Cyclical theory sees society, culture and civilization moving in cycles rather than going on a straight line. Some civilization will experience progress and glory before slowly regressed (and vice versa)
The theory that the development of societies occurs in cycles [rather than a straight line] that parallel the lives of individuals – societies are born, mature, age and die.
Cyclical theory of social change focus on the rise and fall of civilization attempting to account for this pattern of growth and decay. Splenger, Tonybee and Sorokin can be regarded as the champions of this theory. Splenger pointed out that the fate of civilization was a matter of destiny. Each civilization is like a biological organism and has a similar life cycle, birth, maturity, old-age and death. After making the study of eight modern civilizations including the west he said that modern western society is the last stage. He concluded that the western society was entering a period of decay as evidenced by wars, conflicts and social breakdown that heralded their doom.
Arnold Tonybee in his book ‘A study of history’ focuses on the key concepts of challenge and response. Every society faces challenges at first, challenges posed by the environment at first and later challenges from internal and external enemies. The natures of responses determine the society’s fate. He does not believe that all societies will decay. He has pointed out that history is a series of decay and growth. But each new civilization is able to learn from the mistakes of the culture before it and borrows the good things. It is therefore possible for each cycle to offer higher level of achievement.
Pitirin Sorokin in his book ‘social and culture dynamics’ has offered another explanation of social change, instead of viewing civilization into the terms of development and decline he proposed that they alternate or fluctuate between two cultural extremes ; the sensate and the ideational. The sensate culture stresses those things which can be perceived directly by the senses. It is practical, hedonistic, sensual and materialistic. Ideational culture emphasizes those things which can be perceived only by the mind. It is abstract, religious, concerned with faith and the ultimate truth. It is the opposite of the sensate culture. Both represent pure types of culture. Hence no society ever fully conforms to either type. As a culture of a society develops one pure type, it is countered by the opposite cultural force. Too much emphasis on one type of culture leads to reaction towards the other.


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