Economics at your fingertips  

Energy Decline and Authoritarianism

Richard Heinberg and Timothy Crownshaw ()
Additional contact information
Richard Heinberg: Post Carbon Institute
Timothy Crownshaw: McGill University

Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality, 2018, vol. 3, issue 3, 1-11

Abstract: Abstract Could declining world energy supplies result in a turn toward authoritarianism by governments around the world? Mainstream forecasts of an increase in world energy production lasting until at least mid-century are coming under sustained criticism from researchers emphasizing the dynamics of resource depletion. Energy decline is a likely near-term challenge that polities around the world will face. Energy metabolism is a constraining factor for societal complexity and economic production, as established in the anthropological and biophysical economics literature and supported by a multitude of examples of both modern and pre-modern societies. It can be argued that political systems will necessarily face significant destabilization and the potential for a reversion to more autocratic forms as a result of energy depletion. We review relevant risk factors for this shift toward authoritarianism and discuss the contrasting aspects of democratic and authoritarian governance under conditions of energy decline. We conclude with a discussion of possible responses to counter the risks of democratic failure. Overall, we find that opacity of the links between energy, the economy, and politics may hamper such responses and that a more widespread understanding of the role of energy in society will be advantageous to the survival of democratic governance.

Keywords: Energy depletion; Societal metabolism; Political risk; Democracy; Authoritarianism (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2) Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link) Abstract (text/html)
Access to the full text of the articles in this series is restricted.

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link:

Ordering information: This journal article can be ordered from

DOI: 10.1007/s41247-018-0042-7

Access Statistics for this article

Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality is currently edited by C.A.S. Hall and U. Bardi

More articles in Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality from Springer
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Sonal Shukla () and Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing ().

Page updated 2022-05-12
Handle: RePEc:spr:bioerq:v:3:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s41247-018-0042-7