Vladislav M. Zubok’s A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War From Stalin to Gorbachev is a surprising counterpart to my essay, “Culture Wars are Long Wars.” That essay proposed a general theory of cultural change. Key to its thesis was the observation that most cultural change does not occur because people change their ideas, but because people with new ideas replace people with old ones. As most people form their essential political worldview by the time they are 30 and only adapt it on the edges to new circumstances, only the most earth shaking events have the power to fundamentally shift the frameworks and values that the majority filter their politics through. Large scale cultural shift is largely a story of generational churn.
While the focus of that piece was on American domestic politics, this is a general phenomena that applies across cultures and time periods. Vladislav Zubok understands this. The generational nature of political change is a recurring theme of Failed Empire, which chronicles the ups and downs of Soviet diplomacy from the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. While we often describe Soviet history in terms of the leader reigning at the top of the system, Zubok argues that shifts in Soviet strategic behavior reflected not only the differing leadership styles of the various CPSU General Secretaries, but broader transitions from one generation of leaders to another.
There once lived in a far country a people of gentle nature and perceptive understanding. They were led by a man of great vision. At great cost he decided to dedicate his life to preserving this people’s way of life. He saw in them a beauty and virtue he could find nowhere else. In a […]
The Washington Post published an essay yesterday that is making the waves. It is titled “Why Asian Americans Don’t Vote Republican.” The author presents Asian-American voting patterns as a mystery to be solved: In the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama won 73 percent of the Asian-American vote. That exceeded his support among traditional Democratic Party […]
Peter Turchin is one of the leading minds behind cliodynamics, an effort to make the study of history a fully scientific discipline with the same sort of theoretical and mathematical rigor that under-girds modern scholarship in disciplines like ecology or evolutionary biology. In a 2008 essay written for Nature he justified this project in the […]
A collection of articles, essays, and blog post of merit. TOP BILLING “The State of Consumer Technology at the End of 2014“Ben Thompson, Stratechery (16 December 2014). One of the defining characteristics of the three major epochs of consumer computing – PC, Internet, and mobile – is that they have been largely complementary: we didn’t […]
Note by the author: I cannot take credit for most of the ideas and observations I present below. The protests in Hong Kong are now in their eighth day. Since they began last week a great amount has been written about why these protests are happening and what their eventual outcome may be. It has […]
A collection of articles, essays, and blog post of merit. TOP BILLING “What Does a “Good” Adjustment Look Like?“ Michael Pettis, China’s Financial Markets (1 September 2014). This essay is long but excellent. It is also the best thing I have read about the Chinese economy in months. Two quotes to give readers the flavor of […]
. Last week Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) brokered a deal that ended the CNRP’s year-long parliamentary boycott. The CNRP disputed the results of last summer’s election (which they lost) and refused to take the 55 seats they won until an ‘independent’ election committee could audit […]
Info-graphic taken from Peter Turchin, “The Double-Helix of Inequality and Well-Being,” Social Evolution Forum (8 February 2013) Recently in a discussion at a different venue I wrote the following: I am extremely pessimistic about the near term (2015-2035) future of both of the countries I care most about and follow most closely, but very optimistic […]
A collection of articles, essays, and blog post of merit.TOP BILLING“The Little Divergence“‘Pseuderoerasmus,’ Pseudoarasmus (12 June 2014) In this blogpost I will argue the following : While very few economic historians now dispute that East Asia had lower living standards than Europe well before 1800, …there is no agreement on whether European economies prior to 1800 were “modern” […]