. In a sense, the humanists invented the Middle Ages in order to distinguish themselves from it
[and elsewhere]
The term middle age (medium aevum) was first used in the late 15th century by humanist scholars as a description of that period of western European history between the collapse of Roman civilization in the 5th century AD and the revival of civilized life and learning in which the humanists believed themselves to be participating. Those centuries saw the emergence of Europe as a cultural unit and the rise and decay of a distinctive civilization within it.

a short history

The millennium between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and the beginning of the colonial expansion of western Europe in the late 15th century has been known traditionally as the Middle Ages, and the first half of this period consists of the five centuries of the Dark Ages. We now know that the period was not as socially stagnant as this title suggests. In the first place, many of the institutions of the later empire survived the collapse and profoundly influenced the formation of the new civilization that developed in western Europe. The Christian Church was the outstanding institution of this type, but Roman conceptions of law and administration also continued to exert an influence long after the departure of the legions from the western provinces. Second, and more important, the Teutonic tribes who moved into a large part of western Europe did not come empty-handed, and in some respects their technology was superior to that of the Romans. It has already been observed that they were people of the Iron Age, and although much about the origins of the heavy plow remains obscure these tribes appear to have been the first people with sufficiently strong iron plowshares to undertake the systematic settlement of the forested lowlands of northern and western Europe, the heavy soils of which had frustrated the agricultural techniques of their predecessors.

The invaders came thus as colonizers. They may have been regarded as “barbarians” by the Romanized inhabitants of western Europe who naturally resented their intrusion, and the effect of their invasion was certainly to disrupt trade, industry, and town life. But the newcomers also provided an element of innovation and vitality. About AD 1000 the conditions of comparative political stability necessary for the reestablishment of a vigorous commercial and urban life had been secured by the success of the kingdoms of the region in either absorbing or keeping out the last of the invaders from the East, and thereafter for 500 years the new civilization grew in strength and began to experiment in all aspects of human endeavour. Much of this process involved recovering the knowledge and achievements of the ancient world. The history of medieval technology is thus largely the story of the preservation, recovery, and modification of earlier achievements. But by the end of the period Western civilization had begun to produce some remarkable technological innovations that were to be of the utmost significance.

the decline of roman influence

The sack of Rome by Alaric the Visigoth in AD 410 had enormous impact on the political structure and social climate of the Western world, for the Roman Empire had provided the basis of social cohesion for most of Europe. Although the Germanic tribes that forcibly migrated into southern and western Europe in the 5th century were ultimately converted to Christianity, they retained many of their customs and ways of life; the changes in forms of social organization they introduced rendered centralized government and cultural unity impossible. Many of the improvements in the quality of life introduced during the Roman Empire, such as a relatively efficient agriculture, extensive road networks, water-supply systems, and shipping routes, decayed substantially, as did artistic and scholarly endeavours. This decline persisted throughout the period of time sometimes called the Dark Ages (also called Late Antiquity, or the Early Middle Ages), from the fall of Rome to about the year 1000, with a brief hiatus during the flowering of the Carolingian court established by Charlemagne. Apart from that interlude, no large kingdom or other political structure arose in Europe to provide stability. The only force capable of providing a basis for social unity was the Roman Catholic church. The Middle Ages therefore present the confusing and often contradictory picture of a society attempting to structure itself politically on a spiritual basis

libraries broken down

Many old libraries, of monasteries and cities and kingdoms alike, were split up in the 1500’s, because the scholars of the ‘enlightenment’ (the people who named the ‘dark ages’) believed that they contained nothing of value. Fortunately, a few collectors (notably mr Bodley of the Bodlean library) re-collected as many of the documents as they could.

provincialisation – decline in transport

The period of the early Middle Ages was largely a time of stagnation and decline in transportation. There tended to be, as in other aspects of society, an increasing provincialization. People continued to move about, but they moved over shorter distances, less frequently, and, as roads deteriorated, at an increasing cost. The combination of road deterioration and the failure to advance the practice of wagon building meant increasing discomfort while traveling. Thus, frequently women as well as men went by horseback or by mules because it was more comfortable, and wagons came to be used only by the poor and the sick. Roads became rather overgrown with the shift from wagon to saddle horse.

old dark ages v new dark ages (1)

