Peter Turchin (epub or Pdf) War and Peace and War The Rise and Fall of Empires – exceedbdf.co.uk


  • Paperback
  • 416
  • War and Peace and War The Rise and Fall of Empires
  • Peter Turchin
  • English
  • 08 August 2018
  • 9780452288195

10 thoughts on “War and Peace and War The Rise and Fall of Empires

  1. says:

    I'm a bit skeptical of Big History books primarily because the world we live in today is so radically different from the cyclical political orders that existed in the past Humans are the same but modern technology is a social variable that w

  2. says:

    This is a compelling read on world history with some interesting views Turchin develops his own theories on the

  3. says:

    Subtitle The Rise and Fall of EmpiresSo as you may have heard me say before the books I read can mostly be divided

  4. says:

    Very interesting but as frustrating as it is challengingThe title of this book is a bit misleading it does indeed regularly deal with war and

  5. says:

    In this book Turchin attempts a familiar task trying to discern laws of history In this particular case Turchin

  6. says:

    A fascinating group selectionist take on the dynamics of the rise and fall of empires in history

  7. says:

    Yet another Big History book this one really pulled out in front of the pack for me and I think it's the best one I've read so farFirs

  8. says:

    I am the kind of person who is always seeking a set of abstract principles within which to contextualize my experience of events and information This characteristic has often dampened my enthusiasm for the study of history since my encounters with history books usually amount to poring over lists of occurrences with only the occasional idea

  9. says:

    Turchin begins by referring to Hari Selden the mastermind of psychohistory in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy i

  10. says:

    History is a spiral it always repeat itself but each time the loop is a bit different from the previous

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Peter Turchin Ù 5 Free read

War and Peace and War The Rise and Fall of Empires

Y’s capacity for collective action He demonstrates that high levels of cooperation are found where people have to band together to fight off a common enemy and that this kind of cooperation led to the formation of the Roman and Russian empires and the United Sta In this book Turchin attempts a familiar task trying to discern laws of history In this particular case Turchin generalizes about the formation rise and fall of empiresAlisdair MacIntyre it seems to me proved that social science in the sense of prediction is impossible in principleThat doesn t mean we can t discern cycles and causative factors in human history but only that we must be very cautious about how complete and accurate our conclusions are Turchin supplies some disclaimersHis basic notions are that empires arise on one side or the other of a metaethnic frontier say that between the Romans and first the Celts and then the German and Hunnish barbarians to their northeast The need to resist contributes to an increase in asabiya a concept gleaned from the Maghrebi scholar Ibn Khaldun social solidarity or lessAs ineuality increases and lites become too bloated asabiya declines and crime and civil war increase leading to war epidemic and anarchy The lite s size shrinks and the reduced population of peons and proles improves their market position and standard of living thus increasing asabiyaTurchin supports this theory with examples from historyThe book is uite readable and the hypotheses plausible if not entirely new see eg the work of Spengler Pitirim Sorokin etc

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Like Jared Diamond in Guns Germs and Steel Peter Turchin in War and Peace and War uses his expertise in evolutionary biology to make a highly original argument about the rise and fall of empires Turchin argues that the key to the formation of an empire is a societ I m a bit skeptical of Big History books primarily because the world we live in today is so radically different from the cyclical political orders that existed in the past Humans are the same but modern technology is a social variable that we are still desperately trying to wrap our heads around This is a book that tries to apply predictive logic to the rise and collapse of imperial systems reviving Ibn Khaldun s concept of asabiyya or group cohesion and applying it to the contemporary world Although the world we live in today is very different from the past I do think there is some truth to the fact that the strength of societies is tied to levels of inter group trust and cooperation When those things fray collective action becomes impossible and decay of some sort inevitableTo put it another way the things that drive down social trust and reduce cohesion end up weakening society as a whole Ethnic diversity is the popular one people like to accuse today but in fact the most successful empires in history have had no problem integrating new ethnicities into the fold and often took great pride in this for example the Roman Islamic and in a limited sense American empires Some things that do reduce cohesion are exploding wealth ineuality that sets different classes against one another and the over production of elites who become heavily invested in waging bitter political conflicts with one another over the necessarily limited number of elite positions in society The poor and lower middle classes inevitably become pawns and victims of these status seekersOne of the things that increases social cohesion is the presence of outsider threats that galvanize society usually on some kind of threatening physical frontier Empires have often emerged along civilization borderlines where people marked by some type of significant divide come face to face with one another and come to understand both their shared identities and the need for inter group cooperation vividly The effectiveness of a country like Israel is less due to some sort of mystical characteristics of its people than the Darwinian social cohesion effect of living on a borderline and being under constant threat The same goes with Palestinians who despite being the weaker party due to their lack of a superpower patron have coalesced into one people rather than a disparate group of tribes living under Ottoman rule Throughout history imperial peoples have been formed in crucibles of threat and external pressure Religion also plays an important role as a metaphysical social cement that leads people to trust cooperate and sacrifice for one another as a collectiveCan we predict the rise and fall of societies based on uantitative inputs This is the contention of the nascent field of cliodynamics that the book makes an argument for I m not saying its impossible but we are some ways off from that To his credit Turchin acknowledges that such a prospect is not immediately on the horizon although this book sort of tests the waters for some future such analysis He is an interesting thinker and has given something to contemplate here The United States is one society that seems to be fraying under many of the fissiparous pressures that this book identifies with declining social trust huge wealth gaps and the decaying appeal of the core metaphysical ideology of the nation making the prospect of cohesion for any common purpose look and remote I expect that if the real fraying comes people will ignore all these structural factors and point the fingers at whoever looks different from them

