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From the Wikipedia:

"The term collapsology is a neologism used to designate the transdisciplinary study of the risks of collapse of industrial civilization. It is concerned with the "general collapse of societies induced by climate change, scarcity of resources, vast extinctions, and natural disasters." Although the concept of civilizational or societal collapse had already existed for many years, collapsology focuses its attention on the contemporary, industrial and globalized society.

The word 'collapsology' has been coined and publicized by Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens in their essay: Comment tout peut s’effondrer. Petit manuel de collapsologie à l’usage des générations présentes (How everything can collapse: A manual for our times, published in 2015 in France. It also started to become a movement when Jared Diamond's work Collapse was published. Since then, the term has gradually spread in the general English-speaking community, although it is still seldom used by the English-speaking specialists of the field.

Collapsology is part of the idea that mankind impacts its environment sustainably and negatively, and propagates the concept of ecological urgency, linked in particular to global warming and the biodiversity loss. Collapsologists believe, however, that the collapse of industrial civilization could be the result of a combination of different crises: environmental, but also energy, economic, geopolitical, democratic, and other crises.

Collapsology is a transdisciplinary exercise involving ecology, economics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, biophysics, biogeography, agriculture, demography, politics, geopolitics, bioarchaeology, history, futurology, health, law and art."


From the Wikipedia:

"The word "collapsology" is a neologism invented "with a certain self-mockery" by Pablo Servigne, an agricultural engineer, and Raphaël Stevens, an expert in the resilience of socio-ecological systems. It appears in their book published in 2015.

It is a portmanteau derived from the Latin collapsus, "to fall, to collapse" and from the suffix "-logy", logos, put for "study " , which is intended to name an approach of scientific nature.

Since 2015 and the publication of How everything can collapse in French, several words have been proposed to describe the various approaches dealing with the issue of collapse: collapso-sophy to designate the philosophical approach, collapso-praxis to designate the ideology inspired by this study, and collapsonauts to designate people living with this idea in mind."



Pierre Charbonnier:

"Collapsology has been roundly criticized, its detractors arguing that fatalistic claims of an impending apocalypse betray an abdication of responsibility—a depoliticizing narrative that blinkers us to the multiple collapses already in motion that have not evoked the slightest compassion or response, and serves only as a platform for providential authority figures. 

See, in particular, the articles by Benedikte Zitouni and… None of these arguments are without merit; in fact, they have a vital role to play in helping prevent the narrative of collapse from usurping our attention and sapping energy from the much-needed debate on the relationships between environmentalism and social justice. Still, because these ideas are out there, because they have already infiltrated a great many people’s imaginations and emotions, let us look a little closer—not at what underpins them, but at what they propose. Let us look seriously at the tomorrow they seek to instate, taking at face value this naturalist transposition of archaic constructs of sin and the fall from grace.

The first book released by Pablo Servigne and his associates has an imperious, threatening tone that aims to whip up and corral our anxiety, whereas the second aspires to guide readers toward the new renaissance, the new world. Like born-again Christians racked by guilt, belatedly reconciled with Christ, Servigne’s readers are shepherded from shock to solace or, in less high-brow terms, through the universe of Mad Max to that of Little House on the Prairie. Thus, those who trade in the apocalypse deploy the overblown (and rather tired) crisis of progressivism rather shrewdly. Instead of simply bewailing the catastrophic prospect of the breakdown of civilization, they turn the pessimism heuristic on its head and declare that amid the ruins of our infrastructure and our ideals lies an opportunity for radical reinvention, a new and restorative way of life. Reset civilization.

From here, the climate crisis and successive environmental shocks ultimately start to look like immanent justice: the collapse of the industrial system will rid us, albeit ruthlessly, of all that is superfluous, forcing us to acknowledge the essential. However, the new elect will clearly not be assembled from the ranks of those who have been sidelined by mainstream politics and economic models. These texts give us a good sense of who will come out on top. We might recognize them in the communities of self-sufficient smallholders now springing up at a salutary distance from hotbeds of consumerist debauchery. The collapse will create winners and losers, and its defenders have the decency to be crystal clear on this point. Although everyone is prone to worrying about the future, for themselves and their loved ones, it is only those who, by inheritance or willingness to “pack it all in,” have bagged a patch of fertile land and learned to tend it that will be able to adapt to the new reality. Life among ruins does not hold the same appeal for everyone. When the majority of the population finds itself faced with energy insecurity and fighting for access to public goods (water, healthy air, transportation), only a tiny minority will be able to transform that insecurity and exclusion into opportunity.

