There are numerous schools when it comes to the collapse of civilizations. A common way to break things down are the fast collapse vs the slow collapse people.
In the slow column we have people like John Michael Greer, (The Archdruid Report
) and this theory he calls Catabolic Collapse
. If you really want to get into the subject, it's worth reading. His material is also well referenced. Check his sources. Basically, civilizations fall back, regroup and recover, but not as high as before. Over time, everything ratchets down.
I used to get my fast collapse fix from a site called “Life after the Oil Crash.” That was a peak oil site and had some persuasive arguments. It's been shut down. Peak oil, at least concerning conventional oil, has already happened. Everything hasn't quite fallen apart yet, at least not as fast a predicted.
Lately I've been of the opinion that Greer may be onto something. We may be in for a long slow overall decline with periods of partial recovery. I'm also open to the possibility of fast collapse, as that has happened to civilizations too, if less frequently. Our civilization is vulnerable to various threats to our electrical/computer infrastructure. A massive CME could suddenly set us back hundreds of years, and I don't thing everything would fully recover. 50 years of power grid building isn't replaced in a day, a month, or even a year.
Past localized disasters like Katrina show us what happens. The richer areas got rebuilt, but the less affluent, non-tourist areas got much less attention. Should a world wide event happen, those areas that are rebuilt to modern standards will be small, scattered, and rare. They will also do their darnedest to keep poor people like me out.
From a prepper persecutive it makes sense to be as self reliant as possible, as that will serve a person well no matter what happens. However, if there's a slow collapse, it makes sense to focus on satisfying wants and needs as locally as possible. Personal connections matter. Stored food and supplies are useful to bridge the gap until things stabilize. Local economies take a bit of time to establish themselves.
Should a fast collapse happen, those preps will bridge the gap until one can learn to satisfy basic needs on a fairly primitive level, as it won't get better for a long long time. There will be no Coast Guard helicopters swooping in to save the day. Self preservation may be more along the lines of knowing how to build a raft, grow food, snare a rabbit, tan hides, make cordage -the whole primitive skills thing.
Even in a slow collapse scenario, local areas can experience their own fast collapse: earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and so on. If it's happening to you, it doesn't matter much that the rest of the world is fine. 100% of your world is in fast collapse.
In short, I think everyone is right, under certain circumstances. All you have to do is to be prepared for anything and everything all the time. Easy, right? Of course none of us can be that prepared, but everyone should have at least some level of self-reliance. Most importantly, be aware that this stuff has happened in the past and some version of it will most likely happen in the future. Attitude makes a big difference. You aren't special. This stuff happens to good and bad people alike.