July 8, 2021

Understanding elite over-production theory, beyond the take cycles of social media

Our beloved anti-woke left princess, Aimee Terese, and some fellow travelers on Twitter are arguing against "elite over-production theory".

The way that "discourse" works on social media is that -- it does not. I can't tell who she's referring to, or what they said, or what they cited, and her reactions are tweet threads rather than a structured post. Discourse did take place on blogs during the blogosphere's heyday, whereas very little in-depth discussion takes place on social media. This is not specific to Aimee or her opponents, it's the way that all "discourse" on social media works.

This post will not summarize the theory, but will correct / clarify some common misconceptions, as well as provide three links of increasing detail, to understand the model and the evidence behind it.

Please ignore whatever retards on social media you're getting your view of elite over-production theory from. At this point, it's one of the most historically grounded AND predictive models of societal destabilization, including the 2020 breakdown that Turchin predicted over a decade before the fact.

Does not matter if midwits are warping it (or you may be reading them uncharitably, I can't tell without specific names).

First, elite over-production is only one aspect of the model, Structural-Demographic Theory. The others are immiseration of the commoners, and strain on the finances of the state.

All are inter-related, e.g. as the elites make up a larger share of the population, they have stronger bargaining power over the labor supply, so they lower average wages. And since there are too many elite aspirants chasing too few available spots that would satisfy their striver ambitions, they increasingly plunder the state's resources to subsidize their striving and consumption contests.

None of it says "elites" are only those who are educated, or who are a part of the informational / left-wing sectors of society. In some empires like Rome and Prussia, the elites mainly took a military / right-wing route to the top. That just means the top-heaviness of their societies took the form of "too many officers, not enough footsoldiers".

Others were like ours, relying on (non-military) education, such as the early modern stage of British imperial expansion -- where there was an explosion in the enrollment numbers at Oxford in the decades leading up to the Civil War. In those days, they didn't have NGOs to absorb the over-produced aspirants, they tried to find an office in the church somewhere. But same principle.

In medieval Europe, you can count the numbers of peers (barons, knights, etc.), compare that to the total population size, and see how the share who were elites was either swelling or deflating.

Yes, elite ranks can and do get depopulated, on the other side of the cycle from their over-production phase. Maybe they kill each other off in intra-elite warfare (Hundred Years War, War of the Roses, and so on). Maybe the aspirants stop packing the enrollments of higher ed, and stay in their home region instead of packing into the super-elite metros, as happened during the New Deal era in America.

And maybe when there's an economic crisis that threatens to decimate the elites' numbers and levels of consumption, the state refuses to bail them all out, so the elite ranks remain depressed -- this was the response during the Great Depression, which was mainly a decapitation of the top-heavy Victorian / Edwardian / Roaring Twenties growth of the elites and strivers.

Here are three increasingly detailed links. No excuses for not understanding the theory, whether you're pro or anti.

Top Amazon review of Secular Cycles by Turchin & Nefedov, the central monograph of the theory.

Blog post at Turchin's own site, reviewing the model.

Download a PDF of Secular Cycles, if you don't have IRL library access to it. There's only one proper chapter on the model, it is mostly a series of historical case studies probing the strengths and weaknesses of the model (looking at Rome, England, France, and Russia).

If you want to buy a cheap physical book aimed at a lay audience, Turchin's War and Peace and War has discussions of all levels of cycles involved in societal growth and breakdown. Mainly it's about imperial expansion and contraction. But in the middle sections on "imperiopathosis," the Structural-Demographic Theory is presented, with historical data on the elites, commoners, and state finances.

So get reading, people. No Millennial excuses like "I have ADD".


  1. Glad to see you not simping on this one haha. Aimee is great but way off on this one.

  2. "Marx deboooonked Malthus" is a reddit-tier glib deflection. You're better than the Daily Show / Gawker / Chapo types, Aimee, gimme a break.

