Can predict the number of the revolution?


Peter Turchin claims to be able to turn the story from the collection of anecdotes into a strict science, and thus foresee the future. Kliodinamika — so he calls his discipline (obviously, in the ancient Greek muse of history).

If his calculations are correct, that at the end of the decade the U.S. will face serious unrest. Critics have called the approach of Mr. Turchin simplistic and naive, and some of them are convinced that human history is too short to build on its core statistical models describing the rise and fall of empires.

Well, wait … 2020 Do not like this theory? Make an offer, Mr. Turchin will be only too pleased. Mr. Turchin has not always been a bull in a china shop stories. This distinguished mathematical ecologist, Professor, University of Connecticut (USA), which has a long list of influential works on the migration of animals and populations.

"It was a mid-life crisis — says the scientist. — I was 40 years old, I have achieved a certain notoriety among experts in the field of population dynamics and wanted more challenges. " In search of the use of his formidable mathematical power, he drew attention to the story. "This is the only science that bypassed math — says Mr. Turchin. — A virgin land! "

It happened 15 years ago. Since then, the researcher had to use animal-tested analytical approach to the solution of various historical issues, including how to propagate religion, why empire, tend to occur at the boundary of the steppe and arable land, etc.

"The goal is to make history in explaining the science, that is, to teach her to give up some theories in favor of others," — stressed Mr. Turchin. For example, there are more than two theories to explain the fall of the Roman Empire, because new ideas keep coming, but the old one refuses. There is nothing surprising in the fact that kliodinamiku not met with open arms. Most historians dug so deeply into the cultural details that they consider each particular time and place unique.

"Historians are accustomed to telling stories, following the selected characters," — said the philosopher Anthony Beavers of Evansvilskogo University (USA).

Of course, these professionals will treat with suspicion any attempt to turn a beautiful story about a particular culture in a data set. However, the growth of computing power has affected the ownership of Clio. So, Fred Gibbs and Dan Cohen, George Mason University (USA) took advantage of the online library Google Books to check the long-standing belief that in Victorian England religiosity began to decline.

Indeed, following the names of all books published in the UK in the XIX century, they noted a dramatic reduction in the use of the words "God" and "Christ" in the headlines after 1850 in favor of a more neutral, "Jesus." But Mr. Turchin goes on to identify some trends in specific countries in certain historical periods.


Reasoning that the fate of empires depends ultimately on the cohesion of society, he took up the story of "collective violence" (as he calls it), that is, political assassinations, riots and civil wars, without touching international wars and crimes. In this case, the researcher focused on three major civilizations: the Roman Republic, medieval Europe and Tsarist Russia.

With the help of mathematical tools borrowed from population biology, he discovered that in each case the increase in the number of fatalities as a result of collective violence follows two overlapping cycles going on two or three centuries and fifty years. The most likely explanation of the largest cycle of the two, he says, gives the structural and demographic theory, proposed two decades ago by Jack Goldstone of George Mason University (USA). The fact is that in the prosperous state of population growth and technological progress will eventually lead to oversupply of labor.

This allows the exploiters to pay workers less. As a result, the rich are so rich and they become so numerous that the ruling class can not accommodate them all, and is divided into factions, fighting for the right to luxury. The cohesion of society is falling, and the government is losing control over its citizens. Then and only then does the violence. Anarchy reigns as long as one of the elite will not drop enough people to growth and prosperity returned.

Indeed, it is possible to cast a glance at the history and make sure that Lenin's statement about nehotyaschih bottoms will not do. Not the suffering of the working class become a catalyst for social collapse. Riots start at only one or two generations later: that is how much time is required for the excessive accumulation of rich and highly educated elite. In conclusion, Mr. Turchin came by comparing the time of social upheaval to economic performance of the three empires, that is the wage level of social inequality and population growth.

Special attention is worthy treasures of coins, because in dangerous times in the one who buried his savings, less likely to survive into trouble and then come back for treasure. In short, in all cases of civil war behind the economic hardship of about one or two generations. The same pattern holds for the U.S., according to Mr. Turchin in a new article. As for the second reason, the 50-year cycle of the researcher is not sure. Perhaps this is a transitional phase where part of the population, who grew up in troubled times, value stability and calls for it, and the other, When the wolf stability, rocks the boat. Critics, of course, point to a number of inconsistencies. For example, Mr. Turchin refers to population decline in China's Tang Dynasty (IX century), and the historian Johannes Kapeller-Prayzer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences indicates that in those days simply weakened the central government and in the new census does not take into account the population of the marginal provinces.

Cyclical theory of Mr. Turchin also does not account for random and unique phenomena such as climate change, epidemics, the emergence of prominent personalities. "The history of more chaotic than his model" — sums up Mr. Prayzer-Kapeller. But Mr. Turchin not confuse what he malyuet broad brush: "Any model, any theory should facilitate, not otherwise find the most important variables. The question is how well this or that theory is tested by practice. " However, he admits that sometimes a variable can be one person. For example, military historians have estimated that the presence of Napoleon on the battlefield increased the chances of winning to the same extent as the increase in the number of troops on the third.

One way or another, but Mr. Turchin ready to face the most severe judge — time. Two years ago, he publicly predicted the political instability in the U.S. and Western Europe in the coming decades. In his new work, he describes more signs of an impending crisis in the U.S., where, according to his theory of cycles, the critical moment will come about in 2020. If the country make it to 2030 without any major disruptions were, he admits defeat. But while the chances of the rightness of them are estimated as 80 to 20.

Let's assume for a moment that the researcher rights. Is it possible to prevent a crisis? Yes: for example, increasing tax rates for high earners should help to reduce social inequality and slow growth of the elites. Mr. Turchin also advises the United States to reduce the rate of immigration, in order to stop the growth of surplus labor. Third step: higher education should have made it less affordable, so that was not an overabundance of useless graduates. Few historians are capable of such bold predictions and advice.

"Offer your theory — says Mr. Turchin. — Maybe it is better to explain my stored data. "

Prepared according to NewScientist.

Like this post? Please share to your friends: