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Societal Collapse

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Societal collapse is the fall of a complex human society. This subject is of interest in such fields as history, anthropology, sociology, politics, science, ecology, humanism, economy, etc.

We are not going to discuss in this post about the causes of collapse, there are many studies, articles, posts and bibliography focused on these causes and also activism and activists currently showing the environmental damage, climate crisis and causes of collapse. We are going to discuss the consequences of the social collapse and how societies choose to fail, survive or change.

If we talk about a planet collapse causing massive extinction or total destruction of our dear planet Earth, we can choose science fiction bibliography. The risk of another causes of societal collapse is higher so let’s focus on these ones here.

Models of societal response

Runaway Train

A society whose continuing function depends on constant growth, based almost exclusively on acquisition (e.g., pillage or exploitation), cannot be sustained indefinitely. Joseph Tainter ‘s position is that social complexity is a recent and comparatively anomalous occurrence requiring constant support. He asserts that collapse is best understood by grasping four axioms:

  1. human societies are problem-solving organizations;
  2. sociopolitical systems require energy for their maintenance;
  3. increased complexity carries with it increased costs per capita; and
  4. investment in sociopolitical complexity as a problem-solving response reaches a point of declining marginal returns.

With these facts in mind, collapse can simply be understood as a loss of the energy needed to maintain social complexity. Collapse is thus the sudden loss of social complexity, stratification, internal and external communication and exchange, and productivity.

Dominant minority, the elite

Arnold J.Toynbee theorized that all civilizations pass through several distinct stages: genesis, growth, time of troubles, universal state, and disintegration.

The fixation on the old methods of the “Creative Minority” leads it to eventually cease to be creative and degenerates into merely a “dominant minority” (that forces the majority to obey without meriting obedience), failing to recognize new ways of thinking. He argues that creative minorities deteriorate due to a worship of their “former self”, by which they become prideful, and fail to adequately address the next challenge they face.

A society whose continuing function depends on constant growth, based almost exclusively on acquisition (e.g., pillage or exploitation), cannot be sustained indefinitely

Joseph Tainter


Frequently a societal collapse phenomenon triggered processes of decentralization of authority after a ‘classic’ period of centralized social order, perhaps replaced by competing centers as the central authority weakens.

Nations and communities from all continents have tried to implement their alternatives but were annihilated by the dominant civilizations. Leaked documents published revealed that the CIA and European security agencies had played a role in each attempt: the assassination of leaders, helping the opponents with money, political support, weapons and military training. Some other communities and mechanisms are growing, some survive and others face alternatives to the main models of civilization such as totalitarianism, colonialism and capitalism.

Democratic confederalism is a non-state social paradigm.

Abdullah Öcalan
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Note : this post was inspired by the Institute of Cryptoanarchy

Featured image: creative commons

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