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The European Miracle Psychological Stages and the Origin of Modern Society

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Journal of Social Sciences
Original Research Paper
The European Miracle
Psychological Stages and the Origin of Modern Society
1Georg Oesterdiekhoff, 2Jörn Rüsen and 3Hans-Jürgen Hummell
1Department of Sociology, Karlsruhe Institute for Sociology, Germany
2Department of History, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut, Germany
3Department of Sociology, University Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Article history
Received: 19-02-2020
Revised: 23-04-2020
Accepted: 12-05-2020
Corresponding Author:
Georg Oesterdiekhoff
Department of Sociology,
Karlsruhe Institute for
Sociology, Germany
Abstract: The idea that the rise of modern, industrial society originates in
psychological advancements is to find among classic authors of sociology
and history such as Comte, Elias and Lamprecht and more recently
described by Habermas. It will be shown that central transformations within
sciences, industrial economy, political structures, Enlightenment,
humanitarian revolution, law, painting, music and literature having taken
place during the emergence of modern society actually originate in
psychological stage advancements. Thus, there is a deep connection
between psychological stages on the one side and historical
transformations leading to modern society on the other side. It is
therefore necessary to combine Piagetian psychology with historical
data and sociological considerations.
Keywords: Psychological Stages, Social Transformations, Modern,
Industrial Society, Modern Europe, Rise of the West
Modern, industrial society started in Britain after 1750
roughly, followed by continental Europe from about 1830
onwards. North America, Russia and Japan joined this
transformation only a few decades later. Modern, industrial
society consisted mainly of breakthroughs in physical
sciences and engineering, industrial technologies,
foundation of factories and mining companies, increase of
agricultural productivity, expansion of secondary and
tertiary sector, introduction of compulsory school
attendance, decline of birth rates, Enlightenment, extension
of public functions, constitutional state, parliamentarianism
and later on frequently democratic structures.
Modern, industrial society did not only originate
completely new structures but abolished also structures
that existed for long, since antiquity or even Stone Ages.
It surmounted so for the first time in history the magical-
animistic worldview with its belief in witches, sorcerers,
ghosts and natural gods. It erased the belief in myths and
collective fantasies and weakened the power and impact
of religion. It replaced the cruel punishment law of
premodern society, lasting back to the Stone Ages, by
the system of imprisonment. It abolished slavery,
feudalism and other forms of serfdom by the instalment
of liberty rights. Later on it forbade the duel culture and
physical violence against women, children and
dependent persons. It strengthened the rights of workers
and minorities and protected poor persons, children and
animals from maltreatment.
Thus, modern, industrial society has attained a new
stage of culture and civilization, unparalleled and unique
in the humankind´s history. Therefore, modern society
seems to have not only more economic, technological
and scientific power and achievement but has also
attained higher stages in civilization, education, morals
and manners. Consequently, the essence of modern
society is not capitalism, as Marx and his followers have
believed. Its essence rather is civilization, as already
Lubbock, Darwin and Elias surmised.
From a certain viewpoint, it is possible to group the
existing theories that try to explain the rise of modern,
industrial society into two classes, the materialistic-
economic-institutional and the socio-psychological theory
type (Oesterdiekhoff, 2013a: 29-48; 2011: 25-39). To the
first type belong economic theories that focus capital
investments, free markets, or free property rights as
causes to the rise of the (Western) capitalism. To the
same group belong also Marxian ideas of colonialism
and the theory of the world system with its peripheries
and centers, that is, theories that regard international
inequalities and exploitation of the South as central to
the explanation related. To this group have to be added
also sociological theories that earmark class
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constellations, state structures, or struggles for power
(e.g., Diamond, 1998; Frank and Gills, 1993; Jones,
1987; North and Thomas, 1973; North, 1990; Sanderson,
1999; Smith, 1776; Wallerstein, 1974; Wittfogel, 1957).
One of the problems of these by now prevailing
approaches is, even at first glance, that they cannot really
cover and earmark the transformations in morals,
manners and politics, the explosion in sciences,
philosophy, literature and arts. The Marxian distinction
of Basis and Überbau is superficial as the scientific
revolution is even central to the industrial technologies,
industrial revolution and economic growth. It appears as
rather more convincing to conceive the industrial uprise
as being only one manifestation of the increase of mental
abilities to that likewise belong the transformations in
politics, morals, education, arts, music, literature and
manners. Accordingly, research has shown that
investments, property rights, class constellations, or
power conflicts did not trigger the beginning of
modern, industrial civilization (Pomeranz, 2001;
Mokyr, 1990; Jacob, 1997; Landes, 1998;
Oesterdiekhoff, 2005; 2007; 2011; 2013a; 2014a).
The socio-psychological theories have therefore
combined institutional and psychological factors with
regard to the explanatory problem mentioned. They exist
in weaker forms when regarding psychological
phenomena as being only additional factors and when
conceiving only some superficial elements (discipline,
empathy, flexibility, achievement motivation, etc.) of
the (modern) mentality and not their very
fundamentals (e.g., Weber, 1987; Lerner, 1958;
Inkeles, 1974; Landes, 1969). Intermediary stages
may be reached when the authors refer to the
comparison of ontogeny and history on a substandard
level, as Comte, Lubbock and Elias (1982) had done.
It will be demonstrated here that the developmental
approach discloses both the origins and the nature of
modern, industrial society. It can be shown that the
modern humankind has developed the adolescent stage
of formal operations stepwise during the past few
centuries, while the premodern humankind stayed on
psychological stages that are nowadays to find only
among children. Only some percentages of people
attained intermediary stages. Premodern humans differ
from children by experience and knowledge but not by
their psychological stage structures. Developmental and
cross-cultural psychology has evidenced these facts in a
clear and encompassing way. Therefore, this kind of
developmental theory is the strongest version within the
range of the socio-psychological theories and is the key
to understand the rise of modern, industrial society. As
already mentioned, Comte, Lubbock and Elias expressed
this idea on a yet scanty basis, Schultze (1900), Ziégler
(1968) and Habermas (1989) elaborated this approach more
distinctly. The structural-genetic theory programme,
however, has delivered a complete theory of modern
society in terms of developmental psychology
(Oesterdiekhoff, 2007; 2014a; 2014b). It will be shown here
that every manifestation of modernization in sciences,
economics, politics, law, morals, arts, literature, etc. has to
be explained in terms of developmental psychology. The
rise of modern society simply is a manifestation of higher
psychological stages of the people.
It is necessary to outline here the methodology
underlying the whole framework and argumentation.
Developmental and cross-cultural psychology is used to
reconstruct the history of sciences, industrial economy,
Enlightenment, humanitarian revolution, democracy and
fine arts. Cross-cultural data concerning human
development are applied to phenomena usually described
by ethnographic and historical methods and
considerations only. It is shown that by using these
empirical data it is possible not only to describe the
historical phenomena (as being done usually by
historians and sociologists) but to explain them. Humans
had to elevate the formal operational stage to be able to
create sciences, industrial economy, enlightened morals,
ideas and values, democracy and modern arts. Thus,
the systematic application of cross-cultural Piagetian
data, won by empirical surveys, to the historical
development of mind during the early modern times
was necessary to find the key to the explanation of
these historical developments. Insofar the approach
consists of the combination of empirical data, won
both by child and cross-cultural psychology, and
notions won by history, ethnology and sociology.
