Population and Environment

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 325–357

The life-expectancy of industrial civilization: The decline to global equilibrium

  • Richard C. Duncan

DOI: 10.1007/BF01270915

Cite this article as:
Duncan, R.C. Popul Environ (1993) 14: 325. doi:10.1007/BF01270915


A new paradigm is needed for industrial civilization, because neither the traditional theory of exponential industrial growth nor the more recent steady-state hypothesis can satisfactorily explain historical data. As a basis for the paradigm, the long sweep of human history is divided into three phases: (1)pre-industrial, (2)industrial, and (3)de-industrial. This essay focuses on the second, or industrial, phase. The paradigm is embodied in four theories. The first theory states that industrial civilization can be graphed over time by energy-use per person in the shape of asingle pulse waveform. The second theory is derived from a well-established principle of human ecology. It defines a set ofnecessary conditions for the advance, stagnation and decline of industrial civilization in terms of world total energy-use and world total population. Next, the subject ofgoverning is analyzed in terms of ten requirements for system control. The third theory is derived from this analysis. It relates thesize, orcomplexity, of a society over time to the average energy-use per person in that society. Historical population and energy-use data and other considerations are used as the basis for the fourth theory. This, a predictive theory, states that thelife-expectancy of industrial civilization is less than 100 years.

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard C. Duncan
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute on Energy and ManCambridgeUSA

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