Saturday, March 16, 2013

Seven Stages of Cultural Change

The German philosopher Hegel (1770-1831) believed that just because we learn about the past doesn't necessarily mean that we'll make any better decisions in the future. As a matter of fact, he said, "What experience and history teach us is this—that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."

According to Hegel, every nation goes through seven stages of cultural change that will eventually lead to its demise.

1. The age of outburst (or pioneers)
2. The age of conquests
3. The age of commerce
4. The age of affluence
5. The age of intellect
6. The age of decadence
7. The age of decline and collapse.

Each stage helps progression to the next as the values of the people change over time. Military, political, economic and religious developments all influence the people to act and believe differently during each stage.

For example, he notes that each stage in the history of the nation is seen in its heroes. In the early years of an empire, the heroes are soldiers, builders, pioneers and explorers.  Then in the mid-stages of the empire, the heroes are successful businessmen and entrepreneurs because of their commercial affluence. Then during the final stages of decadence and decline, an empire's people often think most highly of and imitate athletes, musicians and actors—despite how corrupt these celebrities' private lives are.

You may not totally agree with Hegel's deductions, but they are certainly interesting and thought-provoking.

1 comment:

  1. I find it particularly interesting that during the end of a nation's cycle, according to Hegel, that those people in the nation turn their focus from advancement and business, as an example, to athletes and pop culture. THe reason this intrigues me is because we see how people become complacent with their lifestyle. The irony of this is that they do not realize what has brought them to this place of prosperity and pleasure in the first place. Those people who fought for freedom, who made business better, who refined the government, who worked hard and gave themselves to make a better nation are what is necessary to keep such an economy. If America is to survive this tough economic situation, many things must happen but I believe that one of those things is that citizens must rise up and put away the thought process that they can milk the government and yet never be required to contribute. America was founded on a Roman political ideology of civil virtue. Civil virtue states that citizens of a nation will serve the states out of both pride and duty to their country. That is no longer the way of thinking - now we think "how can I get the most by doing the least." This is wrong and our thinking needs to change. I do, however, think it is inevitable that the U.S. will face a greater version of decadence until it is brought back into spiritual, economic and social balance.


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