- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: New Society Publishers (June 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0865716064
- ISBN-13: 978-0865716063
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 111 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#1,794,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #1608 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > International & World Politics > Russian & Former Soviet Union
- #3016 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Specific Topics > Political Economy
- #3335 in Books > Textbooks > Social Sciences > Political Science > Political History
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Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects
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…Reinventing Collapse< examines the circumstances of the demise of the Soviet superpower and offers clear insights into how we might prepare for coming events. This challenging yet inspiring work is a must-read for anyone concerned about energy, geopolitics, international relations, and life in a post-Peak Oil world.―The A Word
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Even with rudimentary understanding of history, we know that a democracy cannot be sustained without a strong, vibrant middle class. To those who deny this is a problem, you lived through 2008. You should have learned enough that it could happen again and on a much greater scale.
Orlov provides an insightful perspective, including an insider's view as having spent time there, on Russia and the comparisons are instructive and often verge into gallows humor: boondoggles are good. Americans are actually smart in their voter apathy (an original idea I've not heard expressed before, but in a twisted way makes sense). "Why should essentially powerless people want to engage in a humiliating farce designed to demonstrate the legitimacy of those who wield the power?" According to Orlov, In Russia, during the Soviet era, smart people did their best to ignore the Communists, either through praise or criticism.
In the latter sections, Orlov almost cheerily outlines possible means of surviving the collapse based on skills and opportunities.
Also recommended in this genre: Morris Berman's trilogy, "The Twilight of American Culture," "Dark Ages America," and "Why America Failed."
This is all for the open-minded and not those desperately clinging to the myth of American Exceptionalism. If the Russians were resilient and adept at dealing with shortages and bureaucracy, we soft overstuffed consumers, besotted with junk food and i-pads and bottomless debt might do well to listen.
If you think America is situated to face an uncertain future with strength, you aren't ready for this book yet. There are so many vulnerabilities to choose from, does it really matter which event is the straw that breaks the camel's back? Choose your poison. Is it Peak Oil? Is it the national debt? A natural disaster? An environmental catastrophe? Some combination thereof?
If you think of America as an exceptional nation, you may take umbrage at Orlov's characterization of Americans as overfed with unreal, unnourishing foods, overmedicated with various psychoactive drugs, conditioned to the indentured servitude of mortgages and private health insurance.
I consider it valuable that Orlov gave many examples of how ordinary Russians adapted after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Certain aspects of Russian life and culture facilitated that adaptability, and some hindered it. He seems to me to write about a certain kind of inner work, developing the determination to observe, learn the lessons of history, and adapt to rapidly changing situations. He also writes about outer preparation in matters such as food, fuel, transportation and security. You need not suffer from the collapse of the United States. Who knows, you might even thrive with a little advance preparation.
One could think of this book as a particular instance of Stein's Law, "Things that can't go on forever, won't."
The reason I only gave this book four stars is because I consider it to think of collapse as an economic phenomenon, as opposed to a moral phenomenon. I don't know how long a nation can last with a government that doesn't share its values. And he only thinks about how individuals can adapt to the collapse of the United States, not about any future reconstitution. But as far as it goes, it considers ideas that many Americans would do well to consider.
I am familiar first hand with the collapse of the Soviet Union, including the earlier communist days, the transition period, as well as today's market economy. Thus I find Orlov's statements about the S.U. to be true. Yet, there is much left unsaid in the book, and so the analogy of Soviet Union and US is somewhat tenuous. Take for example the proverbial "Russian soul" which tends to be dark, cynical, and not generally optimistic. Some of these characteristics no doubt are based on living on endless monotonous landscapes with severe winters, and general economic hardships, plus severe demographic imbalances caused by World War II, and perverse (dis)incentives generated by a near century of communism. The US culture is very different if not opposite.
Reading about the collapse of the S.U. from someone who is familiar with the US is very instructive and eye opening. Clearly the US is experiencing a weakened economy combined with military overstretch, which seems to be what brought down the Soviet Union. The author acknowledges that a US collapse could look very different, but there still are useful examples of adaptation to the new order of things based on his Russian experiences.
Ultimately, a society which is culturally and economically closer to the US would be a more instructive example - such as Argentina - but even then, the US has its own unique challenges due to sheer size and geopolitical significance. So it is hard to tell what will take place, as Orlov agrees. We do live in interesting times!