Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Compact Macromodels of the World System Growth

Front Cover
Editorial URSS, 2006 - Demographic transition - 175 pages
1 Review

What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

From the review by Robert Bates Graber (Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Division of Social Science, Truman State University) of "Introduction to Social Macrodynamics" (Three Volumes. Moscow: URSS, 2006) (published in Social Evolution & History. Vol. 7/2 (2008)): This interesting work is an English translation, in three brief volumes, of an amended and expanded version of the Russian work published in 2005. In terms coined recently by Peter Turchin, the first volume focuses on “millennial trends,” the latter two on “secular cycles” a century or two in duration. The first volume’s subtitle is "Compact Macromodels of the World System Growth". Its mathematical basis is the standard hyperbolic growth model, in which a quantity’s proportional (or percentage) growth is not constant, as in exponential growth, but is proportional to the quantity itself. For example, if a quantity growing initially at 1 percent per unit time triples, it will by then be growing at 3 percent per unit time. The remarkable claim that human population has grown, over the long term, according to this model was first advanced in a semi-serious paper of 1960 memorably entitled “Doomsday: Friday, 13 November, A.D. 2026” (von Foerster, Mora, and Amiot, 1960). Admitting that this curve notably fails to fit world population since 1962, chapter 1 of CMWSG attempts to salvage the situation by showing that the striking linearity of the declining rates since that time, considered with respect to population, can be identified as still hyperbolic, but in inverse form. Chapter 2 finds that the hyperbolic curve provides a very good fit to world population since 500 BCE. The authors believe this reflects the existence, from that time on, of a single, somewhat integrated World System; and they find they can closely simulate the pattern of actual population growth by assuming that although population is limited by technology (Malthus), technology grows in proportion to population (Kuznets and Kremer). Chapter 3 argues that world GDP has grown not hyperbolically but quadratically, and that this is because its most dynamic component contains two factors, population and per-capita surplus, each of which has grown hyperbolically. To this demographic and economic picture chapter 4 adds a “cultural” dimension by ingeniously incorporating a literacy multiplier into the differential equation for absolute population growth (with respect to time) such that the degree to which economic surplus expresses itself as population growth depends on the proportion of the population that is literate: when almost nobody is literate, economic surplus generates population growth; when almost everybody is literate, it does not. This allows the authors’ model to account nicely for the dramatic post-1962 deviation from the “doomsday” (hyperbolic) trajectory. It also paves the way for a more specialized model stressing the importance, in the modern world, of human-capital development (chapter 5). Literacy’s contribution to economic development is neatly and convincingly linked, in chapter 6, to Weber’s famous thesis about Protestantism’s contribution to the rise of modern capitalism. Chapter 7 cogently unravels and elucidates the complex role of literacy — male, female, and overall — in the demographic transition. In effect, the “doomsday” population trajectory carried the seeds of its own aborting: "The maximum values of population growth rates cannot be reached without a certain level of economic development, which cannot be achieved without literacy rates reaching substantial levels. Hence, again almost by definition the fact that the [world] system reached the maximum level of population growth rates implies that . . . literacy [had] attained such a level that the negative impact of female literacy on fertility rates would increase to such an extent that the population growth rates would start to decline" (p. 104). 

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 90 - And even to-day it could probably not get along without the support of a powerful ally along the way, which, as we shall see below, was at hand at the time of its development. What is meant can again best be explained by means of an example. The type of backward traditional form of labour is to-day very often exemplified by women workers, especially unmarried ones. An almost universal complaint of employers of girls, for instance German girls, is that they are almost entirely unable and unwilling...
Page 87 - On the other hand, however, we have no intention whatever of maintaining such a foolish and doctrinaire thesis as that the spirit of capitalism (in the provisional sense of the term explained above) could only have arisen as the result of certain effects of the Reformation, or even that capitalism as an economic system is a creation of the Reformation.
Page 90 - ... efficient ones, to adapt themselves to new methods, to learn and to concentrate their intelligence, or even to use it at all. Explanations of the possibility of making work easier, above all more profitable to themselves, generally encounter a complete lack of understanding. Increases of piece-rates are without avail against the stone wall of habit. In general it is otherwise, and that is a point of no little importance from our view-point, only with girls having a specifically religious, especially...
Page 82 - This book is a translation of an amended and enlarged version of Part 1 of the following monograph originally published in Russian: Коротаев, А.

Bibliographic information