Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects
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Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  316 ratings  ·  61 reviews
In the waning days of the American empire, we find ourselves mired in political crisis, with our foreign policy coming under sharp criticism and our economy in steep decline. These trends mirror the experience of the Soviet Union in the early 1980s. Reinventing Collapse examines the circumstances of the demise of the Soviet superpower and offers clear insights into how we...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by New Society Publishers (first published 2008)
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PJ
Nov 20, 2008 PJ rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ryan, everyone.
One of the most influential books I've ever read, VERY highly recommended to everyone I know and care about. It describes what will likely unfold as the great empire of the US falls on its face, similar to how the USSR did in the late 80s, but with much less preparation in our case. Shocking, disturbing, hilarious and actually heartening, in some ways I'm looking forward to the low-energy version of the USA.

For an idea of the gist of this book, you can read a transcript of the author's presentat...more
Rob
Dmitry Orlov has a distinctive voice. I have heard it before; it is an European voice, a voice that has seen big ideas and the empires founded upon them crumble into dust. He reminds me of my fathers generation that left Europe after the war. He reminds me especially of a Hungarian man I met at work. It is world weary, cynical yet profound in its own way. A perfect example is the 107 year old man that we encounter in 'Catch 22',

OLD MAN IN WHOREHOUSE
But I live like a sane one. I was a fascist w...more
Pete
As Orlov states himself, his book is an exercise in imagination-stretching. Whatever degree of confidence you may have in the proposition that the economy and society of the USA will collapse soon, from zero (most Americans) to nearly 100 (the author), a few sessions with this volume will assuredly lead you to think things you haven't before.

The bedrock Orlov bases his book on is that the economic system of the US, depending as it does on a vast supply of oil and foreign credit, will collapse on...more
Jerah
Awesome. Russians are badass. Americans are screwed. What's new. Pass the home-brewed vodka.
Idleprimate
Orlov is a kind of Dave Barry of collapse pundits. His snapshots of informal economies that grew in Russia during and after sovietism are useful to think about. he makes fairly coherent arguments on how a collapse of our economies might not play out as in Russia. However, his speculations of a post collapse America tend toward the extreme, and suggest an overnight transformation into our worst dystopian nightmares without providing any logic for assuming this.

The advice in the book is also vague...more
James
Orlov wrote at the end that he had set out to write a serious book about the collapse of the American economy/society in its present form that would be fun to read - he succeeded. He writes from the rare perspective of a person equally familiar with, and at home in, Russia and the U.S.

In this book he describes in concrete details the things he saw traveling in the former Soviet Union during and after that government's implosion and offers his thoughts on why things fell apart there. He then poin...more
Chris Boette
The preview text on the back cover pretty much addresses most of the content of the book.

The book was accessible, owing to the anecdotal experience of the author, as opposed to a detached and academic feeling that could have easily been used. But to do so would have lost the charm.

There's a sort of slow-motion immediacy presented in Orlov's predictions. Collapse is an inevitability, if not an eventuality: this is not debatable. The questions lay in the Why and the When. I think that too many p...more
Sensei Sage
This is one of the best books I have read. Perhaps, because I share similar background with the author, I can really relate to his writing. He is a very deep thinker, yet presents his reflections in a very entertaining and clever way. He can make you laugh even when talking about the grimmest things. This book is also extremely useful as a glimpse of what to expect going forward into the decline of the USA and the Western world with it. I also try to read everything this author puts out on his b...more
Thom Foolery
Dmitry Orlov provides a non-specialists' look at the two losers of the Cold War, the USSR and the USA. Using his experiences of the collapse of the Soviet Union as a touchstone, he compares and contrasts the two former super powers, predicting possible (probably?) outcomes for the United States based on our strengths (not as many as we like to imagine) and our weaknesses (more than we allow ourselves to consider). He regularly writes things that are beyond the margins of contemporary American di...more
Jaybird Rex
Orlov makes the compelling case that the U.S. could go through a collapse similar to what the Soviet Union went through, and that the U.S. is much less prepared for it (and therefore things will likely be much more horrible here). It's believable because it did happen over there and, as we all know, Americans would be completely stuck without our cars and the superpower of our currency.

