Having recently finished reading The Harrows of Spring, the fourth and final novel of Jim Kunstler’s World Made By Hand series, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast his dystopian post economic collapse America versus our current warped egocentric pre-economic collapse America. His world made by hand is forced upon Americans who have survived some sort of conflict resulting in the destruction of Washington D.C. and Los Angeles by nuclear blasts.
The Federal government has ceased to exist. The nation has splintered and varied factions are vying for power in autonomous regions of the country, but the small community of Union Grove, New York has been left to fend for itself. The four novels detail the trials and tribulations of average Americans in a small rural town after the implosion of modernity, as the world is stripped of its technological oil based comforts, devastated by terrorism, racked by epidemics, and having endured the ravages of economic collapse.
Kunstler’s dystopian future isn’t as bleak as the dystopian visions of 1984 or Brave New World. If dystopian means a world characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or a cataclysmic decline in society, then Kunstler’s World Made By Hand series doesn’t match that characterization. There is more humanity and hope in his novels than you would expect in a dystopian vision of the future. The novels focus on various types of societal segments who represent the different courses society could chart after a breakdown of modern social norms, enforced by central authorities. Living through a national catastrophe and stripped of the modern conveniences provided by cheap plentiful oil, the citizens of Union Grove see their community falling apart from neglect, natural decay, disease, and lack of hope for the future.