Social Turbulence and Governmental Form of the most commonly observed natural phenomena around us is that of turbulence.  We experience turbulence everywhere that we see fluid flow – in the air which airplanes pass through, in the wakes of boats traveling in the water, in the rising of smoke and the movement of clouds, and many other everyday things.  Yet, for all of its commonness, turbulence is still little understood and is difficult to control or predict.  Turbulence is a chaotic phenomenon, in the “chaos theory” sense of the term.  Most commonly, a chaotic system is one which exhibits the property of sensitivity to initial conditions.  Essentially, chaotic systems are deterministic, meaning that given their current conditions, their evolution can (in theory) be completely predicted.  However, in practice, chaotic systems (such as those exhibiting turbulent flow) will diverge from the expected evolution because of this sensitivity to the initial conditions.  Any arbitrarily small perturbation of the system will result in significantly divergent future behaviour.  In essence, while one *could* completely predict the evolution of a chaotic system, because of our inability to measure and control with sufficient precision, even extremely small differences from “theory” will lead to large changes in the system from what we thought we would observe, based on determinism alone.  There are other properties which must be present for a dynamical system to be classified as chaotic, but these tend to be more highly technical and will not be discussed here.

Turbulence will begin to occur in a dynamic fluid flow system when a threshold in flow energy and velocity is reached which leads to chaotic changes in localised flow velocity and fluid pressure.  Once a certain amount of energy (typically represented by velocity, which is related to kinetic energy in the system) is reached in a flow system, it transitions from laminar flow (smooth, even flow characterised by parallel layers of fluid which lack lateral mixing) to turbulent.  As a result, the eddies and vortices which identify a turbulent system become apparent in the system.  The more energy  you add to a flowing fluid system, the closer you get to that threshold for turbulent behaviour until you eventually cross it.

Turbulent flows demonstrate several characteristics.

First, they are irregular.  They do not follow a repetitious pattern (which hearkens back to the sensitivity to initial conditions discussed above), and thus do not follow a steady shape pattern.  Practically speaking, it is impossible to predict the actual three dimensional shape which the vortices within a turbulent flow will take at any given moment, and these are themselves constantly changing.

Second, such flows are dissipative.  To maintain a turbulent flow requires constant input of energy because the kinetic energy of the flow is being converted into internal energy in the system through the eddies being generated.  The overall energy of the system is being increased through this process, though due to the conversion of kinetic to internal energy, the effect of this increase of energy is realised at the microscopic level.

Third, turbulence is diffusive.  Turbulent flows exhibit enhanced rates of mass, momentum, and energy transfer, and tend to accelerate the rate of homogenisation (the “mixing”) of the fluid layers.

I believe that we can draw a sound analogy between the natural scientific phenomenon of turbulence, and the social scientific phenomenon of “social turbulence,” which may be defined as “the unpredictable behaviour of a social or political system once a threshold level of sociopolitical energy has been reached within the system.”  The buildup of energy in a system that leads to it becoming turbulent is caused by “political frustration,” which occurs when a political actor is unable to successfully exercise the power within a sociopolitical system that he or she wishes to use.  The greater the number of political actors within a governing system, the more potential for political frustration there is, because there will always be some who will be the losers in the struggle for power between factions and ideologies.  The more people involved in the interplay which occurs during the political decision-making process, the more people there are who will lose votes, fail to exercise influence over government, and so forth.

These individuals and the groups in which they exist will become dissatisfied, and will eventually become more and more radicalised as their failure to successfully exercise political power continues.  The energy enters in from the fact that they are enticed by the opportunity to exercise power, but are then frustrated in the attempt to do so.  Losing factions contribute to overall social system energy.  We see this currently in the recent American election.  From a turbulence perspective, it really did not matter whether Trump or Clinton won the presidency – either way, half of the voting population would have been frustrated, angry, and have manifested a greater percentage of its population which would become willing to consider more extreme measures to achieve political satisfaction.  Witness the disturbances going on in blue states right now, and the protests of “Not my president!” being lodged by many progressives.  Had Clinton won, it’s likely that somewhat similar behaviour would have arisen from some on the Right.

