: Historicists (not historicists, like me; note the small "h") are fond of analyzing stages of history, such as "capitalism", "feudalism", etc. The problem is that while Historicists claim that these are particular and actually existing stages of history they are attempting to analyze particular stages without any theoretical criteria.
Its slightly more complex than that, what we claim is that a particular social mode or formation becomes more predominant, i.e. that there are traces of Capitalism within fuedalism, and traces of fuedalism within tribalism.
:Deathy, for instance, once asked me, sarcastically, if I believed in "the division of labor". Of course I do. But I fail to see how this can act as a particular example of why we would identify any particular time period as a stage based upon specialization of tasks, since we even see specialization of tasks occur in the animal kingdom (non-human). Specialization has always occured and so I fail to see how noting a particular arrangement of specialization can give us a theoretical criteria where we can say "yup, this stage of history occured between 1000 and 1500".
Specialisation has always occured, but on what scale? In most human societies, for most of history, you have had communities with generally inter-changeable skills - someone might be a thatcher, but they can thresh as well, for example. Further, there is a difference between social division of labour, people working in a general social task, and workplace division of Labour, a fairly modern phenomenon: for example, teh difference between a doctor and a specialist - to give a comprehendable instance.
: Another criteria might be a particular arrangement of property customs. Again, property has always existed, as even the simplest biological organisms exhibit "propertarian" tendancies. Yes, what is considered property changes, the primary factor is population density, but the fact of property remains. For instance, in a region of 1 person per 100 sq. miles land is, for all intents and purposes, limitless (it is infinite). However, as population density increases land is either:
: a) propertized
: b) destroyed by uneconomic usage
: So, again, I fail to see how a particular instance of property customs could give us criteria for particular historical stages.
But we can look at the cutoms around such property - i.e. the preoponderance of heredity under fuedalism, or the fact that technically, the aristocrats didn't own the land - the crown did, they are granted the land under licence of the monarch - laws were passed to prevent amortization under Edward VI(I think). The peculair commodity ownership of land was not in preponderance.
: Our difference is not methodology. Rather I have not heard of any criteria, formal criteria, where we can falsify, or at least cast doubt upon, claims of a particular stage of history actually existing. So, until Deathy can construct a formal thoery of the how to classify stages of history I will continue to assert that any claims of said stages are tautological and non-empirical.
Of course they are not empirical, I'm not an empiricist, that was the entire method I was attacking. I doubt very much whether empiricist methodology applies well to history, since there is no option of repeatability.
Clearly, different modes of society have existed - the system of state was entirely different under English Fuedalism than Capitalism, and there are major shifts in evidence when modernity emerges.
: Cheers, Deathy. :-)
's O.K. Man, but you didn't answer my economic points about when equal utilities compete...