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The Humanities Conference 2003

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World System Cycles and their Counter-Cycles

Tieting Su.

Quote 1 : "The poor are poor because they are lazy and spend too much, the rich work hard and know how to save. To tax the rich and aid the poor is to rob the diligent and to award the lazy." This could have been from one of the Reagan cohorts in the 1980's. But how "modern" was this? 3rd Century BCE, an era money and power ruled.
Quote 2: "The difference between the rich and poor is really in their innate intellectual differences. The rich are intelligent and knowledgeable; they think hard and afar, they are independent and avoid debt whereas the poor hardly know how to live and how to think ahead of time, they indulge in drinking away their daily earnings. When they are short of money, they borrow and borrow until they can not pay back the debt." This could have been written by Herstein and Murray in their Bell Curve in 1996 or Karl Pearson at the height of intellectual eugenics movement in 1900's. But this was written in the 10th Century CE.
Quote 3: "Power will be the only factor determining righteousness and fairness... Cunningness alone will be the motive force in business dealings. Desire for riches will be the sole test of impiety and hypocrisy will be the only touchstone of goodness." Modern interpreters are amazed at this quote from Purana before the 4th Century CE, which they think was a prophet for our current "modern" era. It never occurs to them that Purana could be writing about another ancient era of money and power
The year 2001, like that of 1991, or 1981, ... or that of 1931 rudely reminds scholars as well as common folks that cycles do exist even if one buries one's head in the sand of glaring econometric models announcing end of cycles. But are there longer cycles beyond our lifetime experience? The above quotes highlights one of the themes of this presentation, which explores two sets of long social cycles: (1) hegemonic cycles in the modern World-System as revealed in world trade networks from the 1920ís to the present and (2) the 400-600 world history cycles in political regime changes in which egemonic and other world system cycles and logics are embedded.


Tieting Su  (United States)

Department of Sociology
California State University, Los Angeles

Tieting Su teaches sociology at California State University at Los Angeles where he conducts research on major social cycles. He is the author of "Myth and Mystery of Globalization"

  • Social Cycles
  • World system
  • World history
  • World trade networks
  • Hegemonic Cycles

(Virtual Presentation, English)