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Decline and Fall: The End of Empire and the Future of Democracy in 21st Century America Paperback – April 8, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

June 2014 - UTNE Magazine
Shedding new light on the misunderstood idea of empire and the costs of imperial overstretch, Greer shows how the US has backed itself into a corner in the pursuit of political and economic power and explores the inevitable consequences of imperial collapse.

June 2014 - Review, Resilience.org, Mary Wildfire... there is much food for thought in this book, which brings together the realities of oil depletion and the other elements of the impending age of limits with the evidence that America’s empire is in decline.

Greer’s work is nothing short of brilliant.---Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post-Carbon Institute, and author, The Party’s Over and The End of Growth

When we find ourselves falling off the lofty peak of infinite progress, our civilization’s mythology predisposes our imaginations to bypass reality altogether, and to roll straight for the equally profound abyss of the Apocalypse. Greer breaks this spell, and instead offers us a view on our deindustrial future that is both carefully reasoned and grounded in spirituality.
--Dmitry Orlov, author, Reinventing Collapse and The Five Stages of Collapse

The enormous virtue of John Michael Greer’s work is that his wisdom is never conventional, but profound and imaginative.--Sharon Astyk, author, Depletion and Abundance and Independence Days

John Michael Greer writes with unsurpassed clarity about the predicaments of energy and economy mankind faces. And he does it with a wonderfully kind, genial, and wise spirit.
--James Howard Kunstler, author, The Long Emergency and The World Made by Hand novels

The enormous virtue of John Michael Greer’s work is that his wisdom is never conventional, but profound and imaginative.
--Sharon Astyk, author, Depletion and Abundance and Independence Days,

Greer … offers us not only an excellent read, but tangible tools for navigating the transition.
--Carolyn Baker, author, Speaking Truth to Power

From the Back Cover

Like Humpty Dumpty, America is perched precariously on the edge, unprepared for the inevitable plunge into the abyss. What comes next?

John Michael Greer writes with unsurpassed clarity about the predicaments of energy and economy mankind faces. And he does it with a wonderfully kind, genial, and wise spirit.--James Howard Kunstler, author, The Long Emergency and the World Made by Hand novels

Greer’s work is nothing short of brilliant.---Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post-Carbon Institute, and author, The Party’s Over and The End of Growth

The fate of America’s global empire is the central feature of today’s geopolitical landscape. Our response to its imminent failure will determine the trajectory of our shared global future. Using a wealth of historical examples combined with groundbreaking original analysis, Decline and Fall:

• Sheds new light on the misunderstood idea of empire
• Shows how the United States has backed itself into a blind corner in the pursuit of political and economic power
• Maps the road back to democracy in the wake of imperial collapse.

By shifting the conversation from whether today’s American empire should survive to whether it can survive, and arguing persuasively that the answer to the above question is “no,” Decline and Fall makes an invaluable contribution to the body of speculative post-industrial literature. This book is a must-read for anyone who believes that the time has come to reinvent the American Dream.

Greer… offers us a view on our deindustrial future that is both carefully reasoned and grounded in spirituality.--Dmitry Orlov, author, Reinventing Collapse and The Five Stages of Collapse

The enormous virtue of John Michael Greer’s work is that his wisdom is never conventional, but profound and imaginative.--Sharon Astyk, author, Depletion and Abundance and Independence Days


John Michael Greer is a scholar of ecological history and an internationally renowned futurist, and the author of more than 30 books, including Green Wizardry and The Long Descent.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865717648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865717640
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although I’ve followed political and environmental issues for years, I’ve no expert credentials for critiquing this book. I’m offering this review simply from the perspective of an ordinary reader and how persuasive I found the author’s arguments and assertions. As this book is also political in nature, I should disclose a liberal leaning but also a fair amount of disappointment with both political parties.

At the beginning of the book, Mr. Greer explains “This book is an attempt to start a conversation ….. about the end of American empire and what will come after it.” And, at the end of the book, he writes “Thus one of the central tasks before Americans today …. is that of reinventing America: of finding new ideals ……. in an age of deindustrialization and of economic and technological decline.….. that doesn’t require promises of limitless material abundance…. that doesn’t depend on the profits of empire ……. or by stripping a continent of its irreplaceable natural resources …...”

The partial quotes above greatly appealed to me as I’ve long been uncomfortable with the idea that the USA has 5% of the global population and yet consumes 25% of global resources. The notion of “American Exceptionalism” as justification for this imbalance strikes me as simple arrogance. Also, as I’m convinced that our rate of natural resource depletion is unsustainable, I welcome a book that offers analysis, insights and predictions related to these issues.

In his prologue, Mr. Greer explains the nature and historical origins of “Empires” and demonstrates how an empire’s “Wealth Pump” operates. I thought this was an excellent introduction to his book.
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Format: Paperback
This was a disappointing book. The substance and value of Greer's books seem to be declining & falling with the American Empire & the planet's oil supply. Don't get me wrong, there's some interesting ideas inside. So here's what I consider the good, the bad & the contradictory:

THE GOOD: The first half of the book was far more interesting than the last. The early pages have some insightful things to say about the ups and downs of empires, ancient and modern. Greer's discussion of the contending geo-economic interests that shaped America's rise to global empire is, by far, the best part of this book. Unfortunately, world systems theorists and historians like Chalmers Johnson and William Appleman Williams covered this same ground more thoroughly years ago. Still Greer does add some interesting insights about the role of fossil fuels, peak oil and geopolitical military strategy to the story of American empire.

THE BAD: By chapter four things begin to go awry when Greer introduces readers to his pet theory of anacyclosis--a perspective borrowed from the Greek historian Polybius. In Greer's updated version of this theory, polities (both ancient and modern) move through a cyclical sequence of stages from monarchy, to aristocracy, to democracy and back to monarchy again.

Greer spends several pages contorting history in order to jam one political system after another--from Russia and China to the US--into his circular theoretical mold. Unfortunately, cutting up square pegs to wedge them into round holes ends up looking like the hatchet job it is.

Greer's attempt to impose this ancient theory on American history makes for some painfully awkward reading. According to Greer, we're now in the democratic phase of the anacyclosis sequence.
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Format: Paperback
“Decline and Fall” is the most recent non-fiction book by writer and peak oil activist John Michael Greer. Regular followers of Greer's blog, The Archdruid Report, will find little that's new here. The general reader will be more interested and (perhaps) angered by Greer's political philosophy and pessimistic perspectives. To others, the book might come as a revelation of sorts.

Greer believes that the United States is in terminal crisis, both politically and economically, and so is the rest of modern civilization. Several chapters of the book deal with the history of the British and American empires. Greer (correctly) dates the beginning of the “external” American empire to the Spanish-American War of 1898. After World War II, the United States achieved world domination. The British Empire was faltering already during World War I, and was saved (twice!) only by American military and economic assistance. To Greer, the main factor explaining the high standard of living in the United States is that this particular nation (with 5% of the world's population) is monopolizing 25% of its resources, and beats the hell out of everyone who objects. Empire is essentially a “wealth pump” for the benefit of imperial elites, their henchmen in the dominated nations, and various special interest groups in the imperial heartland. Apart from the imperial wealth pump, the United States has two other “pumps” at its disposal. Industrialization is, in itself, a system that concentrates wealth to small elites of industrialists, bankers and (eventually) state bureaucrats. There is also an “empire of time”, by which modern civilization makes use of non-renewable fossil fuels stored in the ground by geological processes in the past.

Why do empires fail?
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