What is Anacyclosis?

Source: Anacyclosis Institute

I have often referred to the natural cycle or evolution of systems of governance by noting the portrayal of it that Plato gives in The Republic. I didn’t know until this morning that the concept has a name: anacyclosis. If you live long enough you discover that everything has a name.

The usual context for invoking anacyclosis is for pointing out that democracy has long been known to be an imperfect form of government, one prone to degrading into undesirable forms of mob-rule. But I am particularly fascinated by the connection the fuller theory makes between democracy and the emergence of an economic middle class.

Our usual assumption is that a strong middle class stabilizes society, but according to the classical theory the middle class itself is destabilizing, leading first to competition between the rulers and the ruled, then to democracy (as a means of conflict resolution), then to rule by demagogues, then to political collapse and the return of tyranny.

I think the observation is true.

8 thoughts on “What is Anacyclosis?

  1. …” to political collapse and the return of tyranny.” =Trump?

    Note, I pose it as a question.

    Pure democracy is mob rule, by definition. However, we, as pointed out many. many times on this forum, are a Democratic Republic. This should by extension lead to the prevention of true mob rule. We choose our representatives to best represent the ENTIRE populous. Not all agree on the best way to do anything, so often we end up with representatives that don’t necessarily present our side of the debate. Those are frustrating times, regardless of party affiliation. But it appears to lead to the tribalization we are experiencing in these times. All in my VHO.

    Classical theories notwithstanding, I believe a strong middle class made up of a fair representation of all, can actually be a stabilizing force.

    Neither you, nor I, nor anyone else here is Plato. So all we have is our opinions, personal beliefs, and personal biases. All IMVHO.


    1. RE: “‘to political collapse and the return of tyranny.’ =Trump?”

      If I had to pick a king, I’d rather it be Trump than Hillary, or Biden, or Romney and his look-alikes.


          1. Simple. Every single one of them is anti-Trump in one way or another. You prove you are part of the Trump tribe and would never consider someone who is anti-Trump worthy of your support. My opinion is based on this and several other of your posts. Pro-Trump tribe and anti-Trump tribe. Pretty clear – IMO.


          2. RE: “Pretty clear – IMO.”

            Pretty illogical IMO: Assuming group affiliation from an individual preference. Also impertinent, another word for uncivil.


          3. Let’s take a look at the logic:

            You see NOTHING wrong in ANYTHING that Mr. Trump does. You support him to the hilt, even going so far as to say that all of the fact checking is wrong and/or misinterprets what was said.

            You ARE pro-Trump.

            There is an ever shrinking group of Americans who feel the same way you do. That group makes up the pro-Trump tribe.

            That puts you squarely in the pro-Trump tribe. It is not illogical. In fact, if you would take a look in the mirror you would clearly see that I am dead right.

            I’m sorry if you feel that my interpretation of you and your posts puts you squarely in the middle of the pro-Trump tribe. I didn’t think you would take such offense. Yet you say nothing to prove my assertion wrong. You just feign offense.

            Also asshole, ANOTHER word for uncivil.


  2. “If this middle class is entrenched, democracy emerges. In time, however, a plutocracy emerges, stratifying society between opulent and dependent.“

    We are in an emerging plutocracy. We have more than half of Americans in low paying jobs that are only tolerable with our mix of government assistance reluctantly agreed to by the top percentile.

    Trump ran and eked out an electoral win by addressing the populist agenda of blaming “deaf” elites, and more common to other populists, immigrants.

    Unfortunately, the situation has not changed for the majority, but has immensely for the oligarchs.

    I think the saving grace for us is the representative form of democracy we have. Your link mentions the “astonishing longevity” of our Constitution seemingly designed to foil the theoretical cycle of governance.

    The problem is not that our economic system creates rich people, but that the very nature of wealth in a capitalist democracy also creates political power that is very uneven. It’s not the middle class that is the problem with a possible conflict for the top with regards to power, but rather that the very wealthy are becoming detached from the rest of America.

    To me there is a silver lining in this pandemic. We have laid bare the very strong dependency we have on low paying and immigrant labor. The panic created when the meat plants shutdown is a canary. Imagine that same closing down of all food production, hospital attendants, drivers, etc. This might put some power back into the middle and working classes and help keep our country stable and free.


    Liked by 1 person

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