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.

Author: Tygorisar Kalrajas
Country: Reunion
Language: English (Spanish)
Genre: Music
Published (Last): 15 July 2013
Pages: 361
PDF File Size: 4.97 Mb
ePub File Size: 5.18 Mb
ISBN: 786-9-40390-689-5
Downloads: 41115
Price: Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]
Uploader: Brat

He provides a thorough overview of the many explanations offered by historians sociieties explain the many frequent occurrences of societal collapse throughout history. In the evaluation section, Tainter describes the Roman collapse as due to inflation, taxes and regulation, the combination of which so reduced the marginal return to peasants that, after years of plague, the central government lost the support of the local regions.

Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediatelyespecially if potentially libelous or harmful. Complex socieities fail when they cost more to the majority than they benefit their well-being.

Collapse of Complex Societies

Collappse author deliberately frequently summarizes and repeats, even though this is a short book, and he constantly cites other equally boring academics for minor points. To see what your friends thought of this book, collaapse sign up. Most of his focus, though, is on class conflict theories and mystical theories, both of which he attacks in scathing terms. The Romans “solved” this problem by conquering their neighbours to appropriate their energy surpluses in concrete forms, as metals, grain, slaves, etc.

Scott in “Against the Grain,” Tainter thinks that the costs of a complex society may simply exceed its benefits to the people in that society, who will therefore be better off at a less complex level of organization. Turns out all the reasons I thought caused collapse were straw man reasons invented by their writers to push an agenda, or just poor research. To societues other readers questions about Collapse of Complex Societiesplease sign up.

Tainter notes that in the west, local populations in many cases greeted the barbarians as liberators. What is interesting, however, is that by adopting the term “complex-society,” he clllapse 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: What do we talk about when we talk about the collapse of complex societies?


It was not following the March firebombing of Tokyo, which killed more civilians than the bombing of Hiroshima five months later. Tainter does a good job with his argument, which I admit even I though I disagree with it in part. I am by no means an archeologist professional or amateur but was able to make my way through this part, picking most of what Tainter was trying to communicate. He boldly decides that both are partially right, and moves on, since, after all, what he cares about is complexity, not how we got there.

However, as the Empire grew, the cost of maintaining communications, garrisons, civil government, etc. Quigley, though, gave more credence to cultural developments; probably as a useful indicator of the ideological state of the majority.

A review of this book requires a different standard than your everyday ‘fun’ book.

On mystical theories, though, Tainter is less convincing. And again, it’s not to say it isn’t a fine specimen, it just wasn’t very good.

May 16, Dave rated it really liked it. What I like about Tainter societles that he doesn’t assume that complex societies are the ultimate good.

TheChacoan regional system A D The clincher comes at the final chapter when Tainter outlines the implications of his theory on our current industrial and global civilization. For example, as Roman agricultural output slowly declined and population increased, per-capita energy availability dropped. Mar 17, Nick Black marked it as warily-considering Recommends it for: Declining marginal benefits are still there and to sustain a complex system requ This was a quite interesting book.

If you can’t measure it, it’s not useful.

Joseph Tainter – Wikipedia

Intense, authoritarian efforts to maintain cohesion by Domitian and Constantine the Great only led to an ever greater strain on the population. And later still, the latest foodie trend here in Boulder is tianter disparage the taintfr wheat stalk, it’s multifarious chromosome threatening our digestion.

First off, this is more like a long academic paper than a book. He has no patience for theories that are overly dependent on the specific nature of each case, a trait that many historians and anthropologists would take issue with cf.

Civilization is more the exception than the rule. Societal complexity is a tool for solving problems; sociopolitical systems require energy 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. Feb 18, Ryan rated it really liked it Shelves: But I’ll take that any day over the economic inefficiency of the late Roman Empire.


Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than years of explanations. However, there is a plausible argument that modern technology, as well as modern habits of thought, whatever their drawbacks may be, permit a society to be organized with dispersed problem solving by networks, which may, to some extent, be immune from diminishing returns.

Trying to be succinct, I don’t think it’s about diminishing returns, but about slack and momentum. When there are warring polities declining marginal utility simply opens one up to conquest by one’s neighbors. We cannot delve into the wormhole of human psychology, he says, because if you are trying to build a model, you have to be able to account for your variables.

Hard-nosed humanists; social-economical historians. Collapse, might be the cleansing forest fires of history, events to almost welcome. He draws upon far more North and Central American societies in his examples than any from elsewhere.

If you clinically assume that only reasonable explanations are acceptable in your research, then your research, while appearing eminently reasonable, is certainly not complete.

However, the marginal benefits of ever greater investments in such complexity declines beyond a certain point and eventually becomes less than the marginal investment needed, making the buildup of complexity pointless and even harmful to society. William Zartman Limited preview – And at what “collapse” means and at how the word has been misused. The alternative assumption—of idleness in the face of disaster—requires a sociefies of faith at which we may rightly hesitate. However I would say that folk arts are every bit as good as collzpse art, which gets defined as high only by the makers of it, after all.