    Turchin's model includes class dynamics that Malthus' does not -- both between the two major classes of elites and commoners, and conflicts within the elite stratum itself. It's as much Marxist as it is Malthusian.

    That's part of a long-standing critique of Malthus from the class-oriented people, which Turchin emphasizes. Namely that the simplistic supply & demand of labor is not enough to explain what happens for popular well-being.

    The best example is the Black Plague. It wiped out lots of commoners, but less proportionally of the elites. So, it made late Medieval Europe MORE top-heavy. There were therefore two opposing forces -- the reduced supply of labor should've increased their bargaining power against employers, whereas the increased top-heaviness of the class system meant elites had more bargaining power to impose their will on commoners (via control of the state).

    And the elites won out in that battle of forces. Purely Malthusian supply & demand is insufficient, and there needs to be a strong role for class warfare to account for why the commoners didn't surge in the decades after the Black Plague. They only enjoyed a brief boost in wages, but the top-heavy elites organized to drive that right back down.

    European commoners didn't recover their standard of living until the later part of the 1400s and the 1500s, by which time the elites had begun wiping each other out (mainly through warfare, like the Hundred Years War and War of the Roses). That alleviated the top-heaviness of the class system, and meant commoners weren't so easily oppressed.

    The financial health of the state is also absent in Malthus, but central to the DST model. Commoners rely on the public goods and services that the state provides, at least protection from collective violence. When the class system grows more top-heavy, a carrying capacity is reached for elite aspirants, leading them to plunder state resources to bail themselves out.

    As the state gets drained of resources, it's less able to perform its basic functions, and commoners pay a huge price. You can't till the land so well when it's under threat of foreign invasion, civil war, brigandage, and the like, in times of a bankrupt state. Not to mention that since elites are plundering the treasury, they impose higher taxes and obligations on commoners to try to make up the difference, while exempting themselves of course.

    When elite ranks are getting wiped out, it relieves the strain on state finances, and all those processes run in reverse. There's greater stability and security, greater cultivation, higher birth rates, less widespread violence, commoners don't pay the over-taxed rates from before, and now the elites shoulder more of the burden for financing the state.

  3. Turchin is more popular on the left half of the spectrum, BTW. Not the theorist for based Republicans.

    He himself is a Thomas Frank / 2016 Bernie Sanders guy, and consistently portrayed Trump as a "counter-elite" that arises during a disintegrative phase, not as an FDR type who would deliver populist policies.

    His only right-wing association is emphasizing the role of mass immigration in driving down the standard of living for workers, during the top-heavy phase of the cycle (vs. relatively closed borders during the thinned-out-elites phase).

    In other words, right in line with Angela Nagle, whose "Left Case Against Open Borders" article he highlighted and defended on his site. Pretty sure Nagle is a fan of the DST theory, as is Anna Khachiyan.

    But it goes all the way over to centrist shitlibs like the Noahpinion guy on Twitter, and similar. You don't need to be based to appreciate the insights of the model.

    The only people on the right who are into it are those with a heavy focus on immigration restriction and populism. Not a very broad swath of the talking-head right -- and if you look at how they earn a living, they're mostly in informational / left-wing of capital careers like education, IT, media / entertainment (anyone with a Patreon or social media account), etc. They're not in the military, agriculture, manufacturing, or energy extraction.

    Not that it matters who believes, and why they flock to it. But it's not based Republicans.

    And if some clueless rightoids think they'll be spared from the demographic-structural grim reaper when that phase arrives, they're in for a rude awakening. It will be the over-produced wannabe elites on both the left and right who will get mowed down, and forced to return to the humdrum and humble way of life that their 1950s ancestors followed.

    When state finances collapse, and there's no more quantitative easing bux to go 'round, that will devastate the right-wing incomes and Patreon coffers just as much as the left-wing ones. No more fake money to slush around, guess they'll have to get real jobs (not the fake & gay stuff they're doing now).