Developmental, Historical and Cross-
Cultural Psychology
Many representatives or even founders of the human
and social disciplines during the 19th and early 20th
century discovered similarities between children and
premodern adults. Likewise most psychoanalysts and
almost every (!) founder and early representative of child
or developmental psychology described these
correspondences mentioned. Schultze (1900) and Werner
(1948) dedicated whole monographs to them. Jean Piaget
described these parallels in most of his writings (Ibarra,
1994). He discriminated four stages of human
development. The sensorymotor stage of the suckling is
followed by the preoperational stage, dominant between
1;6 and 8 years roughly. The preoperational stage is
positively characterized by the acquisition of language
and reasoning, anticipation and memory and negatively
by the dominance of magic and superstition and by lack
of abstraction and logic. It is the stage that mainly
corresponds to the mind of greater parts of premodern
humankind. The third stage, that of the concrete
operations, unfolds between the 6th and the 12th year of
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age. It entails some forms of logic and abstractions
regarding visual objects and erases greater parts of the
magical-animistic worldview. It was first established by
the Ionian philosophers, as Piaget described. The fourth
stage, the stage of formal operations, manifests stepwise
and increasingly between the 10th and the 25th year of
age. It is divided in the substages A and B, with the latter
one coming into existence with 15 years roughly. It
entails combinatorial, experimental, logical and
theoretical-systematic reasoning abilities. The adolescent
understands and develops coherent theories and conquers
higher stages in morals and politics. The formal
operational stage erases the last rests of the childlike
magical-animistic and fairy tale worldview. According to
Piaget, the formal operational stage, now defining the
average adult in modern societies, developed historically
first among scientists of the 17th century. It spread
stepwise from these elites through some broader social
strata to the whole society, defining the normal course of
every modern human being not before the advanced 20th
century (Piaget and Inhelder, 1969).
Piagetian cross-cultural psychology researched
among ethnicities, social milieus and nations around the
globe since more than 80 years by now. More than 1.000
tests concerning stage assignments have been applied to
people from every race and nation. It was found that
people living in archaic, traditional, illiterate or
underprivileged social milieus stay on preoperational or
concrete operational stages, or on intermediary stages
covering the two mentioned. In any case premodern
people do not reach the formal operational stage, that is,
developmental ages of modern adolescents. Both test
results and ethnographic literature clearly show that the
biggest part of the premodern humankind from Stone
Ages to the eve of the modern world did not develop
beyond the preoperational stage. People living in modern
societies have been climbing on operational stages
stepwise from generation to generation over the past
centuries. Only the 20th century conveyed the formal
operational stage to being the modal stage of the people
(Ashton, 1975; Dasen and Berry, 1974; Dasen, 1977;
Luria, 1982; Mogdil and Mogdil, 1976; Oesterdiekhoff,
2016c; 2017a; Lévy-Bruhl, 1923; 1985). Thus, recent
cross-cultural empirical research confirmed the early
considerations of Schultze (1900), Werner (1948) and
Wallon (1928), but also of Elias (1982), Comte,
Lubbock and others (Weiler, 2011).
The tests found the parallels between children and
premodern adults regarding the whole range of
psychological life and world understanding, including
language, logic, physics, social affairs, law, politics,
morals, religion, etc. (Oesterdiekhoff, 2013a; 2011;
2009a; Mogdil and Mogdil, 1976; Ashton, 1975). There
is not one phenomenon typical for the child´s mind that
is not also a feature typical for premodern adults, down
to smallest details such as understanding of shadows,
waves, movements of projectiles, etc. The parallels are
therefore not context-dependent or area-limited but are
all-encompassing and deep-rooted. Therefore the
conclusion is inevitable that premodern peoples stay on
psychological stages of children (or some smaller
percentages on intermediary stages) but differ from them
in knowledge and life experience. Peoples living in
modern societies stay on stages of adolescents and differ
from them likewise by knowledge and experience.
However, modern peoples separate from premodern ones
by several developmental years, usually 5 to 10
(Oesterdiekhoff, 2016a; 2016c; 2017a). That fact
explains the huge differences in mind and behaviour
ethnography has detailed during the last three centuries
(Lévy-Bruhl, 1923; 1985).
The causes to these divergences cannot be racial-
biological but only cultural-educational factors, as cross-
cultural research can clearly show. Children very young
when moving from archaic milieus to modern
settlements develop divergently from their parents
(Mogdil and Mogdil, 1976; Dasen, 1977). The recent
rise of modern society on a global scale has caused stage
advancements within a few generations more or less
nearly everywhere. Premodern society usually has not
the means to force psychological development beyond
the 10th developmental year, often not beyond the 7th
developmental year. Conversely, modern society attracts
and forces children from their very first days to run
through the stages. Socialisation stimuli and open or
closed developmental windows are the concepts to
describe the possibilities to attain divergent
developmental stages (Oesterdiekhoff, 2009a; 2011;
2012; 2016a; 2016c; Werner, 1948).
Against this background it is necessary to rewrite
history, the history of language, population, economics,
society, culture, sciences, philosophy, politics, law,
religion, morals, violence, manners, etc. Smaller or
greater parts of this work have been already
accomplished (Habermas, 1989; Ziégler, 1968; Schultze,
1900; Oesterdiekhoff, 2011; 2009a; 2013a; 2014d;
2014e). The history of sciences is rewritten in terms of
developmental stages (Piaget and Garcia, 1989), likewise
the history of some medieval cultural patterns (Radding,
1985), the Maya and Aztec culture (Ibarra, 2007), the
history of painting (Gablik, 1976), the history of
literature (LePan, 1989) and further the history of
culture, religion, philosophy, law, economics, language,
politics and morals (Oesterdiekhoff, 2009a; 2011; 2013a;
2014c; 2014d; 2014e; 2015; 2016b; 2017b; 2019).
A central part within this transfer work is to explain
both the rise and nature of modern society in terms of
developmental stages. Therefore, the article will
reconstruct the modern transformations of sciences,
industry, Enlightenment, democracy, law, humanism,
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music, literature, arts and international power against the
knowledge developmental psychology provides. Thus,
modern society is essentially the societal manifestation
of certain psychological stage advancements.
Without the emergence of the sciences during the
17th century, the sciences “im eigentlichen Sinne”, the
rise of modern, industrial society wouldn´t have been
possible. It can be shown, however, that the emergence
of the formal operational stage was the cause to the
rebirth of the sciences during that era. That alone
discerns the decisive role of developmental psychology
in explaining the rise of industrial society.
The new sciences started more or less with the
experiments of Galileo Galilei during the 1590ies,
reaching its early peak with the Principia of Isaac
Newton in 1687. The scientists of the 17th century
resorted to the achievements of the Hellenistic epoch that
had already developed the sciences to a considerable rate
possibly not fully recognized by now. Possibly was
Newton the first to parallel or to surmount scientists like
Archimedes, Hipparchos or Philon. Some authors
(Bailey, 1994) maintain that already the Mesopotamians
had the mathematical knowledge of Euclid around 2.000
B. C. However, what is known today is that the
Hellenistic era was the only era in antiquity with
developed sciences comparable to Europe around 1700
roughly. The Greeks themselves believed though that
they all had learned from Egypt and Mesopotamia. With
the breakdown of the Hellenistic sciences after the Roman
conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean ancient civilization
lost the formal operational stage already attained by their
small circle of scientists. Neither the Romans nor medieval
Europeans were intellectually capable to understand the
research conducted by the Hellenists. Leonardo da Vinci
and Galilei belonged to the first group of those who
succeeded in understanding the documents and in resuming
the ancient research (Russo, 2005).
The loss of formal operational stage in the ancient
intellectual elite let the childlike mythological and
magical-animistic worldview reappear, as it dominated
in the whole premodern world apart from the short
Hellenistic revolution. The intellectuals of the Middle
Ages adhered to theological and philosophical theories,
originating in the preoperational stage. They were not
true scientists in consequence of their lowered
psychological stage. They understood physics against the
background of animistic schemata and magical
influences, as children do by their tenth year at the latest.
For example, their theory of movement completely bases
on the animism of the child. They did not understand
physical laws on the formal operational stage level but as
the child understands them, namely as a confusion of
will and moral, as moral and judicial laws the
phenomena have to obey (Oesterdiekhoff, 2017c; 2013a:
287-329; Piaget and Garcia, 1989; Piaget, 1975).
The child´s animism and magic bases and structures
the medieval disciplines. Medieval astronomy
understands the celestial movements as intended
movements of living beings, seeing the stars and planets
as persons or gods wandering their circles. More, the
persons walk in the heavens because it is their duty to
march, as soldiers have to do when their officers call
them. This idea governing the child´s understanding of
astronomy was shared by the astronomers by the days of
Johannes Kepler. It was Isaac Newton who developed
astronomy as being a true science, thus elevating it to the
formal operational stage.
