Is The USA The Next Rome?
by Jacob McCartney on 2017-02-02
I have had a keen interest lately in the realm of connecting mathematics and sociology. I have been studying concepts such as the social cycle theory, Piagetian Theory, the Tytler Cycle, the Olduvai Theory, and plenty of other theories relating to how societies work. Applying the laws of physics to the behaviors of the human race is not a practice which is common. This is mostly because people do not even know that it is possible. However, it is very possible, and I intend to use it to make some predictions about the future.
Social entropy is a measure of the natural decay of and within a social system or society. It is the natural decomposition of structure or the disappearance of distinctions within a society. In fact, much of the energy consumed by a social organization is spent maintaining its structure and counteracting social entropy. Examples include governments, legal institutions, and schools. Social entropy implies the tendency of social networks and society in general to break down over time, moving from cooperation and advancement towards conflict and chaos. Anomie is the maximum state of this entropy.
The natural order of the world throughout history has been to start disorganized and slowly but surely become more organized. To relate this to physics, we will look at stars as an example. At first, a star is born. As it lives its life, the uses up its energy until there is little left but mass and a little energy, at which point it begins to collapse in on itself, pulling itself tighter and tighter. At this point, there are a few things it can do. It can build up so much energy that it goes supernova, exploding and blowing itself to pieces. It could become a magnetar, which spins around and pulls in all metal near it. It could become a pulsar, which sends out pulses of energy in different directions. Or, like some do, it could turn into a black hole. It will have crunched together so much that it collapses in on itself, beginning to pull other things in with it. Eventually, this black hole will absorb so much energy that it can make something escape its gravity—and something does. It blasts massive bursts of energy out into space.
A social system is like this as well. When a country is born, its government is small and weak. But as time goes on, its power grows. The people it governs still have autonomy, and the government will reach the height of its power. But there is always a tipping point in every closed system, and this is a point that every country will reach. If the government of a society goes on for a long enough time, it can begin to get more and more powerful, pulling more and more things into its realm of control. It gets tighter and tighter and tighter, more and more restrictive, taking so much under its wing. The people are unhappy, but they do nothing. Only after a long enough time passes does their anger build up enough that something snaps, and their anger is released through whichever is the easiest medium of release. All one must do to find proof of this is open a history textbook.
Norwegian professor Johan Galtung, with doctoral degrees in both sociology and mathematics, is known to be the founder of peace studies as a scientific study. Some decades ago, he developed a theory of what he called “synchronizing and mutually reinforcing contradictions,” based on comparing the rise and fall of 10 historical empires.
An empire, in Galtung’s eyes, is defined as: a transborder Center-Periphery system, in macro-space and in macro-time, with a culture legitimizing a structure of unequal exchange between center and periphery: economically, between exploiters and exploited, as inequity; militarily, between killers and victims, as enforcement; politically, between dominators and dominated, as repression; culturally, between alienators and alienated, as conditioning.
In 1980, Galtung used his model to study and map the interaction of various social constructions inside the USSR. From this, he predicted its collapse within 10 years, by 1990. Few people believed his theory at the time, but on November 9, 1989, two months before 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed.
Galtung has used his model to accurately predict other events, including the Iranian Revolution in 1978, the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, the economic crises of 1987, 2008, and 2011, and the 9/11 attacks.
The model works like this: A society develops “synchronizing and mutually reinforcing contradictions.” As these contradictions deepen, the likelihood that they will result in a social crisis that could upend the existing order increases. In the case of the USSR, he identified 5 of these.
In Galtung’s 2009 book The Fall of the American Empire—and then What?, he identifies 15 of these contradictions within the United States. He predicts that the US global power will collapse by 2020, as the country goes through a phase of fascism. Fascism is, after all, a reactionary result of leftism.
As the US increases its global outreach, these contradictions will get deeper and deeper. The five types of contradictions include economic contradictions (unemployment and overproduction); and military contradictions (global tensions and increase in global warfare and violence); political contradictions (between the US and the EU and UN); cultural contradictions (US Judeo-Christianity and Islam; US and European elite); and social contradictions (the idea that the next generation might not be better off than the one before it).
So, it is pretty obvious what is coming. Galtung has been right about everything so far. Looking to history, there is a cycle that every civilization follows. Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, a Scottish writer and historian, supposedly wrote the following about this cycle:
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world’s greatest civilisations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.
The Tytler Cycle goes as follows:
- Spiritual Faith
- Great Courage
Tytler wrote this just two years before George Washington was elected President. And since then, we have gone through this cycle exactly.
