There’s a flurry of interest about a new NASA-funded study on the prospect that our complex industrial societies are poised for collapse. It indeed sounds like a very interesting piece of work. But is this new? Jared Diamond’s [amazon_link id=”0241958687″ target=”_blank” ]Collapse[/amazon_link] was surely a forerunner. Paul Seabright’s [amazon_link id=”0691146462″ target=”_blank” ]The Company of Strangers[/amazon_link] majored on the potential fragility of the complex, intertwined global economy in which we all depend on the activities and goodwill of strangers – so far, so good but clearly vulnerable.
[amazon_image id=”0241958687″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0691146462″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life[/amazon_image]
But the grandfather of this complexity and collapse of civilisations theme was Joseph Tainter‘s 1988 [amazon_link id=”052138673X” target=”_blank” ]The Collapse of Complex Societies[/amazon_link]. He talks about it here on You Tube.
[amazon_image id=”052138673X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Collapse of Complex Societies (New Studies in Archaeology)[/amazon_image]
For me (as discussed in [amazon_link id=”0691156298″ target=”_blank” ]The Economics of Enough[/amazon_link]) the moral is that the unsustainable is never sustained, and the only question is how society moves to the sustainable trajectory – sustainability including the social and financial as well as the ecological dimensions. Collapse is the least desirable option.