Part of New Studies in Archaeology. Author: Joseph Tainter. Date Published: March ; availability: Available; format: Paperback; isbn: Collapse of Complex Societies has ratings and 91 reviews. Mark said: Ok, done!Tainter’s work is an opus. How could it be otherwise with a title lik. Political disintegration is a persistent feature of world history. The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will therefore strike a chord.

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If you think we might be on o Dazzlingly brilliant, readable, profoundly insightful, this is a must-read for anyone thinking about what societal collapse means and how it comes about. The Maya suffered under a kind of crisis of the commons.

Joseph Tainter

Archeological evidence from human bones indicates that average nutrition actually improved after the collapse in many parts of the former Roman Empire. This over-emphasizing of economics shows up in what is actually a thought provoking idea.

To try to understand a phenomenon, to try to get at its roots so that you can perhaps manipulate it in the future, to cure some forms of human blindness, a commendable motive. Mar 21, Steve Greenleaf rated it really liked it Shelves: Patent applications in respect to research inputs. Intense, authoritarian efforts to maintain cohesion by Domitian and Constantine the Great only led to an ever greater strain on the population.

A civilizations beliefs, or our interpretation of those beliefs are not ‘objective’ and so have nothing to contribute to the study of collapse. His arguably best-known work, The Collapse of Complex Societiesexamines the collapse of Maya and Chacoan civilizations, [2] and of the Western Roman Empirein terms of network theory thd, energy economics and complexity theory. This book is a rather dry read but it is very informative. Mar 09, Chris Chester rated it it was amazing Shelves: And again, it’s not to say it isn’t a fine specimen, it just wasn’t very good.

We cannot delve into the wormhole of human psychology, he complwx, because if you are trying to build a model, you have to be able to account for your variables. Book reviews are sometimes uncertain exercises and of questionable value, especially mine. Jan 25, Zora rated it liked it. He concludes that, since the collapse of any one state would only result in its incorporation into a competitor, josseph the states must collapse at once if collapse does occur.


In a world of competing polities, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Joseph Tainter – Wikipedia

What does it mean for societies to fail? Eventually the return on investment tapers to nothing, and then further effort would actually COST energy, blood and treasure. Comp,ex and try again.

Please help by adding reliable sources. Tainter’s conceptual framework seems, without further analysis, to be closely in-line with Quigley’s theories of historical analysis. He evaluates, both in the abstract and by reference to one or more collapsed civilizations, and rejects, all of these theories, as either just wrong, or as insufficient and needing to be integrated into a more competent theory not yet advanced no prize for guessing whose theory that is.

Similarly, he rejects as not wrong, but incoherent, the idea that civilized societies are superior to uncivilized societies. No trivia or quizzes yet.

He recognizes collapse when a society involuntarily sheds a significant portion of its complexity. He ventures that there can be no further sudden collapses in any society or country in today’s interconnected and full world where no power vacuum exists – any reduction, purposeful or otherwise, would instantly result in another advanced nation or power absorbing the entity into it’s fold. Our current global situation is too interconnected for individual complex-societies to collapse in isolation.

So, after summarizing the work of people like Gibbon, Toynbee, Spengler, and others he essentially dismisses with a wave of his hand. Here Tainter analyzes many of the ways that groups of people can completely fail to maintain the complicated but fragile webs of interaction that separate us from animals trade, governance, food production, resource extractionwith examples from the Mayans This is a tough book to summarize, both because it’s so dense and well-sourced it reminds me of grad school, and because it tackles a bunch of big, abstract questions, like what makes societies fail.

It is often assumed that the collapse of the western Roman Empire was a catastrophe for everyone involved. Here he is, dismissing as unreasonable a phenomenon that should be familiar to us: Much is given over to exploring dominant views and paradigms and collapse and yes and so on and mhm.


Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph A. Tainter

The examples he provides are quite illustrative and can provide guidance to the challenges we face today. Intense, authoritarian efforts to maintain cohesion by Domitian and Constantine the Great only led to an ever greater strain on the population.

Tainter studied anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern Universitywhere he received his Ph. Of the many fantastic examples in the book one of the most interesting is the fall of the roman empire in the th centuries when a traditional historian might say that roman provinces fell under barbarian conquest the author brings forth evidence that many of the peasants, long exhausted by the roman bureaucratic parasitic aparatus not only became apathetic towards the roman empire but actually invited the barbarians to conquer them as their lives would improve with lower taxes for the same or better levels of protection.

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Collapse of Complex Societies

But when more societjes more communities were added that were subject to the same stress surges like drought or invasion, the utility of the system declined. The level of scholarship is high, and his examples are tqinter. Tainter seeks to develop a universal explanation for the collapse of complex societies.

Tainter applies his diminishing marginal returns analysis broadly, to everything taintdr agriculture to scientific progress. This perceived paucity seems to be his inspiration for the book. Primitivist Archetypes in s Children’s Programming”. Finally, Tainter applies his model to today. We are addicted in that we want to support our population: However I would say that folk arts are every bit as good as “high” art, which gets defined as high only by the makers of it, after all.

What was useful to me: This is useful because it draws a very clear distinction between ‘social criticism’ and ‘social science.