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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The impacts of inflation devaluation and the plague are self-evident, but Tainter has only mentioned regulations once in his analysis section.

Ulanowicz Limited preview – Apr 09, Jani-Petri rated it really liked it. For example, as Roman agricultural output slowly declined and population increased, per-capita energy availability dropped. Major civilizations tend to experience an early period of rapid growth through the ‘low hanging fruit’ of available territory, resources, etc.

DMR theory is thus uncomfortably tautological. Reform is the happiest. Linked as we are by globalization, if any one nation collapses, they’ll just be bailed out and subsumed by another. View all 3 comments.

But, since this is a narrow anthropological analysis, we are denied any substantial linking of that knowledge to history, of which Tainter seems under-informed at best.

Open Preview See a Problem? The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will therefore strike a chord throughout the social sciences. Kipling perhaps captured the role of moral virtues in civilizations best in “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” This is why purely economic theories for the Great Divergence are always miserably incomplete—they take no account of culture, which cannot be quantified, but is determinative of the course of a civilization.

Joseph Tainter – Wikipedia

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.


Social complexity can be recognized by numerous differentiated and specialised social and economic roles and many mechanisms through which they are coordinated, and by reliance on symbolic and abstract communication, and the existence of a class of information producers and analysts who are not involved in primary resource production. Cambridge University Press Amazon. The civilization plateau’s and the structure established to help it grow becomes a part of society.

Were I not typing this review out on a tablet, I might be more eloquent, but here’s the gist of my reaction. As noted above, Tainter critiques other theories for being too parochial.

A scholar trained txinter anthropology learns early on that such valuations are scientifically inadmissible, detrimental to the cause of understanding, intellectual indefensible, and simply unfair.

Productivity of educational investment for the development of specialized expertise.

After dispensing handily with the crowd of existing theories, Tainter offers his own suggestion: While it was a little dense in places, long on listing facts and short on broader theory, as a whole I enjoyed it.

Hi With the global economy teetering on a shaky foundation and prepper-types everywhere heralding the end of global civilization as we know it, the nature and mechanism of the collapse of complex societies has rarely seemed as relevant as it does today. What I like about Tainter is that he doesn’t assume that complex societies are the ultimate good.

Joseph Tainter

The Roman Empire grew so long as it had some other territory to invade and tax; the sums raised by conquest compared favorably to the cost of campaign returns were good, the market was up! This may reflect his own background in archaeology, and is not necessarily problematic in a world literature which focuses heavily on the histories of Eurasian societies, but I do partly wonder if the choices of societies are motivated by popular concerns.


We know cities like Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas are unsustainable because of lack of water, but we can’t even bring ourselves to do some tiny thing like outlaw lawns, golf courses, or fountains in front of the casinos, much less write strict, sane zoning laws.

Return to Book Page. They reverted to taxation, debasing the currency, and turning copmlex slavery, which ultimately weakened their society to barbarian incursion.

Tainter societiew anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern Universitywhere he received his Ph. But the need for a society to continually produce more than its inputs seems to be linked to this phenomenon in some way.

Collapse of Complex Societies

Intense, authoritarian efforts to maintain cohesion by Domitian and Constantine the Great only led to an ever greater strain on the population. Carino ma invecchiato male.

This was far deeper and nuanced thinking that the standard shallow storyline. The work provides a concise list of common threats to any organized large-scale social entity. The investment to acquire these resources is at first easily outwighed by their benefits. 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.