The complex societies that emerged from the division of society into classes also created societies that were wasteful, violent, stagnant and crisis prone. Understanding why is the key to how history happens argues Neil Faulkner.he ‘urban revolution’ created the great imperial civilisations of the Bronze Age. But these civilisations were characterised by high levels of waste expenditure on war, monuments, and luxury - expenditure that was competitive and therefore cumulative.
The waste arose from the division of the world into antagonistic classes and rival states. And it resulted in super-exploitation of the peasantry that drained the economy of productive resources and reserves.
The imperial civilisations were therefore both economically stagnant and socially conservative. The classes and states which were their basis constituted formidable barriers to progress.
The Bronze Age impasse provides a useful occasion to pause and take stock. All the elements of complex society are now in place, so it is convenient to pose the question: how does history happen?