French collapsology

If you didn’t know this, in recent years France has seen a big societal movement around the idea that we are approaching a collapse. The biggest Facebook group around this theme has 16 500 members (as of April 2019).

If you are familiar with thinking about societal collapses, the intellectual content of this movement is not really anything new. It is based on ideas around peak oil, the Limits to Growth report, Joseph Tainters ”The Collapse of complex societies” and similar writing. Several French writers have succeeded in summarising these lines of thought in a very effective and striking way. Pablo Servigne is the big star here, and also the person who coined the term collapsology (collapsologie). With this he designated the study of the possible collapse of our industrial civilisation. The term was first used more jokingly, but then it stuck, since there is a need for a term for this field, and it is indeed an emerging academic field with influences from many disciplines. Like anthropoloy, economics, agronomy, geology, physics etc. (for readers not familiar with collapse-theory, there are some links below)

I feel that the awareness of a possible or probable collapse can be very important when that day comes, so I have been trying to understand why this has grown in such an extraordinary way in France. I put the question on Transition 2030 facebook group a while ago.

These were some answers:

  • France has experienced war relatively recently, in Algeria and the World War Two. This means that every Frenchman has heard his or her parents and grandparents talk about wartime. There is an awareness that this society might not last forever.
  • The very hierarchic societal structure of French society makes for lots of distrust and disillusionment at the bottom of society. Both the yellow vests and the collapsology-movement might have in common that they gain momentum from the sense of distance that ordinary people feel towards the political sphere.
  • At the same time the hierarchic structure give some people with the right credentials lots of access to media, and a number of influential people of the establishment has endorsed idea of a societal collapse underway. Notable names are for instance the engineer and environmentalist Jean-Marc Jancovici and the former environmental minister Yves Cochet.
  • A though I might add is also that France for a long time has been a cradle of new, groundbreaking intellectual currents, and this might be one of those.

Since it is not that easy to find information in English about the collapsology-movement, I would like to give some advice about where to start.

Arret sur Images is a debate-program that made a series of programs about collapse last summer (2018). This one has also been translated. Note that you need to scroll down to the middle of the page to find the version with English subtitles.

Next is a brilliant web-series published on Youtube that covers collapse from different angles. Several of the first parts have been translated into English. You will then need to go into the Youtube-player and press ”settings” and ”subtitles”, and if it have an English translation this will be marked.

There are two other clips on Youtube in French with English subtitles: Understanding the collapse of societal collapse and Will videogames disapear?   (this title might seem far from the theme of this blog, but it is largely focued on collapse)

  • Note: if you are new to collapse thinking, the Crash Course of PeakProsperity might be good place to start. Nicole Foss is also good at summarizing these ideas, for instance in this interview.
  • I who write this am a Swedish psychologist and MBA. The title of this blog could be translated as Societal Collapse for Dummies.
  • Please comment if you know of other English sources for information about collapsology.
  • For readers with a research interest I might recommend Cyprien Tasset, who is a social scientist researching the French collapsology-movement.