The Impact of Science on Society, Part 2 – Limits to the Stability of a Scientific World Empire

Limits to the Stability of a Scientific World Empire

Originally posted January 21, 2008

“I do not believe that dictatorship is a lasting form of scientific society – unless (but this proviso is important) it can become world-wide.”- Bertrand Russell, 1952 (p67)

According to Bertrand Russell’s 1952 book The Impact of Science on Society* empires of the past were unable to sustain their control over ever distant regions of their dominion mostly due to the difficulty of maintaining effective centralized control over the actions of their subordinates. Scientific technique has removed this limitation. The only remaining obstacle to the creation of a truly worldwide empire is the establishment of a unifying principle to replace the fear of war.

Limits to the Size of an Empire

From The Impact of Science on Society:

“In any given state of technique there is a limit to size. The Roman Empire was stopped by German forests and African deserts… And before the telegraph large empires tended to break up because they could not be effectively controlled from the centre.

Communications have been hitherto the chief factor limiting the size of empires… This difficulty was diminished by railways and the telegraph, and is on the point of disappearing with the improvement of the long-range bomber. There would now be no technical difficulty about a single world-wide Empire. Since war is likely to become more destructive to human life than it has been in recent centuries, unification under a single world government is probably necessary unless we are to acquiesce in either a return to barbarism or the extinction of the human race.” [emphasis mine] – 36

“I think the evils that have grown up in Soviet Russia will exist, in a greater or less degree, wherever there is a scientific government which is securely established and is not dependent upon popular support. It is possible nowadays for a government to be very much more oppressive than any government could be before there was scientific technique. Propaganda makes persuasion easier for the government; public ownership of halls and paper makes counter-propaganda more difficult; and the effectiveness of modern armaments makes popular risings impossible. No revolution can succeed in a modern country unless it has the support of at least a considerable section of the armed forces. But the armed forces can be kept loyal by being given a higher standard of life than that of the average worker, and this is made easier by every step in the degradation of ordinary labour. Thus the very evils of the system help to give it stability. Apart from external pressure, there is no reason why such a regime should not last for a very long time.” [emphasis mine] – 61

War, the Chief Source of Social Cohesion

“What stands in the way [of world government]? Not physical or technical obstacles, but only the evil passions in human minds…” – 108

“…so long as there is imminent risk of war it is impossible to escape from the authority of the State except to a very limited degree. It is mainly war that has caused the excessive power of modern States, and until the fear of war is removed it is inevitable that everything should be subordinated to short-term efficiency. But I have thought it worth while to think for a moment of the world as it may be when a world government has ended the present nightmare dread of war.” – 75 “War has been, throughout history, the chief source of social cohesion; and since science began, it has been the strongest incentive to technical progress. Large groups have a better chance of victory than small ones, and therefore the usual result of war is to make States larger…

There is, it must be confessed, a psychological difficulty about a single world government. The chief source of social cohesion in the past, I repeat, has been war: the passions that inspire a feeling of unity are hate and fear. These depend upon the existence of an enemy, actual or potential. It seems to that a world government could only be kept in being by force, not by the spontaneous loyalty that now inspires a nation at war.” [emphasis mine] – 36

World Government

“As regards war, the principle of unrestricted national sovereignty, cherished by liberals in the nineteenth century and by the Kremlin in the present day, must be abandoned. Means must be found of subjecting the relations of nations to the rule of law, so that a single nation will no longer be, as at present, the judge in its own cause. If this is not done, the world will quickly return to barbarism. In that case, scientific technique will disappear along with science, and men will be able to go on being quarrelsome because their quarrels will no longer do much harm. It is, however, just possible that mankind may prefer to survive and prosper rather than to perish in misery, and, if so, national liberty will have to be effectively restrained.” – 50

“In the past, there were many sovereign States, any two of which might at any time quarrel. Attempts in the line of the League of Nations were bound to fail, because, when a dispute arose, the disputants were too proud to accept outside arbitration, and the neutrals were too lazy to enforce it. Now there are only two sovereign States: Russia (with satellites) and the United States (with satellites). If either becomes preponderant, either by victory or by an obvious military superiority, the preponderant Power can establish a single Authority over the whole world, and thus make future wars impossible. At first this Authority will , in certain regions, be based on force, but if the Western nations are in control, force will as soon as possible give way to consent. When that has been achieved, the most difficult of world problems will have been solved, and science can become wholly beneficent.” – 106

“There are three ways of securing a society that shall be stable as regards population. The first is that of birth control, the second that of infanticide or really destructive wars, and third that of general misery except for a powerful minority. All these methods have been practised… the third in the world as some Western internationalists hope to make it and in Soviet Russia.” [emphasis mine] – 117

“… a scientific world society cannot be stable unless there is a world government… unless there is a world government which secures universal birth control, there must from time to time be great wars, in which the penalty of defeat is widespread death by starvation… Unless, at some stage, one power or group of powers emerges victorious and proceeds to establish a single government of the world with a monopoly of armed forces, it is clear that the level of civilization must decline until scientific warfare becomes impossible that is until science is extinct.” – 117

This last point is very important because the exact same theme was described by Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1997). Brzezinski outlines his case for how current American global supremacy should be used to unify the world under the dictates of the United Nations. For more about The Grand Chessboard read this .

From The Grand Chessboard:

“Meeting these challenges is America’s burden as well as its unique responsibility. Given the reality of American democracy, an effective response will require generating a public understanding of the continuing importance of American power in shaping a widening framework of stable geopolitical cooperation, one that simultaneously averts global anarchy and successfully deters the emergence of a new power challenge. These two goals– averting global anarchy and impeding the emergence of a power rival– are inseparable from the longer-range definition of the purpose of America’s global engagement, namely, that of forging an enduring framework of global geopolitical cooperation.” [emphasis mine] – 214

“In brief, the U.S. policy goal must be unapologetically twofold: to perpetuate America’s own dominant position for at least a generation and preferably longer still; and to create a geopolitical framework that can absorb the inevitable shocks and strains of social-political change while evolving into the geopolitical core of shared responsibility for peaceful global management. A prolonged phase of gradually expanding cooperation with key Eurasian partners, both stimulated and arbitrated by America, can also help to foster the preconditions for an eventual upgrading of the existing and increasingly antiquated UN [United Nations] structures. A new distribution of responsibilities and privileges can then take into account the changed realities of global power, so drastically different from those of 1945.” [emphasis mine] – 215


The next article will examine Bertrand Russell’s views on population control and the scientific breeding of humans . The fourth and final part in this series will explore the use of education as the most powerful form of government propaganda .

*Quotes from Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society (1952). ISBN0-41510906-X


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