“Chapel Perilous, that vortex where cosmological speculations, coincidences, and paranoia seem to multiply and then collapse, compelling belief or lunacy, wisdom or agnosticism.” ~Robert Anton Wilson


    Why Societies Collapse

    Share

    Extant
    Brown Belt
    Brown Belt

    Number of posts : 555
    Registration date : 2009-04-04
    Location : The Forge

    Why Societies Collapse

    Post by Extant on Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:39 pm

    The OP is a quoted response from Extant in the BP oil thread, but this topic is worthy of its one section.

    Lucid




    Lucid Memes wrote:..the unfair reality of the situation is that Western societies, with their increased levels of technological and economic complexity, also have the largest potential for larger scale catabolic collapses.


    The following vid should interest you:


    Lucid Memes
    Red Belt
    Red Belt

    Number of posts : 1111
    Registration date : 2009-02-12
    Location : Here Be Dragons

    Re: Why Societies Collapse

    Post by Lucid Memes on Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:33 pm

    Thanks for posting this. Jared Diamond's work is fascinating for he takes a no-nonsense approach to the rise and fall of civilizations...a subject matter that is all too often filled with fantasy and superstitions.

    I haven't seen this lecture before, so thanks for posting it, it was very informative and well thought-out. Diamond inspires me to really analyze things thoroughly. I'm familiar with this book and plan on cracking into it as my research progresses.


    _________________
    [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
    link

    Lucid Memes
    Red Belt
    Red Belt

    Number of posts : 1111
    Registration date : 2009-02-12
    Location : Here Be Dragons

    Re: Why Societies Collapse

    Post by Lucid Memes on Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:38 pm

    Another interesting person to study in this field is Joseph Tainter. I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't be surprise if Diamond sourced him in his work.

    His main work is "The Collapse of Complex Societies" where his postulated his theory of catabolic collapse.

    Any explanation of political collapse carries lessons not just for the study of ancient societies, but for the members of all complex 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.

    Tainter argues that societies collapse when their investments in social complexity reach a point of diminishing marginal returns. According to Tainter, societies become more complex as they try to solve problems. Social complexity can include differentiated social and economic roles, 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. Such complexity requires a substantial "energy" subsidy (meaning resources, or other forms of wealth). When a society confronts a "problem," such as a shortage of or difficulty in gaining access to energy, it tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge. Eventually, this cost grows so great that any new challenges such as invasions and crop failures cannot be solved by the acquisition of more territory. At that point, the empire fragments into smaller units.

    [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
    [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

    A brief audio commentary
    [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]


    _________________
    [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
    link

    Extant
    Brown Belt
    Brown Belt

    Number of posts : 555
    Registration date : 2009-04-04
    Location : The Forge

    Re: Why Societies Collapse

    Post by Extant on Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:00 pm

    Lucid Memes wrote:Thanks for posting this. Jared Diamond's work is fascinating for he takes a no-nonsense approach to the rise and fall of civilizations...a subject matter that is all too often filled with fantasy and superstitions.

    I haven't seen this lecture before, so thanks for posting it, it was very informative and well thought-out. Diamond inspires me to really analyze things thoroughly. I'm familiar with this book and plan on cracking into it as my research progresses.

    Yes, I like the look of his work from what I've seen so far.

    Lucid Memes wrote:Another interesting person to study in this field is Joseph Tainter. I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't be surprise if Diamond sourced him in his work.

    His main work is "The Collapse of Complex Societies" where his postulated his theory of catabolic collapse.

    [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
    [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

    A brief audio commentary
    [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

    I shall look into this guy further. Gigapedia to the rescue! cheers

    Gigapedia downlaod: The Collapse of Complex Societies (New Studies in Archaeology) - Joseph Tainter

    (Click the "link" tab in green on that page to go the download. Registration required and all that)

    Lucid Memes
    Red Belt
    Red Belt

    Number of posts : 1111
    Registration date : 2009-02-12
    Location : Here Be Dragons

    Re: Why Societies Collapse

    Post by Lucid Memes on Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:19 pm

    Extant wrote:
    I shall look into this guy further. Gigapedia to the rescue! cheers

    Gigapedia downlaod: The Collapse of Complex Societies (New Studies in Archaeology) - Joseph Tainter

    (Click the "link" tab in green on that page to go the download. Registration required and all that)

    Excellent! Thank you. I DLed it. That site is well worth registering to for all the information resources it has. If we could just figure out a way to fuel a society on the abundance Gigapedia provides then we may at last achieve sustainability!

    But till then, I'll be busy study


    _________________
    [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
    link

    Extant
    Brown Belt
    Brown Belt

    Number of posts : 555
    Registration date : 2009-04-04
    Location : The Forge

    Re: Why Societies Collapse

    Post by Extant on Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:39 pm

    No probs. You need one of those darn newfangled DjVu readers for the file though.

    Lucid Memes
    Red Belt
    Red Belt

    Number of posts : 1111
    Registration date : 2009-02-12
    Location : Here Be Dragons

    Re: Why Societies Collapse

    Post by Lucid Memes on Sat Jun 26, 2010 9:17 am

    A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

    [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]


    A Short History of Progress is a book-length essay penned by Ronald Wright and published in 2004. Ronald Wright argues that our modern predicament is as old as civilization itself: a 10,000 year old experiment we have participated in but seldom controlled. He examines the meaning of progress and its implications for civilizations — past and present — arguing that the twentieth century was a time of runaway growth in human population, consumption, and technology that has now placed an unsustainable burden on all natural systems. For Wright the twenty first century represents our last opportunity to succeed where our forefathers almost without exception have not.

