At The Brussels Journal, I review Eric H. Cline’s new book 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed. Cline’s topic is the “Catastrophe” that afflicted the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age. Cline’s service is to have correlated the large monographic literature on the “Catastrophe” and to have organized it in complementary narrative and analysis. The review is here: http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/5134
I offer an excerpt:
Just before reading The Year Civilization Collapsed I read Gregory R. Copley’s Un-Civilization: Urban Geo-Politics in a Time of Chaos (2013). Copley sees the existing global economy as a distorted, unstable system already embarked down the slope of collapse. The malaise of the contemporary system in Copley’s analysis stems from many of the distortions that Cline cites as contributing to the end of the Bronze Age: Centralized bureaucratization of the societies; overspecialization within the total mercantile network such that a disruption anywhere must spread its effects like ripples everywhere else; vulnerable infrastructure, such as, in the modern instance, the electrical grid; unregulated, massive migrations of peoples; and the development of enmitous social factions within societies, in some cases massively immigration-driven. Copley predicts a crisis, one effect of which will be plummeting depopulation leading to the desertification of the distended World Cities.
The parallelisms between Copley’s assessment of the contemporary situation and Cline’s hypothesis about the causes and character of the Catastrophe are quite obvious and quite disconcerting. Copley differs from Cline in his willingness to include moral failures as playing a role in the impending (as he sees it) debacle. Cline explicitly disavows any gesture of “laying blame,” as when he criticizes invoking the “Sea Peoples” as agents of a general destruction in the concluding phase of the Catastrophe. Nevertheless, The Year Civilization Collapsed is extremely valuable. The Catastrophe is little-known – unlike the specious “Fall of Rome,” so often celebrated in novels and cinema. It ought to be better-known, as it would serve as a useful reference in getting people to understand the terrible fragility of the civilized accomplishment. One ingredient of total social calamity at which Cline hints but which he nowhere fully develops is the complacency of the people, their dumb belief that nothing can change in the way of life. The psychological inertia of complacency plays a large role in the stultification of the existing “global order,” which more and more resembles ambient disorder.