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Rajiv
02-28-08, 01:28 PM
The Five Stages of Collapse (http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2008/02/five-stages-of-collapse.html) by Dmitry Orlov


Elizabeth Kübler-Ross defined the five stages of coming to terms with grief and tragedy as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, and applied it quite successfully to various forms of catastrophic personal loss, such as death of a loved one, sudden end to one's career, and so forth. Several thinkers, notably James Howard Kunstler and, more recently John Michael Greer, have pointed out that the Kübler-Ross model is also quite terrifyingly accurate in reflecting the process by which society as a whole (or at least the informed and thinking parts of it) is reconciling itself to the inevitability of a discontinuous future, with our institutions and life support systems undermined by a combination of resource depletion, catastrophic climate change, and political impotence. But so far, little has been said specifically about the finer structure of these discontinuities. Instead, there is to be found a continuum of subjective judgments, ranging from "a severe and prolonged recession" (the prediction we most often read in the financial press), to Kunstler's evocative but unscientific-sounding "clusterfuck," to the ever-popular "Collapse of Western Civilization," painted with an ever-wider brush-stroke.

For those of us who have already gone through all of the emotional stages of reconciling ourselves to the prospect of social and economic upheaval, it might be helpful to have a more precise terminology that goes beyond such emotionally charged phrases. Defining a taxonomy of collapses might prove to be more than just an intellectual exercise: based on our abilities and circumstances, some of us may be able to specifically plan for a certain stage of collapse as a temporary, or even permanent, stopping point. Even if society at the current stage of socioeconomic complexity will no longer be possible, and even if, as Tainter points in his "Collapse of Complex Societies," there are circumstances in which collapse happens to be the correct adaptive response, it need not automatically cause a population crash, with the survivors disbanding into solitary, feral humans dispersed in the wilderness and subsisting miserably. Collapse can be conceived of as an orderly, organized retreat rather than a rout.
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Stages of Collapse

Stage 1: Financial collapse. Faith in "business as usual" is lost. The future is no longer assumed resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out, and access to capital is lost.

Stage 2: Commercial collapse. Faith that "the market shall provide" is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down, and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.

Stage 3: Political collapse. Faith that "the government will take care of you" is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.

Stage 4: Social collapse. Faith that "your people will take care of you" is lost, as local social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.

Stage 5: Cultural collapse. Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for "kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity" (Turnbull, The Mountain People). Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes "May you die today so that I die tomorrow" (Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago). There may even be some cannibalism.
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Although many people imagine collapse to be a sort of elevator that goes to the sub-basement (our Stage 5) no matter which button you push, no such automatic mechanism can be discerned. Rather, driving us all to Stage 5 will require that a concerted effort be made at each of the intervening stages. That all the players seem poised to make just such an effort may give this collapse the form a classical tragedy - a conscious but inexorable march to perdition - rather than a farce ("Oops! Ah, here we are, Stage 5." - "So, whom do we eat first?" - "Me! I am delicious!") Let us sketch out this process.

(contd) (http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2008/02/five-stages-of-collapse.html)

Verrocchio
03-01-08, 08:52 PM
Thanks, Rajiv. For other readers, you may indeed want to follow the contd link. If you do, you will see that there is much, much more that is interesting in the detailed descriptions of Orlov's (hopefully, not prescient) Five Stages of Economic Collapse.

Rajiv
03-03-08, 12:32 AM
Sally Erickson at
What A Way To Go
Life At The End Of Empire (http://www.whatawaytogomovie.com/)

Had some words about Orlov's Five Stages
Orlov and the Wonderful, Terrible, Radical Simplification (http://www.whatawaytogomovie.com/2008/02/29/orlov-and-the-wonderful-terrible-radical-simplification/)


I just finished reading Dmitri Orlov’s article, The Five Stages of Collapse, published on the Energy Bulletin. I highly recommend it. Orlov helped me, as I believe he intended, to visualize and come to more concrete terms with the likely course of The Collapse of Western Civilization. He presents a lucid picture of what the unwinding will look like in the United States or, as the case may be, the coming “North American Union.” Which political entity will be in place depends, of course, on whether the powers that be will have time to implement their more elaborate political plans for control and domination before the balloon bursts and their insane schemes fall apart.

I very much appreciate Orlov’s analysis and I want to offer a couple of additional perspectives that occurred to me as I thought about it. First, he is incredibly clear and thoughtful about the economic, political and social conditions, but does not factor in the impending torrent of wild fluctuations in weather and climate. To me those forces, as well as global fossil fuel shortages, are likely to hasten the movement through the stages he describes, to accelerate the process. It’s rather sobering to consider crop failures, serious interruptions or losses of basic fuel imports, and likely power grid disruptions from weather events, in additon to the economic and financial failures already in motion.
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The word “collapse” implies for most people something highly negative. No doubt it is important to be sober about the level of shock and suffering that will be entailed in this process. But it is also important, in order to be able to imagine any light at the end of the tunnel, to play with other language that could also describe the process we find ourselves in.

For example, it feels very different to say: “We are on the brink of the radical simplification of human society on the planet.” Joseph Tainter, author of The Collapse of Complex Societies, describes collapse as a reduction in the scope and complexity of a society. We’re going to find ourselves with far less complex systems due to less availability of fossil energy to support those complex systems, but also due to greater stresses on basic systems of food production, shelter, heating, water availability, etc. These stresses will be result from climate change and ecological overshoot, by which we’ve seriously damaged the life support systems, the ecosystems, of our local landbases
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(contd) (http://www.whatawaytogomovie.com/2008/02/29/orlov-and-the-wonderful-terrible-radical-simplification/)