End Times
End Times

End Times

Historians and philosophers, including famous ones like Karl Popper, vehemently insisted that a science of history was impossible. (Location 75)

A science of history is not only possible but also useful: it helps us anticipate how the collective choices we make in the present can bring us a better future. (Location 78)

I made my living studying the population dynamics of beetles, butterflies, mice, and deer. (Location 80)

I had never been allergic to mathematics, so I embraced the turn of the field to complexity science, which mixes computer modeling with Big Data analytics to answer such questions as, for example, why many animal populations go through boom-and-bust cycles. (Location 81)

A quarter of a century later, my colleagues in this endeavor and I have built out a flourishing field known as cliodynamics (from Clio, the name of the Greek mythological muse of history, and dynamics, the science of change). (Location 86)

Remarkably, despite the myriad of differences, complex human societies, at base and on some abstract level, are organized according to the same general principles. (Location 88)

From the beginning, my colleagues and I in this new field focused on cycles of political integration and disintegration, particularly on state formation and state collapse. (Location 90)

It became clear to us through quantitative historical analysis that complex societies everywhere are affected by recurrent and, to a certain degree, predictable waves of political instability, brought about by the same basic set of forces, operating across the thousands of years of human history. (Location 92)

What, then, is this model? To put it somewhat wonkily, when a state, such as the United States, has stagnating or declining real wages (wages in inflation-adjusted dollars), a growing gap between rich and poor, overproduction of young graduates with advanced degrees, declining public trust, and exploding public debt, these seemingly disparate social indicators are actually related to each other dynamically. (Location 102)

In the United States, all of these factors started to take an ominous turn in the 1970s. The data pointed to the years around 2020 when the confluence of these trends was expected to trigger a spike in political instability. And here we are. (Location 105)

Instead, we need to look to the widely agreed-upon Big Data about wages, taxes, gross domestic products, and sociological surveys churned out by government agencies and organizations like Gallup. These data feed into statistical analyses published by social scientists in academic journals. (Location 116)

Cliodynamics is different. It uses the methods of data science, treating the historical record, compiled by generations of historians, as Big Data. (Location 122)

Most importantly, cliodynamics uses the scientific method, in which alternative theories are subject to empirical tests with data. (Location 124)

Because the crisis has deep historical roots, we’ll need to travel back in time to the New Deal era, when an unwritten social contract became part of American political culture. (Location 131)

In many ways, the past forty years resemble what happened in the United States between 1870 and 1900. If the postwar period was a true golden age of broadly based prosperity, after 1980 we indeed entered the “Second Gilded Age.” (Location 142)

The social pyramid has grown top-heavy. We now have too many “elite aspirants” competing for a fixed number of positions in the upper echelons of politics and business. (Location 146)

They are simply those who have more social power—the ability to influence other people. A more descriptive term for elites is “power holders.” (Location 167)

In America, power is closely correlated with wealth. As a result, it is relatively straightforward to figure out who belongs to different ranks of power holders. (A more sophisticated answer to the question of who rules will have to wait until chapter 5.) (Location 170)

They typically own houses and send their children to good colleges, and sudden medical emergencies will not wipe them out. They have certainly escaped “precarity.” (Location 177)

The correlation between wealth and political power is not perfect. Nine American presidents didn’t even make it into the $1 million or above territory (in today’s dollars), including Harry Truman, Woodrow Wilson, and Abraham Lincoln. (Location 182)

And before 1850, all American presidents were one-percenters (at the least). (Location 185)

The close correlation between wealth and political power in America arises partly because many a politician, poor at the start of their career, joins the ranks of the wealthy after leaving public office. (Location 188)

The hardest—and crudest—form of social power is coercion: force, or a threat of force. Americans specializing in coercion, such as army generals and police officers, are generally thoroughly subordinated to other forms of power. Exceptions, such as J. Edgar Hoover, who was the first and most powerful FBI director, are rare. (Location 193)

The third and more subtle kind of power is bureaucratic or administrative. (Location 196)

The fourth and “softest” kind of power is ideological—the power of persuasion. (Location 201)

As we can see, this simple question—who are the elites?—doesn’t have a simple answer. Human societies are complex systems, and trying to characterize the flows of social power within them by way of an overly simplistic scheme would be counterproductive. (Location 203)

One-percenters (roughly, decamillionaires) have a lot of power over other people’s lives. Centimillionaires and billionaires wield even more power. But there are no sharp boundaries between one-percenters and ten-percenters—the distribution of incomes is a smooth curve. (Location 210)

Each kind of influence has its own power hierarchy. This is most clearly seen in military chains of command, but softer kinds of power also have their pecking orders. (Location 218)

Elite aspirants come in a variety of shapes and forms, depending on the kind of power they want and what level they aspire to. (Location 222)

Similarly, decamillionaires want to become centimillionaires, and those who have already made their first $100 million aim to get into the billionaire class. (Location 224)

Elite overproduction develops when the demand for power positions by elite aspirants massively exceeds their supply. (Location 227)

First, the ballooning of the superwealthy class did not happen in isolation from the fortunes of the rest of the population. While the numbers of superrich have multiplied, the income and wealth of the typical American family have actually declined. (Location 239)

The second problem is much subtler and less widely understood.[7] When the social pyramid becomes top-heavy, this has dire consequences for the stability of our societies. (Location 243)

As the game progresses, just imagine the growing degree of chaos and conflict. (I would not suggest playing this game at a child’s birthday party.) (Location 255)

An even better metric for following the effect of overproduction of wealth holders on elections is the cost of running a successful campaign. After all, not all politically ambitious rich people run for office themselves. (Location 275)

Over the past forty years, we’ve been playing the elite overproduction game once every two years. As the number of players grows, the chance of rules breaking down goes up. Is it any wonder that the rules of the game—social norms and institutions governing democratic elections—have been unraveling in real life? (Location 280)

Yes, there are still some pesky issues. (How should we include housework? What about criminal activities?) But to a very good degree of approximation, we can use the GDP statistics, as published by government agencies, to get an idea of the total amount of wealth generated in any particular country every year. (Location 287)

Thus, how it is divided up between different kinds of consumers becomes a very interesting question. In our theory, we represent the structure of society as consisting of three main parts: the state, the elites, and everyone else. (Location 290)

Wealth is accumulated income; in order for it to grow, it has to be fed by directing a portion of GDP to the elites. The proportion of GDP consumed by the government has not changed much over the past four decades.[9] (Location 294)

For two generations after the 1930s, real wages of American workers experienced steady growth, achieving a broad-based prosperity for America that was unprecedented in human history. (Location 297)

Before the 1960s, the relative wage increased robustly, but after that decade it began declining, and by 2010 it had nearly halved.[10] (Location 301)

This trend reversal in the share of economic growth going to workers also resulted in the change of the fortunes of the wealthy. (Location 303)

And popular immiseration breeds discontent, which eventually turns to anger. Popular discontent coupled with a large pool of elite aspirants makes for a very combustible combination, as we have experienced in America since 2016. (Location 310)

Our human brains are wired in such a way that we see “agency” behind any development, especially one that affects us in a strong way.[13] (Location 319)

It is difficult for us to grasp that many consequential events happen not because they have been engineered by shadowy plotters but because they were driven by impersonal social forces. But to understand the ascent of Trump—and more broadly, why America is in crisis—we need not a conspiracy theory but a scientific theory. (Location 320)

The two most important social forces that gave us the Trump presidency—and pushed America to the brink of state breakdown—are elite overproduction and popular immiseration. (Location 325)

Trump is one among that rapidly expanding cohort of the superwealthy who aspire to political office. (Location 329)

My answer has two parts. First, by 2016 popular immiseration had become much worse than in 1992, and Trump cleverly and ruthlessly exploited this social force in his presidential bid. (Location 334)

For many of them, this was not so much an endorsement of Trump as an expression of their discontent, shading into rage, against the ruling class. (Location 336)

Members of the stunned American public became involuntary viewers in a bizarre spectacle of an elite aspirant game reaching its logical culmination. (Location 341)

What gave him the presidency was a combination of conflict among the elites and Trump’s ability to channel a strain of popular discontent that was more widespread and virulent than many people understood, or wanted to understand. (Location 347)

In truth, Lincoln may have been one of the two or three most unpopular living Presidents in American history.[17] (Location 358)

Lincoln was another unlikely president whose rise to power was propelled by the twin social forces of elite overproduction and popular immiseration. (Location 360)

Wealthy aristocrats had the resources and leisure to pursue elected offices and careers in government, and to influence elections, and there were simply more of them in the South than in the North. (Location 372)

Southern elites also controlled the top government offices; most presidents and vice presidents, cabinet ministers, top government officials, senators, and chief justices came from the South. (Location 373)

The America of the 1850s and the America of 2020, despite being very different countries, share a number of striking similarities. (Location 379)

Between the 1820s and 1860s, the relative wage, the share of economic output paid out as worker wages, declined by nearly 50 percent—just as it did in the past five decades.[20] (Location 380)

Average life expectancy at age ten decreased by eight years! And the heights of native-born Americans, who in the eighteenth century were the tallest people on earth, started shrinking. Immiseration breeds discontent, and the signs of it were all over. One clear sign of building social pressures was the incidence of urban riots. (Location 383)

An additional sign of growing popular discontent was the rise of populist parties, such as the anti-immigration Know-Nothing Party. (Location 387)

A host of other statistics looking at different strata of the wealthy all show the same trend: as the poor were getting poorer, the rich were getting richer. (Location 396)

The new wealth was materially due to mining, railroads, and steel production rather than cotton and overseas trade. The new millionaires chafed under the rule of the Southern aristocracy, as their economic interests diverged from the established elites. (Location 397)

