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Will “tribal” loyalties tear American society apart?
An empire at its peak brought low by mounting debt, a government beset by in-fighting, business and bureaucratic elites conspiring to line their own pockets, and emerging countries that eventually surpass and overwhelm it.
A prediction about America? Possibly. But this little vignette actually comes from Frances Fukuyama’s description of the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Janissaries, the bureaucratic class that controlled many of the levers of imperial power, organized themselves into the equivalent of political parties, fighting each other over the spoils of empire, even as it became increasingly clear that the imperial economy was collapsing under its own weight and that the rising powers on its borders had out-innovated it and would soon overtake it. The parallels to our modern crisis leap off the page.