- Hardcover: 360 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 9, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691136963
- ISBN-13: 978-0691136967
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #613,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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"This book is an audacious and ambitious attempt to promote the viewpoint that historical progression runs according to certain regular patterns. . . . I am fascinated by this book, particularly by the theoretical framework which is laid out in the introductory and concluding chapters. . . . [T]he main strength of the book lies in its scope, reminiscent of the broad perspectives of classical economists. It is the type of scholarship which proves that historical narrative can be fascinating."--Harry Kitsikopoulos, EH.net
"Those who are interested in grand social theories will want to read and reflect. I suspect that there will be many who then will rebut."--Brian J. L. Berry, American Journal of Sociology
"Turchin and Nefedov have set a very ambitious task for themselves. . . . [T]hey should be applauded for producing a work of very broad historical sweep and reminding us that developing general laws--or more plausibly, general tendencies--of historical dynamics remains a tantalizing proposition."--David S. Jacks, Australian Economic History Review
"[T]he standard of historical scholarship is excellent and opens the floor to interesting challenges for further empirical explorations."--Laura Panza, Economic Record
From the Back Cover
"Secular Cycles is an ambitious, audacious, and engaging achievement from two very talented scholars. This stimulating book will attract interdisciplinary attention from those interested in global history and secular economic change."--Cormac Ó Gráda, author of Famine
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Top Customer Reviews
It cuts off at the beginning of industrialization, something that disappointed me. But the dynamics of industrial societies may differ from the dynamics of preindustrial, agrarian ones, so the authors may have decided to work on something more manageable.
I note this because the French Revolution fits quite well into a disintegrative phase, and the book cuts off before it, while the Bourbons were still in their integrative phase. It looks like there were lots of professionals and other elite aspirants who did not enjoy being shoved into the Third Estate behind the clergy and the nobility. So the elites battled it out, with some elites appealing to the common people, another feature of disintegrative phases. That revolution even had a device that was convenient for reducing the elites' numbers: the guillotine.
Napoleon's conquests seem like a return to an integrative phase, however, with him returning to power after his initial defeat and exile. But he was defeated and exiled a second time, and his conquests were not permanent. France continued to have a lot of tumult after his death, only settling down late in the 19th cy.
One of the aspects of this book that impresses me is the authors’ avoidance of doctrine. Unlike Toynbee or Spengler, they do not insist their cycle always proceeds in exact accord with a preformed structure. They acknowledge the influence of particular factors that make the cycles differ between countries and eras. Their arguments are convincing precisely because they acknowledge they are general principles and correlations, and that industrialization has changed the model in ways they have yet to consider.
However, I believe that can be done by considering farms and factories as different forms of resources for wealth production. Add in natural resources – water, minerals, energy, and the ecosystem’s ability to absorb pollution – and the implications of their model seems sensible and logical. For instance, factories are an employment resource for the lower half of society. As such, the factory has ‘shrunk’ – requires fewer employees to make the same number of widgets (even without outsourcing); but the corporation’s profit from the factory continues – for now. Another example: Oil becomes more difficult to procure and oil (and gasoline) prices rise. All resources can become over-exploited, and the Turchin / Nefedov model works well.
The one application of the model that is provocative is to the global economy: A few ‘elite’ countries (Western Europe, the U.S.) and the many less wealthy nations. The latter are holding the resources the former require; the former have the financial and military power. And perhaps this is one aspect that makes this book so interesting: Besides some great lessons of history, it changes the reader's world-view and provokes speculation on the future. Yay for gray matter!
I won't write 1000 words explaining what it is all about; others have done this already. I suggest you just buy the book and read it. Absolutely worthwhile.
Spoiler: Basically history seems to have a long-term boom/bust cycle, and we seem to be in the stagflation phase of the cycle (near the top), as other reviewers have noted. The book will explain how this works and what the rest of the cycle looks like, based on several historical case studies.
Definitely worth reading, and I'll be interested to see if it makes any impact more widely.- on related fields.
The general thesis of this book is that agricultural societies strengthen and weaken in multi-century cycles based on a modestly complex interaction of the population dynamics of the peasantry and the elite. Turchin and Nefedov provide quite a lot of data to buttress their case. One consequence of their thesis is that "golden ages" for the elites of a society are lousy times to be a peasant, while good times for the peasantry are usually times of stability, but only modest prosperity, for the nobility/elite of a society.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Right now most of the planet is entering a Stagflation phase. Those cycles make understandable why the post 2nd world war generation of...Read more