These businessmen began to argue that the stranglehold of the Southern slaveholders over the federal government prevented necessary reforms in the banking and transportation systems and thus threatened their own economic well-being. (Location 404)

Furthermore, the dramatic expansion of the elite numbers destroyed the equilibrium between the demand and supply of government posts. (Location 406)

Additionally, the sons of merchant families often chose to go into professions—the law profession, in particular. Obtaining legal training was, and still is, the chief route to political office in the United States. (Location 407)

Those were cruder times, and intraelite conflict took very violent forms. In Congress, incidences of violence and threatened violence increased, reaching a peak during the 1850s. The brutal caning that Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina gave to Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts on the Senate floor in 1856 is the best-known episode of such violence, but it was not the only one. (Location 413)

History textbooks tell us that the American Civil War was fought over slavery, but this is not the whole story. A better way to characterize this conflict is to say that it was fought over “slavocracy.” (Location 425)

However, as slavery provided the economic basis for Southern dominance, a political attack on the slaveholders could be strengthened by an ideological attack on slavery. (Location 430)

The majority of Northerners railed against the “slave power”—the wealthy and aristocratic Southerners—and their domination of national politics. (Location 431)

The collapse of the Second Party System resulted in a fragmented political landscape during the 1850s. Four major candidates competed in the 1860 presidential elections. Lincoln got less than 40 percent of the vote but won in the Electoral College. (Location 435)

The victory of the North in the war resulted in the overthrow of the antebellum ruling class and its replacement by the new economic elite that has dominated the American state since then. (Location 437)

The country experienced a seemingly unending run of famines, rebellions, and humiliating defeats by external enemies. The worst catastrophe was the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864), which has the sad distinction of being the bloodiest civil war in human history. (Location 447)

In particular, the Qing Empire was ruled by a class of scholar-administrators, who could advance up the ranks only after successfully passing a series of increasingly difficult examinations. (Location 452)

But the mandarins—the credentialed class—ruled all. Even the top command levels of Qing armies were usually occupied by scholar-bureaucrats, not warriors. (Location 455)

By 1850, the Chinese population was four times greater than at the beginning of the Qing dynasty. The arable land per peasant shrank nearly threefold, real wages declined, and average heights (a reliable measure of biological well-being) decreased. (Location 459)

Overall, it is clear that after 1800 the level of popular immiseration in China was very high.[27] What about elite overproduction? (Location 464)

The study of Confucian classics helped to create a common ethos—a shared sense of culture, morality, and community—within the ruling class. And its emphasis on promotion by merit buttressed state legitimacy. (Location 468)

the civil service system proved to be highly vulnerable to the pressures of population growth. The number of official positions was primarily determined by the number of administrative units, ranging from provinces (at the highest level) to counties (at the local level). (Location 470)

The number of power positions was thus relatively constant, while the number of aspirants grew throughout the Qing period, powered by the fourfold increase in the population of China. (Location 472)

aiming to join the ranks of the literati. Without meaning to do so, the Qing Empire set up a game of aspirant chairs. A vast pool of frustrated aspirants, who had no hope of obtaining an official position, formed in China toward 1850. (Location 474)

He successfully passed the first-level civil service exam to become a xiucai, a licentiate (roughly, the level of a master’s degree). But beyond that, he hit a wall. Hong tried to pass one of the imperial examinations four times, failing each time. (Location 477)

After failing the provincial imperial examination for the fourth time in 1843, Hong began preaching his new creed, first to his relatives and friends and then more broadly. (Location 485)

Two of his first converts, Feng Yunshan and Hong Rengan, became his lieutenants. Both were also failed imperial examination candidates. (Location 486)

The authorities took notice and sent troops to suppress the nascent Taiping movement, which Hong called the Society of God Worshippers. (Location 487)

During its first few years, the Taiping movement expanded slowly. In 1847 there were only two thousand followers of Hong’s society, organized into many independent congregations. (Location 490)

They were having fits and speaking in tongues. More ominously, from the point of view of the authorities, they started attacking Buddhist temples and smashing statues, or “idols.” (Location 491)

After this victory, Hong called for his followers to gather together for the first time. The next year, 1851, Hong Xiuquan declared the founding of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, with himself as its Heavenly Emperor. (Location 496)

Immiserated masses generate raw energy, while a cadre of counter-elites provides an organization to channel that energy against the ruling class. (Location 502)

But there were too many aspirants for a fixed number of positions, and he ended up in the pool of frustrated ones. And he was not alone. His top lieutenants and more than half of the next level of leaders of the Taiping Rebellion were failed imperial examination candidates.[30] (Location 508)

In the Taiping Rebellion, which nearly brought down the Qing Empire, the opposing sides were led by a member of the established elites and a frustrated elite aspirant turned counter-elite. (Location 519)

The magnitude of disasters that followed the ascent to power of these three aspirants varied hugely. Undoubtedly, the Taiping Rebellion was the worst, as it was arguably the bloodiest civil war in human history. It lasted for fourteen years and killed between thirty and seventy million people. (Location 525)

What we do know is that the twin forces pushing America into civil war—immiseration and elite overproduction—continue unabated as of 2022. What can history tell us about such crisis periods? (Location 535)

All complex human societies organized as states experience recurrent waves of political instability. (Location 540)

Integrative phases are characterized by internal peace, social stability, and relatively cooperative elites. (Location 542)

Disintegrative phases are the opposite: social instability, breakdown of cooperation among the elites, and persistent outbreaks of political violence, such as rebellions, revolutions, and civil wars. (Location 542)

No society that my team has studied had an integrative phase lasting more than around two hundred years.[1] (Location 546)

Our analysis points to four structural drivers of instability: popular immiseration leading to mass mobilization potential; elite overproduction resulting in intraelite conflict; failing fiscal health and weakened legitimacy of the state; and geopolitical factors. The most important driver is intraelite competition and conflict, which is a reliable predictor of the looming crisis. (Location 553)

When we look closely at the disintegrative phases, we discover that they are not uniformly grim. Instead, the level of collective violence tends to follow a rhythm. One generation fights an all-out civil war, but the next generation (“the sons”), scarred by this violence, keeps uneasy peace. (Location 559)

The following generation (“the grandsons”), who grew up not being directly exposed to violence, repeats the mistakes of the grandfathers. This dynamic sets up a recurrent cycle of violence of roughly fifty years in length (that is, two human generations), which persists until the structural conditions are somehow resolved, leading to the next integrative phase. (Location 561)

Toward 1300, however, the brilliance of the French kingdom began to tarnish. The golden age turned into a gilded age. While elite opulence continued unabated, the living conditions of common people deteriorated. (Location 580)

The root cause of popular immiseration was the massive population boom in Western Europe in the two centuries before 1300. If in 1100 there were around six million people inhabiting the territory within the modern borders of France, two centuries later the population more than tripled, exceeding twenty million. (Location 581)

came the Black Death, killing between one-quarter and one-half of the population. By the end of the fourteenth century, the population of France collapsed to ten million—half of what it was in 1300. (Location 586)

After 1250, the number of nobles increased even faster than that of the general population, because their economic position was better than that of the commoners. (Location 589)

When the famines and epidemics hit, the elites were better positioned to ride them out, suffering lower mortality than the commoners. All of these trends combined to increase the number of nobles in relation to the productive class, making the social pyramid top-heavy and, after a lag time, reversing the economic fortunes of the nobility. (Location 595)

Lacking revenues to sustain their elite status, nobles responded by seeking employment with the state and by extracting a greater proportion of resources from the peasants. However, the state could not employ all impoverished nobles—there were too many of them, and the crown itself was sliding into financial insolvency. Inflation of prices, driven by the massive population growth, ate into state revenues, and attempts to respond to elite demands strained royal finances beyond the breaking point. (Location 599)

The elite overproduction game entered its final, violent phase, and intraelite conflicts popped up all over France.[4] In the 1350s, the breakdown of internal order reached the heart of the kingdom. (Location 606)

The three-way struggle among these powerful lords, coupled with the urban uprising in Paris led by Étienne Marcel and the rural insurrection, the Jacquerie, resulted in a complete state collapse by 1360. (Location 610)

The collapse of the French state during the 1350s shocked the governing elites. At the Estates-General meeting in 1359, the different factions were able to bury their differences and agree on a common approach to saving the state. (Location 613)

Again, we find that cycles of collective violence tend to recur during the disintegrative phases, with a roughly fifty-year periodicity. The Late Medieval Crisis in France was not an exception. (Location 618)

Following the end of the Hundred Years’ War, France enjoyed a century-long integrative phase. Why was the century before 1450 so bleak and the one after so brilliant? The answer is that the forces pushing France into internal warfare ceased operating around 1450. (Location 629)

Most importantly, the hecatombs of Crécy, Poitiers, Agincourt, and a host of lesser-known battles removed tens of thousands of “surplus” nobility. (Location 633)

While the overall population was halved between 1300 and 1450, the number of nobles in the same period declined by a factor of four.[7] The social pyramid ceased to be top-heavy, regaining a much more stable configuration, with a broad base and a narrow top. (Location 635)

cooperation, it proved to be possible to reform state finances and provide France with a solid fiscal foundation for generations ahead. (Location 640)

The root causes of both state collapses in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were internal, with the English essentially playing the role of a jackal feeding on the body of the dead lion (with apologies to my English readers). (Location 645)

The spectacular victories at Crécy, Poitiers, and Agincourt, in which the English kids take justifiable pride, yielded no lasting gains for the English crown in the end. (Location 648)

Historians have long noted that there is a rhythm in history. “Golden ages” of internal order, cultural brilliance, and social optimism are followed by “times of troubles” of recurrent internecine fighting, declining high culture, and social gloom. (Location 656)