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Tes But as empires grow the rich get richer and the poor get poorer conflict replaces cooperation and dissolution inevitably follows Elouently argued and rich with historical examples War and Peace and War offers a bold new theory about the course of world history Yet another Big History book this one really pulled out in front of the pack for me and I think it s the best one I ve read so farFirst there s no better way to make me smile than with a reference to psychohistory from my favorite sci fi series of all time Turchin compares his goal of scientifying history to Asimov s famous literary conceit right there at the very beginning of the Introduction Turchin is serious about it though offering a semi mathematical framework for historical analysis he calls cliodynamics which borrows methodologically from statistical mechanics and nonlinear dynamics In English that means he models the rise and fall of empires using euations that treat people as groups and also account for chaotic behavior as well This means that there s some population genetics lurking in the background as well There is not actually any math in this book however this was a prose exposition of the euations that are all in his earlier Historical Dynamics which I haven t read There s still plenty of rigor though as he subscribes fully to Paul Krugman s sentiment that The euations and diagrams of formal economics are often than not no than the scaffolding used to help construct an intellectual edifice Once that edifice has been built to a certain point the scaffolding can be stripped away leaving only plain English behindHe starts out by asking how empires form which he calls imperiogenesis The list of empirescountriespeoples discussed extensively include Russia America Germans Arabs England France Austria Hungary and of course the good old Roman Empire He doesn t include exhaustive histories of each one just enough to make his points and tie them back to the larger argument I would have liked detail on the non European empires like Persia China the various Indian empires or anything in the Western Hemisphere but I think those would only bolster his thesis He finds that empires typically arise on what he calls a metaethnic frontier in other words a boundary between two relatively different cultures cf the us vs them struggles in Samuel Huntington s Clash of Civilizations Thus the medieval Rus ancestors of today s Russians found themselves assimilating other nearby tribes in a desperate effort to fend off endless raids from the Mongols and this gradual accretion of similar proto Russian co ethnics gradually built the kind of egalitarian tightly knit society that was capable of conuering the vast steppes of Siberia In essence the Rus as a society unconsciously learned the social traits trust intra group fairness self sacrifice for the group that it took to be a successful empire and other groups that didn t or couldn t develop those traits got swallowed up or annihilated This is similar to how the Romans fought off the Gauls Phoenicians etc by gradually assimilating similar tribes like that Samnites and so on He calls this level of collective solidarity asabiya after Ibn Khaldun s usage of the term in his Muaddimah his own attempt at a universal history and ties it into Alexis de Tocueville s and Robert Putnam s ideas of social capitalEvery good theory of how empires rise should also be able to explain how empires fall and his asabiya concept seems to do a decent job of explaining imperiopathosis as well Asabiya is the glue of peoples both a measure of general social capital and trust and the thing that makes your average dude it s mostly guys willing to die in some wasteland hundreds or thousands of miles away from home in order to promote the greater good He backs this up by bringing in some game theoreticgroup selectionist discussion of how societies need a critical mass of moralists and institutions to discourage free riders and cheaters which encourages solidarity Something that Turchin finds over and over again in history is that incredibly successful civilizations after having built their empires seem to be inherently unstable and prone to decay through loss of asabiya While this sounds as unscientific as lan vital it can actually be uantified in some ways Basically in a mature empire that no longer feels compelled to expand the number of elites starts to slowly increase both due to lower chances of dying in wars and due to the higher reproductive rate that being rich in an agricultural society allows for Slowly they shift from being leaders in society to being rent seekers and eventually they take so much of the pie that people aren t willing to trust in the civic institutions previous generations built Eventually a vigorous society on the border gets its act together in the case of the Romans the Germans for the Byzantines the Arabs and displaces the decadence that might still be numerically and technologically superior but can t muster the will to resist Paraphrasing Arnold Toynbee great empires die not by murder but by suicideSo asabiya can be generated through struggles and trials that bind people to each other and it can be lost through the lack of the same unifying pressures The differing fates of north and south Italy are discussed towards the end of the book why north Italy while fairly rich still has a social capital deficit compared to countries like France or Germany while low trust south Italy is an asabiya black hole as demonstrated by the presence of groups like the Mafia This is reflected in the very interesting fact that Italy doesn t have large public companies like other first world nations The largest Italian company Fiat is still family owned The typical successful Italian company is a family owned business with perhaps a hundred employees in Milan or Bologna They occupy a variety of niches from fashion to high precision machinery and they are extremely successful at what they do But they cannot break into certain international markets because they lack the advantage of size And they cannot grow to a large size because the Italians even northern ones can cooperate only in medium sized groups Is this