Very Long Cycles

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Joshua Goldstein:

"Very long cycles.

  • Forrester (1981a:5) refers to an S-shaped "life cycle of economic development" lasting over 200 years.
  • Earl Cook (1972) identifies four long logistic curves of energy and materials use and human population over the past million years–of which Forrester's curve would be the fourth.
  • Taagepera (1978, 1979) describes "life cycles" of empires often spanning many centuries."



I asked ChatGPT to identify authors of long cycle theories that last 450-500 years. From its response:

  • "One such theory is the "Fourth Turning" theory, developed by William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book "The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy." The theory proposes that there are four generational archetypes that repeat in a cyclical pattern of roughly 80-100 years, and that these archetypes lead to a period of crisis and upheaval every 80-100 years, or about every 400 years for a full cycle.
  • Arnold Toynbee: In his monumental work "A Study of History," published in 12 volumes between 1934 and 1961, British historian Arnold Toynbee proposed a cyclical view of history, in which civilizations go through a series of "arrests and respites," or periods of growth and decline, over the course of roughly 500 years.
  • Oswald Spengler: German philosopher and historian Oswald Spengler, in his influential book "The Decline of the West," published in two volumes in 1918 and 1922, argued that all civilizations go through a life cycle of birth, growth, maturity, decline, and death, over the course of about 1,000 years.
  • Pitirim Sorokin: Russian-American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, in his book "Social and Cultural Dynamics," published in four volumes between 1937 and 1941, proposed a theory of "cultural supersession," in which one dominant culture is replaced by another roughly every 500 years.
  • Johan Galtung: Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung, in his book "The Fall of the US Empire - And Then What?" published in 2009, argued that the United States was entering a period of decline and would likely experience a major crisis around the year 2020, roughly 500 years after the European Renaissance."