Science, empire and capitalism: the ties that bind us

Harari explains that science, empire and capitalism are linked by the great expeditions of the past that allowed all of these things to come together. The links of empire and capitalism are easy to explain since you can’t have an empire without first having a small group of people with economic control over a larger group of people. The links of science and empire are also an easy line to draw as science is usually funded by the empire that seeks to use the knowledge. The great empires of history began exploration through conquest. A specific example of how scientific discovery was shaped by political and fiscal interests is the British domination of India. They brought in all the science to categorize and place a value on every inch of India. “The British explored the military resources of Indian provinces and the location of their gold mines, but they also took the trouble to collect information about rare Indian spiders, to catalogue colorful butterflies, to trace the ancient origins of extinct Indian languages, and to dig up forgotten ruins” (Harari pg 255). This knowledge allowed the British empire to rule effectively for almost two hundred years.


The idea of progress is vital to understanding the links of science, empire and capitalism because it is the foundation of unending growth that has allowed all three to flourish. Before people believed that tradition was the end all be all to knowledge. We knew that god created everything and it was going to stay that way. At least until we started using science and seeing the subjective turn objective and observable. The cultural shift of believing that there is more to learn than just what you elder taught you was a revolution. Thanks to the pioneering innovative thinking of the past we can look to the future with a method to handle anything that come our way.

1 thought on “Science, empire and capitalism: the ties that bind us”

  1. You chose a really classic and effective example of how Britain’s domination of India included empire, science and capitalism. You included the scientific aspect, cataloging spiders and pursuing Indian history, the capitalist aspect of the resources that were found, and the empire aspect which was Britain’s colonization of a new territory. Your quote from Harari was very well placed in your blog post.
    I agree with your assertion that the scientific revolution was so powerful because of the shift in thinking from knowing how the world works because of God, to we know that we don’t know. Your statement “we started using science and seeing the subjective turn objective and observable” is written so nicely. Good job!

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