I’ve just finished reading Dmitry Orlov’s The Five Stages of Collapse.


Orlov’s blog is here.    It’s one of my favourite reads.

I’m not going to spend time waxing lyrical about this book, because I realise the imminent collapse of industrial civilisation is a taboo subject with most people, but I will say I found it unputdownable and the source of some stunning new insights into the human predicament.

Orlov’s five stages are: Financial, Commercial, Political, Social and Cultural. Although treated in the book in that order, there’s no guarantee they will occur in that order, or one after the other in an orderly slow succession. At the end of each chapter Orlov has added a case history to illustrate each of the stages: Iceland (financial); the Former Soviet Union (commercial); the Pashtuns (political); the Roma (social) and the Ik (cultural).

Orlov has posted some exerpts at his blog and I’ve pasted one of them here just to give you an idea of what to expect from his writing:

“Looking at the first three stages of collapse—financial, commercial, political—it is clear why financial collapse should, and to some extent already has, come first. Commercial collapse results from the disruption of the physical flows of products and services; political collapse occurs when governments are no longer able to fulfill their obligations to their citizens in the wake of commercial collapse; but all that is required for financial collapse is for certain assumptions about the future to be invalidated, for finance is not a physical system but a mental construct, one resembling a house of cards that, to stretch this metaphor just a little, can remain stable only while continuously adding more cards, in the sense of continuous credit expansion supported by economic growth. But we are entering a time when a wide variety of physical constraints are making themselves felt around the world, from the depletion of fossil fuel resources, metal ores, phosphate, fresh water and arable land, to massive disruptions because of droughts, floods and heat waves brought by accelerating climate change, to the political instability and upheaval which sweep the world in the wake of each food price spike. All of these elements combine to make a rosy projection for global economic growth untenable. In turn, an extended period of economic stagnation followed by a sustained, perhaps terminal contraction is fatal to a financial system that constantly requires more debt, and more growth.”

The remainder of the chapter goes on to describe ways of cashing out of the system before cash (along with all other financial contrivances) becomes worthless, how to trade in absence of banks or other financial institutions and what life without money tends to look like. All very fascinating stuff. Orlov’s book will be a permanent fixture on my bedside reading table.

If you’re interested in the subject of collapse (and you should be, for all past civilisations have collapsed and the present one will be no exception), and you want to do some thinking about how you might survive this one, then I can recommend this book.

If you need more background, then I’d also recommend the following:

Overshoot: the physiological basis of revolutionary change  (William Catton).

The Collapse of Complex Societies (Joseph Tainter).

Collapse (Jared Diamond).

If you’d rather watch than read, then the series of 20 short videos which make up Chris Martenson’s Crash Course, which deals with economics and finance is well worth it.

8 Responses to “Collapse”

  1. Frogdancer Says:

    But I’m too busy for civilisation to collapse around me!!!!!


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Just remember, when fossil fuels run out, we won’t have any electricity to run our Thermomixes, so you should have plenty of time to do other things.
      When I can’t use my Thermie any more, I’m going to fill it with potting mix and grow a plant in it. Maybe you should be demonstrating how to do this for future owners. 😉


  2. informationforager Says:

    Yes, frogdancer, I am unprepared also. I’m saving money for Disneyland and more rides. Also I haven’t learned all my violin arpeggios in time to play while Rome(America) burns.

    Seriously, it looks like a great book and I am going to read it. I’ve read “Collapse” by Jared Diamond and it was very good. There have been some blogs lately that have tried to determine how our fall will occur. While various parts of the system will fall apart I think that when the stock market fails that will mark the “real” beginning of our collapse. Until then everyone(myself included) just keeps plugging along. Thanks.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      If you’ve read Diamond’s book, you’ll at least have some awareness of what’s in the pipeline, which is more than anyone I know. Hope you enjoy Orlov.


  3. notsomethingelse Says:

    Nice post. A whole generation has grown up experiencing nothing other than the relative affluence of our modern way of life but history tells us that civilisations inevitably rise and fall. The only difference with the current global civilisation is that we have farther to fall, more to lose, than any previous that we know of.

    Signs of disintegration have been visible for some time now and it is unpredictable just what path or course the various drivers of collapse that Orlov talks about may take us on or how quickly these events will transpire. One thing is for sure, and a growing number of voices are beginning to warn of this, our current way of life is reaching its expiry date and the next few decades, at least, are not going to be a cakewalk.

    Awareness and preparedness are going to be key factors.


  4. narf77 Says:

    As 50 rapidly approaches I don’t know what to fend off first, 50 or the need to do everything to get prepared. I think 50 is the most pressing…


    • informationforager Says:

      Actually I’m 58 and I keep telling people “What I wouldn’t give just to be 40.” Maybe I just skipped some stages of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross 5 stages of dying and skipped right to bargaining.

      Yea, this whole time thing….we can’t stop it, we can’t even slow it down.

      Thanks. Have a good day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: