Culture & Communications:


The Modern Globalizing Culture Part III:

Major Cultural Shifts in Western History

Dr. Andreas Eppink

This article is the third of an on-going series of selected chapters excerpted from Dr. Eppink's upcoming book, "Hidden Goals in Modern Globalizing Culture", and is herein offered in conjunction to an earlier paper by Dr. Eppink, Cross-Cultural Communication in the Age of Globalization, which appeared in the January-February 2002 issue of this Journal. (For Parts I and II of Dr. Eppink's Introduction, please refer to Modern Globalizing Culture - July-August 2002 Issue and Modern Globalizing Culture Part II - September-October 2002 Issue). Of note, Dr. Eppink presented his insights on Modern Globalizing Culture during his presentation as Closing Speaker at the 2002 International Congress of the BWW Society in Saint Germain-en-Laye this past August.

(Author's note: The book Hidden Goals in Modern Globalizing Culture has been written in order to provide a model to better understand culture and its continuity. A model is an abstraction of reality facilitating its comprehension. The central thesis of this book is that humankind will always follow ten Hidden Goals (HG’s) throughout the span of a lifetime. These HG’s appear in different combinations and rankings, which accounts for their numerous expressions and outcomes).

As humans, we are the products of our culture, just as culture is the product of our beliefs and actions, both past and present. This reciprocity reinforces certain HG’s. Therefore a culture reflects some HG’s more than others. This chapter continues with the HG's Order, Control, and Stability, mainly in relation to Knowledge and Communication.  The so-called ‘obstructing’ HG’s (Inviolability, Instant-satisfaction and Approbation) are the elements which cause discontinuity, and particularly, cultural discontinuity. (In the following text the HG’s and their expressions will be printed in the text with capital initials.)


The analysis of the development of “western” culture shows large and important cultural shifts throughout its history. One of the central assumptions of this book is that cultural change is caused by a change in ranking of the ten Hidden Goals. By consequence, the question is: Which radical changes can be observed in the past 2000 years, and is there any proof of a change in ranking of the most pronounced HG’s?

We could start the origins of “western” Culture at any moment, and almost anywhere in history. Each choice would be arbitrary. For example, if we would start with Alexander the Great’s conquests (335-325 b.c.) and the growth of his empire which lasted nearly 300 years, we would immediately understand that ‘Greek’, and later Hellenistic culture, was a blend of Ancient Egyptian, Persian, and even Indian cultural influences that can hardly be called ‘Western’. Still further back in time we would meet Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and many other classic Greek philosophers, although even they were not the founding fathers of “western” culture as has generally been assumed. Neither Socrates nor Plato can be true fathers of “western” culture for two reasons: first, “western” culture had totally forgotten the ancient Greeks and their philosophies, until they were (re-) discovered in the Renaissance, after a previous discovery by the Arab-speaking Muslims in the east and in particular those of Andalusia, in southern Spain[1]; secondly, the study of Indian influences on the philosophies of both Socrates and Plato have been almost entirely neglected.

Thus, although the eras before Christ are of great interest because of a continuous exchange and mix of ideas and influences, it would be incorrect to speak of “western” culture at such an early date.

Nor “Western” Culture starts with Christianity, or with its founder Jesus Christ. Jewish thinking has never influenced the “western” culture more than superficially[2] and the original thoughts of Christ were reformed as early as St. Paul, to become lost in Hellenistic-Byzantine neo-Platonism. Later Christianity was totally reshaped by Catholic Rome, since the emperor Constantine and his successors made Christendom state religion. Christian thought advanced slowly, in spite of a number of mass baptisms of entire German tribes, such as that of King Clovis and his Franks around the year 500. Next it was updated by Roman theologians and popes, under the influence of the German emperors (10th century) and the French monks (Bernard of Clairveaux, beginning 12th century) to fit the needs of a steady Christianizing northwestern Europe.

As western Catholicism, and later Protestantism reinterpreted Christianity, so western Renaissance -- and later, romantic Classicism -- reinterpreted classic Greek (and Roman) philosophy. Of course this does not mean that reinterpretation is ‘wrong’ -- on the contrary, it is an expression - and therefore proof of its existence - of a particular “western” culture. Each culture reframes old values and thoughts.