The same process took place in chemistry. The
medieval chemist regarded the chemical elements as
alive and tried to influence them by magical means. He
hoped to influence them by his words and to alleviate
their position in the cosmic hierarchy and to receive from
them some goods in exchange for his pleasant conduct.
Alchemy transformed to chemistry at that moment as the
experimenter started to regard the elements as dead
matter only reacting to external influences. During the
same decade as the chemists surmounted the magical-
animistic view in favour for the empirical-causal view
chemistry exploded as a science. The first generation of
chemists having attained the formal operational stage
developed chemistry as a true science and created masses of
discoveries, breakthroughs and bulks of knowledge,
changing sciences, technologies and economy. The first
generation of true chemists discovered more than all
generations of the whole Middle Ages together.
The same transformation took place in physics,
biology, medicine, geology, geography and the human
sciences. Altogether, the emergence of the formal
operational stage in the minds of the scientists was the
single cause to the rise of the physical sciences “im
eigentlichen Sinne” (Piaget, 1975; Piaget and Inhelder,
1958; Oesterdiekhoff, 2017c; 2013a: 287-329). The
formal operational stage is the cause to the explosion of
scientific knowledge during the early modern times,
giving the Western world the means to transform the
world completely. The other parts of the world followed
this transformation stepwise only during the 20th
century, if at all. Piaget and Garcia (1989) himself did
the most to reconstruct the development of sciences in
terms of developmental psychology.
Industrial Economy
The rise of industrial economy in the Western world
was not forced by economic constraints or enabled by
institutional opportunities as some classic approaches
assume but was the simple consequence of psychological
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stage advancements. Even at first glance this is
demonstrable when considering the circumstances of the
invention of the steam engine, the kernel technology of
the industrial revolution. Margaret Jacob (1997)
dedicated a whole monograph to show that the engine of
Watt and Boulton was not a simple piece of
craftsmanship, of practical knowledge only, or of simple
trial and error. It resulted from the newest achievements
gained in chemistry, physics, mathematics, metallurgy
and engineering. Without the physics developed by
Newton it wouldn´t have been possible to develop this
unheard masterpiece of technology (Gordon, 1988).
James Watt was a scientist communicating with Priestley
and Lavoisier. Therefore, the new industrial technologies
came from the new sciences and the new sciences came
from the newly developed formal operational stage.
Thus, not only the second industrial revolution taking
place at the end of the 19th century, with chemistry,
pharmacy, electricity and petrol industry as leading
branches, but already the first industrial revolution
originated in sciences and the formal operational stage
(Oesterdiekhoff, 2005; 2014a).
Of course, the formal operational stage is not only via
sciences the origin of the industrial economy. People
having attained advanced psychological stages are
inclined to improve their abilities throughout all aspects
and dimensions of their life and work, their professional
and private life. People staying on preoperational stages
blockade their life in consequence of their superstitions,
cruel customs, irrational beliefs and insane traditions.
They spent their savings to ancestors, let oracles decide
their judicial cases, kill innocent persons in case of
deaths because they believe every death comes from
magical assassinations, tend to blood revenge, etc. They
give birth to numerous children but cannot invest in their
education, often not in their simple nutrition. People
staying on preoperational stages cannot build up modern,
industrial economies, partly in consequence of their
manifold irrationalities and partly due to their lacking
operational competences (Staewen, 1991; Lévy-Bruhl,
1923; 1985; Oesterdiekhoff, 2013a: 549-580; 2011:
192-205; 2014a; 2014b).
Only people staying on operational stages develop
these higher forms of rationality that make industrial
economy possible to appear. That is what Piagetian
cross-cultural psychology involuntarily and the
structural-genetic theory programme deliberately have
proved. There is a clear correlation between primary and
secondary socialisation, compulsory school education,
psychological stage advancement, rationality in life
conduct and professional abilities on the one side and
economic growth, technological progress and wealth on
the other side. Micro-economy and macro-economy,
micro-sociology and macro-sociology have to be linked
this way. Human capital theory has to be based on
developmental psychology, not simply on pedagogic.
People on advanced psychological stages manifest
higher forms of self-discipline and peaceful behaviour,
have more organizational competences and foresight,
flexibility, responsibility and empathy. That is what Max
Weber (1987) in his Protestant Ethics formulated, on a
theoretically scanty basis and what Elias (1982) in his
Civilization Theory and Alex Inkeles (1974) in his theory
of Psychological Modernity described on a more
elaborated basis. A true insight, however, is only reached
by the consequently elaborated developmental approach.
Descriptions of entrepreneurial activities, of
behaviour of clerks and workers and related
computations of labour productivity in (former)
developing nations completely match both to the
descriptions of Weber, Elias and Inkeles and to the
descriptions of the developmental approach (Staewen,
1991; Oesterdiekhoff, 2013a: 549-580; 2011: 192-205;
2014a; 2014b; 2013b). Human capital formation via
education and corresponding psychological stage
advancements make economies grow, not simply
foreign capital investments, political reforms and
institutional changes. The latter ones create nothing
when the former ones are missing, while the first
phenomenon creates by itself capital and favourite
political and societal conditions altogether.
The age of Enlightenment started roughly around
1700 and had its peak during the second half of the 18th
century. There must exist a systematic reason why the
age of Enlightenment fell nearly in the same epoch as
modern, industrial society came into being. More
precisely, the age of Enlightenment came more or less
some decades before the industrial epoch. Traditional
history or sociology could not answer to this question,
however, the structural-genetic theory programme can do
that. The age of Enlightenment is simply the intellectual
manifestation of the newly arisen formal operational
stage in worldview, religion, politics and ethics. When
developmental psychology explains history then changes
of thinking and mind have to be earlier than their
corresponding societal effects and economic outcomes.
People must have already attained higher stages before
modern, industrial societies can exist as already
accomplished forms. The construction and preparatory time
lasts a little. The time span between Enlightenment on the
one hand and modern society and industrial economy on the
other hand matches to the time span between stage
advancements and their clearly visible societal and
economic results. That is the reason why every nation that
experienced and contributed to the age of Enlightenment
also participated at the process of modernization and
industrialization during the early 19th century.
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Enlightenment consists of several elements
seemingly not linked to each other when seen from a
superficial vantage point. The authors belonging to the
movement criticised (1) magic and superstition and to a
certain extent church and religion, (2) the cruel
punishment law and (3) slavery, feudalism and
autocracy. They demanded a religion of reason (without
legends and myths), a humane punishment law and the
abolishment of serfdom in favour of liberty rights,
human rights, republic, constitutional state and
sometimes even democracy. Why did these authors
combine the criticism of superstition and magic with the
criticism of serfdom and body mutilation? Where is any
coherence between these phenomena? More, did nobody in
antiquity or medieval times criticise these phenomena?
Further, in case such criticism was expressed in former
times to a certain rate, why was then the age of
Enlightenment the first time in history where such criticism
became concise, penetrating and alarming?
It is a clear fact that antiquity and Middle Ages
strongly supported and demanded magic, superstition,
brutal punishment law, serfdom and autocracy. These
phenomena existed and penetrated premodern societies
because the people wanted them to exist. Therefore, they
weren’t criticised, or only by few and then on a scanty
basis only. The age of Enlightenment came into existence
because the Western humankind had attained a certain
psychological stage where it could no longer accept the
archaic phenomena and had stepped over a threshold where
it demanded higher developed structures in worldview,
customs, punishment law, ethics and politics.
Developmental psychology has evidenced that the
preoperational stage is the single cause and origin to the
belief in magic, witches, sorcerers, ghosts and monsters,
to the strong adherence to all kinds of superstition and to
the belief in mythical fantasies and incredulous legends.
Every child by his seventh year roughly shares this
magical-animistic and fairy tale worldview, no matter in
which culture and family it is raised, simply in
inevitable consequence of his or hers psychological
stage structures (Werner, 1948; Piaget, 1975; Stern,
1924; Bühler and Bilz, 1977; Rosengren, 2000;
Oesterdiekhoff, 2009a; 2011; 2013a).
