Friday, July 29, 2016

The Collapse of Western Civilization (cont.)

The Economist proclaims today that it's no longer Left vs Right, but Open vs. Closed.

Political commentators embellish the idea of the insurgent masses rising against liberal elites across the globe. Hello Brexit, Ms Le Pen, Mr Trump, .. .

And Peter Turchin has a new book out soon: "Ages of Discord" (September 2016 and not yet on Amazon).
"By 2010 it became clear to me that the structural-demographic theory (SDT) generalizes very well. Essentially, it’s about complex large-scale societies that can be represented as a population - elitesstate system.

"Agrarian versus industrial distinction is important but doesn’t affect the basic logic of the model. In the United States we have common people, or the 99%, the elites (the 1%), and the state, just like in the Roman Empire. Yes, the Romans did not have smartphones, but the power relations in complex human societies are surprisingly durable.

"It also became clear that the answer to the question, “And where are we?” is: in the pre-crisis phase of the secular cycle. Thus, when in 2010 Nature asked me to comment on the coming decade, I wrote “Political instability may be a contributor in the coming decade.” Six years down the road, I am afraid to say, my gloomy forecast is developing right on schedule."
On the strength of this, I decided to read his earlier book (on the rise and fall of agrarian societies) and it arrived this morning.

Here is what Turchin says about his new book:
"Analysis of historical states shows that in complex, large-scale human societies long periods of relative equity, prosperity, and internal peace are succeeded by protracted periods of inequity, increasing misery, and political instability.

"These crisis periods—“Ages of Discord”—tend to share characteristic features, experienced by many societies in different historical eras. In fact, America today has much in common with the Antebellum America of the 1850s and with Ancien Régime France on the eve of the French Revolution, to give just two examples.

"Can it really be true that our time of troubles is not so new, and that it arises because of similar underlying reasons? Ages of Discord marshals a cohesive theory and detailed historical data to show that this is, indeed, the case.

"The book takes the reader on a roller-coaster journey through American history: from the Era of Good Feelings of the 1820s to our first Age of Discord, which culminated in the American Civil War, to the post-war prosperity and, finally, to our present, second Age of Discord."
Naturally, the book will end with good advice. Equally naturally, it will be ignored.

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