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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

Economic Stagnation?


Caliban
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This is my first post here so forgive me if this has been discussed before. I read the books about two years ago and I am rereading them again so forgive me if I am vague.

 

Based on the lore of WoT, it seems as if the economies of every nation have essentially stagnated, or even declined, over the thousands of years since the Breaking. Also, the monarchy remains firmly entrenched as the most prevalent form of government. I find that this is highly unlikely given the relative level of freedom experienced by large parts of the population, perhaps best represented in Andor and Tar Valon. If we compare the arc of our history to the arc of WoT history, then we should be able to predict what should have happened.

 

-Although the Aes Sedai are the most powerful force, they do not actively bar critical thinking. In fact, the White Ajah and the Brown Ajah would be the greatest source for intellectual developments within the society. It would be safe to assume that these Ajahs would want to form intellectual networks and create a system in which they could engage in rational debate throughout the many nations. This would be comparable to at least the level of acceptance during the enlightenment. I could believe the intellectual stagnation if the Children of the Light dominated society rather than the Aes Sedai. It would seem likely that ideas of Democracy, Capitalism, and the scientific method would develop rather quickly in a society that respected critical thinking.

 

-No slavery so there would be an incentive to develop labor saving devices.

-Hard currency rather than a barter system.

-A system of banking is in place. Allows for investment.

-Merchants allocating resources where they are needed. Peddlers, Sea Folk, and traders like Domon.

 

The only reason that I could think of for why there was stagnation was war. You got the Breaking, Trolloc Wars, War of the Hundred Years, False Dragons, and the Aiel War. I still think that the interim periods would be enough time for developments to be made.

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I was thinking that intellectual developments would lead to democracy. Uprisings like the one in Tanchico during tSR could easily be created if someone like a Thomas Paine came along.

Edited by Caliban
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This is the kind of thinking that comes from post-industrial revolution economics. There are substantial resource costs to large scale production that means a pre-industrial society won't have the amazing economic growth that we have come to believe are standard over the last 250 years. Now you have the steam wagon working transportation costs will fall dramatically and the forth age will be on a road to economic development on par with our own,

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The Whites and Browns won't be as effective in fostering real Enlightenment as you suspect, because channelers are mistrusted by most of the population, and only accepted by most of the rulers as political advisers. Aes Sedai are far from the most powerful political force, that force, as always, lies with the people. The only question is what they are willing to tolerate, what they are used to, and what possibilities they are willing to entertain. During the Breaking and the War of Power, these are people who learned to not tolerate or trust channelers very far, who are used to living under the rule of military commanders; a practice that would have begun in the War of Power and continued through the Breaking, and who know that the future is almost entirely uncertain, where everything you think you have and know could be stripped away from you in an instant. These are not a people who would be willing to entertain the idea of "progress" or "critical thinking." And they wouldn't trust any Aes Sedai that would want them to.

 

You've basically got a people who are a lot like the average Medieval European peasant not long after the Fall of Rome. Except they deeply mistrust the Church, rather than the Church being arguably a main cause of their prolonged subjugation. I can see a case being made, though, for the Dark Ages of Europe persisting for as long as they did even in the absence of the Church, from sheer cultural inertia.

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Aes Sedai are far from the most powerful political force, that force, as always, lies with the people.

 

I don't quite get this? I understand the underlying point about people but AS have been the undisputed most powerful political force in Randland for 3,000 years. That is a fact.

Edited by Suttree
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But for all their power, they were unable to unite the land, or foster any kind of significant re-building in the time after the Breaking. It took Artur Hawkwing to do that, and that was essentially the Pattern working its ta'veren magic to do it. And the Aes Sedai were unable to maintain any sort of unity, or even maintain the infrastructural progress Hawkwing created after the fall of Hawkwing's Empire. I agree that they're the most politically powerful institution, and have been for most of the 3000 years of the 3rd Age, only falling to second during Hawkwing's administration. But they're not the most politically powerful force. That honor remains, as always, with the people, and the Aes Sedai have extraordinarily little ability to manipulate that power, given that they are the most politically powerful institution.

Edited by Thrasymachus
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WoT world always hit me as a too rich world. The reason could be that most of the action evolves around the elite: Andoran court, Stone of Tear, Sun Palace, Tarasin Palace, Panarch's Palace, King's Palace and Council of the Nine Palace, Guild of Merchants, Aiel clan chiefs, and all the monarchs and nobility in Randland.