Statistical analysis of CrisisDB confirms this historical intuition, but this macrohistorical pattern is not simple, mathematically precise cycles. First, the length of the overall integrative-disintegrative sequence varies depending on the characteristics of the society. Second, during the disintegrative periods, collective violence tends to recur with roughly fifty-year periodicity. (Location 665)

Why? The cliodynamic theory of the integrative-disintegrative cycles does not imagine some strict periodicity driving cycles of fixed length. It is a dynamic model, following how internal forces develop within each society. Again, the most important driver for looming instability is elite overproduction. What should happen if it is suddenly somehow abated? The crisis will be delayed into the future. And that’s what happened in late medieval England. (Location 683)

The French countryside was still rich and yielded an enormous amount of loot, which was gathered during the so-called chevauchées (lightly disguised plundering expeditions). And there were castles and land in the conquered territories to dole out to the trusty retainers of the king and the magnates. In other words, England exported its surplus elites—and instability—to France. (Location 690)

Suddenly, all those surplus elites were back, battle-hardened after incessant wars in France; inured to murder, torture, and extortion; and impoverished and embittered by their defeat. (Location 694)

Peasants, who were more oppressed the more the elites themselves fell on hard times, finally had enough. The Peasants’ Revolt, led by Wat Tyler in 1381, was bloodily suppressed, but it frightened the elites and forced them to lighten the burden they placed on the productive classes. (Location 696)

Earlier, I remarked on how eerily the successive crises tend to resemble the previous ones. It’s like societies have a cultural stencil plate for state collapse—the French way or the English way, as the case may be. (Location 704)

Elite factions and royal favorites encouraged the rise of disorder. The great nobles maintained growing private armies of armed retainers, with which they fought one another, terrorized their neighbors, paralyzed the courts, and attempted to dominate the government. (Location 712)

Lords who ended up on the losing side of a battle were made to kneel in the mud and beheaded on the spot. Furthermore, the battles between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists were just the tip of an iceberg. (Location 718)

Viewers of Game of Thrones sometimes complain that the characters they come to like are eliminated from the story with depressing regularity. But that’s how things went in real life. (Location 728)

Until it was somehow resolved, the conflict couldn’t stop, except due to sheer exhaustion. But then it would simply be replayed again when a new generation, not immunized against violence, took over. For a disintegrative phase to end, the structural conditions that brought it about need to be reversed. (Location 730)

seems to be the main one at the magnate level, but lower down the social ladder, the main role was played by downward social mobility. Most gentry were not killed in civil or private wars; they simply accepted, after a while, that their incomes did not allow them to maintain their elite status, and they quietly slipped down into the yeomanry. (Location 733)

After years and decades of violence and insecurity, the most violent were killed off, while the rest realized the futility of prolonging the struggles and settled down to peaceful, if not glamorous, lives. (Location 736)

At the peak of their fortunes, English elites imported and consumed twenty thousand tuns of wine from Gascony. By the end of the Wars of the Roses, fewer than five thousand tuns were imported, and wine imports did not start recovering until after 1490. (Location 740)

After that, England did not have another rebellion for two generations, which was quite a feat, given the general violence in early modern England. The next integrative phase finally set in. (Location 745)

In preindustrial societies, in which gaining an elite status was difficult, although far from impossible, for a commoner, the speed with which the elite ranks could grow, and thus elite overproduction could develop, was strongly influenced by the biological reproduction of the elites—more specifically, by the reproduction rate of elite men. (Location 763)

As a result, these societies churned out elite aspirants at a frightening rate. The faster the pace at which elite overproduction develops, the shorter the integrative phases. (Location 773)

It turns out that this question was answered many centuries ago by a remarkable Islamic historian and philosopher, Abu Zayd Abd ar-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Khaldun al-Hadrami, born in Tunis in 1332. Ibn Khaldun noticed that political dynamics in his native Maghreb (North Africa, west of Egypt), as well as in the rest of the Muslim world, tend to move in cycles. (Location 780)

let’s see whether Ibn Khaldun’s cycles can also be observed in other polygamous societies, such as the nomadic herding societies of Central Eurasia. (Location 786)

Scientists studying complex systems must navigate a middle course between the Scylla of overcomplication and the Charybdis of oversimplification. (Location 796)

Our discussion of Ibn Khaldun’s cycles showed that the time scales at which societies go through boom-and-bust cycles depend on their cultural characteristics, such as the degree of polygamy among the elites. (Location 798)

By exporting instability to France during the Late Medieval Crisis, England was able to delay entering its own time of troubles. (Location 801)

What other insights does complexity science yield? One productive idea is dynamic entrainment. If you put several metronomes on the same board and start them swinging randomly (out of sync), after a while they will all start swinging together in perfect synchrony.[20] (Location 805)

Entrainment can help us understand why waves of instability often hit many societies at the same time. Take the General Crisis of the seventeenth century, which was Eurasia-wide. Why did the English Civil War, the Time of Troubles in Russia, and the collapse of the Ming dynasty in China happen at roughly the same time? (Location 809)

One possible reason for such synchrony is external forcing. Earlier in the chapter, we saw how a series of years of poor weather and bad harvests inflicted the Great Famine on Western Europe between 1315 and 1317. The Great Famine coincided with a trough in solar activity known as the Wolf Minimum (1280–1350). Most climatologists agree that lower solar activity produces cooler global temperatures. (Location 812)

Correlating societal collapse with climatic perturbations is a favorite pastime of collapsologists. But drawing a direct causal arrow from worsening climate to social breakdown doesn’t work very well. (Location 818)

The second synchronizing force, contagion, is even more potent than external forcing. Cliodynamic analysis indicates that major epidemics and pandemics are often associated with periods of major sociopolitical instability. (Location 834)

As we saw earlier in this book, each secular cycle comprises an integrative trend followed by a disintegrative one. In the beginning of the cycle, the population grows from the minimum and is still far from the ceiling of the carrying capacity (the total number of people that the territory can feed, depending on both the amount of arable land and the current agricultural technology). (Location 842)

Because the poor suffer greater mortality than the elites, the social pyramids become top-heavy. Lethal epidemics also undermine social cooperation by delegitimizing governments. In old times, such major calamities were taken as a sign that God had turned away from the ruler, or that Heaven had withdrawn its Mandate. (Location 858)

Major demographic disasters, such as epidemics and famines, often become triggers that tip societies into crisis, because they lead to a spike in popular immiseration (and mass mobilization potential) and a plunge in the state’s legitimacy (and its ability to suppress internal violence). (Location 863)

Many political commentators blame newfangled social media as the cause of the Arab Spring. But those who think that it was an unprecedented event in human history simply don’t know history. (Location 876)

Steve wants to work—he enjoys fixing cars and is good at it. But he resents being called lazy because he is reluctant to take low-paying temporary jobs. Although he doesn’t know the word, he is part of the “precariat.”[1] (Location 930)

Steve’s political views have been shaped by personal experience and his social environment. Overall, it is clear to him that his country is moving in the wrong direction. (Location 945)

What’s even worse, according to Steve, is that the “cosmopolitan elites,” who control the American state, have essentially declared war on people like him—white heterosexual males without college educations. (Location 950)

This message resonated, even though Steve was skeptical that Trump would be allowed to do any of it. But it didn’t matter. Steve welcomed Trump’s candidacy as a battering ram against the Washington elites. It was a delight to watch the elites squirm under Trump’s onslaught. (Location 959)

As much as he loathes mainstream politicians, Steve despises the mainstream media even more. The only mainstream media program that he watches is Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News. (Location 963)

But Steve doesn’t care what has happened to global poverty since 1820, or even 1970. Most of the poverty decline since 1970 was, in any case, due to the massive economic growth of China. (Location 987)

He knows full well that his generation is economically worse off than the generation of his father. (Location 989)

When Kathryn says that life has never been better, it’s based not only on what happens globally—there is also a personal angle. She and the people she talks to (predominantly other one-percenters, with a few ten-percenters mixed in) have done fabulously well in the past few decades. (Location 990)

Kathryn acknowledges that growing inequality is a problem. In her view, however, though rising inequality is real, it is somewhat overstated as a problem that needs urgent action. (Location 999)

The year 1976 is a good starting point for this comparison because this was a year when Steve’s young father already had a steady job. He and his wife had moved into their new home, and they were expecting their first child, Steve’s sister. Life was good and getting better. (Location 1005)

The US Census Bureau helpfully provides data on the median income. Between 1976 and 2016, it grew from $52,621 (in 2020 dollars) to $63,683, a change of 21 percent. Not as good as 45 percent but still a decent increase, right? (Location 1014)

The increase in their household income was not accompanied by an increase in her quality of life. It merely enabled them to not fall behind. (Location 1019)

As we delve into the numbers, the rosy picture of how economic growth has supposedly delivered for the majority of the US population gets less rosy. Ten percent spread over forty years is not really that impressive. And keep in mind that this overall change was by no means continual. During the 1990s, for example, typical workers were losing ground—they actually earned less than in the 1970s. (Location 1025)

An alternative approach is to look at how wages changed for different classes of workers. (Location 1030)

The startling conclusion from these data is that Americans without a four-year college degree—64 percent of the total population—have been losing ground in absolute terms; their real wages shrank over the forty years before 2016. (Location 1042)

There are several problems with this approach. First, the baskets of Steve and Kathryn are utterly different. In other words, each experiences a different rate of inflation. Second, the basket of consumables changes dramatically over time. (Location 1049)

Underestimating inflation inflates real GDP per capita, which makes the government look better. (Location 1056)

The average difference between them is 0.5 percent.[11] This may not look like a lot, but keep in mind that a 10 percent change over forty years (which is how much the real median wage increased) translates into a 0.25 percent change per year, or half of the difference between the CPI and PCE indexes. (Location 1059)

year. Even this looks quite anemic. Another approach is to disaggregate the basket and look at different types of goods and services separately. For example, what are the most important big items that define the quality of life for the American middle class? One is clearly higher education. Another one is owning a home. Another is keeping yourself healthy. Curiously, the cost of all three of these major expenses has increased much faster than official inflation. (Location 1065)

