470 Comments

About the same time that Peter Turchin's book came out, another book along the same lines hit the market. The recently published book, THE FOURTH TURNING IS HERE by Neil Howe, describes history not as a linear path from point A to point B to point C, always moving in an upward trajectory, but rather that history is cyclical, with constantly repeating eras that generally last about 80-to-100 years, passing through a period of ascendency, innovation, prosperity, opportunity, security; followed by a period of enlightenment where the values and the foundations of society are questioned as people question what the prosperity, security and growth were built on, and bring to light those who have yet to share in the country’s prosperity, security, and opportunities; a calling for the nation to live up to its ideals. Which is followed by a growing disillusionment of the foundation of society, a growing cynicism, a rejection of previously held values, and a question of identity. And finally comes a period of crisis where everything looks like it’s falling apart. According to the author of FOURTH TURNING, America is now in a period of (predictable) crisis.

Joe Biden seems like the perfect “leader” to plunge the nation into the depths of the fourth turning, the crisis stage of our current era. Biden is an agent of chaos, a directionless engine of crisis, and an enemy of democracy. He is the embodiment of degeneration; the incarnation of the social extension of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is that without providing energy (e.g., new ideas, or a new approach, new paradigms, or renewed wisdom), society falls apart. He said the objective of his candidacy was to fight for the soul of America. It turns out that his vision of the soul of America is as empty as his suit. Biden’s tired, worn out, and weak march through his Presidency perfectly represents what many cite as the tired and weak condition of the American soul. Not being able to rally the majority of Americans around him, he chooses to censor and deplatform voices who oppose him, or at the very least scorn, belittle, and ignore them.

From his speech in Philadelphia on July 13, 2021, his “Dark Brandon Speech”, which is arguably the darkest and most divisive speech in the country's history, Biden equated anyone who opposes him as "semi-fascist." That kind of demagoguery never leads to anything good. If anything, Biden is the unwitting pawn of the cycles of time, which in our era means a time of crisis. If Biden, or his puppet masters, had one functional neuron he/they might be able to read the signs of the times and attempt to change course, rather than step on the gas as the nation approaches the edge of the cliff. If the fourth turning of history is real, then Biden is a dupe, a stooge, a tool of history, the victim of history, not its navigator. He is the President of the latest, and perhaps final, big crisis in American history. The guy who drove the US over a cliff.

Expand full comment

The high school and college students that I know are bitter about the Covid shut downs that deprived them of normal socializing and education. They are incensed to think that they can't afford a house or earn an income to support a family. They do not see the American Dream in their future.

Expand full comment

I really hope he is wrong. At least with 2020 it was largely contrived from the top down rather than something totally spontaneous that one could have predicted by his theory. But powder kegs gonna powder keg, sooner or later.

Expand full comment

Bari! Thank goodness you clarified that you were a non-violent counter-elite. Because I was ready to follow you into holy battle against - I don't know - whoever it is I don't like. So another person who think the unwashed should just listen to their betters and it will all work out. I feel like that's how we got to where we are.

But I do agree with him that we need real leaders. How the heck did all those great leaders happen to live here in the 18th Century and now we have dreck. Bari for President! Or Counter-Elite Minister!

Expand full comment
Jul 31, 2023·edited Jul 31, 2023

I mean, yea, I have thought some kind of reckoning has been coming for a long time. Factors for me include widening wealth gap (which even conservative economists have identified as a problem), obvious and legalized government corruption (though even the legal corruption isn't enough for them and the SJC may be the final straw), disconnected and unaccountable political class, broken party system, defiance of the Federal government because it is incapable of meeting the needs of the current times (marijuana policy), defiance of the federal government based on backwards ideology (Alabama election maps), a stock market which most people agree is rigged and full of shit, wildly fluctuating prices on essential commodities like fuel solely to allow speculators to profit, political parties actively working to reinforce division of the population, no clear national identity/values/direction, endless wars without any clear goals fought solely to drive defense spending, ballooning deficit, completely dysfunctional congress who spends 0 time on issues citizens care about, inability to reach any kind of reasonable compromise on anything, power consolidation at the federal level even as the federal government becomes more dysfunctional, worthless executive branch, political domination by corporations, politically motivated education, ineffective education, increasingly broken and dysfunctional healthcare system, major crises (opioids, homelessness, environment, mass shootings, energy security) which the government is too busy handing out corporate welfare to even make a meaningful attempt at solving, increasing global competition which we are not equipped to counter and are actively crippling our ability to counter, real documented instances of major misconduct by police departments (Baltimore, Chicago), mass surveillance, nonexistent privacy regulation, over-classification destroying government transparency and accountability, broken partisan media which functions more as propaganda than news....I mean how long would you like me to go on?