  4. Anyway, Aimee and I love and respect each other as much as two anons online can. Every pair like that needs some kind of ritualistic object that serves as the source of lovers' quarrels. It keeps them from congealing into a set of identical twins, and thereby prevents their relationship from feeling too incestuous.

    See fren, hug fren (even if they dismiss Turchin).

    That's why I say this isn't about Aimee herself, or any specific one of her fellow travelers, or any one of her opponents. Her tweets were just a jumping-off point for explaining more about the DST model, which rarely gets an in-depth treatment in social media (like every other topic on those platforms).

    It's not an attempt to nag Aimee into converting, but a kick in the pants to those with only a cursory appreciation of the "elite over-production" aspect of the model, to read about the rest of it. And with that link to a free PDF download, they don't have any excuse.

    Better informed believers make better evangelists.

  5. "Maybe the aspirants stop packing the enrollments of higher ed, and stay in their home region instead of packing into the super-elite metros, as happened during the New Deal era in America"
    I hadn't heard of that decline in enrollments. I had heard of the surge in enrollments with the GI bill and the baby boomers.

    "And the elites won out in that battle of forces."
    That wasn't my understanding. I had heard their wages remained higher until the population increased again. Elites did force the peasants into serfdom in eastern Europe (whereas it died out in the west), but Russia also had a lot of new land it acquired once their guns got good enough to defeat horseback nomads. This is borrowed from Evsey Domar's "The causes of slavery or serfdom: a hypothesis" by way of Paul Krugman circa 2003.

  6. GI Bill was a fluke, and did not produce lawyers, doctors, and other elite aspirants. It was for a little undergrad, and was only for vets. Not population wide.

    Back when only 15% of adults went to college -- you know that, you're not that retarded, but your bugman brain can't help it with the contrariness.

    Boomers were the first gen to kick off the higher-ed bubble, circa 1970. That was actual elite aspirants, especially lawyers going to a post-grad program. Bill & Hillary types. Turchin shows that the higher ed bubble is a leading indicator of the striving / inequality / disintegrative trend overall.

    You heard wrong about peasants only doing better and better after the Black Plague. But then you got it from a Paul Krugman take, so why expect it to be worth half a shit?

    Ditto the part about Russia only defeating horse nomads because of better tech -- a typical spergy techno-determinist take. Asabiya determines the winner, not tech. Russia underwent ethnogenesis due to the Steppe invasions, and could band together to defeat the Mongols only after centuries of the pressure toward solidarity against a common invader.

    Literally the first chapter of War and Peace and War by Turchin, which I know you must have read at some point, as a former hanger-outer in the Sailersphere. Time to re-read that book, and flush all the Paul Krugman crap down the mental toilet, where it belongs.

  7. Here are some charts on the number of lawyers in the US vs the general population:
    The growth rate didn't seem that low during the New Deal era, although it has been higher since the 70s (starting early in the 70s, rather than under Carter). In fact, from 1970 to 1980 lawyers increased by about 76% while the general population increased by about 11%, whereas between 1980 & 1990 (which should be more of a neoliberal "Reagan-era") lawyers grew about 31% while the general population grew about 9%. FDR didn't take office until 1932, but the Great Depression had at least ended the Roaring 20s, so we can still talk about that as a decade. Lawyers grew about 30% in the 30s and 22% in the 40s, while the population grew about 7% & 14%, respectively. In those roaring 20s, lawyers grew about 13% while the population grew about 16%.

    I didn't say "only doing better and better". I said they did better until their population grew enough again to drive down their consumption.

    I read War & Peace & War over a decade ago:
    And I don't believe Europeans conquered most of the world in a short period of time because they just had so much asabiyah. No matter how much asabiyah native Amerindians or Australians had, they were going to lose out to the European settlers. Africans are in charge of Africa today not for reasons of asabiyah, but because their native diseases were more difficult for Europeans whereas in the New World it was Europeans who had the disease advantage. Europeans did still conquer most of Africa before then, because Africans were technologically far behind. Russia forming its own large empire happened during this same era of European imperialism, and even when the Soviet Union collapsed Russia still didn't lose Siberia. Nor do I think the Mongols or other "Central Asian marauders" will rise again, as I said in the comments to your 2016 post about that hypothetical.