    It was originally read by the author as a series of hour long Massey Lectures given in each of five different cities across Canada and broadcast on the CBC Radio program, Ideas, of the same year. The book spent more than a year on Canadian bestseller lists, was nominated for a British Columbia Achievement Foundation Award, and won the Canadian Book Association's Libris Award for Non-Fiction Book of the Year. It has since been reprinted in a hardcover edition with illustrations.

    For the Synopsis, click here - [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
    or here:
    Spoiler:
    Synopsis

    Wright writes a colourful history of our species and sets about asking of humanity three questions posed by the reclusive artist Gauguin: "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" (p. 2). Detailing amongst other things how four historical civilizations in particular — those of Easter Island, Sumer, the Maya and Rome — self-destructed from a combination of lack of foresight and poor choices that lead to overpopulation and irreparable environmental damage. From his reading of the "flight recorders in the wreckage of crashed civilizations" (p. 129) such as these there follows the persistent concern that "each time history repeats itself, the price goes up", and the lessons our now global civilization should therefore have learnt from them in order to become sustainable today with reference also to global warming and climate change.

    Wright begins his journey with pre-agricultural or hunter-gatherer man in the Stone age and the worldwide slaughter of megafauna whenever and wherever Homo sapiens migrated to new lands. He includes that other Ice Age hunter, Neanderthal man, and argues that our closest evolutionary relative and competitor may well have been the first victim of human genocide: "or, worse, not the first — merely the first of which evidence survives" (p. 25). And further: "it may follow from this that we are descended from a million years of ruthless victories, genetically predisposed by the sins of our fathers to do likewise again and again".[1]

    In analysing his four particular cases, Wright notes that Easter Island and Sumer failed due to depletion of natural resources: "their ecologies were unable to regenerate". Whereas the Maya and Rome failed in their heartlands, "where ecological demand was highest," but left remnant populations that survived. He asks: "Why, if civilizations so often destroy themselves, has the overall experiment of civilization done so well?" For the answer, he says, we must look to natural regeneration and human migration (p. 102).

    Wright argues that while most ancient civilizations depleted their ecologies and failed, few thrived. Large expanses of our (now shrinking) planet remained unsettled and available for migration. And a handful of civilizations — as evidenced by Egypt and China (pp. 103–4) — experienced greater longevity for atypical reasons:

    * an abundance of resources, particularly topsoil, with alluvial deposits from annual Nile River flooding and wind-blown glacial loess that was exceedingly deep, respectively
    * farming methods that worked with, rather than against, natural cycles
    * settlement patterns that did not exceed, or permanently damage, the carrying capacity of the local environment

    Wright borrows from Joseph Tainter in identifying three models of societal collapse — the "Runaway Train", the "Dinosaur", and the "House of Cards"[2] (p. 107, 128) — emphasizing that they usually operate in combination and going further in suggesting that civilization itself "is an experiment, a very recent way of life in the human career, and it has a habit of walking into what I am calling progress traps" (p. 108). "Material progress creates problems that are — or seem to be — soluble only by further progress ... the devil here is in the scale: a good bang can be useful; a better bang can end the world" (p. 7). In addition to describing in detail these sorts of technological "progress traps" throughout the book — including even the invention of agriculture itself — Wright labels such cultural beliefs and interests that act against sustainability — and hence civilizational survivability as a whole — the very worst kind of "ideological pathology":
    “ We still have differing cultures and political systems, but at the economic level there is now only one big civilization, feeding on the whole planet’s natural capital. We’re logging everywhere, building everywhere, and no corner of the biosphere escapes our haemorrhage of waste. The twentyfold growth in world trade since the 1970s has meant that hardly anywhere is self-sufficient. Every Eldorado has been looted, every Shangri-La equipped with a Holiday Inn. Joseph Tainter notes this interdependence, warning that "collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. ... World civilization will disintegrate as a whole." ”

    —page 124–5

    Changes brought on by the exponential growth of the human population — over six billion by 2006 and adding over 70 million additional people every year[3] — the worldwide scale of resource consumption — an area of farmland the size of Scotland lost to erosion every year — have altered the picture. Ecological markers now indicate that human civilization has surpassed (since the 1980s) nature's capacity for regeneration. Humans in 2006 used more than 125% of nature's yearly output annually: "If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital of nature" (p. 129).[4][5]

    Wright concludes that "our present behaviour is typical of failed societies at the zenith of their greed and arrogance" (p. 129). "It is a suicide machine" and "Things are moving so fast that inaction itself is one of the biggest mistakes. The 10,000-year experiment of the settled life will stand or fall by what we do, and don’t do, now". We must therefore "transition from short-term to long-term thinking", "from recklessness and excess to moderation and the precautionary principle" (p. 131).

    Just as for the Easter Islanders before us the collapse of human civilization appears imminent if we do not act immediately to prevent it and his final prognosis for our future is a far less positive one than Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

    I remember his 2004 Massey lectures, which stood out to me greatly at that time of my research. He has an interesting knack for summarizing large spans of history. I like his usage of the term "progress traps", which is a term used to describe how seemingly good economic strategies can blindly lead a society to a point of no return. How its all seen as progress until a society finds itself trapped and doomed to failure because of it.

    Here's a torrent link for his Massey lecture - [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]


    _________________
    [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
    link

    Extant
    Brown Belt
    Brown Belt

    Number of posts : 555
    Registration date : 2009-04-04
    Location : The Forge

    Re: Why Societies Collapse

    Post by Extant on Sat Jun 26, 2010 12:49 pm

    I've downloaded the torrent. Thanks for the info.
    Here's Jared Diamond with a more expansive, detailed exposition of the previouslt posted TEDTalks presentation, with a Q&A at the end:

    [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

    Sponsored content

    Re: Why Societies Collapse

    Post by Sponsored content


      Current date/time is Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:19 am