Institutions, the Resource Curse and the Collapse Hypothesis

Robert Deacon

University of California, Santa Barbara - Department of Economics; Resources for the Future; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

April 17, 2012

PERC Research Paper No. 12/5

In his influential and highly readable book Collapse, Jared Diamond claims that human-induced ecological and environmental degradation and the over-use of natural resources have caused civilizations to collapse. The term ‘collapse’ means “… a drastic decrease in human population size, and/or political/economic/social complexity over a considerable area, for an extended time” (Diamond, p. 3). Adjectives such as ‘drastic’, ‘considerable’ and ‘extended’ are sufficiently imprecise to allow latitude in deciding whether or not a particular historical or contemporary episode qualifies as a collapse. Few would argue, however, that the iconic cases of Easter Island, the Maya empire and the Angkor civilization, which are among the Diamond’s focal cases, represent instances of collapse. Diamond also offers contemporary examples that are less compelling or at least less evocative. These include Rwanda, Haiti and modern day Australia and Montana; the latter two are judged to be vulnerable to collapse from environmental and resource degradation, if not yet on the brink.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 28

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Date posted: April 21, 2012 ; Last revised: April 25, 2012

Suggested Citation

Deacon, Robert, Institutions, the Resource Curse and the Collapse Hypothesis (April 17, 2012). PERC Research Paper No. 12/5. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2041621 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2041621

Contact Information

Robert T. Deacon (Contact Author)
University of California, Santa Barbara - Department of Economics ( email )
2127 North Hall
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
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Resources for the Future
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