From Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, onwards – and indeed even earlier – there have been various attempts to explain the apparent mystery of why some civilisations rose and fell, apparently without reason, or at least without reasons that were readily apparent to the later observer (or indeed to the contemporary observer). Some of these studies have sought to identify key political or military influences – or the advent of a new technology – as affecting success or failure. Others have emphasised structural elements, such as the existence or absence of critical environmental factors. In a comparatively simple state such factors may indeed be crucial.
We will look at some of the theories that have been posited to help explain the rise and fall of civilisations. This article introduces the concept of the hard and soft constitution. Briefly, this is the principle that the flexibility of the constitution – it liberality – has a direct effect upon the success or failure of the state. The more flexible (or soft) the constitution the greater is the likelihood of success, as flexibility requires the development of shared power, dynamic tension, yet an overall cohesion that brings much needed political, social and economic stability.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/noel_cox/3/