Catastrophism in the San Francisco Book Review

Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth

by Glenn Dallas
San Francisco Book Review
February 7th, 2013

The Mayan apocalypse may have been a bust, but with environmental fears, peak oil concerns, staggering population predictions, the threat of terrorism, the specter of nuclear annihilation, and increasingly sensationalist rhetoric, catastrophe has become a buzzword, an all-too-common part of our vocabulary.

Catastrophism collects four articles investigating the politics of despair, crisis, and catastrophe, as employed by both the left and the right in America. The contributors argue that the overuse of doomsday references has led to a national sense of crisis fatigue and environmental apathy, and that such gloom-and-doom narratives are often employed to push religious, racist, and nationalist agendas.

Admittedly, I was most engaged by the closing article, which explored the modern popularity of zombie outbreaks and similar stories, and how they reflect contemporary views and values on catastrophic thinking. It’s a wonderfully down-to-earth examination that backs up many of the arguments made earlier in the book that might have been lost in highfalutin’ narrative.

At its heart, Catastrophism states that fear-based politics are a dead end. Hopefully, this can be the spark for new discussions, more rational debate, and a collective change in direction for government. With well-directed skepticism and fresh eyes, this book is a decent start.

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