The preoperational stage, characterizing the
psychological life of the greatest part of the premodern
humankind, is therefore the single cause to the same
forms of superstitions, mythological fantasies and
magical beliefs prevailing in the whole of ancient history
(Lévy-Bruhl, 1923; 1985; Oesterdiekhoff, 2009a; 2011;
2013a; 2012; 2016c; Piaget, 1975; Signer, 2004; Werner,
1948). The premodern humankind did not deeply
criticise magic and superstition because these structures
were the inevitable manifestation of its psychological
stage. As the European humankind - or their intellectual
elites - attained the first traces of the formal operational
stage, the age of Enlightenment started and the
intellectuals began to criticise the archaic beliefs and
practices mentioned. The age of Enlightenment, here the
criticism of magic and superstition, recognizably and
exclusively originated in the formal operational stage
and truly in nothing else.
The same is true with the other areas of
Enlightenment, the criticism of the brutal punishment
law, with the criticism of serfdom and the claims for
liberty rights and political reforms. Premodern peoples
wanted the brutal punishment law, as modern peoples
reject it. There was no cry for democracy and liberty
rights in medieval times because these peoples had not
developed those psychological stages that originate
democracy and liberty rights. As these two phenomena
will be scrutinized in the subsequent chapters, these hints
may be sufficient here.
Therefore, the structural-genetic theory programme
can explain the coherences between the three areas of
criticism (magic, mutilation and serfdom) mentioned and
between the age of Enlightenment on the one side and
the origin of sciences and modern, industrial society on
the other side. The origin of Enlightenment, sciences and
modern, industrial society all took place during the
same epoch and in the same world region. Two of
these phenomena are merely intellectual in nature and
these two intellectual phenomena precede the
institutional-economic phenomenon. That implies,
that the modern, industrial society originates in
intellectual structures and in nothing else.
Constitutional State and Democratic
The authors of Enlightenment, especially John
Locke, Charles de Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, criticised forms of serfdom such as slavery
and feudalism in a way unknown in all intellectual
history beforehand. They showed the illegitimacy of
these institutions. More, they elaborated on which
principles liberty rights, republic and democracy should
be based and how republic and democracy could
function institutionally and practically. Thus, democracy
came into being as result of planning and thinking, not as
a non-intended phenomenon. Apart from the Greek
forerunner, lasting during a short time span only, it
happened for the first time in history that thinkers
completely rejected autocracy and described principles
and institutions of democracy. It is not by chance that the
claim for democracy and liberty rights was announced
more or less during the same period as Enlightenment,
sciences and industrial economy came into existence and
spread (Oesterdiekhoff, 2015; 2013a).
Historians and sociologists focus both institutional
and intellectual factors as possible explanatory factors to
the rise of the claim for liberty rights, republic,
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constitutional state and democracy. They sway whether
the ideas of Enlightenment or the struggle for power or
class conflicts be the causers to the rise of the Free
World. Following the ideas of Marx they often have
been tending to earmark power constellations, that is, the
loss of power of the feudal elites and the rise of the
bourgeoisie, as main cause to the breakdown of
monarchy and autocracy in favour for rising democracy
and republic (Moore, 1969).
However, constitutional state and democracy do not
represent shifting power constellations, that is, the
dominance of the bourgeoisie or the middle classes
because they represent the whole electorate, that is, the
whole nation. Democracy simply is not an instrument of
a certain class to exercise power, as the institutional
argumentation provides. That is the reason why the new
political ideas, in the discussions before 1789, were
supported especially by the noblemen, more than by the
other classes and were backed by members of all social
milieus. Noblemen belonged to the most enthusiastic
supporters of Enlightenment and the new political
consciousness. Though, the historians who emphasized
the decisive role of Enlightenment to the emergence of
the new political consciousness have likewise no theory
available how it is explainable that the whole premodern
humankind did not long for republic, constitutional state
and democracy, while only the Europeans stepwise and
gradually from the 18th century onwards developed this
new consciousness and these new institutions.
The developmental approach has the means available
to explain both the dominance of autocracy in the whole
premodern world and the recent rise of the Free World
(at first in the West). The preoperational stage does not
know tolerance, liberty rights and democracy but
emphasizes the role of authority and unchangeable laws.
Only the formal operational stage both surmounts and
rejects authoritarian forms and claims for democracy,
liberty rights, tolerance and the rule of law
(Oesterdiekhoff, 2015; 2014c).
Developmental psychology conducted experiments
among children to test their political consciousness.
Younger children understand rules, even game rules, as
eternal, unchangeable and set by parents, elderly, or god.
They believe that they have to obey to the eternal
customs. Adolescents, raised in modern societies,
surmount these beliefs and introduce democratic
procedures as those to decide over the legitimacy of rules
(Piaget, 1932). Correspondingly, younger children have
little tolerance with deviating opinions, emphasizing the
dominance of the group upon the individual, thus
tending to isolate or to expel deviants or individualists.
They prefer a collective mind; all members should share
the same opinions and stances (Gallatin and Adelson,
1970; Rosenberg, 1988).
Though children understand rules as holy and eternal
they are bad in knowing and applying them. Their
comparably scanty usage and incompetent praxis is not
present in their consciousness and reflectivity, of course.
Thus, they combine a holy ideology with a poor praxis,
relying on that what authorities, parents and elderly tell
them. Without their assistance, they would lead a rude
collective life as William Golding had described in
Lord of the flies. Conversely, modern adolescents both
believe in the democratic changeability of laws and
rules and are better in their understanding and
application. Thus, they combine a democratic
consciousness (of legislation) with a cultivated social
praxis (competent rule application) (Piaget, 1932).
Piagetian cross-cultural psychology applied these
tests both to children and adults of premodern societies.
It was found that premodern adults preserve the political
consciousness of children, that is, they maintain the
belief that rules and laws are unchangeable, are set by
ancestors and divinities and are not exposed to the will
of any people. In case they actually change any rules
then with the consciousness to restore them and not to
break the old and holy rules. Accordingly, cross-cultural
psychology can evidence that premodern peoples do not
develop democratic forms of political consciousness but are
in favour of authoritarianism (Havighurst and Neugarten,
1955: 125-142; Radding, 1985: 74-108; Oesterdiekhoff,
2009a: 261-284; 336-444; 2013a: 391-493).
Historians have described that medieval peoples
regard laws as holy and unchangeable, as superior to any
will of people and as set by god, kings and ancestors
(Kern, 1952; Radding, 1985). Premodern peoples all
over the world have regarded their customary laws just
this way, as Islamic peoples do conceive the Sharia by
now. Therefore, they are in favour of authoritarian forms
of government, strictly rejecting liberty rights and
democracy. Greater parts of Europeans even during the
19th and early 20th century still rejected democracy.
Democracy and constitutional state developed in Europe
stepwise throughout the 19th century, gaining an
overweight only after 1945 or even after 1975, when the
dictatorships on the Iberian peninsula collapsed. Surveys
have shown that greater parts or even majorities in the
developing nations reject democracy even by now. Often
electorates choose in free elections parties and leaders who
proclaim to abolish democracy after election, or who
announce that they want to continue their already existing
dictatorship. Thus, autocracies in developing nations exist
not really against the will of the people. There is no regime
that can prevail without legitimacy and support of the
nation. Therefore, autocracies are wished by the people.
The worldwide slow march to democracy over the past 100
years is nothing less than the reflection or manifestation of
the likewise slow worldwide psychological stage
development (Oesterdiekhoff, 2015; 2009a: 261-284;
336-444; 2013a: 391-493).
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As children do, premodern peoples combine a holy
law understanding with a scanty social and political
praxis. Corruption, clan criminality, mafia, high violence
rates, violence against women and children, duel culture,
bloodshed, etc., prevail in every kind of premodern
society. Premodern people do not lead a life in a secure
civil society where the citizens feel responsible for the
maintenance of rule. They do not live in a constitutional
state where liberty rights are preserved and where
freedom of press, freedom of confession and rights of
minorities are guaranteed. Political power is exercised by
private persons and public functions exist on a scanty
basis only. Accordingly, the social and political
conditions in the developing nations reveal comparably
greater forms of insecurity, violence, criminality and
lack or weakness of the rule of law. As democracy
develops only stepwise in the developing world, so does
constitutional state, civil society and socio-moral life
(Oesterdiekhoff, 2016d; 2017b; 2015).
