The Holy Trinity of Progress: Science, Capitalism and Empire

Harari argues in his book that the key that unlocked our modern society, was the connection between science, capitalism and empire. Each one affects the other and creates what I call a trinity of progress. Science affects capitalism in the way technological advancements increase productivity, which further produces wealth. These profits of capitalism often go towards financing the technologies that increase productivity. Capitalism affects empire by encouraging empires to expand in order to find resources. As the expansion continues, more resources are obtained further expanding capitalism. In theory this benefits the economy as a whole. Finally, Empire benefits directly from technology in that the growth of empires gives rise to a need for new technologies for conquest and resource exploitation. Science in return benefits from empires in the way empires help in expanding the knowledge base of empires that further grows technology. This all in turn creates the wheel that developed into our societies of today. An example of this process at work can be easily seen in Christopher Columbus’ expedition. The expedition was launched in the attempts to discover a direct route to the markets of Asia, which would expand the empire, and economy of the country that discovered it. But when a whole new continent was discovered during the journey, the world as a whole would never be the same. European countries engaged in colonialism and the exploitation of resources for domestic economies.



Harari states, “Whoever believes in progress believes that geographical discoveries, technological inventions and organizational developments can increase the sum total of human production, trade and wealth.” (pg. 310) Harari believes that it took and idealistic view of continual progress to bring the world out of the pre modern world. I agree with this point. In order to achieve “progress” you have to be able to see hope in the future based around advances in technology, capitalistic systems and the growth of empires. Without that hope, there would be no inspiration for progress. Progress would remain stagnant and humanity would remain the way it had for centuries. We must believe that there is a possibility for progress to be able to innovate as humans.


1 thought on “The Holy Trinity of Progress: Science, Capitalism and Empire”

  1. Your explanation of the Science-Empire-Capitalism cycle was very thorough, informative, and helpful. I think that Harari also explained this well with his growing pie analogy (although he used this to just emphasis the modern economy). As each piece influences the other, their slice of the pie grows and grows, thus causing the entire pie to grow. However, I disagree with some parts of your perspective on progress; specifically, I think by definition, “progress” will occur whether humans see hope in the future or not. To me, “progress” seems like a tricky slope to navigate with the possibility of grandiose rewards to reap in the future, depending on the current course of the Science-Empire-Capitalism cycle. This perspective leads me to believe that “progress” acts as a constant pressure on humanity, threatening to hold back those who refuse to feed into the aforementioned cycle, although some type of “progress” will occur no matter what.

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