He observed certain characteristics about the growth and contractionary phase of the long wave. Among them, he detailed the number of years that the economy expanded and contracted during each part of the half-century long cycle, which industries suffer the most during the downwave, and how technology plays a role in leading the way out of the contraction into the next upwave.
The fifty to fifty-four year cycle of catastrophe and renewal had been known and observed by the Mayans of Central America and independently by the ancient Israelites. Kondratieff's observations represent the modern expression of this cycle, which postulates that capitalist countries tend to follow the long rhythmic pattern of approximately half a century.
In the idealized long wave model, which is illustrated in the diagram above, the cycle (which averages 54 years in length) begins with the "upwave" during which prices start to rise slowly along with a new economic expansion. By the end of a 25-30 year upwave period, inflation is running very high. Its peak sets the stage for a deep recession that jolts the economy. The recession, which begins about the time commodity prices break from their highs, is longer and deeper than any that took place during the upwave.
Eventually, though, prices stabilize and the economy recovers, beginning a period of selective expansion that normally lasts nearly a decade. Referred to as the secondary plateau, the expansion persists, giving the impression that "things are like they used to be," but its anemic nature eventually takes its toll as conditions within the economy never reach the dynamic state that occurred during the upwave. The secondary plateau ends with a sudden shock (financial panic/stock market crash) and the economy rolls over into the next contractionary phase, which is characterized by deflation and the start of an economic depression.
The current revolution of the Kondratieff Wave began after the global economy pulled out of a deflationary depression in the 1930s. Prices began to accelerate upward after World War II, and reached the commodity price blowoff stage in 1980. Since that time, and then after the recession of 1990-1991 (much longer in some locations such as California and Japan, the latter of which has never really recovered from economic contraction), the global economy has been treading the secondary plateau. During this period, consumers and investors become aware that inflation is not accelerating Kondratieff Wave upward, and disinflation becomes the buzz word. Paper assets such as stocks and bonds do well since neither inflation nor deflation-both of which are damaging to stock investment returns-hurts the marketplace.
But during the secondary plateau, the first signs of problems-the seeds of the deflationary contraction soon to follow-become known. Isolated economies fall into deflationary contraction, and telltale signs such as declining gold prices begin to take hold. During the 1990s, it has been the Japanese economy that slid first into deflationary contraction. Gold has already reached new 11-year lows and as yet shows no sign of a bottom.
The stock market crash of 1997 is the signal that the period of economic growth along the secondary plateau is ending. Additional economies collapse and plunge into deflationary contraction, as characterized during this revolution of the Kondratieff cycle by the domino effect coming from Thailand, Indonesia, Asia, and South America. Stronger economies such as those of Europe and North America are likely to hang on until the last moment, then fall off into deflationary contraction.
We can theorize at this time that these stronger economies, due to their superior handling of monetary policy during the secondary plateau relative to the countries that made serious enough mistakes to cause a plunge into serious financial collapse, will not be affected as gravely as these other countries with collapsing economies. However, no economy is exempt from the effects of the contraction, which is felt worldwide.
Much controversy exists on whether the Kondratieff wave is valid for the post WWII economy. Many have rejected it on the basis that the 54-year mark was reached a decade ago, and should have been the trough. It can be argued, however, that the start of the "up" cycle began in 1940 or 1945, rather than 1930. Also, life expectancy has increased in the 20th century. If the 54-60 year cycle is based on generation aspects, then it would naturaly be 'stretched' beyond 60 years. Since these cycles of wars and economic birth and renewal occur every 2-3rd generation, we can say that when the generation to last see a depression dies off, it's time for another cycle to begin.
The message of this revolution of the Kondratieff cycle, which is a cycle of debt repudiation and not just of commodity price deflation (the deflation is caused in part by defaulting debt and a contracting global monetary base, as we have described in this report), is that humanity is much more aware of the effects of the cycle than, say, in the 1930s, and that the contraction can be handled. Although we have indicated that the masses have been in a state of denial as to the likelihood that this type of economic collapse can actually occur in this "new era," as it always seems to be considered when the masses fear the change from prosperity to economic contraction, awareness of the problems that are becoming apparent and a recognition of the mistakes that were made can serve to mitigate the contraction. When the y2k bug is factored in, we can see that this collapse matches the Kodratieff trough. The great credit bubble of the last 60 years will be washed away at the very trough predicted by the Kondratieff wave.
However, two factors complicate the picture until this revolution of the Kondratieff Cycle bottoms in 2003 when it can be expected that the collapsing mound of debt will finally be cleaned out (enter y2k). First, European Union, which takes its next step in 1999, represents a similar situation to that of China's assimilation of Hong Kong in that it represents a union of different governments. Both the Western and Eastern worlds participated in the excess speculation in Hong Kong leading up to the Crash of 1997. Falling government constructs cause the masses to put too much faith in the free market, and excess speculation results in a collapse. With European Union upcoming, changing government structure to allow for a coordinated European economy has resulted in too much investor confidence in the financial markets there, too. Thus, with the Union coming right at the end of the Kondratieff Cycle, another financial market collapse is likely to lead to a situation that gets worse before it gets better there. In fact, precious resources required for y2k conversion are being diverted to the 'Euro'.
Second, Canada's commodity-dependent economy presents an additional variable to North America's ability to withstand the forces of the deflationary contraction now spreading across the globe. Although there will be periods of rising commodity prices-perhaps the saving grace for economies such as Canada's (commodity and gold prices typically bottom right in the midst of the deflationary contraction, as they did in 1932 at the depths of the Great Depression)-this does complicate the picture with respect to anticipating Canada and North America's ability to "ride it out" with relatively little damage. In fact, because we are so technologically dependant, we may suffer even more.
The Mayans were known for there intricate tracking of cycles such as this one. By embracing the inevitability of the cycle, but not as a destiny but as a tendency, they were able to mitigate its effects and emerge from the cycle bottom in better condition that otherwise would have been possible. Will modern humanity entering the 21st century take heed to the lessons of the past? We certainly pray they do since a simple reality check is all that's needed to prevent the catastrophes now being seen in Asia and other countries. Futher analysis on the Kondratieff Wave
Elliot wave, Grand Super Cycle peak
Business Cycle page
Sunspot/ Recession page
Year 2000 Economics