Duncan Noble's Reviews > Immoderate Greatness: Why Civilizations Fail

Immoderate Greatness by William Ophuls
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
10228890
's review

it was amazing

This is a short (70 page), highly readable book summarizing why complex civilizations fail. And all civilizations are complex. The Table of Contents summarizes the 6 ways to fail. These include Biophysical Limits (Ecological Exhaustion, Exponential Growth, Expedited Entropy, Excessive Complexity) and Human Error (Moral Decay, Practical Failure).

The chapters on Biophysical Limits will be familiar to many folks with an environment/sustainability leaning. But they don't feel like a rehash, more like a good synthesis from someone with a deep understanding of the subject matter.

The Human Error chapters were less familiar for me. The chapter on Moral Decay was the hardest to read, as it seemed at times like a right wing rant. But that is misleading as it is much deeper than a right wing rant. It relies mostly on the views of Sir John Bagot Glubb, who believed that "the history of civilizations describes an arc that starts with an Age of Pioneers (or Conquests) and then moves successively through the Ages of Commerce, Affluence, and Intellect before terminating in an Age of Decadence. Two implacable forces propel this movement. First, in a process analogous to ecological succession, each age creates socioeconomic conditions favorable to the emergence of the next. Second, each new generation therefore grows up in altered circumstances that foster a changed way of thinking and acting. The outcome is a positive feedback loop in which changed material conditions engender mental changes that foster still more material change, and so on, until the civilization declines into decadence."

It's hard to disagree with the conclusions of this book - that we are headed for failure, on a global scale.

Highly recommended.
flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Immoderate Greatness.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

May 9, 2013 – Started Reading
May 9, 2013 – Shelved
May 14, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Duncan Noble This is a short (70 page), highly readable book summarizing why complex civilizations fail. And all civilizations are complex. The Table of Contents summarizes the 6 ways to fail. These include Biophysical Limits (Ecological Exhaustion, Exponential Growth, Expedited Entropy, Excessive Complexity) and Human Error (Moral Decay, Practical Failure).

The chapters on Biophysical Limits will be familiar to many folks with an environment/sustainability leaning. But they don't feel like a rehash, more like a good synthesis from someone with a deep understanding of the subject matter.

The Human Error chapters were less familiar for me. The chapter on Moral Decay was the hardest to read, as it seemed at times like a right wing rant. But that is misleading as it is much deeper than a right wing rant. It relies mostly on the views of Sir John Bagot Glubb, who believed that "the history of civilizations describes an arc that starts with an Age of Pioneers (or Conquests) and then moves successively through the Ages of Commerce, Affluence, and Intellect before terminating in an Age of Decadence. Two implacable forces propel this movement. First, in a process analogous to ecological succession, each age creates socioeconomic conditions favorable to the emergence of the next. Second, each new generation therefore grows up in altered circumstances that foster a changed way of thinking and acting. The outcome is a positive feedback loop in which changed material conditions engender mental changes that foster still more material change, and so on, until the civilization declines into decadence."

It's hard to disagree with the conclusions of this book - that we are headed for failure, on a global scale.

Highly recommended.


back to top