1976, the average cost of studying at a public university was $617 per year. That sounds almost unreal. A worker earning the median wage in 1976 needed to work 150 hours to earn one year of college. (Location 1070)

A median-wage worker needed to work 500 hours to pay for it—that’s more than three times longer. The challenge of affording a median house tells a similar story: a median worker must work 40 percent longer to earn it in 2016 compared to 1976. (Location 1072)

Even worse, if we do the same calculation but instead of the median wage use the average wage of a high school graduate—remember, it decreased in absolute terms between 1976 and 2016—the increase in the hours worked to pay for college is nearly fourfold (3.85, to be precise). (Location 1074)

One of the most sensitive indicators of biological well-being is the average height of a population.[12] Physical stature is shaped by the balance between nutritional intakes and demands made on the organism by the environment during the first twenty years of its life. (Location 1082)

The most important aspect of nutrition is energy intake, but diet quality (availability of fresh vegetables, for example) also affects height. (Location 1085)

Many factors determining stature are thus affected by the economic status of the family. Greater income translates into greater quantity and quality of food. Wealth also buys better medical services and frees children from the need to work in factories. Beach… (Location 1087)

It is possible to get reliable estimates of height from human bones, enabling us to track population… (Location 1091)

In the eighteenth century, America had the tallest people in the world.[13] The average height of US-born Americans continued to increase until the cohort born in 1830. During the next seventy years, it declined by more than four centimeters. After another turning point, in 1900,… (Location 1092)

Beginning with children born in the 1960s, gains in height stopped. This trend change only affected the US. In other high-income democracies, average statures continued to increase, and today the tallest people on earth live in countries such as the… (Location 1096)

The heights of children born in 1960 were thus partially set by the environmental conditions they experienced between 1975 and 1980. And these conditions were largely determined by the wages of the parent generation. As a result, when the real wages of typical Americans stopped… (Location 1100)

During these two centuries, changes in life expectancy closely mirrored the dynamics of the stature data.[16] This is not surprising, because at the individual level there is a strong positive correlation between life expectancy and stature, except at extreme heights. In other words, these two measures provide complementary views of biological well-being. When they both decline, the case that something is wrong with the population is strengthened. Today we dispose of very detailed data that allow social scientists to reconstruct the trends in life expectancy or, alternatively, death rates for different population strata within the society. When a person dies in the United States, for example, they are issued a death certificate, which provides all kinds of data on the deceased, including their educational attainment. The distinguished economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton recently used these statistics to discover a highly troubling trend in this measure of well-being. They found that life expectancy at birth for white Americans fell by one-tenth of a year between 2013 and 2014. In the next three years, life expectancy fell for the US population as a whole. Mortality at all ages rose, but the most rapid increase… (Location 1106)

The economic and social forces that have been harming labor have affected all working-class Americans, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. The timing of when their lives were impacted by these forces, however, can be markedly different. (Location 1125)

Death rates for the credentialed continued their secular decline. For the working class, however, death rates increased, and life expectancies declined. (Location 1139)

Yet the graph shows that the epidemic is affecting men and women in almost equal numbers. This is true for each component—suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholic liver disease—examined separately. . . . This plague has not discriminated by sex. (Location 1152)

A paradoxical situation arose in which an older generation had a lower mortality rate than a younger generation. As Case and Deaton write, “Parents should not have to watch their grown children die. It is a reversal of the normal order of things; children are supposed to bury their parents, not the reverse.” (Location 1158)

But American life expectancy continued to increase, even though it was lagging behind improvements observed in other wealthy democracies. (Location 1162)

The first disintegrative phase began circa 1830 and ended circa 1930.[24] Within that period, there were two spikes of collective violence, separated by roughly fifty years: the Civil War (and its violent aftermath) and the instability peak around 1920. (Location 1173)

This agreement was broader than just economics; it enshrined the idea of social cooperation between the different parts of society (in cliodynamic terms, the commoners, the elites, and the state). (Location 1180)

Nearly half of the millionaires who thrived during the Roaring Twenties were wiped out by the Great Depression and the following decades, when worker wages grew faster than GDP per capita. (Location 1187)

But it didn’t last. In the 1970s, a new generation of elites began replacing the “great civic generation.”[27] The new elites, who didn’t experience the turbulence of the previous age of discord, forgot its lessons and started to gradually dismantle the pillars on which the postwar prosperity era was based. The ideas of neoclassical economics, previously held by fringe economists, now became mainstream.[28] The Reagan presidency of the 1980s was the turning point when the idea of cooperation between workers and businesses was abandoned. Instead, we entered the age of “greed is good.” (Location 1191)

While the balance of labor supply and demand clearly had a strong effect, purely economic factors are not sufficient to explain why the relative wages of typical workers had been in decline since the 1970s. A statistical analysis of wage data shows that an additional, and key, factor was shifting cultural and political attitudes about what is the appropriate level of pay for non-elite labor. (Location 1204)

The primary value of this variable is as a proxy for the complex of nonmarket forces, which also includes elite attitudes toward collective bargaining.[31] (Location 1212)

A 2020 analysis by Anna Stansbury and Lawrence H. Summers presented a variety of evidence that declining worker power is a more important factor than increases in firms’ power in the product market (“monopoly”), firms’ power in labor markets (“monopsony”), or technological developments.[32] (Location 1215)

Austerity macroeconomics, including facilitating unemployment higher than it needed to be to keep inflation in check, and responding to recessions with insufficient force; (Location 1221)

Corporate-driven globalization, resulting from policy choices, largely at the behest of multinational corporations, that undercut wages and job security of noncollege-educated workers while protecting profits and the pay of business managers and professionals; (Location 1223)

Purposely eroded collective bargaining, resulting from judicial decisions, and policy choices that invited ever more aggressive anti-union business practices; Weaker labor standards, including a declining minimum wage, eroded overtime protections, nonenforcement against instances of “wage theft,” or discrimination based on gender, race, and/or ethnicity; New employer-imposed contract terms, such as agreements not to compete after leaving employment and to submit to forced private and individualized arbitration of grievances; and Shifts in corporate structures, resulting from fissuring (or domestic outsourcing), industry deregulation, privatization, buyer dominance affecting entire supply chains, and increases in the concentration of employers.[33] (Location 1225)

These institutions include the family, the church, the labor union, the public schools and their parent-teacher associations, and various voluntary neighborhood associations. (Location 1238)

As Case and Deaton show, the deaths-of-despair epidemic is only partially explained by declining economic conditions. Also vitally important is the progressive breakdown of social connectedness. (Location 1241)

Social psychologists have discovered that it is possible to measure the level of happiness in a population simply by systematically asking people how they feel. (Location 1243)

Another study showed that an increasing degree of unhappiness has a strong predictive effect on political behavior. Using a different data set (from the Gallup daily poll, aggregated by county), George Ward and coauthors showed that low subjective well-being is a powerful marker of discontent and is highly correlated with anti-incumbent voting. (Location 1251)

By 2016, then, the American population had sorted itself out into two social classes: the educated and the “immiserated”—à la Les Misérables. (Location 1263)

The less educated “miserables,” in particular, are deeply divided by race. (We will talk about the divisions within the educated class in the next chapter.) Instead, the two groups are sharply distinguished by a whole host of characteristics: psychological (higher versus lower levels of “extreme distress”), social (lower versus higher marriage rates), political (tendency to vote Republican versus Democratic), economic (declining versus increasing economic prospects), and, perhaps most tragically, biological (decreasing versus increasing life expectancies). The divide between the classes has become harder to cross due to the runaway growth of college costs. (Location 1265)

When we consider the dynamics of relative wages in the United States from the beginning of the Republic to the present, the data show a remarkable pattern of two waves. Between 1780 and 1830, the relative wage nearly doubled. After the peak of 1830, however, it lost most of its gains by 1860. It fluctuated at this low level until 1910, when there was another sustained period of growth that lasted until 1960 and again nearly doubled the relative wage. (Location 1275)

Between 1976 and 2016, the relative wage lost nearly 30 percent of its value. (Location 1278)

The yachts of the top earners have been soaring, while the boats of everybody else have been sinking, with those of the lowest ten-percent plunging into an abyss. (Location 1283)

Relative wages have not declined in such a sustained manner since the three decades between 1830 and 1860. (Location 1284)

American society was by no means radically egalitarian, much less socialist, during the Kennedy era. (Location 1289)

But the levels of trust in the institutions and state legitimacy were high, partly because even poor people saw how their lives were visibly improving from one generation to the next. (Location 1290)

This means that the boats of the common people were actually lifted faster than the overall economy. It was the wealthy who were losing ground. But strangely, the wealthy and powerful were not unhappy about it. (Location 1292)

Most obviously, when large swaths of the population experience falling living standards, this undermines the legitimacy of our institutions and thus weakens the state. (Location 1304)

Less obvious is the fact that declining relative wages turn on the so-called wealth pump. The fruits of economic growth have to go somewhere. If the state’s revenues are a relatively constant proportion of GDP, while the wages of common workers claim a decreasing proportion, the fruits of economic growth will be reaped by the economic elites that include the top earners (e.g., CEOs, corporate lawyers) and owners of capital. (Location 1309)

The rich are perhaps even more vulnerable than common people during such periods of social and political turbulence, as outcomes of social revolutions suggest. (Location 1314)

Another non-obvious insight from cliodynamics is that the general worsening of the well-being of the working class creates powerful incentives for its members to escape into the credentialed class. (Location 1315)

Our database, CrisisDB, shows that while popular immiseration is a big contributor to social and political turbulence, elite overproduction is even more dangerous. (Location 1320)

