The Technium


There’s a new mood: collapse.

Former President Reagan defined a recession as when your friend lost his job, and a depression as when you lost your job. Collapse is when no one has a job; in fact there are no longer any such things as jobs to be had.


Google Trends showing number of news references to “collapse” (red) and “depression” (blue).

Doom and collapse are in the air. We could think of the Long Doom as the opposite of the Long Boom. The stock market has been falling steadily for a year and not even  the usual optimists are claiming it has bottomed out.  Like a vicious circle bad news breeds more bad news, and so at the moment the prospect for the near future is for more of the same bad news.

How low could it go?

That’s the question on everyone’s mind. Once you start thinking about it, you can imagine it going very low: unemployment, massive layoffs, huge migrations, class warfare, classic war, and without much effort, you soon arrive at the collapse of civilization itself.

Surprisingly there are collapsitarians who are rooting for the quick arrival of the Long Doom. Perhaps not surprisingly they come in all kinds of flavors. Some hail from the hard wingnut left, some from the hard wingnut right, and some from next door.


As far as Google knows the term collapsitarian was coined by Jim Kunstler in a January 26, 2009  New Yorker article on Dystopians.

There seem to be about six species of collapsitarians:

Luddites, anarchists, and anti-civilization activists (see The Unabomber Was Right) who are trying the hasten collapse as soon as possible.

Goldbugs, survivalists, Y2K holdouts, and slightly right wingers who see collapse as the penalty for modern liberalism.

Conservationists and greenies who see collapse as the penalty for environmental sins.

Somewhat leftist anti-globalists who see collapse as the penalty for globalism.

Critics of American super-power who see the collapse of America as an inevitable imperial overreach. Many are native academics, many reside outside of America, many are prominent historians.

Former financial employees who see nothing good in, but no escape from, this doom.

The idea of progress has been slowly dying. I think progress lost its allure at the ignition of the first atom bomb at the end of WWII. It has been losing luster since. Even more recently the future has become boring and unfashionable. No one wants to live in the future. The jet packs don’t work, and the Daily Me is full of spam. No finds the Future attractive any longer.

The only thing left to believe in is collapse. That’s not boring! The end of civilization would be terribly exciting, and unlike any future we could imagine, probably more likely. Dystopias are a favorite science fiction destination now.

We all are collapsitarians these days.


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