When I was growing up in England, it was very common to hear my older relatives say "They don't make things like they used to". They generally had a perception that in the past, things were better made, lasted longer, and were expected to last longer. Bedsheets used to be thicker, buildings made of stone, bridges and machinery over-engineered with lots of extra metal, etc. By contrast, nowadays we live in a throwaway society.
It would be interesting and useful to quantify that. However, this morning, I'm just going to throw out a half-formed idea for the sake of seeing if anyone can give me useful feedback. So I'm just going to assume that it's basically true that in modern society, the average lifetime of an object is lower - buildings, personal possessions, etc - compared to pre-industrial societies. Things are designed accordingly, with planned obsolescence.
Equivalently, this would translate to replacing a higher fraction of the capital stock of the society each year. Modern societies both grow faster, and also replace more of their own fabric in any given period. Obviously, the reason for this is that modern society operates at higher levels of energy/economic surplus - we have the wherewithal to casually throw away a bunch of stuff, and make new (putatively better) stuff.
But it is also this surplus that I have argued makes modern society more resilient to certain kinds of threats. Because there is a large energy/economic surplus, in an emergency, this can be diverted to fix the problem.
If we suppose that, notionally, pre-industrial societies replaced 1% of their infrastructure every year, and we suppose that modern societies replace 5% of their infrastructure every year (I'm making up numbers here for the sake of illustration), then a natural disaster that destroys 20% of the infrastructure can be fixed by the modern society in 4 years, but takes 20 years to fix in the traditional society. That makes the odds that the traditional society will suffer a major loss of societal complexity in the interim much higher.
So, my hypothesis is that the throwaway nature of modern consumer society is not a marker of increased risk, but actually a marker of surplus and resilience to certain kinds of threat. If society were to get very stressed in the future, one marker of that would be a tendency to preserve individual objects longer. (Indeed, for example, car sales always go down markedly in recessions).
I should add, as a caveat, that I have the sense that there are entirely new kinds of risks that modern societies have that traditional societies didn't, but my thoughts on that are ill-formed (beyond the obvious cases like nuclear war).
If you have strong arguments to the contrary, comments are open...