How Do You Know When Society Is About to Fall Apart?
by Ben Ehrenreich
I highly suggest consuming the full piece here (21 min. read time)
Joseph Tainter, author of “The Collapse of Complex Societies” and for years has been the seminal text in the study of societal collapse, an academic subdiscipline that arguably was born with its publication in 1988, Ben notes.
“In recent years, the field Tainter helped establish has grown. Just as apocalyptic dystopias, with or without zombies, have become common fare on Netflix and in highbrow literature alike, societal collapse and its associated terms — ‘fragility’ and ‘resilience,’ ‘risk’ and ‘sustainability’ — have become the objects of extensive scholarly inquiry and infrastructure.” — Ben Ehrenreich
“Only complexity, Tainter argues, provides an explanation that applies in every instance of collapse. We go about our lives, addressing problems as they arise. Complexity builds and builds, usually incrementally, without anyone noticing how brittle it has all become. Then some little push arrives, and the society begins to fracture.” — Ben Ehrenreich
“A disaster — even a severe one like a deadly pandemic, mass social unrest or a rapidly changing climate — can, in Tainter’s view, never be enough by itself to cause collapse. Societies evolve complexity, he argues, precisely to meet such challenges.” — Ben Ehrenreich
“If you close your eyes and open them again, the periodic disintegrations that punctuate our history — all those crumbling ruins — begin to fade, and something else comes into focus: wiliness, stubbornness and, perhaps the strongest and most essential human trait, adaptability…When one way doesn’t work, we try another. When one system fails, we build another. We struggle to do things differently, and we push on. As always, we have no other choice.” — Ben Ehrenreich
My two cents: Okay, I won’t lie. This piece was a tad depressing, but it opened up a new world to me that I did not entirely know was being studied. Perhaps (and fingers crossed), the people studying collapse are in cahoots and working together with people trying to keep it all together. They have to be, right? I sure hope so. All in all, stay safe and small or big, do your part.
Share (if you're an OG) Twitter Facebook