Now we are back to the question of the origins of “western” Culture again. Not too arbitrarily those origins could be dated in the last century before Christ, at least preliminarily.  About that time three important events took place. In the year 46 B.C. the consul - the highest office in the Roman Republic - Julius Caesar adopted the Egyptian calendar (named the “Julian calendar” after him) of 365 days (and each fourth year 366). A minor detail, but a fact continuing until now. In the year 30 B.C. the last Hellenistic kingdom, legacy of Alexander the Great, came to an end with the death of Cleopatra. From then on Egypt was just another Roman province, allowing Rome to turn its eyes and its interest in another direction, that of the barbaric Germanic tribes.[3] At that time all the uncivilized peoples to the north of Rome fell into the category of Barbaric Germans.

Julius Caesar himself had conquered the Gauls in what is presently Belgium-France, and made war against the Britons. Reminding himself that he was already thirty years old without having accomplished anything worth mentioning, while at the same age Alexander the Great had conquered a world empire, Caesar decided to build another empire in the north. He himself could not accomplish this self-imposed command, being murdered, but his successors did. The result was a true marriage between Rome and the German tribes: “western” culture was born. In a way therefore the title “father” of “western” Culture could be conferred upon Julius Caesar.


Far from being uniform, Roman culture has changed constantly and adapted itself to circumstances. That was its strength. Such an adaptation was only possible by absorbing foreign influences and alien barbarians into the empire. In contrast to Alexander’s realm -- which fell apart rapidly after his death -- Rome not only exchanged merchandise and ideas, it founded a centrally governed state and became the first global power in history, globalizing its two most desired export articles, Roman law and citizenship.

To give an analysis of Rome’s principal HG’s and their changes in the course of its 900 years of existence would demand a separate study.  Nevertheless I will venture upon some remarkable landmarks.

Relevant is the original idea of what the Roman “state” was like: a community of families whose heads, the patres familias, or family-fathers, were the Roman citizens. Each pater familias was supposed to form a religious bond with his ancestors -- the semi-divine Penates -- and his own offspring.[4] This expresses the HG Order that had also occurred in other cultures, but in a more parochial sense. The Roman concept of citizenship -- without neglecting the importance of family -- overstepped the limited in-group of family or tribe and enlarged the horizon beyond its own group.

Rome was founded on the idea of a sacred Order, a holy pact of its citizens with their divine forefathers symbolized in Romulus and Remus, two mythical figures that were said to have founded the city of Rome. They had given Rome its sacrosanct Laws. A Roman citizen had to fulfill holy duties, and -- here philosophy comes in -- had to be “virtuous” in the Service to mankind: other Roman citizens and the State. “Piety” was a Roman’s foremost virtue, it meant Service to the gods, elders, children, friends, benefactors, and Rome itself. This typical expression of the HG Goodness was an ideal.  In practice, however, it did not become that dominant. Yet the concept of “virtue” as well as the other idea of a sacred Order very well illustrates Rome’s dominant HG.

Besides the HG of Order, Rome’s expansion supported the HG of Control. [5] The example of Rome very clearly demonstrates the difference between Order and Control. Both HG’s can cooperate with one another but their mixture can also cause contradictions.

The religious concept upon which the state was based dominated life in one way or another during the first half of its history; the prominence of religion in Roman culture also explains why at the end the emperors were considered -- and considered themselves -- gods. The emperor was the family-father of the state, connected to the gods in a holy bond. This clarifies the persecution of the Christians who believed that their God was the only true deity. Such ideas were dangerous to the Roman state. Yet Rome tolerated religions which were fundamentally different from its own official state religion, although the Roman religion still required that everyone respected it. But didn’t new foreign citizens have their own forefathers they worshipped in their own way?


By its tolerance and concept of state, Rome in fact secularized religion. This becomes clear in the idea of Order as expressed in Roman policy. Like Rome, which was the central point of the empire, new cities were founded everywhere as regional central points, each a small family-father protecting the regional citizens, as the big pater familias Rome protected all citizens. Rome’s expansion and Control advanced by this urbanization, both progressing as never before.

