“ ‘Unfortunately, things are not as bad as they can be.’ ”
That is Peter Turchin, a 63-year-old researcher at the University of Connecticut, sharing his thoughts in a story for Time.com on where the U.S. goes from here.
As the divide between the rich and the poor has only widened during the coronavirus pandemic, Turchin said he believes tensions “may escalate all the way to a civil war.”
Why do we care what he says? Well, back in 2010, he predicted on Nature.com that the U.S. would suffer major social upheaval beginning around 2020.
“Very long ‘secular cycles’ interact with shorter-term processes. In the United States, 50-year instability spikes occurred around 1870, 1920 and 1970, so another could be due around 2020,” he wrote at the time. “Records show that societies can avert disaster. We need to find ways to ameliorate the negative effects of globalization on people’s well-being.”
Then, in 2013, he reiterated his prediction in an essay on Aeon.com.
“We are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the U.S. will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval,” he wrote. “If we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.”
Clearly, we didn’t do that. Enter 2020, right on cue.
“As a scientist, I feel vindicated,” Turchin said in the Time story. “But on the other hand, I am an American and have to live through these hard times.” He warned that the worst may be yet to come, as societal crises can typically last for five to 15 years.