Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Announcement: The Five Stages of Collapse

Starting next Tuesday and for the next three months this book will be available for pre-order right on this blog. (It will also be available elsewhere, but on terms that don't come close to making book-writing a sustainable proposition, so if you want me to keep writing you should get the book directly from me.) As the publication date nears, I will also be publishing some excerpts. [Minor note: there has been some confusion regarding the book's subtitle; please ignore it.]

This book is based on the identically titled article I published on this blog in February of 2008, just as financial collapse was starting to gather steam. Since then, this article has been read nearly 100,000 times on this blog alone (it has been reposted on many other web sites) and it is its enduring popularity that has convinced me to write a book-length treatment.

In this article, I proposed a taxonomy of collapse, splitting it out into five stages—financial, commercial, political, social and cultural—and tied each of the five collapse stages to the breaching of a specific level of trust, or faith, in the status quo. Although each stage causes physical, observable changes in the environment, these can be gradual, while the mental flip is generally quite swift, because it is something of a cultural universal that nobody (but a real fool) wants to be the last fool to believe in a lie.

Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost.

Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost.

Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost.

Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost.

Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in “the goodness of humanity” is lost.

A casual perusal of history books will show that these various stages of collapse occur with great regularity. Unlike other animals, humans have a marked tendency to form complex social hierarchies which never endure because collapse is programmed into the very nature of complex social hierarchies. In fact, the first three stages can often be viewed as healthy developments.

For instance, a prompt collapse of the current financial/commercial/political scheme, which is wedded to the fatally flawed concept of infinite economic growth on a finite planet, would be most welcome, for it would give humanity a new lease on life—by leaving to the future generations a planet that is less than 100% despoiled and poisoned by industry. There are countless books that describe the predicament of industrial civilization in accurate and compelling detail, but they ruin the effect by containing certain telltale turns of phrase: “Unless we...” and “We must...” This book is not one of them. Here, the reader is being asked to take it as read that collapse will occur, and, instead of wasting time on what “we” must “do” about it, describes what each stage of collapse entails and what adaptations and coping mechanisms have proven effective in attempting to survive its consequences.

The description of each stage of collapse is accompanied by a case study that details what a successful adaptation to that stage of collapse looks like:
  • In the case of financial collapse, the example is Iceland—the only country so far that has successfully fought off international efforts to saddle its people with the debts incurred by its defunct private banks, allowing it to recover economically even as the US and the EU, which bailed out their failed banks, continue to sink deeper and deeper.
  • Commercial collapse is shown as seen through the eyes of the Russian mafia and criminal syndicates, explaining how “the free market,” in order to be able to operate, requires, at the very least, a protection racket, be it the mafia or the government. For those weaned on the pablum of nonviolence, this case study offers a useful lesson on the constructive uses of violence.
  • Political collapse as a steady state condition is explored through the example of the Pashtuns—one of the world's largest ethnic groups inhabiting parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan—whose code of honor (Pashtunwali, or the Pashtun Way) has allowed them to fight off (and, in some cases, help destroy) every empire that had ever blundered into their habitat. (They are known to the consumers of Western propaganda primarily as the Taleban.) The Pashtuns allow us to clearly see the dividing line between a hierarchical, imperialist, collapse-bound society and a steady-state, entrenched, well-organized anarchy.
  • Social collapse—or, rather, a very stable lack thereof—is studied with reference to the Roma, or Gypsies, who have survived intact over many centuries and who now number in the millions both in Europe and the US in spite of being shut out financially, commercially and politically in every country they inhabit. This case study allows us to ponder what it means to be marginalized, for to be marginalized by a collapse-bound society can be a blessing in disguise.
  • Cultural collapse is explored with the help of the Ik, an African tribe of hunter-gatherers who, once they were prevented from hunting and gathering, survived by mutating into a cultural form that we may not wish to recognize as human—yet they persist. The Ik allow us to explore an important question: Is survival at all cost really worth it?
In the interest of avoiding misunderstandings, it bears repeating that this is not a “Unless we...” book or a “We must...” book. If you are looking for a book that will tell you how to keep nine plus billion people alive in a carbon-neutral way, you are bound to be disappointed. Also, this book is likely to test the limits of your mental comfort zone, because you will, in the course of reading it, discover that the people who stand the greatest chance of surviving collapse do not resemble you socially or culturally. You might find it difficult to find common ground with them, or to respect them, initially. But looking back upon yourself, it may occur to you that you don't stand much of a chance if you remain who you are, and that you yourself would do well to try to change your outlook, your habits and the company you keep. You might even find yourself taking a small yet significant first step in that direction; and if you do that, then this book will have achieved its purpose.


