We had touched upon the idea of the rise and fall of civilizations in an earlier post: Return of the Archons (pt 1). We focused upon the well-worn metaphor that drew parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and the impending decline of our own, tattered civilization. In a recent article in the on-line magazine: Salon, they review anthropologist Peter Turchin’s new book: “Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History.”
Having been indoctrinated in the ways of Discordia, via the Legion of Dynamic Discord, our ears perked up at the subject matter…
“Everything from skyrocketing inequality and political gridlock to white working class angst and the rise of mass shootings and other troubling signs of our times — these are all interconnected reflections of where America is in a cyclic historical process: social integration followed by disintegration, discord and violence. Turchin and others have observed this pattern repeatedly in civilizations from ancient Rome and early Chinese dynasties up to the present day.”
“Historians, scholars and even poets have long been familiar with (civilization’s) cycles of rise and fall, but understanding them has proved more difficult. The ideas of Thomas Malthus …that population growth will exceed growth in agricultural production, leading to mass immiseration (literally: The act of making miserable, especially of a population as a whole… ie: impoverishment) …provide one sort of starting point.”
“But civilizations are more than a big, undifferentiated mass of people. Elites can and do prosper while average citizens’ welfare declines, as happened in Victorian England, in our own Gilded Age and again since the 1970s.”
“Elites have their own population dynamics, and can suffer their own equivalence of immiseration when they outstrip their resource base (read: the general population). Thus, both elites and masses go through similar cycles, which are interconnected, as well as interacting with the structures of the state, where elites contest for power and maintain the strength and well-being of the whole society.”
“Jack Goldberg’s 1991 book: “Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World” was the first to develop a coherent explanatory model with all the pieces connected, which Turchin has modified slightly in his work.”
The question becomes… does the so-called elite retain continuity between cycles? Does Philip K Dick’s Gnostic epiphany hold true? Regardless, we believe that it is safe to say… The Empire Never Ended.
Ages of Discord looks like a good read. The original article can be found here.