What makes a sustainable organization over the course of human history?

What makes a sustainable organization over the course of human history?

As I read books, including lots of ancient history I see patterns on how societies, and similar companies and families fare over multiple generations. Of course, I see what I want to see. But the general patterns are still there, even without me.

The basic theme is all major societies going back maybe 5,000 years have the same basic laws of growth, stability, decline, and death. If they do not change with the times, new, ideas new blood, new administrative governing rules the decline starts. In the past the over use of natural resources has also been another cause, but not the main one. If you live in the past without accepting new ideas, new human energies, new ways of living you slip into the past. It just has not worked. There have been different time lines, but as soon as the ruling classes forget about the masses, the mass do spring up. If you do not stay ahead of the packs then another accepting ruling class gets the jump and they become the next leading society or business. It just is the way of life.

Some people call this liberalism vs. conservativism. The name does not matter. The fact is, the weak loose out. It is the way of the world.

I attempt to use all this historical patterns in my Leadership style. It is never easy. This is my role now.

I will give you a few examples from a general world history book:

  • Greece and Sparta 500 B.C.:
    • Her self-imposed isolation forbad those culture contacts without which no balanced civilization can develop. They shut their borders. Sparta was Totalitarian.
    • The Nobles held mortgages on an ever-growing number of small farms, and every foreclosure increased the hostility of the peasants. A new middle class sought more power at the expense of the Nobles. This issue topples governments.
    • Periclean Athens – The democratic process demanded active citizen participation. This developed literary, artistic, and philosophic contributions.
    • To avow poverty with us is no disgrace, the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it.
    • The Athenian lived quite frugally as individuals yet spared no expense in creating their temples.
    • When the leadership closed down on self-serving interests the democracy weakened and a new land became the go to place. Moving to another land can allow one’s talents to be explored without being disgraced for your new thoughts. Think of Socrates and many others.
    • We love beauty without extravagance. There was no ostentation and yet it is still unsurpassed. The art forms express vividly the Greek view of the unity of body and mind, and harmony. The spacing of the columns, the curvature of the floor and roof, and of the proportions of all elements were mathematically plotted and executed to achieve perfect balance. Society was attempting to govern in the same way.
    • Seek pleasure, which consists not sinuous gratification but the serenity of a philosopher. Equality is the end result of freedom. It has not yet been achieved, but the attempts to reach it exists. The further the result from the vision the faster civilizations erupt into chaos.
    • The concentration of wealth in a few hands was a problem which the Hellenistic world appeared unable to solve. This has not changed as of the reading.
  • As the Romans opened up their exploring, mixing with other cultures they took the best ideas of government and expanded society control with written laws. People knew what they could do without penalty. They could plan their lives.
    • Hortensian Law – 287 B.C. – helped move the needle to the possibility of constitutional evolution. They were thinking how to keep the masses happy and represented with 2 ruling groups outside of the ruling leader, the plebiscites and the tribute.
    • Roman expansion proved a source of fatal weakness due to its elfishness of her oligarchy and the lack of a loyal body of free citizenry.
    • Inspiring leaders can create amazing moral.
    • A united Roman people refused to despair in the face of disastrous defeats. Under sure conditions no individual however brilliant, could triumph over the will of the United Nations. Together the strength held.
    • In peace time    the racket in contracts corrupted the government. The landless populace lost all interest in good government.
    • Men were influenced by Stoic Philosophy with its conception of a humanistic, rational, and natural law applications. This defined what a man of common sense and good faith would deem to be right.
    • The linear Theory envisages human experience as a stream of water that begins its journey as a small rivulet. As it flows on through the ages many people and civilizations enrich the increase its waters, getting broader and richer as time goes on.
    • Outstanding leaders have played determining the course of human events. Their personality is all important! Rome ceased to produce the right kind of leadership. Soft living and graft destroyed the class which once had given the state incomparable generals, administrators, and lawgivers.
    • The collapse of the sturdy peasant class and the advent of the latifundia with their servile cultivators, caused the destruction of the middle class.
    • There needs to be a system to temper the ruling class and punish corrupt officials to stop the decline of nations.
    • Stop indolence and self-satisfaction. Change the attitudes of men’s minds.
    • Historical process a complex product resulting from the interaction of all the various factors within a civilization.
  • General thoughts:
  • Civilizations break down through a failure of creative power in the creative minority. Losing that power, the minority cannot inspire the lethargic majority which brings about a loss of social unity.
  • Buddhist figures choose subjects that have continuous pertinence irrespective of change in time or place.
  • The greatest weakness of Feudalism was its inability to guarantee law and order. It was the lack of uniformity between ruling principalities in their legal codes and judicial procedures which led to much confusion, inefficiency and often injustice. Coming out of the Feudal ages a new class had evolved in Europe, a very powerful, independent, and self-assured class, whose interest in trade instead of warfare was revolutionary for all society and economic history.
  • With the advancement of thought came the concept that inquiring minds accepted no authority blindly. By doubting we are led to inquire. By inquiring we perceive the truth. This is the true spirit of inductive science based on observation, experimentation, and intellectual skepticism.
  • One of the essential prerequisites for good government is that it be in the hands of skilled civil servants. A great Leader, King Charlemagne, did well changing all systems but as usual the offspring were not able to maintain the direction of society and the kingdom failed.
  • Gothic builders achieved technical mastery but still believed in simplicity of expression and sincerity of purpose. Go see Chartres outside of Paris.
  • In any prosperous and well-governed country, it is essential to have a group of skilled administrators to map out the right policy of foreign affairs and to plan economic measures as a whole. You cannot lose sight of the welfare of the people as a whole. You have to take the larger view.
  • 1215 – The Magna Charta is one of the most important documents in the history of human freedom. The Law is above the King.
  • 1300-1500 Early Renaissance in Italy: The growth of town life in the prosperous city-state stimulated a strong secular spirit and a common concern with the practical affairs. The despots of the time who controlled the city-state were as a rule patrons of the new learning who also tended to support the arts. This helped rather than hindered the growth of the Renaissance. This manifested itself in new intellectual, social, political, and economic activity. This prompted man to make the discoveries and invention which gave the Renascence its dazzling quality.
  • Many German students journeyed to Italian schools to learn the new concepts which transformed Italian thought. Over time German leadership ended up ruling Italy.
  • Happiness cannot come while money is the standard of all things.  Utopia is about shaking off the yoke of tyranny.
  • The short comings of the Papacy opened up the new thoughts for the reformation by church councils. When dogma gets questioned, society pushed for new rules and a new or modified system of freedom and equality.
  • In Machiavellian thought as in the Prince, no state can stand still. It must either expand or grow more powerful or contract and be conquered.
  • In India, 1600 A.D., support for the liberal arts provided for patronage of poets, painters, and architects. Music, panting, and architecture advanced rapidly owing to this liberal patronage.
  • China, 600 A.D., All things in nature work silently. They come into being and possess nothing. They fulfill their function and make no claims, all things alike do their work, and then we see them subside. When they have reached their bloom, each returns to its origins. This is the fulfillment of destiny, the Law of Wisdom.


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