In the Economist’s World in 2013 issue there is an article, The Cycle of History (thanks to John McGonagle for bringing it to my attention). The author, Max Rodenbeck, discusses the recent events of the Arab Spring from the point of view of Ibn Khaldun’s theory. Ibn Khaldun, as many of my readers know, was concerned with understanding the waxings and wanings of collective solidarity, or asabiya. Among other things he made an observation that the dynamics of asabiya tend to move in cycles.

His theory was formulated by observing historical dynamics in his native Maghreb (North Africa west of Egypt). The cycle begins when Bedouins, who have a lot of asabiya, erupt from the desert and establish a new ruling dynasty in the coastal area with cities and other trappings of civilization. The dynasty lasts for about four generations, but eventually it loses asabiya and becomes corrupt. At this point, a new group of Bedouins erupts from the desert and establishes the next ruling dynasty. And so on.

Read more at Social Evolution Forum.

Published On: December 16, 2012

Peter Turchin

Peter Turchin

Curriculum Vitae

Peter Turchin is an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Connecticut who works in the field of historical social science that he and his colleagues call Cliodynamics. His research interests lie at the intersection of social and cultural evolution, historical macrosociology, economic history and cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Currently he investigates a set of broad and interrelated questions. How do human societies evolve? In particular, what processes explain the evolution of ultrasociality—our capacity to cooperate in huge anonymous societies of millions? Why do we see such a staggering degree of inequality in economic performance and effectiveness of governance among nations? Turchin uses the theoretical framework of cultural multilevel selection to address these questions. Currently his main research effort is directed at coordinating the Seshat Databank project, which builds a massive historical database of cultural evolution that will enable us to empirically test theoretical predictions coming from various social evolution theories.

Turchin has published 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including a dozen in Nature, Science, and PNAS. His publications are frequently cited and in 2004 he was designated as “Highly cited researcher” by ISIHighlyCited.com. Turchin has authored seven books. His most recent book is Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth (Beresta Books, 2016).

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