We predicted political upheaval in America in the 2020s. This is why it’s here and what we can do to temper it (co-authored with Jack A. Goldstone). Noema
Almost three decades ago, one of us, Jack Goldstone, published a simple model to determine a country’s vulnerability to political crisis. The model was based on how population changes shifted state, elite and popular behavior. Goldstone argued that, according to this Demographic-Structural Theory, in the 21st century, America was likely to get a populist, America-first leader who would sow a whirlwind of conflict.
Then ten years ago, the other of us, Peter Turchin, applied Goldstone’s model to U.S. history, using current data. What emerged was alarming: The U.S. was heading toward the highest level of vulnerability to political crisis seen in this country in over a hundred years. Even before Trump was elected, Turchin published his prediction that the U.S. was headed for the “Turbulent Twenties,” forecasting a period of growing instability in the United States and western Europe.
I predicted 2020 would be a mess for the U.S. Could that help prevent a second civil war? The Globe and Mail
Ten years ago, I predicted that 2020 would mark “a new peak of violence” in the United States and Western Europe. It may have seemed like an unusual call, at the time; Western countries had actually been enjoying more stability prior to 2010.
But even I didn’t imagine that things could be as bad as they’ve gotten.
Your discipline needs you. (co-authored with Laura Spinney). BBC Histories Magazine
To date, Seshat comprises more than 200,000 data points or ‘records’. Soon it will be big enough to support what its founders call “horse races” between theories, but it has already produced some exciting results. For example, it has generated a rigorously tested definition of social complexity that applies to societies from different periods and on different continents, allowing hundreds of them to be compared at one time.
Social Instability Lies Ahead, Researcher Says. Uconn Today
Cliodynamics is a new “transdisciplinary discipline” that treats history as just another science. Ten years ago I started applying its tools to the society I live in: the United States. What I discovered alarmed me.
My research showed that about 40 seemingly disparate (but, according to cliodynamics, related) social indicators experienced turning points during the 1970s. Historically, such developments have served as leading indicators of political turmoil. My model indicated that social instability and political violence would peak in the 2020s (see Political Instability May be a Contributor in the Coming Decade).
Peter Turchin: Entering the Age of Instability after Trump. Evonomics
From what I have seen so far, it seems unlikely that the Trump administration will succeed in reversing these negative trends. And some of the proposed policies will likely make them worse. For example, drastically reducing taxes on the wealthy Americans will hardly strengthen fiscal health of the state.
Thus, I see no reason to revise the forecast I made three years ago: “We should expect many years of political turmoil, peaking in the 2020s.”
But this is a science-based forecast, not a “prophecy”. It’s based on solid social science, the workings of which I have left “under the hood” in this article intended for a general audience. But the science is there. If you are interested in looking under the hood, see my recently published book, Ages of Discord.
Deep Historical Roots of European Values, Institutions, and Identities. Euromind
The grand project of European integration is failing. Signs of dysfunction abound: from Greece’s debt debacle to the immigration crisis and now “Brexit”. A disintegrative trend at the European level is mirrored within constituent states: think of the Scottish and Catalan independence drives, or the inability of Belgium to form a national government for years. In a dramatic reversal of the post-war trend, Europeans have seemingly lost their ability to cooperate across different national units and across different ethnic groups.
Fatty Foods Are Good For Your Health. Edge
My article for the 2016 Edge question: WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST INTERESTING RECENT [SCIENTIFIC] NEWS? WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT?
Russia’s Sacred Land. To understand Crimea, we need an evolutionary theory of national honour. It’s irrational and deadly – but it works. Aeon Magazine
When Russia annexed Crimea in March, American policymakers were taken by surprise. They shouldn’t have been, argued the political theorist John J Mearsheimer in a New York Times op-ed. After all: ‘Mr Putin’s behaviour is motivated by the same geopolitical considerations that influence all great powers, including the United States.’
Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays. Bloomberg View Op-Eds
Complex human societies, including our own, are fragile. They are held together by an invisible web of mutual trust and social cooperation. This web can fray easily, resulting in a wave of political instability, internal conflict and, sometimes, outright social collapse. Analysis of past societies shows that these destabilizing historical trends develop slowly, last many decades, and are slow to subside. The Roman Empire, Imperial China and medieval and early-modern England and France suffered such cycles, to cite a few examples. In the U.S., the last long period of instability began in the 1850s and lasted through the Gilded Age and the “violent 1910s.” We now see the same forces in the contemporary U.S.
Chiefs and Indians. Review of Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus. The Creation of Inequality: How our prehistorical ancestors set the stage for monarchy, slavery, and empire; Harvard University Press.
Article on the Times Literary Supplement (behind a paywall)
Return of the Oppressed. From the Roman Empire to our own Gilded Age, inequality moves in cycles. The future looks like a rough ride. Aeon Magazine
Today, the top one per cent of incomes in the United States accounts for one fifth of US earnings. The top one per cent of fortunes holds two-fifths of the total wealth. Just one rich family, the six heirs of the brothers Sam and James Walton, founders of Walmart, are worth more than the bottom 40 per cent of the American population combined ($115 billion in 2012). After thousands of scholarly and popular articles on the topic, one might think we would have a pretty good idea why the richest people in the US are pulling away from the rest. But it seems we don’t.
Cliodynamics: Can Science Decode the Laws of History? The Conversation
They say history always repeats itself – empires rise and fall, economies boom and bust – but is there a way to map and predict the dynamical processes of history? The new and highly controversial discipline cliodynamics is the most recent attempt to transform history into science.
The Historical Duty to Persevere (in Russian: Выстоять — исторический долг) by Peter Turchin (A cliodynamical analysis of the Great Fatherland War, 1941-45).
Русско-японская война привела к революции 1905 года, Первая мировая — к Февральской революции, а за афганской войной последовал распад Советского Союза. Почему же в 1941–1942 годах, испытав несравнимо более тяжелый удар, СССР не распался? PDF
Long-Term Oscillations in Population Numbers of Human Societies (in Russian: Долгосрочные колебания численности населения в исторических обществах). This is a reworked and expanded translation of my 2009 review for the Russian popular science website The Elements. Go here.