Notes on “The Collapse of Complex Societies” (J. Tainter). 1. Introduction to Collapse. Intro! The sublime mystery of collapsed civilizations and dark portents. The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will Dr. Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than. 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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It might be far fetched but it is possible that is what happened.

Joseph Tainter

For the Romans, the empire was essentially founded on conquest. For example, as Roman agricultural output or declined and population increased, per-capita energy availability dropped.

DMR theory is thus uncomfortably tautological.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. I was delighted to see the author picking a large spectrum of historical events in the treatment of hist subject, trying to pick common and logical similarities and complsx that would allow one to form a bigger picture!

Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph A. Tainter

It develops insofar as it is beneficial to the majority of its members. The background is sufficiently deep and the argument is well-developed both logically and from comparative analysis. Intense, authoritarian efforts to maintain cohesion by Domitian and Constantine the Great only led to an ever greater strain on the population.

To try to understand a phenomenon, to try to get at its roots so that you can perhaps manipulate it in the future, to cure some forms of human blindness, a commendable motive.

As noted above, Tainter critiques other theories for being too parochial. While the conditions in all collwpse are wildly different, the declining returns on sociopolitical complexity are vomplex each time. What if this graduates from trend to generally accepted fact? Jan 24, Charles rated it liked it.


I am by no means an archeologist professional or amateur but was able to make my way through this part, picking most of what Tainter was trying to communicate.

The Romans “solved” this problem by conquering their neighbours to appropriate their energy surpluses in collaose forms, as metals, grain, slaves, etc. Jun 30, Betawolf rated it really liked it Societiess Patent applications and issues in respect to population and scientifictechnical personnel Civilization is more the exception than the rule. 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.

He concludes that, since the collapse of any one state would only result in its incorporation into a competitor, all the states must collapse at once if collapse does occur. 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. Jul 16, Gwern rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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 sober view of the collapse of complex societies, he considered the viewpoints of so many sources that it is safe to take his word for it.

Social complexity can be recognized by numerous differentiated and specialized social and economic roles and many mechanisms 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. His basic thesis is that human societies are really problem-solving organizations e.

Surely there will someday be one road too many, if not already! The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will therefore strike a chord throughout the social sciences.

The Roman Empire at the time of Hadrian.


While Tainter can be a bit too Colin Renfrew in his use of quantification, his discussion of how complexity unravels and how increasing social complexity ultimately begins to yield lower and lower returns on social investment is fascinating. His argument boils down to collaspe few key points: In his quest for absolute objectivity, he rejects all value-judgment theories of collapse.

Overall, the book accomplishes what it sets out to do. 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. He begins with a typification of collapse and of complex societies that have undergone it, and moves on to examine existing explanations for collapse, all of which he finds to be incomplete in their treatment. But the need for a society to continually produce more than its inputs seems to be linked to this phenomenon cpmplex some way.

The Collapse of Complex Societies – Joseph Tainter – Google Books

Complexity calls these traditions into being, for such art and literature serve social and economic purposes and classes that exist only in complex settings. The advance of civilizations is a progression in organizational complexity as a solution to problems of resource acquisition and distribution as populations become increasingly concentrated. British Admiralty statistics Basically the argument can be summed up as declining marginal returns to societal complexity resulting in a natural economic solution of less complexity to restore balance.

These are, for the most part, very nicely done and quickly key in to the major flaws each theory has as an explanatory device.