[Ideas Festival] Peter Turchin: End Times

  • 01/12/2023
  • 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Full Circle House, 89 Ch. de Vleurgat, 1050 Ixelles
  • 43


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Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration

A salon with Peter Turchin

 Ideas Festival  / Fri 1st Dec / 7.30 - 9.00pm

The lessons of world history are clear, Turchin argues: when the equilibrium between ruling elites and the majority tips too far in favor of elites, political instability is all but inevitable. As income inequality surges and prosperity flows disproportionately into the hands of the elites, the common people suffer, and society-wide efforts to become an elite grow ever more frenzied. He calls this process the wealth pump; it’s a world of the damned and the saved. And since the number of such positions remains relatively fixed, the overproduction of elites inevitably leads to frustrated elite aspirants, who harness popular resentment to turn against the established order. Turchin’s models show that when this state has been reached, societies become locked in a death spiral it’s very hard to exit.

In America, the wealth pump has been operating full blast for two generations. As cliodynamics shows us, our current cycle of elite overproduction and popular immiseration is far along the path to violent political rupture. There is only one possible end time, and the choice is up to us, but the hour grows late.



Peter Turchin is a Russian-American scientist working at the intersection of macro historical sociology and mathematical and statistical modelling. He is a founder of the field of Cliodynamics, which works to explain the dynamics within historical societies, and how we might interpret these learnings in the context of contemporary global societal challenges. Having started his higher education in Russia in the late 1970s, and ultimately completed in New York after his father was exiled from the Soviet Union, he holds a unique perspective on the impact of a range of societal dynamics. He has recently published on the societal crisis facing the United States, and the role of the imbalance of elites in the unfolding civil unrest.

Turchin is Project Leader at the Complexity Science Hub–Vienna, Research Associate at University of Oxford, and Emeritus Professor at the University of Connecticut.


Ultrasociety (2016), Ages of Discord (2016), The Great Holocene Transformation (2022), End Times (2023).



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