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Crisis to Collapse

 | 
Tim Cunningham
, 
Jan Driessen

V. Metanarratives of Collapse

15. Boredom with the Apocalypse

Resilience, Regeneration, and their Consequences for Archaeological Interpretation1

Stephen O’Brien

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Studies of collapse and decline have a long intellectual tradition (e.g. Mengzi ca. 323 BC [1999]; Ibn Khaldun 1377 [1967]; Gibbon 1776-1789 ; Spengler 1932). The development of a processual school of archaeological theory concerned with the explanation of ‘social complexity’ during the later twentieth century saw ‘collapse’ emerge as a correlative phenomenon which could be explored using similar methods, as part of the processual paradigm’s search for underlying explanatory principles (Renfrew 1979). Several classic works were generated shortly thereafter (Cowgill & Yoffee 1988; Tainter 1988), and consequently case studies of collapse have become a significant aspect in most areas of world archaeology (see, for example, the extensive bibliography compiled by Guy Middleton [2012]). In an era when the realities of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, collapse has proved capable of generating an international non-fiction bestseller in the form of Jared Diamond’s Collapse...

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