Idea of cycles
in the context of periodization
of social development
The object of conceptual analysis is the life cycle of the society as a subject of the historical process. This allows one to create an universal applied model of epochal historical cycle as the means of analysis and prognosis at the level of the history of the whole world, separate continents, and countries.
The idea of cyclicity is characteristic of the sociologic theory of Pitirim Sorokin who investigated social phenomena common for all social-cultural phenomena repeating in time and space. Sorokin suggested the following division of the rhythms of cultural changes of the European history into periods:
PeriodEpochGreece, VII-VI centuries BCSpeculativeGreece, V century BCIdealisticRome, IV century BC IV century ADSensualEurope, IV-VI centuries ADIdealisticEurope, VI-XII centuries ADSpeculativeEurope, XII-XIV centuries ADIdealisticEurope, XIV century AD to the present daysSensualSorokin distinguished the full cycle and the relative cycle. In the first case, the end phase turns into the initial phase and then the cycle begins again. But, in the relative cycle, the direction of repeating process does not fully coincide with the direction of a series of similar anterior processes. This concept helps to explain the existence of interrupted cycles in the history of development of various nations and civilizations.
The dominant theme in the contemporary sociologic theory is the movement to the theoretical synthesis. The exploitation of efficient methods of various conceptual origins will help to explain the key events and turning points of history. In this context, the attention is attracted by the latest concepts of cyclicity of the social development, worked out in various spheres of social sciences. In particular, it concerns the development of the methodology of a research of long cycles. For instance, G. Taylor suggested the theory of a periodic change of the global historical process every 500 years. Moreover, the phases of a political cycle, that are under the influence of 60-year economic cycles (Kondratiev waves), change every 120 years. On the basis of analysis of these cycles, countries-hegemons for various historical periods are defined.
Society as a complex living system, whose structural elements are permanently changing, is involved into life cycles of various hierarchies: from cosmic cycles to the life cycles of generations and separate individuals.
A. L. Chizhevsky (1897-1964) introduced the socium into cosmos, having connected the human history with the history of the Universe. By that, the correlation between the world historical process and cyclic solar activity was revealed. It is not the Sun that forces people to do something those are social conditions that urge them to it. The Sun initiates the chain reaction of actions, whose specific sense has ripened by that moment. The Sun leads the social system, strained in a complicated way, out of the state of relative balance and serves like an exterior signal for switching it into another condition. The concept of Chizhevsky gives objective grounds for using the methodology of natural sciences for the research of social development. The influence of the Suns activity upon the process of ethnogenesis is represented in the most adequate way in Gumilievs conception. The development of an ethnos is shown for three existentialistic phases of the life cycle: the origin, growth, and death. The biosocial mechanism, connected with the genesis of these processes, is focused on the idea of passionarity, namely on the phenomenon of energetic pulse received by an ethnos in a definite spatio-temporal field.
The variety of the existing ethnoses is provided by the geographical differentiation.
The historical complement of Gumilevs conception is the fundamental research by A. J. Toynbee (1889-1975). His theory of historical development is described in his 12-volume «Research of History». The concept of cycles is represented by the analysis of the origin, growth, and death of civilization. To define the main characteristics of the rhythm of existence of civilizations, A. Toynbee introduced the term «call-reply» explaining changes in the main stages of a life cycle of civilizations: origin, growth, fracture, and decay. The search for an efficient reply to calls of the environment is characteristic of the «father civilizations», and to calls of the natural and social nature for subsequent civilizations. The history of 36civilizations is represented. They are classified into three groups:
- flourishing civilizations (28);
- not developed (5);
- frozen civilizations (3).
Toynbee researched the problem of historical development at two levels: definite civilizations and definite countries. The most arguable hypothesis of Toynbees concept is the possibility of emergence of a universal civilization. On the other hand, his colossal theoretical work has become the well of philosophical, historical, and social ideas.
The presented above opinion concerns also the scientific heritage of Osvald Spengler (1880-1936). His book «Decline of Europe. Essay on Morphology of World History» has become the classics of modernism. Such is the contraposition of the culture and civilization, which, being the progress of history, presents a gradual development of nonorganic and perished forms. A civilization is the inevitable destination of a culture. Spengler compared the civilization with an organism experiencing the periods of childhood, youth, maturity and senility.
The idea of comparison of the social development with the ontogenesis of an individual is theoretically prospective. There appears a possibility of involvement of methodological concepts of psychology and societal psychology in the research. This will allow us to show the correlation between the socium and an individual. The main problem of social engineering that has something in common with the ideas of cyclic development is connected with the tasks of prognostication of social-historical processes.
Karl Popper, giving the name of «poverty of historicism» to the attempts of prophecies concerning the universal history which follows its predestined way, turns his attention to a principal impossibility of scientific forecast with the use of rational methods. First, there is no universal history of the mankind at all (there are only varied histories of different parts of the society). The second reason is that there exists a random, irrational, and unstable personal factor within the history, and, third, the human history is a unique and inimitable process. However, the theoretical denial of Poppers prognostic agnosticism is given by social synergetics the science of regularities of the interaction of a social order and chaos. According to this theory, the essence of development of the social reality reduces neither to the one-sided enlargement of order (O. Comte) nor to the one-sided growth of a degree of freedom (chaos) (H. Spencer). The evolution of a dissipative structure (the synthesis of chaos and order) is the growth of a degree of synthesis of order and chaos, conditioned by the aspiration to a maximum stability.
Social synergetics has showed the groundlessness of the mixing of terms «aim» and «sense»: the absence of any aim does not mean the absence of any sense (movement to the superattractor or to the limit state. Has reached it, the system can return to none of the former states). It is the mistake that was made by Popper in «Poverty of historicism»: by assuming that the history has no aim, he inferred that it has no sense.
We emphasize that social synergetics, looking at the social-historical development through the prism of «whirligig» of order and chaos, allows one to synthesize the ideas of social engineering and cyclicity of social development, which, from the viewpoint of applied meaning of the suggested conception, is one of the most important tasks of authors collective.
The state of scientific development of the problem of social-historical development presents the theoretical grounds necessary for the conceptual construction of a new model of historical development in the historical context.
Choice of methodological foundations
for the study
Methodological bases of the new paradigm have to ensure the analysis of social-historical development at the level of specific countries, regions, and civilizations, to adequately interpret important events of the contemporary epoch, and to allow one to foresee principal tendencies and perspective of the historical development.
In the modern sociological science, there occurs an actual global transformation stimulating a change of basic categorial characteristics, which implies a change in representations of the common and the single.
Objectively, the time of a change of the paradigm of social-historical development came. By a paradigm, we mean theoretically and practically important scientific achievement which give a model, statements of problems, and their solution to th