In the beginning, mankind was dispersed. Before there were nations and peace and abundance, men lived according to force and instinct. Food was scarce. Warfare was constant. Life was solitary, nasty, brutish, and short. People struggled to survive. When insecurity and scarcity prevailed, people submitted to the power of the strongest man.
Tribes with a common culture united and settled under a single chief. Farmers began to produce a surplus of food. Many people obtained the necessities of life. Customs were fixed. Life became safer and more secure. When the chief derived authority not only from force, but also from the loyalty and affection of his people, he became a king.
Wealth and power was obtained by a few people. Those who accumulated too much of either became arrogant, profligate, and sometimes cruel. In time, the king became one of them. He then put himself and his favorites above everyone else. When the king violated the customs of his people or wasted a great deal of wealth, he became a tyrant.
Sooner or later, the tyrant was resisted by his most powerful subjects. He was resisted for defying ancient custom or for wasting wealth. Sometimes he was replaced by his challengers. Other times he was forced to share power with them. When the leading men subdued monarchy to establish law or restore custom, tyranny was surpassed by aristocracy.
Internal stability was established. The aristocracy quickly became accustomed to privilege and status. The aristocrats soon prized prestige above all else. Some of them became jealous of their superiors. Some of them oppressed the poor and the weak. When many people came to resent the ruling elites, aristocracy was perverted into oligarchy.
The people often resisted their rulers. But only those who supplied the military or paid taxes earned the right to share in ruling. This only happened where enough people obtained enough wealth to sustain a stable and independent middle class. When a middle class took part in government with the elites, alongside the oligarchy emerged democracy.
International order was achieved. Many nations were economically integrated under few dominant states. The wealth of the people was reconcentrated into few hands. Social stratification was aggravated. Political animosity grew. When the leading men of leading states plundered citizen and foreigner alike, oligarchy degenerated into plutocracy.
As plutocracy ascended, the middle class fell. Insecurity returned. People needed subsidies to survive. They rallied to popular leaders who promised relief and competed for power, fueling a tournament of demagogues ending in one champion. When the middle class wasted and the people united against the rich, democracy became demagarchy.
Anacyclosis has run its full course when some form of monarchy arises from demagarchy, thus restarting the sequence of evolution. The early stages are common. The later stages are rare. The complete cycle is not everywhere seen because most places in most times do not advance as far as democracy. Oligarchy is the most persistent condition of mankind. Where democracy becomes entrenched, however, the full cycle will run its course.
Democracy is created by an independent middle class. Democracy follows the middle class. Democracy does not long survive without it. The emergence of democracy has been historically rare because the development of an independent middle class has been historically rare. Once they have established their own security, citizens of the middle class will establish democracy. They will do this by conditioning an indispensable contribution to the community upon the right to participate in its government. Where democratic customs and procedures become entrenched, or universally celebrated, the right to participate will be extended even to the lower classes. But later, after the dilution, dissolution, or dependency of the middle class, the rights to participate will survive. After this happens, there will be a great political struggle. There must be a struggle, because there will be many who are dependent or poor, few who are rich, and all having an equal, or at least, nominal claim to participate in government. Ambitious leaders will see and exploit this state of affairs.
Demagogues, or popular leaders, will compete for the affection and loyalty of the people. Some will obtain it through their promises to intercede against the rich on behalf of the people and to look after their livelihood. Other demagogues will obtain power not by exploiting the dependency of the people, but by exploiting their animosities. Eventually, however, as the distinctions between different peoples blur, cultural animosity yields to economic necessity and political struggle conforms to the rules of economic patronage. When that happens, the rich will at first find clever ways to deflect this threat or obtain special exemptions. But once the middle class has been sufficiently exhausted and diluted, and the multitude has finally become accustomed to living off of others, both the rights of the people and the wealth of the oligarchs will succumb to the power of the popular leaders. Despite their theoretical autonomy, the dependence of the people will ensure allegiance to their patrons and hostility to the rich.
Democracy and dependence do not long coexist. After the middle class has receded, nothing will absorb the tensions between rich and poor. This animosity between the classes will fuel a competition among the popular leaders to surpass their predecessors and each other in power and the affections of the people. This competition will in turn ultimately result in the emergence of a single leader, for a single champion is the outcome of every tournament. Then will be revealed the truth of the phrase rebus ipsis dictantibus, regna condita - "kingdoms were founded at the dictation of things themselves." Only time will tell by what accident of history the champion in that contest will be a warrior chief, benevolent king, or despotic tyrant. Whatever he may be, from that point on the sequence will run its natural course, unless and until civilization should collapse by some unforeseeable calamity, fully resetting the sequence at chiefdom.
Human nature is spring-loaded for this process. Given enough wealth, people, and time, Anacyclosis will run its full course over and over again. Before a cycle is done, there may be false starts, stunted progress, periodic reversals, early resets, varying numbers of stages, and a great variety of historical accidents that obstruct and obscure each iteration of the cycle. In the end, however, human history must follow the general path that has been appointed by human nature.