Breaking point: America approaching a period of disintegration, argues anthropologist Peter Turchin
The title expresses a thought that had occurred to me. Once the community loses the sense of “We’re all in this together, and none of us will make it out alive, so let’s help each other as best we can,” then there is very little to hold it securely together. At the extreme you have a Hobbesian state of nature, with every person’s hand raised against every other person, and life once more becomes poor, nasty, brutish, and short, if not solitary. Paul Rosenberg writes in Salon:
As the 2016 campaign reaches fever pitch, the more heat there is and the less light is shed. Which is why evolutionary anthropologist Peter Turchin’s new book comes as such a breath of fresh air. “Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History” is not about this year’s presidential election, per se, but it’s a quantum leap forward in illuminating the disintegrative trends that America has experienced over the last several decades that are currently driving our politics.
Everything from skyrocketing inequality and political gridlock to white working class angst and the rise of mass shootings and other troubling signs of our times — these are all interconnected reflections of where America is in a cyclic historical process: social integration followed by disintegration, discord and violence. Turchin and others have observed this pattern repeatedly in civilizations from ancient Rome and early Chinese dynasties up to the present day.
Here are two summary snapshots of these long-term cycles from the book, the first from Europe: . . .
Intriguing charts at the link.
In short, Turchin finds that it wasn’t just similar social trends that changed together; trends from every aspect of the model changed direction around the same time.