A week ago, I wrote a piece on the stages of history, pointing out systemic shifts that have taken place for more than 200 years. In the last century, these shifts took place roughly 30-40 years apart with the last occurring in 1991, or about 30 years ago. That year, the Cold War ended, the Maastricht Treaty was signed, Operation Desert Storm began, and the Japanese economic miracle ended, opening the door for China’s rise. The world in 1989 was very different from the one in 1992.
We are now in an era in which shifts occur. Being in an era doesn’t necessarily mean the shift will immediately come; the change between the epoch of world wars and the post-Cold War world took almost 50 years, solidified as it had been by the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. It is uncertain why some eras last longer than others. It might well be simply chance. An alternative to consider is that some eras are based on single, very solid realities, while others are based on multiple and more fragile ones. Thus, the 1945-1991 era was based on the solid foundation of the U.S.-Soviet confrontation, while 1991-2022 was based on multiple forces – the global war on terror, the European Union, China emerging, Russia asserting itself, and so on. It was less coherent and therefore more fragile. Our current epoch began with more fragmented shifts, creating a less stable platform.