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Thanks for the interesting article. “Involution” is a difficult concept to understand. I am not sure the English meaning really corresponds to the Chinese meaning. The English dictionary defines “involution” as a mathematical operator that when applied twice in succession, returns the original state. It is also a biological idea, being some organ that returns to its original state.

The Chinese concept reminds me of the Red Queen in Alice’s Wonderland, who runs hard but still remains in the same position. So the Chinese Involution seems to mean “running hard but getting nowhere”, or “putting in a great deal of effort but getting nothing in return”.

I suppose “Involution” is the best translation of 内卷: not achieving any progress despite exerting oneself.

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The picture drawn by the second author reminds one of the U.S. in the middle of the nineteenth century. Competition was ruinous, approaching the textbook model of perfect competition. This phase had to end. It ended with the formation of monopolies, known at the time as "trusts" - the Steel Trust, the Sugar Trust, etc.

How will the "involution" phase end in China? One difference is that the U.S. was not the main player in the scramble for imperial domains. Britain, France, and Germany fought that scramble of exporting capita to acquire external markets and secure sources of raw materials. China is already deeply enmeshed in the similar scramble today. It led to world war then.

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