By consequence, Roman culture was not homogeneous or homogenized, either in time or in essence. As in modern New York and throughout the US, the English, Germans, Indians, Blacks, Poles, Russians, Italians and so on all became Americans, the same happened in Rome and its empire. So, what was Roman was constantly changing because the Romans themselves consisted of all those who acquired Roman citizenship. The majority were former barbarians. In Spain, the Phoenician-Greek-Iberians became Romans, in North Africa the Berbers, in Egypt the Egyptians, in Syria people of Semitic origin -- all became Romans. And let us not forget the Germans. They could all climb the social ladder, starting as soldiers, and in the end (some of them) even becoming emperors (many an emperor was originally a Syrian, Berber or German). In the 3rd century the emperors came from everywhere but Italy. At that time a large part of the make-up of the legions was German: Roman Germans fighting tribal Germans to defend citizens and colonies. In the end, the German legions gained strong political influence, and several times promoted their own generals to emperors.

The more the empire and urbanization expanded, the more Order was replaced by bureaucratic Stability, which was more or less maintained by the legions. Remember that both Order and Control are compatible with Stability, but that Stability and Control get along best, as they tend to supplement one another: those who strive for Stability accept Control easily, and those who strive for Control require people searching for Stability or Inviolability, and these searchers fall into the category of the meek or fearful.

Bureaucracy and class differences are significant outcomes of the combination of Stability and Control. In the Roman Empire we meet both: the differences in class in civil life between the ruling families, citizens, and the freedmen, slaves, and barbarians[6]; and in bureaucracy by the military between the police/army legions and the officials. All are expressions of the HG Stability that eventually overruled Order. Soon Control itself came under attack of the three obstructing HG’s (Inviolability, Instant-satisfaction and Approbation), through fear and the craving for glory, lust, and loot. The original cultural shift to Order became lost.


Like the Great Alexander himself in the beginning -- looking for adventure and Glory for himself and seeking booty for his soldiers -- many expansionists combine Control with the HG's Approbation, Inviolability, or Instant-satisfaction, or all or any combination of them. The success of these combinations of HG’s usually does not last long.

Rome suffered from periods of fierce discontinuity caused by greed, misuse, and a variety of other vices committed by its emperors, leaders and legionnaires, although these factors did not actually provoke the fall of Rome. Nor did the cultural diversity, as some have assumed. Cultural diversity in itself, and its consequence -- a mixture of all types of combinations of HG’s -- does not provoke discontinuity, provided that the obstructing HG’s are not overruling.

Likewise, the cultural diversity of modern America does not provoke discontinuity -- at least at this time. The difference between modern America and Rome is the fact that Rome had become a military state -- depending heavily on its armies and strong class differences -- and the fact that it was built on slavery. Under this system, the more territories that could be conquered, the more fresh slaves thus could be recruited.[7] The slaves were the only individuals in the empire obliged to work. The two classes of free citizens themselves, the rulers and the poor, were literally free from this duty, the poor being state-aided by a primitive social security system. This had made citizenship as an export article so attractive.  However total urbanization of the empire and masses of slaves and poor were the consequences with which Rome had to cope. The solution was a police state with bureaucratic characteristics in the attempt to provide its citizens with Stability, and later with Inviolability, by keeping the masses quiet. The masses were kept quiet by a the combination of ‘bread and games’, which signifies nothing more than giving way to Instant-satisfaction by way of free food and entertainment. And what entertainment! The circuses, or “games”, were a disgusting public slaughter of animals and human beings, be they the specially trained slaves called “gladiators”, or the “criminals”.

Here we see many obstructing Hidden Goals interfering with Stability, Control and Order, eventually to such an extent, that exile, prosecution and manslaughter were daily matters, making some periods of Roman history very little different from 20th century’s Nazism.

Within a police state, the Hidden Goal of Inviolability becomes unattainable and efforts to achieve it result in domination; in such a state, the HG Inviolability is a sign of fear within the leaders, as well as a cause for fear within the entire society.

In the end Roman culture assembled too many obstructing Hidden Goals within the top tier of its HG rankings to be able to survive.

Obstructing HG’s usually interfere with all types of Knowledge, and don’t require much Information or education. In early Rome merchants, teachers and even some famous philosophers were slaves -- highly educated, but slaves nonetheless. Education in Rome consisted mainly of a curriculum of literature and law, those being subjects with which one may achieve Glory. (In post-medieval Spain something comparable but much more severe occurred, as we shall observe later.) Obstructing HG’s prevent the development of capabilities in broad layers of society; they promote aggressive tendencies, adventure and entertainment, but leave technological inventions lagging behind. Rome produced few inventions not related to military and architectonic, and even then the latter was developed mostly to serve military needs or to serve Glory.

