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Crisis to Collapse

Tim Cunningham
Jan Driessen

V. Metanarratives of Collapse

16. The Fragility of Political Experimentation from the Perspective of Classic Maya Cities

Patricia A. McAnany et Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire

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In Western political logic, structures of governance generally are characterised in functionalist terms as either ‘working’ or ‘failing’, with the latter envisioned to be ‘collapsing’ or ‘collapsed’. This functionalist report-card approach to understanding political forms - appealing for its simplicity and familiarity - is problematic for several reasons. First, as with most functional analyses, it is ahistorical; second, its typological framing dissuades serious analyses of root causes and longer patterns of crises and resilience (such as migration streams) that are detectable archaeologically; and third, the top-down nature of such declarations renders the governed as agentless victims of larger societal forces.

We shift focus to political experimentation and its inherent fragility and vulnerability to stochastic processes. Today many journalists refer to the European Union as an experiment in political and economic unity. Within the US, the experiment of representati...

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