By popular demand, we welcome Joseph Tainter, USU professor and author of The Collapse Of Complex Societies (free book download here). Author: Joseph Tainter The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will therefore strike a chord Dr. Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than years of explanations. 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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Our system of innovation is going to change very significantly over the next twenty to thirty to fifty years or so.

Tainter says diminishing returns eventually trap civilization in a no-win situation. Cultural relativity may be one of the most important contributions anthropology can make to the social and historical sciences, and to the public at large. His theory is rather fatalistic and seems to regard a society’s collapse as pre-determined by its rise. Sort of scary in retrospect how many complex, seemingly stable societies basically socifties over the course of only a few generations and that civilization as we know it has a relatively short existence compared to the totality of human existence.

Similarly, he rejects as not wrong, but incoherent, the idea that civilized societies are superior to uncivilized societies. That is, any given strategy of social organization has large initial benefits that are easily obtained – this is why the transition occurs in the first place as in Earle and Johnson. Mar 21, Steve Greenleaf rated it really liked it Shelves: Add both to Cart Add both to List. 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 It is a fairly straightforward, academic entry in the anthropological search for a grand theory to explain collapse.

Rule, SUNY, Stony Brook, in Population and Environment “The book is thought-provoking, engaging, and often witty, and well illustrates the relevancy of classical antiquity to contemporary concerns. He rejects outlooks that can’t be backed by empirical evidence. This point seems to decohere from earlier logic about the role of invasions in stressing a society. At best, it compldx seem that this is a surface definition of collapse which leaves aside the possibility that collapses can be masked by conquests.

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Re-reading my review a colkapse later, both Tainter’s analysis and mine leave me uncomfortable, unsatisfied.

Joseph Tainter – Wikipedia

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: Full collapse, though, only occurs in the presence of a power vacuum.

Set up a giveaway. He does this in order avoid any value-laden connotations. Imagine living in Western Europe ca. Mar 09, Chris Chester rated it it was amazing Shelves: With Tadeusz Patzek, he is author of “Drilling Down: The author deals mostly with Central America’s pre-Columbian cultures but this law applies to just about everything, and for all time. I also love that unlike most authors he does not have this super negative view of these collapses that one often encounters, and far from threating them as failures to adapt realizes that they are in fact great successes in adapting, even though the adaptation might be in a direction that many dislike.

Tainter’s opus is a work of the sort that I have missed in my post-graduate world: Any explanation of societal collapse carries lessons collapwe just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all such societies in both the present and future.

Here Tainter analyzes many of the ways that groups of people can completely fail to maintain the complicated but fragile webs of interaction that separate us from animals trade, governance, dr.jossph production, resource extractionwith examples from the Mayans, Romans, Hittites, Babylonians, and many more.

The merit of the book is that it is interesting.

His theory is so abstract and general, that in every application Tainter must call back the theories he eschewed and ask them to fill in the specifics of his theory, as subordinates to it. Moreover, “he Collapse of Complex Societies” is an academic monograph, so it has all the defects of that genre.

Collapse of Complex Societies

This is probably a fine academic work. First off, this is more like a long academic paper than a book. Tainter’s conceptual framework seems, without further analysis, to be closely in-line with Quigley’s theories of historical analysis. What was useful to me: They are mere ephemera randomly associated with the purely material factors that are wholly determinative of the arc of every society in human history.


While academic in presentation it is well researched with many references to related worksthe book remains accessible to a general audience interested in explanations of the numerous cases of the fall of civilizations in history.

If a collapse happens, it can only be global and catastrophic on a scale previously unseen by humanity. Commitment means you can’t retrench to simpler technology in a bad year because the greater efficiency has become the new minimum baseline.

This theory is handy in its versatility – it can apply to whatever the most fundamental resource of a society is, from soil nutrition to fisheries to information flow to technical development to oil. Mais pour cela, il a au moins raison quelque part.

A final idea Sodieties offer is that we become addicted. I got the impression that he may have developed his animating insights for this book through his study of Rome, since he manner in which he imposes them on the sketchier cases sounds a bit vague to me in places.

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He prefers instead the more precise phrase ‘complex society’, by which he means a social system entailing elaborate division of labor and supporting management hierarchies, government and a robust military.

Tainter says diminishing returns eventually trap civilization in a no-win s Ok, done! In getting to his subject, Tainter generally avoids the term ‘civilization’. We know oil is finite, yet we do little about it.

Like the good scholar he is, Tainter is cautious in his approach to his subject and modest in the claims he makes for his conclusions. In the end, however, he pronounces the existing literature inadequate to the task of explaining how and why thriving civilizations eventually disappear. But the need for a society to continually produce more than its inputs seems to be linked to this phenomenon in some way. Dr Tainter’s homepage Archived at the Wayback Machine.: Whatever the answer, it is clear that speculation is part of the study of history and that was lacking in this book.

It is a weakness in that it leads to a materialist reductio ad absurdum.

Primitivist Archetypes in s Children’s Programming”.