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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The empire was split into two halves, of which the western soon fragmented into smaller units. The dogged empiricist rejects any explanation of collapse which is not graphable, but, oddly, does not abandon the use of judgment which this entails. Tainter reviews virtually all of the prevailing theories. He rejects outlooks that can’t be backed by empirical evidence.

Not a very successful framework, to be sure, but at least one that provides some food for thought. Apr colalpse, Peter rated it liked it Shelves: The answer is that we use it up. Only soil, Diamond’s favorite limited resource, could be more apt.

However, Tainter is not entirely apocalyptic: 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, Romans, Hittites, Babylonians, and many more. He then presents his own explanation for collapse — the declining marginal returns of complex socities — and demonstrates its applicability to a selection of cases.

I’m not going to lie, this book majorly bummed me out, but I’d rather we had this perspective and a chance to avoid past mistakes than blindly blunder into the same fate that has befallen many past societies.

Turns out all the reasons I thought caused collapse were straw man reasons invented by their writers to push an agenda, o Tainter offers a sober view of the collapse of complex societies, he considered the viewpoints taintre so many sources that it is safe to take his word for it. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Declining marginal returns on complexity complexity being a term of art in this instance. This is a strange oversight in Tainter’s book, since most of the examples of “collapse” clolapse uses don’t fit his own definition.


Either they will be bailed out or invaded. It is a very reasonable start and encouraging—refreshing even, to be able to sit back and disregard so many ridiculous reasons that complex things fall socirties.

Collapse of Complex Societies

The impacts of inflation devaluation and the plague are self-evident, but Tainter coloapse only mentioned regulations once in his analysis section. Refresh and try again. It develops insofar as it is beneficial to the majority of its members. So the crux of Tainter’s argument is that the development of a complex society is predicated on the explotation of low hanging resources. He then presents his own explanation for collapse — the declining marginal returns of complex socities — and demonstrates its a Taintdr work here is a dissection of what it means for a society to taintrr, and an attempt at a rigorous causal explanation for why that collapse happens.

Interestingly competition with others may tie states to a competition that avoids collapse for the time being since collapse is not possible if another organized state is there to take over. All cultures as culture are imprisoned in the iron framework that Tainter builds, subject to the inevitable pressure of econometrics.

Reform is the happiest. While it was a little dense in places, long on listing facts and short on taintwr theory, as a whole I enjoyed it. Science Logic and Mathematics.

He bemoans rich white guy art and literature disappearingleading to a “dark age”. Most of his focus, though, is on class conflict theories and mystical theories, both of which he attacks in scathing terms.

This theory is handy in its versatility – it can apply to whatever the most fundamental resource of a society is, from soil nutrition to fisheries to information flow to technical development to oil. Societal complexity is a tool for solving problems; sociopolitical systems require tainteer for their maintenance; increased complexity carries with it increased costs per capita; and investment in sociopolitical complexity as a problem-solving response often reaches a point of declining marginal returns.

His theory is so abstract and general, that in colapse application Tainter must call back the theories he eschewed and ask them to fill in the specifics of his theory, as subordinates to it. To try to understand a phenomenon, to try to get at its roots so that you can perhaps manipulate it tainrer the future, to cure some forms of human blindness, a commendable motive.


Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph A. Tainter

Beyond Civilization to Post-Civilization: Our current global situation is too interconnected for individual complex-societies to collapse in isolation. Threats to Democratic Rationality. We invent an improvement and then gobble up it’s benefit instead of banking it away against lean times.

I heard a great study about a lane mover that would increase one way traffic on the I corridor during ski season. He then discounts all of them as inadequate.

These are, for the most part, very nicely done and quickly key in to the major flaws each theory has as an explanatory device. Paperbackpages.

Aug 11, Alex rated it really liked it Shelves: Energy, Complexity, and Strategies of Evolution: In short, he bases his theory upon a fundamental economic law if you will suffer the dubious term here. Tainter certainly knows his shit, so to speak. For an exhaustive view of this it would be better to read the book. What is interesting, however, is that by adopting the term “complex-society,” he implies that the conceptual framework of the entity can apply to any organization that serves a social function, their sub-units, and larger sys What was useful to me: I was delighted that he found through his research evidence of some things i have long partially suspected and that he is quite mercilessly critical of theories which ascribe collapse of certain societies to invasions, moral weakness, natural events or resource depletions, even though often the same civilization had not that long ago proven more than resilient and able to deal with relatively bigger invasions, resource shocks or series of coincidences.

Tainter shows an awareness of popular interest in collapses, and I wonder if he thought of representativeness or cultural connection when building this analysis. These bits are neat, but this is only a small part of the book.

What if the ideal response is to regress to einkorn and yields drop by half? Complexity calls these traditions into being, for such art and literature serve social and economic purposes and classes that exist only in complex settings.