The Rise and Fall of Civilizations: A Reader Course

A Scholar’s Stage forum member reports that he and a friend recently finished reading John Darwin’s After Tamerlane. Enraptured by Darwin’s account of flourish and fall, they ask what else they might read to understand the rise and decline of peoples and powers over the course of human history.

              In my mind there are four central parts to this tale:

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Needed: Deep State Traffic Cops

The American national security complex has a long list of 21st century defeats to its name. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months trying to understand some of these failures. But if any meaningful reform is to occur and competence is to be restored too high office, it is just as important to identify and understand successes. Otherwise, there are no targets to reform the system towards.

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Beware the Alcibiades Point

A supposed bust of Alcibiades. Image source. I spent the later part of my teenage years in the forbidding climes of southeastern Minnesota. In those days I’d often hear a joke that I sometimes still repeat: “In Minnesota we have four seasons: near-winter, winter, still-winter,… and road construction.” Minnesota’s northern reaches are pockmarked with lakes […]

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China Was Never an Empire of the Mind

“Let us go forward as with other matters and other measures similar in aim and effect – let us go forward in malice to none and good will to all. Such plans offer far better prizes than taking away other people’s provinces or lands or grinding them down in exploitation. The empires of the future […]

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Darwin and War in Ancient China, Sengoku Japan, and Early Modern Europe

What does Darwin have to do with terracotta warriors, samurai armies, or Napoleon’s conquests? Quite a lot. Or at least this is what I argue in a paper I finished back in April. I anticipated refining it with extra research in the months since then. This hope was not realized. Other projects have consumed my […]

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Why do Humans Cooperate?

Many of the Stage’s readers will be familiar with the work of “Pseudoerasmus,” currently the internet’s best blogger working on both economic development and macro-history. His most recent post is titled “Where do Pro-Social Institutions Comes From?“  I strongly urge you read it. In essence, Pseudoerasmus’s post tries to answer two questions:  Why do humans cooperate? […]

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