She doesn’t feel much solidarity with the working classes. Too many of them are racists and homophobes. They are too willing to support a fascist, having voted for Trump. (Location 1368)

The law degree is the springboard for going into politics. Once she graduates, Jane plans to run for office in a liberal, left-leaning area—perhaps as a DA, perhaps as a member of a city council. As an elected official, she will have real power to advance her life’s ambition. (Location 1377)

Mao famously said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. But in the twenty-first century, Jane thinks, revolution may grow out of a ballot box. She intends to find out, at least. (Location 1380)

Yes, the credentialed class did well on average, but this doesn’t mean that all degree holders are winners. (Location 1385)

Let’s say that the goal of the game is to become a ten-percenter. (But keep in mind that the same game can be played for other stakes: to get into the 1 percent or 0.1 percent; to become a billionaire or a US senator.) (Location 1387)

By 1990, more than half of your cohort is in the game—fifty players, still ten chairs. And today, two-thirds of youth between eighteen and twenty-four years old enter college.[2] (Location 1398)

One of my professors once confided to me that universities at that time were scraping the bottom and willing to hire anybody who had the degree. “I would never get hired today,” he said in 1985, as I was finishing my own PhD. (Location 1408)

What determines whether we have a problem of elite overproduction is the balance of the supply of youth with advanced degrees and the demand for them—the number of jobs that require their skills. By the 2000s, unfortunately, as is well known, the numbers of degree holders were greatly outnumbering the positions for them. (Location 1415)

But the United States hugely overproduces even degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). (Location 1418)

On the one hand, a more educated populace is generally a good thing. But on the other hand, once PhD students graduate, they find that the academic jobs they’ve trained for have been drying up. (Location 1421)

When we look more closely at the supposedly well-off educated class, we find that things are not as peachy for them as we had assumed they would be. (Location 1429)

They soon realize they were sold a lottery ticket and come out without a future and with plenty of debt. This faction is dangerous in a more positive way. (Location 1435)

History (and CrisisDB) tells us that the credentialed precariat (or, in the jargon of cliodynamics, the frustrated elite aspirant class) is the most dangerous class for societal stability. (Location 1439)

Overproduction of youth with advanced degrees has been the most significant factor in driving societal upheavals, from the Revolutions of 1848 to the Arab Spring of 2011. (Location 1441)

The most dangerous occupation, however, appears to be the legal profession. Robespierre, Lenin, and Castro were lawyers. So were Lincoln and Gandhi. In the US, a law degree offers one of the best routes to public office, so most politically ambitious aspirants go to law school. (Location 1444)

“What’s changed in the last few years is the relentlessness of parents,” Evans told her. “For the most part, they’re not abusive; it’s that they just won’t let up. Many of them cannot let go of their fears that somehow their child is being left behind.” (Location 1478)

The basic dynamic here is completely generic to what happens in aspirant games as they progress to their late stages. (Location 1491)

Rather, it corrodes the rules of the game, the social norms and institutions that govern how society works in a functional way. It destroys cooperation. It brings out the dark side of meritocracy. It creates a few winners and masses of losers. (Location 1492)

Up until this point, I have been focusing on “structural-demographic” forces for social instability, with an emphasis on popular immiseration and elite overproduction. These are structural factors because they relate to societal structures, such as the distinctions between commoners and elites (or between less educated and more educated) and between different segments of elites. (Location 1497)

The structural-demographic theory is an important part of cliodynamics because it helps us understand rebellions, revolutions, and civil wars. (Location 1500)

We saw, for example, that such basic characteristics of society as the social norms regulating marriage (polygamy versus monogamy) have a fundamental effect on the characteristic lengths of boom-and-bust cycles (chapter 2). (Location 1506)

Furthermore, the ideological content of many revolutionary movements, if they last long enough, tends to evolve. (Location 1515)

Following Goldstone, we can distinguish three phases of ideological evolution as societies slide into, and then out of, crises. During the first phase, or precrisis phase, the period leading up to state breakdown, the state is struggling to maintain control in the face of a multitude of ideological challenges coming from different elite factions. (Location 1524)

In the second phase, when the old regime has completely lost legitimacy (which often results in the state’s collapse), numerous contenders who seek to establish a new monopoly of authority struggle among themselves for primacy. (Location 1527)

In the final phase, when one group gains the upper hand over its opponents and moves to stabilize its authority over the state, it focuses on gaining routine acceptance of the reconstructed political, religious, and social institutions. (Location 1528)

Because there is a general perception that the country is going in the wrong direction and that society has become vastly unjust and hugely unequal (not only between commoners and elites but also between the winners and losers among the elites), appeals to set things right by restoring “social justice” gain a lot of traction. Another general feature is that divisive—sectarian and identitarian—ideologies gain an upper hand over unifying ones, giving us ages of discord. (Location 1534)

When we plot the results of this analysis,[14] we observe that the long-term dynamics of political polarization in the US have gone through two great cycles. First, political polarization declined from moderately high levels around 1800 to very low levels in the 1820s. (Location 1544)

Ideological fragmentation has now progressed so far that no classification scheme seems to be useful. The variety of ideas motivating political factions and proposals for action is simply too large. Ideas are combined and recombined promiscuously. New movements—the new New Right, the alt-right, the alt-lite—rise, gain brief prominence, and then fade. (Location 1568)

On the economic side, although the US was an avowed capitalist country (and repressed the Communist Party), in practice it was a social democratic or even socialist country along the lines of the Nordic model. (Location 1591)

By using sociological data that polls American attitudes on a variety of questions, we can define a middle point on the ideological spectrum—the median position—but there is a huge degree of variance around it. (Location 1601)

The final, small group comprises right-wing radicals in various college Republican clubs who are vocally opposed to left causes. (Location 1614)

The left-wing radicals want to push society even further away from the Postwar Consensus than it has moved so far. The traditionalists and conservatives on the right want to return to it, which, in the case of many issues, is a more radical proposition than anything the left is agitating for. (Location 1616)

A common situation during crisis periods is that of elite political entrepreneurs who use the high mass mobilization potential of the non-elite population to advance their ideological agendas and political careers. (Location 1632)

Her life trajectory is also interesting because she is following in the footsteps of many famous revolutionaries and radicals of the past and other countries. Her immediate predecessors were the members of the Weather Underground, such as Bernardine Dohrn, Kathy Boudin, and Susan Rosenberg.[20] (Location 1643)

As of 2022, we are clearly in transition from the precrisis phase, when the state is still struggling to maintain control of the ideological landscape in the face of a multitude of counter-elite challengers, to the next phase, when numerous contenders struggle among themselves for primacy. (Location 1660)

Many observers were taken aback by the intensity of the “cancel culture” that appeared seemingly out of nowhere. But such vicious ideological struggles are a common phase in any revolution. Jacques Mallet du Pan, who had the misfortune of living through not one but two revolutions (in his native Geneva in 1782 and then in France in 1789), (Location 1666)

In order for stability to return, elite overproduction somehow needs to be taken care of—historically and typically by eliminating the surplus elites through massacre, imprisonment, emigration, or forced or voluntary downward social mobility. (Location 1670)

In the struggle between rival factions, the ones willing to escalate accusations win over the moderate ones. As the losers get sidelined, the battleground shifts. An idea that looked radical a few years ago becomes the ground for further ideological battles. The same logic works on both the left and the right ends of the ideological spectrum. (Location 1675)

Although neither Andy nor Clara has ever held a public office, they are nevertheless members of the American ruling class. This is not what they teach you in a high school civics class. I’m afraid, though, that on the evidence, it’s more than fair to call the USA a plutocracy, or a society ruled by the wealthy. (Location 1723)

Early states were usually governed by militocracies, whose main source of social power was simply force. (Location 1732)

Naked force, however, is not a terribly efficient way of governing a country, especially during times of peace. (Location 1738)

Legitimate force works better than force alone—if you can persuade the people to do what you want, you will not have to pay them or force them to do it. (Location 1741)

The rulers of early states also added economic power to the mix. Because the main means of production in preindustrial societies was land—for growing food and fiber and for raising livestock—they set themselves up as landowners and used peasants, serfs, or slaves to work it. (Location 1744)

As a result, what started as a warrior aristocracy always evolved into a ruling class that might have continued to emphasize military prowess but in reality controlled all sources of power. (Location 1751)

Muhammad Ali practiced a rather extreme approach to undoing elite overproduction. He invited the Mamluk leaders to a celebration and then simply massacred them, thus gaining absolute power over Egypt. (Location 1774)

That’s true as far as it goes, but a structural-demographic analysis of the Egyptian revolution by the Russian Arabist and cliodynamicist Andrey Korotayev gives us additional insights into the deep social forces acting below the surface of events.[6] (Location 1785)

Then the Mubarak regime, intent on modernizing the country, greatly expanded access to university education. (Location 1789)

The result was a rapidly developing acute problem of elite overproduction. It was these university graduates without jobs who provided the revolutionary troops for massive anti-regime demonstrations. (Location 1793)

The coalition that drove Mubarak from power, however, was very heterogeneous. The two main groups within it were liberal secular revolutionaries, coming from the urbanized credentialed class, and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, with support mainly in the rural areas. (Location 1801)

For one thing, in order to understand the forces for instability, including the role of elite overproduction, we have to place them within the institutional frameworks of the country we are interested (Location 1809)

Consider another example—China. Unlike Egypt (and the USA), for more than two millennia, China has been governed by elites for whom the primary source of power is administrative. (Location 1813)

China’s ruling class was recruited through an elaborate system of local and imperial examinations. To succeed, the recruits had to undergo intense training in the Chinese classics. (Location 1814)

The military and economic elites were closely controlled and not allowed much of a say in the affairs of state. (Location 1816)

