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Global history has taken a boost from the current conflicts, protests and riots against corporate globalization, and the threat of worldwide terrorism against the West. These events fit into a global pattern of the rise and fall of societies that can be traced back to ancient times. True of all the ancient empires we know, the cycle of rise and decline appears to be accelerating. The twentieth century saw the collapse of seven great empires – Mandarin China, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey, Japan, the British empire, and twice over in the case of Tsarist and Soviet Russia. Since the events of September 11th, 2001, the twenty-first century seems likely to threaten the sole remaining superpower, the United States, with nemesis. The key to the formation, survival and decline of all historical societies is their use of surplus income and resources. Without the extraction, by an elite, of products surplus to immediate requirements – in the form of food, arms, luxuries and other goods and services produced by farmers, craftsmen, traders and servants – no society, beyond the most primitive, would be able to afford the protection, law and order, administration, defence, spiritual advice, personal services, cultural production and so on essential to its existence. This is so obvious that it scarcely needs expressing, yet we know little about the way it arose out of the chaos of pre-civilized experience. The rise is shaded in pre-history, since the formation of a society cannot be known until it has acquired the tools – written language or a reliable oral tradition – to express it.
What is common for all the societies discussed in the passage?