março 08, 2012

Tainter - The collapse of complex societies IV

Collapse then is not a fall to some primordial chaos, but a return to the normal human condition of lower complexity. The notion that collapse is uniformly a catastrophe is contradicted, moreover, by the present theory. To the extent that collapse is due to declining marginal returns on investment in complexity, it is a economizing process. It occurs when it becomes necessary to restore the marginal return on organizational investment to a more favorable level. [...] In a situation where the marginal utility of still greater complexity would be too low, collapse is a economical alternative.


Collapse occurs, and can only occur, in a power vacuum. Collapse is possible only where there is no competitor strong enough to fill the political vacuum of disintegration. Where such a competitor does exist there can be no collapse, for the competitor will expand territorially to administer the population left leaderless. Collapse is not the same thing as change of regime. Where peer polities interact collapse will affect all equally, and when it occurs, provided that no outside competitor is powerful enough to absorb all. [...] there are major differences between the current and the ancient worlds that have important implications for collapse. One of these is that the world today is full. That is to say, it is filled by complex societies; these occupy every sector of the globe, except the most desolate. This is a new factor in human history. Complex societies as a whole are a recent and unusual aspect of human life. The current situation, where all societies are so oddly constituted, is unique. [...] There are no power vacuums left today. Every nation is linked to, and influenced by, the major powers, and most are strongly linked with one power bloc or the other. [...] Collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole. Competitors who evolve as peers collapse in like manner.

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