Magazine September 1, 2021, Issue

The Nature Of Change

A Roman statue riddled with bullet holes during the First Libyan Civil War (Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters)
Disruption: Why Things Change, by David Potter (Oxford University Press, 336 pp., $27.95)

David Potter’s Disruption provides a framework for the analysis of many different historical epochs. This is both the primary source of its interest and an explanation for its ultimate failure.

A classicist by trade and the author of well-received studies of Constantine, Theodora, and ancient sport, Potter has now completed what many will consider the crowning achievement of a long career. Here is a book that leaps past Caesars and colosseums to take in Martin Luther, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, and Herbert Spencer. Here, too, is a muscular hermeneutic by which one might hope to interpret such disparate phenomena as imperial

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