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 Collapse of Complex Societies.

When did the Japanese leadership decide it had tainterr enough? The moment the returns gained from complexity that is a hallmark of a complex society start diminishing, then the collapse clock starts ticking. This is a sobering conclusion indeed, akin to the tragedy of commons where mankind is guaranteed a race to the bottom as selfish individual decisions lead to negative outcomes for our species, a gloomy prospect for the future to be sure.


Joseph Tainter – Wikipedia

Also I suppose I DO live a life of ease and luxury in comparison to a 19th century Russian peasant with only one actual horse in his stable. Tainter’s work is an opus. While trying not to be pessimistic, he rejects the idea that technology will substitute for supposedly necessary investments in increased 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.

This, Tainter argues, provides a false and rather misleading or unhelpful analogy. However, there is a plausible argument that modern technology, as well as modern habits of thought, whatever their drawbacks may be, permit a society to be organized with dispersed problem solving by networks, which may, to some extent, be immune from diminishing returns.


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. Of course, our ramshackle village could be overrun, destroyed, and our people pillaged who knows when by some Goth, Ostrogoth, Visigoth, Vandal, Hun, or some other kind of Goth I have forgotten about.

Books by Joseph A. A dry read, yes. 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, food production, resource extractionwith examples from the Mayans, Romans, Hittites, Babylonians, and many more.

This is probably a fine academic work. A really detailed analysis of the reasons for the collapse of complex societies.

No trivia or quizzes yet. However, as the Empire grew, the cost of maintaining communications, garrisons, civil government, etc. These offer different levels of complexity and skcieties sources of evidence to compare against each other.

What does it mean for societies to fail?

Joseph Tainter

He uses complexity as both a definitional marker for societies and as a yardstick for measuring their collapse. This over-emphasizing of economics shows up in what is actually a thought provoking idea. Scott, who view complex societies as a dubious blessing resulting from changes in food production. The work provides a concise list of common threats to any organized large-scale social entity.

Social complexity can be recognized by numerous differentiated and specialised social and economic roles and many sociwties 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. The dogged empiricist rejects any explanation of collapse which is not graphable, but, oddly, does not abandon the use of judgment which xomplex entails.


Only soil, Diamond’s favorite limited resource, could be more apt.

The Mayan area showing major subdivisions and selected sites. So the crux of Tainter’s argument is that the development of a complex society is predicated on the explotation of low hanging resources.

The Collapse of Complex Societies – Joseph Tainter – Google Books

American expenditures on higher education What was useful to me: Either they will be bailed out or invaded. Collapse, might be the cleansing forest fires of history, events to almost welcome. What is interesting, however, is that by adopting the term “complex-society,” skcieties implies that the conceptual framework of the entity can apply to any organization that serves a social function, their sub-units, and larger systems composed thereby.

The answer is that we use it up. Causal mechanisms that judge the underlying “character” or “vitality” of a civilization are dismissed out of hand as baseless moralizing.

Instead, societies tend to decline over a period of a century or more.