A New History of Power - RSA

A New History of Power

Public talks


RSA House, London

  • Leadership

Historian and author David Priestland proposes a fundamental, radical new way of seeing the world and who really rules it, at a time of imminent power shift.


Due to a technical error unfortunately there is no audio file available for this event.

RSA Keynote

Who really rules the world? 

We live in an age of merchants. Competition, flexibility and profit are still the common currency, even at a time when Western countries have been driven off a cliff by these very values. But will it always be this way?

Historian and author David Priestland argues for the predominance in any society of one of three prevailing power groups; merchants (those who use the market to exert power), sages (those who use bureaucracies and philosophy to rule) and soldiers (those who use militaristic and aristocratic forms of control).

These 'castes' struggle alongside the worker (egalitarian and artisanal) for power, and when they achieve supremacy, they can have such a strong hold over us that it is almost impossible to imagine life outside their grip. And yet there does come a point of drastic change, usually when the balance of power lurches too far in one direction. The result is economic crisis, war or revolution and eventually a new caste takes over.

Join David Priestland at the RSA as he argues that we are now in the midst of a period with all the classic signs of imminent change.

So, who really does, and will rule the world?

Speaker: Dr David Priestland, Lecturer in Modern History, Oxford University and Fellow of St Edmund Hall.

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