 

But there are few passages that give an indication of the impoverished commoners especially the refugee situation in Cairhien and Andor (Olvar), men enlisting in Perrin's army for food, the disaster in Tanchico, the famine in Bander Eban, etc.

 

We also have mention of merchants and bankers who are generally well-off.

 

But since most of the action is around courts and nobles, silk and gold taken for granted.

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But for all their power, they were unable to unite the land, or foster any kind of significant re-building in the time after the Breaking. It took Artur Hawkwing to do that, and that was essentially the Pattern working its ta'veren magic to do it. And the Aes Sedai were unable to maintain any sort of unity, or even maintain the infrastructural progress Hawkwing created after the fall of Hawkwing's Empire. I agree that they're the most politically powerful institution, and have been for most of the 3000 years of the 3rd Age, only falling to second during Hawkwing's administration. But they're not the most politically powerful force. That honor remains, as always, with the people, and the Aes Sedai have extraordinarily little ability to manipulate that power, given that they are the most politically powerful institution.

 

Over 2500 years the WT has enjoyed:

- uncontested and exceptional power (use of Saidar)

- wealth and almost infinite resources to cover its "programs"

- the willing or unwilling (but in the end they listen and mostly obey) ears of the ruling elite in all kingdoms except Amadicia

- each Aes Sedai holds a distinguished position in any society, regardless of trust, she is obeyed and respected/feared (the same could be said of nobility).

- WT involvement in governance and politics: negotiating settlements, ending wars, guiding monarchs.

- WT the leader of the fight against the Shadow (watcher of the seals, Trolloc wars, healing in battles, etc.)

 

Over 2500 years distrust and even rebellion against the establishment would be expected. But the WT held pretty well till the BA nearly crippled it from within. And it appears poised on the verge of a serious reform stage that should propel it back to the leadership role (if all things fall in place).

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The White Tower strikes me as a deeply conservative institution. The Dark One's prison breached due to progressive experimentation with the one power, and this led to the Breaking and the fall of civilization. In addition to that trauma, most of the knowledge was lost; Aes Sedai became a rare commodity, and the focus had to be on preserving what knowledge they had and preserving what numbers they had. This is why there's such a strong tradition of not experimenting in the White Tower; this mindset is drilled into the heads of novices and accepted, and it's only in recent times that young members are passing through the ranks so fast (due to their great relative strength to the rest of the Tower) The Aes Sedai have also been focused on preservation of history and knowledge, first after the Breaking, then after the Trolloc Wars, then after the civil wars after the collapse of Artur Hawkwing's empire. The long lives of Aes Sedai have also slowed down the evolution of the White Tower as an institution.

 

They are about conservation. They are about preservation. You're not going to see progressive ideology emerging from such an institution. Especially not as the White Tower has become more and more insular and politically weaker as time has passed, particularly post-Hundred Years War.

 

As for the rest of society not producing enlightenment values? We may be able to partly attribute the Enlightenment as a counter-movement to the the corruption between Church and State and oppression of ideas. There's really no such institutional oppression in Randland, at least on such a large scale.

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Humans and especially societies are normaly quite passive unless there are severe circumstances which forces them into action, the french revoultion didn't happen because the people wanted to be treated equally, it happend because the elites couldn't supply them with enough ressources to provide for their families. Well, it was more complex than that but in the end the people were hungry so they wanted change.

In most of Randland the pepole didn't starve or were particularly oppressed so there was no need to risk your life in going against the establishment. In some nations life was better than in others but overall bearable. And in many cases you could improve your life situation, become a rich merchant if you did it right.

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yea every time the world did build up it was torn down by Ishmael, the trolloc wars, Hawkwing vs aes sedai, Hawkwings death, the hundred years war. That would deverly slow development, and these nations since the hundred years war were still in almost endless war.

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But for all their power, they were unable to unite the land, or foster any kind of significant re-building in the time after the Breaking. It took Artur Hawkwing to do that, and that was essentially the Pattern working its ta'veren magic to do it. And the Aes Sedai were unable to maintain any sort of unity, or even maintain the infrastructural progress Hawkwing created after the fall of Hawkwing's Empire. I agree that they're the most politically powerful institution, and have been for most of the 3000 years of the 3rd Age, only falling to second during Hawkwing's administration. But they're not the most politically powerful force. That honor remains, as always, with the people, and the Aes Sedai have extraordinarily little ability to manipulate that power, given that they are the most politically powerful institution.

