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Anthropologist Peter Turchin explains how the seeds of Brexit unrest were planted during the Carolingian Empire

The Brexit vote caught most elite observers by surprise and has spurred a flurry of talk of further possible defections from the EU. But one person who was not so surprised was Peter Turchin, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Connecticut, author most recently of “Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth.”

Although Turchin, like most other observers, had expected Brexit to fail narrowly, his attention was focused primarily on a strikingly different confluence of background trends at work, leading him to expect an ongoing increase in dis-integrative processes across Europe. So Turchin’s surprise was qualitatively different than that of others. “I didn’t expect that my prediction of the EU’s demise would be endorsed so quickly,” he tweeted after the vote, linking a blog post, “Will the European Union Survive its 60th Anniversary?” Turchin sees EU disintegration as almost a certainty in the near term, but believes there’s a chance to start over, on a sounder footing, if the right lessons are learned. And he believes it’s a vital enterprise, not just for Europe, but for all of us.

EI’S Peter Turchin say BREXIT is just a symptom of Europe’s Larger Issues

In the Science of Civilizations, Brexit Is the European Union’s Reckoning

On June 23, millions of United Kingdom citizens will vote to leave the European Union. And millions of others will vote to remain. If the leavers win, the UK and EU will begin a methodical divorce that many analysts expect to destabilize the nation and the continent.

All of which might happen eventually, no matter what the UK decides. The so-called Brexit vote is the culmination of years of growing disillusionment—mostly from older and working class Britons—with the European Union’s trade agreements and open border policies. It is also part of a larger trend. Across Europe, populist parties have been fighting to regain sovereignty from the EU. The problems of each country, and of the European Union itself, are contemporary, specific, and complicated. But they fit into a model that some scientists have recognized as symptomatic of a civilization on its way towards disintegration.

The European Union began after World War II as set of trade agreements between five countries. Nations with close business ties, the thinking went, would probably be less likely turn squabbles into wars. Over 60 years, the compact has grown into a proper government across 28 member nations, regulating all those things that governments regulate: economy, labor, environment, migration. “I think of the European Union as an empire,” says Peter Turchin, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Connecticut. “The EU is unusual because it was constructed without conquest, but in terms of functionality it is not unlike other historical examples.” Read the rest of the article at Wired

 

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photo via flickr.com/slimjim