Part VI


When a society is in disintegration, each of the three factions into which it splits produces an institution. The dominant minority tries to preserve its threatened power by uniting the warring nations into a universal state. I use this name because these empires, though not literally worldwide, embrace the whole territory of a single civilization. But the universal states have sometimes been the work of alien empire builders, just as the higher religions and the barbarian cultures have been alien in inspiration, and these facts lead me to re-examine my proposition that a civilization is self-contained and is therefore an intelligible field of study. I begin by asking whether universal states are ends in themselves or means to something beyond them. By looking at some of their institutions, I discover that they unintentionally benefit both the higher religions and the barbarians, though it is the religions that profit most.At the same time, although the historic universal states have so far always been local and ephemeral, they seem to be foretastes of a future regime in which the whole of Mankind will live in political unity, and so I conclude by assessing the prospects for this.

Sir Arnold Toynbee.