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The Cool Water Effect: Civilization's Turn into Human Empowerment
Abstract and Figures
Over several thousand years since the emergence of states, societies remained entrapped in cycles of despotic power building and decay—until civilization matured in areas with a cool and rainy climate, what we call the “cool water” (CW) condition. In CW-areas, agriculture and urbanization at a level known since millennia from the pristine civilizations of the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Asia and Mesoamerica emerged late. This only happened during late medieval times with the rise of pre-industrial capitalism in Northwestern Europe, and somewhat later in Japan during the Tokugawa era. Since then, the evolution of civilization suddenly accelerated to an unprecedented speed, proliferating technological, organizational and cultural innovations of a previously unparalleled scale. In addition to this massive acceleration, the civilization process took a sharp turn into a whole new direction. Indeed, the lead theme of the civilization process turned from perfecting mass exploitation into advancing human empowerment—a process that prolongs and improves human lives and places more choice into people's own hands. After human empowerment started in some of the Old World's CW-areas, the process spilled over into the CW-areas of the New World. This happened with the settlement of Europe-an farmers in North America, Australia and New Zealand. From then on, the CW-areas in both the Old and the New World continued to drive human empowerment towards consecutive emancipatory outcomes, from human rights to civil liberties to electoral democracy. But until very recently, human empowerment remained the privilege of a small segment of the world population in a triple sense. First, human empowerment only advanced in CW-areas, whereas tropical, sub-tropical and arid regions fell victim to the most exploitative forms of colonialism. Second, in the CW-territories of the New World, the indigenous populations have been decimated, marginalized and excluded from the benefits of human empowerment. Third, even where human empowerment advanced with highest speed, women remained discriminated relative to men. Since several decades, however, these limitations are quickly fading under the rising tide of women’s emancipation and sexual liberation around the world. This emancipatory breakthrough now makes women part of human empowerment and spreads the process into areas that lack the geo-climatic features of the CW-condition. Hence, human empowerment is about to feminize and to globalize at the same time. This book examines the deep causes of this civilizational turn, analyzing the role of geography, genes, disease, agriculture, language, religion, statehood, colonialism, law traditions and other institutional factors, such as emerging democracy. The evidence shows that, among multiple possible paths towards human empowerment today, there is only one narrow route of significance. The very narrowness of this route explains why it took civilization so long to reach to-wards human empowerment. The narrow route was entered when urban markets began to flourish under the CW-condition. Urbanization under the CW-condition—and only under this condition—encouraged a transition in people's lifetime investment from reproduction to learning. This transition has been further supported as states began to provide public schools and to promote universal education. With rising mass-level education, an enlightenment process set in that mobilized the populations’ cognitive potentials and their aspirations for emancipatory rights—the ingredients of human empowerment. In the era of accelerating globalization, human empowerment escapes with increasing speed its gender bias as well as its initial limitation to CW-areas. After outlining these insights, this book also discusses policy implications for development aid.
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