I want to build a fantasy world with 21st century cultural, economical and sociological levels.

Sociologically and economically speaking, what were the requirements for our world to become what it is today? More specifically, I'm looking at the western capitalist society.

Our world didn't become like it is today by mere coincidence. Our state of globalization, consumerism and capitalism is a direct byproduct of the Cold War, which is itself a direct byproduct of WW2, a direct byproduct of WW1, caused by imperialist desires at the end of the 19th century, caused by... Well, I guess you get the point.

If I want to build a world that behaves similarly to ours, what are the events (wars, uprisings, economic systems, inventions) that must happen so that society is driven in this direction?

The technological level here should preferably be around the early Renaissance, but I'm aware some modern technologies (such as flight and the Internet) are seminal for our society, so I'm willing to handwave them into magic.


closed as too broad by Vylix, L.Dutch, Vincent, sphennings, Mołot Oct 29 '17 at 23:56

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ That seems like a long list of coincidences and psychology to me. Different conditions and different events lead to different outcomes. Sometimes the outcomes are slightly different, sometimes hugely different. Example: If Germany has decided against sending Lenin back to Russia, would the October Revolution have happened? Lot of fallout still today from that event. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Oct 29 '17 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ Our state of globalization is the direct consequence of a long time of peace. Whenever there is a long time of peace, be it Pax Romana, Pax Britannica, or Pax Americana, commerce develops and eventually binds together large parts of the world. Then the barbarians come, war disrupts trade, and the cycle recommences; remember that we are living in the second age of globalization -- the first one ended with WW1. "Consumerism" does not exist; it's just a meaningless word invented for use in idle conversation. As for "capitalism" I don't know what you believe that the word means... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 29 '17 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ One piece of being Too Broad is "may require a book length answer." This is textbook. Someone could easily write a full length answer on one event, e.g. the Black Death. Consider flipping it around and asking the many other questions. E.g. "If I remove the Black Death, could we still reach modern society? Or would we be stuck in the dark ages?" $\endgroup$ – Brythan Oct 30 '17 at 1:59

I am certain that this is the sort of answer which is routinely closed here, for reasons beyond my ken. To me it seems world building fair and square. So my answer quick, while I can...

Rather than deducing your world from first principles, make it the way you want it to be then invent the circumstances of history that led up to it. Our world could have turned out in many different ways.

I could imagine that in a world with multiple sentient species, the different species could fill the roles that different races/cultures filled in our own worlds history.
Backing all the way back to the dawn of civilization, it seems to me that the roots of consumerism are in the presence of an aristocracy with surplus wealth, for whom the ownership and exchange of luxury status goods are the mark of being part of this aristocracy. One needs enough surplus production to support such a luxury class.

The best luxury goods are those which must come a long way at great cost - for example silk clothes for the Romans, or amber for the Assyrians. Valuable goods moving over great distances means commerce and trade routes, and systems of merchants along the way. This also is the root of globalism.

"Capitalism" is a loaded phrase and I think one must be more specific about what that means in a fantasy world.


Human nature is a key requirement. Greed, lust, jealousy, envy, love, hatred, compassion, fear etc etc. These are the ultimate drivers of human beings. Above and beyond that:

Consumerism requires the industrial revolution and mass production

Capitalism requires property rights, trade and a unit of exchange

Globalization requires rapid communication, telecommunications and air transport.

  • $\begingroup$ I was asking more specifically for historical events (of which you mentioned only the industrial revolution), not technological requirements, but that's interesting anyway. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – FFN Oct 29 '17 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ Are they not all historical events? The arrival of mass production was a hisorical event in the twentieth century no? As was air transport. $\endgroup$ – Slarty Oct 29 '17 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. I was thinking more in the lines of wars and colonial and economical systems, but the invention of the technologies you mentioned are indeed historical events $\endgroup$ – FFN Oct 29 '17 at 23:53

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