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Apocalypse, Not? The Politics of Collapse and Rebirth – A Book Review

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The year 2012 didn’t bring us the end of the world, nor the end of capitalism and Coca-Cola that Evo Morales promised last summer. It still remains to be seen whether or not it will have ushered in the resurgence of indigenous resistance that was proclaimed by the more than 40,000 Zapatistas who marched in Chiapas on December 21st. But whatever new political developments the coming years may or may not bring upon us, it’s clear that we haven’t seen the end of the apocalyptic outlook that 2012 came to represent.

Apocalypse, Not? The Politics of Collapse and Rebirth – A Book Review

Brian Tokar
March 18, 2013
Toward Freedom

Reviewed: Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, by Sasha Lilley, David McNally, Eddie Yuen and James Davis (Oakland: PM Press, 2012, 178 pp.)

The year 2012 didn’t bring us the end of the world, nor the end of capitalism and Coca-Cola that Evo Morales promised last summer. It still remains to be seen whether or not it will have ushered in the resurgence of indigenous resistance that was proclaimed by the more than 40,000 Zapatistas who marched in Chiapas on December 21st. But whatever new political developments the coming years may or may not bring upon us, it’s clear that we haven’t seen the end of the apocalyptic outlook that 2012 came to represent.

Popular culture, of course, has been reveling in apocalypse and catastrophe for a long time. From serious literature to pulp fiction, from punk and alt-rock music to teen novels, from the art house to the multiplex – not to mention the ultra-violent world of video games – American culture has been saturated with images of apocalypse since long before 2012. With the catastrophic weather predictions of scientists’ climate models coming to fruition with devastating accuracy, decades earlier than anticipated, we’re not likely to see the end of apocalyptic thinking for some time.

What does this mean for social movements, and for those of us who seek a more just human order in the midst of climate breakdown and persistent financial uncertainty? Can the specter of apocalypse serve to invigorate popular movements, or is it merely an outlet for escapism and despair? What of the significant ranks of radical environmentalists who now believe that a restoration of biodiversity can only follow the collapse of civilization? Are such views part of the solution or part of the problem?

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