Collapse of Complex Societies – Borzoi Edition

When looking back at the world’s great civilizations, one notes they all reached an expiration point. What drives their decline and ultimate collapse, however, is one of the most debated topics in history. According to noted scholars Joseph Tainter and John Michael Greer, collapse occurs when a civilization reaches a point of unsustainable complexity that requires ever growing amounts of resources that are increasingly hard to obtain, making them vulnerable to internal and external shocks. Tonight we’re joined by Twitter collapsologist Borzoi to discuss these tendencies as they pertain to the United States, Western, and modern civilization as a whole.

— Brought to you by —

Very special guest Borzoi


The Myth of the 20th Century – Episode 125 – Collapse of Complex Societies – Borzoi Edition

— References —

– History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides (431 BC)
– Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon (1776)
– Decline of the West, Spengler (1918)
– A Study of History, Toynbee (1934)
– The Limits to Growth, Behrens et al. (1972)
– Collapse of Complex Societies, Tainter (1990)
– Innovator’s Dilemma, Christensen (1997)
– Complexity – A Guided Tour, Mitchell (2011)
– G-Zero, Bremmer (2012)
– Decline and Fall – The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America, Greer (2014)
– Anti-Tech Revolution, Kaczynski (2016)
– Exit Strategy – Navigating the Decline of the American Empire, Smith (2019)
– The Management Myth – Taylorism and the Origins of Scientific Management, Myth of the 20th Century (2019) –

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Do you guys have a bitchute account? YouTube isn’t exactly a safe place to keep this videos.


  2. R. Wilbur says:

    Good show, but in my reading of Greer & Tainter and catabolic collapse, the main takeaway was:

    1. You reach a level of complexity with negative marginal returns.
    2. You run out of reserve capital / energy / etc. to maintain that highest level of complexity, and abandon it. You essentially collapse down to a level of lesser complexity.
    3. Collapsing down to the simpler level frees up capital and energy which were otherwise tied up in maintaining the highest level of complexity, so your civilization gets a sort of “boost” for awhile. Seems like a problem was solved, things stabilize at this lower level of complexity.
    4. Problem is, civilization needs to collapse several dozen more levels of complexity to become stable with regard to actual energy production, etc., so this cycle will repeat itself until that level is reached.

    This is the main reason why people won’t realize (or will argue forcefully that they are not) living in a collapse — repeated periods of chaos followed by stabilization at a lower level of complexity.

    And this is also the reason why no reform of the system is possible — every opportunity to reform (i.e., willfully and carefully reduce complexity) will be opposed by people who are looking around at a newly stabilized society and say “look, we fixed it!”

    This was the most powerful part of catabolic collapse to me — it’s a spiral civilization cannot escape from, but individuals can. Hence, collapse early and avoid the rush. Reduce your complexity so you’re living at a stable level through multiple rounds of forced “simplification”.


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