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

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  469 Ratings  ·  66 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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Feb 15, 2012 Rob rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, american
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',

But I live like a sane one. I was a fascist w
Nov 20, 2008 PJ rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 21, 2009 Pete rated it really liked it
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
Jul 10, 2010 Tim rated it did not like it
Shelves: economics

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
Jun 24, 2008 Jerah rated it really liked it
Awesome. Russians are badass. Americans are screwed. What's new. Pass the home-brewed vodka.
Richard Reese
Mar 22, 2015 Richard Reese rated it it was amazing
Dmitry Orlov grew up in the Soviet Union (USSR), before it collapsed and was reborn as the Russian Federation. In the mid-’70s he moved to the US. On extended visits to his Leningrad home, he directly observed the unpleasant process of a powerful empire collapsing. On later visits he observed how the Russians had adjusted to living in a post-empire society.

It’s very clear to him that America is also a rotting powerful empire — socially, politically, economically. We spend far too much on the mi
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
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
Chris Boette
Apr 07, 2010 Chris Boette rated it really liked it
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
Sensei Sage
Oct 26, 2010 Sensei Sage rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 09, 2010 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 09, 2011 Sheehan rated it liked it
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
Aug 05, 2012 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a entertainingly snarky and useful, but not too useful, overview of how the collapse of the USSR might apply to a United States collapse, from potential similarities between the US condition to the root causes of USSR's collapse, to the social conditions that will be available for when collapse arrives, to what seemed useful for mitigating some of the circumstances of collapse and how to adapt and profit from collapse conditions when they arrive. In a sense, it's oddly upbeat, in th ...more
Jaybird Rex
Apr 19, 2010 Jaybird Rex rated it really liked it
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
Dec 14, 2009 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-affairs
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
Sep 09, 2012 Richard rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 26, 2012 Leah rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 19, 2008 Josh rated it it was amazing
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
Bruce Sanders
Nov 16, 2008 Bruce Sanders rated it really liked it
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
William Sharpe
Oct 05, 2016 William Sharpe rated it it was ok
Like a lot of books/people that make predictions, this book had me literally laughing out loud. Put together about 8-10 years ago now (2nd edition put out about 2009?), the predictions of peak oil and US societal collapse had me thinking of the "reports of my demise are much exaggerated" quote. While it's true that imperial collapse seems to happen more quickly nowadays (e.g. compare ancient Rome, the Ottoman empire, the British, and the Soviet Union), the author is necessarily basing his analys ...more
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
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
Stephen Hren
Jan 23, 2009 Stephen Hren rated it liked it
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
Nov 17, 2015 Iangagn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dmitry Orlov's Reinventing Collapse is about the United States falling in on itself and what may come after the dissolution of the so-called empire. It is rather upbeat and even quite funny at times -- something you wouldn't expect from a book about political and economic breakdown. In spite of several really good one-liners, the general tone is more serious and the perspective of the author on the subject is quite unique in that he was born in Russia and was an eyewitness to the dissolution of ...more
Gerald Greene
Jun 20, 2012 Gerald Greene rated it it was amazing
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
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
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.
Nathan Chattaway
Jul 24, 2014 Nathan Chattaway rated it it was amazing
Quite simply, if you are even remotely interested in knowing what is going on around the world right now, you must read this book. Dmitry Orlov has a very rare ability to take what you might think would be incredibly complex and numbingly boring topics, and make them understandable and, dare I say it, hilarious.

High Five, Dmitry. To the face. With a failing Super Power.

Buy it, read it, then get off your fat butt and do something about it, or you probably will die quite soon. Bet you didn't see t
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