Cycles of Corsi and Ricorsi: the coming and going of progress throughout history

Human history is a constant back-and-forth of advances and setbacks, a perpetual cycle of corsi e ricorsi that challenges our linear conception of progress.

From ancient times to the present, peoples and civilizations have experienced periods of splendor followed by moments of decline, in an incessant dance that reveals the complexity and unpredictability of historical development.

According to the theory of Corsi e Ricorsi, proposed by the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico in the 18th century, human history follows a cyclical pattern of advances and setbacks, a succession of corsi (advances) and ricorsi (setbacks) that define the future of things. civilizations over time. This concept challenges the traditional notion of linear progress and invites us to contemplate history as an infinite cycle of changes and transformations.

From ancient times to the present, historical cycles have been a constant in the evolution of humanity. Empires have risen, reached their peak and then fallen, giving way to new powers and civilizations. The example of Ancient Greece, with its periods of cultural splendor followed by crisis and decline, perfectly illustrates this concept. Likewise, the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent European Renaissance are clear examples of how progress is not a linear path, but a cycle of ups and downs and rebirths.

Although it never does it in the same way, because each era has its particularities. As Marx said, sometimes history repeats itself as a tragedy and sometimes as a comedy.

Plutarch tells in the “Parallel Lives” that Solon, legislator of Athens, six centuries before Christ issued a law prohibiting wheat exports. He is surprised to learn that the reasons he gave are the same as those given 2,600 years later by an Argentine government to justify the ban on wheat exports to keep the price of bread low, freeing it from high international prices.

But it is even more surprising to see that the final result in Argentina was also the same as in Athens in the 6th century BC when they established similar measures: wheat production fell, prices rose and many stopped consuming bread because they could not afford it.

The monopolizers, the speculators, the relentless and voracious businessmen, the unions led by conservative and well-off union members and the heavy fiscal burdens of the insatiable State, is something that is historically obvious. And that has been repeated throughout the centuries.

Today, we can see how the theory of Corsi e Ricorsi is still relevant in our understanding of the world. The 2008 financial crisis and its economic aftermath are a reminder of how excess and complacency can lead to sudden reversal. Furthermore, political and social changes in different parts of the world, such as the rise and fall of authoritarian regimes, remind us that progress is not irreversible and that we must be attentive to historical cycles to better understand our present and future.

When reflecting on the meaning of progress, it is important to recognize that progress is not simply forward movement, but a complex process of advances and setbacks. Progress can be disruptive and challenging, but it can also be regenerative and transformative. By understanding the cycles of Corsi and Ricorsi, we can adopt a more holistic and balanced perspective on progress, one that recognizes the importance of learning from past mistakes to build a more promising future.

It is essential to distinguish between memory and history. While memory is based on tradition, origins and heroes, and can be subject to manipulations and reinterpretations, history seeks to reconstruct past events objectively and critically. Although the two are intrinsically related, history aims to offer a narrative based on evidence and analysis, while memory can be more subjective and vulnerable to interpretation.

In the second half of the 20th century, Francis Fukuyama proposed the idea of ​​the “end of history,” arguing that liberal democracy and capitalism represented the end point in the political and ideological evolution of humanity. However, subsequent events have challenged this notion, with examples such as the 2008 financial crisis, the resurgence of nationalist and authoritarian movements around the world, and increasing political polarization in many societies. These examples demonstrate that progress is neither inevitable nor irreversible, but is subject to cycles of advances and setbacks that characterize human history.

Vico would not be surprised if Great Britain withdrew from the European Union, that a North American president wanted to separate the United States from Mexico through a wall, that Europe after the “third way” saw the right-wing path reborn, that the world post-Soviet world lost its balance with Russia's War against Ukraine.

We began to understand corsi and ricorsi the day suicide pilots in New York brought down the two tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere. And the validity of the useless revenge when the President of the United States verified how his envoys assassinated the ferocious Bin Laden, leader of the fearsome Al Qaeda. And like the terrorist group that came to succeed Al Qaeda, it carried out a murderous raid on a Paris newspaper. It was ISIS, which would later form an “Islamic state” and spread terror in Europe. The list is endless, like the incessant Palestinian-Israeli confrontation.

Neither globalization, nor free trade, nor peace. The illusions have faded. But this is not irreversible either. The challenge of international politics is to resume progress, with the necessary force so that the next setback takes time to arrive and is less drastic.

Ultimately, understanding the cycles of Corsi e Ricorsi gives us a broader, more nuanced perspective on human history, one that recognizes the cyclical nature of events and the inevitable interplay between advances and setbacks. By recognizing this complexity, we can approach the challenges of the present with greater wisdom and humility, recognizing that progress is not a straight path to perfection, but rather a journey marked by ups, downs and unexpected turns. Ultimately, it is in understanding these historical cycles that we find the most valuable lessons for building a more just, equitable and sustainable future for all generations to come.