Polybius' ideas on revolution cycles.

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Polybius' ideas on revolution cycles.

Postby Indrajala » Wed Sep 12, 2012 6:05 am

See "II. On the Forms of States".

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/R ... us/6*.html

Polybius' ideas on the revolution cycle of societies via gradual diffusion of power from monarchs to democracy is interesting and applicable to our present day. This is perhaps where he summarizes his theory:

We should therefore assert that there are six kinds of governments, the three above mentioned [kingship, aristocracy, and democracy] which are in everyone's mouth and the three which are naturally allied to them, I mean monarchy, oligarchy, and mob-rule. Now the first of these to come into being is monarchy, its growth being natural and unaided; and next arises kingship derived from monarchy by the aid of art and by the correction of defects. Monarchy first changes into its vicious allied form, tyranny; and next, the abolishment of both gives birth to aristocracy. Aristocracy by its very nature degenerates into oligarchy; and when the commons inflamed by anger take vengeance on this government for its unjust rule, democracy comes into being; and in due course the licence and lawlessness of this form of government produces mob-rule to complete the series. The truth of what I have just said will be quite clear to anyone who pays due attention to such beginnings, origins, and changes as are in each case natural. For he alone who has seen how each form naturally arises and develops, will be able to see when, how, and where the growth, perfection, change, and end of each are likely to occur again.


Perhaps as a Buddhist I am bias to the idea of cycles, but nevertheless this is an interesting theory and I think quite realistic. The diffusion of power over time results in democracy (or in Asian history until modernity quite often something between oligarchy and democracy before ever reaching actual democracy), which is inherently unstable and prone to produce competition among later generations who feel no value towards ideas of equality and so on.

Perhaps modern India is an example of this where it went from monarchy to aristocracy (British Raj) to democracy (Republic of India), and now later generations fiercely compete with one another for status and wealth resulting in strain on society that could easily lead to violent mob rule. A lot of the original ideas of a democratic, free and fair society have been lost.

What do you think?
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Re: Polybius' ideas on revolution cycles.

Postby viniketa » Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:48 am

Huseng wrote:Perhaps as a Buddhist I am bias to the idea of cycles, but nevertheless this is an interesting theory and I think quite realistic.


Perhaps, but "social cycle" theories are found throughout Western thought, as well. In addition to the well-known theories of Oswald Spengler, there are Robert Malthus, Vilfredo Pareto, Pitirim A. Sorokin, etc.

Huseng wrote:The diffusion of power over time results in democracy (or in Asian history until modernity quite often something between oligarchy and democracy before ever reaching actual democracy), which is inherently unstable and prone to produce competition among later generations who feel no value towards ideas of equality and so on.


First, it would seem wise to specify a definition of "democracy", as there are many with differing features. The "later generations" statement seems in-line with Pareto's theory of the circulation of the elite. Rather than changes in "democracy", these would seem to be changes in "oligarchy", where the "who's who" of the elite change, while the 80-20 rule holds.

Huseng wrote:Perhaps modern India is an example of this where it went from monarchy to aristocracy (British Raj) to democracy (Republic of India), and now later generations fiercely compete with one another for status and wealth resulting in strain on society that could easily lead to violent mob rule. A lot of the original ideas of a democratic, free and fair society have been lost.


Again, this would seem to be more in line with the circulation of the elite. India has produced it's own "social cycle" theorists, including those based in Vedic varṇa, such as Ranjan Sarkar. I rather like his idea that only the development of a "spiritual class" (which he called " Sadvipras"), could break the cycle once it "settles" into an attractor pattern of a continual circulation of elites.

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