When civilization had come to Egypt, it must have seemed eternal. It was, of course, designed, like the pyramids, for all time. For reasons made clear by Karl A. Wittfogel in his brilliant Oriental Despotism (New Haven, 1957), the earliest and most primitive form of civilized society is always socialism, with an omnipotent central government, a completely managed economy, and with inhabitants reduced to the kind of serfdom that our planners in Washington are now imposing, step by step, on the American people.
The Egyptians defined the good state as one in which "well directed are men, the cattle of God." Men were simply the cattle of Pharaoh, who had all the power that Jack Kennedy craved, and who was, by definition, the son of God and therefore God himself. He owned every acre of ground, every house, every stick of wood in Egypt from the First Cataract to the Mediterranean, and he naturally owned all the livestock on that plantation, both quadrupeds and bipeds.
A total socialism, such as Egypt had from the beginning, necessarily excludes all thought of change. That fact, indeed, may explain its appeal to men. The many hundreds of Utopias imagined by idle dreamers from Iambulos to Sir Thomas More to Edward Bellamy differ greatly in all details, but have one thing in common: They imagine a state in which no governmental or social change is possible or even conceivable. And the sincere socialists of our own time, though vociferous in praise of "inevitable change" leading to socialism, promise us the joys of a social order that can never again change and will be immutable forever in saecula saeculorum -- or, at the least, "'Til the sun grows cold, And the stars are old."
Necessarily, therefore, the basic assumption of Egyptian civilization was that it was a social order as eternal as the granite of its monuments. But four hundred years after Cheops built his pyramid, that order suddenly disintegrated into anarchy and utter chaos.