Another individual who has used math to predict the rise and fall of civilizations is evolutionary anthropologist Peter Turchin. Turchin too has studied historical empires and has noticed a cycle of “ages of discord,” in which civilizations go through a cyclic process: integration followed by disintegration. Social integration and disintegration alternate in cycles that last roughly 200-300 years (as what Tytler observed), with shorter, fifty-year cycles within them.
In American history, we had a disintegrative phase in 1870, and then again in 1920, and then again in 1970. 2020 is soon approaching.
“The American polity today,” says Turchin, “has a lot in common with the Antebellum America of the 1850s; with Ancien Régime France on the eve of the French Revolution; with Stuart England during the 1630s; and innumerable other historical societies.”
In Plato’s The Republic, a particular passage sticks out. In it, Socrates is talking about how political systems evolve over time. The book states that “tyranny develops out of no other constitution than democracy.” Democracy is a system that maximizes both freedom and equality. “When a democracy,” Plato says,” which is thirsting for freedom has evil cupbearers presiding over the feast, and has drunk too deeply of the strong wine of freedom, then, unless her rulers are very amenable and give a plentiful draught, she calls them to account and punishes them, and says that they are cursed oligarchs.”
As a democratic system exists longer and longer, the drive for equality gets stronger and stronger. Equality is taken to the extreme.
“The father grows accustomed to descend to the level of his sons and to fear them, and the son is on a level with his father, he having no respect or reverence for either of his parents.”
“In such a state of society the master fears and flatters his scholars, and the scholars despise their masters and tutors; young and old are all alike; and the young man is on a level with the old, and is ready to compete with him in word or deed.”
Plato even says that the “equality of the two sexes in relation to each other” are changed, forgetting any natural differences they have.
“The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery.”
This is the point in a society’s lifespan, Plato says, that a potential tyrant will take hold. Presently, Donald Trump was just elected President of the United States. We are moving into the bondage stage of the Tytler Cycle. After a long period of apathy and dependance, a country realizes what mess they are in. Fears begin to break out. For the US, there are increased tensions between Christianity and Islam, as well as other minorities. The current economic forecast is not very appealing to most of the working class either.
Approximately 58% of the population is of the socialized mind, the first of three levels of adult mental complexity identified by neo-Piagetians Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. People in this mindset are shaped by their environment and external expectations. They have strong loyalty to groups and have faith in the belief systems and ideologies of these groups (politics and religion, most notably). Emotional and belief support is found in shared experiences and relationships. Making solely independent decisions is a difficulty for them. This is the majority.
The majority rarely thinks for itself. They act out of fear, and when a nation is running off of enough fear, a “messiah” will always rise up. Someone who promises to fix everything. And even if those promises are basically impossible, the country chooses them. This is where Trump came from. He embraced all the country’s fears and promised to fix them. He is a natural—and mathematically predictable—next step in our society.
But what happens now?
A few have theories on this, including Johan Galtung, who says it could reshape borders. “As a trans-border structure,” he says, “the collapse I am thinking of is global, not domestic. But it may have domestic repercussion, like white supremacists or even minorities like Hawaiians, Inuits, indigenous Americans and black Americans doing the same, maybe arguing for the United States as community, confederation rather than a ‘union.’”
However, “[o]nly the naive will assume that new world to be paradise on earth. New systems emerge with their contradictions,” Galtung says. As the contradictions “mature, synchronize, and synergize the Center may loosen the grip in the Periphery in one conscious, enlightened act (de Gaulle) or see the Empire dissolve, slowly (UK) or quickly (the Soviet Union).”
It is not really possible to predict what will happen next with enough accuracy to mean anything. But it will be a complicated collapse that could lead to something good or something bad. What we do know is that the world is more interconnected because of the United States than it has ever been in any point in history, and the entire system is more fragile than any society in history has ever been. Any collapse will have major repercussions.
Eberhard, John. “The Tytler Cycle Revisited.” Common Sense Government. Common Sense Government, 14 Mar. 2009. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
Galtung, Johan. “Decline and Fall of US Empire.” Johan Galtung, Decline and Fall of US Empire. The Transnational Foundation of Peace and Future Research, 21 Jan. 2004. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
Plato. The Republic. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. Minneapolis: First Avenue Editions, a Division of Lerner Group, 2015. Print.
Reis, Rick. “1110 Kegan’s Theory of the Evolution of Consciousness.” 1110 Kegan’s Theory of the Evolution of Consciousness. Tomorrow’s Professor, 2010. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
“Robert Kegan’s Stages of Social Maturity/ Orders of Consciousness.” The Mouse Trap. The Mouse Trap, 30 Sept. 2008. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.
Tytler, Alexander F. Elements of General History, Ancient and Modern. Place of Publication Not Identified: Rareclub Com, 2012. Print.