Surviving the Darwinian process of being confronted with what happened in different parts of the world

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Peter Turchin wrote War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires 17 years ago, but he feels it has aged surprisingly well:

For seven years before I even started writing it, I read voraciously through books and articles by historical sociologists, economists, archaeologists, cultural evolutionists, and — most important — historians. I read both historians who wrote “grand historical narratives,” such as William McNeill, and historians who attempted to view history at a more personal level, through the eyes of individuals. A great example of the latter is Barbara Tuchman, who in A Distant Mirror followed the fortunes of Sieur de Coucy as he tried to survive the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages.

Human brain is a wonderful inference engine. Like many before me, as I ploughed through this sea of information, I started seeing patterns. I remember that I went through a huge number of ideas and possible explanations, many proposed by others, a few that occurred to me. 99% of them were discarded almost as soon as they came up. But a few endured, surviving the Darwinian process of being confronted with what happened in different parts of the world and different historic eras. And so, I ended up writing my own “grand historical narrative.” War and Peace and War was the result.

Turchin finds the current book cover a bit bland and generic and really liked the cover of the first, hardcover edition, based on a detail from The Conquest of Siberia by Yermak (1895) by Vasily Surikov, which is a wonderful illustration of one of the central ideas in War and Peace and War, the metaethnic frontier.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    If he’s right, the 20′s are going to get much worse.

    Turchin is doing socio-economic modeling, his fundamental idea being that excess production of potential elites leads to intra-ruling class competition for limited seats of power. The competition crashes the system.

    Fischer’s The Great Wave is economic and focuses on prices and their differential effects on economic classes. It is a parallel effort to Turchin’s, but reaches a similar conclusion: immiseration of the masses and enrichment of the rulers leads to collapse.

    Straus’ and Howe’s The Fourth Turning is about intergeneration changes and is mainly psychological. But it is equally gloomy.

  2. Gavin Longmuir says:

    I am not familiar with Mr. Turchin’s book, but we all know that every prior society that has existed on Earth has collapsed, been over-run, or has changed beyond recognition. Ancient Egypt, Rome, Byzantium, British Empire, USSR, etc. So why would something similar NOT happen to our current society?

    Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988) looked mainly at archaeological evidence and arrived at what is probably a parallel explanation to Turchin. Overhead increases as the Political Class grab a larger & larger share of society’s output for themselves. Unproductive bureaucracy grows. Eventually, the overhead becomes too burdensome for the productive part of society, and the structure collapses or falls to external attack.

    There is little doubt that present day Western societies are currently well down that road.

  3. Goober says:

    Replying to both Mr. Sykes and Longmuir:

    I’ve ranted about this before, but this once again seems appropriate. I wonder how much of our top-heaviness, our tendency to produce “elites” and “leaders” instead of doers is a result of a generations long effort to de-legitimize skilled labor?

    I mean, anyone who works with his hands is a loser, right? Actually doing something physical for a living is a sign of failure, you want to be the guy directing the doers, not a doer, yourself!

    This is a major driver behind the racist as hell impulse to bring in immigrants from 3rd world countries to do the “jobs Americans won’t” (which is perhaps the most offensive bullshit I’ve ever heard in my life – who the hell do we think we are that we’re somehow “too damn good” to do whatever the hell job needs to be done?).

    It’s a major driver behind what I call “white collar by appearance” jobs: the sorts of jobs where you work at a desk, or work inside, doing shitty, menial administrative stuff that takes little skill, but is somehow seen as being a more honorable and more attractive than a job where you actually get your hands dirty accomplishing something. A guy making $8 an hour working in a call center will literally look down his nose at the lineman working on the power pole outside making $100k, and society, in general, will actually agree with his assessment!

    In a society where we’re continuously driving a larger and larger wedge between the in crowd and the out crowd, more and more people are trying to be part of the in crowd by having the trappings that the in crowd has – clean hands, stylish clothing, a job in an office, and more and more shunning the people who don’t.

    You know, the people that they actually need in order to maintain that lifestyle that they so casually and contemptuously flaunt as if it is their God-given right! I mean, OF COURSE they’re too good to do those jobs! Don’t build the wall, who will clean our toilets?

