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Interesting theory about what drives political instability

I’ve been following this person for a while who’s been developing a theory about the processes that drive periodic waves of instability in complex societies. I’ve found his research very interesting and potentially illuminating, so I thought I’d share it here. Note that this was written in 2016 and predicts rising political instability going into the 2020s. 


While the role of inequality in fueling unrest is obvious enough, there’s an interesting component to this model that I find intriguing - “elite overproduction”:

Increasing inequality leads not only to the growth of top fortunes; it also results in greater numbers of wealth-holders. The ‘1 percent’ becomes ‘2 percent.’ Or even more. … from 1983 to 2010 the number of American households worth at least $10 million grew to 350,000 from 66,000. Rich Americans tend to be more politically active than the rest of the population. … In technical terms, such a situation is known as ‘elite overproduction.’ … Elite overproduction generally leads to more intra-elite competition that gradually undermines the spirit of cooperation, which is followed by ideological polarization and fragmentation of the political class. This happens because the more contenders there are, the more of them end up on the losing side. A large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes, often well-educated and highly capable, has been denied access to elite positions.


I’ve mostly followed his blog and read some of his academic papers but he’s written a few books on the subject as well.

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