Three of my favorite historical perspectives: evolutionary, economic, and cultural. The leading thinkers of these modes of history: Gould, Marx, and Hegel. Historical change in the Gouldian perspective: contingent and catastrophic (rather than gradual). Marx: propelled by competing class interests and progressive. Hegel, propelled by mind and progressive. With Gould, humans are "contingently equal." By this he means: We are equal not because of some design or purpose but by the accident our newness. We have not been around long enough to develop deep differences. As the image goes: The "age of man" is only the shaving of a fingernail on the outstretched arm of history.

With Marx, equality is the goal of class struggle, which is shaped by progressive stages in the mode of production: preagrarian, agrarian, urban, posturban. With Hegel (the son of history—the father is Vico), it's the same as Marx (the grandson of history—Gould is its bastard) but instead of an economic development, we have the development of mind, consciousness. Each stage of mind (spirit) improves on (and works out) the previous stage, and what is improved/worked out/expanded is the idea of freedom. The goal of history in Hegel's philosophy is human freedom. The same is true for Marx. With Gould, there are no goals, no progress, no design or designer. Whatever happens in the world is the result of something that comes close to Leibniz's compossibles—Gould calls it contingency (contingency, however, is not the same as pure chance—the former is readable, understandable in hindsight, while the latter is not).

A Gouldian reading would correlate the current events in Egypt and the Arab world (Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, Tunisia) with the theory of "punctuated equilibrium."

After a long period of stability, change is happening all at once and very rapidly. Gould saw punctuated equilibrium as the leading explanation for geologic, biological, and cosmic change. The Cambrian explosion, the seemingly sudden expansion of the human brain, the floods of Montana, and now the revolutions in Arab societies.

A Marxist reading would see the region's transformation as an expression of an underlying economic crisis. That crisis being nothing other than neoliberalism's loss of legitimacy following the crash of 2008—the leading proponent of this program, the US, did exactly what it told poor countries not to do: bail out banks and provide state support for the economy. It's also important to note that the point at which neoliberalism began (the early 1970s) is the point at which the secular movements in the Arab world came to a close (as well as social democracy in the West). The rise of Islamofascism is concomitant with the rise of neoliberalism. Many Marxist theorists of the 1990s correctly read Islamic fundamentalism as essentially postmodern, as something that had more to do with the present than the ancient past, more to do with McDonald's than Muhammad.

Finally, Hegel, the cultural interpretation of history. It is impossible not to see the revolutions in the Arab world as something like the progress of mind over time. Meaning, the long march forward of freedom in the world. In Hegel's time, philosophy was the leading medium for the spread and expression of human freedom. Philosophy picked up where Christianity ("picture thinking") left off. In Egypt, Iran, Tunisia, Sudan, Jordan, the medium of the moment is cyberspace. As the sign read on the streets of Cairo: "We Want Our Internet"