That people don't see us in a doom spiral absolutely mystifies me, but people do seem to have a lot of trouble piecing together the big picture.

It's all fixable but, with politicians actively promoting division and the idea that compromise is not just impossible but a negative outcome, I don't see it happening without a major nationwide crisis.

A lot of the comments are reflective of exactly the problem - people see this article and take it as ammunition to say "see what the other political party is doing to us??!" There is absolutely no willingness to examine one's own role in the increasingly troubled position we find ourselves in. Asking "what am *I* doing to make this worse is what we need to do, blaming only the other absolutely guarantees failure. Remember - the political class will walk away from a major crisis no problem, the rest of us are the ones who will suffer.

Expand full comment

Indeed, the game is rigged by the oligarchs, and the wealth gap is now back at Gilded Age levels. Nothing even remotely sustainable about this at all! And the song "When In Rome" by Phil Ochs comes to mind.

Expand full comment

I find it interesting that in Fifth Sun: A new History of the Aztecs, Camilla Townsend makes similar points about elite overproduction in the Tenochtitlan state in the years before the Spanish arrived - making resistance to them more difficult.

Expand full comment

I just love it when people who are experts in one field, like evolutionary biology, think they're experts in other fields—especially when they try to apply their expertise in a foreign field.

Turchin's "scientific" model may be a good one, but one "correct" prediction isn't nearly enough evidence. If he's really any kind of a scientist, he knows that himself. The chaos of 2020 occurred because of COVID and the George Floyd murder. They could have happened at any time, not just in 2020. His model did not predict these events. He got "lucky." So there is simply no reason to envision that Turchin can predict our future any more than we really believe the next great stock tip we hear on CNBC.

Also, his solution is "social engineering." Wow!

Expand full comment

not exactly the same, of course but brings to mind Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy :)

Expand full comment

Amusing. I've been in trading markets for 42 years. I can't count the number of guys who got one big call right and monetized it for decades, despite being perpetually wrong afterwards.

Bari, some advice if I may. Never. Never. Never give someone credibility just because they "made a great call.". Evaluate them solely on their latest arguments. (And you diminish yourself if you grant credibility solely on a "correct call".)

People win the Powerball every day. Should I play the numbers they play? Or did they just get lucky?

Expand full comment
founding

I’m pretty much out at yet another “mathematical” model predicting anything. Makes me more worried about elites overproduction of models that other elites will use for their own purposes to “socially engineer” their next clusters!$&@ on the rest of us under the guise of “science”.

Expand full comment

I’m sorry but this argument has too many holes in it to take seriously. The authors process is NoT scientific, no matter the volume of data he uses whatever they are. Herman Kahn wrote an amazing book in 1968; “The Year 2000”. In it he postulated what the world might look like 32 years in the future using existing tech and trends and extrapolating using his own unique genius. It’s a remarkable read that I first read when I was 16. He gave a variety of scenarios for a range of issues from population and politics to energy and the environment. He was almost right 50% of the time which is pretty amazing considering the primitive nature of data sets in 1966-67.

There aren’t two parties stating that they won’t accept the results of the next election. There is only one indicted felon arguing that.

Pinker May be rosy but historians predicting the future has about as much cred as I do in laying down a hip hop line.

