Notes on Dimitri Orlov and Social Collapse Best Practices

Am I the only person who hadn’t heard of Dmitry Orlov and his famous book Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects, and related talks on peak oil, social collapse and how the lessons of post Soviet Russia in the 90’s can serve us now as our economy tanks?

Well, I am getting the crash course this very minute and it is about as much fun as reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a post-apocalyptic peak oil book if there ever was one.

Orlov spoke at The Long Now Foundation series last week and said some pretty smart–and chilling–things, which he’s posted at his blog.

Orlov’s dry tone only adds to the impact of his arguments, which range from the clever to the shrewd to the terrifying–here’s a few snippets:

  • “the women always seem far more able to just put on their gardening
    gloves and go do something useful, while the men tend to sit around
    groaning about the Empire, or the Republic, or whatever it is that they
    lost”
  • “…the United States and the Soviet Union will have collapsed for the same
    reasons, namely: a severe and chronic shortfall in the production of
    crude oil (that magic addictive elixir of industrial economies), a
    severe and worsening foreign trade deficit, a runaway military budget,
    and ballooning foreign debt.”
  • “It turns out that many aspects of the Soviet system were paradoxically
    resilient in the face of system-wide collapse, many institutions
    continued to function, and the living arrangement was such that people
    did not lose access to food, shelter or transportation, and could
    survive even without an income.”
  • “What if you still have a job? How do you prepare then? The obvious
    answer is, be prepared to quit or to be laid off or fired at any
    moment. It really doesn’t matter which one of these it turns out to be;
    the point is to sustain zero psychological damage in the process. Get
    your burn rate to as close to zero as you can, by spending as little
    money as possible, so than when the job goes away, not much has to
    change.”

Basically, Orlov explains (and this is where it becomes brilliant), Russians were able to survive because they’d always commuted to small family garden plots to raise food, they lived in dense urban communities that supported safety at home, and they bypassed the cash economy to trade, barter and get by without money.

The whole post is well worth a read, but this scenario is amazingly depressing.