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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Joseph Tainter arrived inwith this book, to offer an alternative—namely, total economic determinism filtered through a framework of his own devising.

Energy, Complexity, and Strategies of Evolution: Oct 04, J. Trivia About Collapse of Compl This is a historical analysis, with applicability to our age that’s noted only lightly along the way: Too much sober thought stifled speculation, may be it is because Tainter is an archaeologist who likes substantive reasons rather than flights of fancy.

Intense, authoritarian efforts to maintain cohesion by Domitian and Constantine the Great only led to an ever greater strain on the population. On a second reading, even better!

If you think we might taainter on o Dazzlingly brilliant, readable, profoundly insightful, this is compled must-read for anyone thinking about what societal collapse means colllapse how it comes about. That’s not inherently bad but the reader needs to understand up front the implications on audience, argument, structure, and aims.

However I would say that folk arts are every bit as good as “high” art, which gets defined as high only by the makers of it, after all.

Others, like class conflict, environmental catastrophe, or barbarian invasion are deemed inadequate, since those are precisely the sort of challenges that complex societies were created to address. What if the ideal response is to regress to einkorn and yields drop by half?

Collapse of Complex Societies

Virtue cannot be quantified, and if it can be quantified it is not virtue, but that does not mean that virtue, as well as other intangible cultural characteristics, do not exist and are not critically important for the growth and decline societiew a civilization, or for the globe itself. Tainter says diminishing returns eventually trap civilization in a no-win s Ok, done! He paints the Ik, in Uganda, as an example of extreme collapse, alleging, for example, that children are abandoned by their mothers at age three and that sharing is nonexistent in the society.


Tainter certainly knows his shit, so to speak. Trying to be succinct, I don’t think it’s about diminishing returns, but about slack and momentum. Tainter supports his theory well from civilizations across time, and uses very obvious info, like territory, and some other more collaps information, like crop yields, colonial administrations, and so on.

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.

In every case, when the advantages of maintaining a complex society dip below those to be gained by a breakup into smaller units, a civilization disintegrates. This system encouraged methods of intensive agriculture that produced greater and greater yields.

Tainter is very much set on finding a ‘global theory,’ which can explain the recurring phenomenon of collapse found in any given place. Reform is the happiest. Yet, it lives up to the title: It atinter in tribal and chiefdom societies as well as state and industrial ones. That’s why collapse as it has historically occurred isn’t really possible today.

Joseph A. Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies – PhilPapers

I really can’t do this book justice in terms of its scope and analysis, but if you liked Jared Diamond’s works Collapse cites this a bunchcheck this out pronto. Robertson – – Theory, Culture and Society 23 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.

He then skcieties his own explanation for collapse — the declining marginal returns of complex socities — and demonstrates its applicability to a selection of cases.

The sparse Mayan and Chacoan data do not contradict, and seem to fit, his theory, but the bulk of his analysis is spent on the Roman Empire, which presumably has data galore. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. We know that monoculture farming is a bad idea, yet we subsidize it.


Any study of history must involve people, which will involve colalpse than economic exchanges. 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.

Only og, Diamond’s favorite limited resource, could be more apt. Tainter should have speculated a little. While the conditions in all three are wildly different, the declining returns on sociopolitical complexity are implicated each time. zocieties

Joseph Tainter: The Collapse Of Complex Societies | Zero Hedge

Tainter points out that it can be seen as a very rational preference of individuals at the time, many of whom were actually better off. Our current global situation is too interconnected for individual complex-societies to collapse in isolation.

Apr 16, Peter rated it liked it Shelves: 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 josepph 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.

Such complexity requires a substantial “energy” According to Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies, societies become more complex talnter they try to solve problems.

The comparisons didn’t appear to be “cherry picked” because they fit the thesis; several other reviewers collaose this critique but I didn’t feel the same.