In the Austrian Alps, Peter Turchin and a fantastic team of lecturers and students are discussing how complex human societies develop – or crumble.
From Arizona to Zurich, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and experts are gathered in the alpine village of Obergurgl for an intensive week of learning about the forces integrating and disintegrating human societies.
This is the second time CSH scientist Peter Turchin, the founder of the field of cliodynamics – which treats history scientifically, studying human societies in the same way as scientists would complex biological systems –, brings together specialists and students from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds to discuss and understand human history and society.
BALANCE BETWEEN FORCES
“Our first school last year focused on the evolution of social complexity. Now we’re concentrating on the balance between forces. In 2024, we’ll focus on the collapse of societies,” explains Turchin, who’s the organizer of the winter school.
“I’m very enthusiastic about the lectures,” says Turchin.
The program includes a series of lectures that transcend disciplinary boundaries, ranging from evolutionary science to economics and the social sciences. Sarah Mathew, an anthropologist at Arizona State University, will share insights into the Turkana, a pastoral society in Kenya that cooperates without formal centralized institutions.
“Mathew is one of the most prominent experts on cultural evolution, and she will discuss why and how societies collaborate,” says Turchin. “Hongjun Zhao, an economist at the Shanghai Normal University, will share his perspective from Eastern Asia,” adds Turchin.
CSH researchers Dániel Kondor and Maria del Rio-Chanona and CSH external faculty Mirta Galesic and Sergey Gavrilets will deliver lectures as part of the program.
As well as learning theories and tools, students will engage in productive discussions with lecturers and peers. They will also put what they learn from the sessions into practice through group research projects. “For the week, students are expected to choose their research question and run preliminary analyses. In the second phase of the course, students will complete projects off-site,” says Turchin.