Failing States, Collapsing Systems

This review provides the central argument from a book by Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed – Failing States, Collapsing Systems: Biophysical Triggers of Political Violence that the effect of diminishing returns on investment of global energy sources which has been happening since 1999 will lead to several states failing. These regional failures, based on inability to meet demands for energy and food, will aggregate into geopolitical conflict and global collapse in the not so distant future. Graphs of production and consumption of oil are used to illustrate the various stages of this process happening in Syria, Yemen, Saudia Arabia, Mexico and China.

Alongside that, while 2011’s Occupy and “Arab Spring” are but a taste of things to come, there’s also the fact that while the situation in Syria has allowed for the emergence of ISIS and other jihadis, the coming state-level failures in the Middle East will only exacerbate this. Looking at intra-state conflict, civil unrest, Islamic terrorism, and far-right terrorism, Ahmed’s studies show that

the escalation of Western military interventionism has provoked an increase in Islamist militancy, which has further fueled far-right extremism, both comprising the principal sources of escalation in PV [political violence] pandamics [sic?]. Both, of course, have further elicited further militarization in response to these different forms of rising militancy and terrorism [p. 43].

The cases examined here thus point to a global process of civilizational transition. As a complex adaptive system, human civilization in the twenty-first century finds itself at the early stages of a systemic phase-shift which is already manifesting in local sub-system failures in every major region of the periphery of the global system. As these sub-system failures driven by local ESD-HSD [Earth System Disruption – Human System Disruption] amplifying feedbacks accelerate and converge in turn, they will coalesce and transmit ever more powerfully to the core of the global system. As this occurs and re-occurs, it will reach a system-wide threshold effect resulting in eventual maladaptive global system failure; or it will compel an adaptive response in the form of fundamental systemic transformation [p. 88].

Put a bit more succinctly,

The system must either adapt to these threshold effects by transforming its structure, adapting its overarching rules, norms and values, and thus transitioning to a new evolutionary state – or experiencing a protracted collapse process by failing to do so [p. 47].

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is a British author and investigative journalist. He is Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development, an independent think tank focused on the study of violent conflict in the context of global ecological, energy and economic crises; and a film-maker who has co-produced and written The Crisis of Civilization, and associate produced Grasp the Nettle, both directed by Dean Puckett. Ahmed’s academic work has focused on the systemic causes of mass violence. He has taught at the Department of International Relations, University of Sussex, and has lectured at Brunel University’s Politics & History Unit at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, for courses in international relations theory, contemporary history, empire and globalization. Follow his blog at:

http://www.nafeezahmed.com/ 

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