Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013
Merchant, Soldier, Sage: A History of the World in Three Castes (Penguin Press), by David Priestland
Marx’s model of economic classes had some validity, but failed to determine the direction of history in ways he had anticipated. Oxford University history professor David Priestland proposes an interesting alternative model based on occupational castes and the values associated with them. Despite the book’s catchy title, he identifies four: sages, merchants, warriors and workers. The sages—including priests, technocrats, scholars and bureaucrats—dominated after World War II (often in an at least putative alliance with workers) until the rise of merchants, who have convinced many otherwise thoughtful people that their market society is simply common sense. Priestland would prefer a more harmonious balance of castes and warns that the present dominance of the merchants is bound to end.