Saturday, April 12, 2014

Note on the Pattern of the Fall of Empires by Ibn Khaldun

A note on the pattern of the fall of empires, by the Arab philosopher of history from the 1300's, Ibn Khaldun, with a certain level of applicability to Western Europe and to a lesser degree North America.

Ibn Khaldūn or Ibn Khaldoun (full name, Arabic: ابو زيد عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي, Abū Zayd ‘Abdu r-Raḥman bin Muḥammad bin Khaldūn al-Ḥaḍramī) (May 27, 1332 AD/732 AH – March 19, 1406 AD/808 AH), was a famous Arab Muslim polymath: a historian, historiographer, demographer, economist, philosopher, sociologist and social scientist born in present-day Tunisia. He is considered the father of demography, cultural history, historiography, the philosophy of history, sociology, and the social sciences, and is viewed as one of the forerunners of modern economics. He is best known for his Muqaddimah (Latinized as Prolegomenon) (from Wikipedia)

Ibn Khaldun studied the history leading up to his time, which was a time of Muslim domination of vast areas of the world, and gave an interpretation of history in its cycles of empire growth, maturity and decline. He sees the following successive phases in every empire:

1) A victorious people settles down after victory to enjoy its new conquest, whether new lands they have expanded into, or a new regime that has taken over the existing land.

2) They grow in complexity of social relations and authority is concentrated and institutionalized to maintain order.

3) With order comes growth in wealth and education. Science, philosophy and arts grow. Cities grow as rural life diminishes. Urbanization and widespread comfort mark the beginnings of decay.

4) The enriched society comes to love pleasure, luxury, and ease, over work, risk, and martial strength. Religion weakens, morals become confused and deteriorates, pederasty and homosexualaity and other abnormal practices grow. Foreigners are brought in and used for the work. These lack natural patriotism to assist and defend the ideals of the society that are now nebulous and weakened.

5) The troubled society invites conquest, whether from without, or by revolution or intrigue from within. The cycle begins again at phase one.

Ibn Khaldun says that "it is always so." Do any similarities to current or past regimes strike you at salient?