But mostly we should just expect cohesion to decline from its initial extreme value, and that’s all a simple model needs.

Mere regression to the mean doesn't explain cycles! It explains that nothing lasts forever, but how does it explain cycles: cohesion and equality not only falls - but rises again!

I haven't read Turchin's book, so I'm grateful for Robin's recommendation about where to start. But even the short (excellent) essay in Aeon ( https://aeon.co/essays/hist... ) makes it obvious that Turchin provides evidence for the role of wealth inequality.

[As to Turchin's political sympathies, if he has any, I would point to his attributing the lessening of inequality in the 20s to two developments: progressive taxation and immigration restrictionism. If he's a leftist, he's not in the business of value advocacy; the main reforms that lessened inequality occurred under conservative administrations.]

[I just came across an essay by Scheidel: https://www.theatlantic.com... . His theme, that violence and catastrophe are great levelers, doesn't seem to comport with Robin's extract from Scheidel's book.]

Does unchecked inequality ineluctably lead to civil war? One doesn't need to read a book to know that it does not. But cyclical inequality is a different matter. Rising inequality is different from habitual inequality. It is the unfavorable change in the level of inequality that propels revolt.

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Hello Mr. Hanson,

I just stumbled up on this blog and find it really great. I want to subscribe to the blogposts so that I get the posts in my inbox whenever there's a new post.

Unfortunately, the RSS feed shared on the top right of the home page isn't working. Can you please look into that? A simple "subscribe by email" option would help.

Thank you

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Instead, let us try more to see ourselves as an “us” contrasted with a “them”

Who would you suggest to fill the role of "them"?

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I like the idea of "fighting less" over inequality, but the problem is what is "fighting." The losers in recent trends seem to think that the "elites" have declared war on them and have decided to fight back. Does "not fighting" mean going along with proposed decreased in taxes on high income people or not proposing decreased taxes on high-income people?

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Yes. But currently cohesion doesn't seem to be improving. Are there more strategies than asking people to cool it from history?

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I really like Peter Turchin as well but I also think he tends to overdo the inequality thing, esp. wrt today.

For a more technical intro to cliodynamics that I suspect would be more up your alley, I'd recommend "Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends" by Korotayev (the guy who pretty much founded cliodynamics along with Turchin), Nefedov (Turchin's frequent co-author), and Khaltourina.

I have a brief review/summary of it here: http://www.unz.com/akarlin/...

Two points I'd make specifically on cliodynamics and inequality:

(1) Rising inequality as something associated with fragility was a feature of Malthusian-era economies, but not because of inequality *per se*, but because said inequality was usually the result of Malthusian stresses (and the banal consequences of Ricardo's Law of Rent). Once populations bumped up against the land's carrying capacity, surpluses were very low to non-existent, so shocks such as droughts, a succession crisis, a nomadic incursion, etc. that could have been (and were) weathered easily in the earlier days of the cycle could now instead translate into cascading collapses.

(2) The post-industrial system is a very different ball game and little of the patterns of Malthusian cliodynamics apply to it (for now, anyway... heh).

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Some folks are obsessed with status. They can hardly think about anything else. They fret about who has more money than they do and they call this situation "inequality". We reasonable folks call these people "leftists". While we may be occasionally consumed with greed, leftists are always consumed with envy. From my reading of Ultrasociety I gather Turchin is a leftist. He just can't help it.

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I have read W&P&W, and Ultra Society. Both were excellent, and I would go so far as to say Ultra was my favorite book of the year last year. That said, his chapter on economics and business in Ultra was embarrassing and even cringeworthy. For some reason he felt he could accurately represent the ethos of capitalism by using Gordon Gekko as a model. A bad chapter in a terrific book.

I also follow his blog, and agree that he has (what I would call) an unhealthy fixation on inequality combined with a lack of clarity on the topic. Specifically, he doesn't seem to get the distinction between 1) Rule Egalitarianism, 2)Results Proportionate to Contribution, and 3) Results Proportionate to Others Regardless of Contribution. He is totally focused on the problems that go with the third (income equality for example) to the point of being dismissive of the former two. Unfortunately in many cases getting more of the third comes at the expense of rule egalitarianism and the justice of rewards commensurate with contribution.

Based upon this, I have chosen not to read his latest book.

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I will start with SC then, many thanks

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Secular Cycles is best academic book. W&P&W is best popular book.

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Not clear population growth is a problem today. And to limit unproductive taxes, limit taxes.

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Turchin is mainly trying to explain farming era cycles. Whatever theory you use to explain that has to be modified to understand cycles today.

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Fascinating stuff. I have a question. From this post I take it that - prosperity leads to population growth then overpopulation - is part of the causal chain in the cycle.

But today when I look at the developed (most prosperous parts of the) world, I see the lowest native birth rates. Without immigration, the populations of almost all prosperous nations would be in decline.

The question is: is today different because of modern, effective birth control? Or am I missing/oversimplifying something? And (another question) to what extent could developed nations avoid/slow this cycle with restricted immigration?

Please note that I'm not trolling for some anti-immigrant argument here. It seems to me that prosperous Japan is not currently in any part of the cycle described here, and that may be because they have very restrictive immigration combined with effective birth control. But as their population tumbles into absolute decline, it is not obvious to me that wherever they are on a path to is any better.

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So the sentence is"Instead, let us try more to see ourselves as an “us” contrasted with a “them”, an us that needs to stick together, in part via chilling and compromising, especially regarding divisive topics like inequality."

And you comment: "I don't think ... people ... would be willing to repress what they see as the monstrous injustice"

You seem to assume that the only method of sticking together is to ignore feelings of injustice. But perhaps we can come up with other, better ways?

External war is a well known and easy way of creating internal cohesion, like you say. But waging war also has some other issues, like accelerating the underlying problems of collapsing public finances. There must be better ways. Some of the most cohesive societies in the world, like Sweden or Switzerland, haven't been involved in a war for centuries. So it seems to be that war is something countries tend to do when they aren't doing cohesion right using more peaceful methods.

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Excellent post. And combined with your warning a while back of pretending that this is the end of the world, I think Hanson is nearing a model of social cooperation and coordination.

But what I miss and hope to see in future posts is: what's next? What can realistically to be done to stop population growth / leeching / growth of unproductive elites taxing people etc. And what could the "big story" be to coordinate people in that direction, reduce conflict, build cohesion?

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Great post, which Turchin book would you recommend the most among the five you've read ?

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