Throughout Chinese imperial history, the mandarins kept the merchant class on a short leash, and the same is true for the Red dynasty. (Location 1822)

China is the archetypal example of a bureaucratic empire and has been one for the past two millennia. (Location 1827)

What about elites whose primary source of power is ideological or economic? Such states are found in history, but they have been relatively rare. (Location 1829)

Plutocracies have also been rare in history. Well-known historical examples include such Italian merchant republics as Venice and Genoa, as well as the Dutch Republic. Today the best example of a plutocracy is the United States of America. (Location 1832)

As we have seen, before the Civil War, the United States was ruled by a coalition of Southern slaveholders and Northeastern merchant patricians. (Location 1836)

More lastingly, Southern wealth, the greater portion of which was invested in enslaved human beings, was destroyed by their emancipation. (Location 1839)

In the political arena, the defeat of the Confederacy introduced a long era of dominance of the Republican Party. Between 1860 and 1932, the Democrats (for a long time the party of the white-supremacist South) were able to capture the presidency only three times: in 1884, 1892, and 1912. (Location 1842)

The main effect was thus the revolution at the top: the turnover of the elites. After the power of the Southern slaveholding elites over the federal government was decisively broken, they were replaced by a new ruling class dominated by Northern businessmen. (Location 1846)

Holding Union debt was extremely lucrative. Supplying the Union war effort was even more profitable. (Location 1849)

The rise of the new ruling class brought about a marked shift in the nation’s politico-economic relations. We can see this economic transformation reflected in the makeup of the Lincoln administration. (Location 1854)

We shouldn’t exaggerate the degree of unity of post–Civil War elites. Once the old ruling class was “gone with the wind,” intraelite conflicts immediately broke out among the new ruling class. (Location 1876)

Another important development, which took place later (around 1920), was the coalescence of what the political scientist G. William Domhoff calls the “policy-planning network,” a network of nonprofit organizations in which corporate leaders and members of the upper class shape policy debates in the United States. (Location 1902)

The bulk of the money came from just three members of the economic elite: the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, the oil baron John D. Rockefeller, and a wealthy St. Louis merchant, Robert Brookings.[15] (Location 1905)

First, the motives of wealth holders are quite transparent. We don’t need to be mind readers to understand that they want to augment their wealth rather than see it diminish. (Location 1958)

It is done by setting up super PACs, funding lobbyists, making campaign contributions to candidates, and having members of the class run for office themselves. The officeholders are further influenced through the mainstream media, which are owned by the economic elites, generally speaking, and share a general understanding of what “news” is and isn’t. (Location 1963)

Economic elites are organized in a very different fashion than military elites, for example, with their elaborate command-and-control hierarchies and a commander in chief at the top. (Location 1967)

They serve on corporate boards together and participate in various professional groups and gatherings, such as chambers of commerce, industry associations, and global convenings (e.g., Davos). (Location 1969)

Instead, power is distributed within a nonhierarchical network of thousands of individuals. And there are differences of opinion and even conflicts between different nodes of the network. (Location 1972)

Admittedly, members of the ruling class often attempt to keep their goings-on out of public view. They live in gated communities and socialize in exclusive clubs to which common people have no access. (Location 1975)

The class-domination theory was first proposed by Domhoff fifty years ago, and there has been plenty of time since then for other social scientists to test its predictions. (Location 1982)

Statistical analysis of this remarkable data set showed that the preferences of the poor had no effect on policy changes. (Location 1994)

The main effect on the direction of change was due to the policy preferences of the affluent. (Location 1996)

Once you include in the statistical model the preferences of the top 10 percent and the interest groups, the effect of the commoners is statistically indistinguishable from zero. (Location 1998)

But, on the evidence, issues on which the common people and the economic elites disagree are always—always—resolved in favor of the elites. That is plutocracy. (Location 2001)

“first face of power”: the ability of citizens to shape policy outcomes on contested issues. (Location 2006)

the “second face of power,” shaping the agenda of issues that policy makers consider, is a subtle but extremely powerful way for the elites to get their way. (Location 2007)

the “third face of power” is the ability of ideological elites to shape the preferences of the public. (Location 2008)

The third face is the most subtle, perhaps even insidious, kind of power. My favorite example of its effectiveness is the “death tax” meme, invented by some brilliant, if evil, propagandist at one of the think tanks to kill the inheritance tax on top fortunes. (Location 2009)

According to multiple polls, Americans strongly oppose illegal immigration.[31] There is E-Verify, a Department of Homeland Security website that allows businesses to determine the work statuses of potential employees, but no federal mandate requires employers to use it. (Location 2019)

My statistical analysis of long-term data trends indicates that immigration has been a significant contributor to the stagnation/decline of wages in the United States over the past several decades, particularly for workers without college educations, although far from the only one.[33] (Location 2039)

Not surprisingly, the American economic elites were also well aware that a continuing influx of immigrants allowed them to depress worker wages and increase their returns on capital. (Location 2061)

To strip Nagle’s main argument to its essence, globalization is wielded by the governing elites to increase their power at the expense of the non-elites. It’s another wealth pump that takes from the workers and gives to the “bosses.” It is also a global wealth pump that transfers wealth from the developing world to rich regions. (Location 2068)

The extent to which economic elites dominate government in the United States is very unusual compared to other Western democracies. (Location 2086)

The explanation lies in the effects of history and geography.[1] Two major factors are particularly important: geopolitical environment and race/ethnicity. (Location 2093)

Plutocracies were particularly common in the more urbanized swath that ran through the middle of Europe from Italy to the Rhine Valley and then along the Baltic littoral. Typical examples include the city republics in northern Italy and the members of the Hanseatic League that controlled Baltic trade. (Location 2099)

The Military Revolution also triggered a revolution in governance and finance because successful states had to learn how to efficiently extract and use wealth from their populations. (Location 2111)

As a result, medieval militocracies gradually evolved into ruling classes that combined military and administrative functions. (Location 2114)

As a result, the United Kingdom came to be ruled by an elite that combined economic and administrative functions. (Location 2123)

Southern planters and Northern merchants largely copied the cultural forms of governance with which they were familiar. The early American Republic was an oligarchy modeled after the United Kingdom, although without a monarch (who, by that point, was on the way to becoming just a figurehead in the British Empire anyway). As a result, the United States inherited plutocracy as part of its “cultural genotype.” (Location 2127)

The bureaucratic apparatus, before 1914, was vanishingly small, with just 2 percent of the GDP captured by the federal government. (Location 2138)

Thanks to the infamous “spoils system,” between 1828 and 1900, most federal officials (down to local postmasters!) were replaced by the party winning the elections. (Location 2139)

Thus, it took sixty years for Danish social democrats to transition from counter-elites to established elites. (Location 2152)

In 1933, Stauning negotiated the Kanslergade Agreement, which laid down the foundations of what became known as the Nordic model. (Location 2155)

The key feature of the Nordic model is tripartite cooperation between labor, business, and government, working together for the common good. (Location 2156)

A big part of the answer is race. Race has been one of the most important issues in American politics, all the way from its beginnings to this very day. (Location 2166)

The gradual expansion of the social contract to include Black workers, however, provided an opening for those plutocrats who were unhappy with America as a quasi-Nordic country in which their power was constrained by the other two interest groups: workers and the state. (Location 2185)

Such a strategy couldn’t succeed in Denmark, which has been a racially and culturally homogeneous country. But in the United States, the working class could be, and was, divided by race—white, Black, brown. (Location 2191)

But the Populist movement failed as a mass democratic movement. Why? One answer to this question was offered by Martin Luther King Jr. In a speech at the conclusion of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, King gave his fellow marchers a short lesson in history. He talked about how the People’s Party tried to unite the poor white masses and the former Black slaves into a voting block that would threaten the ruling class’s interests. But the plutocrats “took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow”: (Location 2213)

The economic elites are not evil—or, at least, the proportion of evil people among them is not terribly different from that of the rest of the population. (Location 2222)

Finally, the 1910s saw the peak of terrorist activity by labor radicals and anarchists. A bombing campaign by Italian anarchists culminated in the 1920 explosion on Wall Street that caused thirty-eight fatalities. This was followed by an even worse incident, the 1927 Bath School disaster, in which forty-five people, including thirty-eight schoolchildren, were killed by a domestic terrorist. (Location 2251)

did not help that many of the counter-elites in America—labor organizers, anarchists, socialists, and communists—were recent immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. (Location 2258)

Gradually, a realization grew among many American leaders that in order to reduce instability, steps had to be taken to rebalance the political system, and better to do it by passing reforms from above than by revolution from below. (Location 2263)

Shutting down immigration reduced the labor supply and provided a powerful boost to real wages for many decades to come. (Location 2271)

This implicit contract included the promise that the fruits of economic growth would be distributed more equitably among both workers and owners. In return, the fundamentals of the political-economic system would not be challenged. Avoiding revolution was one of the most important reasons for this compact (although not the only one). (Location 2275)

It was a complex pattern of conflict and cooperation between these power actors that determined the success or failure of various reforms, and different legislation could be supported by different alliances. (Location 2284)

Cooperation is not costless. To produce public goods, cooperators have to sacrifice self-interest, to a greater or lesser degree. (Location 2296)

Between 1929 and the 1970s, top fortunes declined not only in relative terms (in comparison with median wealth) but also in absolute terms (when inflation is taken into account). (Location 2299)

For different periods of American history, he found data on how much wealth the richest person had and divided it by a typical annual wage of an American worker. (Location 2302)

This reversal of elite overproduction was similar in magnitude to the one that occurred in the aftermath of the Civil War, but it was accomplished through entirely nonviolent means. (Location 2318)

The Great Compression in America is one of the exceptional, hopeful cases. There was no bloody revolution or state collapse, no catastrophic epidemic, and World War II was fought entirely overseas. (Location 2334)