 

Over 2500 years the WT has enjoyed:

- uncontested and exceptional power (use of Saidar)

- wealth and almost infinite resources to cover its "programs"

- the willing or unwilling (but in the end they listen and mostly obey) ears of the ruling elite in all kingdoms except Amadicia

- each Aes Sedai holds a distinguished position in any society, regardless of trust, she is obeyed and respected/feared (the same could be said of nobility).

- WT involvement in governance and politics: negotiating settlements, ending wars, guiding monarchs.

- WT the leader of the fight against the Shadow (watcher of the seals, Trolloc wars, healing in battles, etc.)

 

Over 2500 years distrust and even rebellion against the establishment would be expected. But the WT held pretty well till the BA nearly crippled it from within. And it appears poised on the verge of a serious reform stage that should propel it back to the leadership role (if all things fall in place).

 

Read more carefully. I don't dispute that they have been far more influential and powerful than nearly any other political institution for nearly the whole Third Age. But they have brought very little progress to the cultures and societies which they purport to serve. Their channeling is more of a political hindrance than a help; people just don't trust channelers. Their political influence on the rulers has been more through fear than through mutual respect and trust. And Agitel is right, the White Tower is a conservative and insular institution, and Aes Sedai became that way in direct response to their new political situation with the people that came about from the War of Power and the Breaking. People don't trust them, and they don't trust channelers in general. And when a political institution did arise that was capable of unifying the people and providing the cultural backbone needed for progress, Aes Sedai were wholly incapable of maintaining it once its charismatic leader died. Aes Sedai do have a great deal of power, and certainly more political power than any other kingdom or nation that currently exists or has existed in the past, save Hawkwing's Empire. But for all that power, they're not very useful or effective with it.

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I don't think I can discuss 3000 years of civilization well. But in general the WT's survival and continued role throughout Randland is evidence of its continuity, feasibility and necessity. Fear and mistrust of Aes Sedai are certainly there; but it is balanced by respect and service rendered to the people. Without this balance, the nations would have killed would be channelers instead of sending them to Tar Valon (or allowing them to be sent to Tar Valon). Aes Sedai would not have continued to exist as an institution. They might have ended up as a cult or something like the Kin.

 

The continuity of the WT for such a long time was a result of its necessity to the people and a general consensus and acceptance of that necessity despite fear and mistrust of Aes Sedai's exceptional power.

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Aes Sedai didn't adopt the Oath to not use the Power as a weapon until well after the Trolloc Wars. You don't think fear you'd get blown the hell up in retaliation for actively persecuting channelers instead of just sending them away would have been the motivating factor for that particular tradition? And a young female channeler in Amadicia even up to the conquest of the Seanchan was as likely to be burned at the stake or hanged, or turned over to Questioners for "interrogation" as be sent to Tar Valon.

 

Look at how Rand and the rest of the Two Rivers react when they learn that Moiraine was Aes Sedai: mistrust, fear and awe. They're more interested in getting her to leave than in figuring out why the Trollocs attacked, and a fair few judge the two events to be linked, and all the more reason for her to leave asap. They're not falling all over themselves asking her how they can help her in whatever she's doing. They're not fawning or conciliatory in any way, and come close to being rude. Rand only approaches her after he finds out because he needs her to Heal Tam, and he agonizes over the decision for a long time both before and after it's done.

 

The White Tower as an institution is more than some secretive, hidden cult, though it's not far off from that, because for more than 1000 years into the Third Age, and for the 300 some years of the Breaking, they were the most powerful force in the world. The female channelers of that time were powerful enough, numerous enough and unrestrained enough to make any army unable to defeat and scatter them, no matter how large. The people had 1000 years to learn to tolerate Aes Sedai because they had no other choice. And then they had to learn to tolerate Aes Sedai because they were essential in the defense during the Trolloc Wars. Even then, Eldrene, the last Queen of Manetheren, was an Aes Sedai in secret. Moiraine herself reflects that Aes Sedai who are openly so as rulers never ends well for the Aes Sedai, and often for the people she rules. In effect, Aes Sedai have lost the ability to lead the people. Instead, they are reduced, in the main, to manipulating them through manipulating their rulers.

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Yeah; but Artur Hawkwing gave civilization the perfect chance to get rid of the WT; yet that didn't happen and the WT continued to play its role in Randland. As I said earlier there is fear and mistrust of Aes Sedai that is balanced by respect and gratitude. Without this balance, the WT would have ceased to function as an institution.

