Consider 2 groups of any number of persons. Assume that the "dominant" group acts without any regard for the other group. Assume that there seem to be no consequences in the short time for the dominant part. In a generalized experiment over a very long time, I think the feelings of the oppressed group will create motivation to react.

Let's consider an example:

Women's rights had been limited for centuries. More recently the situation has been changing, and nowadays the opposite is being argued:

There was also an interesting study on the prevalence of sexual dependency among men and women: the number of male patients was 5 times greater than the number of female patients.

Consider the hypothesis: "History goes from one extreme to the other." Oppression & exploitation of one group leads to discomfort, which leads to motivation to react and fight, which leads to reaction (from the oppressed side) and maybe guilty feelings (on the oppressor's side), which leads to an egoistic solution, which is not always the more ethical. (In this case, a partial oppression of the previously dominant group).

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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this as primarily opinion-based despite Nick's edits, because I simply can not imagine what empirical research could possibly give evidence one way or the other. $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2015 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ @ChristianHummeluhr: I would say the point is a bit different. I think it's pretty intuitive that our society swing back and forth between extremes, but it's hard to scientifically investigate it. I think the reason is bound to our emotions and to the rationalization. But is really hard to prove that.. one hard way to start the investigation is related to history. Many people say that tyranny follow anarchy and viceversa. Is it historically a real tendence? $\endgroup$
    – Revious
    Apr 20, 2015 at 9:12
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    $\begingroup$ See also this Meta post: meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/983/… $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2015 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @ChristianHummeluhr, I bet this would get more attention on History.SE and am doubting this will get much attention here even with a bounty. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Apr 21, 2015 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Revious Impossible is an appropriate term for my position. I'd be happy to explain that position in chat, if you'd like. It's not the same as saying your question is nonsense--like I said, I think it's a historical (or anthropological?) rather than sociological question, simply not amenable to answering by cognitive science. This is not intended to be insulting since history was, last I checked, still a legitimate field of study. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2015 at 17:51

1 Answer 1


Short answer: This question does not have a sociological or other scientific answer because it cannot be studied empirically as currently conceived, but it is a valid question all the same. It may still be possible for a humanistic field of study, such as History, to provide a satisfying answer.

Long answer: There is currently no way to define what or how any observable variables might map on to "society," "oppression" or "exploitation" in a sufficiently specific sense. Because we cannot operationalize what exactly change in society over time means, or whether society's current state is an "extreme" in a way we can systematically observe and record, we cannot give scientific evidence (sociological or otherwise) one way or the other.

Therefore, depending on which and how many variables we choose as our measure of society's change over time, and how long we choose to study them for, we may find that society does oscillate between extremes, or that it doesn't, or that it goes through periods of oscillating and not oscillating, or that some parts of society do oscillate while other don't, or a virtually infinite set of other conceivable models.

With no way to distinguish the relative likelihood of different models using empirical evidence, we have no credible scientific reason to believe any of them are more likely than any other, and hence no ground on which to base potential scientific theories on. Colloquially speaking, we cannot theorize about evidence we don't know how to collect.

Concluding remarks

I am providing a negative answer to this question because it is the top result on Google for its title, because it has survived my close vote, because I answered the author's directly related question, "How can we realize when a sociological question is impossible to answer?" and, last but not least, because I like bounties.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow, 1st in google? I ask interesting questions :D - jokes aside thanks for the answers! $\endgroup$
    – Revious
    Apr 25, 2015 at 17:31

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