Civil society and constitutional state are yet
preconditions to democracy. Only when people are
capable to maintain social order, care for society,
develop tolerance with different opinions and feel
responsible for state, law and nation are they able to
erect democracy and a free society. This improvement of
civil life, security and moral life has taken place in
modern societies over the past centuries in a clearly
measurable rate. Thus, the most advanced nations
combine a democratic mind with improved socio-moral
praxis, as the modern adolescents do, measured by the
Piagetian surveys. Thus, as long as humans stay on the
preoperational stage they have difficulties to carry civil
society and constitutional state. People on formal
operational stages, however, are able to improve
constitutional state, civil society and the socio-moral life
(Oesterdiekhoff, 2015; 2013a: 391-493).
The Humanitarian Revolution
The authors of Enlightenment criticised barbarian
social institutions and moral practices such as slavery,
feudalism, cruel punishment law, duel culture and
violence against women, children and animals. Piagetian
cross-cultural psychology conducted empirical surveys
concerning moral attitudes, finding that premodern
peoples do not surmount Kohlbergian moral stages one
and two, with only a few people reaching stage three.
Stages one and two refer to developmental ages of
children by their tenth year. Modern peoples yet
distribute on the stages three, four and five with four
as the modal stage. This confirms the fact that modern
peoples develop five to ten years more than
premodern ones (Kohlberg et al., 1978; 1980;
Edwards, 1975; Oesterdiekhoff, 2009a: 404-409;
2013a: 495-522; 2011: 162-175).
The lower socio-moral consciousness of the
premodern humankind induced the people to perform
and to accept cruel, insane and dismal social customs
such as slavery, duel culture and body mutilation in
punishment law. The authors of Enlightenment were the
first to attain the moral stages four and five, thus
attaining higher stages of empathy, perspective-taking,
responsibility, shame, guilt feelings and socio-moral life
altogether. From those sources whole modern nations
attained the modal stage four during the 20th century.
Modern people completely reject slavery, duels and brutal
punishment law. What happens when migrants staying on
the stages one and two have the opportunity to live out their
primitive mentality and their attitudes regarding women and
thankful response to hospitality could be seen at New
Year´s eve 2015 in Cologne (Oesterdiekhoff, 2016e). That
this incident is only the clearly visible iceberg of the
problems these people make show statistics concerning
their criminality, education, occupation, political attitudes
and religious commitment (Sarrazin, 2018).
The whole premodern humankind, including nature
peoples, ancient and medieval civilizations all around the
world, practised more or less the same forms of
punishment. Torture and body mutilation such as
crucifixion, burning, cutting to pieces, beheading or
spearing to death, or boiling in hot water in front of
bulks of folk were common punishments for theft,
treachery, forging or whatever. The European
enlightenment was the first movement in world history
to abolish these practices and to replace it by forms of
punishment that spared the human body. The
humanisation of punishment law followed the
psychological stage development of the Europeans
during the past centuries. The entire world copied more
or less the European reforms with some time distance in
consequence of likewise subsequent psychological
advancements (Pinker, 2011; Oesterdiekhoff, 2009a;
2011: 162-175; 2013a: 495-522; 2014c; 2016d; 2017b).
Accordingly, developmental psychology described that
small children do not only perform more physical violence
than older ones but also that young children strongly claim
and support severe punishments. Only children after their
10th year tend to support more appropriate and reasonable
punishments (Piaget, 1932; Stern, 1924).
Physical violence is omnipresent in premodern
societies. Violence against women, children and dogs or
cattle manifests extreme forms, in comparison with the
today´s most advanced nations. Bloodshed, vengeance
and duels were seen as holy duties, devastating whole
regions and affecting population growth. Empirical
surveys in present-day developing nations show that
these peoples support and perform much more than
people of the most advanced nations violence against
women and animals and accept much more physical
violence for reasons of honour or whatever. Accordingly,
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homicides are much more frequent in developing nations
and are among premodern societies yet more present than in
the todays developing nations. The currently most advanced
nations know only a small bit of that violence Europe had to
suffer in the 18th and 19th century. Violence has
continuously declined over centuries. Violence against
children for educational reasons were common in Europe
by 1965 roughly and declined afterwards considerably and
continuously. Europe in the first half of the 19th century
enacted the first laws against the maltreatment of animals.
Protection of wildlife and cattle, unknown in developing
nations around the middle of the 20th century or partially
even by now, has got some strength over the past decades
(Pinker, 2011; Oesterdiekhoff, 2011: 162-175; 2013a: 495-
522; 2016d; 2017b).
The Arena games of the Roman Empire are the best
examples of the lower socio-moral stage of the whole
premodern humankind. They consisted of mortal duels
(gladiator fights), capital punishment of great numbers of
delinquents and animals who fought against each other
or against humans. These three elements existed
throughout the whole premodern world, including
Europe by the age of Enlightenment. The games
belonged to the greatest amusements the Romans had
and weren’t truly criticized or rejected. They simply
existed because the people wanted them to and enjoyed
them. They don´t exist anymore, neither in its compact-
Roman-form nor as single elements, because modern
peoples could neither enjoy nor sustain them. Divergent
psychological stages are the sole cause to their former
existence and their present-day disappearance
(Oesterdiekhoff, 2009b; 2011: 173-175; 2013a: 519-522).
Accordingly, premodern peoples have no problems
with slavery and related forms of dependency and
serfdom. Slavery was common among nature peoples
such as the native Americans from south and north,
among nature peoples in Polynesia and Africa and
among every Asian civilisation by the 19th century at
least. Slavery usually implied the full right upon life and
death of the slave, including sexual usage and killing for
any reasons without any legal hindrances to that. It is
obvious that slavery was only possible because
premodern peoples stood on preoperational stages and
did not surmount moral stages one and two. Only people
with low levels of socio-moral consciousness are ready
to perform and to accept slavery. Europe, China, and
Japan are said to have abolished slavery during the early
modern times. Authors of Enlightenment had prepared
the movement, the French Revolution of 1789 freed the
slaves in the colonies, the British navy prohibited
Atlantic slave trade since the 1830ies, the Europeans
stopped the Arabian slave states at that time and by 1850
all European nations had forbidden any form of slavery
forever (Oesterdiekhoff, 2013a: 395-397; 2017b).
Explosion in Painting
Ancient Egyptian painting manifests another style as
ancient or medieval Chinese or Indian painting. Yet,
ancient or medieval Mediterranean and ancient or
medieval Oriental painting exhibit common features
underlying their different styles. These common features
were only surmounted by the European painting starting
during Renaissance and further European advancements
unfolding in the early modern era.
Some historians of art, especially before 1940 but
also in recent times, have described similarities between
children’s drawings and the pre-Renaissance painting in
its worldwide dimensions (Gablik, 1976; Schäfer, 1986;
Oesterdiekhoff, forthcoming a). Preoperational spatial
understanding is the cause to these common features.
The preoperational space understanding only knows
topological relations, while the concrete operational
space understanding manifests Euclidean and projective
space relations, coming into existence in the history of
painting only during the European Renaissance. It was
found that the worldwide pre-Renaissance painting
corresponds to the third stage of children´s drawings -
the intellectual stage - according to Luquet (1927), while
the fourth stage - the visual stage-corresponds to the
Renaissance painting and the subsequent European arts.
Modern children reach the concrete operational space
understanding and the visual stage with 9 years roughly.
The common features of the pre-Renaissance art,
originating in the topological or preoperational stage, are
definable the following way. The painters show no space
but locales only. The pictures are two-dimensionally
only, incapable of presenting three-dimensional depth.
Objects are presented flat and not bodily, missing any
foreshortenings, oblique views and diminutions.
Measurements, distances and proportions are not
seriously considered. Emotionally important objects are
painted bigger than secondary phenomena. Perspectives
are missing. Far-distant and nearby objects are painted
with the same sizes. The painters paint against their
knowledge of the objects (intellectual realism) and not
against what is given to the eyes (visual realism). That is,
their paintings do not come close to photos and are bad
in coping reality. They paint objects schematically.
