In 1978, Sir John Glubb, a celebrated British Army officer who served in World War I, wrote The Fate of Empires. The extraordinarily prescient essay charts 4,000 years of world history and argues that rising and falling empires follow the very same pattern.
According to Glubb, the "life expectance of a great nation commences with a violent and usually unforeseen outburst of energy" and ends, decades later, "in a lowering of moral standards, cynicism, pessimism and frivolity".
Firmly of the belief that history can help us predict the future, Glubb posited that all declining empires share key characteristics.
The great nation moves through periods of 'pioneers', 'commerce', 'affluence' and 'intellectualism', before falling into a state of social decadence where money is God and celebrity culture is king.
"The heroes of declining nations are always the same, the athlete, the singer or the actor," he wrote.
Much has been written about the demise of celebrity culture in the time of Covid. As humanity resets its values, we're experiencing what feels like a collective deprogramming from the cult of celebrity.
The survival mindset that we've had to rapidly adopt doesn't hold much space for aspirational longing and we're no longer hypnotised by the glossy Hollywood sheen.
Some celebrities quickly realised that the spell was broken, but others have been desperately trying to conjure up a new one. Madonna has reinvented herself as Zelda Fitzgerald for her Instagram video series. 'Quarantine Diaries' involves moody lighting, wartime jazz music and a voiceover of her rambling thoughts about life under lockdown.
Khloe Kardashian has reinvented herself as an entirely new person. The reality TV star has undergone a dramatic Covid makeover and now looks like a digital avatar in a Witness Protection Programme.
Other celebrities are trying their best to appear relatable and, thus, likeable. Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez posted make-up free selfies in the early days of lockdown. Plot twist: they all looked incredible.
Celebrities are facing the very real threat of obscurity as their cultural capital dwindles. And while many are of them are trying to pursue popularity with tone-deaf Just Like Us Instagram posts, they're fighting against a cultural shift that celebrates ordinary people and ordinary life.
According to Glubb, falling empires glorify wealth, glamour and luxury, whereas the principal objects of ambition in a rising empire are "glory and honour for the nation".
This is nowhere better illustrated than by the recent trio of covers of British Vogue magazine, which is dedicated to the "new frontline" and features a train driver, a midwife and a supermarket assistant.
The landscape of TV ads has changed dramatically too. And while the narrative is tediously cliched at this point (happy screen-addicted family gets to grips with the 'new normal'), the dearth of escapist, celebrity-led commercials is glaring.
It makes we wonder what aftershave ads might look like in a post-Covid world. Will they still feature the glistening pectoral muscles of A-list actors? Or will they feature Paul Mescal - the most normal of Normal People - in his O'Neills shorts?
Recent events in the US have only highlighted the increasing irrelevance of celebrities. While some rolled up their sleeves and joined the protest, others posted cut-and-paste platitudes on Instagram that rang hollow.
Meanwhile, a new breed of influencer has emerged and their focus is not on selling product, but on sharing information. You'll mainly find them on TikTok, where unfiltered weirdness trumps filtered perfection and where the Flemings - a madcap clan from Kerry - are the new family ideal.
We're beginning to celebrate ordinary people with extraordinary skills, rather than extraordinarily beautiful people with fairly ordinary skills. And I can't help but wonder: what might Sir John Glubb think?