Political disintegration is a persistent feature of world history. The Collapse of Complex Societies, though written by an archaeologist, will therefore strike a chord throughout the social sciences. Any explanation of societal collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all such societies in both the present and future. Dr. Tainter describes nearly two dozen cases of collapse and reviews more than 2000 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.
Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction to collapse; 2. The nature of complex societies; 3. The study of collapse; 4. Understanding collapse: the marginal productivity of sociopolitical change; 5. Evaluation: complexity and marginal returns in collapsing societies; 6. Summary and implications; References; Index.
"While the theoretical part of the book is quite remarkable and based on exceptional erudition, I also found the accumulation of the supporting data to be interesting reading . . . 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." European Cultural Heritage
"Tainter's is an attractive and compelling thesis of a genre which is nearly extinct among domestic historians." History Today
"This is a lucid and stimulating book. 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. It deserves to be widely read." Antiquity
"Tainter has provided copious grist for the intellectual mill in this remarkable piece of scholarship. 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." P. Nick Kardulias, American Journal of Archaeology
"The Collapse of Complex Societies contains much useful historical and archeological information on empires that have abruptly disappeared." James B. 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." Classical World