Date: Fri, 11 Oct 1996 14:04:28 +0100 From: “Richard K. Moore” Subject: Modern World History (summarized)
(1) — Back in the 18th century (the Enlightenment) capitalism grew weary of the constraints of royalty, church, and the nobility, and decided republics would be a better vehicle to facilitate the further development of capitalism. The business-elite therefore aroused the populace to rebellion, and set up “democratic” republics, which eventually became the norm for First World nations.
(2) — These “democracies” have been based on a very uneasy partnership between the elite and the people, with the real strings of power in the hands of the elite. While many people have obviously experienced increased material well-being, exploitation, poverty, and imperialism have been rampant, and the struggle for justice and equality has been ongoing. Meanwhile corporations (the ultimate capitalist money-making machines) have been consolidating ownership and control of the world’s media, politics, and resources.
(3) — At the end of World War II, the U.S. achieved military and economic dominance of the globe, and the age of global corporatism began. This system is based on ending the cycle of great-power imperialist warfare, under a nuclear pax-americana umbrella, and creating an “orderly” world subservient to corporate interests. The final stage of this system is at hand: the dismantlement of strong nation states, and their replacement by a neo-feudal corporate world government, without benefit of democratic institutions. Big Brother is knocking at the door. We the people have a choice between reclaiming our democracies and curbing corporate power, or else succumbing to a new Dark Ages with the world split up into corporate-managed, neo-fascist fiefdoms, as we see realized already in the Third World. ~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~–~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~
Posted by Richard K. Moore – – Wexford, Ireland
Cyberlib: www | ftp –> ~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~–~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~
Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996 18:49:56 +0100
From: “Richard K. Moore”
Subject: Re: Dismantlement; Feudalism
10/11/96, Drew Walker wrote:
>Could you explain this better? How will the nation-states be dismantled
>and how will a form of feudalism come into being?
>Just curious and unable to imagine such a scenario,

Dear Drew,
Dismantlement: My view is that dismantlement is well under way, and is readily observable. The visible symptoms include: privatization, internationalization, deregulation, free- trade agreements, and demonization of government. Privatization: This is most obvious in the UK, where privatization is an avowed policy, but it is occurring elsewhere, without necessarily being identified as a coherent policy. This is a direct dismantlement of institutions under public control and ownership, and a transfer into corporate control and ownership.

Internationalization: NAFTA, GATT, IMF, WTO, and World Bank are institutions which are dominated by corporate interests, and which are rapidly expanding their control over national policies, most obviously at present in the Third World. This amounts to a transfer of sovereignty, over wide areas of economics-related matters, from governments to corporate-dominated commissions. — The European Union represents a transfer of many aspects of sovereignty from European governments to the Brussels regime. The greater scale of the EU (compared to individual countries) and the vagueness and incompleteness of the Maastricht treaty, make Brussels even more vulnerable to corporate domination than were the individual states.
Deregulation: Radical and extreme deregulation, as we’ve seen with the U.S. Telecom Reform Act, represents a transfer of control and ownership to corporations over domains which have been traditionally subject to public oversight, equity, and policy making.

Free-trade agreements: These agreements carry the power — and indeed have been used — to overturn environmental, product-quality, and labor laws in individual countries, based on the principle of “unfair competition”. This further removes sovereignty from states.

Demonization: The constant media message is that governments just can’t do the job anymore — the modern world is too complex. Certainly the media have always been critical of politicians, but under neo-liberalism there is a broader thrust to the critique, an implication that the political process itself is unworkable. This careful preparation of the public mind for corporatization is an essential part of carrying out the overall program of dismantlement.

Feudalism: Central America may be the clearest example of this pattern, in particular Guatemala and El Salvador. Here we see essentially military dictatorships whose main functions are to (1) subdue the population, and (2) manage the infrastructure to enable outside investments. This then creates a “plantation scenario environment” where multinationals can grow coffee or bannanas, or raise cattle, or run factories — with the best land owned by multinationals, and with an available pool of docile workers who have been reduced to all but slave status. Government policies are dictated by the resident multinationals, with the help of bribery, and the backup of the U.S. Marines. Citizenship has little meaning or value in these scenarios. The main thing that matters in the life of the landless peasants is their relationship to the big corporations that run their country: can they get a job or not? To me, this all obviously equates to the paradigm of feudalism: the corporations are the feudal lords, and the peasants have a vassal relationship to them. These are perhaps the extreme examples, but I would call them “early adopters”. Throughout the Third World, the IMF is systematically destroying social-welfare systems, and leaving the population vulnerable to the same feudal scenario. The overwhelming trend in First World countries is in the same direction. The U.S. and UK rush voluntarily into this scenario, under the rubric of “competitiveness” and “downsizing”. In Europe it is being pushed by the mania for the ECU. In Australia and elsewhere it’s being brought about by other means.
But the trend is indisputable.
I hope that addresses your questions,
Posted by Richard K. Moore – – Wexford, Ireland
Cyberlib: www | ftp –> ~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~–~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~