There was no ancient or medieval painter who was able
to paint a human body (or whatever) as it looks like in
reality. For example, ancient Egyptians, over 3.000
years, always paint humans this flat or non-bodily way:
Breast, shoulders and eyes were painted in front view,
while the face, the hip, the buttocks, the legs and the feet
in profile. The painters paint alike that what is viewable
and that what is not viewable but belongs to the object
anyway, a phenomenon called x-ray painting. Ancient
and medieval painters never paint light and shadows. “I
have happened on no evidence to show that any [ancient]
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Greek ever sat down and drew a view, or a group of
figures, or a congeries of objects, such as his tables and
chairs, as they appeared relatively to each other in their
respective shapes, sizes and positions, as seen from a
single point of view.” (Ivins, 1964: 31)
Painting experienced an unheard breakthrough during
Renaissance and subsequent centuries, a breakthrough
limited to European culture by 1900 roughly. The
invention of the central perspective with its
foreshortenings, diminutions and oblique views is only
one element of this revolution. Piaget has shown in two
ample volumes that the central perspective comes into
existence as consequence of the concrete operations, that
is, as consequence of the replacement of the topological
by the Euclidean and projective spaces. People on the
concrete operational stage discover the space in painting
and are able to consider depth, proportions and distances.
They have the preconditions to paint persons and objects
voluminously and bodily. They avoid all the failures of
intellectual realism in favour for visual realism. As they
paint realities as they paint light, colour shades and
shadows for the first time in history. European painters
cared for the reproduction of every single detail ancient
and Oriental painters simply overlooked. European
artists learned to come close with their paintings to
photos and full reality (Gablik, 1976; Schäfer, 1986;
Oesterdiekhoff et al., 2019).
There was not one pre-Renaissance painter in the
whole world being able to paint a picture of the quality
Das große Rasenstück of Dürer (1502) manifests. There
was not one ancient, medieval or Oriental painter who
was enabled to paint a portrait of the perfection Pieter
van den Broecke by Franz Hals (1633) or Pope Paul III.
by Tizian (1546) exhibit. Not one pre-Renaissance artist
could have reached the excellence Albert Anker attained
with Children at breakfast in 1879. Not by chance is
Leonardo´s Mona Lisa the most famous picture today.
Altogether, psychological stage development has carried
the whole history of painting. Not conventions or styles but
psychological maturation built the main trajectory in the
history of arts. European culture from the Renaissance
onwards by 1900 or 1950 attained higher stages in painting
unparalleled in the whole history that apparently reflect
psychological stage advancements.
Narration historically starts with creation and telling
of myths. From the Stone Ages to the end of the
premodern world the myth was the most used form of
narration all over the world. The myth is the single form
of narration among illiterate nature peoples, the most
frequent form of narration among the illiterate people in
the famous Eurasian agrarian civilizations by the 19th
century and attracted greatest interest among noblemen
in the palaces of India, Ottoman Empire, Persia and
China still during the early modern times. The myth is
the origin of literature and religious legends and the
precursor of philosophy and science.
Premodern people commonly do not discriminate
myths from reportages or records. They usually do not
regard myths as simply fictional but believe they tell true
incidents. They use myths for explaining nature and
reality, different from that what modern fictional
literature does. Against modern understandings, myths
commonly describe physical impossibilities and
incredulous events. Ancient people yet thought
otherwise. Myriads of mythologists worked out that
initially there weren’t any divergences between myths
for children and those for adults. Only in more recent
times, some divergences have occurred. Myths, today
told to children only, once entertained the whole family
and village community. Children and archaic adults
create the same myths and have the same attitude to
them (Wundt, 1914: 33-37; Bühler and Bilz, 1977;
Rosengren, 2000; Stern, 1924; Oesterdiekhoff, 2016f).
Epic, tragedy, comedy and drama manifest more
elaborated forms of narration. The classic antiquity
created these forms of narration that vanished again after
the collapse of the Roman Empire. According to LePan,
only during the 1590ies, with Marlowe and Shakespeare,
narration reached again the level the classic authors had
already attained 1.300 or 2.000 years ago. LePan (1989)
dedicated a whole monograph to interpret the English
literary history in terms of developmental psychology.
He described that the medieval English (European)
literature only knew simple plots manifesting features
typical for children. “Thus almost all works of
literature in primitive societies are plotted in single
sequences rather than dobble-plotted´ with two or
more related threads of story inter-woven.” (LePan,
1989: 178) The simple plot did not well describe
motives if at all, did not characterize psychological
features, did not combine cause and effect and therefore
did not arouse expectations. The audience focused single
incidents as do children today when watching TV
(Oesterdiekhoff and Rindermann, forthcoming).
The complex plot, coming into existence with
Shakespeare in England, already manifests those features all
kinds of drama have since. LePan shows that psychological
stage advancements must have taken place both in authors
and audience to make this explosion in literary possible.
However, a new kind of literature appeared that
exerted more influence than the drama had done. Though
a handful or a dozen of novels had been already written
in antiquity, the novel started to disseminate from the
16th century onwards. El criticón, Simplicissimus
Teutsch, Eulenspiegel and Don Quichote belonged to the
first true novels in modern literary history. The next step
was given by the developmental novel, exemplified by
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Robinson Crusoe, The history of Tom Jones and
Geschichte des Fräulein von Sternheim. The European
novel exploded during the 19th century and later on with
Austen, Dickens, Dostojewski, Tolstoi, Mann, Proust,
etc., shaping the consciousness and education of whole
nations. More than any other form of narration the novel
is capable to tell complex stories and to reflect the full
density and complexity of real life. More than any other
form the novel can dive into psychological structures and
social conditions. The persons described have greater
roundness and depth and the ideas outlined are more
profound. The novel alone can show the full reality
(Oesterdiekhoff, 2013a: 346-349, Oesterdiekhoff and
Rindermann, forthcoming).
On the whole, literary history manifests the same
process of psychological maturation as painting does.
From myth over drama and tragedy to novel there is
recognizable a clear tendency to greater complexity and
mental depth. The breakthrough of literature took place
during the same period as modern society came into
being. Modern literature has been part and manifestation
of the European miracle over some centuries. Of course,
nowadays, both modern society and literary excellence
have more or less disseminated worldwide.
To my knowledge, the history of music is not written
in terms of psychological stages by now. Thus, there is
some difference to the history of painting and literature
concerning scientific endeavours related. However,
presumably all elements needed to that task have been
available for long. Multi-voiced music is central to the
development of Western music. It originated in the link
of notation and composition. The great breakthrough in
the entire music history of the world came with the 12
steps tone system around 1700. It enabled to compose in
all kinds of major and minor. Johann Sebastian Bach is
the main protagonist of this greatest revolution in music
history. Composers like Georg Friedrich Händel, Ludwig
van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Joseph Haydn,
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn-
Bartholdy, Giuseppi Verdi, Richard Wagner, Fryderik
Chopin, Clara and Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms,
Claude Debussy, Pjotr Tschaikowsky and others created
the great compositions of classic music.
This greatest revolution in the music history of the
world took mainly place from 1700 to 1900 in Europe,
during the same time as the novel conquered literature
and the painting fully matched reality, as the Western
world went through the greatest transformation in world
history and as the Europeans subsequently attained the
formal operational stage and reached psychological
developmental ages unparalleled in history. The great
concert halls in Tokio, Moscow, Sydney, New York,
Singapore, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur or Hamburg
almost always only perform these classic composers
mentioned. They do not play European composers of the
15th century or Asian composers of premodern times for
obvious reasons. Premodern music from whichever
world region or from whichever styles simply cannot
match classic music.
It is clear that psychological stage advancement is the
cause to this explosion of composition. Psychological
stage development likewise caused the breakthroughs in
music, literature and painting having taken place in
Europe during the past centuries. The structural-genetic
theory programme is the fundamental theory to the
history of the fine arts and has found the key to explain
their main trajectories.
Modern society and corresponding psychological
stages might have been the prerequisites to subsequent
music revolutions. The diverse forms of Pop music after
1960 and Latin music may be part of this process. Both
reveal an explosion of talent and excellent compositions
with thousands of earwigs that probably have no
matching parallels in the various forms of premodern
music (Oesterdiekhoff, 2013a: 357-361).
