The Russian Historian Predicting ChaosHistorians in the News
tags: inequality, populism, political unrest
In years past, when Americans saw footage of other countries’ parliaments devolving into all-out brawls, they may have laughed at the comical, comforting foreignness of it all. But today, after watching something like the last State of the Union address, which ended with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dramatically tearing up President Trump’s speech, it’s entirely plausible to imagine that with the right triggering event, Congress could erupt into a fistfight. This intense atmosphere of polarization now runs right through America's elite—from the very top to the precarious but highly educated lower tier of elites who are left scrambling for positions in media, academia, and politics.
Of all the theories in circulation about why political rivalry is so intense, one of the most convincing (and worrying) comes from the Russian historian and scientist Peter Turchin. Turchin is a pioneer of “cliodynamics,” which is a field of research that applies scientific methods of inquiry to history. Cliodynamics employs multiple disciplinary perspectives, ranging from mathematics and statistics to anthropology and complex systems theory, as well as vast troves of historical data to identify patterns of sociopolitical instability over the centuries. It is, in essence, an attempt to identify why states rise and fall and then use this knowledge to make predictions about the future. All the way back in 2010, Turchin warned that the historical patterns were lining up to indicate a coming period of instability and violence in America, which he expected to peak in the 2020s.
In his book War and Peace and War (2006), Turchin applied the cliodynamic method to global history, looking at the factors driving the consolidation and collapse, or “integration” and “disintegration,” of empires such as ancient Rome, China, and Byzantium. In Ages of Discord (2016), he turned his attention to the United States, mapping the patterns of American history from the disintegrative period leading up to the Civil War to the integrative period of the New Deal, through to the present. Today, Turchin believes that we are in the middle of a new period of disintegration that began the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan and has been accelerated since the 1990s.
comments powered by Disqus
- Chair of Florida Charter School Board on Firing of Principal: About Policy, Not David Statue
- Graduate Student Strikes Fight Back Against Decades of Austerity, Seek to Revive Opportunity
- When Right Wingers Struggle with Defining "Woke" it Shows they Oppose Pursuing Equality
- Strangelove on the Square: Secret USAF Films Showed Airmen What to Expect if Nuclear War Broke Out
- The Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
- New Books Force Consideration of Reconstruction's End from Black Perspective
- Excerpt: How Apartheid South Africa Tried to Create a Libertarian Utopia
- Historian's Book on 1970s NBA Shows Racial Politics around Basketball Have Always Been Ugly
- Kendi: "Anti-woke" Part of Backlash Against Antiracist Protest Movements
- Monica Muñoz Martinez Honored for Truth-Telling in Texas History