COLLAPSE OF COMPLEX SOCIETIES TAINTER PDF

Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Any explanation of political collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all complex societies in both the present and future. Dr Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than years of explanations. He then develops a new and far-reaching theory that accounts for collapse among diverse kinds of societies, evaluating his model and clarifying the processes of disintegration by detailed studies of the Roman, Mayan and Chacoan collapses.

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Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Any explanation of political collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all complex societies in both the present and future. Dr Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than years of explanations. He then develops a new and far-reaching theory that accounts for collapse among diverse kinds of societies, evaluating his model and clarifying the processes of disintegration by detailed studies of the Roman, Mayan and Chacoan collapses.

Read more Read less. Frequently bought together. Add all three to Cart. These items are shipped from and sold by different sellers. Show details. Ships from and sold by Amazon SG. Customers who viewed this item also viewed. Page 1 of 1 Start over Page 1 of 1. Previous page. Professor of Geography. Next page. Review 'Tainter's model accommodates all levels of complexity and all kinds of evidence.

It deserves to be widely read. The merit of the book is that it is interesting. It modifies some of our views about early states and their collapse mainly by using data. It also shows how archaeology in alliance with social sciences opens the way for a comparative analysis of change in political and other cultural institutions. Tainter does provide a framework for organizing and evaluating the evidence of collapse.

One of the strengths of his framework is the broadness of its terms of reference Tainter's model accomodates all levels of complexity and all kinds of evidence, from fiscal policy to the acquisition of raw materials. The breadth of its coverage is given order by a model that qualifies, I believe, as one of the covering laws archaeologists have sought. In addition, Old World and New World scholars alike can profit from a reading of this book.

Nick Kardulias, American Journal of Archaeology "The Collapse of Complex Societies contains much useful historical and archeological information on empires that have abruptly disappeared. 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.

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Review this product Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. Verified Purchase. This is an interesting book. First published in the late 80's, it warrants renewed attention nowadays in light of all the end-of-the world hysterias currently emanating from concerns over economic turmoil, religious strife, nuclear terrorism, viral epidemics, and climate change.

Even if most of us don't believe the worst is yet upon us, it's hard not to worry with so many books and movies out there depicting post-industrial societies where humans are left with their animal needs and violent proclivities, but none of the protections afforded by modern civilization. Joseph Tainter, though, is no hysteric. He's a buttoned-down scholar without any apparent pre-conceived agenda and certainly no intent to sensationalize.

He's actually a little boring, and casual readers expecting lurid thrills from this book are likely to put it down after the first few pages. Like other students of history over the years, he seems haunted by the fact that so many of the world's once-vibrant civilizations have vanished for no obvious reason.

The tasks he's taken on to himself here are to a catalogue the major lost civilizations b summarize known facts surrounding their rise and fall c distill the academic literature regarding the causes of societal collapse down to a handful common theories, and d establish the framework for his own general theory. Since it's obvious from the start of the book that he's ultimately looking forward into dynamics that might one day lead to the demise of our own world, this book really grabs your attention once you begin to suspect he may know what he's talking about.

Tainter starts with a brief survey of eighteen vanished civilizations around the world which provide the substance for his study. His professional discipline is archeology, and several of his societies are ones, like the Minoans and the Chacoans, about which archeology tells us everything we know, since they left no written records. For others, like the ancient Romans and China's Western Chou Empire, he intrudes onto historians' turf because the written record provides a key part of the story.

In fact, his most comprehensive and interesting discussion is of the Romans. 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. Tainter is obviously not the first researcher to become fascinated by societal collapse.

The phenomenon has spawned a whole genre of literature and a host of causal theories. He summarizes them all for us and groups them into eleven broad categories, including resource depletion, natural catastrophe, invasion, social dysfunction, random concatenation of events, and so forth. He points out that none of these are mutually exclusive and that all have something to offer.