By the postwar period, most of the elites had internalized the values that promoted social cooperation—among the elites and between the elites and the common people. (Location 2339)

Today, we are in a third revolutionary situation. How will it be resolved—by a civil war, by reforms, or by some combination of the two? (Location 2360)

But such an outcome requires prosocial forces to persuade economic elites to endure reforms that go against their self-interests in order to prevent an impending crisis. And we are not there—yet. (Location 2366)

By funding radical-left causes, the Clara and Andy Foundation may inadvertently increase the level of social discord and deepen societal polarization. This may lead to results opposite those intended. (Location 2372)

Americans today grossly underestimate the fragility of the complex society in which we live. But an important lesson from history is that people living in previous precrisis eras similarly didn’t imagine that their societies could suddenly crumble around them. (Location 2375)

As we examine one case of state breakdown after another, we invariably see that, in each case, the overwhelming majority of precrisis elites—whether they belonged to the antebellum slavocracy, the nobility of the French ancien régime, or the Russian intelligentsia circa 1900—were clueless about the catastrophe that was about to engulf them. They shook the foundations of the state and then were surprised when the state crumbled. Let’s talk now about state breakdown in deep history and in recent history. (Location 2399)

Public intellectuals, politicians, and, well, people in general frequently and severely overestimate the power of rulers. (Location 2416)

Nero’s example shows, the emperor of a mighty empire becomes a nonentity as soon as he is abandoned by his network of power. (Location 2420)

In the case of Nero, his power decayed in stages. First, there were rebellions in provinces far away, in Palestine, then closer to home, in Gaul and Spain. Legions in Germania attempted to proclaim their commander emperor, but he refused. When another pretender arose in Spain, the Praetorians, the personal guards of the emperor, switched their allegiance to him. Nero attempted to flee to the eastern provinces, but military officers refused to obey his orders. (Location 2422)

State collapse, when the central authority suddenly and catastrophically disintegrates, is a frequent occurrence in history. (Location 2428)

An ironic twist to this story is that Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s president at the time, started as an academic who studied state collapse and nation-building. (Location 2435)

Unfortunately, this expertise didn’t help him fix Afghanistan, although he became a very wealthy man in the process of trying. (Location 2438)

Pure kleptocracies are rare because they are extremely fragile. The fragility of the Ghani regime was understood, with the CIA estimating that Kabul would fall within months after the withdrawal of American forces. But the speed with which this kleptocracy unraveled surprised American leaders; on the day after the state collapse, President Joe Biden commented that “this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”[3] (Location 2441)

Contrast Nero’s fate with that of Joseph Stalin, perhaps the most successful dictator of the twentieth century. (Location 2448)

Stalin rose to power and then ruled by carefully placing people who were personally loyal to him in key positions. (Location 2449)

When Stalin joined the Bolshevik Party, Russia was suffering from a huge problem of elite overproduction, which was a fundamental cause of the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917.[4] (Location 2451)

He essentially created a pipeline for ambitious aspirants to enter the elite, progress up the ranks, and then be executed or sent to labor camps. (Location 2454)

Stalin achieved all of this because, unlike Nero, he was a master of building and maintaining a power network, with himself at its center. His huge power came from his influence over the elites and the common people. But even more importantly, the structural forces were on his side. (Location 2464)

Popular immiseration was decreasing, and elite overproduction had been taken care of earlier, in the crucible of the revolution and the purges that followed.[6] (Location 2471)

During the 1990s, Russia continued on a disintegrative trajectory—in 1993, the adherents of the president fought the partisans of the parliament in the streets, and tanks shelled the parliament building. The next year, the First Chechen War started. (Location 2477)

The sociological approach is to ignore individuals and focus entirely on impersonal social forces that push societies into breakdown. (Location 2482)

This view is rooted in the great-man theory of history, which was particularly popular in the nineteenth century and is still the default mode for pundits, politicians, and the lay public. (Location 2485)

This “clio-Freudianism” is pseudoscience. Science advances theories and then gathers data to test them. Pseudoscience inverts this method. As the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper writes in his critique of Walter Langer’s The Mind of Adolf Hitler, “[P]sychohistorians move in the opposite direction. They deduce their facts from their theories; and this means, in effect, that facts are at the mercy of theory, selected and valued according to their consistence with theory, even invented to support theory.”[8] (Location 2488)

Although rulers are heavily constrained by the social structures within which they operate, they do have some leeway in nudging the trajectories of the states they lead, especially when supported by cohesive power networks working toward a common goal. (Location 2497)

In the US, the most influential research project is the Political Instability Task Force (PITF). This project, funded by the Central Intelligence Agency, was initiated by Ted Robert Gurr at the University of Maryland, Jack Goldstone at George Mason, and about twenty other scholars. (Location 2508)

One PITF member, Barbara Walter, a political scientist based at the University of California in San Diego, published a book in 2022 called How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them, in which she summarizes the insights from the PITF project and explains what they mean for the United States. (Location 2511)

The best predictor of whether a country will be experiencing a violent internal conflict next year is whether it is already in conflict this year. (Location 2514)

Thus, the interesting question, from the point of view of policy makers, is whether it is possible to predict the onset of a civil war, say, two years in advance. (Location 2517)

They discovered that their model was capable of predicting instability onsets with 80 percent accuracy. (Location 2523)

even though the researchers tested about thirty various indicators, the model needed to know only three or four country characteristics to achieve this level of accuracy. (Location 2524)

Other factors that increased the probability of civil war, as the PITF analysis showed, included high infant mortality, armed conflict in bordering states, and state-led repression against a minority group. (Location 2537)

turns out that one of the best predictors of whether a country will experience a civil war is whether it is moving toward or away from democracy.” (Location 2541)

her view, the algorithms of social media serve as “accelerants” for violence by promoting a sense of perpetual crisis, a feeling of growing despair, and a perception that moderates have failed. (Location 2546)

The two other precursors of civil war—factionalism and state repression—are similarly (and obviously) signs of structural instability. (Location 2555)

The High Middle Ages were followed by the Late Medieval Crisis, the Renaissance by the General Crisis of the seventeenth century, and the Enlightenment by the Age of Revolutions, which ended in the early twentieth century. (Location 2561)

It is not surprising, therefore, that the most frequent civil wars in the past fifty to sixty years have been between different ethnic groups, and that ethnonationalism was the ideology that motivated the contending parties. (Location 2568)

Thus, basing a predictive model on only the last sixty years of history can be quite misleading. We now live at the beginning of the most recent wave of global instability, and the lessons of the postwar world may not be a good guide for what to expect in the near and medium future. (Location 2580)

And this leads me to the most important failing of an approach based on theory-free algorithms. As I have been arguing throughout this book, we cannot understand social breakdown without a deep analysis of power structures within societies. (Location 2601)

Who are the influential interest groups? What are their agendas? What are their sources of social power, and how much power do they wield to advance their agendas? How cohesive and well organized are they? These are the key questions to ask if we want to understand both social resilience and its opposite, social fragility. (Location 2603)

What’s wrong with such statements? “People” or “citizens” don’t overthrow states or create new ones. Only “organized people” can achieve both positive and negative social change. (Location 2611)

In fact, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a direct result of the agreement reached by three leaders of these (former) USSR republics: the Belovezh Accords. (Location 2617)

Russia and Belarus each experienced a massive wave of anti-government demonstrations (Russia following the 2011 parliamentary elections and Belarus following the 2020 presidential elections), but neither of them resulted in state collapse. (Location 2622)

This is how Russia became an extreme plutocracy in 1996. Because the oligarchs had little regard for managing the state, the disintegrative processes gathered speed. (Location 2638)

At this point, two main power networks formed in Russia. The ruling faction was the economic elites (the oligarchs), who thoroughly controlled the ideological elites by owning all major mass media. (Location 2642)

The second group included the administrative elites (the bureaucracy) and the military elites (the so-called siloviki, who included state security and military officers). (Location 2644)

The victory by the administrative/military elites represented a return to the historical pattern that has characterized power relations in Russia since at least the fifteenth century. As we have seen in other historical examples (e.g., Egypt and China), political culture tends to be resilient and usually reconstructs itself following even major perturbations. (Location 2650)

After 2008, economic growth slowed down and even experienced several reverses. But other indicators of quality of life, such as increasing life expectancy and declining homicide rates, continued to improve. (Location 2659)

But for a medium-size country like Ukraine, such factors can often be very important and need to be included in the analysis. (Location 2701)

First, it is located on a geopolitical fault line between the American sphere of interest (essentially, NATO) and the Russian sphere of interest (the “Near Abroad,” as it is often referred to in Russia). (Location 2702)

In reality, the 2014 Ukrainian revolution was no more a people’s revolution than any other revolution in history. (Location 2775)

The people didn’t gain as a result of this revolution. Ukrainian politics continued to be as corrupt as before. The quality of life for the people did not appreciably increase. (Location 2777)

By the time Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the war in Donbas had already claimed fourteen thousand lives.[26] (Location 2782)

Zelensky’s entry into politics was a result of rivalry between two oligarchs, Poroshenko (president of Ukraine between 2014 and 2019) and Ihor Kolomoisky (the head of the Dnipropetrovsk oligarchic clan), (Location 2788)

Ukraine now faces a stark choice: either go down as a state or transform itself into a militocracy. Time will tell which of these futures becomes reality. (Location 2791)

It is an ironic observation that of the three East Slavic republics formed by the collapse of the USSR, the most democratic one, Ukraine, has been the most impoverished and unstable, while the most autocratic one, Belarus, has enjoyed relative prosperity and stability. (Location 2794)

A better conclusion is that not all states with the trappings of democracy are run for the benefit of broad segments of the population. (Location 2798)