  8. You concede the point about lawyer rates exploding during the '70s, exactly as I said and as all those charts Turchin has in Ages of Discord show. The higher-ed variable is a LEADING indicator, showing up before most of the others, which take off circa 1980.

    No, peasants did not do better until their population rose high enough. It got flattened after a brief surge, and remained flattened for many decades, until the late 1400s and 1500s, when the elites had killed each other off in civil breakdown.

    Europeans did not conquer most of the world -- the Spanish did, coming off of their soaring asabiya that responded to the invasion / occupation of the Moors. Their empire and asabiya collapsed in the 1800s, and would have zero chance reconquering their former colonies.

    And the British conquered the rest -- coming off of their soaring asabiya in the wake of warfare and invasion by the French (and somewhat, the Dutch).

    Could Italy conquer even a fraction of the world as expanding Britain and Spain did? What a joke. They didn't colonize anybody, even after they had nationally unified and industrialized.

    Could Serbia colonize? A joke.

    Russia could and did colonize, toward the east -- not surprisingly, while their asabiya was soaring in the wake of the Mongol / Steppe invasions.

    America is about to finally cry uncle in Afghanistan, despite having orders of magnitude greater firepower, because our asabiya has been plateau-ing since sometime after WWII, and has been declining outright since 1980. No wars won, no new territory added by force, unlike when our asabiya was soaring in the wake of our battles against the Indians.

    And anyway, your original comment was about Russia repelling the Mongols, don't try to change the subject about the Euro colonization of the New World and Africa. Even there you're mostly wrong. Disease played a role, but mainly it was who was strongly unified and who was fragmented.

    The same principles explain why Europe overall is not an imperial / colonial power these days. Their asabiya levels have all been plummeting for at least a century (Britain, Germany, France, Austria, and the others whose empires bit the dust after WWI). Some even longer, like Spain, Poland / Lithuania, Bulgaria, Rome / Italy, and all sorts of other lands that used to have strong solidarity and expanding reaches, way back when.

    The tech-heavy view is that they should never have dropped their colonies or their campaigns against one another in Europe (i.e., Germany should have instantly tried to invade and dominate the more backward Balkans).

    The rising vs. falling asabiya view makes perfect sense of the decolonization and non-colonial policies of Europe today. The former empires have been contracting for awhile. And no empire lasts more than a few centuries in the rising phase.

    They will only make expansionist moves again when, and where, they are forced together by a long-lasting threat / invasion from across a meta-ethnic frontier.

  9. In case it's not clear, I'm not calling Aimee a retard or midwit in the OP. Those terms are directed at the people she may have been getting her views of the theory from (Neoreactionies, or whoever).

    And I'm addressing her with "you," i.e. Aimee should not take whatever possibly warped views she's getting from social media talking heads, who may be typical clueless lunkheads from social media, but go straight to the source material.

    I thought that was clear from framing it as an exchange between our two accounts, but let the record reflect it, in case it was not.

    Aimee, you know I don't disrespect you. If I didn't respect what you said, I would've gone the callous irony bro route, screenshot your post, say "lol someone doesn't get it," collect the dunking points, and write you off.

    This simply happens to be one of the areas where we disagree, and that generalizes beyond just the two of us. So, worth discussing in substantive depth, to clarify what exactly are and are not the points of disagreement. That way both sides can get more out of the debate than just social media dunking.

  10. ...when / if I ever do grow to disrespect you (God forbid), it'll be announced formally by setting new lyrics to a classic diss track, in my usual style of communicating my feels toward you. :)

  11. I don't think "TGGP" is her, bro

  12. Of course not, he's a longtime occasional commenter here and in the old Sailersphere. I'm being harsh on him because he should know better, and always spergs out in the most libertarian techno-fetishist way on most issues, hence worth replying to in order to show why that mindset / worldview is so wacko.

