Orlov's five stages in brief are as follows:
1: Financial collapse is what we're all going through right now. Massive banks and fiscal enterprises are failing because they leveraged themselves to the point of pain and took massive, stupid risks with borrowed money. Prices, consumer spending, business investment, and credit are all going down the tube. The US Federal Reserve Bank and the federal government are idiotically inflating the US$ supply by shovelling more and more money at these same idiots that wrecked their economy. Once foreign entities are no longer available to lend money to the US government it's hyperinflation and bye bye economy. Of course globalization has ensured that the implosion of the US domestic financial services sector is spreading through the economies of every industrial nation in the world at lightning speed.
2: Commercial collapse comes next. When our faith in the 'free market fairy' to solve all our problems is demolished by hyperinflation, every part of the market economy will will melt away. Essential commodities like food, water, medicine, and bullets will be hoarded by people unsure of where or when the next supply will arrive. Unemployment will skyrocket as corporations unable to get one more loan or bailout collapse. People will have to get used to the idea of doing for yourself and making do with what they have; ad-hoc local markets and collective networks will never be able to placate the vast demands of the consumer class.
3: Political collapse sets in as the government becomes incapable of effectively delivering services or enforcing regulations. Loosely held territories will begin seceding from larger states as they realize the government can't help them. Law and order will be replaced by martial law, then by the state of nature. The government will slow and then stop delivery of everything from health care to utilities to trash collection. It's not until the water and the power stops that people will begin to understand how much trouble they're really in. Official corruption will run rampant, and authority will eventually devolve on criminal syndicates and gangs, local fascista paramilitaries, more or less anyone who can take it.
4: Social collapse is the great reversion to the mean in the state of nature. People begin to lose their faith in progressive and democratic ideals. They begin to rely on families, churches or other close-knit groups for protection and turn on their neighbours, co-workers, and casual acquaintances. Charitable organizations are overwhelmed by demands for handouts, and any organization not directly dedicated to providing for the basic survival and security needs of its members will essentially cease to exist. This will be the worst time for everyone, as well as the best opportunity to advance any ideological cause that encourages people to band together against outsiders and the interference of the state, such as Communism, Anarchism, or Fascism.
5: Finally there is Cultural Collapse, as the basic moral foundations of our society are ground under. People will become willing to lie, cheat, steal, loot, assault, maim, rape, torture, and kill in pursuit of their physical and psychological needs. We revert to feral, tribal, animalistic versions of the literate, sophisticated semi-divinities we believe we are. This would be an intensely painful process that would more or less erase thousands of years of cultural evolution. Mr. Orlov thinks it can and should be avoided. I know I wouldn't enjoy such a world and will do everything in my power to help prevent it coming to pass, but the cynical side of me feels like humanity needs something of a cleansing enema before we can rebuild our culture. In any case I will more than likely be dead by phase 2 or 3.
Orlov's message is ultimately hopeful. He feels we can take power into our own hands by accepting the reality of the collapse and following certain prescription to mitigate the effects at each phase: Reduce your dependance on the money economy and the globalized free market, self-organize on a local scale to provide for basic needs and services, create cohesive and interdependant communities, and emphasize mutual responsability and the most basic fundamental moral values. Unfortunately Orlov's analysis fails to take into account the ongoing catastrophic environmental collapse, which we might call Stage X. Easy-access fossil fuels are being used up at a monstrous rate, ecological poisoning and spiking temperatures are depleting viable food sources and farmland, and many densely inhabited places are becoming unlivable. Global climate shift will lead to widespread fuel, food, and electricity shortages, tides of refugees placing further burdens on strained communities, and acce;lerate both the pace and the magnitude of every part of the collapse as the effects snowball into each other. Furthermore, people are still going along as if the precise right carbon tax and financial 'stimulus' plan will fix everything. If local self-organization and reduced dependance on the global markets are the answer, the present stunned malaise of the consumer class watching as the revolution is televised is not an encouraging sign.