Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Theory of History? 'War and Peace and War'

I have always believed that History is susceptible to Theory. As a teenager, I was inspired by Asimov's 'science' of psychohistory (although even then, I was properly suspicious of the Second Foundation's democratic credentials). In my twenties, marxism provided a comprehensive view of past and future modes of production across vast millenia. And then the dream died and all we were left with was people, events and narratives.

Peter Turchin's War and Peace and War (which I have reviewed on the Amazon site here) starts by acknowledging the inspirational power of Hari Seldon's concept, before introducing Turchin's own framework of cliodynamics. Extensively illustrated through the rise, development and fall of the Roman Empire, the development of Europe into the High Middle Ages, the birth of the United States and Russia, and the rise of Islam and the Caliphate, Turchin's theory has that rare quality of suddenly putting many isolated facts into a coherent framework, suddenly granting a whole new perspective. The world does not look the same after reading his book.

His formal treatment covers pre-capitalist agrarian societies, but the conceptual framework seems perfectly applicable to the contemporary workd. It would be good to know that Turchin and his co-workers are on the case.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Keep it polite and no gratuitous links to your business website - we're not a billboard here.