European Expansion
Sea voyages across oceans and intercontinental
traffic exist since prehistory. There is abundant and clear
evidence that copper and tin was exported from both
Americas to the Mediterranean since the early Bronze
Age over several thousand years on a more or less
regular basis. People from Asia and Europe met in
America and Africa. China, India, Europe and the
Mediterranean were connected to the mines of Africa
some thousands of years ago. The cultures of the world
were much more interconnected to each other and
influenced more each other than school books usually
reveal as research has shown over the past generations
(Bailey, 1994; Fell, 1977; Thompson, 1992).
However, the more recent European expansion yet
soon exceeded the ancient intercontinental contacts. The
Portuguese and the Spaniards conquered Latin America
and imprinted influences existing and dominating by
now, concerning not only language and religion. They
connected Latin America to the since then never broken
again chain of global developments, enabling Latin
America to participate at the transformation to modern,
industrial society. Of course, as the 16th century Iberians
had been more brutal than the 19th century Europeans
their colonisation had much more dismal aspects than the
19th century colonisation and imperialism. People of
many European nations occupied North America later
on, also leading the Amerindians close to distinction and
transforming that region to the top of the industrial
world. On the whole, North and South America became
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the greatest colony for the Europeans to settle. Initially
the double continent was a European satellite, later on it
became independent. The double continent and Europe
form the kernel of the Western world by now.
Great Britain became the greatest imperialistic power
in world history, ruling roughly a quarter of the world´s
surface around 1914. There weren’t many nations in the
world this aggressive military state did not invade or led
a war with. Apart of America, British colonizers
conquered South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
More, the Britons ruled whole India by 1947 and greater
parts of Africa by 1960. Further, the Europeans ruled
Africa, Polynesia and South East Asia by 1945 or by
1960, respectively (Ferguson, 2011; Chaudhuri, 1978).
The geography of Russia is a sometimes overlooked
part of the European expansion. The origins both of
Russia and Ukraine are European in nature. The first
Russian city, Novgorod, belonging to the Hanse
association, was founded by Germanic Vikings, as
northerners built the origin of Ukraine. The Kremlin,
partially built by Italian architects, symbolizes the
European influences, strengthened by Peter the Great
who learned in the Netherlands and built the maritime
door to Europe, St. Petersburg. Russia participated at the
transformations of Europe to a certain extent during the
early modern times. Of course, she was not a forerunner
but more a copying backbencher with dubious successes.
Though, its vast expansion between 1500 and 1900 has
to be explained against the background of this
participation. It is possible to compare the conquest of
North Asia by the Russians with the conquest of
Australia and both Americas by the Europeans. As the
Russians imprinted modern civilization to North Asia, as
the Europeans did concerning both Americas.
Thus, Europeans between 1500 and 1900 occupied
and colonized both Americas, North Asia, Greenland,
Australia and New Zealand. By now these parts of the
world have remained European settlements and nations,
amounting more than half of the globe´s surface. The
decolonization after 1960 in the South did not abolish
these occupations mentioned.
The Europeans discovered any small region in the
world and contacted almost all cultures existing in the
period. They described any small people in the world at
length and analyzed their customs, religion, mind and
their way of life altogether. They methodically
scrutinized the botany and fauna, the geology and
geography of the regions they travelled through. Thousands
over thousands of ethnographic descriptions related are
stored in libraries - an achievement unheard in all history.
Europeans made dictionaries of thousands of languages and
researched their features. No other civilization has ever
accomplished comparable achievements.
The moral and political problems of the era of
colonialism and imperialism have been widely discussed.
Exploitation, alienation, incapacitation and destruction of
cultures belong to the many sins Europeans committed at
that time. However, this era imported the modern,
industrial society to the non-Western world. Nothing
could be more wrong than the statement of Chancellor
Merkel, Europe had blockaded Africa´s development for
over 400 years. Conversely, Europe delivered all the
mental, informational, cultural, technological,
educational, scientific, medical and economic
impulses to the non-Western world that were needed
to copy the Western process of modernization and
industrialization. Only this way became the modern,
industrial society more or less dominant right across
the whole globe (Oesterdiekhoff, 2005).
The globalization process does not only concern
economic and institutional aspects but also
psychological structures. Greatest parts of the
preoperational mind and worldview (Lévy-Bruhl,
1923; 1985), dominating the non-Western world a few
generations ago, have largely disappeared now.
Psychological stage advancements have taken place
more or less on a global scale. Of course, there are
still developmental gaps between peoples of the most
advanced nations and those of the developing world.
Though, the gaps are closing. Yesterday´s
backbencher can be the frontrunner of tomorrow. Just
this shift of powers and capabilities is already
happening right now (Oesterdiekhoff, 2016d; Frank and
Gills, 1993; Landes, 1998; Maddison, 2001).
Obviously, psychological stage advancements in the
Europeans are connected to their cultural advantages that
made their expansion possible. It helps to explain how
some thousand Britons could rule India, or how small
groups could crash the Aztec and Inca civilisation. It
helps to explain how the intentions to explore and to
discover arose and how the contacts between the foreign
invaders and the local residents developed in favour for
the first group. Todorow once wrote that it was their
literacy that enabled the Europeans to smash the
Amerindians in North America. Yet literacy was only a
small part of the cultural inequalities but deeply
connected to stage differences as Piagetian psychology
had described at length (Luria, 1982; Mogdil and
Mogdil, 1976). Piagetian psychology is also requested
regarding the explanation to the stage differences
between former and present-day Westerners, that is, why
former Europeans often tended to maltreat the peoples
they encountered and why they now disapprove their
antecedents, of course, often with wrong argumentation
(consider Merkel´s statement). Piagetian psychology is
also helpful to discriminate between those who are able
to discuss the achievements and failures of the
colonization properly on the one side and those who
have only some moral sentiments but neither knowledge
nor judgment about that on the other side.
Georg Oesterdiekhoff et al. / Journal of Social Sciences 2020, Volume 16: 84.99
DOI: 10.3844/jssp.2020.84.99
The European miracle must be discriminated from
former breakthroughs somewhat. Never before was a
transformation thus penetrating and ground-breaking,
including the Neolithic revolution and the rise of state
and civilization. Not one transformation before had
aroused such tremendous effects. More, never before
whole nations had attained the formal operational stage.
In ancient times only some small elites might have
touched this stage. Modern nations are yet separated
from the whole premodern humankind by 5, 10 and even
more developmental years. Therefore, the emergence of
the modern, industrial society is a radically new
phenomenon. Even huge transformations in former times
happened all within the preoperational or concrete
operational stage. Advancements in China around 1300
or in India around 200, in Rome around Caesar´s time or
in Arabia around 1000 - they all happened within the
lower psychological stages.
Of course, the European miracle is somehow history
because now all nations are on the stage or at its edge at
least. China, India, Indonesia or Brazil are on the jump,
in 100 years perhaps three billions of Africans will look
on perhaps 500 millions of Europeans. More, even the
European miracle once resulted from global influences.
Further, almost every world region was once frontrunner,
while others, later great, were at times backbenchers. The
worldwide influences have dominated and steered every
nation more or less to similar directions, mostly balancing
momentary inequalities quickly. Advantages given to one
culture were thus mostly only of momentary character.
However, when Arabia was frontrunner around 1000 A. C.
and Greece around 400 B. C. - they were so in a different
way from the European preponderance after 1700. Neither
was their advancement related to the backbenchers so big as
was the gap between Europe and the non-Western world
around 1900, nor did the then given gap implied such huge
psychological stage differences.
Modern, industrial society consists of transformations
in sciences, industrial economy, political structures (such
as democracy, civil society and constitutional state),
Enlightenment (such as disenchantment and claim for
liberty rights), humanitarian revolution (such as diligent
childcare, animal protection, abolishment of slavery,
serfdom and brutal punishment law and decline of
violence and criminality) and revolutions in music,
painting and literature. Every single transformation
simply manifests psychological stage advancements.
