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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Sep 12, Matthew rated it it was amazing. It is a weakness in that it leads to a materialist reductio ad absurdum. Apr 09, Jani-Petri rated it really liked it. As noted above, Tainter critiques other theories for being too parochial.

It is similar to Quigley’s distinction between ‘social instruments’ and ‘institutions: Productivity of caloric intake for increasing life expectancy. Feb 21, Darnell rated it really liked it Shelves: Such is the nature of comparative case-based research. 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.

It is often assumed that the collapse of the western Roman Empire was a catastrophe for everyone involved. Consumption of all the slack technology provides leads to an irrevocable commitment to complexity and interdependency. This point seems to decohere from earlier logic about the role of invasions in stressing a society. The Romans “solved” this problem by conquering their neighbours to appropriate their energy surpluses in concrete forms, as metals, grain, slaves, etc.

Tainter’s opus is a work of the sort that I have missed in my post-graduate world: This growth inevitably leads to specialization, stratification, and complexity which initially serves growth 3. The clincher comes at the final chapter when Tainter outlines the implications of his theory on our current industrial and global civilization. Josepn 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.


This page was last edited on 11 Novemberat So the change joseoh not really an improvement, but instead a permanent taitner to additional infrastructure, additional complexity.

Joseph Tainter

But there is another point demonstrated by his long description that he misses: We are, in short, fookin idiots. But other cases, like the Maya, the Western Roman Empire, and Easter Island, are among those situations that do not provide easy explanations. 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: Normally I am a bit skeptical of the analysis of historians as they seem to often have soft logic, often recurring to very subjective values or opinions, and telling long and boring stories about concepts such as heroism, 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 Professor Pickney documents the same process in the present day economy.

Average returns of agriculture. The Romans “solved” this problem by conquering their neighbours to appropriate their energy surpluses in concrete forms, as metals, grain, slaves, etc.

Tainter studied anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern Universitywhere he received his Ph.

Moreover, “The Collapse of Complex Societies” is an academic monograph, so it has all the defects of that genre. Growth of GNP per capita.

For example, did Germany under the Nazis act rationally? The idea of diminishing returns well explored meaning that more fertilizer, internet, railroads and regulations produce more food per man-hour invested, but only to a point.

Collapse of Complex Societies

A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age on the idea that, by Tainter’s requirement that collapse occurs “within a few decades,” collapse is rare.

American expenditures on higher education Jul 16, Gwern rated it it was amazing Shelves: I’d say to give the early sections a tsinter because they do form the basis for his later arguments.

Since we were once again headed to see some ruins, I thought this an appropriate time to approach this book, although tainer the case of the Incas, we can easily identify Guns, Germs, and Steel and perhaps horses as the proximate causes of collapse. He seems fair and level-headed.


This is a strange oversight in Tainter’s book, since most ocllapse the examples of “collapse” he uses don’t fit his own definition. Most of his focus, though, is on class conflict theories and mystical theories, both of which he attacks in scathing terms. Our current global situation is too interconnected for individual complex-societies to collapse in isolation.

Tainter uses the examples of the Romans, the Maya and the Chacoans to demonstrate how his theory plays out. In dismissing his consideration of greed, Tainter points out that greed, like the poor, will always be with us.

The Collapse of Complex Societies – Joseph Tainter – Google Books

What if taiter graduates from trend to generally accepted fact? Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. He then presents his own explanation for collapse — the declining marginal returns of complex socities — and demonstrates its a 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.

The marginal product of cillapse complexity. To Tainter the story of a complex society is a race against the resource clock. They were able to finance their complex society by plundering their areas of conquest. Nowhere, though, is complexity evaluated other than with respect to quantifiable variables—ones that, if they have not been quantified because of lack of data, could at least be quantified with the right data.

Joseph Tainter arrived inwith this book, to offer an alternative—namely, total economic determinism filtered through a framework of his own devising. May 11, S rated it it was amazing Taitner it for:

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