The political authority governing complex human societies is much more fragile than it may appear at a cursory glance. State collapse, a sudden disintegration of the power network that rules a society, is a frequent occurrence, both in history and in the contemporary world. (Location 2802)

But the most frequent cause of state collapse (when it is not the result of an external invasion) is an implosion of the ruling network. (Location 2808)

but the provisional government had already been abandoned by most of its troops, and its head, Alexander Kerensky, had already run away before the Bolshevik forces entered the palace. (Location 2813)

Finally, a political regime can collapse under the pressure of massive public protests, as was the case in Ukraine in 2014. The contrast between (Location 2814)

In the Ukraine case, it was a collection of economic elites who hated each other, plotted against each other, and held a willingness to abandon the sinking ship at a moment’s notice. (Location 2816)

Massive privatization of the state-owned corporations in Ukraine created a wealth pump that resulted in overproduction of oligarchs, inter-oligarch conflict, and repeated state collapses. (Location 2820)

All complex societies are vulnerable to the disintegrative force of elite overproduction, which is why they all experience periodic social breakdowns. (Location 2823)

But plutocracies, of which Ukraine is (was?) a rather extreme example, are particularly vulnerable. The main problem is that plutocrats, acting in their own selfish interests, tend to create institutional arrangements that favor the operation of wealth pumps. (Location 2824)

The American ruling class is unified and organized by a set of overlapping institutions, which we discussed in chapter 5. (Location 2827)

Anyone watching the events of the past decade from afar—a space alien, say, or a future historian—will no doubt be impressed by how thoroughly the humans inhabiting the most powerful nation on earth have managed to screw up their society. (Location 2834)

relatively mild application of power may be all that’s needed to direct the trajectory in a positive direction. (Location 2846)

Ideally, we need a formal (mathematical) model that can tell us about what kinds of pushes result in what kinds of outcomes. (Location 2848)

thing all modelers know is that translating a verbal theory into a set of mathematical equations is a wonderful way to find all the hidden assumptions in it and bring them to light. (Location 2861)

First, the model keeps track of how many workers are looking for a job. The labor supply increases as a result of demographic growth (the balance of new workers entering the labor force and old ones retiring). Another important source of new workers is immigration. The model also needs to take into account the changing social attitudes surrounding work that have resulted in the massive entry of women into the workforce. (Between 1955 and 2000, the labor force participation of American women increased from 35 to 60 percent.) Second, the model tracks the supply of jobs, which is affected by factors such as globalization (resulting in jobs moving out of the country) and robotization/automation (shifting some jobs from people to machines but also creating other jobs in new economic sectors). (Location 2864)

The overall labor trends during the past fifty to sixty years have resulted in an oversupply of workers, which tends to depress worker wages. (Location 2869)

The beauty of this structural-dynamic approach (which is further explained in chapter A3) is that it allows us to understand how changes in one part of the social system affect the dynamics of other parts. The wealth pump has a major effect not only on the commoner compartment (causing immiseration) but also on the elite compartment. (Location 2874)

The more important process is social mobility: the upward movement of commoners into the elite compartment and the downward movement of elites into the commoner compartment. And whether net mobility is upward depends on the wealth pump. (Location 2879)

When corporate officers keep increases in worker wages slower than the growth of the company’s revenues, they can use the surplus to give themselves higher salaries, more lucrative stock options, and so on. (Location 2881)

The old wealth, meanwhile, is slowly dissipated as a result of bankruptcy, inflation, and division of property among multiple heirs. Under such conditions, the size of the superwealthy class gradually shrinks. (Location 2886)

But such a gradual, gentle decline assumes that the social system maintains its stability. Analysis of historical cases in CrisisDB indicates that the much more frequent scenario of downward social mobility, which eliminates elite overproduction, is associated with periods of high sociopolitical instability, the “ages of discord.” (Location 2888)

In such cases, downward mobility is rapid and typically associated with violence. Political instability and internal warfare prune elite numbers in a variety of ways. (Location 2890)

Thus, the heart of the MPF model is the relative wage and the wealth pump that it powers. When the relative wage declines, it leads to both immiseration and elite overproduction. (Location 2895)

How does the model connect the structural drivers to people’s motivations? It assumes that the key role in all such events is played by extremists, those who have been radicalized and primed for aggression. When such radicals are few in relation to the rest of the population, they offer no serious threat to the stability of the regime, because they are easily isolated and suppressed by the police. (Location 2899)

When a high proportion of the population is radicalized, sociopolitical instability is also high. Riots are easily triggered and readily spread; terrorist and revolutionary groups thrive and receive support from massive numbers of sympathizers; and the society is highly vulnerable to an outbreak of civil war. (Location 2912)

But should the balance shift in favor of radicals, the forces of the regime can suddenly implode, as we saw in numerous examples of state collapse in the previous chapter. (Location 2919)

In reality, radicals usually don’t all belong to a single radical party. During periods of high political instability, there are many issues dividing the population and the elites. (Location 2921)

Generally speaking, an outbreak of political violence is dynamically similar to a wildfire or an earthquake. A single spark can start a prairie fire, as Mao famously said. But most sparks start little fires that go out before they manage to spread into conflagrations. (Location 2926)

As a result of such autocatalytic, self-driving dynamics, an initially small event can unexpectedly blow up into a rare, large-scale disaster—a “black swan” or a “dragon king.” (Location 2935)

Such extreme events may not be highly probable, but we need to worry about them, simply because they have the potential to cause unimaginable human misery. Is a 10 percent probability of a second American civil war high or low? Put it in personal terms: Would you take a bet that could cause your personal extinction with a probability of 10 percent? I would not, even if offered a huge reward. You need to be alive to enjoy the prize, no matter what size it is. (Location 2939)

An additional element in the model is that a naive individual can become radicalized not only through contacts with other radicals but also through exposure to… (Location 2943)

The third type of individual in the model, in addition to naïfs and radicals, is the “moderate” (corresponding to “recovered” in epidemiological models). This group comprises former radicals who have become disenchanted with radicalism and violence and have concluded that… (Location 2946)

In other words, naive individuals don’t have an active political program, radicals work actively to increase instability, and moderates… (Location 2950)

As the level of violence increases, some radicals turn away from extremism and convert into moderates. The probability of a radical becoming disgusted with radicalism and turning into a moderate increases with the overall level of violence, but with a time delay, as high levels of political violence do not instantly… (Location 2955)

Violence acts in a cumulative fashion; several years of high instability, or even outright civil war, have to pass before the majority of the… (Location 2958)

Now it needs to connect to the dynamics of structural drivers of instability. This is done through the Political Stress Index (PSI), which combines the strength of… (Location 2960)

Popular immiseration is measured by inverse relative income (median family income divided by GDP per capita). Thus, when typical incomes fail to increase with economic… (Location 2962)

Intraelite overproduction/competition is measured by the number of elites (including elite aspirants) in… (Location 2964)

The PSI “tunes” the probability that a naive individual becomes radicalized. When structural conditions result in high social pressures for instability, radical ideas… (Location 2965)

Keep in mind that this is a model (even a prototype) and its predictions should be taken with some degree of skepticism. The goal is not to predict the future but to use the model to understand… (Location 2969)

decline in the relative wage turns on the wealth pump, and elite numbers begin to increase in… (Location 2973)

The radicalization curve, tracking the number of radicals, which had been staying flat near zero, starts to grow after 2010 and literally explodes during… (Location 2974)

Additionally, high levels of violence accelerate the transition of most radicals into moderates. The radicalization curve falls as precipitously as it rose and at some point after 2030 hits the minimum. (Location 2981)

The social system regains its stability. But in this inertial scenario, the root cause of instability—the wealth pump—continues to operate. Gradually, elite numbers begin increasing. Meanwhile, the moderates who suppressed the 2020s peak of violence are slowly retiring and dying off. (Location 2982)

No, to bring the system to a positive equilibrium, the pump must be shut down. We can model this by driving the relative wage up to the point where upward and downward rates of mobility between commoners and elites are balanced (and then keeping it at this level by ensuring that worker wages increase together with overall economic growth). (Location 2995)

Furthermore, it will have an undesirable effect in exacerbating elite overproduction. Shutting down the pump reduces elite incomes, but it does not decrease their numbers. This is a recipe for converting a massive proportion of the elites into counter-elites, which will most likely make the internal war even bloodier and more intense. (Location 2998)

The MPF engine can be used to explore other scenarios. For example, if we very gradually increase the relative wage (over a period of twenty years, for example), then the Turbulent Twenties won’t go away, but drastic impoverishment of elites can be avoided. (Location 3003)

Many wealthy socialites (of the 1 percent) simply enjoy their wealth and status as members of the social upper class, a “leisure class.” (Location 3015)

As for the degree holders, right-wing commentators love to fulminate against the evil influence of “liberal professors,” but in reality, 99 percent of them have no power to speak of. (Location 3016)

But today, as I write this book, the Republicans are making a transition to becoming a true revolutionary party. (Whether this transition is successful or not, we will find out in the next few years.) (Location 3144)

However, and this has implications for 2024, the Republican Party may be gradually evolving from the party of the 1 percent to a party of right-wing populism. (Location 3200)

In nearly two-thirds of the cases, the crisis resulted in massive downward mobility from the ranks of the elites to the ranks of the commoners. (Location 3317)

In one-sixth of the cases, elite groups were targeted for extermination. (Location 3318)

The probability of ruler assassination was 40 percent. (Location 3319)

Even more bad news for everybody was that 75 percent of crises ended in revolutions or civil wars (or both), and in one-fifth of cases, recurrent civil wars dragged on for a century or longer. (Location 3320)

French Wars of Religion in the sixteenth (Location 3324)

But is the future growth of scientific knowledge really unknowable—or merely unknown, given our current lack of understanding of how knowledge cumulates? (Location 3851)