Lacking sufficient Knowledge and technology to defend the empire, Rome had to hire mercenaries to augment and modernize its own armies. Mercenaries were recruited from the tribes that Rome failed to control (e.g. the Germans and the Huns). This could not stop what came next: the avalanche of barbarian tribes. These tribes were Rome’s superiors thanks to a better use of horses and ships. In the end Rome could not adapt itself to these new ‘technologies’ and was conquered.

(Remark. Within this historical perspective we must reconsider the ‘technologies’ of warfare being used by today’s terrorists. According to Colinvaux[8] only new technologies can improve productivity and provide the defense against those who become the enemies of a culture’s continuity.  In my opinion, enemies are all those who -- by their obstructing HG’s in combination with Control -- try to influence society, much like today's modern era terrorists. To answer their threat, society has to invent NEW means  -- “technologies” -- of war on terrorism.)


If education is out of the question and production is deficient, poverty will rise, and can be resolved only by expansion. Expansion can be realized by aggression, by colonization, by migration, and/or by trade. If history has proved one thing, it is that only by expansion or by technological invention can growing populations be sufficiently fed. Hunting, fishing, herding, and agriculture (and the trading thereof) are the basics of food production. Because the production of hunting is rather limited, only fishing, herding and agriculture are worth mentioning, and none of these three can be increased without expansion. This is the origin of globalization.

Agriculture without technological means is extremely limited. Who would have thought that classic Sparta imported its grain from Sicily, as did Athens from the Ukraine, and Rome from Egypt, long before the year zero? And few today realize that from the year 900 until 1850 -- at which time fertilizers were introduced[9] -- in order to be able to cultivate enough land to feed the populace, European farmers had to destroy many square miles of forests and woodlands (which were then thought of as wastelands, and the remaining acres of which are today set aside as natural preserves). Due to this massive land clearing almost nothing was left of the immense woods that covered Western Europe.

Concerning the technology of the era, the development of innovations to increase food production did not appear until around the year 1600.

Thus the incentive to Roman expansion was primarily born from the need for more grain and the need for the raw materials necessary for manufacturing weapons to defend the conquered land (and to conquer more land). Rome expanded both by war and by colonization, although there was often little discernable difference between the two.

As long as Order and Control were the dominant HG’s, during the beginning centuries of their empire, the Romans were more successful then -- and therefore had more continuity -- than other peoples. However, with the aggressive expansion obstructing HG’s were moving upward in ranking, with predictable events to follow.

Unaware of any other means of maintaining continuity, in history almost all nations were aggressive expansionists. Not only Rome, but almost the entire world lacked the knowledge to augment productivity for a very long period in human history. So we see Rome itself finally being attacked by a series of different tribes, demonstrating in their turn expansion and Control, but in the opposite direction. In the second half of the first millennium a complete migration of nations took place in Europe, a Völkerwanderung by recurrent waves of nomads. A hundred years earlier migrant tribes had already brought about the fall of the capital of Rome and the split of the empire, and these nomadic peoples went on to colonize vast Roman territories in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and North Africa.


In the early Middle Ages discontinuity reigned on all fronts. It changed Europe totally in a long battling and melting process. The outcome of that process -- around the year 1200 -- was a map that with few exceptions resembled the map of Europe we see today: the German Empire (including northern Italy), the kingdoms of England, France, Sicily (southern Italy), the Venetian republic, and on the Iberian peninsula, three Spanish kingdoms, plus the kingdom of Portugal, and the Muslim Caliphate of Cordoba. (With the Muslim Caliphate, the later emirates, and their influence on Europe we shall deal later).

For the most part, combinations of Control and obstructing HG’s changed to the dominance of Stability within Europe. This was an important cultural change, creating something far removed from the culture of Rome. Control and Stability fit very well together. In Rome dominated Control, in medieval Europe Stability. Stability almost inevitably results in a class system, and Rome’s class system had been based upon citizenship; citizenship implicated life in the towns as well as life in the army. This permitted quick upward social moves by way of the army.