In the end, however, he pronounces the existing literature inadequate to the task of explaining how and why thriving civilizations eventually disappear. Hence the motivation for his study. He does point to economic theories, one of the eleven groups, as the one probably richest in explanatory possibilities. And with that observation he lays the groundwork for his own theory, which is based in economics but is capable of subsuming elements associated with the other frameworks.

In getting to his subject, Tainter generally avoids the term 'civilization'. 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. He refers to resources devoted to these functions as the society's "investment in complexity". He then explains the "rise" of a society as the period during which investment in complexity is growing and people are enjoying returns on it in the form of growing wealth, culture and security.

Or at least enough people are enjoying these things that social and political stability prevail. Golden ages then can be seen as sweet spots in history during which the benefits from complexity are growing and incentivising more investment in it, triggering virtuous circles.

However, such a dynamic is inherently self-limiting and eventually self-destructive. Two phrases which Tainter borrows from economics are "marginal cost" and "marginal return". Eventually, the marginal returns from investment in complexity - meaning the returns currently available - inevitably level off and then decline, while the marginal costs stay the same or even increase.

The only way central authorities can so on supporting such costs is through taxation or currency debasement, unsustainable measures in a system where benefits are perceived as declining.

A system so weakened becomes vulnerable to popular revolt or invasion, or lacks the will and resources to overcome other disasters. Tainter describes, for example, how the "barbarians" who eventually overran the Roman Empire were in many cases welcomed and even assisted by the Empire's population, who increasingly saw themselves as benefitting little from Rome's "complexity", even as Rome's tax collectors became more predatory than ever.

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. His theory is rather fatalistic and seems to regard a society's collapse as pre-determined by its rise. He is an unusually good writer and casts his points generally in short, declarative sentences that are easy to follow.

His ideas, however, are not so simple, and require careful study to absorb fully. The book is short - only pages - but it took me a long time to finish.

I found it well worth the effort, and recommend it to others interested in this subject matter. After 30 years this remains one of the most celebrated books in the history of the social sciences, and deservedly so. In one way or another, it is a driving factor in their survival or collapse. All too often, collapse to a lower level of complexity becomes the only practical alternative, given institutional rigidity and the vested interests of the ruling class.

The big problem today is that, given a bloated global population and a societal superstructure of extreme complexity, renewable energy does seem up to the task. Successful development of nuclear fusion certainly would, but it always appears to be 50 years in the future. Many of us expect that the diminishing returns on fossil fuels will become much more prominent during the next decade or two, not just episodic.

This will certainly help mitigate climate change, but horrendous cost if it drove us toward global economic collapse. In particular, the decline of legitimacy, so evident today, often comes from escalating inequality.

That is, economic returns may still be increasing but most of those returns accrue to the ruling classes, leaving the workings classes ripe for rebellion.

Or if returns are stagnant or decreasing, the peasants or workers are forced to take the biggest hit, as in the fall of the Roman empire. Thus, in theory at least, a regime or civilization could avoid collapse if it could be managed by a collective downsizing, without loss of asabiya or legitimacy. However, there is a possible exception: Universal ownership of most of the profits of key enterprises and resources, or at least universal redistribution of the benefits of such ownership.

Or is this such a superhuman fantasy that we are doomed? Go to Amazon. Back to top. Get to Know Us. Shopbop Designer Fashion Brands. Alexa Actionable Analytics for the Web. DPReview Digital Photography.

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Collapse of Complex Societies

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Joseph Tainter

Joseph Anthony Tainter born December 8, is an American anthropologist and historian. Tainter studied anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University , where he received his Ph. Tainter has written and edited many articles and monographs. His arguably best-known work, The Collapse of Complex Societies , examines the collapse of Maya and Chacoan civilizations, [2] and of the Western Roman Empire , in terms of network theory , energy economics and complexity theory. Tainter argues that sustainability or collapse of societies follow from the success or failure of problem-solving institutions [3] and that societies collapse when their investments in social complexity and their "energy subsidies" reach a point of diminishing marginal returns. He recognizes collapse when a society involuntarily sheds a significant portion of its complexity.

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