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Secular Cycles

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  85 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Many historical processes exhibit recurrent patterns of change. Century-long periods of population expansion come before long periods of stagnation and decline; the dynamics of prices mirror population oscillations; and states go through strong expansionist phases followed by periods of state failure, endemic sociopolitical instability, and territorial loss. Peter Turchin ...more
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published August 1st 2009 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Keith Akers
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely great book, clearly of interest to anyone who is concerned about things like the collapse of civilizations, and specifically the possible collapse of our civilization. And it was published in 2009, and I'm only finding out about it, and reading it, now! I found out about it through Gail Tverberg's blog, "Our Finite World," and I hope it finds a wide readership. But a word of warning: this book is not for the faint of heart. You've got to love the subject or you'll never mak ...more
Adam
TL;DR this hypothesis and methodology seem like a major watershed moment in historical thinking but the book itself is not ideally constructed for lay audiences (in interest, not comprehension) and it's very much worth reading even if you want to skip/skim some of the case study chapters.

I can't believe this book, or at least this hypothesis and the evidence behind it, haven't made a bigger splash. I've been reading stuff in this vein for a long time, from Jared Diamond's stuff to Catton's Overs
...more
Stephen
Mar 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book exemplifies my type of futures - a grand sweep of human history, a causal model, and a dynamic framework from which we can view our present lives. The first chapter outlines the model and is followed by eight turns of the cycle, two per chosen country. The final chapter draws together the evidence and the model.

I found the model to be quite interesting. It seems to be based on two perspectives of history. One is the Malthusian, where history can be described as a series of cycles where
...more
David Lopez
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend reading war and peace and war instead of this one, this goes into much much more details but unless you know the math and are really that skeptical the same concept gets a worthy write up in his other book. Still very good and more of the same which is why I read it, but unless you really want more history from this perspective the same concept is done just fine in war and peace and war.
Diego
Secualr Cycles es un magnifico libro que busca mostrar como las predicciones de la teoría demográfica estructural es valida para el estudio de las sociedades agrarias. Los ciclos seculares de acuerdo a Turchin y Nefedov son procesos de muy largo plazo en los que las sociedades pasan por periodos de integración, expansión y estabilidad socioeconómica, llegan a periodos de estancamiento y luego de declive y desintegración.

La premisa de los autores es que es posible llegar a algo parecido a una cie
...more
David Usharauli
Nov 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, economy
In this book the authors analyze several correlations that lead to rise and fall of the States based on population growth, labor market demands and excesses of upper classes.

I did not find their approach particularly innovative. One thing I remembered from this book is "plateau" stage they called stagflation. This is a stage in state's secular development when population saturation leads to wage decline that coincides with maximum profits for upper classes.

I would say that USA has entered stagfl
...more
John Igo
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Secular Cycles

This book postulates a grand neo-Malthusian theory of history, as follows.
1. The population of commoners increases (approximately exponentially) to the carrying capacity of land they possess at their technological level.
2. The population the elites increases to the carrying capacity of of the commoner population with a lag of a few generations. The elite population overshoots the carying capacity of the commoner population due to faster reproduction rates (healthier food, better
...more
James Giammona
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
First of all, this is a dry academic book. If you don't enjoy dry books, you won't think this is worth 4 stars.

That said, the framework of population dynamics of both the general population and elite population and the various stages of growth, stagnation and crisis is extremely powerful and compelling. As has been said in an online review, this framework gives a great way to learn, contextualize and remember history (e.g. I've never felt more confident in my recall of Plantagenet historical eve
...more
Kaustubh Sule
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
I bought the book long back but did not read it. The recent stock market fall and once in a century event of pandemic forced me to read this book. This book clearly states pandemic as one of the reasons for negative turn of growth cycle during stagflation phase. The ideas laid out by authors are succinct and relevant to today's economy even if they mention that they have studied cycles for agrarian economies. The four phases of cycle have been empirically studied with respect to various civiliza ...more
Roman Schuster
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Thought provoking, to put it mildly. Prof. Turchin proves once again that anthropologists make the best economists. Chapter 1 proposes a framework through which to understand why population ebbs and flows, and the remainder of the book follows 8 case studies that put the framework to the test. Part history lesson (did you know that the church was the largest money lender in 16th century Russia?), part social analysis (over/under-representation of elites in the total population is one of the driv ...more
Štefan
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very good intro to a revival of the study of historical cycles. The idea that population cycles and structures are more important historical movers than political ideology or regime type is not obvious in today's hyperpartisan political competition. Actually it became a heresy to not derive quality of personal welfare from type of installed political regime. It's refreshing to see a quantifiable theory saying otherwise. While this book covers agrarian societies, Turchin announces application of ...more
Odhran
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Very interesting book. Outlines a theory of history which explains a significant proportion of historical change in agrarian societies. It's a very interesting approach, and one which I think will provide extremely interesting insights into history and, potentially, the future.

Some minor issues with typos, and some of the history strikes me as potentially a little weak, but those are very minor issues when compared with the overall work.
Fred R
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
There are still some very basic questions (how do you define "the elite"? What determines the number of "elite aspirants"? Is the model applicable to a post-agricultural economy? If so, what are we really talking about? People's ability to marshal enough resources to reproduce themselves biologically and economically?) that remain to be answered, but all in all I'm just a huge fan of this neo-Malthusian "structural-demographic" theory.
Stefan
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well documented validation of a very interesting theory.
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“Malthusian-Ricardian theory predicted that an increasing population would result in a specific progression of effects. Rents would rise first, with grain prices lagging behind rents, the price of industrial goods lagging behind grain prices, and workers’ wages bringing up the rear. The evidence showed that this was precisely what happened (until the whole system was dramatically changed in the nineteenth century).” 0 likes
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