The Ottoman History and the Paradigmatic Principles of History -XVIII-
When the Ottoman history is reviewed through a holistic perspective under the projection of the various integrative views introduced into the understanding of history in the 20th century such as the Annales School viewpoint, the World System theory, Big History approach, and the Cliodynamics (Mathematical) History model that I talked about in the earlier sections of this series, I suppose the topic will have been discussed in substance in a way that until now has not been very popular.
But first an issue needs to be clarified.
Unlike the Western history that is a diversified culture of documents, the most referenced sources even today in the science of history that are related to the Ottoman history are mainly the chronicles or, in other words, annals.
They are subjective written documents, in the form of informational records of events that include a lot of the author’s subjective views and comments, which have the historical events recorded in chronological order (on a calendar basis) by the chronicler. Therefore, the Ottoman history still offers a view of a discipline that reached less objectivity compared with the Western history which has more scientific weight.
Due to its own peculiarity in this context, it also has a character that could allow the emergence of some paradigmatic principles for the science of general history which is a social discipline that addresses the past. In other words, it is suitable to all deductive inference because of this embryonic niche disciplinary feature of the Ottoman history. When this feature is addressed within the context of an approach that deals with the issue on a “high theoretical” basis, it creates the opportunity to find out some new and significant basic principles, namely paradigms for the general history. The humble efforts of this series of articles are in this direction.
In the period when the Ottoman reached maturity as an empire, the “Old World” had already reached its natural limits in terms of population density and the estate of unexplored areas of land. In this direction, the Westerners in the European and Eurasian geography of the Afro-Eurasia that is called the “Old World” were busy at the end of the Middle Ages with seeking overseas land and the discovery of the “New World” unlike the Ottomans.
Yet, instead of allowing such a world order, the Ottomans, still in pursuit of looting under the concept of a classical military empire, were pursuing in this period an erroneous geo-strategy like making do with conquesting cultured geographies. Major powers targeting the discovery of the regions not yet cultured in a modern style were doing this increasingly for the acquisition of the natural resources and wealth that were required for financial and industrial production or with the economic goals that were needed towards their control, instead of getting booty, apart from the exceptional circumstances as was the case for the Spaniards for example.
Thus, “Major Modern Powers” had begun to free themselves from depending on the Earth’s “finite” lands that were in depletion by allowing the start of the capitalist mode of production with the transition , from land to capital, of the dominance in the trio of land, labor and capital, which are the main productive factors in the economy. Thus, the modern world has begun creating the capitalist system by using the “unlimited” factor of capital created by humans to replace the “limited” land factor to keep under control the labor factor that was the basic productive force.
In this context, while the European feudal system was performing a geo-economic transformation in tune with the times, AMP (*), which was the unique land use system of the Ottomans, prevented the country of Ottoman Treasury [beyt-ul mal (**)] from transiting to the capitalist structure by making a modern transformation.
Because beyt-ul mal was confined to the tithe (***) declining over time that stemmed from the land getting increasingly smaller and unproductive due to the possibilities it created for the increased fragmentation, instead of territorial concentration, in parallel to the rapidly increasing number of timar principalities. This situation is obviously the foremost one in the main economic-political phenomena that hampered the process of capital accumulation in the Ottoman territory.
The fact that the domestic rate of capital accumulation across the country has been even today around ten percent on the average since the start in 1960s of the planned development periods, in which its objective determination was made, indicates that this centuries-old low capitalization phenomenon that has become “traditional” still continues. This phenomenon of low accumulation is essentially a likely outcome of the tradition of ten percent that stemmed from the attitude based on “alms” that is known originally as transferring in a religious context the savings on hand to others.
I also wish to mention this point in terms of the economic history.
The transition in the Protestant Christian regions to the practice of interest, instead of getting a dividend from the lending business, under pressure by the bankers mostly of Jewish origin has accelerated capital “concentration.” Even if the income from the agriculture tax (ten percent) had continued regularly, it would still have not been possible for the Ottomans to reach the speed of economic modernization in these countries, which have leapt ahead as a result of the country-wide capital accumulation of a total of one-fifth that occurred in the modern West together with the additional financial capital share of ten percent received by the depositors and bankers.
The paradigmatic principle that could be inferred here for the integrative general (holistic) history is the formulation that the system based on the geo-economic strategy will always prevail over the system based on the military geo-strategy in the long-term process of historical development (****).
Mustafa Özcan (March 2016)
(*) Asiatic Mode of Production is the name in the materialist discipline of political economy that discusses the timar system with an infrastructural view.
(**) The name formerly used for the Ottoman treasury that had a unique income tax system.
(***) Öşür (Tithe) is an Arabic word meaning one tenth or, in other words, ten percent that was used by the Ottomans that had the tradition of islamic alms.
(****) To be continued.