More exactly, every kind of modernization, every
transformation of a certain dimension of culture during
modernization, is either a manifestation of psychological
stage development or a side effect of this. Whenever a
nation attains the formal operational stage it cannot
avoid developing stepwise modern society. Small
milieus with people on the formal operational stage
cannot alone create modern society (Hellenistic science
revolution as example to this). When greater parts yet
join the transformation then the emergence of modern,
industrial society becomes inevitable (Oesterdiekhoff,
2007; 2014a; 2014b; 2014d; 2014e).
Conversely, whenever people stay on preoperational
stages then they do not develop sciences, industrial
economy, democracy, constitutional state, humanitarian
revolution, visual realism in painting, classic music and
great literature à la Proust or Mann. Preoperational
peoples know or manifest magic, superstitious religion
(ancestor worship and nature religion), simple
technologies, hunting, fishing, farming, craftsmanship,
trading, autocracy, slavery and the fine arts in their
archaic forms (Oesterdiekhoff, 2011; 2013a; 2016a;
2016b; Lévy-Bruhl, 1923; 1985).
The structural-genetic theory programme collapses
classical and current sociology and economy with their
belief in institutions, social conditions, materialistic
circumstances and capital. It rather shows that presumed
objective and materialistic phenomena are mainly results
and consequences of psychological stage developments
(Oesterdiekhoff, 2016b; 2018). The structural-genetic
theory programme is the first theory that succeeds in
revealing the true foundations of the history of language,
sciences, economy, law, politics, morals, religion and
fine arts. These foundations are psychological stage
structures. Premodern cultural manifestations originate
in preoperational stages and modern manifestations of
culture root in the formal operational stage. The
discovery of the childlike nature of premodern humans
and of the stage advancements of modern humans, is the
greatest discovery ever made in the human and social
sciences (Oesterdiekhoff, 2016a; 2016c).
On the whole, the structural-genetic theory
programme has found the key both to understand the
origin and the nature of modern, industrial society. The
new theory is superior to the classic approaches of
Durkheim, Weber, Parsons and Elias and has much more
explanatory power and empirical evidence than current
approaches contributed by Jones (1987), Ferguson
(2011), Macfarlane (2000), Landes (1998), Pomeranz
(2001), Sanderson (1999) and Wallerstein (1974).
Author’s Contributions
Jörn Rüsen: Helped in developing ideas and
conceptions, wrote the last chapter and read the paper.
Hans-Jürgen Hummell: Helped in developing the
conception, discussed the problems and read the article
for corrections.
Georg Oesterdiekhoff: Wrote the first parts of the
article, developed the research idea, and read the article
for corrections.
Georg Oesterdiekhoff et al. / Journal of Social Sciences 2020, Volume 16: 84.99
DOI: 10.3844/jssp.2020.84.99
The authors confirm that the content does not violate
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... It is obvious that such populations are not capable of building complex modern societies and institutions. In an impressive number of books and articles Oesterdiekhoff has shown that these societies are at a childlike anthropological stage of development, and their personality, behavior and psyche are qualitatively different from modern societies (e.g., Oesterdiekhoff, 2011Oesterdiekhoff, , 2013Oesterdiekhoff, , 2014aOesterdiekhoff, ,b, 2015aOesterdiekhoff, ,b, 2016Oesterdiekhoff, Rüsen & Hummell, 2020). Consequently, many achievements remain beyond the reach of pre-formal societies. ...
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There is ample evidence that numerous effects of intelligence are non-linear. Nevertheless, psychometric research is almost exclusively restricted to the linear approach. The article presents a non-linear model, dubbed threshold model of formal-operative intelligence. The model is based on Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. Using Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index as an example, it is shown that countries are only able to curb corruption if their national intelligence exceeds a certain threshold. In the lower intelligence range it does not matter whether a country is very far below or directly on the threshold. Intelligence only comes into play when the threshold is exceeded. In the context of Piaget’s developmental psychology this means: The decisive question is whether a sufficiently large proportion of the population has reached the stage of formal-operative thinking. It is shown that the threshold model has far greater explanatory power than the linear approach, and that this applies to a broad range of quite diverse variables. The importance of intelligence is much greater than many believe.
... Das Oesterdiekhoff, 2006Oesterdiekhoff, , 2011Oesterdiekhoff, , 2012Oesterdiekhoff, , 2013Oesterdiekhoff, , 2014aOesterdiekhoff, ,b, 2015aOesterdiekhoff, ,b, 2016Oesterdiekhoff, Rüsen & Hummell, 2020 ...
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Es gibt zahlreiche Belege dafür, dass die Auswirkungen der Intelligenz in unterschiedlichen Bereichen nicht-linear sind. Dennoch ist die psychometrische Intelligenzforschung fast ausschließlich auf den linearen Ansatz beschränkt. Dieser Artikel stellt ein nicht-lineares Modell vor, das als Schwellenmodell der formal-operativen Intelligenz bezeichnet wird. Das Modell basiert auf Jean Piagets Stufen der menschlichen Entwicklung. Am Beispiel des Korruptionswahrnehmungs-Index von Transparency International wird gezeigt, dass Länder nur dann in der Lage sind, Korruption einzudämmen, wenn ihre nationale Intelligenz eine bestimmte Schwelle überschreitet. Im unteren Intelligenzbereich spielt es keine Rolle, ob ein Land sehr weit unter oder direkt an der Schwelle liegt. Intelligenz entfaltet erst dann ihre Wirkung, wenn die Schwelle überschritten wird. Im Kontext der Entwicklungspsychologie von Piaget bedeutet dies: Entscheidend ist, ob ein ausreichend großer Teil der Bevölkerung das Stadium des formal-operativen Denkens erreicht hat. Es wird gezeigt, dass das Schwellen-modell eine weitaus größere Erklärungskraft hat als der lineare Ansatz. Dies gilt für eine breite Palette von ganz unterschiedlichen Variablen. Die Bedeutung der Intelligenz ist viel größer, als viele glauben. ____________ Dieser Artikel ist eine Übersetzung von Henss, R. (2021). Non-linearity of intelligence effects and the Threshold Model of formal-operative Intelligence. Mankind Quarterly, 61, 854-871. Blog zum Schwellenmodell der formal-operativen Intelligenz:
... A reflected consciousness in the true sense of the word is only given at the stage of formal operations. Only now is there a thinking of thinking (Piaget, 1981;Piaget and Inhelder, 1969) and this stage of development -the basis of a more highly developed consciousness -is the prerequisite for the part of humanity that lives in today's advanced nations, but probably better said: The majority of people living today, to no longer accept cannibalism, slavery, the brutal-sadistic criminal law, human sacrifices to the gods and the arena games (Oesterdiekhoff et al., 2020). Because modern people have a more developed consciousness, they can neither enjoy nor bear these atrocities today. ...
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The Civilization theory of N. Elias combines the scrutiny of psychogenetic and sociogenetic developments shaping history from ancient to modern times. Both forms of developments are seen by him as deeply interconnected to each other, being to each other cause and consequence alike. Medieval respectively premodern societies harbor people staying more close to childlike levels, while modern societies force humans to attain more elaborated psychological stages. Otherwise modern societies couldn´t function. It is shown that Elias has problems to evidence his psychogenetic assumptions. Civilization theory can be improved by the application of learned developmental psychology, by using theories and data coming from Piagetian cross-cultural psychology. It is not only possible to improve the insights into psychogenetic data hereby but also to illuminate much better central phenomena of modern society. Piagetian data enable to refer crucial phenomena of modern society – sciences, industrial economy, democracy, constitutional state, humanitarian revolution, traits of the fine arts – to psychogenetic advancements much better than Elias had done.
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One of the first cross-cultural psychology books dealing specifically with culture and cognition. The collection of articles dating from 1974 reflects the research field of the time, but the fact that it has been republished as vol 2 in the series “Psychology Library Editions: Personality” by Routledge/Taylor & Francis shows that it can still be of interest.
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Religion, literature, philosophy, and sciences have originated from myths. A scientific theory of the myth is thus decisive to the comprehension of the history of mind and culture. Since its beginning, the related research sways between relativistic and developmental approaches. Many authors have used developmental approaches in order to understand the production and reception of myths. This essay shows that only a developmental approach has the capacity to understand the true nature of the myth and mythical thinking. The consequences of these considerations go far beyond mythology and address basic questions of the history of human culture,.