My apologies for this article having little to do with “Current Politics” but I thought the subject was interesting, so I chose to write about it. Tomorrow should be a return to the regularly scheduled programming.
History is boring. That is the cry of many a student pretty much throughout every grade level, and throughout, umm . . . history too. I was and am not one of those many. I am a one of the few who actually finds the study of history interesting, and even at times, depending on the era, I find history fascinating. I like to read books on historical events and individuals, and I will even admit that doing so often times leads me to a pleasant slumber. Yes, even as a history nerd a good book on the subject will put me to sleep; but that doesn’t mean that I don’t learn something new between reads, or slumbers – depending on how you wish to look at my comments. Some of those who say that history is boring will also ask why study things that have already happened. Yeah, what is the point of studying the past? I mean it is over right, so let’s just forget about it and move forward. Well, brace yourself, because here comes the quotes:
Of course as a history nerd I tend to agree with the overriding theme of each of those quotes, which is that history (or rather events) does seem to have a cyclical nature to it. The unfortunate thing though is that those who don’t share a historical fascination can, and often do, simply dismiss the apparent cyclical nature of history as mere coincidence. They point out that things are different in each apparent cycle, which they obviously are, but that is why Mark Twain’s quote above is probably the most accurate.
The problem that history, as a subject of study, and historians have always had is that it isn’t a “science,” meaning that even those who may begrudge a certain similarity in historical events, there is no hard statistical evidence to prove the theorem of history repeating itself – until now.
Meet Peter Turchin, a professor of Population Biology and Cliodynamics (historical dynamics) at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. He is undoubtedly a very smart man, and has applied his talents to prove, mathematically, that history does in fact repeat itself; at least in broad societal themes. According to his models there is a definite cycle in the rise and fall of societal violence, internal strife, and all of those things that are tied to those things; like the economy. Increases in violence and internal strife will negatively impact economic growth and, this is just me putting in my two cents, would also increase government oppression (in one form or another).
Dr. Turchin’s models show that there is roughly a 50 year cycle between those rises in violence and all of the things that go along with it. His model shows definite peaks in those negative things in 1870, 1920, and 1970 and he believes his model is showing that we are in the ramping up stages of another bout of bad things happening, which he believes will peak in 2020. Doesn’t that make you feel oh-so-good about the future?
The interesting thing though is that he really isn’t the first to notice such a cycle. Nikolai Kondratiev, a Russian economist back in the early days of the Soviet Union, noticed a similar 50-60 year cycle, which has been dubbed “Kondratiev Waves.” If however you don’t like the idea of acknowledging a communist’s studies, then there is also Ralph Elliot, an American, who noticed a similar cyclical correlation in the 1930’s, though his studies originally were applied to the stock market, and created what he called the “Wave Principle,” today it is simply called “Elliot Wave” analysis. Robert Prechter (also an American) has taken his knowledge of Elliot Wave analysis and has since applied it to societal trends and created a new field of study he calls “Socionomics.”
The problem with all of these studies is that they essentially negate the notion of Free Will, which is another thing that I strongly believe in. All of these cycle studies basically tell us that regardless of what we try, do and believe, that we are all simply passengers on a societal roller coaster, taking us up hills of negativity and down into serene valleys of peace and prosperity. They also appear to disprove the first quote at the beginning of this article, by proving it doesn’t really matter whether or not we remember our history, we are simply doomed to repeat it. I would argue just the opposite though, because the vast majority of people have dismissed history as boring, and useless; thus the majority has “forgotten” history; and these studies deal with societies on the whole. What if we all began “remembering” our history? I would like to think then these models would begin to lose their current statistical relevance; but I am also a romantic, cloaked in cynicism, so that will never happen.
“I do not believe that civilizations have to die because civilization is not an organism. It is a product of wills.” (Arnold Toynbee)