In contrast, feudal Europe was agrarian. An elaborate hierarchy created a spectrum of (sub) classes, which made class differences somewhat fluid, although more inflexible than in the Roman system.

From an economic point of view, the feudal system was much cheaper than Rome’s system of citizenship built on the cheap labor of slaves with low productivity, an urban proletariat almost without productivity, and taxes to maintain a strong military and police force. In the end, taxation was killing the towns, and the death rate and poverty rate within the masses was high. Summarily, in the second half of its reign Rome brought both economic and human distress, and thus discontinuity.

In feudal Europe a king was the overlord, served by vassals. New was the idea that all land belonged to the king, and that the vassals, their under-vassals, knights and so on down to the peasants, could use that land in exchange for (military and other) services to the king or for rent. Agriculture became organized along the same hierarchical lines.

The class system was also based on the use of land and the rents it produced. In the beginning kings rewarded knights with (the use of) wasteland to exploit. Eventually the right to the use of the land -- be it by nobleman, knight, prelate or peasant -- virtually changed into land possession, which became the main characteristic of wealth and class distinction.

The characteristics mentioned above, and particularly feudalism and hierarchy, made Stability the prominent HG in medieval Europe. It was a fairly fixed Stability that, together with Control -- because Europe’s kingdoms and its culture kept expanding -- remained, at least for the masses, almost intact until the end of World War I, and to some extent even into the 1960's. For the majority it produced a rather rigid society.


Not all European sub-cultures were agrarian and feudal, based on Stability as the principal HG. On the other hand, the heirs of the Vikings and Danes, the last tribes that had settled on Europe’s coasts, communicated by trade with almost all parts of the western world. They show that other HG’s were emerging: besides Control (and expansion) we find Social Contact on a broad scale and some Independence. Although trade was primarily based on family relations, trade allowed strong merchant families made their cities and themselves quite independent of the feudal system.

Many former Roman towns became important European trade centers, including Venice, Milan, Genoa, Florence, Rome, Naples, Palermo, Seville, Paris, and Cologne. Soon, Flemish and Dutch cities would follow. Many other smaller towns connected one trading center with another, and became small centers themselves in a sophisticated trade network based on the infrastructure Rome had laid.

Although the HG Independence was somewhat promoted by trade, at the time it had not gained enough ranking to hold any dominance. Stability influenced all. Dependency on hierarchical family-groups -- even in the trade centers -- would remain the basis for survival of the individual in almost every part of Europe until far into the 18th century. Although the tribes as entities had disappeared entirely, close family ties stood firm, as did hierarchical relations in society. Nevertheless, in merchant families we see an increasing broadening of the family circle, and a tiny beginning of individualism.


Communication beyond the restricted circle of the local family group is the characteristic of all trading people, thereby facilitating better exchange and the enlargement of ideas. Similarly, Eastern philosophies and religions had influenced Rome to such an extent that Christianity eventually was reformed into a religion (i.e. Order) of magic. Medieval trade promoted Knowledge. The first western university was founded in Muslim Cordoba[10]; where Eastern medicine -- next to religion, philosophy, and law -- had become subjects of study by the “Arabs” and Jews in Spain, whose ideas were exported to Italy and Paris. Thanks to the Arab speaking Europeans, the spiritual Renaissance was born, which would eventually carry a new major cultural shift in Europe into 18th century’s Enlightenment and rationalism.

It was the spiritual Renaissance that enabled the technological inventions of the next centuries -- the effects of the Renaissance extended even further. Essentially the Renaissance has facilitated two wonderful results. First, it stimulated a broadening of the mind by the study and reinterpretation of the Roman Classics that not only pulled the individual out of his restricted group (extended family or tribe), but out of parochialism as well, with the idea that each individual had to strive for ‘virtue’. The old Roman concept of ‘virtue’ was rediscovered, and reshaped as ambitious self-control.[11] This ‘virtue’ had as objective to form a worldwide elite group of virtuous people. This is not individualism in its usual modern sense that is based on ideas of Independence and Freedom. The concept of virtue was based on Stability as well as on ambitious self-Control, and stimulated the individual to put forth his best abilities, thereby yielding a personal growth and at the same time pushing technological development forward. Knowledge makes people curious. Curious for foreign habits, thoughts, beliefs and cultures. So, the second consequence of Renaissance thinking was the idea of tolerance. This was developed by the later Humanists whose first protagonist was Erasmus of Rotterdam.[12] In Europe the seeds laid by the Muslim philosopher-scientists started to mature through Humanism.

