Anthropologist Peter Turchin's "Ages of Discord" provides a crucial decoder ring for Trump-era social strife.
“The American polity today has a lot in common with the Antebellum America of the 1850s; with Ancien Régime France on the eve of the French Revolution; with Stuart England during the 1630s; and innumerable other historical societies,” Turchin writes. “However, unlike historical societies, we are in a unique position to take steps that could allow us to escape the worst. Societal breakdown and ensuing waves of violence can be avoided by collective, cooperative action.”….
“Structural‐demographic theory represents complex (state‐level) human societies as systems with three main compartments (the general population, the elites, and the state) interacting with each other and with sociopolitical instability via a web of nonlinear feedbacks,” Turchin writes. Their relationship, as described and measured in the theory, is summarized in this figure:
“Ages of Discord” also tests this theory against the example of American history, with special attention to turning points in different trends, which show a remarkable degree of coherence.
One table lists 29 proxies representing 15 variables, all but one of which — life expectancy — reversed direction within about a decade of 1970. These include three proxies of labor oversupply; two of economic and health well-being; three of social well-being and economic inequality; two of elite overproduction, intra-elite competition and intra-elite cooperation; three of cooperation and equity; and one of intra-elite fragmentation, patriotism, state legitimacy, state capacity and sociopolitical instability.
In short, Turchin finds that it wasn’t just similar social trends that changed together; trends from every aspect of the model changed direction around the same time.