After Virtue, a book by Alisdair MacIntyre, a moral philosopher (9)

MacIntyre believes that this modern world-view must be rejected through a renewal of local community and the practices which contribute to making the good life in Aristotle’s sense. He urges a retreat from “the new dark ages” we have entered similar to that undertaken at the end of the Roman imperium, and in this echoes Mumford’s call in 1970 to withdraw from “the pentagon of power.” Yet Mumford, despite his pessimism concerning the power complex, hoped for more than the endurance of the tradition of the virtues: “How long, those who are now awake must ask themselves, how long can the physical structure of an advanced technology hold together when all its human foundations are crumbling away?…the human institutions and moral convictions that have taken thousands of years to achieve even minimal efficacy have disappeared before our eyes: so completely that the next generation will scarcely believe they ever existed….The Roman empire in the East won a new lease on life by coming to terms with Christianity…But it must be remembered that this intermixture of Roman and Christian institutions was achieved at the expense of creativity. So until the disintegration of our own society has gone even further, there is reason to look for a more vigorous life-promoting solution. Whether such a response is possible depends upon an unknown factor: how viable are the formative ideas that are now in the air, and how ready are our contemporaries to undertake the efforts and sacrifices that are essential for human renewal?…Has Western civilization reached the point in etherialization where detachment and withdrawal will lead to the assemblage of an organic world picture, in which the human personality in all its dimensions will have primacy over its biological needs and technological pressures?….When the moment comes to replace power with plenitude, compulsive external rituals with internal, self-imposed discipline, depersonalization with individuation, automation with autonomy, we shall find that the necessary change of attitude has been going on beneath the surface during the last century, and the long buried seeds of a richer human culture are now ready to strike root and grow, as soon as the ice breaks up and the sun reaches them. If that growth is to prosper, it will draw freely on the compost from many previous cultures.” ge of Alastair MacIntyre’s book draws a parallel between our time and the collapse of the Roman Empire: He writes: “What matters now is the construction of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. “If the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. “This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, they have already been governing us for quite some time. “And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.”

from the conclusion:

“It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the more misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age . . . and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. . . . What they set themselves to achieve-often not recognizing fully what they were doing-was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. . . . This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are not waiting for Godot, but for another – and doubtless very different – St. Benedict.”

neo-medieval international politics (8)

Another reason for examining the Middle Ages is that one of Hedley Bull’s scenarios for the future of international relations is a ‘neo-medieval’ or ‘post-modern’ international system, moving away from a world of nation-states to one of a ‘jagged-glass’ pattern of states and other international actors, based on the integration and fragmentation of states, and the rise of transnational organisations, the technical unification of the world through globalisation, and the restoration of private international violence by nonstate groups rather tha by the armies of nation-states, which arguably, is what characterises the conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia, Rwanda, and in other regions of the Third world, and indicates what some analysts are now calling the rise of ‘post-modern’ war.

these next two quotes are from a paper given by an american catholic priest in 1998.

forming ghettos (2)

After a lot of talk about abortion and euthenasia and how society is going to ruin, he asks:

What is the response? I think the response is to form ghettos. The ghetto mentality? You bet. It isn’t anti-Semitic to point out that the ghetto mentality has worked beautifully for the Jews. They have survived every vicissitude of history and some of the most horrible, horrendous ones like the Holocaust. They did it by forming ghettos, by maintaining their culture and traditions. We’ve got to do it too. Does that mean fleeing the world? Yes, it means fleeing the world. Forever, not to come back? Not to influence it? No, we can’t abandon the world Christ died to save.

home schooling (3)

