I had already had my world rocked by the implications of the PowerPoint that Dmitry Orlov first created on the topic of collapse here in the US, so was excited to learn that he had expanded his insights to book length in Reinventing Collapse.
What I imagine we will get is a whole lot of denial about how collapse won't happen here. Joseph Tainter, in his 1988 classic, The Collapse of Complex Societies, after first describing how collapse is inevitable (because of diminishing returns on investment of energy and labor), goes on to give three reasons why collapse is not likely in modern times. 1) Absorption by a larger state or neighbor. 2) Economic support by a dominant power or by an international financing agency. 3) Payment by the support population of overhead costs to keep the society going. He added a telling little aside. Complex societies, he claimed are excellent at solving complex problems and if they fail to, then it is not because they are incapable of it, but because of some psychological underpinning in the society itself. He did not delve further into these underpinnings. The mirror that Orlov holds up shows us that this very psychosis is built into the society that attempts to play the game of empire. Why else would a people believe such delusions about themselves? P.S. Nobody bothered to save Russia, preferring, instead, to loot it.
In the end the picture that emerges is that of a simplified America based on complex interrelationships between people one can trust, hand skills to make things work, an ability to relate up and down the social classes and left and right to different social groups, being able to grow food, being able to downgrade living standards dramatically and manage expectations, being self-sufficient, flexible and adaptable sounds like a big improvement to the hollow, consumer driven, meaningless, success culture we do live in.
In his conclusion, Orlov neither tries to sell cheerful optimism, Al Gore style, or grind you to a pulp Kunstler, Long Emergency style. For that I am grateful, as well as for the experience of having my mind opened to the view while drifting silently to earth wondering what crocodiles will be lurking in the swamps of post-collapse America.
Read the whole review here.
Amanda Kovattana is the author of Diamonds In My Pocket: Tales of a Childhood in Asia, coming out in June.