Collapse, Part 2: The Nine Dynamics Of Decay
by Charles Hugh Smith
While collapse may be sudden, the decay that generated the collapse had been rotting away the foundation for years or decades. In distilling the vast literature on collapse into nine dynamics, I am drawing upon many other authors’ work, including:
The Collapse of Complex Societies
The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History
The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age
Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects
Here are the nine dynamics of decay that lead to collapse:
1. complacency and intellectual laziness
2. profound political disunity
3. rise of unproductive complexity
4. those bearing the sacrifices opt out/quit
5. decay of effective leadership
6. rise of bread and circuses social welfare and entertainment to distract/placate restive citizenry
7. decline of wealth-producing capacity–status quo living off financial trickery
8. sclerosis–status quo controlled by vested interests
9. resource depletion/environmental damage
All of these dynamics are currently in play around the globe.
Michael Grant touched on many of these dynamics in his excellent account The Fall of the Roman Empire, a short book I have been recommending since 2009:
There was no room at all, in these ways of thinking, for the novel, apocalyptic situation which had now arisen, a situation which needed solutions as radical as itself. (The Status Quo) attitude is a complacent acceptance of things as they are, without a single new idea.
This acceptance was accompanied by greatly excessive optimism about the present and future. Even when the end was only sixty years away, and the Empire was already crumbling fast, Rutilius continued to address the spirit of Rome with the same supreme assurance.
This blind adherence to the ideas of the past ranks high among the principal causes of the downfall of Rome. If you were sufficiently lulled by these traditional fictions, there was no call to take any practical first-aid measures at all.
If our idea of intellectual rigor is Paul Krugman dancing around the Neo-Keynesian Cargo Cult campfire waving dead chickens and spewing nonsensical claims of grand success, we’re doomed. Placing our faith in failed monetary-legerdemain and policies of the past is the height of hubris and complacency. There is a cost to complacency and it’s called collapse.