The Course of Cultural Genius

Why some cultures rise while others fall, and still others revive—a brief survey.

A scroll painting of the Emperor Shenzong of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), noted for its cultural flowering and economic achievement. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
A scroll painting of the Emperor Shenzong of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), noted for its cultural flowering and economic achievement. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Response
Dean Keith Simonton
April 6 2014

Charles Murray’s essay, “Does America Still Have What It Takes?,” provides a brief but comprehensive treatment of an issue—the rise and fall of civilizations, cultures, or nations—that has plagued thinkers for many centuries. He mentions the ancient Roman historian Velleius Paterculus (c. 19 B.C.E. – c. 31 C.E.), who speculated on why geniuses in literature and philosophy tended to cluster into periods of intense creativity, only to yield ground quickly with the passage of time. Much later, the Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, in his Muqaddimah (1377), contributed an important systematic treatment of historical cycles in politics and the arts.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

More about: Charles Murray, golden age, heterogeneous societies, Human Accomplishment, innovation, rebirth, Velleius Paterculus