As the book progresses, however, it begins to feel more like science fiction and less like socio-political theo...more
Tim

I gave Dmitry Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse one star out of five, but that could be too generous. This book is not worth reading and should never have been published. It’s not about economic collapse as much as it is the author’s argument that the US is inherently no better than the former Soviet Socialist Republic. To say that Dmitry Orlov is pessimistic is such a gross understatement in scope and scale that it’s almost not useful; like saying the ocean is big or the sun is far. The only thing D...more
Richard
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Peter
I tend to rush through books, intent on the story rather than read them slowly savouring the characters, plot twists, dialog etc. This one was no different - I read it quickly.
Orlov is an American who did some of his growing up in Russia. He returned to Russia several times for long business trips during the collapse of the Soviet Empire and of Russia.
He compares and contrasts the Soviet Empire with the American Empire from cultural, militaristic, social and economic perspectives. Quite interes...more
Justin
If there’s one thing about the inevitable decline of the United States that gives me some bit of deeper comfort, its that people like Dmitry Orlov have been writing about it for a long time. His article, Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century was first released in 2005 and clearly Orlov had been thinking about superpower collapse for quite a while before then. Orlov strikes me as an unlikely yet inevitable product of our modern world, a lucky person cursed to find himself at the improba...more
Sheehan
So Orlov, was present for much of the transition following the fall of the Soviet Republic from empire status, and his insights, albeit entirely observational and anecdotal, provide an interesting alternative the the more popular books on decline of empires and epic fail scenarios.

The book is framed as a comparison of the advantages Russia has as struggling centrally organized state in bridging the collapse of their economy against the vastly different status quo of a profit over persistence mod...more
Rick Strahl
Interesting perspective on how there are similarities between the Soviet Union's collapse from communism and how there are many parellels where the US is today. The essential premise is that the government and economy in general are overextended to the point of breaking. The book is a rambling read that is often entertaining, sometimes pontificating, but it's worth a read for the perspective and insights it gives on how a societal collapse happens and progresses and finally resolves itself.
Bruce Sanders
This is a very interesting book not so much for practical ideas about how to survive an economic collapse, though there is some of that, but rather for its insights with regards to Soviet society, its worldview, why the country collapsed (hint: it had little to do with American actions), and its structural differences with America. Many of those structural differences made the Soviet Union much more resilient in the face of economic collapse than the US will be. A few examples will illustrate. A...more
Leah
Purchased on the strength of hearing Dmitry Orlov interviewed on NPR. Having been resoundingly bored by economics at university, this is not typical of the sort of books I enjoy reading, but Orlov was such a compelling, interesting interviewee that I knew I had to get hold of some of his writing. I was not disappointed; Reinventing Collapse is not what I would call a 'light' read as some other reviewers have, however, it takes some very dry subject matters and discusses them in a manner that is...more
Josh
I love this book. It reads like a fascinating conversation with a very smart Russian friend who has been through it. Orlov draws some alarming parallels between the USA c. 2005 and the USSR c. 1985; but whether or not his vision of the future is accurate is beside the point. This book dares to imagine what economic collapse in the USA might look like, offering real insight on how to prepare and what to expect. The emphasis is much less about hoarding SPAM and shotgun shells, and much more focuse...more
Joel
This was a solid book, with moments of some surprising humor. However, it felt a bit slim after having just read two other deep and involved books about social collapse: the peak oil-focused Confronting Collapse and the environmental devastation-focused What We Leave Behind. There wasn't much in this that wasn't covered in greater detail in those two books. However, this does definitely have its moments (I really liked the "Adaptation" section) and it is a nice introduction and primer to social...more
Jennifer Miera
This wasn't what I hoped. Speaking of hope, there's little of it in this book. Not that I'm disputing the direness of American prospects for collapse or even Orlov's view on how this might unfold. However, I'm tired of hopelessness. If there will be mass violence and instability, is that really a future I want to try to live in with small children? So, we are just supposed to keep going out of sheer tenacity?
Admitedly, some of the author's humor was lost on me - or maybe I just don't find much...more
Christian
You must be strong like Russian peasant to survive coming collapse. That's the message. It's an interesting point that collapse doesn't mean apocalypse. In fact we've seen collapse before in our lifetime. Fair enough. Apart from that point this book is rather dire.