    Also because he's a guy, and Aimee is a princess.

    I'm responding to Aimee's tweet about being kind, patient, and loyal, but not tolerating being taken for granted or disrespected.

  13. Parc Guell! Aimee, I know there's no way to prove this, but I was going to take up some Apu & Aspie editing of my own, and planned to start with them going on vacation to Barcelona! (Where I lived / worked for a year.)

    Part of that whole discourse about park / walking dates vs. pretentious foodie places. Apu would take her on a park date, but would also pay for their travel to some place fun and infectiously wholesome.

    I imagined them playing tag-you're-it and hide-and-go-seek around Parc Guell, so childlike but something that grown-ups are still helpless to not resonate with. There's a wonderful primitive-looking colonnade, surrounded with greenery, that would make a perfect hide-and-go-seek area.

    This synchronicity is a sign from someone, or some thing. We weren't just thinking of the same city -- I was looking at little gardens with orange trees and cafes with outdoor pools, but finally wound up at Parc Guell. It's just too THEM, y'know?!

    Your picture really made me homesick for the time I spent there, even if I only went to that particular spot once. Looking out across the skyline at all the familiar buildings -- the huge water tower, the Sagrada Familia still under construction... memories just came flooding back. :)

    After their twilight date at Parc Guell, they'll have to make it down to the Razzmatazz club for an endless night of dancing, stumbling out the doors at 4am, and watching the sunrise while lounging around the metro station, waiting for it to open at 5:30. Then traipsing back to their hotel room, having a nice breakfast and hazy conversation, then absolutely falling through the bed around 10am and sleeping through all of Sunday.

    I could just pick you up and spin you around right now!

  14. Also I picked up a large chocolate toy car at TJ Maxx tonight ("ooh, only $2 on clearance...") -- and it's made in Barcelona! What further synchronicity!

    I actually almost bought some Spanish olive oil, too, but decided against for the time being. And wouldn't you know it, it was made in Jaen, not Barcelona. Something must've been telling me it would prevent a full alignment of vibes around Barcelona tonight...

    I don't know if I've ever had this feeling before. It doesn't feel like we're sharing the same mind, exactly -- more like a single voice called to both of us, and we followed it independently to the same destination. But we're the only two people here, no one else heard it, or they decided not to follow it...

    So it feels more like we're the only two people who have a special quirk in our brains that allows us to hear that certain voice.

    I always knew there was something about you... it's true, lads, she's not like other girls.

  15. To coax Aimee into getting that book under her belt, maybe I just have to tap into the daddy's-girl social dynamic that she enjoyed with her knowledge-generous father growing up. Like, reading her chapters from Secular Cycles as a series of bedtime stories.

    "Ah Daddy, I already HEARD that story about elite over-production, *sigh*..."

    No no, princess, that's just the watered-down social media version. The original story in the book is a lot more dark, dramatic, and fascinating.

    "Welllll, if you say so. You promise the ending is not going to be that we need a monarch or CEO-of-a-nation to weed out the over-produced elites?"

    C'mon now, where would the fun be in that story? In this one, they're going to kill each other off -- way more exciting than just de-funding each other's NGOs!

    "And it's not only going to be about contemporary America? That can get so BORING sometimes..."

    Nah, don't worry, there are two stories apiece from England, France, Russia, and Rome!

    "Oh okayyyy then, I guess it doesn't matter anyway, as long as I get to hear a bedtime story from you."

    [And sometimes, I'll want her to read the book out loud to me, like when Sally Draper reads Edward Gibbon to her Grandpa Gene on Mad Men. Decline and Fall, just a little light bedtime reading, y'know. Nice bonding experience.]

  16. Here’s an excellent piece on elite overproduction and its effects on the current cultural and political situation.

  17. Since I haven't heard our fave MENA baddie in awhile, I indulged and bought some dates and figs to remind me of the rich and almost resinous sweetness of her voice. Also to recall her perfume (Philosykos).

