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
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RISE AND FALL OF LARGE-SCALE SOCIETIES ACROSS THE GLOBE AND HUMAN-HISTORY? GET YOUR FREE COPY OF PETER TURCHIN’S BOOK ULTRASOCIETY WITH $20 DONATION!
Follow Peter Turchin on an epic journey through time. From stone-age assassins to the orbiting cathedrals of the space age, from bloodthirsty god-kings to India’s first vegetarian emperor, discover the secret history of our species—and the evolutionary logic that governed it all.
Reviews of Ultrasociety
In Ultrasociety, we see a brilliantly original scientist at the top of his game. Turchin’s delightfully readable book defends a bold thesis–that the institutions that have made today’s extraordinary degree of human cooperation possible were forged by ten millennia of inter-societal military conflict. No future accounts of society’s origins will dare to ignore his carefully crafted arguments in support of this claim. — Robert H. Frank, Cornell University, author of The Darwin Economy.
“Ultrasociety is a winner. It gives us an incisive look at Cultural Evolution and the implications for group selection. Turchin argues clearly and well for a deeper understanding of how culture trumps other social forces, and thus he can explain our era far better.” — Gregory Benford, author of Timescape.
“An exciting account of how the growing theory of cultural evolution can be applied to understanding patterns in the sweep of human history and prehistory” — Peter J. Richerson, coauthor of Culture and Coevolutionary Process.
“Peter Turchin’s Ultrasociety delivers multi-level satisfaction, as deep-down enjoyable as seeing justice served on a bully. The book is a riveting safari through the origins of human social behavior and a revolutionary new way of reframing the study of culture as a scientific discipline. Turchin and his colleagues are on the cusp of changing the humanities forever, and none too soon. Ultrasociety is a must-read for any member of an intellectually curious species.” — Baba Brinkman, author of The Rap Guide to Evolution.
“Peter Turchin will go down in history as a great scientific historian. In Ultrasociety he makes the thesis of Edward O. Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth come alive with empirical detail.” — David Sloan Wilson, author of Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others.
photo via flickr.com/slimjim