As discussed in another article, Western nations are very vulnerable to attacks upon their electricity distribution and communication systems.
Any large-scale loss of electricity for any extended period of time would inevitably lead to societal breakdown.
If governments lose the ability to maintain order, civil society would quickly break down.
Sadly, in modern times, it doesn’t take much to trigger societal breakdown.
New York blackout "Night of terror"
A small taste of societal collapse occurred when lightning caused a power blackout in New York on July 13, 1977.
TIME Magazine described New York’s blackout in 1977 as a “Night of Terror.” Widespread chaos reigned in the city until power was restored – entire blocks were looted and set ablaze, people flipped over cars and vans on the streets; the city was in pandemonium. That night, 3,776 arrests were made, and certainly not all looters, thieves and arsonists were apprehended or arrested. 
On streets like Brooklyn’s Broadway the rumble of iron store gates being forced up and the shattering of glass preceded scenes of couches, televisions and heaps of clothing being paraded through the streets by looters at once defiant, furtive and gleeful. Thirty five blocks of Broadway were destroyed, 134 stores looted with 45 of them set ablaze.
Power was restored the next day.
Imagine if the power was out for one month, or one year.
2011 London riots
Another example of societal breakdown occurred in England between 6 and 11 August 2011. Thousands of people rioted in several London boroughs and in cities and towns across England. The resulting chaos generated looting, arson, and mass deployment of police and resulted in the death of five people.
Disturbances began on 6 August after a protest in Tottenham, London, following the death of Mark Duggan, a local black youth who was shot dead by police on 4 August. Several violent clashes with police ensued, along with the destruction of police vehicles, a double-decker bus, and many homes and businesses, thus rapidly gaining attention from the media.
Overnight, looting took place in Tottenham Hale retail park and nearby Wood Green. The following days saw similar scenes in other parts of London, with the most rioting taking place in Hackney, Brixton, Walthamstow, Peckham, Enfield, Battersea, Croydon, Ealing, Barking, Woolwich, Lewisham and East Ham.
From 8 to 10 August, other towns and cities in England (including Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Derby, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, West Bromwich, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, and Salford) saw what was described by the media as "copycat violence".
Vehicles, homes and shops were attacked and set alight. At least 100 homes were destroyed in the arson and looting. Shopkeepers estimated the damages in their Tottenham Hale and Tottenham branches at several million pounds.
The riots caused the irretrievable loss of heritage architecture. It was estimated that retailers lost at least 30,000 trading hours. The Association of British Insurers said they expect the industry to pay out in excess of £200 million
By 15 August, more than 3,000 arrests had been made across England, with more than 1,000 people issued with criminal charges for various offences related to the riots. Initially, courts sat for extended hours.
There were a total 3,443 crimes across London linked to the disorder. Along with the five deaths, at least 16 others were injured as a direct result of related violent acts. An estimated £200 million worth of property damage was incurred, and local economic activity was significantly compromised.
There were reports that the BlackBerry Messenger service was used by looters to organise their activities, and that inflammatory and inaccurate accounts of Mark Duggan's killing on social media sites may have incited disturbances. One of the many messages shared between users was the following:
"Everyone in edmonton enfield wood green everywhere in north link up at enfield town station at 4 o clock sharp!!!!," it began. "Start leaving ur yards n linking up with your niggas. Fuck da feds, bring your ballys and your bags trollys, cars vans, hammers the lot!!"
Some commentators remarked on the apparently high proportion of black people involved in the riots and took the view that there was a disproportionately high number of rioters who were black, compared to the overall demographics of the United Kingdom.
While official statistics show blacks comprise just 3% of the British population, in February 2012 a report was published by the Ministry of Justice providing demographic statistics of the people charged over participation the riots up to 1 February 2012 which revealed that 41% of those brought before the courts identified themselves as being from the White group, 39% from the Black ethnic group, 12% from the Mixed ethnic group, 6% the Asian ethnic group, and 2% the Other ethnic group.
 · Statistical bulletin on the public disorder of 6 to 9 August 2011 – February update
- "Statistical bulletin on the public disorder of 6th–9th August 2011 full report" (PDF). Ministry of Justice. 24 October 2011