A lot of coming collapse of the US genre ends up with the advice, "grab some gold and head for the hills!" Orlov advises against it. He equates adopting a bunker mentality to being buried alive. On the other hand he recommends investi...more
Stephen Hren
Okay, I'm getting passed on lots of collapse books in the last few weeks. Orlov's writing style is fun and easy, but I'm not sure I'm taking much away from this one. The premise is a comparison of the US with the SU (soviet union, where Orlov was when that govt collapsed in late 80s early 90s). He sees the same issue there then as here now: massive debt with continuing deficits, a govt incapable of handling crises (chernobyl there, katrina here), an inability to make stuff anymore, and dependenc...more
WG
Orlov offers predictions for the breakdown of the oil and debt-based economy of the United States, using his experiences of the collapsing Soviet Union as a comparative perspective. The tone is conversational rather than scholarly, and his scathing, broadly-drawn critique of the culture, politics, and social forms of the United States is liberally seasoned with humor and mockery. His emphasis on the importance of preparing oneself psychologically rather than materially for a post-collapse United...more
Eric
The author believes in a total collapse of American society, worse than anything seen in Russia, and probably global too though he does not outright say that. He believes peak oil and the debt crisis will destroy America as we know it right now. He believes countries with their own oil supply will be OK for longer but will eventually go down the same path. He gives broad ideas about how to prepare for the new society but nothing too specific. His biggest advice is to create a network of friends...more
Gerald Greene
Dmitry Orlov is a Russian – American engineer who has written extensively about the potential collapse, no the certainly, of the collapse of the American empire. Having witnessed first hand conditions in Russia during that empires collapse he makes telling observations in his book Reinventing Collapse about how unprepared America is for a similiar collapse.

The read is thought provoking. Every American should be concerned about the risk of collapse in the US and how to take measures to reduce the...more
Martinxo
Oct 28, 2008 Martinxo rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone with sense
This book is a little scary but don't let that put you off. Orlov might be over-stating the case...but then again, the US is in a pretty dire state at present.

All the Chinese, Saudis and other holders of worthless US bonds need do is call in the debt and then the shit really will hit the fan...so maybe you should read this book.

All-in-all one can't lose anything by preparing oneself, and as Orlov points out over and over again, most of the preparation needed is psychological.

He's also a very f...more
Emily Giuffre
VERY interesting! And I mean that in the best sense. Although I don't exactly agree with all of Orlov's predictions and solutions, I am in total agreement with him that in order for this country to survive a collapse is to have a more sustainable lifestyle and less national pride and dependence. Although some may find this book rather depressing, Orlov, after surviving one himself, ensures that a collapse is not something to be shunned but embraced with all the new opportunities it will present....more
Barry
A thinkpiece about what oil-crash U.S.A might be like and how to survive it. Not just your usual of that genre though: Orlov brings insights and theses derived from three sources - first, a cross-cultural perspective (he's Russian); second, from direct observation of life in post-Soviet 'crash' Russia; and third, a keen sense of irony. Scary, funny, and hopeful. Those of us from the rest of the world, of course, will make our familiar translations to what it might mean for us, here.
Ben
It feels a little dated now. I would love to know how he thinks the years since 2006 fit into his narrative. Orlov is good at breaking down social structures to very basic levels in a way that can be a little frightening sometimes. I haven't quite thrown out all of my expectations for a future like today after reading this, but I do find myself thinking a lot more about how to make moves in a direction that will see me better situated should he prove to be right.
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