2020 has challenged the paradigms of how society is able to function in the long run: a pandemic, furthering climate change, political instability, increasing inequalities. It has been said that fundamental change occurs when parameters become variables (Holsti, 1998). This means we can no longer rely on the structures of human life that we previously considered perpetual and constant. In this article, I consider whether or not some key parameters of global society have experienced such a fundamental change in 2020.
Theories of civilizational collapse are used to explore these parameters and their fortitude. Rather than offering a blanketed yes or no answer to imminent collapse, which would be impossible and futile, this article aims to give entry points to the conversation and show that civilizational sustainability is certainly a question worth bearing in mind as 2021 unfolds. Overall, I argue that there is work that ought to be done in the realms of research, politics and activism to design and communicate the kind of resilience strategies that our global civilization needs going forward. Fundamental changes to the conditions of our civilization are happening in a manner beyond an individual’s control. However, a collective reaction and construction of new conditions have the potential to safeguard survival.
I will begin with an introduction to the growing academic literature surrounding the civilizational collapse. The following segment will use this literature to examine two crucial parameters of modern civilization and outline how they can be perceived as moving to the domain of ‘variables’ – namely the agricultural industry and close cohabitation. Finally, I will turn to the way in which we discuss societal collapse – including its securitization as a threat and potential affirmative responses, such as social resilience strategies.
“… fundamental change cannot be characterized as innately ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because it epitomizes the untainted notion of ‘potential’.”