Civilization Cycles. It’s Coming Around

Salvo16

What Goes Around . . .

Cultural Renewal May Be the Next Big Thing

by Herb London

The great Russian social philosopher Pitirim Sorokin argued that great civilizations cycle through three inevitable stages. First is the "ideational" stage, in which spiritual reality is primary; second is the "idealistic" stage, in which the spiritual is synthesized with the material; and third is the "sensate" stage, in which material reality is primary. When a society, such as ours, is in the sensate stage, it is inevitable that, at some point, transcendent ideals will move back to the center, beginning the cycle again.

Sorokin predicted the fall of Western civilization into sensate decadence, followed by the return of a new "ideational" period. Is this possible? While religious zeal often does emerge when sensual pleasures prove unable satisfy the soul's longing for transcendence, we need to ask ourselves: What is the catalyst for such a change? And how can transcendent beliefs be channeled into socially transformative ideas?

As I see it, the catalysts for social transformation are found in the culture itself. Yes, even a debauched popular culture can be a powerful medium for changeā€”if its underlying message is transformed from the degrading and sensate to the uplifting and ideational.

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This full article from the new issue can be found on the Salvo website. And for more from Herb London see this review of his book Diary of a Dean by past Salvo contributor Dawn Eden over at The Weekly Standard website.

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