    I have literally zero respect for people like this, but these are the people who society approves of the most. You don’t see plumbers and tradesmen getting elected to public office. Instead you see people who have never actually really worked at a real job at all. It’s far too common, and quite insulating to see them try to relate to the working class, when they’ve never actually worked a day in their life.

  4. Sam J. says:

    People working on power poles do not make $100k a year.

    “Turchin is doing socio-economic modeling, his fundamental idea being that excess production of potential elites leads to intra-ruling class competition for limited seats of power. The competition crashes the system..”

    I don’t agree. If this were true you would expect to see more effective and better leaders due to competition but they seem to be getting worse. They’re not really competing with each other in the traditional sense for “our” approval. Only for those at the top.

    My reading on the fall of empires roughly after 250 years and on human nature led me to believe that the reason that these things happen is the rise of a certain mental type to the top of the organization. In simpler organizations, countries or whatever they are not as mobile and people see what they are. As empires and organizations get larger they are not given the scrutiny that they are in less mobile places without the large personal and places to move about that empires provide. The psychopath (Spath).

    It takes them roughly 250 years before they can move to the top in large numbers. They are very good at climbing up but they destroy wherever they are when they get there. Once their numbers get high enough at the top the whole rapidly disintegrates.

    I mean who can forget people like Caligula who made his horse a Senator. Look at Hillary and Nancy Pelosi. The Hillary picture is not the best. She used to do lesser versions of this all the time and there used to be a great deal of pictures of her faking smiles. Spaths seem to open their eyes real wide in surprise and show this grimace. Lately she squints her eyes a little and it looks more natural. There’s no there, there in either one. They have no empathy. It’s all animal. Remember Hilary was thrown off a committee when she was young for unethical behavior. She’s always been this way.

    Pelosi is not as good as Hillary although a few years back Hillary looked the same.

    I think it shows easier in Women than Men. Men are more accepted to look stern with less facial expression. Bad for Spath Women as they look evil with that cracked grin.

    If you look around at what is going on in the US and the West it’s damn hard to not recognize these people are Spaths gas-lighting the hell out of us. Murdering people, pushing what appears to be a dangerous vax that causes heart attacks and blood clots. Antifa allowed to burn down cities with no arrest while people protesting the destruction are arrested and persecuted far above the law. The bad news is there is NO end to this. They will get worse and worse as they enjoy this sort of tormenting of people. It amuses them to see just how far they can go. It will most likely not end well.

    Supposedly Q or some others are supposed to save us but after 5 years of “any minute now”, “two weeks” and the pushing of any number of officials that are going to “arrest them all” with nothing being done, it doesn’t look good. We have a ring side seat at the equivalent of the Fall of Rome.

    A anthropologist studying Eskimos once asked them about psychopaths and after a little explaining they knew exactly what type person he was talking about. He asked how they dealt with them and they said they waited till he wasn’t paying attention then pushed him off the ice.

    After the Spath has destroyed the empire mobility breaks down and people are forced to look at their local behavior. I suspect many of them do not pass this test and their numbers are thinned. As long as the empire is still a running concern, as long as there is still loot to steal the underlings, not being the most honest Men themselves, are willing to over look any and all Spath pozz as long as they get their loot until the whole thing comes crashing down.

    The cycle then starts over. Psychopaths will never go away because they are us. Psychopaths are humans before we evolved the parts of the brain that have more empathy. They act just like animals. They are less evolved and the genes sometimes throw back to their more primitive level.

    Funny how this happens and Spath self image is that they are the greatest and we are all the weak ones but empathy is what keeps us from living in ruins. A little empathy allows us to preform great feats of engineering and building of civilization.

    When little children who have not developed empathy fully act up what do we tell them, “stop acting like animals.” So that little thing we almost automatically say is actually seeing things for exactly what they are. The little kids act like animals with no empathy.

    When large populations of psychopaths exist there is no civilization because the tendency for them to take advantage of any situation means there’s no shared empathy and no shared goals.

    Blacks it has been noted have much less empathy and so where they reside, Detroit comes to mind, there’s no civilization. If Whites did not intrude and subsidize them I have no doubt in very short order they would be eating each other.

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