Is the next systemic crisis necessarily a systemic war? (2) The state: where does it come from and how does it affect a next systemic crisis?

During the period 1495-1945, Europe developed from a diverse collection of circa 300 ‘units’ – predecessors of states (city-states, alliances, counties, etc.) – that were sparsely connected (but just enough to develop system behaviour) with a total population of about 83 million, into an anarchistic System (in Europe), of about 25 highly standardised and highly connected states, with a total population of 544 million.


Europe: Still a collection of diverse ‘units’ with a population of about 83 million.

My research shows that the four accelerating war cycles the System produced during that period of time and that constituted a so-called finite-time singularity dynamic, were instrumental in a process of social integration and expansion. Each cycle consisted of a relatively stable period when the System produced non-systemic wars, and a single systemic war; non-systemic wars were (and are) highly unpredictable, while systemic wars were (and are) highly predictable.

While the main function of systemic wars was to periodically upgrade international orders, the main function of non-systemic wars was to release tensions and to balance the existing international order, that was in place during relatively stable periods of cycles.

During the period 1495-1945, the System produced four systemic wars. Typically, during systemic wars, the tensions that had accumulated in the System (during relatively stable periods that precede systemic wars) were used to design and implement upgraded international orders, that allowed for a lower energy state of the System. A lower energy state of the System ensured the successful implementation of (upgraded) international orders and thus relative stability. Relative stability enabled – facilitated – further (population) growth and development.

The accumulation of tensions in the System during the life-cycle of successive international orders became (and becomes) unavoidable because the release of tensions through non-systemic wars was at a certain point hindered/restricted through of a connectivity effect. This connectivity effect concerns the connectivity of the network of the increasing number of issues states in the anarchistic System produce, and that makes states increasingly impotent to release tensions and solve these issues; the result is the accumulation of issues and tensions, that must sooner or later be released (by what will be an systemic war).

Population growth and tensions between units of the System – that over time evolved into states – unavoidably produced tensions in the System: The growing populations – requiring ‘resources’, but also security to be able to survive – needed to be ‘accommodated’. Because the System was (and still is) anarchistic in nature, and states develop(ed) at different rates and more or less successfully, rivalries in the (anarchistic) System were (and still are) unavoidable.

‘Units’ evolved into states – organisational structures – with very specific properties and functions, including: Control of well-defined territories; control is centralised, and states enforce(d) a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

In the process of state formation, the populations of these states were increasingly empowered; the commitment of populations to the survival of the state – e.g. by accepting conscription, and by paying taxes – was compensated by empowering them and ‘awarding’ them with suffrage.


Europe, around 1939: Transformed into a system of circa 25 standardised state-structures with a population of about 544 million.

The successive international orders that were implemented (by means of the four systemic wars) during the period 1495-1945, were increasingly far-reaching in their ‘reach’ and impact: The first systemic war (The Thirty Years’ War, 1616-1648), resulted in the implementation of the sovereignty principle; the second systemic war (the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1792-1815) in the introduction of a more or less permanent coordination mechanism for Great Powers, the Concert of Europe; and the third systemic war (The First World War, 1914-1918) in the introduction of the League of Nations with the objective to ensure world peace, by means of various organisational arrangements. Finally, the fourth systemic war (the Second World War, 1939-1945), resulted in the ‘fundament’ for a non-anarchistic Europe, and the first (successful) international order at a global scale of the (now) global anarchistic System.

The development of the state and of these successive international orders was a co-evolutionary process: States (and their predecessors) produced these increasingly far-reaching international orders, and vice versa. Dominant states (during systemic wars) used their position to define and implement international orders that (especially) promoted their specific interests. It no coincidence that during the same period (1495-1945) when these state-structures and international orders co-evolved, the number of Great Power status changes decreased to zero: the System reached a permanent structure in Europe.

In 1939 Europe (the core – the motor – of the war dynamics of the System during the period 1495-1945), reached its final anarchistic ‘organisation’, produced ‘infinite’ amounts of tensions, and consequently collapsed.

States – state-structures – were highly ‘tuned’ to fight increasingly intense (systemic wars) the System produced at an accelerating rate in Europe. The state was the optimal organisation to ensure the survival of itself and their populations in an anarchistic System. These states – their organisation, function and capabilities – are a product of the specific conditions that prevailed in Europe during the period 1495-1945.

States and war, are – at least to a degree – synonym. It seems that war was the only ‘instrument’ that could ensure and facilitate the (population) growth in Europe; other means (instruments) than war to reorganise, or find a new balance were not available.

It should be noted that other ‘means’ are available, one way or the other (further research is required) did the growing population of the island of Java (population: 140 million, 2016) achieve a ‘similar’ result, without regrouping in state-structures and becoming stuck in a series of wars (war cycles).

The international order (including the United Nations, 1945-….) only recognises the state as a legitimate structure – member – in the System. This principle was already at an early stage accepted (by means of the first systemic war), and enforced by the dominant states in the System, at that point in time.

By enforcing such an organisational standard, these dominant states tried to ensure proper coordination between ‘units’ to ensure they could maintain and enforce the new status quo (following the first systemic war) that was particularly favourable for them.

Now – 2017 – we are stuck with the state and its peculiarities, including its war-making performance and tendencies. The state is not an optimal solution for the current (increasingly connected and interdependent) System (post 1945): On the one hand is the state increasingly an obstacle to exploit economies of scale and scope that transcend the state (the European Union is a good example), on the other hand are states simply not suitable for all kinds of environments and conditions, especially not in the Middle East and in Africa, it seems. The state requires loyalty from its populations. In those areas loyalties are typically reserved for tribes and tribe-like social structures. Furthermore, states are supposed to serve their populations (also to earn the loyalty of their populations and to ensure the state’s legitimacy), and not only the elites that happen to be in a position of power and control, and use the state to (only) improve their own positions and well-being.

The fact that the state is no longer the optimal solution for the challenges and opportunities populations now encounter, will also affect the appearance of a next systemic crisis.

To be continued.