March 23 1997 3:30 AM

The committee: Francis Fukuyama, Neil Howe, George Modelski, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and William Strauss. Moderated by Herbert Stein.

Moderator: Herbert Stein

Herbert Stein, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Presidents Nixon and Ford. He is a member of the board of contributors at the Wall Street Journal.

Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama is the Hirst professor of public policy at the Institute of Public Policy at George Mason University. He is author of The End of History and the Last Man and Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity.

George Modelski

George Modelski is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Washington. He is co-author, with William R. Thompson, of Leading Sectors and World Powers: The Coevolution of Global Economics and Politics and author of Long Cycles in World Politics.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. is a historian, writer, and former special assistant to President Kennedy. A new edition of his book, The Vital Center, will be published later this year.

William Strauss and Neil Howe

William Strauss and Neil Howe are co-authors of The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. Strauss is a generational historian and co-founder and director of the , a political satire troupe. Neil Howe, a historian and economist, is a senior advisor for the Concord Coalition.

Herbert Stein

Perhaps because we are nearing the end of a millennium, there seems to be a renewal of interest in theories of history. We seek regularities in the long movements of history, trying to find our place in a bigger picture than the evening news and hoping to see what is coming next.

Three kinds of theories of history have been prominent in recent discussion--ending theories, wave theories, and cycle theories.

The ending theories identify ages with distinguishing features that have come to an end or will come to an end and will not recur. The distinguishing features may be dominance by one nation, the prevalence of a particular social system, or the pervasiveness of a certain technology. The Roman Empire came to an end, feudalism came to an end, and some say that the Industrial Age is coming to an end. These periods will not come back. There may or may not be common features that bring ages to an end. There may or may not be a predictable sequence of ages, as in the Marxist theory that feudalism leads to capitalism and capitalism leads to socialism--a theory that, so far, seems to have been erroneous.

The most ambitious of the recent ending theories is the theory of the end of history, advanced by Francis Fukuyama, a member of this week's panel.

Wave theories postulate the recurrence of phases with similar characteristics. Thus, History goes A-B, A-B or A-B-C, A-B-C. All the As have similar features that distinguish them from the Bs or Cs. But the As may be of quite different lengths from each other, and so may the Bs and Cs, and they may have their distinguishing features to different degrees. A recent wave theory is that propounded by David Hackett Fisher. He finds in history long waves of inflation, each followed by a crisis followed by a period of equilibrium followed by another wave of inflation, and so on.

Cycle theories, unlike wave theories, suggest that the phases of history are of roughly similar duration. That permits prediction of the remaining duration of the present phase and the coming of the next phase. A simple historical cycle consists of alternating phases of political activism followed by political passivity. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a member of our panel, is the leading exponent of this idea, which was first put forward by his father.

A more complex cycle is described by co-authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, two of our panelists. They visualize a four-phase cycle. These phases are 1) an era of strengthening institutions, 2) an era of spiritual awakening, 3) an era of weakening institutions, and 4) an era of crisis. The entire four-phase cycle is believed to last about 80 years.

Our panel to discuss the validity and implications of these and other theories of history will consist of the aforementioned Messrs. Fukuyama, Schlesinger, Strauss, and Howe; and Professor George Modelski, of the University of Washington.

TODAY IN SLATE

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

Should the United States Grant Asylum to Victims of Domestic Violence?

The Apple Watch Will Make Everyone Around You Just a Little Worse Off

This Was the First Object Ever Designed

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

Moneybox

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest jewels.

Music

A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now …

The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.

Is Everyone Going to Declare Independence if Scotland Does It? 

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Trending News Channel
Sept. 12 2014 11:26 AM Identical Twins Aren’t Really Identical
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Music
Sept. 14 2014 11:44 PM A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now … The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?