Turchin is project leader at the Complexity Science Hub Vienna, and Research Associate at the University of Oxford. He is a complexity scientist, one of the founders of Cliodynamics, and known for his numerous publications, most recently his book “End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration”, on which the lecture is based. The MCDS is hosting the guest lecture under the direction of Prof. Markus Strohmaier.
Social and political turbulence in the United States and Western European countries has been rising over the past decade. My research, which combines analysis of historical data with the tools of complexity science, has identified the deep structural forces that work to undermine societal stability and resilience to internal and external shocks. Here I look beneath the surface of day-to-day contentious politics and social unrest, and focus on the negative social and economic trends that explain our current “Age of Discord.” One of the most important, but little appreciated, such hidden forces is a perverse “wealth pump” that, under certain conditions, begins to transfer wealth from the “99 percent” to “1 percent.” If allowed to run unchecked, the wealth pump results in both relative impoverishment of most people and increasingly desperate competition among elites. Since the number of positions of real social power remains more or less fixed, the overproduction of elites inevitably leads to frustrated elite aspirants, who harness popular resentment to turn against the established order. In America, the wealth pump has been operating full blast for two generations. In historical terms, our current cycle of elite overproduction and popular immiseration is far along the path to violent political rupture.
The lecture will be held in English.