Once again, we should be wary of aiming at the wrong target. The spatial redistribution of industry and commerce, a non-productive understanding of our relationship with the earth, the emergence of local trading systems … all of these things can contribute to a post-growth democratic renaissance. Organizations like France’s Terre de liens, which helps young farmers gain access to land, the agricultural cooperative movement, and countless agroecological initiatives, are busy laying the groundwork for a democratic reconstruction, one that stubbornly resists the dilemma held over our heads by collapsology: conversion or death. The trick to navigating these changes is to devise a political system capable of accepting the material limits of the soil without spiraling into autarchic reactionism or identity politics. In contrast, the rhetoric of resilience and mutual aid displayed in Another End of the World is Possible: Living the Collapse is a poor disguise for a naturalist and apolitical conception of solidarity.

In this respect, perhaps the collapsology movement’s new mystique is merely the distorted reflection of a very real historical and political process. This brings us back, in a sense, to Rousseau and his famous Discourse on Inequality. The problem explored in this work resonates unsettlingly with our own modern-day concerns—this curative ecological purge destined to wash away both our technological hubris and our social ideals. Effectively, Rousseau presents us with an anthropological inflection point, one called into being when we began appropriating land and domesticating nature, what in contemporary terms we might call “human neolithization.” On one side of this divide stood a humanity generous by nature, that had established a direct and balanced relationship with its environment and empathetic, egalitarian ties with one another. On the other lay the legal and technical construction of personal property, which to Rousseau seemed both a curse (our modern condition being characterized by nostalgia for a long-lost primitive bliss) and the bedrock of a new set of structural needs. The invention of property was an anthropological shift that condemned us to administering to our own decline (better than bemoaning it) while protecting ourselves from our own inclinations. Modern political thought, Rousseau argues, boils down to an effort to make something acceptable and fair out of an attitude toward nature that is fundamentally violent (being extractive) and unjust (being founded on exclusion). In a free republic, then, there is a need to invent and enshrine in law rules of coexistence that previously arose quite naturally from human ethics.

Collapsology slips unannounced into this modern mythology, by cunningly proposing that the anthropological transition described by Rousseau could run in reverse. That, above all, is the role of climate catastrophe in the mechanics of collapse: a precious opportunity to cheerfully cast off the entire burden of technical, legal, and economic interventions that has weighed humanity down throughout this modern parenthesis, and to win back our primitive freedom, the only true liberty there is. Rousseau, in a sweeping feat of intuition, tells us that changing our relationship with nature changes everything. This relationship changed the moment we first uttered “this is mine,” as described in the opening pages of Discourse, and this is what made it necessary to develop a political model for coexistence. Collapsologists would retort that, since catastrophe will lay waste to all of our modern accommodations with nature, we will finally be able to begin again, and reclaim our prepolitical freedom.

It will be the end of abundance, of property, of domination—ruination has never looked so appealing. Yet, this “reboot” of the modern system bears only a superficial resemblance to Rousseau’s philosophy. His central premise was that the loss of our primitive state was permanent. To him, the institution of social justice, meant to compensate for the economy’s violent and unjust tendencies, was wholly irreversible. Whatever post hoc adjustments we made to our relations with the world, modernity’s legacy was to teach us about justice, because we will never return to a state where scarcity and competition have been banished forever. By now, we are well aware that environmental crises only exacerbate scarcity, competition, and inequality. Our response to growing climate volatility should be to reflect on the tools we might use to protect ourselves and address fresh demands for justice in a new scenario of social conflict.

The real question we should be asking collapsologists is how they propose to engage with the future. Entering into debates about the gravity and scope of the environmental and social upheavals we are witnessing is futile, because most of us would agree that humanity’s habitual way of handling things has run its course, along with the dominant political models that go with it. Instead, we should be debating the promise they make to their readers and to which they have committed themselves: What would they say to the millions trapped in urban sprawl, who cannot afford what is all too often the luxury of an eco-conscious lifestyle? More pressingly, what would they say to the men and women stricken by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique last spring? Are they comfortable with telling them that confronting catastrophe requires an “inner journey”? 



... of collapsologists, then and now:

"the study of the collapse of societies is older and is probably a concern of every civilization.

