How can anything grow (or at least sustain growth rates) if the best energy available (oil) is declining and, at the same time, debt is spiraling out of control?I've addressed the first issue (growth after peak oil) many times, starting back in 2005 and that piece still looks pretty good to me as a decent rough approximation of the situation. I won't rehearse those arguments again here. But for the second issue - the overhang of excessive debt - which seems the more immediate problem of the day, a worst case analogy is the Great Depression. So I dragged out a couple of figures of technology adoption curves.
Here's one I found at Adverlab from a few years back, for percentage of US households with various technologies (click for big version in separate window).
I have added the purple rectangle for the great depression, and red rectangle for WWII. As you can see, whether the technology adoption was slowed or partially reversed very much depends on the individual technology. Automobiles and telephones took a big hit - actually going backward for a number of years. However, the progress of electricity is only moderately affected, and the progress of radio barely deviates at all from its rapid increase. Refrigerators started only in the late 1920s and spread very rapidly all through the depression.
I think the point is that for industrial societies, even when under a great deal of stress, they have some resources and some choices. Thus, those things that they see as the highest priorities may continue to move forward.
Amusingly, the chart above was originally titled "Consumption Spreads Faster Today", but they left off the original adoption of TV, one of the most influential 20th century technologies. This chart from here shows why: TV had one of the fastest adoption curves ever, spreading like wildfire during the fifties, and that didn't fit the "Consumption Spreads Faster Today" theory, so they left it off.
This chart is really worth clicking on for the big version and studying closely. The blue bands seem to be the recessions, and there's a lot of historical notes in the labels. In particular, it can be seen that the 1970s oil shocks had very modest effects on technology adoption.