These are the parents who want to have children, and that of course is countercultural. And then they’re dedicating themselves primarily to bringing their children up in the Faith and in our Western culture, and in a genuine civilization and culture. I’m seeing tremendous results. I’ve become a convert to home schooling and I’ll answer objections anybody has, because sure, they’re human beings, there’s original sin – read that footnote in Milton and you’ll find out what that is – but I have never found a group of youngsters so well socialized, so knowledgeable in their faith, so friendly, and so well-educated as home schooled youngsters. I really haven’t. They are tremendous. Do you know how many there are? I’ve heard this from a person who spends his time analyzing the situation. There are 30,000 new Catholic home schooling families every year. Benedict had 15,000 monasteries after about 10 centuries. We’re getting twice as many little monasteries every year in the Catholic Church. You may not see that too clearly, but it’s there. There was evidence of that a couple of years ago here in Washington, D.C. when they tried to pass HR 6 or 7, that education bill, 700 pages long. There was one paragraph which said that the federal government would have to certify residential teachers, which means home schooling parents. And who’s going to certify the federal government to do that? It looked pretty innocuous. Suddenly within a week Congress had more faxes and phone calls than they’d ever had in this city all at once. They were shocked. They didn’t know what was happening. It wasn’t just because there are that many home schoolers in this country, but they’ve got friends. They’re networked. They keep in touch with each other. They speak with a single voice. Fortunately, I don’t think that people in Washington D.C. or the New York Times fully understand the future political power of the home schooling movement. I’m glad they don’t, because as soon as they get the idea, you can be sure that there’ll be more and more laws and they’ll try to suppress it, as in some cases they are already trying to do. But it’s growing.

There are many other things like the home schooling movement, but I use this as the icon, because in the new Dark Ages every home must be a monastery. Every home must be a place of refuge. It won’t be summa quies, as I’m sure people who are families here will tell me; nevertheless it will be a certain repose from the hectic noise, promiscuity and violence of the world. It will definitely be that. It will be a sanctuary, a holy place.

[this guy also has good words about the benedictines, like dave’s words about the franciscans]

chuck colson (4)

Chuck Colson (Richard Nixon’s friend and Watergate conspirator), after he went to prison and became a christian, wrote a book about the ‘demise of the american experiment’. it’s a bit heavy-handed, and he seems to confuse the american experiment with christianity, and thinks it should be kept going. but the germ of the book seems right – the cultural consensus is breaking down, and it’s going to take a lot down with it.
Charles Colson, with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant, 1989).

sustainability (5)

Currently, cultural and social change is occurring very rapidly, and if Professor Sing Chew is correct, these changes may mean we are headed towards a new dark ages during which human population decreases rapidly and accumulation of capital radically decreases. In the past, during so-called dark ages of human civilizations, nature was able to renew its vitality after centuries of abuse by human civilizations. However, past civilizations were regional in location. Humans have never before experienced a globalized civilization which is causing massive human-caused extinctions of other species and human-caused massive changes in global climate patterns.

other dark ages (don’t know who said this)

Currently, cultural and social change is occurring very rapidly, and if Professor Sing Chew is correct, these changes may mean we are headed towards a new dark ages during which human population decreases rapidly and accumulation of capital radically decreases. In the past, during so-called dark ages of human civilizations, nature was able to renew its vitality after centuries of abuse by human civilizations. However, past civilizations were regional in location. Humans have never before experienced a globalized civilization which is causing massive human-caused extinctions of other species and human-caused massive changes in global climate patterns.

bob dylan! 

BLOOD IN MY EYES is one of two songs done by the Mississippi Sheiks, a little known de facto group whom in their former glory must’ve been something to behold. rebellion against routine seems to be their strong theme. all their songs are raw to the bone & are faultlessly made for these modern times (the New Dark Ages) nothing effete about the Mississippi Sheiks. [from the liner notes to Bob Dylan’s album “world gone wrong“, 1993]

a book of poetry (6)

Not all that relevant, really, but it is the only book i could find actually called ‘New Dark Ages’


it all started for me,
with umberto eco:
an essay on the collapse of the Pax Americana,
in Travels In Hyper-Reality

Carl Sagan

Legend that he may or may not be, refers to the new dark ages, but i don’t know where

and, of course, William Gibson

who has inspired millions with his vision of a local, cooperative underground, thriving across the convuluted layers of corporate, government, and spiritual control.
Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Idoru. Read them all.


  1.  richard k. moore.
  4.  charles colson.
  6.  donald revell. New Dark Ages.
  7.  umberto eco. Travels In Hyper-Reality .
  8.  Hedley Bull The Anarchical Society, Chapters 2 & 11 (esp. on ‘A New Medievalism’, pp. 264-276)
  9.  Alasdair MacIntyre After Virtue 1982 :

–> move on to some crazy ideas about the turn of the milennium