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Review of ‘Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects” by Dmitry Orlov

#collapse, #USSR, #Orlov
If one can slog through the author’s ideological disdain for consumerism, sneering distaste for individualism, outright contempt for cars and the “tremendously inefficient” “Potemkin” single family home, his promotion of compelling people to live in stacks of multi-family, multi-generational urban compartments (but not his family because he lives on a boat), his affinity for corralling, sclerotic, government mass-transit systems, and his steadfast commitment to the hysteria of peak oil, there is yet a lot of meat on the bone here.

His walk through the stages of currency failure is informative, and the step-by-step description of the dissolution of government institutions and the “bloody” consequences of the vacuum left behind is fascinating.

Although the author largely dismisses the role of central planning as the primal cause of the Soviet collapse– economic systems that subvert price signals tend to allocate investment capital wastefully– he astutely describes the similarities between the Soviet and the U.S. fed gov’s bloated, bureaucratic failure. Both were/are inextricably enmeshed in bankrupting foreign misadventures, refusing to disengage for fear of ruining their prestige. He describes the pending U.S. fed gov’s imperial failure as being amplified in the absence of the USSR because: “The United States needs a new Cold War to show itself and the world that it still matters” and “A superpower’s vitality is critically dependent on the sustaining power of [its] myth.”

I’m certain neoconservative readers will bristle at that.

Orlov describes how the collapsing corpo-fascist (he describes it as “capitalist”) U.S. economy would be replaced by isolated, atomistic, resourceful opportunists once it is destroyed by hyperinflation.

The comparisons continue: from rates of incarceration, indebtedness, the industrialization of agriculture, the importation of consumer goods, the pervasive, hierarchical incompetence and corruption, the brain drain as specialists flee the empires in search of better opportunities, so on and so forth… all of it compelling reading. In the author’s defense, he shows unapologetically that when one pulls back the veneer of propaganda, both empires were quite similar and on quite similar trajectories, even if the Soviets are portrayed as mere bumbling incompetents whereas Americans are apparently something more sinister– an understandable bias considering the author’s origin and progressive ideology.

Is energy collapse the primary cause of imperial failure? Orlov makes his case. I remain unconvinced as I don’t believe in catastrophic peak oil collapse. Peak oil theorist tend to under-weight technological advances and wholly ignore the substitution effect. But the book is still a very interesting read. I just wish it was less polemic.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2GKJF25QLRSF9

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