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The Evolution of Fragility: Setting the Terms

The Evolution of Fragility: Setting the Terms

Edited by Norman Yoffee

Explanations for the collapse of early states (and complex societies) often assume that they were integrated and stable until something bad happened, usually environmental change or because enemies overwhelmed them. In fact, many of these early states lasted a relatively short time, at least in archaeological reckoning. Others were longer-lived, but struggled to overcome structural weaknesses that eventually resulted in the fragmentation or a large-scale undoing of political orders. Rulers who attempted to institute mechanisms of control often laid the conditions for resistance and the disintegration of their regimes. The central theme of this volume is to undermine some traditional themes that naturalize the state and legitimize its historical claims to permanence.


Norman Yoffee is professor emeritus in the Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Anthropology,University of Michigan. His latest book is the edited Volume 3 in The Cambridge World History, Early Cities in Comparative Perspective, 4000 bce-1200 ce (2015). He is also the series editor of Cambridge World Archaeology. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

  • The Evolution of Fragility: Setting the Terms [complete volume]
  • Chapter 1 - Introducing the Conference: There Are No Innocent Terms
  • Chapter 2 - Fragility of Vulnerable Social Institutions in Andean States
  • Chapter 3 - Why Early Cities Failed: Fragility and Resilience in Bronze Age China
  • Chapter 4 - Fragile Authority in Monumental Time: Political Experimentation in the Classic Maya Lowlands
  • Chapter 5 - Ancient Egyptian Exceptionalism: Fragility, Flexibility and the Art of Not Collapsing
  • Chapter 6 - Fragile Cahokian and Chacoan Orders and Infrastructures
  • Chapter 7 - Diversity, variability, adaptation and ‘fragility’ in the Indus Civilization
  • Chapter 8 - Fragile States in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Chapter 9 - Universal Rule and Precarious Empire: Power and Fragility in the Angkorian State
  • Chapter 10 - Negotiating Fragility in Ancient Mesopotamia: Arenas of Contestation and Institutions of Resistance
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