Part of New Studies in Archaeology. Author: Joseph Tainter. Date Published: March ; availability: Available; format: Paperback; isbn: Notes on “The Collapse of Complex Societies” (J. Tainter). 1. Introduction to Collapse. Intro! The sublime mystery of collapsed civilizations and dark portents. 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.

Author: Kazralkis Voodoogor
Country: Namibia
Language: English (Spanish)
Genre: Marketing
Published (Last): 10 May 2014
Pages: 199
PDF File Size: 15.3 Mb
ePub File Size: 17.36 Mb
ISBN: 541-2-18667-588-4
Downloads: 5760
Price: Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]
Uploader: Shakagar

His explanation goes like this: Views Read Edit View history. Feb 21, Darnell rated it really liked it Shelves: So the change becomes jsoeph really an improvement, but instead a permanent commitment to additional infrastructure, additional complexity. How We May Think. No trivia or quizzes yet.

The Collapse of Complex Societies

One final point on rationality, a key assumption made by Tainter. A civilizations beliefs, or our interpretation of those beliefs are not ‘objective’ and so have nothing to contribute to the study of collapse.

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 collapss William Nordhaus complx the s.

He uses complexity as both a definitional marker for societies and as a yardstick for measuring their collapse. After dispensing handily with the crowd of existing theories, Tainter offers his own suggestion: In a world of competing polities, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

However, as the Empire grew, the cost of maintaining communications, garrisons, civil government, etc. He considered everyone’s socidties and even had time for mystical reasons for collapse. Trivia About Collapse of Compl He then discounts all of them as inadequate. Adams – – World Futures 66 7: 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.


When did the Japanese leadership decide it had had enough? But, since this is a narrow anthropological analysis, we are denied any substantial jsoeph of that knowledge to history, of which Tainter seems under-informed at best. Tainter’s conceptual framework seems, without further analysis, to be closely in-line with Quigley’s theories of historical analysis.

Tainter should have speculated a little. Eventually the return on investment tapers to nothing, and then further effort would actually COST energy, blood and treasure.

Joseph Tainter

What do we talk about when we talk about the collapse of complex societies? By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Another possibility I’m trying to cinch down the last loose knot on his thesis, you see is that the complexity is a house of cards.

kf At low complexity, adding more layers of doers, thinkers, and paper-shufflers makes society more productive and everyone better off, but each additional layer takes energy, and eventually you run into the law of diminishing marginal returns, meaning that after a certain point society becomes paralyzed under the weight of its own corporate and governmental bureaucracies and can no longer adapt to changing conditions like resource shortage, environmental change, economic shifts, or external threats.

He bemoans rich white guy art and literature disappearingleading to a “dark age”. To maintain and expand complexity which is a good strategy when new resources are low investment accessible a society must continue to increase the amount of resources available to it to support classes that cmoplex not contribute to resource expansion.

Lewis once pointed out, very few people are actually German economists. In each summarized case, he briefly applies a few of his markers for collapse to a truncated history of the society, along with a short postscript about the society and geographical area, and concludes that most or all of his quantifiable markers characterize collapse, so his definition is correct.

Our motto may as well be “idleness in the face of disaster.

Joseph Tainter – Wikipedia

David Burnett – A sizable portion of the text is dedicated to refuting “mystical” explanations of collapse. Books by Joseph A.


Tainter points out that it can be seen as a very rational preference of individuals at the time, many of whom were actually better off. Declining marginal benefits are still comples and to sustain a complex system requires an external energy subsidy. This, Tainter argues, provides a false and rather misleading or unhelpful analogy.

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. Overall, the book accomplishes what it sets out to do.

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. Oct 04, J.

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. So the crux of Tainter’s argument is that the development of a taintter society is predicated on the explotation of low hanging resources.

In short, he bases his theory upon a fundamental economic law if you will suffer the dubious term here. Apr 04, Adam rated it really liked it Recommended to Adam by: We cannot delve into the wormhole of human psychology, he says, because if you are trying to build a model, you have to be able to account for your variables. It might talnter far fetched but it is possible that is what happened.