    Oh, and TJ Maxx finally re-stocked the oats I normally get -- and they're from Australia, of all places! Melbourne, though, not Sydney. Red Tractor Oats, but I've affectionately re-named them Aimee Oats. The energy-packed breakfast fit for mega-posters...

    We all have our ways of getting our Aimee fix. Trying exotic new foods is a relatively elevating way. That and writing more songs to / about her. :)

  18. Aimee's recently taken to surrounding a word with asterisks for emphasis, which you can trace to my comment above from 7/11.

    I've said this earlier, but it's really heartwarming when she does this imprinting. And it makes it impossible to ever abandon her -- someone you've left such an indelible mark upon... and not because I imposed anything on her, but she wanted to mark herself with my signs (as opposed to someone else's).

    I don't know if I'd go as far as comparing it to a distinctive wedding ring, but at least it's like adopting distinctive tribal markers. I really like the tribe he's a member of, so I'll adopt their markers in order to belong to whatever group he belongs to.

    It's more like changing her surname -- could be to marry a single individual, or to assimilate into a new community.

    These are arbitrary markers, btw, not substantive ones. She's not parroting back my distinctive ideas, takes, models, etc., like a party line, cult credo, or church catechism. The substance of what she's communicating is completely orthogonal to the style in which she's expressing it -- using lots of slashes, triple dots, capitalized words, asterisk-bound words, etc., or doing none of those things. The meaning would still be the same. And her views overlap with mine, but are also distinct.

    Arbitrary markers are about committed tribal membership (or individual pair-bonding). She has distinct views, but chooses to express them in a way that remains committed to our bond / tribal membership. That means such social bonds are more important than the discourse -- we're permitted to diverge, perhaps widely, on the substance, but not on the style.

    If we diverged on style, it would feel like, "Oh, so you think your ideas are too good to wear the same style as my ideas?" It would feel like the two sides chose to speak in different languages, when they could perfectly well choose a single language. (Discourse's substance being largely orthogonal to which language it's being written in.)

    "Why do we have to all adhere to formal similarities, if substance and style are not related?" many ask. Because discourse is not solely about discovering the truth, or whatever on a substantive level -- it's also about cohering a social unit together, regardless of what its members believe. Good-faith productive discourse only happens when its within a social environment where people respect each other enough to defer their individual preferences to group conformity.

  19. Forgot to mention her use of square brackets instead of normal parentheses, which traces back to that same comment.

    Having said all that... I still like to think it's about me specifically and not some broader group I belong to. What group, that I belong to, also uses my stylistic tics? I'm pretty sure she's imprinting on me alone in a pair-bond, and she's choosing my tics rather than me choosing hers for the same reason the woman changes her surname upon marriage (to follow the man's lead).

    OK, it's not marriage yet. Maybe like a gf borrowing her bf's over-sized (on her) shirt. Not to blend in with the other people who wear that type of shirt, but because it's distinctly *his*.

    When girls imprint like that, it makes the bond irresistible. A few spergs or psychos aside, most guys like it when a girl looks up to them enough to adopt his quirks. It means he didn't trick her or get lucky somehow -- if she's imprinting on him like that, it must be because he's deserving of her respect.

    Even if it seems like a minor thing, you sure know how to make a guy feel valued -- and valuable.

  20. Now @leilamechoui doing the asterisks and capitalized words. Most likely picking it up from her fellow anti-woke MENA baddie bff Aimee, rather than directly from here.

    The reason seems to be the same, to cement a social-emotional bond by sharing distinctive stylistic features, regardless of the substance they're expressing.

    Those two are among the few who are sincere and sweeties, rather than the typical Gawker-tier discourse tattletales. And they're bonding over that experience. I think Leila was on What's Left a few months ago, too.

    Anti-wokeness / anti-COVID hysteria -- the Pan-Arabist plan that could actually succeed where earlier attempts failed.


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