Among the works on this theme (in a broad sense) one can mention those of

  1. Berossus (278 B.C.),
  2. Pliny the Younger (79 AD),
  3. Ibn Khaldun (1375),
  4. Montesquieu (1734),
  5. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766 - 1834),
  6. Edward Gibbon (1776),
  7. Georges Cuvier, (1821),
  8. Élisée Reclus (1905),
  9. Oswald Spengler (1918),
  10. Arnold Toynbee (1939),
  11. Günther Anders (1956),
  12. Samuel Noah Kramer (1956),
  13. Leopold Kohr (1957),
  14. Rachel Carson (1962),
  15. Paul Ehrlich (1969),
  16. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1971),
  17. Donella Meadows,
  18. Dennis Meadows & Jørgen Randers (1972),
  19. René Dumont (1973),
  20. Hans Jonas (1979),
  21. Joseph Tainter (1988),
  22. Al Gore (1992),
  23. Hubert Reeves (2003),
  24. Richard Posner (2004),
  25. Jared Diamond (2005).

  • Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975)

In his monumental (initially published in twelve volumes) and highly controversial work of contemporary historiography entitled "A Study of History" (1972), Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975) deals with the genesis of civilizations (chap. 2), their growth (chap. 3), their decline (chap. 4), and their disintegration (chap. 5). According to him, the mortality of civilizations is trivial evidence for the historian, as is the fact that they follow one another over a long period of time.

  • Joseph Tainter (born 1949)

In his book The Collapse of Complex Societies, the anthropologist and historian Joseph Tainter (1949-) studies the collapse of various civilizations, including that of the Roman Empire, in terms of network theory, energy economics and complexity theory. For Tainter, an increasingly complex society eventually collapses because of the ever-increasing difficulty in solving its problems.

  • Jared Diamond (born 1937)

The American geographer, evolutionary biologist and physiologist Jared Diamond (1937- ) already evoked the theme of civilizational collapse in his book called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, published in 2005. By relying on historical cases, notably the Rapa Nui civilization, the Vikings and the Maya civilization, Diamond argues that humanity collectively faces, on a much larger scale, many of the same issues as these civilizations did, with possibly catastrophic near-future consequences to many of the world's populations. This book has had a resonance beyond the United States, despite some criticism.[17] Proponents of catastrophism who identify themselves as "enlightened catastrophists" draw from Diamond's work, helping build the expansion of the relational ecology network, whose members believe that man is heading toward disaster.[1] Diamond's Collapse approached civilizational collapse from archaeological, ecological, and biogeographical perspectives on ancient civilizations."


Modern collapsologists

Since the invention of the term collapsology, many French personalities gravitate in or around the collapsologists' sphere. Not all have the same vision of civilizational collapse, some even reject the term "collapsologist", but all agree that contemporary industrial civilization, and the biosphere as a whole, are on the verge of a global crisis of unprecedented proportions. According to them, the process is already under way, and it is now only possible to try to reduce its devastating effects in the near future. The leaders of the movement are Yves Cochet and Agnès Sinaï of the Momentum Institute (a think tank exploring the causes of environmental and societal risks of collapse of the thermo-industrial civilization and possible actions to adapt to it), and Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens who wrote the essay How everything can collapse: A manual for our times.

Beyond the French collapsologists mentioned above, one can mention: Aurélien Barrau (astrophysicist), Philippe Bihouix (engineer, low-tech developer), Dominique Bourg (philosopher), Valérie Cabanes (lawyer, seeking recognition of the crime of ecocide by the international criminal court), Jean-Marc Jancovici (energy-climate specialist), Paul Jorion (anthropologist, sociologist)...

In 2020 the French humanities and social science website published a dossier on collapsology titled The Age of Catastrophe, with contributions from historian François Hartog, economist Emmanuel Hache, philosopher Pierre Charbonnier, art historian Romain Noël, geoscientist Gabriele Salerno, and American philosopher Eugene Thacker.

Even if the term remains rather unknown in the Anglo-Saxon world, many publications deal with the same topic (for example the recent David Wallace-Wells' bestseller The Uninhabitable Earth, probably a mass-market collapsology work without using the term). It is now gradually spreading on general and scientific[ English speaking social networks."


More information

* The splendor and squalor of collapsology. What the survivalists of the left fail to consider. Pierre Charbonnier. Revue du Crieur Issue 2, 2019, pages 88 to 95


"Theories about the imminent collapse of industrial civilization are in vogue, and it seems we cannot get enough of them. From bestselling books to packed-out public lectures, their defenders have used shock tactics to shake up public debate, delivering their message through hard-hitting videos destined to go viral on social media. Playing to quite genuine and legitimate fears, they have unwittingly promulgated a survivalist discourse that is fundamentally apolitical in nature. This discourse maintains that tomorrow’s survivors will be those most able to adapt to a post-technological world. It espouses a form of purifying disintegration, addressing a community of the enlightened."