In reading Carroll Quigley's masterpiece Tragedy & Hope, A History Of The World In Our Time I have been struck by the similarities in his analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations and the move to Empire by the United States.
each civilization is born in some inexplicable fashion and, after a slow start, enters a period of vigorous expansion, increasing in size and power, both internally and and at the expense of its neighbors, until gradually a crisis of organization appears. When this crisis has passed and the civilization has been reorganized, it seems somewhat different. Its vigor and morale have weakened. It becomes stabilized and eventually stagnant. After a Golden Age of peace and prosperity, internal crises again arise. At this point there appears for the first time, a moral and physical weakness which rises, also for the first time, questions about the civilization's ability to defend itself against external enemies. Racked by internal struggles of a social and constitutional character, weakened by loss of faith in its older ideologies and by the challenge of newer ideas incompatible with its past nature, the civilization grows steadily weaker until it is submerged by its outside enemies, and eventually disappears.(1)
It is this decline in the rate of expansion of a civilization which marks its
passage from the Age of Expansion to the Age of Conflict. It is marked by four chief characteristics: (a)it is a period of declining expansion; (b.) it is a period of growing tensions and class conflicts; (c) it is a period of increasingly frequent and increasingly violent imperialist wars; and (d) it is a period of growing irrationality, pessimism, superstitions, and otherworldliness.(2)
Indeed, the class struggles and imperialist wars of the Age of Conflict will probably serve to increase the speed of the civilizations decline because they dissipate capital and divert wealth and energies from productive to nonproductive activities.(3)
In most civilizations the long-drawn agony of the Age of Conflict finally ends in a new period, the Age of Universal Empire.(4)
we shall undoubtedly get a Universal Empire in which the United States will rule most of Western Civilization. This will be followed, as in other civilizations, by a period of decay and ultimately, as the civilization grows weaker by invasions and the total destruction of western culture.(5)
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(1)Carroll Quigley, Tragedy And Hope, A History Of The World In Our Time, (San Pedro, CA: GSG & Associates, originally published -New York: The Macmillan Company, 1966), 3-4.