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Society Collapse: 5 Indications that Rome is Burning

With society’s collapse, all bets are off, and survival isn’t guaranteed even for the prepared. The most likely collapse scenario in the Western World is financial collapse. A consumerist society greased by a global financial system teetering on the edge of the abyss.

I am not a professional scientist or a specialist in Collapsology, but it doesn’t take a Mensa member to recognize something isn’t right in the Western World.

When a society collapses, it can return to a less developed state, be integrated into a larger, stronger state, or vanish. Some collapsed societies may bounce back with less adaptive capacity, reverting to less complex, less centralized socio-political forms using simpler technology.

Interested in learning more about societal collapse? Check out the Ready Squirrel article “26 Ways to Prepare For Societal Collapse.”

The Collapse of Society: Five Stages

So, what does the collapse look like?

Society collapses in five general stages: first financial collapse. Second commercial collapse, third political collapse, fourth social collapse, and fifth cultural collapse.

The five stages of societal collapse are a simplified theory that can be used to recognize the decline that leads to a full-blown meltdown, based on Dmitry Orlov’s book, “The Five Stages of Societal Collapse.”

I tried to use some of the other theories on collapse, but they are so detailed and have so many facets I’d be writing a book instead of a short article. Don’t take this information as gospel but as one way to simplify and think about what is happening around you.

Also, I care about the environment, but I don’t drink the Kool-aid.

financial collapse

#1 Financial Collapse

Faith is lost in the financial system and currency. The population no longer thinks that the economic future will bear fruit and that there is no financial security or a way to build wealth for the future.

The financial system no longer supports loans or guarantees assets to spur future growth.

Loans and “guarantees to pay back loans” are needed to maintain a global economy.

Business and financial institutions become insolvent, savings and retirement disappear, and access to loans and capital for future investment are no longer available.

Likely Cause of Financial Collapse In America

According to Orlov, Usury, money lending for interest is based on an ever-expanding global economy.

“Western nations depend on global finance for savings, pensions, government services, food crops, and the importation of goods. Said another way the U.S. government takes out loans and pays interest to keep the system running.

Borrowing money and the ability to pay it back depends on an economic system with future growth, or looked at another way, infinite growth. Finite resources do not support infinite future growth.

At some point, the financial system has to collapse.

Check out the Ready Squirrel article “Societal Collapse: Realistic Examples.”

man waiting to get gas

#2 Commercial Collapse

Commercial collapse occurs when actual products and services become scarce or unavailable. This isn’t just lawnmowers and new cars. It includes food.

Commodities are hoarded.

The import and retail supply chains break down, triggering widespread shortages.

Ships don’t leave port. Imported and exported items cease to exist.

The trucking system collapses, and so does the food supply.

The population no longer believes that the market will provide for their needs.

“All that is required for financial collapse is for certain assumptions about the future to be invalidated, for finance is not a physical system but a mental construct.”

The Five Stages of Collapse, Dmitry Orlov

Borrowing and lending money are what grease the economic engine. Everything downstream depends on it, from local infrastructure to military assets.

Money has value because we believe it has value. Financial and global trade systems are based on the psychology of belief and the idea of value.

political collapse

#3 Political Collapse

Political collapse occurs when governments can’t provide food, shelter, transportation, and security.

The population loses trust in the government. Political officials try to fix the supply chain, but they can’t.

The political establishment loses authority and becomes irrelevant to the Populus.

#4 Social Collapse

The population no longer trusts social institutions or their ability to provide.

Churches, charities, and other social organizations try to satiate the loss of necessary supplies and fill the gaps left by the ailing political government.

It doesn’t work as they quickly run out of stores.

burning street sign

#5 Cultural Collapse

This is a stage of despair, faith in humankind’s goodness is lost.

Human behaviors that bolster the thin veneer of society: “kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, and charity” are lost. The ship is sinking, and it’s every man for himself.

What Causes a Society To Collapse?

Various factors cause societal collapse, and each of these factors intertwines and amplifies one another. Below are eight “general” areas of decline that lead to society’s collapse.

  1. Economical
  2. Environmental
  3. Social
  4. Cultural
  5. Natural Disasters
  6. Over Population
  7. Resource Depletion
  8. Foreign Invasions

Learn the best types of food to stockpile for the collapse, “Societal Collapse: 36 Top Foods For Storage”

Agricultural Collapse: Soviet Union

USSR Food System

In the former Soviet Union, agriculture underperformed, leading to failed collective farms and permanent shortages of meat, grain, and protein. USSR had to import grain from hostile governments to provide bread.

Russian families used kitchen gardens and local food sources to supplement their diet.

The modern U.S. Food System

The U.S. agricultural system is based on oil inputs. A Highly Industrialized agricultural system relies heavily on diesel, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and agricultural loans.

If the supply lines fail, the shelves will be empty in three days. Many people in the United States are not within walking distance of a grocery store.

Chart #1 Soviet Reaction To The Collapse Of Agriculture And Modern U.S. Food System

Soviet Union (Food Habits)United States (Food Habits)
Kitchen GardensSupermarkets and Big Box Stores
Local Food StockpilesFood Shipped in Diesel Trucks (Supply chain dependent)
Home Cooking CultureFast Food Culture
Physically ActiveObesity Epidemic
Foraging For FoodWaiting to be fed
Social Collapse Best Practices, Dmitry Orlov

Shelter (effects of collapse)

During the economic collapse of the Soviet Union, there were long waiting lists to trade apartments. The high population density in Russia caused multiple generations to live in one location.

Public transportation allowed residents to get around.

Spikes in crime were offset by generations living in one location. People knew the people around them and had some support.

Suburban dwellings in the United States may be untenable during a major economic collapse as political power will no longer provide public services such as sewer, water, police, fire, and other services to outlying or suburban areas.

Grocery stores are too far to reach on foot, and public transportation is unavailable.

Orlov believes that during a societal collapse in the United States, a mass exodus will occur to areas with higher populations. This is the opposite of what most preppers plan and prepare for.

In case of collapse, most Americans will probably depend on food distribution centers set up by the government, so this may not be too far-fetched for the majority.

I still believe being self-sufficient off-grid is the way to go.

Chart #2 Characteristics of Housing: USSR vs. U.S.A.

Soviet UnionUnited States
Owned By The StateOwned By Banks or Corporations
Free RentForeclosures and Evictions
Accessible By Public TransportationLargely Inaccessible Except By Car
Everyone Stays In One PlaceFlood of Refugees From Suburbia to higher population areas

Thanks for visiting Ready Squirrel. If you have any thoughts or questions please leave them in the comments section.

Keep on prepping!

Best Regards, Scott


Berman, S. (1997). Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic. World Politics, 49(3), 401-429. doi:10.1353/wp.1997.0008

Orlov, D. (2013). The Five Stages of Collapse: A Survivor’s Toolkit. United States: New Society Publishers.

Dmitry Orlov: Blog

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