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Excerpt from What We Leave Behind

Historical Collapses (p. 365)

From chapter "Collapse"

In historical collapses, people were not as dependent on the system as they are now, and the system did not have such a monopoly. Many complex societies were formed because they offered real benefits to their members, whether in terms of information exchange, or limited specialization and barter. And many of those societies did not become civilizations, which is to say that they didn’t control the food supply and other essentials of their members. Which is to say that they weren’t capable of effectively forcing people to continue participating in that society if it no longer benefited them. That’s a crucial difference between a complex society and a civilization. It’s the difference between a healthy relationship and an abusive one. In a healthy relationship, both partners are getting something out of it, and both are free to leave the relationship if they want. In an abusive relationship, this is not the case.

When historical societies collapsed, their members had real alternative options. There were still healthy communities they could rejoin, communities that had skills like growing their own food, and building shelters— essentially, those healthy communities possessed a full gamut of democratic technicsi. It was the existence of options that made societal collapse fairly painless for most people. They just had to walk away and return home, to what their people had been doing for thousands of years.

Civilization does everything it can to make sure that’s not possible.

i “According to [Lewis] Mumford, democratic technics are comprised of some of the earliest human technologies. These technics are human and community scale, “resting mainly on human skill and animal energy but always, even when employing machines, remaining under the active direction” of autonomous human communities.” From p. 343 of “What We Leave Behind”.