I’m all for the historical process and. As Santayana is quoted as saying history giving us a roadmap to avoid the mistakes of the past, but this gentleman is promoting a book and thesis with smoke and mirrors

Expand full comment

SOCIETAL DEGENERATION is the key sign we are in 'End Times' per 2 Timothy 3:1 "Buy know this, that in the last days perilous [difficult] times with come. In verses 2-5 Paul tells Timothy why things are going to be difficult, "For men will be lovers of themselves [self centered], lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers [scoffing of God], disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers [falsely and maliciously accusing others], without self-control, , brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong [reckless], haughty [conceited], lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness [appearing religious], but denying its power. Other signs of The Last Days includes prophecy in Ezekiel 38-39 of Russia aligning itself with Iran and Turkey, "pay-with-your-palm" technology prophesized in Revelation 13:16-17 and a rise in antisemitism during the Last Days per Zechariah 12:3. The last prophecy that had to be fulfilled before the End of Time begins occurred in 1948 when the nation of Israel was formed for the second time "miraculously in one day." The next event marking the end of Earth as we know it per Bible Scripture is Jesus appearing in the sky to come for His people [the Rapture], which might be explained away as a "vanishing" or alien abduction. This will be followed by a 7 year "Tribulation" period before the invasion of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 & 39, the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus per Zechariah 14:4, Matthew 24:29-30, Matt 25:31, Rev 1:7, Rev 19:14, Rev 19:20 wherein the wicked with be cast out at the Judgment of Nations per Matt 25:41. Also, Satan will be locked up and unable to influence the world per Rev 20:2-3 and Jesus will be King of the world per Isaiah 9:6 and ruling from Jerusalem per Micah 4:1-2. Throughout history, when people who have turned their backs on God's forgiveness died, they have gone to a place called "Hades" to await judgment per Luke 16:23. After a 1,000 year reign of Christ on Earth, these people will be resurrected per Rev 20:5 to stand before God to receive judgment for all their sins per Rev 20:11-12. After Satan, the fallen Angels and unrepentant sinners have been judged and locked away forever per Rev 21:1, God will create a new heaven and a new Earth per Isaiah 65:17 & 2 Peter 3:10-13 where the redeemed [Believers in Christ] will spend eternity with God, Jesus, the angels and all of the redeemed people from throughout human history. See the following Scriptures for a description of this New Heaven on a New Earth: Psalm 16:11, Hebrews 12:22, Rev 21:3,4,12-13,16,18,25, Rev 22:5.

Expand full comment

It's almost as if there is no reason for anyone to feel angry... but they just do.

If only they could trust in the providential goodness of the Democrats, and of course, in the sagacious wisdom of people like Bari Weiss!

Save us elites! We would be lost without you!

Expand full comment

There's always hope. At least I don't make predictions. What I do try to trigger is consideration of life such as it is when it is far away from common assumptions. For example, I don't believe crime and schizophrenia in our inner cities is due to anything having to do with religion or Nietzsche's comment that God is dead. Non-white, non mainstream peoples of the "inner city" who suffer the most from crimes committed by the mentally ill and the drug addicted within their communities are not irreligious. In my experience, they are the most devoted and sincerely religious peoples I have known throughout my long life.

Expand full comment

There's always hope. At least I don't make predictions. What I do try to trigger is consideration of life such as it is when it is far away from common assumptions. For example, I don't believe crime and schizophrenia in our inner cities is due to anything having to do with religion or Nietzsche's comment that God is dead. Non-white, non mainstream peoples of the "inner city" who suffer the most from crimes committed by the mentally ill and the drug addicted within their communities are not irreligious. In my experience, they are the most devoted and sincerely religious peoples I have known throughout my long life.

Expand full comment

Thank you for this insightful interview Bari. Like you, I believe in the "Great Man Theory" (I'm using Man as short for Human), which you defended in this conversation. You have spent a great deal of time and many articles and comments on Trump. Fair enough; he remains a phenomenon. What I want to know is when will you call out Joe Biden? Why didn't you ask Peter Turchin about Biden, since Biden is far from an elite in terms of education (he graduated 76th out of 85 students at his mediocre law school). Nor is Biden gifted with great looks, oratory skills, intelligence or charisma. I would have been truly interested to learn Turchin's interpretation of Biden's success, since Biden does not accord with any kind of elite mentioned, yet he is accelerating these "End of Times." Turchin appears to agree, since he references Biden's failure to raise the minimum wage, but you didn't ask: "How does Joe Biden, our current President fit into your theory?" Bari, you never take the opportunity to examine or criticize Biden. Nellie occasionally does, but you don't. Please start. The Great Man Theory you and I find credible insists you do.

Expand full comment