Collapse of civilisation

Discussion in 'Films, Music and All Things Artsy' started by crabby, Feb 15, 2006.

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  1. Am currently working on two pieces of work that involve the collapses of civilisation and society (at least partly involve). This means reading a few books, most notably "collapse" by Jared Diamond (really interesting believe it or not...). However I was just wondering if people had any views on why societies or civilisations collapse.

    His notable case studies are the Roman Empire, Greenland Norse (when greenland inuits did fine), Mayan population, Aztecs (I think...) and Easter Island.
    His big five for collapse are;

    Impact on the environment - destruction/depletion of natural resources
    Climate Change (can occur without human input remember)
    Interactions with enemies
    Interactions with friends (a theory for the collapse of the roman empire includes support from friendly nations against barbarians being withdrawn)
    Finally, how society reacts to these changes (business as usual, revolution, supress the masses or fight amongst yourselves like easter island)

    With regards to society reacting his sites the changing in core values in with Britain after the loss of the empire at the end of WWII (I'm not so sure on that one...), Greenland Norse and also the way Australian society was based on the British model with British links and how they have developed and changed these for their global position, climate and resources.

    So, any ideas?
    Thanks for any help posted...
  2. Sorry Crabby, but the big five you list is only four! Or do you include the reactions to these changes as a cause?

    I feel collapse is also due to anarchy, a break down in social values and standards, without outside influence.
  3. Yeah, how society reacts is the fifth he decided he had to add, without it everything kind of falls flat on its face. The way in which modern society may collapse is seen as the creeping up of global climate change, or resource depletion etc. However our civilisation is no longer so isolated and any changes will probably occur on a global scale.
    I like the idea of a break down in social values and standards, this is one line of thought I have been persuing with regards to a couple of case studies. For example without an external influence (the british army), would there have been a breakdown in Northern Ireland because of the hate fostered, nutured and inbedded from birth between protestants and catholics? Without this "external controlling influence" would people have been able to continue their lives as normal or would it have boiled over? Obviously this is the action of a friend (or enemy), however if it had been left on its own it raises questions. Any other examples? The only ones I can think of have external influences.

    Why does anarchy happen?

    I was discussing some of this with my mother and she blames the action of the governments, or an isolated elite (Diamond does go into that), however to me in our civilisation the government is the people. They may make decisions that annoy us etc but they reflect society in some way and if they do something we don't like we can replace them in less than 5 years time with something else. Therefore any dramatic changes needed, say for the environment, can not be implemented as we're all looking out for ourselves and if a government suggests what we don't like we'll put the other party in who'll use that as an election pledge. We all want our quality of living, we want it to be high and improve, we want to travel and we want a great number of things, however we don't want to sacrifice anything to get these. We want something for nothing

    Anyway, enough before I go on a disallusioned ramble...

    edited once because I'm a mong
  4. You could open the whole thing up a bit into regime change. For example, the collapse of the Weimar Republic by what was a palace coup by the NSDAP effectively marked the end of a civilization, the Germany of Goethe etc. etc. into the Germany of Heydrich etc. etc.
    That was down to both external forces (WW1 reparations, colonialism, rise of Communism etc) and internal forces (too many to mention, Martin Gilbert is my favoured source on these matters). Fast forward, howabout the slow and decaying collapse of the USSR? That was more like the end of the Ottoman Empire than it was of a monolithic dictatorship shot down in flames.

    On another extreme, the very British reaction to the abandonment of the colony by the Romans is extremely interesting too. The Romano-British basically carried on regardless, being sort of quasi-Romans, for as long as they could. There was continuity in collapse and decline, a central theme in British history in my opinion.


  5. You really ought to read more than a few books (g) Re the decline of nBritish Power you ought to read Corelli Barnets books on this subject and Naill Ferguson.
  6. Crabby, only ever so slighlty tongue in cheek, but spend a few days in Chatham (Chav Central) or Gillingham town centres. You will witness the collapse at first hand.
  7. Yes, I can recommend Niall Ferguson. In fact, if you want to read a book about an Empire on the way up, "Colossus" by the same author is especially good.
  8. Thanks, there are some useful suggestions here.
    However I feel I must define "collapse". The context of "collapse" here is a civilisation or society that either dies out completely, moves, or is so affected by changes that it no longer exists. Therefore something like the Germans after WWI would probably not apply, as in a way the society didn't collapse, they were still there, they remembered their past, they didn't abandon their lands or die out completely.
    I'm not sure if I have time to read too much on the rise and fall of british power, although it was a history unit I wanted to take as a free choice unit... the books I have to get through in 5 1/2 weeks come up to my knee height :(
  9. Were things not in this condition back in ’69 when NI govt realised they had lost it and asked for aid to civil powers? [quote[Without this "external controlling influence" would people have been able to continue their lives as normal or would it have boiled over?[/quote]I would suggest that neither happened. The Republican faction transferred their hate to us and the Loyalists swung like a gate in the wind.
    I’d like to think that, in the pure definition of anarchy, we have not, and will not see it in this country unless and until a major groundswell is created such as I cannot foresee.
    Even the government we have now has not really been able to maintain any of their stupidities for any great length of time. Yes – handguns and mad dogs but there is movement there. Likelihood is that once the populace has suffered something for any length of time, objections towards that topic will be overtaken by new and further inequities.
    Don’t think people would wait for routine or general election over any seriously felt situation. Think Poll Tax.
  10. James (now Jan) Morris has some interesting views on why the British Empire collapsed. See 'Farewell The Trumpets'. I would not want to over-simplify his analysis but he generally put it down to the population of Britain in the 1930s becoming worn out with the effort of sustaining the Empire. Of course this begs the question why did this state of affairs come about. It was a period of economic depression. Influential sections of the populations of those countries crucial to the sustainment of the Empire most notably India were becoming increasingly unhappy by being ruled by a small number of colonial administrators. So the seeds were there prior to the start of WW2. By the end of the war the country was practically bankrupt and decided that the the Empire was no longer affordable. The fact that the majority of the population really didn't care made the process of withdrawing from it politically achievable and less chaotic, relatively, than the experience of the other colonial powers. Most notably the French who had the percieved stain on their honour that defeat and occupation by Germany had brought about to deal with. Don't forget also that the supposed invincibility of the British Empire in the eyes of it's colonies received a crushing blow as a result of defeat at Singapore. In addition our allies in the USA did not care much for colonialism and the threat from the USSR did much to motivate the USA to get Britain to see that security begins at home. (Quite different now of course!)

    I think that you can identify elements of 3-4 of the big five mentioned in the original post in this particular scenario..