Pre-planning Transformation to Avoid Collapse--Is It Possible?

Futures, Vol. 144 (2022)

Posted: 14 Nov 2022

See all articles by J. B. Ruhl

J. B. Ruhl

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Harold J. Ruhl

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: November 11, 2022


Although societal collapse has been part of human history for millennia, a growing fear is that social, economic, technological, and environmental systems have become so globally interconnected, and their resilience so under threat, that the next collapse could be global in scale. Drawing from the collapse and social-ecological resilience studies literatures, we conceptualize two stages of collapse-avoidance governance—the pre-trigger adaptive governance stage during which policies draw on systems resilience to avoid the initiation of the collapse spiral, and the post-trigger transformative governance stage during which policies are implemented to steer out of the collapse spiral through fundamental change of systems regimes. Even under continued good collapse-avoidance governance it is possible for a variety of reasons that adaptive governance policies fail to avoid triggering of the collapse spiral, in which case policies to facilitate transformation will likely need to be substantially different. When designing adaptive governance resilience policies, therefore, governance institutions should anticipate these contingencies by (1) supporting research and design of transformation policies to implement if the resilience policies ultimately fail and the collapse spiral is triggered, and (2) accepting that effective transformation policies may depart significantly from, and even conflict with, the resilience policies. Even if the pre-planned transformation policies ultimately are not implemented amid a collapse spiral, the pre-planning exercise can sharpen focus on the need for design and implementation of effective resilience policies.

Full Article Available Here Until January 1, 2023:

Keywords: Adaptive Governance, Transformative Governance, Climate Change, Resilience

Suggested Citation

Ruhl, J. B. and Ruhl, Harold J., Pre-planning Transformation to Avoid Collapse--Is It Possible? (November 11, 2022). Futures, Vol. 144 (2022), Available at SSRN:

J. B. Ruhl (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

Harold J. Ruhl

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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