End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration by Peter Turchin, Reviewed by Mark D. Walker

I am a history buff, but Peter Urchin is unlike most historians. His background is as an evolutionary biologist studying lemmings and mice. Analyzing the complexities of the natural world allows him to understand the most complex systems of human society.

He predicted the turbulence of 2020, which included outbreaks of political violence that the U.S. hadn’t experienced in years, and most interestingly, he’s expecting another crisis in 2024. He identifies several harbingers of societal crisis, including “elite overproduction,” and analyzes examples of this phenomenon throughout history. One example was the 2016 Presidential primary, which included 17 major candidates, and due to the intense competition, many incentives existed for people to start breaking the rules.

The title of his book includes the term “counter-elites,” which are dissident elites who usually use violence or propose violent solutions. He predicts that 2024 will be especially problematic because neither party will accept the win of the other party, leading to a high probability of reaching a breaking point. His model predicts that extra wealth will flow to the 1.5% of the population with even more to the top 0.01%, creating trouble for the power holders themselves as the social pyramid in the U.S. has grown top-heavy.

He describes the American Plutocracy today as dominated by the corporate community, “the owners and managers of large income-producing assets” like the military-industrial complex, FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) energy like oil, Silicon Valley, Big Food, Big Parma, and the medical-industrial complex. “In 2021, twelve thousand lobbyists spent $3.7 billion influencing policy at the federal level” in the top three industries.

I found Turchin’s insight eye-opening, as he offered a fresh perspective on contemporary issues, including rising inequality, political polarization, and the erosion of social trust. According to Turchin, the greatest threat to the status quo today is the non-college-educated white Americans. An illegitimacy crisis is underway, according to Turchin, as one study indicates that by 2040, 30% of the population will control 68% of the Senate, and eight states will contain half the population. He says that white supremacists are not a marginal force; “they are inside its institutions.”

Based on this scenario, “Republicans are making a transition to becoming a truly revolutionary party,” And Tucker Carlson, rather than Donald Trump, may be a seed crystal around which a new radical party forms.” He names J.D. Vance and McMaster as the “counter elite figures” in the U.S. He also calls whistleblowers Julian Assange and Edward Snowden as being “essential for a sociologist of power (due to the vast amount of previously unpublished/unknown information).

Turchin does more than extrapolate on a vast amount of data and analysis, he weaves a narrative that captivates the reader. He grounds his theories in real-world events and historical examples from the fall of the Roman Empire to the French Revolution, drawing parallels with the challenges of our society today.

Turchin includes a one-hundred-page “Appendix,” which consists of a chapter on “a New Science of History” and how his “historical macroscope” works, which was too academic for my taste. He includes extensive notes and a bibliography with an index.

Through his impressive research and multi-disciplinary approach, Turchin comprehensively understands the dynamics underpinning societal collapse. Although his conclusions are sometimes unsettling, they serve as a wake-up call to the urgent need for systemic change. He suggests that addressing inequality is crucial to preventing societal collapse, and the book has sparked discussions, as evidenced by various reviews and interviews.

…Peter Turchin has pioneered a new science of making history predictable—by applying methods that had already succeeded in other complex fields. You’ll want to know what he sees lying ahead and what we can do about it.” Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize—winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BF8PBQK9
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin Press (June 13, 2023)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ June 13, 2023
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1913 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0241637791
  • Best Sellers Rank: #8,489 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)

The Author

Peter Turchin is a complexity scientist and one of the founders of the new field of historical social science, Cliodynamics (http://peterturchin.com/cliodynamics/). His research interests lie at the intersection of social and cultural evolution, historical macro sociology, economic history and cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases.

Peter Turchin is Project Leader of Social Complexity and Collapse at the Complexity Science Hub Vienna, Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, and Research Associate in the School of Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

More information is available at http://peterturchin.com.

The Reviewer

Mark Walker was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala and spent over forty years helping disadvantaged people in the developing world with agencies like Food for the Hungry, Make A Wishing International, and Hagar USA. His book, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, was recognized by the Arizona Literary Association. His second book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road, was the 2023 Peace Corps Writers’ Award for Best Travel Book winner. He’s a contributing writer for Literary Traveler, Wanderlust Journal, and The Authors’ Show. “The Million Mile Walker Review: What We’re Reading And Why” can be found in the Arizona Authors’ Association Newsletter, Authors Digest.  His wife and three children were born in Guatemala. You can learn more at www.MillionMileWalker.com.


Posted in All, Book Reviews: Latin America, Book Reviews: Non-fiction and tagged , , , , .