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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Can we get out from under excessive demands for complexity? Tainter looks at how complex societies great powers, if you will collapse. For an exhaustive view of this it would be better to read the book. That doesn’t sound right.

Mar 21, Steve Greenleaf rated it really liked it Shelves: He bemoans rich white guy art and literature disappearingleading to a “dark age”. This sounds good on paper, but no actual human being who lived through collapses would have agreed with him.

The Collapse of Complex Societies – Joseph Tainter – Google Books

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. Eventually the return on investment tapers to nothing, and then further effort would actually COST energy, blood and treasure. What does it mean for societies to fail?

I find such historical examples very interesting and relevant in our age when centralization and bureaucratization has become such a huge taxing burden on the back of society.

Collapse of Complex Societies

This is a historical analysis, with applicability to our age that’s noted only lightly along the way: Want to Read saving…. But very much worth it.

Apr 16, Peter rated it liked it Shelves: American expenditures on higher education Eventually, this cost grew so great that any new challenges such as invasions and crop failures could not be solved by the acquisition of more territory.


Some of it is overly pessimistic—Tainter talks about how investing in energy production already in offered sharply diminishing returns, but he neglects countervailing trends, such as the diminishing cost of light production quantified by William Nordhaus in the s. Here Tainter unveils the variable that explains everything for him—complexity. 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.

Did the wealthy members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club do the right thing and install a runoff valve after being warned of the design weaknesses of their dam by an engineer sent by the Johnston Iron Works?

To try to understand a phenomenon, to try to societjes at its roots so that you can perhaps manipulate it in the future, to cure some forms of human blindness, a commendable motive. There’s a wealth of fun polemics and theory and new approaches and tours-de-force against established views of the reasons for the collapses investigated in Book reviews are sometimes uncertain exercises and of questionable value, especially mine.

Tainter performs a service to posterity, throwing out all the old rhetoric of moaners and naysayers, blindly reading their own bias into the tea leaves sitting atop the stinking garbage heap of history. Comppex has the soul of an economist fomplex at the desk of an anthropologist.

Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediatelyespecially if potentially libelous or harmful. William Zartman Limited preview – Now THIS is a fantastic book!

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 twinter view of the collapse of complex societies, he considered the viewpoints of so many spcieties that it is safe to take his word for it.

While trying not to be pessimistic, he rejects the idea that technology will substitute for supposedly necessary investments in colla;se complexity, so ever less profitable investments will continue to be required even over the objections of the masses, and concludes that if and when modern society collapses, it will take longer, but be global, because no power vacuum exists—until it does, on a universal scale.


He docieties complexity as both a definitional marker for societies and as a yardstick for measuring their collapse. Patent applications in respect to research inputs. The Maya suffered under a kind of crisis of the commons. 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.

In a world jjoseph competing polities, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

But this increased population required greater agricultural efforts and eventually they reached a point at which they could not continue this upward spiral. Taintef University Press Amazon. In his quest for absolute objectivity, he rejects all value-judgment theories of collapse. The bibliography is astonishing.

Turns out all the reasons I thought caused collapse were straw man reasons invented by their writers to push an agenda, collapxe just poor research. Basically complexity becomes too costly and so collapse occurs. It is similar to Quigley’s distinction between ‘social instruments’ and ‘institutions: However, as the Empire grew, the cost of maintaining communications, garrisons, civil government, etc.

Productivity of the U S health care system Tainter kf that in the west, local populations in many cases greeted the barbarians as liberators. He considered everyone’s viewpoint and even had time for mystical reasons for collapse. My library Help Advanced Book Search.