Spengler Wept

Human cycles: History as science : Nature News & Comment

Turchin’s approach — which he calls cliodynamics after Clio, the ancient Greek muse of history — is part of a groundswell of efforts to apply scientific methods to history by identifying and modelling the broad social forces that Turchin and his colleagues say shape all human societies. It is an attempt to show that “history is not ‘just one damn thing after another’”, says Turchin, paraphrasing a saying often attributed to the late British historian Arnold Toynbee….

Turchin and his allies contend that the time is ripe to revisit general laws, thanks to tools such as nonlinear mathematics, simulations that can model the interactions of thousands or millions of individuals at once, and informatics technologies for gathering and analysing huge databases of historical information….

In their analysis of long-term social trends, advocates of cliodynamics focus on four main variables: population numbers, social structure, state strength and political instability.

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2 thoughts on “Spengler Wept

  1. The graph looks rather like Kondratiev – a nice idea, but it only seems to work retrospectively. Kondratiev Spring is late this cycle, it seems.

    Turchin’s approach with its banal talk of “political instability” seems hopelessly culture-bound and not particularly insightful. Polybius had the same basic idea, only more elegantly phrased. After predicting the fall of the Roman Republic before it actually happened, with a good stab at how it happened, he goes on, in a Polonius-like finger-wagging sort of way:
    Such is the cycle of political revolution, the course appointed by nature in which constitutions change, disappear, and finally return to the point from which they started. Anyone who clearly perceives this may indeed in speaking of the future of any state be wrong in his estimate of the time the process will take, but if his judgement is not tainted by animosity or jealousy, he will very seldom be mistaken as to the stage of growth or decline it has reached, and as to the form into which it will change. (Histories VI.8.10-12)

    at http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/6*.html

    It’s psychohistory isn’t it – a recurrent idea e.g. the Club of Rome model. I actually worked on a version of that, circa 1979, for a mysterious client known as “Q8”. Yes Spengler would have wept.

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