Collapse, Turmoil and Disorientation


This article is published in Futuribles journal no.442, mai-juin 2021

When, in late 2018, we published Gabrial Salerno’s article which presented the various interpretations of collapse that were identifiable in the literature on the subject, we were far from imagining that one year later, a major disruptive event — Covid-19 — was going to upend societies across the globe. Clearly the health crisis has not ‘collapsed’ the world in which we live, but it has revealed societies’ enormous vulnerability and made clear to human beings that they are not immune to great upheavals. For that reason we have invited Gabriel Salerno to revisit the concept of collapse and the potential reasons for how it has evolved since 2018. Salerno first reminds us that representations of collapse involve various different spatial and temporal scales, before going on to define the philosophical issues around them more precisely. First among these is the way we apprehend the scientific and technical progress that has up to now accompanied the development of societies, particularly in the West, but is no longer unanimously regarded as a positive vehicle of the civilizing process. This doubting of the place of progress, which has up to this point been the engine of history, blurs the view of humanity’s future and throws the meaning of history into question. The three main interpretations of collapse oscillate between cyclical, progressive and declinist visions of history; but, argues Salerno, there is a trend in which the rift between those willing to envisage the possibility of collapse and those unwilling to do so is tending to harden or even become radicalized. Besides the divisions over environmental and social questions, Salerno points also to a cognitive crisis, to be seen mainly in the spread of conspiracy theories. To avoid conspiracy arguments impeding cohesion and the objective analysis of the changes at work in our civilization, it is important to counteract the current loss of meaningfulness and reenergize societies by restoring a direction to history; in short, to offer a new impulsion to ward off the dangers of collapse…
#Catastrophes #Civilisation #Idéologie politique #Information #Limites à la croissance #Modes de vie #Philosophie