Sometimes in the course of human affairs, things change only temporarily; they vary but then return to the mean; they recur and repeat; they advance but then hit a ceiling and drop back; in short some things fluctuate.
I would like to give some of these fluctuations appropriate names:
- Malthusian cycles – already a well-known name for what happens when population hits carrying capacity
- Supra-Malthusian cycles – would happen if fertility, having fallen in the “demographic transition,” rises again.
- Thucydidean cycles – the rise and fall of the great powers, now visible again as China rises
- Sima Qianian cycles – familial-nepotistic dynasties rise then fall (could also be called Hamiltonian cycles after the man who theorized nepotism, or Galtonian cycles, who coined regression to the mean)
- Weberian cycles – the oscillation between charismatic leaders versus routine institutions
- Polybian cycles – the wheel turns between monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy
- Ibn Khaldunian cycles – group cohesion (asabiya) fluctuates: sometimes high cooperation, sometimes low
- Hobbesian cycles – states succeed and then states fail
- Spenglerian or Toynbeean cycles – civilizations accomplish things, then they don’t
- Marxian cycles – there are periods of more equality and periods of more inequality
And no doubt more, but that’s enough for now.
[The idea of “wheels within wheels” comes from Peter Turchin in his excellent book War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires Plume, 2006)]