• June 20, 2019

Part of New Studies in Archaeology. Author: Joseph Tainter. Date Published: March ; availability: Available; format: Paperback; isbn: Notes on “The Collapse of Complex Societies” (J. Tainter). 1. Introduction to Collapse. Intro! The sublime mystery of collapsed civilizations and dark portents. 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.

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Detailed studies of the Roman, Mayan and Cacoan collapses clarify the processes of disintegration.

Doctor Faustus in the Twenty-First Century. While Tainter can be a bit too Colin Renfrew in his use of quantification, his discussion of how complexity unravels and how increasing social complexity ultimately begins to yield lower and lower returns on social investment is fascinating.

Tainter begins by categorizing and examining the often inconsistent explanations that have been offered for collapse in the literature. Tainter should have speculated a little. They reverted to taxation, debasing the currency, jozeph turning to slavery, which ultimately weakened their society to barbarian incursion. Michio Kitahara – – Upa. Since we were once again headed to see some ruins, I thought this an appropriate time to approach this book, although in the case of the Incas, we can easily identify Guns, Germs, and Steel and perhaps horses as the proximate causes of collapse.

Such complexity requires a substantial “energy” subsidy meaning the consumption of resources, or other forms of wealth.

Yet, despite this lacuna, Tainter concludes his study with this prescient question: He uses complexity as both a definitional marker for societies and as a yardstick for taihter their collapse. Hard-nosed humanists; social-economical historians.


It’s a little ponderous to read, because it is documented joeeph reasoned like a thesis. The middle class in towns, however, was burdened by the cost of civil obligations. As noted above, Tainter critiques other theories for being too parochial.

Collapse of Complex Societies

Sign in to use this feature. The socieites comes at the final chapter when Coplex outlines the implications of his theory on our current industrial and global civilization. Apr 09, Jani-Petri rated it really liked it. At low complexity, adding more layers of doers, thinkers, and paper-shufflers makes society more productive and everyone better off, but each additional layer takes energy, and eventually you run into the law of diminishing marginal returns, meaning that after a certain point society becomes paralyzed under the weight of its own corporate and governmental bureaucracies and can no longer adapt to changing conditions like resource shortage, environmental change, economic shifts, or external threats.

But now we depend on the structure, which has become brittle, and like a house of cards, easy to knock over. No categories specified categorize this paper. One of the major problems in sustainability and in this whole question of resources and collapse is that we did not evolve as a species to have this ability to think broadly in time and space.

Joseph Tainter – Wikipedia

The Origin of Europe. One jiseph last thought how many “last thoughts” is one allowed? DMR theory is thus uncomfortably tautological. Views Read Edit View history. Tainter’s work here is a dissection of what it means for a society to ‘collapse’, and an attempt at a rigorous causal explanation for why that collapse happens.


Feb 18, Ryan rated it really liked it Shelves: This is well trodden ground, from those like Francis Fukuyama who ascribe most development of complex societies to warfare to those with a more anarchist bent, like James C. Jul 06, Les Hollingsworth rated it liked it.

The Collapse of Complex Societies

What was useful to me: Apr 12, Aaron Arnold rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is unexceptional enough, in that it paints the definition with a broad enough brush that few would disagree. A collapse which turns into conquest by another complex society is not a collapse, under his definition, but one which is conquered by a less complex society is.

These bits are neat, but this is only a small part of the book. Normally I am a bit skeptical of the analysis of historians as they seem to often have domplex logic, often recurring to very subjective values or opinions, and telling long and boring stories about concepts such as josephh, some small details, series of random eveniments and such things, which are all good and great, but seem to me to have little explanatory power He identifies many of our biases, including the biases of historians and culture people to see these collapses as negative events even though they might have been positive steps for the actual real people living then then there: