Insulation of Elites Compounds Societal Collapse

The scenarios most closely reflecting the reality of our world today are found in the third group of experiments (see the scenarios for an unequal society in section 5.3), where we introduced economic stratication. Under such conditions, we nd that collapse is dicult to avoid, which helps to explain why economic stratication is one of the elements consistently found in past collapsed societies. Importantly, in the rst of these unequal society scenarios, 5.3.1, the solution appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate () and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature. Despite appearing initially to be the same as the sustainable optimal solution obtained in the absence of Elites, economic stratication changes the nal result: Elites' consumption keeps growing until the society collapses. The Mayan collapse |in which population never recovered even though nature did recover| is an example of a Type-L collapse, whereas the collapses in the Easter Island and the Fertile Crescent |where nature was depleted| are examples of a Type-N collapse.

In scenario 5.3.2, with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites. It is important to note that in both of these scenarios, the Elites |due to their wealth| do not suer the detrimental eects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners. This buer of wealth allows Elites to continue business as usual" despite the impending catastrophe. It is likely that this is an important mechanism that would help explain how historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases). This buer eect is further reinforced by the long, apparently sustainable trajectory prior to the beginning of the collapse. While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory so far" in support of doing nothing.


Folksonomies: society civilization collapse social stratification

/law, govt and politics/government (0.437213)
/society (0.421129)
/business and industrial/chemicals industry/plastics and polymers (0.344922)

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Easter Island:GeographicFeature (0.698790 (neutral:0.000000))

Societal collapse (0.955857): dbpedia | freebase
Society (0.840211): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Social disintegration (0.653145): dbpedia | freebase
Fertile Crescent (0.642031): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Decline of the Roman Empire (0.640436): dbpedia | freebase
Sociology (0.567781): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Civilization (0.557679): dbpedia | freebase
Decline (0.547095): dbpedia | freebase

 Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies
Periodicals>Journal Article:  Motesharrei, Rivas, Kalnay (March 18, 2014), Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies, SESYNC: Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, Retrieved on 2014-08-09
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: society modeling collapse