The Age of Over-Abundant Elites, by Mark E. Jeftovic

If the Covid scare fizzles out, which it looks like it might , they’ll go back to climate. From Mark E. Jeftovic at

I’ve been reading Peter Turchin’s “Ages of Discord”, which tries to look at patterns of societal strife that he found in previous, pre-industrial civilizations such as Rome and France, and examine how it holds up in a post-industrial era. It bears some resemblance to other cycle theories like Strauss and Howe’s “Fourth Turning” or other long-wave models like Kondratiev Waves (K-Waves). The basic premise behind these ideas are that societies undergo cyclical or pendulum-like dynamics between relatively steady states of prosperity and stability, the internal dynamics of which then produce the conditions that precipitate reversions into turbulent periods of strife and chaotic change.

The important thing to keep in mind is that to that the likes of Turchin and other historical statisticians, the periods of societal discord that they try to map may look like this:

Turchin: Long-term dynamics of sociopolitical instability in France, 800–1700 (data from Sorokin 1937).

But when experienced in real life look more like this

St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, 1572 by François Dubois

If there’s one thing in this highly polarized world that everybody probably does agree on it’s that we are almost certainly already in one of these periods of discord right now.

What I’m finding most interesting from Turchin’s take on this isn’t that periods of stability are not terminated by resource depletion (a la the climate alarmists), or any other “limits to growth” per se. While population growth in pre-industrial societies may bump up against “neo-Malthusian” limits, it sets up a counter-cyclical decline in population growth. How these forces interact in a transition from stability to chaos is that an over-abundance of elites creates a situation of the political class splitting into factions and fighting over the spoils of what is now a shrinking pie in terms of real economic wealth:

 “According to this theory, population growth in excess of the productivity gains of the land has several effects on social institutions. First, it leads to persistent price inflation, falling real wages, rural misery, urban migration, and increased frequency of food riots and wage protests.

Second, rapid expansion of population results in elite overproduction—an increased number of aspirants for the limited supply of elite positions. Increased intra-elite competition leads to the formation of rival patronage networks vying for state rewards. As a result, elites become riven by increasing rivalry and factionalism.

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