Tolerance is the only way to escape from limited in-group thinking and a parochial attitude. For this reason every culture needs its spiritual Renaissance.

Spiritual Renaissance in the West cleared the way for rationalism and individualism. Today, rationalism, and to a certain degree individualism, exist as a matter of course. If you agree with this remark, almost certainly you belong to the “western” culture, and you must realize: (1) that before the Enlightenment this was not the case in Europe, (2) and that in the West, rationalism and individualism did not immediately become accepted as a matter of course by the masses; (3) Rationalism and individualism are still on-going processes; and (4) today, most other cultures do NOT share rationalism[13] and much less individualism.

In the West Enlightenment and rationalism brought the definitive shift to Information and Knowledge, and became the engine for a new Ambitious Control, which entailed the expansion of what we today call globalization.

Modern Globalized Culture Part IV, "The Other bin Ladens: The Old Men on the Mountain Training Assassins" will be presented in the upcoming January-February 2003 issue of the Journal.

About the Author: BWW Society Member Dr. Andreas Eppink received his Doctorate degree in Social Sciences in 1977 from the University of Amsterdam, went on to study Clinical Psychology, and was officially registered as a Psychotherapist. He has worked as a Management Consultant, especially in the television, advertising, daily press, family business, transport, and public administration sectors, including work with the town of Maastricht. Prior to this, as an Anthropologist specializing in the study of culture, Dr. Eppink was a pioneer in the field of migration study, in particular mental health and occupation. In 1971 he founded the Averroes Foundation for the study of these areas. He headed this institute from 1978 to 1983, as it then became state run. He was an intergovernmental expert of the European Committee for Migration in Geneva, a member of the Board of Advisors to the Dutch Minister of the Interior, and an expert with different European committees in Strasbourg and Brussels. Dr. Eppink speaks five languages and reads several more.


[1] Some works of some of the great Greek philosophers had been translated from Greek into Arab, mostly by Arabized Hellenistic-Byzantine Syrians. Later Arab texts were translated into Latin, still later since the Renaissance the original texts were found and translated.
However, notably Plato’s thoughts - as far as transmitted by other philosophers - have had a big impact on Christian Byzantine theologians, and on the North-African Christian Roman (Saint) Augustine. In his own time Augustine’s thoughts were not well received by the church of Rome, and his works disappeared in cloisters where they were only and rarely read by Augustinian monks. One of them was Luther; by whose works Augustine became famous among Christians.

[2] The Jewish Old Testament only became de rigeur in the 16th century through the Protestants, who used it more as a treasure book for their quotations than to learn to understand the Jewish thinking it contained.

[3] The German tribes, or Germans, included - among many others - Gauls, Franks, Angles, Saxonians, Allemani, Frisians, Danes, Goths, Vandals, but not the Irish, Picts, and Basks.

[4] In being adopted by a new father someone could exchange his ancestors for more powerful ones.

[5] I don’t claim Rome was the first empire combining Control and Order, there are other examples in history, like the Assyrian king Hammurabi, and some ancient Persian emperors, however they did not try to ‘globalize’ Order.

[6] Where in the beginning Roman citizenship was strongly pursued, later all Italians achieved it, thereafter all people within the border of the Imperium. However, this did not change the well-established class differences.

[7] It is an interesting detail that German barbarians were considered inapt for slavery, but very apt as legionaries. Does this mean that their HG Independence was relatively strong?

[8] Paul Colinvaux, The Fates of Nations. A Biological Theory of History. 1980.

[9] Before, land was fertilized by sods, mixed with animal dung.

[10] In the East the university of Constantinople was already in existence.

[11] Self-control related to duty combines Control and Goodness, expressed in Ambition and Service.

[12] Cf. Henry Kamen. The rise of toleration. 1967.

[13] In some aspects the Roman attitude had been quite rationalistic and practical, however, it was mainly the philosophers who were rationalists as other philosophers had been before them, e.g. in Ancient Greece, Hindu India, and China. China and Japan did and do know strong rationalistic tendencies (HG Knowledge).

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