Review: After Collapse: The Regeneration of Complex Societies

3 Star, Complexity & Catastrophe, Complexity & Resilience
After Collapse
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good Idea Partially Executed

August 11, 2007

Glenn M. Schwartz

The book, an edited work, seeks to address a gap in scholarship, to wit, where others have covered why and how complex societies have collapsed, there is vitually nothing on how some, not all, regenerate. The editors do point out that most collapses are not total, and something is left (see my review of The Collapse of Complex Societies (New Studies in Archaeology) for a more nuanced review of this matter). It fails to go the full distance possible.

The combined authors posit a cycle of growth, collapse, and regeneration between ruralism and local autonomy, and urbanization with centralization of control.

In an excellent but not quite complete summary of the causes of collapse, the editors outline the following:

1. Fragmentation into smaller political entities
2. Partial or complete desertion of urban centers
3. Loss or depletion of centalizing functions
4. Breakdown of regional economic systems
5. Failure of civilization’s ideology

They do not mention the latest and best explanation, that the more complex a society becomes, the more expensive it is to make incremental improvements in management, and the unaffordability of the always increasing cost for each always decreasingly effective improvement ultimately leads to implosion (see Collapse as linked above).

They do however mention in passing that large-scale inegalitarian systems tend to collapse over time–they are unsustainable. This tallies nicely with Jonathan Schell’s The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People while also contrasting with the literature on the The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization, and so on.

The authors are somewhat narrow in focusing on prior structures of rule, authority, and governability. One puts this book down with the impression it was a first date between a political scientist and an anthropologist, and they fell into psycho-babble as a neutral common ground. See my loaded image, with the full thesis at my web site under my photo/Early Papers.

An isolated but interesting observation on how state control of time and space (e.g. Daylight Savings Time, or in the US the more recent and most unwelcome additional hour of time change) are part of mind control, was worthy of note–just a the power of the state to define crime and insantity leaves us with a The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, legalized corporate greed, and a mendacious Vice President who has committed 25 impeachable offenses and yet carries on with impunity (see Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency

The conclusion, in two parts, consists largely of psycho-babble (the first part), and a very fine second part, much more interesting for its applicability to our time, that posits that when a centralized government goes too far in overseas adventurism, this opens the way for the provinces to secede and become autonomous again. I note that we have 27 secessionist movements in the USA, and they are having their second annual meeting in October of this year. I for one feel that there is no one now running, including Ron Paul, that understands that the secessionists, not the “party base” are the ones we should be listening to, for they are the only ones that see clearly that the Republic is no more.

To save the Republic, we must destroy two things and create one thing:

1. Destroy the Democratic and Republican parties (see Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers) and
2. Destory the unbound Executive and the abdicated Congress
3. Create a transpartisan ticket that demands electoral reform prior to 2008 and provides both a Sunshine Cabinet with integrated policies announced in advance, and a sustainable balanced budget that eliminates all personal income taxes while taxing the Federal Reserve for local, state, and federal revenues.

We need to make every budget transparent, and to publish every budget in time for citizen participation in the evaluation of every trade-off. We do this, or the United States of America is destroyed, courtesy of Wall Street, the Bush Family, the Saudis, and Dick Cheney.

This is a useful book, but only an elementary start. The authors are all well-positioned to go on now to the next level. See also the various books on surviving the The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century.

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