What Triggers Collapse?
A variety of forces will disrupt or obsolete existing modes of production and the social order.
Though no one can foretell the future, it is self-evident that the status quo—dependent as it is on cheap oil and fast-expanding debt—is unsustainable. So what will trigger the collapse of the status quo, and what lies beyond when the current arrangements break down? Can we predict how-when-where with any accuracy?
All prediction is based on extrapolating current trends. If we expect ‘more of the same’, it’s not too difficult to make predictions about the near future. But history is not always simply more of the same.
Suppose we are in the midst of an era that is as monumental as the first Industrial Revolution or the fall of Rome. Suppose we’re in an era that will compress a century of transformation into the ten years from 2017 to 2026. In this scenario, those who get it right will be riding the disruptive wave that is crushing everyone who blithely expected ‘more of the same’.
It is especially challenging to forecast the outcome of crises that break the status quo and establish a new social/economic order.
We are carried along by the broad sweep of history with a piecemeal understanding of the larger dynamics that are reshaping our world. We discern these forces in fragments of data, but cannot predict how they will unfold, for we are constantly extrapolating trends that are rapidly evolving. As a result, our predictions fail to capture the way these dynamics will transform our world.
As Marx famously noted, everything that is solid melts into air as capitalism dismantles old systems and spawns new ones. These forces don’t just shift the economic landscape; they also disrupt the social order, the political system, finance, family relations and our relationship with Nature—in other words, our entire mode of production.
Our Mode of Production: Centralized, Industrialized, Globalized, Financialized, Networked, Fossil-Fuel Dependent, Neofeudal and Neoliberal
What is a mode of production? The Wikipedia entry offers a deft summary. A mode of production (in German: Produktionsweise, meaning ‘the way of producing’) is a specific combination of productive forces (financial capital, labor and the means of production — tools, equipment, buildings, technologies, knowledge, resources and improved land) and social and technical relations of production — the social, legal and political relations governing a society’s productive assets.