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As far as I can tell, the Compact pre-Trolloc Wars was a lot wealthier and more developed than the current era. Hawkwing's empire controlled close to all the land between the spine of the world, the blight and the ocean.

 

From those, I conclude that the wars were REALLY devastating (real world thirty years war level, but then for all the area, not just a part). The decline of the westlands seems in a way similar to the decline of Rome in our world, outside those two cataclysms: there are still riches, there are resurgences under good leaders, but too much conflict slowly but surely eats away at nations. I suspect the darkfriends must be involved somehow, or countries like Andor/Cairhien/Tear would be growing... But, perhaps they were before the Aiel wrecked Cairhien.

 

So, I think we are 1) looking at a bad time (just after the most progressive/rich area from trade, Cairhien, was destroyed) and 2) someone's actively trying to undermine countries. Had Cairhien enjoyed its riches for a while longer, probably its population would have grown enough to expand into the empty space around it (while obviously wasting plenty more on useless fights with Andor) and from there help other nations also grow again, slowly bringing back similar riches and sophistication as the pre-Hawkwing world enjoyed.

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But for all their power, they were unable to unite the land, or foster any kind of significant re-building in the time after the Breaking. It took Artur Hawkwing to do that, and that was essentially the Pattern working its ta'veren magic to do it.

Uhh... read the BWB again:

 

In 209 AB (After the Breaking; the Toman Calendar had been universally adopted about ten years earlier), the Compact of the Ten Nations was formed. This compact, also called the Second Compact, was largely the work of Queen Mabriam of Aramaelle, reported to be Aes Sedai (as were a number of queens, apparently, between the Breaking and the end of the Trolloc Wars), so it is likely that the White Tower played a large role.

 

Mabriam en Shereed, incidentally, is the most famous Grey sister ever.

 

The Compact lasted for roughly eight hundred years, protecting all its members against the creatures of the Shadow. During this time culture and social graces began to flourish, for memories of the Age of Legends had not been completely lost. There was still hope that the glories of that past Age could be rebuilt.

Most of these hopes failed when, about 1000 AB, Trollocs suddenly roared south out of the Blight in large numbers to begin a series of wars that would shatter the Compact. These wars, known as the Trolloc Wars, spanned approximately 350 years and spread destruction across most of the continent.

So the WT was largely responsible for a renaissance in culture and society. Which is why, of course, Ishamael threw a 350 year war at them to undo all that.

And the Aes Sedai were unable to maintain any sort of unity, or even maintain the infrastructural progress Hawkwing created after the fall of Hawkwing's Empire.

Again, no:

Deane did, however, manage to restore the prestige of the Tower, and was believed to be convincing the warring nobles to accept the leadership of the Tower and thus restore unity to the land when she was killed in a fall from her horse.

 

How much do you want to bet the Black Ajah was behind the "accident"?

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I didn't say their manipulations were wholly unsuccessful, and I didn't impugn the intentions of the White Tower as a force for the Light. Aes Sedai, in general, have gotten the raw end of the 3rd Age. I'm quite familiar with the BWB and the Compact between the 10 Nations. My point is that the Aes Sedai are politically incapable of being outright leaders. They are reduced, and have been since the Breaking, to ruling through manipulation and taking advantage of the fear and mistrust that the people feel for them to sustain their agendas. It's telling that every "ordinary" person who contemplates disobeying or interfering with an Aes Sedai has fear of retribution from the White Tower as one of their foremost concerns, even now almost two thousand years after the Aes Sedai adopted the Oaths, which ought to make such retribution as they fear impossible. Aes Sedai rulers even in the first 1000 years after the Breaking mostly hid the fact that they were Aes Sedai, because the people would not often tolerate an openly Aes Sedai ruler after the Breaking. Their incapacity in being open leaders is not through any fault of their own. The "fault" lies with the quite understandable mistrust and fear of channelers that pervades the common attitude, and has for over 3000 years.

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I didn't say their manipulations were wholly unsuccessful, and I didn't impugn the intentions of the White Tower as a force for the Light.

 

What you said was...

 

But for all their power, they were unable to unite the land, or foster any kind of significant re-building in the time after the Breaking

 

That is patently false.

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It's actually true. They came close to uniting the land, and did their best to try to prod the various cultures of Randland towards progress, but largely because their success was only possible through manipulation, they were never able to pull it off, and much of the progress they did foster was all too easily undermined for the same reason. Sure, the manipulations of the Shadow played their role, but they would never have been able to be as successful in undermining the good works of the Aes Sedai if the Aes Sedai were able to be open and gain overt consensus.