Wolfgang Brinck said...

Thank you for this post. I will have to buy the book. I especially appreciate your warning in the last paragraph about the people who are likely to survive collapse.
My wife and I have been camping in the desert southwest, California, Arizona, New Mexico for the last two winters for extended periods and found that there are already and perhaps always have been a good number of people that essentially live out of their cars or RVs. My favorite was a guy with one pickup truck towing another. The lead truck was of course the engine and also the sleeping quarters. The towed truck had all the guy's junk in it. Maybe wasteful but it worked for him. And he didn't appear to be on vacation. This appeared to be his life.
And there are people who are going even more light weight. I posted some photos of a guy who lives out of his bicycle at this site:
On our most recent camping stint, ten days in Death Valley I found that after a few days I suffered no withdrawal symptoms from my normal life - I did not miss my phone, or laptop or the internet.
Some people anticipate collapse and try to prepare for it, others try to avoid it but the brave embrace it and become early adopters.

AA said...

I will be happy to pre-order, Dmitry.

Post Peak Medicine said...

I'll sign up for it. Any change the "early signers" could have a copy signed by the author? My daughter thought it was really cool that I have a signed copy of "Hold Your Applause". ("So does that mean he's a real person, Daddy? And he really lives on a sailboat?").

Dmitry Orlov said...

Peter -

I was thinking of offering 500 autographed numbered copies for a bit extra to cover the extra shipping back and forth... I think I'll do it. Thanks for the tip.

Stanislav Datskovskiy said...

I too would like to buy a signed copy.

Jason Heppenstall said...

Thanks Dmitry - I look forward to reading this book and will certainly pre-order.

It's interesting that you are focusing on the death of trust by stages. After all, what is collapse if not a great unraveling of our trust-bonded social contract?

I myself am living in Denmark at present but plan to leave soon . Here, people put all their trust in the government being able to sort out all their problems. There are already small signs that the trust is being questioned.

It will be interesting when it breaks, but I don't want to be around for that.

Robertlowrey.blogspot.com said...

I love this blog, and your attitude. there''s no concieivable way that we can go on like this. On the front page of the NYT, it has a picture of el Presidente, and in quotes, "We must Act". Don't' you love double entendres? 'Cause I don't believe the same man who wrote a jacket blurb for Reinhold Niebuhrs, "The Irony of Amercian History" really believes the things he, as president, must pretend to.

Roy Smith said...

I would also like to pre-order.

stygerd said...

Dear Dmitry,

I would like to know if I can buy the PDF version of the book as your book wont be available here in Singapore.


Anonymous said...

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escapefromwisconsin said...

Are these sequential? Because I'm wondering if the U.S. might be suffering social collapse in advance of economic or political collapse. In the last couple of days:

The 15-year-old boy who is accused of shooting and killing his parents, a 5-year-old brother and two of his sisters, aged 2 and 9, planned to continue shooting. After shooting his mother while she was sleeping at around 1 a.m. Saturday, Nehemiah Griego then shot and killed his siblings. He proceeded to wait for around five hours until his father got home before shooting him as well. Griego was going to continue the carnage. He loaded up several weapons, including an AR-15 semiautomatic, into the family van to drive to the nearest Walmart and kill more people before dying in a shootout with police, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Shooting Sparks Lockdown at Houston-Area College: Associated Press: "A shooting on a Texas community college campus wounded three people Tuesday and sent students fleeing for safety as officials placed the campus on lockdown, officials said. Harris County Sheriff's Maj. Armando Tello said authorities had detained a person of interest. Authorities also thought there could be a second shooter ... Aerial footage from local television stations showed police cars and ambulances parked on the Lone Star College System campus about 20 miles north of downtown Houston. Emergency personnel could be seen tending to people on stretchers, while others ran from a building led by officers."

When Tennessee weapons instructor James Yeager threatened Wednesday to “start killing people” if President Obama moved ahead on gun control, his infuriated rant went national, with dozens of media outlets and blogs expressing amazement.

