I read a really intelligent post on a financial forum where this book was recommended. Whereas Jared Diamond’s Collapse deals with an ecological breakdown, this book deals with the patterns of all breakdowns.
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization by Thomas Homer-Dixon is an amazing book. I now see the world in a different way. Preventing the breakdown of any system is impossible. The longer a system goes, the more complexity must go into maintaining it. The more complex a system has, the less resilient it becomes. The author makes a solid case for adding slack or overlap into systems, so when they do eventually receive a shock, the depth of the damage is contained and rebirth begins from a more advantageous position.
The book draws heavily from Rome and modern disasters (earthquakes, fires) to describe the phases that lead up to collapse and what happens afterward. This review is a brief overview of some of the concepts. The book offers much more. I highly recommend this book. It is the best book I’ve read this year so far.
If you don’t have time to read this book, the author has a library of articles and podcasts on his website. Despite the long introduction and song in the middle, which you can skip, the best podcast is The Growth Imperative and the transcript is here. It was recorded in February 2009 and it connects concepts in the book to the current global economic situation.