Looking at the constructed environment brings us to the second theoretical perspective to be examined, to the question of conditions that are of crucial importance in this context – conditions that to some extent allow, as well explain, shifts in power positions on a global level. This perspective is found in the work of Kondratieff, who proposed that economic development is characterised by major shifts in technological development.
He referred to bol’shie tsiklys, which can be translated as major cycles or long waves, as the elementary forms of an overhaul of the entire productive basis. Each of these cycles is characterized by a developmental pattern, namely prosperity, recession, depression and improvement. Examples of the ‘waves’ can be found in the succession of steam engine/cotton; railway/steel; electrical engineering/chemistry; petrochemicals/automobiles; and, finally, information technology.
There was much debate about this model from its very beginning – and there certainly have been misunderstandings and imputations. Be that as it may, at this point it is important to see Kondratieff’s argument – which is proposed here as a heuristic instrument – as a general pattern to be used for examining the development of the productive forces. As said, the model is referenced here primarily as a heuristic tool. Some remarks are, however, necessary.