Book Review: Archeofuturism, G. Faye
A flawed book that raises some interesting issues
Archeofuturism: European Visions of the Post-catastrophic Age is an interesting read, particularly given that it was published in 1998. The starting point is an analysis of a few key trends or “lines of catastrophe” that were taking shape at the end of the 20th century:
Environment: Destruction of environmental public goods such as clean air and water
Demographic change: Migration into Europe and Western antinatalism
Economics: Not enough money to pay for healthcare/pensions, and the potential for a global economic contagion & recession
Religion: Disappearance of the Christian Religion, growth of Islam
Geopolitics: North vs South, West vs Islam, ethnomasochism in The West
For something written in 1998, this is impressive. He predicted The Islamic State (ISIS), covid-19, the 2008 financial crisis and the Islamic terror attacks of the 2010s, Wokeness (ethnomasochism) and the importance of climate change. He even talks about voting in referenda using encrypted computer codes… which sounds a lot like DAOs. Not bad!
Faye incorrectly predicted that these converging “lines of catastrophe” would come to a head between 2010 and 2020, culminating in an Islamic invasion of Europe, supported by a “fifth column” of Muslim radicals who had settled in Europe (though I suppose that that could happen in 2021-2025 and he’d be close enough to get a medal).
There is also the idea that individualist egalitarianism destroys itself via low fertility and that a “return to sanity” will happen one way or another. Faye’s prescription is to return to traditional values and to abandon humanism/modernism/egalitarianism, so that the return to a more traditional society can be to a traditional Western society rather than a traditional Islamic one. In particular he wants most people to return to a medieval farming lifestyle with traditional religion and traditional values, whilst an elite subset retain the use of technology and provide infrastructure and military power.
In later chapters he describes a “Euro-Siberian Federation” with an imperial ruling class and hundreds of millions of medieval peasants. The “Euro-Siberian Federation” is a weird mashup of the European Union and The Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40K. They spend their time squabbling over fishing quotas, but they’re also kind of badass and they have imperial eagle insignia on their laptops.
But Faye also believes that there is no way to change course before the catastrophe hits - people don’t take action until their backs are against the wall.
So, why do I think Faye’s book is flawed?
I think it suffers from being a book that makes predictions and recommendations without having a gears-level model of the phenomena it is trying to predict.
No geopolitical justification is given for the Euro-Siberian Federation. The racial justification (that Russians and French people are mostly of similar genetic lineage and skin color) hasn’t held up well - Russia is currently aligned with India and China and against the EU/NATO block. People are just not sufficiently racist to align themselves based on Skin color rather than convenience. And apparently neither is Faye - in his short story the white Ukrainian protagonist spends his time flirting with a very attractive Indian woman. Why would you write a book about geopolitical blocks based on race, and then insert an interracial romance?
Faye is simply incorrect that the world cannot support 10 billion people with a high standard of living - a review of the relevant physics makes this clear (this will have to wait for another post)
Faye is partially correct about Islam, but his predicted Islamic invasion hasn’t materialized yet. There is ongoing demographic change, but what’s the endgame? Will Islam win against Coca-cola?
The idea of having 90% of the population living in medieval conditions and an elite 10% who use technology is crazy. Why? Because people wouldn’t voluntarily subject themselves to horrific medieval farming life, and if you had the power to compel them, then why not just kill them off or use them for something more useful? Medieval life is both horrible and inefficient, medieval peasants don’t produce anything of value to the government. So neither a benevolent government nor a cruel and totalitarian one would implement this form of archeofuturism - it is, it seems, a LARP.
Nevertheless, there is something interesting about the archeofuturism concept, and the related idea that modernity is destroying itself by killing off its own human capital. I’ll explore these ideas more in a future post.
Should you read Archeofuturism: European Visions of the Post-catastrophic Age?
No, probably not, but it’s not a total waste of time if you do.