March of the oligarchy
New Zealand Listener|August 26, September 1 2023
A new science explains why violence and disorder are on the rise and traces a trajectory that has been in the works for centuries.
DANYL McLAUCHLAN
March of the oligarchy

In 2010, complexity scientist Peter Turchin had a letter published in prestigious academic journal Nature. In it he predicted the US and Europe would experience surges in political instability in the early 2020s. A decade later, in May 2020, a video of Minnesota resident George Floyd's murder by a US police officer went viral, triggering months of protests.

There were violent confrontations with police, looting and arson. Nineteen people died. Cities across the nation imposed curfews and deployed troops to restore order.

Eight months after that, Donald Trump told a crowd of demonstrators in Washington that the presidential election had been stolen, leading to the storming of the US Senate. Five people died. A few days after Turchin was interviewed by the Listener, riots broke out across France.

There's always a chorus of astrologers, soothsayers and macroeconomists confidently predicting the future, and there's always chaos and instability somewhere in the world - so statistically some percentage of prophecies will accidentally come true. But Turchin and his theories have attracted serious attention in recent years.

That's not merely because his prediction was validated, but because of his approach and his explanations of why societies fragment and decline. He's been pivotal in the invention of a new science cliodynamics (Clio being the Greek muse of history).

This story is from the August 26, September 1 2023 edition of New Zealand Listener.

Start your 7-day Magzter GOLD free trial to access thousands of curated premium stories, and 9,000+ magazines and newspapers.

This story is from the August 26, September 1 2023 edition of New Zealand Listener.

Start your 7-day Magzter GOLD free trial to access thousands of curated premium stories, and 9,000+ magazines and newspapers.

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