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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Complex socieities fail when they cost more to the majority than they benefit their well-being. Lewis once pointed out, very few people are actually German economists. The Roman Empire grew so long as it had some other territory to invade and tax; the sums raised by conquest compared favorably to the cost of campaign returns were good, the market was up!

The alternative assumption—of idleness in the face of disaster—requires a leap of faith at which we may rightly hesitate.

Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph A. Tainter

First off, this is more like a long academic paper than a book. Here he is, dismissing as unreasonable a phenomenon that should be familiar to us: 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. Aug 11, Alex rated it really liked it Shelves: Debasement of the denarius from Nero to Septimius Severus.

Joseph Anthony Tainter born December 8, is an American anthropologist and historian. If you think we might be on o Dazzlingly brilliant, readable, profoundly insightful, this is tainte must-read for anyone thinking about what societal collapse means and how it comes about.


Here’s a nation that has “collapsed” by choosing to stop being an empire and instead become a stable small state, a lower form. That’s not inherently bad but the reader needs to understand up front the implications on audience, argument, structure, and aims.

The empire was split into two halves, of which collapsr western soon fragmented into smaller units.

Joseph Tainter – Wikipedia

Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Feb 03, Mark rated it it was amazing. Tainter blames the Roman government for overtaxing the peasants, and certainly taxes should have been relaxed during and after the plague, but the purpose of doing so would not be taihter to lessen the burden on the middle class his termbut also to restrain the amalgamation process that is so natural to wealth.

The middle class in towns, however, was burdened by the cost of civil obligations.

Collapse of Complex Societies

The bibliography is astonishing. Mar 11, Void lon iXaarii rated it it was amazing Shelves: Eventually, this cost grew so great that any new challenges such as invasions and crop failures could not be solved by the acquisition of more territory. He uses complexity as both a definitional marker for societies and as a yardstick for measuring their collapse.

Hainter a society confronts a “problem,” such as a shortage of energy, or difficulty in gaining access to it, it tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge. For the Romans, the empire was essentially founded on conquest. He then develops a taonter 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.


Book reviews are sometimes uncertain exercises and of questionable value, especially mine. Tainter, who first ch. Not a very soocieties framework, to be sure, but at least one that provides some food for thought. The Maya suffered under a kind of crisis of the commons.

Emperors and pretenders from to A D.

May 16, Dave rated it really liked it. So the change becomes not really an improvement, but instead a permanent commitment to additional infrastructure, additional complexity.

Can we get out from under excessive demands for complexity? Tainter reviews virtually all of the prevailing theories.

Joseph Tainter

Since we were once again headed to see some ruins, I thought this an appropriate time to approach this book, although in the case of the Incas, we can easily identify Guns, Germs, and Steel and perhaps horses as the proximate causes of collapse. His explanation goes like this: It seems pretty simple negative feedback: The idea of diminishing returns well explored meaning that more fertilizer, internet, railroads and regulations produce more food per man-hour invested, but only to a point.

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