Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail. So the central institution of civilization exists, and can only exist, by systematically exploiting its. Civilization, for all its wonders and advantages, is destined to collapse due to its nature, writes Ophuls in this meticulously argued treatise. The concept of the world as a narrative came back to my mind when reading “ Immoderate Greatness, Why Civilizations Fail”, a book by William.

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Such pablum fails to jibe with his otherwise negative assessment, but as part of a rhetorical frame, it seems inescapable. Charged with governing a populace accustomed to living well beyond its means, overwhelmed by a multiplicity of difficult problems, hemmed in by a host of vested interests, burdened by a deteriorating physical and social infrastructure that is increasingly costly to maintain, encumbered with ecological, thermodynamic, and fiscal debts that have come due, rulers bereft of backbone, ingenuity, and capital attempt to postpone the impending crisis by inflating, whether this wny the form of clipping coins, printing money, or loosening credit.

Civilizations are hard-wired for self-destruction. What they can neither civilizationw nor predict, they cannot expect to control, so failure is inevitable at some point.

Review: Immoderate Greatness | The Spiral Staircase

But like many Post-Modernists his view imjoderate highly hypothetical and not very empirical despite what a Post-Modernist cibilizations to prove. While the living conditions of those at the bottom get worse, those at the top get richer and richer and become ever more insulated in their little worlds. But if incompetent or corrupt leaders certainly make matters worse, they are not the real cause of failure.

To make a car requires not only many direct inputs—steel, copper, fuel, water, chemicals, and so forth—but also many indirect ones such as a factory and labor force as well as the matter and energy needed to sustain them.


Why Civilizations Fail by William Ophuls.

Hence planning to avoid breakdown or to make a gentle and controlled transition from one stable state to another may be next to impossible. Second, by buying off the populace with bread, circuses, and entitlements, thereby promising greaness than can be delivered over the long term. Would you like to tell us civilizatiions a lower price? Rent-seeking insiders batten on the public purse, and selfish elites feather their own nests. Or a lurking civilizatiobs of barbarians poised to bring fresh blood to a tired and moribund society.

Upon reflection, it seems to be a chicken-and-egg question. Razielivaldi rated it liked it Jan 26, They built their civilisations on the back of slaves.

Schumacher’s excellent little book “A Guide for the Perplexed” for a pithy explanation of how our view of reality itself is shaped by the mental maps that we’ve been given by society and mostly never bother to revise.


Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. To put it another way, systems that are too tightly coupled or too efficient are fragile; they lack resilience.

I know a fairly high-level chef in the Boston area, and I was pointing out to her the severe trouble with global fisheries. The gap separating rich and poor becomes a chasm.

Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail: William Ophuls: : Books

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It can no longer afford its attained level of complexity and must either simplify itself fxil complexity and energy are once again in balance, or it must, like the Romans, squeeze more out of its resource base than can be sustained over the long term, which simply postpones the inevitable.

Thus, little by little, renewable flow resources like forests and fisheries are overexploited, and nonrenewable stock resources like minerals are drawn down. Sound, sophisticated cultural analysis sure to spark a debate. Notify me of new comments via email.


[PDF] Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail [Online Books]

It could not be otherwise. Still, the question is inevitable for industrial civilization now on a trajectory toward extinction no less that other already extinct civilization, especially for those who believe it possible to learn from past mistakes and avoid repetition.

Because our own civilization is global, its collapse will also be global, as well as uniquely devastating owing to the immensity of its population, complexity, and consumption. Print edition must be purchased new and sold by Amazon.

Leaders resort to inflation because they are desperate. For if you remove one constraint, renewed growth quickly pushes the civilization up against the next one, and so on, until it buckles under the strain.

Second, each new generation therefore grows up in altered circumstances that foster a changed way of thinking and acting. Whether it is the Roman thermae, the Arab hammam, or the traditional Japanese furo, they were all heated with wood.

The populace and even members of the elite lose all faith in the system and in their leaders, who are seen as ineffective at best, incompetent and corrupt at worst. This book is the best summary of how and why I know of. Collapse could happen suddenly or gradually, sooner or later, so why act now? What will surprise many is the most reliable form of communication, long distance will be HF radio, powered by solar PV, backed up by batteries, and operated by amateurs.

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