Cliodynamics is a transdisciplinary area of research integrating historical macrosociology, cultural and social evolution, economic history/cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access journal that publishes original articles advancing the state of theoretical knowledge in this transdisciplinary area. In the broadest sense, this theoretical knowledge includes general principles that explain the functioning, dynamics, and evolution of historical societies and specific models, usually formulated as mathematical equations or computer algorithms. Cliodynamics also has empirical content that deals with discovering general historical patterns, determining empirical adequacy of key assumptions made by models, and testing theoretical predictions with data from actual historical societies. A mature, or ‘developed theory’ thus integrates models with data; the main goal of Cliodynamics is to facilitate progress towards such theory in history and cultural evolution.
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Volume 8, Issue 2, 2017
Special Issue: 25th Anniversary Publication of Goldstone's Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World
I am grateful to Cliodynamics for this special issue revisiting the ideas put forth in Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World (Goldstone 1991, 2016) a quarter century ago. The two things that one could hope for in advancing any theory are that it proves capable of being advanced and enriched by other scholars, and that it proves capable of being applied in new ways and to new phenomena that were not anticipated. This issue gives examples of both, and shows how scholars are even now only beginning to tap the possibilities of Demographic Structural Theory (DST) in explaining politics, history, and long-term economic trends.
In this essay, I will tell the story of how demographic structural theory was conceived, relate its early reception among scholars, and comment on the important contributions by other scholars to this special issue.
Modeling Social Pressures Toward Political Instability in the United Kingdom after 1960: A Demographic Structural Analysis
In the current paper, we investigate the predictive ability of Goldstone’s demographic structural model. In particular we seek to apply Turchin’s version of it to modeling the social pressures for political instability in the UK. It is then demonstrated that Turchin’s analysis of ‘demographic structural’ pressures in the US presents similar conditions that developed under neoliberalism during the same time periods in both countries. It is also demonstrated that the modeling of social pressures toward political instability in the UK and the USA performed by Peter Turchin and us can throw some light on the factors and patterns of the global sociopolitical destabilization wave of the 2010s. Thus, Goldstone’s demographic structural model might have some predictive potential not only at the national level, but also global scale.
Three predictive problems bedevil our ability to foresee political crises and state breakdown: (1) how to tell when a previously stable state falls into a situation of hidden but dangerous instability; (2) how to tell, once a certain level of instability has appeared in the form of protests, riots, or regional rebellions, whether chaos will grow and accelerate into revolution or civil war, or if the protests are likely to be contained and dampen out; and (3) how to tell which individuals and groups are likely to be the main source of mobilization for radical movements, and whether opposition networks will link up, grow and spread, or be isolated and contained. Prior work has focused on each of these problems separately. However, all three issues are crucial to understanding and foreseeing conflict dynamics. These issues operate on different time-scales and require separate models. In this article we discuss how better models of each process could be developed and, crucially, integrated with data for a more effective prediction system. A major theoretical challenge for us is to link these different approaches in order to increase their predictive power. A major empirical challenge is to identify data (direct or proxy) that can be used to parameterize, validate, and test our models.
Though not its main focus, Goldstone's Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World (1991) threw considerable new light on 19th century Europe's revolutions and near-revolutions. While Goldstone stresses the role of an expanding and industrializing economy in absorbing 19th century England's demographic shocks, we accept this analysis but argue alongside it for similar attention to the vector of emigration, settler-colonialism, and imperial state expansion into which at least some of the exhaust fumes of the population explosion were vented. Furthermore, it is important to note the crucial role of a highly interventionist state and 'big' government in the background to these dynamics—a far cry from the light-touch, laissez-faire qualities with which the 19th century British state is often associated.
To make our case, this article takes advantage of secondary literature and raw data not available prior to the publication of Goldstone's book. Of crucial importance here is our unique dataset of fatality-inducing political violence events in Britain and Ireland from 1785 to 1900. This is the first research paper to utilise this dataset. We draw upon this in the following section, which seeks to establish what the real level of political instability was in 19th century Britain—thus cross-referencing Goldstone's account with more recent data—before moving on in the following section to a more detailed overview of the socio-economic conditions underlying events at the political level. This is followed by our account of the emigration-settler-colonialism-imperial state expansion vector and the interventionist state policy behind it, which we argue was crucial to making 19th century Britain relatively 'revolution-proof'—alongside the expanding economic opportunities rightly highlighted by Goldstone. Lastly come our brief concluding remarks, which lay out the implications, as we see them, of this article's findings for research on revolutions, political violence and instability, demographic-structural theory, state-building, migration, and imperialism-colonialism.
A Dynamic Analysis of American Socio-Political History. A Review of Ages of Discord: A Structural Demographic Analysis of American History by Peter Turchin (Beresta Books, 2016)
A Review of Ages of Discord: A Structural Demographic Analysis of American History by Peter Turchin (Beresta Books, 2016)
A self-review of Teoria della classe disagiata (Minimum Fax, 2017)