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Understanding J. Tainter's Theory of 'The Collapse of Complex Societies'

This class will discuss J. Tainter’s seminal work, The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988). Complexity is defined as a form of social organization that began with agriculture and settled human societies. This social organization involves urbanization, hierarchical status systems, and specialized work and bureaucracy. Less scholarly authors attribute collapsed civilizations to singular social challenges, such as drought or disease. This fails to understand the functioning and failure of complex social systems. This course will define stages of development of a complex society, discuss how challenges are successfully handled by a complex society, and show why these systems decline and ultimately can collapse. How this framework applies to the U.S. will be discussed.

DR. DONNA ARMSTRONG is a retired professor of epidemiology, specializing in social/environmental sustainability, community food security and food gardening. After retiring, she practiced sustainable farming in KY. She now practices permaculture design, urban food growing and community sustainability in Harrisonburg, VA.

Please contact our office regarding availability of this course: