Decline and Fall, Growth and Spread, or Resilience? Approaches to Studying How and Why Societies Change


Daniel Hoyer examines qualitative, case study, complex system, and societal dynamics approaches to explain “historical precedents of collapse, growth, and resilience.” He explains drawbacks to each method, and stresses “the importance of developing formal (especially mathematically articulated) mechanistic theory, as only by explicating what we think drives societal outcomes in a structured, formal way can we then offer clear, intelligible, reproducible tests of these theories against empirical evidence.” He argues that new methodology will aid “finding what has worked in the past to provide for sustainable, equitably-delivered well-being and avoid the pitfalls that have doomed populations to exploitation, impoverishment, and loss of capacities, the lessons from our shared past have much to offer.”


Daniel Hoyer

Publication Date



Pre-Print; Accepted by the Journal of World History (forthcoming)



Resource Type

Academic Journal Article

Resource Theme

Societal Collapse • Sustainability and Transition
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