Reply To: 3rd November: Joseph Tainter

Author Replies
Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche # Posted on November 14, 2014 at 05:02

Reply to Markus by Sarah
Thank you Markus for a really interesting reflection. I tend to agree with what you advance: increasing complexity is definitely not necessarily part of human nature. Actually, funnily enough Tainter does not discuss at all the many societies that did not develop complexity over the centuries. Many hunter-gatherers tribes have thrived for centuries, and they did not need to develop complexity. I guess the major milestone that triggered advanced complexity was the agricultural revolution. With extra food, storage became possible and thus new functions in society, new roles for people to play, roles that did not imply food production or hunting-gathering. This was the great trigger of complexity. So I guess, it’s all a matter of the environment we are in. If the environment we live in does not enable us to accumulate extra-food, then complexity might never develop.
I do agree with Markus that human nature is not evil. People sometimes get caught up in a system and end up doing things that they did not want to do at first. Again Stanley Milgram’s experiments of the 1960s are a good illustration of this (just like Kenneth Worthy was pointing out in his book “Invisible Nature”).
Furthermore, I read with great interest Michael’s reflection and found his critics of Tainter’s definitions inspiring. Tainter makes a lot of assumptions, and assumptions make bad conclusions! Also, it seems he assumes that we should sustain our current civilization the way it is, but wait – who said that? I would rather agree with Markus that we could envision a new kind of civilization, one which would not imply exploitation or slavery. Our modern civilization supposedly based on human rights is a champion in the field of slavery and undoubtedly calls for questioning.