It is for this reason that democracies are typically the most turbulent and unstable of the major governing modes employed by man.  Every individual within a society may be thought of as a “social particle,” analogous to the individual molecules making up a fluid in a flowing system.  When energy within the system is low, i.e. when there is a general satisfaction, or at least acquiescence to, the government in power, society “flows” in a steady and useful way (analogous to a laminar flow).  When the energy within a system is high (i.e. a great deal of political frustration exists), turbulence occurs, which can damage the channel through which the flow is travelling (i.e. the institutions and other social ordering mechanisms existing within a traditional society).  When there are millions of social particles which are also concurrently political actors, there is always going to be a large segment of the population suffering from political frustration.  These frustrated social particles, if energetic enough, will cross the threshold into a turbulent system, creating the social eddies and vortices which disrupt the smooth flow of a society.  These social particles will store the “internal energy” of this frustration, and the overall energy of the system becomes higher and the system itself less stable.

Democracies are ripe for social turbulence.  Because the sovereignty is (in theory) placed into the hands of so many political actors (i.e. “the people”), it is almost impossible to predict in what direction they will go over the long term.  Likewise, the masses are often very easily swayed by demagogues who can take them in completely unforeseen directions.  As a result, democratic bodies demonstrate a great deal of sensitivity to initial conditions.  While a democratic polity might theoretically be predictable in the direction it will take based on its current disposition, very small changes can lead to very divergent sets of political behaviour.  They are essentially unpredictable over the long term, other than that they tend to fail after roughly two centuries or so (which seems to be a sort of “strange attractor” basin for democratic political systems).

Similarly, democracies display turbulent behaviour in that they are irregular, dissipative, and diffusive, as we saw with physical turbulence above.  Because of their perpetually unstable configurations of political alliances between different identity and interest groups, democracies follow no regular, set pattern of behaviour – they will simply be all over the map.  Democracies are dissipative in that they are constantly requiring the addition of more and more energy to maintain themselves (hence, the constant drive toward extending the suffrage more and more widely).  This energy gets “baked into” the system, eventually leading to the point where the internal energy of the system is unsustainable and must find release, usually either in inter-communal or inter-factional violence, or else in a revolution that leads to a more authoritarian, lower-energy system.  Lastly, democracies are diffusive in that they tend to result in the homogenisation of social and class lines, with a resulting destruction of the aristocratic leadership caste which traditionally provides sound statesmanship for the nation.  The result is a generalised “dumbing down” of the sociopolitical system to the lowest common denominator, which in turn damages the symmetry and order of society.

A fair study of history demonstrates that the other two major forms of government – monarchy and aristocracy – provide much more stable and “laminar” flow in the societies over which they rule.  Within these types of systems, there are far, far fewer political actors, and therefore far fewer opportunities for the buildup of social energy due to political frustration.  Remember, political frustration arises when one’s political expectations do not meet one’s realities.  When the vast majority of the social particles in society do not have any political expectations to begin with because they do not possess a share in the sovereignty and suffrage, then there is much less room for frustrated expectations to translate into sociopolitical energy.  As such, there tends to be far less opportunity for social turbulence to occur in monarchical and aristocratic systems.  To the extent that there is conflict, it tends to exist within the upper classes and manifests itself as court intrigues and the like, rather than broad-based strife or violence.

It has been rightly observed that democratic systems tend to survive intact for no more than two centuries before they either collapse or convert to more authoritarian systems which can disperse their built-up political energy.  The democratising Roman Republic survived the Marian reforms of 107 BC only until the civil wars of the 40s and 30s BC and the subsequent imposition of the Augustan monarchy (even if the name of “king” was studiously avoided).  Likewise, the vaunted Athenian democracy only lasted about two centuries before flaming out in a fit of spasmodic turbulence.  The American Republic, which was fatefully democratised from at least 1824 onward, is currently in a spiral towards collapse and Great Reset, regardless of Donald Trump’s election.

Conversely, however, when the sovereignty is undivided (as in monarchy) or is highly centralised under a strong executive (e.g. the Venetian Republic), there tends to be much greater stability in society.   The royal houses of Europe survived the vicissitudes of war and international strife for centuries.  The Venetian Republic lasted for a millennium before being forcefully extirpated by Napoleon.  In the monarchies and aristocratic republics of medieval and early modern Europe, social order and stability was high.  Society enjoyed a “laminar” flow, largely free of turbulence and chaos.  Only in instances where the masses where stirred up against the existing monarchies (as against the Bourbons in France in 1789 or the Romanovs in Russia in 1917) by demagogues who promised them  a share in the sovereignty (falsely, as it turned out) did we see violent revolution and social strife.  This strife was not a consequence of the monarchical systems, but because of the agitation of democratic saboteurs against them.  Democracy breeds disorder and turbulence, monarchy and strong executive tend toward order and a smoothly flowing society.

The modern West has unfortunately imbibed a strong dose of reverence for “democracy,” arising from the spread of modernistic “Enlightenment” values through the masses of the people in our nations.  As a result, we’ve seen higher and higher energy systems fraught with broad-based factionalism and strife.  It has reached the point where many of the self-proclaimed democratic “elites” at the helms of these factions have taken to trying to extend national democracy beyond the nations themselves and to large numbers of foreigners who are being brought into western nations to try to replace the native populations when they threaten to become less supportive of the policies preferred by these transnational elites.  The introduction of these inassimilable elements deforms these societies, disrupts the smooth flow of their social systems, and adds tremendous amounts of social energy which is now manifesting itself in ethnic strife all across Europe, and even in the United States.  These problems arise from the obsession with democracy, which has evolved into a desire for a “world without borders” in which our democracy can be imposed on foreign populations, whether through offensive war or through the importation of these foreigners back home (Steve Sailer’s “Invade the world, invite the world” strategy).  Democracy for everyone – citizen, national, or otherwise – is the ultimate result of the impulse to extend the suffrage.

We know that our societies will eventually find a way to release the pent-up internal energy caused by political frustration in our democratic systems.  Eventually, we *will* return to lower energy state systems which display more marked authoritarian tendencies.  The only question is how we will get there and in what way this release of energy will occur.  Will it be through peaceful transition, likely accompanied by the voluntary breakup of large polities (such as the USA) into smaller and more manageable and homogeneous units?  Or will it be through “the Great Reset” and social collapse, likely to be accompanied by violence and destruction?  It is most definitely in the interest of Tradition and neoreaction to try to steer the evolution of our nations into the former direction.  We should avoid the sort of “resting on our laurels” which will be the temptation for many on the broader alt-Right now that Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States.  While he may halt, or at least slow, the progression of some of the more acute dysfunctions in American society, the long-term trend is still inexorably toward a reset of one sort or another.  One of the areas of research which neoreactionary intellectuals should continue to investigate is how to channel the release of energy into less destructive and more useful directions so that the eventual authoritarian system(s) which emerge will be less tyrannical and more genuinely legitimate in their actions and bases for authority.



10 thoughts on “Social Turbulence and Governmental Form

  1. As though it weren’t bad enough that democracies institute social structures in which the objective potential for general social conflict is greater, they also give rise to a worldview that actually encourages such conflict. The aristocracies and monarchies were buttressed in their stability by religion, which asserted the organic mutual interdependence of all the estates of society and united them into a ritual community in which everyone participates. The democracies throw out religion and replace it with secular political philosophies that, from Marxism to Libertarianism, conceive of society as a battleground and exalt various forms of cut-throat, zero-sum competition and social conflict in which each individual and each class tries to vanquish the others and seize the whole spoils of victory for itself. Social turbulence becomes the basic ontological truth of Man’s being and moreover, the very engine of “progress”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s highly unfortunate for your metaphor that what you call ‘turbulence’ is actually encouraged in some designs (e.g. with vortex generators) because laminar flow increases skin drag enough that the energy necessary to create a vortex is less than the savings by the decrease in skin drag. Further, by disturbing the boundary layer, vortex generators also increaes various other flying characteristics, like stall angle, aileron performance in a stall, max takeoff (and landing) weight, stall speed, etc., depending on design.

    In aerodynamics, sometimes ‘turbulence’ is good.

    This is unfortunate because we’re trying very hard to persuade people that in society, that’s not the case.

    (Sorry if this spammed your inbox or something. I had trouble posting it for some unknown reason.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rhetocrates,

      True…but this is also a relatively minor case in the overall discussion of the detriments of turbulence in physical systems. Certainly in the sort of system pictured by the language I used, which was essentially closed flow systems (“which can damage the channel through which the flow is travelling…”), turbulence is a detriment.

      However, it also occurs to me that your counterexample can still prove advantageous in that it is always conceivable that (just as with the vortex generators you mention) in a few special cases, social turbulence might be desirable. I can see this being the case in “open flow” systems such as a newly-opened frontier/colonial system in which turbulence in the form of highly energetic competition between colonists would take place which would later settle out into the “closed laminar” flow of a new society, with the winners in the competition ensconced as the new aristocracy of the social system. Just a thought.


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