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I didn't say their manipulations were wholly unsuccessful, and I didn't impugn the intentions of the White Tower as a force for the Light. Aes Sedai, in general, have gotten the raw end of the 3rd Age. I'm quite familiar with the BWB and the Compact between the 10 Nations. My point is that the Aes Sedai are politically incapable of being outright leaders.

I give you... Mabriam en Shereed, Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan, Rashima Kerenmosa, Elayne Trakand, and a host of Amyrlin Seats who were outright leaders.

They are reduced, and have been since the Breaking, to ruling through manipulation and taking advantage of the fear and mistrust that the people feel for them to sustain their agendas.

This isn't even true now, let alone in the Tower's heyday. The majority of the Tower's power comes from its access to saidar and the extensive knowledge it has of the world. While neither of these are as much as they could be, they are exclusive to the Tower, which is what makes it so powerful. The econimic independence of the Tower is an added bonus.

 

In the past 1000 years, yes the Towers political might has declined, but only in the southern nations. The cause for this is not some new fangled fear of retribution, but tied up to the Hawkwing-Bonhwin confrontation. Even during the time of Hawkwing, when he absolutely controlled all of the Westlands and was wildly popular with the masses, the Tower's political and polular might was enough that it did not starve despite a twenty year siege!

It's telling that every "ordinary" person who contemplates disobeying or interfering with an Aes Sedai has fear of retribution from the White Tower as one of their foremost concerns,

You have Two Rivers mistrust-itis. You see things through the lens of our main characters. Look to the Borderlands, Andor, Cairhein, even Arad Doman for examples of normal people respect Aes Sedai.

even now almost two thousand years after the Aes Sedai adopted the Oaths, which ought to make such retribution as they fear impossible. Aes Sedai rulers even in the first 1000 years after the Breaking mostly hid the fact that they were Aes Sedai, because the people would not often tolerate an openly Aes Sedai ruler after the Breaking.

Not true. Mabriam was openly Queen, as were the Queens of Manetheren. Its only in the last thousand years that openly Aes Sedai queens have become a rarity. But as Elayne's example proves, this is not an impediment that is all that hard to overcome.

Their incapacity in being open leaders is not through any fault of their own. The "fault" lies with the quite understandable mistrust and fear of channelers that pervades the common attitude, and has for over 3000 years.

That has never stopped them from being open leaders. An Amyrlin can summon the Lord Captian Commander of the Whitecloaks, and expect him to be there ASAP! That is open power.

 

Also:

Cemaile Sorenthaine, raised from the Gray, had commissioned it dreaming of a return to the days before the Trolloc Wars, when no ruler held a throne without the Tower's approval.

 

That also, is open power, that too when the memory of the Breaking was a lot more fresh than it is today.

Edited by fionwe1987
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It's actually true. They came close to uniting the land, and did their best to try to prod the various cultures of Randland towards progress, but largely because their success was only possible through manipulation, they were never able to pull it off, and much of the progress they did foster was all too easily undermined for the same reason. Sure, the manipulations of the Shadow played their role, but they would never have been able to be as successful in undermining the good works of the Aes Sedai if the Aes Sedai were able to be open and gain overt consensus.

 

You toss aside the Trolloc Wars which lasted some 350 years as if it is an after thought with AS manipulations being the main cause. The facts are plain, they united the land and fostered significant rebuilding and cultural growth. The Shadow was the one who tore that down. There is not a shred of evidence that states the recovery stalled or was stunted due to AS manipulations. Would love to see what you are basing these statements on?

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It's actually true. They came close to uniting the land, and did their best to try to prod the various cultures of Randland towards progress, but largely because their success was only possible through manipulation, they were never able to pull it off, and much of the progress they did foster was all too easily undermined for the same reason. Sure, the manipulations of the Shadow played their role, but they would never have been able to be as successful in undermining the good works of the Aes Sedai if the Aes Sedai were able to be open and gain overt consensus.

 

You toss aside the Trolloc Wars which lasted some 350 years as if it is an after thought with AS manipulations being the main cause. The facts are plain, they united the land and fostered significant rebuilding and cultural growth. The Shadow was the one who tore that down. There is not a shred of evidence that states the recovery stalled or was stunted due to AS manipulations. Would love to see what you are basing these statements on?

actually pre Hawkwing I think the AS manipulating reached its peak and spread, most notable being cairhein. Then Hawkwing came and 'cut their scheming short'

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