Browsing Archives of Author »Peter Turchin«

Yet Another Sleazy Corporation

April 19, 2014


Yesterday I wasted several hours, thanks to Oracle Corporation. When I turned my computer on, there was a message from Java bugging me to install a security update. These updates are a pain, and usually I try to ignore them and hope they go away after repeatedly telling them ‘no.’ The reason is that a […]

Russia’s Sacred Landscape, and the Place of Eastern Ukraine within It

April 13, 2014


The confrontation in eastern Ukraine (or Novorossia, as southern and eastern Ukraine were called during the days of the Russian Empire) between pro-Russia activists and the central government in Kiev has escalated dramatically over the weekend. The hottest point is the Donbass region. The government buildings in its capital Donetsk have been occupied by activists […]

States without Sacred Lands

April 7, 2014


At one point last week, as I was developing the Aeon article, a process that required multiple ‘back-and-forths’ between me and the editor Ed Lake, Ed asked me whether I could provide an example of a state without Sacred Lands, to illustrate the idea that such states are at a competitive disadvantage in the “ruthless […]

My Article on Aeon: To understand Crimea, we need an evolutionary theory of national honour

April 3, 2014


When Russia annexed Crimea in March, American policymakers were taken by surprise. They shouldn’t have been, argued the political theorist John J Mearsheimer in a New York Times op-ed. After all: ‘Mr Putin’s behaviour is motivated by the same geopolitical considerations that influence all great powers, including the United States.’ Mearsheimer is one of the […]

Battle of the Ukrainian Oligarchs: the Chocolate King versus the Gas Princess

March 31, 2014


At the end of my second blog on democracy and oligarchy in Ukraine, I came to a gloomy conclusion that there would be no real effort to curb the power of the oligarchs, and that it will be the common Ukrainians who will have to bear the costs of reforms. All this came to pass […]

Coevolution of Geopolitical Calculus and Sacred Values

March 20, 2014


In a previous blog, I have already commented on the poor quality of coverage of the Crimean crisis in the Western press. Most news articles about the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula show no understanding of the real motives of Putin or Russia. This is scary. Folks, Russia has the second largest nuclear arsenal […]

Wealth and Democracy in Ukraine II

March 18, 2014


In my previous blog I came to the conclusion that during its post-Soviet history Ukraine has become a Kevin Philips nightmare. No matter who gets elected there, they are either oligarchs, or oligarch stooges. It appears that the oligarchs not only control the parties that compete against each other during the elections, the Ukrainian billionaires […]

Wealth and Democracy in Ukraine

March 11, 2014


The title of today’s blog echoes the influential book, Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich, published by the American political commentator Kevin Phillips in 2002. It’s a great book. Among other things, Philips came up with a way to quantify the dynamics of economic inequality for historical eras for which we […]

Economic Inequality, Elite Overproduction, and the Unraveling of Cooperation

March 9, 2014


I just gave a live interview about my research to Left Jab Radio. For those listeners who are interested in the background of what I was discussing, I am reposting here the list of blogs that are most relevant to the issues of elite overproduction, inequality, and political instability. Elite Overproduction, Inequality, and Discord The […]

Economic Sanctions against “Sacred Values”: Why Sanctions Will Not Deter Russia

March 7, 2014


The news are dominated by the confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of nonsense repeated in the American newspapers over and over again. It’s just another reminder about the care we, social scientists, must take when we use media as empirical sources. Read Distorting Russia: How the […]

Good Hierarchy, Bad Hierarchy

February 15, 2014


In the previous blog I came out very strongly against anarchism. It’s simply wishful thinking to believe that anything good can be achieved by abolishing the state. Yes, people can leave in stateless and elite-less societies (and have done so for tens of thousands of years). But they suffered from warfare in a really bad […]

The Pipe Dream of Anarcho-Populism

February 12, 2014


Two weeks ago I was interviewed by BBC for their show Analysis that was aired on Feb. 3. You can listen to it here. A good summary is on the Equality by Lot blog. In the show Jeremy Cliffe examines the philosophy of Russell Brand, an English comedian and actor who gave the most watched […]

How Do You Fit an Elephant?

February 6, 2014


My two previous blogs discussed the importance of argument in science and the first criticism advanced by Russell Thomas at our article. Today I want to discuss his second general charge, that our model is too simple. More specifically, Thomas wrote in his PNAS critique: …the core features are underspecified—too simple and too abstract—and therefore […]

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

January 30, 2014


In the previous blog I wrote about the importance of controversy for the health of science, and also about the importance of focusing scientific debates on ideas and data, not on the proponents of the ideas, scientists themselves. Too often debates in traditional history are ‘won’ by brilliant polemicists who can skewer the opponent in […]

The Truth is Born in Argument

January 28, 2014


The title of today’s blog (“The Truth is Born in Argument”) is a translation of a Russian saying (в споре рождается истина). For a long time I thought it was simply a Russian version of something that Ancient Romans would say, but as far as I can tell, there is no such Latin proverb (please […]

Challenges this Year

January 24, 2014


I’ve been back from our vacation for several days, but have been prostrated with a nasty cold. On one hand it was glorious to enjoy being outside, bask in the sun, and swim in the ocean. But the toll vacations impose is much greater than the actual time spent away. You have to add days […]

Happy New Year!

January 5, 2014


I wish all my readers a happy 2014! I will be on vacation during the next two weeks, so expect no blogs until I get back.

Yule in Denmark

December 28, 2013


In my previous blog I speculated that the Danes use ritualistic feasting as a way of creating a shared sense of belonging, which is an important basis for social cooperation and trust. Last week I was able to make more detailed observations on one such collective ritual. During the period preceding Christmas there are a […]

The ‘Danish Happiness Puzzle’

December 25, 2013


I continue my anthropological observations on the culture and the inhabitants of this distant and exotic land, in which it has been my privilege to reside during the last several months. In previous blogs I have already raised the question, which we can call the mystery of the Nordic Model. The puzzle is this: how […]

Prediction: 2014 Will be the Paleo Year

December 20, 2013


The very first time I ever heard about the paleo diet was one and half years ago. Now it’s all over the traditional media, blogosphere, and twitter. I just finished reading a long article in the Atlantic magazine, This Is Your Brain on Gluten. The author, James Hamblin, builds the article around a virtual dialogue […]


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