why northern Italians historically could not get beyond medium sized states Religion has an interesting place in Turchin s book while religious disputes are not necessarily meaningful in and of themselves they re another way that groups of people use to mark us from them After reading Diarmaid MacCullough s Christianity The First Three Thousand Years with its endless tales of violent disputes over completely arbitrary doctrinal issues like the filioue clause or if icons are kosher or whether to make the sign of the cross with two fingers or three this seems very true to meTurchin s ideas also interact pleasingly with a number of other Big History books I ve read semi recently In no particular orderrhymereason He s a little dismissive of Jared Diamond s Guns Germs Steel saying that while the geographical determinism line of argument can explain trans hemispherical imperial triumphs it doesn t do a good job in the vastly common cases where neighboring tribes with similar resources attack each other like the Rus vs the Tatars or the French vs the English This is true Diamond might be able to explain the ultimate outcome but how would that explain for example the asabiya induced paralysis and chaos of the Incans after Atahualpa was captured He doesn t engage much with Joseph Tainter s The Collapse of Complex Societies which is a shame because I still think that Tainter s admittedly somewhat simplistic ideas about the decreasing marginal returns on civilizational complexity are un ignorable Tainter is resource deterministic than Turchin who allows for human initiative in the way that societies can choose to lose internal cohesion by becoming inward focused but I would bet that there s still something to Tainter s idea that there s a certain optimal size for societies given the resources available to them I think Acemoglu and Robinson should have cited this book in their Why Nations Fail because there s a lot of overlap between AR s ideas about extractive vs inclusive institutions and what Turchin has to say about how institutions can shift between the two poles due to external pressures or the lack of them Republican Rome was much inclusive for the average pleb during the parts of its history where it was under threat lost inclusion for a long period during things like the Gracchi brothers reform attempts and then became inclusive again after enough elites killed each other during the Julius Caesar drama to stabilize the empire AR don t have a good account for how dynamic movement along the inclusiveextractive scale can be and Turchin s asabiya measure seems to include that Brian Fagan s The Long Summer talked about how the migrations of primitive humans and therefore possible tribal conflicts were driven in part by climate shifts that alternately opened up new lands and closed off old ones Turchin showed that climate shifts didn t have much to do with the medieval French English wars specifically but it would be neat to see uantification and if there s a climate shift threshold over which a tribe could ascend to a higher or maybe lower level of asabiya in its need to find new lands and resources Given that per Tainter the Mayans might have succumbed to environmental changes it s reasonable to think that climate might be an input into asabiya Climate change in our own day might have significant effects on political stability as well Steven Pinker s The Better Angels of Our Nature talked a lot about changes in violence I wonder if you could correlate intra society violence to asabiya shifts For example the US right after WW2 was infamously homogenous and group centered with low levels of crime This changed after the Sixties and I don t think anyone would argue that there hasn t been a relative drop in the nebulous feeling that we re one big society of Americans Is crime a good proxy for asabiya eg the Northeast is rich and low crime relative to the South does that mean anything and does the recent relative drop in violent crime rates mean the US is getting stronger asabiya wise Relatedly I ve read a lot of good books on ineuality recently like Timothy Noah s The Great Divergence The parallels between pre Revolutionary France or ancient Rome to the modern US in terms of the power of the wealthy are numerous and disturbing although of course only valid up to a point Still how would a conservative or a liberal for that matter apply the implications of this book to our current economic condition Is rising ineuality destroying Americans ability to cooperate with each otherOverall this is a really interesting book a definite Big History champion and is also full of great factoids I ll close with a fascinating uote from where he talks about how medieval societies like England tried to control elite overpopulation Lorcin found that in commoner families males outnumbered females by 13 percent This pattern is just what we expect in a pre industrial society where a substantial proportion of women died in childbirth In noble families however the pattern was reversed there were only 85 males per 100 females In other words there were 28 percent fewer noble males than we would expect if their mortality patterns were the same as commoners The wills studied by Lorcin allowed her to calculate that during the second half of the fourteenth century and the first half of the fifteenth the proportions of noble girls becoming nuns were 40 and 30 percent respectively Only in the second half of the fifteenth century did this proportion decline to 14 percentOkay one Destruction of the great fortunes continued under the Tudors who had it in for their over rich and over mighty subjects The first two Tudors Henry VII and Henry VIII employed judicial murder with great effect systematically exterminating all potential claimants to the English throne who also happened to be among the richest landowners Elizabeth I crafted a gentler method a kind of progressive taxation scheme When one of her subjects became too wealthy she invited herself to his castle along with her whole court After some weeks of dining and wining the ueen and hundreds of her followers the unfortunate host was financially ruined for many years to come and was too busy paying off his debts to contemplate rebellion