Decades after French philosophers stopped fretting over existence, the thinking classes have embraced a new fad: the end of the world.
Cited by converts from President Macron to pop singers and yellow-vest protesters, the doctrine of imminent apocalypse goes under the unlikely franglais name la collapsologie.
State officials have attended a new university master’s course in the Paris outskirts on the “risk of collapse and adapting to it”, while Facebook is awash with groups, including a popular one called: “Adoptez un collapso: let’s meet before the end of the world.”
La collapsologie, which Édouard Philippe, the prime minister, calls a personal obsession, is based on the assumption that climate change, declining resources and the extinction of species is driving the world to its destruction far more quickly than we imagine.
Pablo Servigne, an agronomist who coined the term collapsologie in his 2015 bestseller Comment tout peut s’effondrer, or How Everything Can Collapse, believes it will happen as early as 2030. His account of fatally converging forces — environmental damage, global capitalism and political upheaval — appealed to France’s love of universal theories, preferably inspired by the left.
The book, which has spawned a clutch of copycat collapse books, was itself inspired by the American author and academic Jared Diamond’s 2005 US bestseller Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, which is often quoted by the French prime minister as the government battles the yellow-vest insurrection over green taxes.
“If you don’t take the right decisions, there comes a moment when society collapses literally. It disappears,” Mr Philippe, 48, who is married with three children, said. “It’s an obsessive question. It gnaws at me more than people imagine.”
Nicolas Hulot, who was the environment minister and most popular member of the government, resigned in August accusing Mr Macron of failing to do enough to halt the collapse. The president, who sees climate disaster as his biggest challenge, stirred yellow-vest anger in November when he lectured them that “the end of the world” was just as important as “the end of the month”, which they worry about.
Stéphane Linou, the collapsologist who created the pioneering course at Cergy-Pontoise University, said that the present revolt by the rural working poor was a “first alert” of the upheaval to come.
“We don’t know if the trigger will be a large-scale social crisis or the end of oil . . . but, with the domino effect, the world as we know it will collapse,” he said in Le Parisien yesterday.
Les collapsologistes are strongly concentrated among left-leaning urban dwellers with at least one university degree, a survey showed.