Peter Schwartz: Cities have long been a target of anger from the disaffected. History tells us to beware.
Complexity scientist Peter Turchin, in his new book “End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites and the Path of Political Disintegration,” looks at these populist-versus-elite and rural-versus-urban dynamics in our nation as it struggles to maintain its democratic institutions and avoid political violence and collapse. His historical research spotlights the impact of urban elites who enrich themselves and consolidate power via “parasitic” relations with other social classes.
Complex societies across thousands of years have experienced recurring cycles of intense conflict and instability, driven by the same sets of forces, according to Turchin. When a society impoverishes its workers through stagnating and declining wages and overproduces its elites, generating a surplus of young people with advanced degrees, public trust crumbles. Institutional and legal norms collapse.