In thousands of comments about Yeager’s YouTube video and another video the unrepentant Tactical Response CEO posted yesterday, Americans wondered if Yeager was breaking the law, or mentally ill, or a perfect example of the need for gun control. “Amazing, really,” wrote a commenter on the Hatewatch blog. “Simply amazing. These people are certifiably insane.” Said another, “These are the words of a real terrorist.” And a third wondered, “Can’t he be arrested for this?”

onething said...

Of course I will buy the book from you. I'd buy it even if I didn't want to read it just out of gratitude for all the free writing I enjoy here so much.

I just picked up a book called Plutocrats: The rise of the new global super rich and the fall of everyone else.
I wonder how this tiny minority will play out in a collapse scenario, how successfully will they be in insulating themselves and finding safe havens, and how much do they already know. The whole world is already their playground.

Honza said...

Hi, I would like to preorder the book but could you please tell me what the shipment costs will be?

Unknown said...

I would like to buy a signed copy as well.

Dmitry Orlov said...

Harold -

An ebook version (Kindle, etc.) will be available starting May 1st.

Escapefromwisconsin -

In many parts of the US social and cultural collapse have already run its course. Take away the banks, the shops and the police, and what you have is an open-air insane asylum where the inmates are armed to the teeth. Your choice of username indicates that you have the right idea.

Kris said...

Since I'd like to see you produce more books I'll order directly from your blog. Maybe even a signed copy if the price difference isn't too big.

onething said...

Worried about unemployment? Don't be.
Says Kunstler, "A lot of positions will be opening up in agriculture,"

Anonymous said...

Having learned so much from your unique manner of viewing our current state within a historical context, I would love to purchase a signed copy. Thank you!

Terrace said...

I'm looking forward to buying the book, but have to point out that the well-known story of the Ik is based on the 1960s work of a single researcher, Colin Turnbull, and has been seriously questioned since then. For a different researcher's perspective, see: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1159836

sv koho said...

Dimitri, I assume when we can order or preorder you will have a tab we can click. But if not, count me in.

KevinB said...

I'm in. Let's go!

Becky said...

Great, I'll order a copy as well.

Unknown said...

I'd like to pre-order a copy too, please

Concerned academic said...

Hi Dmitry,

I'd like to pre-order a signed copy please. I look forward to reading the book. Living in the UK I can see some signs of the country being at the brink of 'collapse stage one'. However, I'm still of two minds as to whether near-term occurrence of collapse stage 2 or higher is inevitable or whether society still has a chance to get its act together and avoid the higher (or deeper?) stages of collapse. Still I look forward to reading the book. Cheers,

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Reserve me a signed copy please, Dmitri. Tell me a price in USD for delivery to Britain, and an address to send it to, and I'll have it ready as soon as you have the copies.

Walt Cornell said...

I would like a signed copy of your new book as well. I just need a price (USD) and a address to send it to.

WuzZappnin said...

Me too. I have a couple of your books and T-shirts. Sign me up for 5 Stages.

RanDomino said...

Be wary of citing Iceland

Dmitry Orlov said...

RanDomino -

I am aware of all this, but I still believe that Iceland is a better looking horse in the financial glue factory than Ireland or Spain.

MSchaut said...

I look forward to this book. I believe an increasing number of Americans have experienced all five already, and since their own lives are gutted, are merely waiting for the rest of the facade to fall on everyone. So many middle aged women are living on the streets, and unbelievable numbers more are on the verge. I doubt, since they are so little valued even in a prosperous society, that they will survive long when things finally do come down for good. These are worthy topics for major discussions. I hope your book becomes a wild best-seller, but I fear too many have their heads in the sand for that.

Stephen Bach said...

I don't know who composed the front cover, but it is excellent.

neroden@gmail said...

escapefromwisconsin: Social collapse is local. Some communities will experience it; others won't. This happened in the USSR, for instance, where some towns were extremely resilient and got together to deal with things, while others.... weren't.

Move somewhere which won't collapse socially and get involved in that community.

Cultural collapse can clearly happen without social collapse, if one has faith in the goodness *only* of one's community, and not of anyone else. This leads quickly to tribes warring with each other. Arguably this has already happened in all of the US.

Unknown said...

Hi Dmitry,
A long way from you, but valuing real things and continuation of a postal service still, I would love to pre-order a copy of your book. Will you post to New Zealand?

Miki Kashtan said...

I'm fascinated by the things you have had to say for years and I'm excited to preorder too. Thanks.