Factors Leading To The Collapse Of Past Societies

1608 words - 6 pages

At present day, our worldwide civilization of the human race continues to surpass many achievements of other past societies. Everyday, new technological advances are being achieved and the population is growing faster than it ever previously has. We must look back at past civilizations and analyze them to understand what is in store for us in the future. In the pursuit of progress, human societies create problems they do not have the resources or political motivation to solve, for fear of short term losses in status or quality of life, which prevents further advancements and sometimes leads to collapse.1 Three factors that have enabled past civilizations to fall into progress traps and ultimately contributed to the collapse of those societies are social conflicts, ecological depletion, and overpopulation.

In terms of social conflicts, past civilizations have been enabled to fall into a progress trap through many forms of social strife. Firstly, the Classic Maya civilization had seen many social struggles. The Mayans were very intellectually competent, however, there was a tremendous scramble for power and resources. Mayan society was competitive amongst its city-states, each wanting to grow and expand. The Mayan city of Copan began as a small village beside a river, and was a harmless settlement at first. As it grew, it built over more and more of its fertile land due the growing need for prosperity. As a direct consequence, farmers were forced to relocate up onto fragile soils where the land had previously been cleared away of its timber. As well, a considerable amount of silt had washed down the hillside that most of the city, including whole houses and streets, were completely buried. The city fell victim to its own success. “Progress has an internal logic that can lead beyond reason to catastrophe. A seductive trail of successes may end in a trap.” (Wright, 5). Collectively, it is not hard to imagine each city-state setting themselves up for failure due to their competitive nature. Competition for power and an increasing need for prosperity lead to Copan’s collapse, and ultimately the Classic Maya civilization as a whole. Secondly, the Roman civilization had a number of social disputes, which contributed to its collapse. Among those, political instability emerged as the root cause for its downfall.2 “One of the revealing ironies of Rome’s history is that the city-state’s native democracy withered as its empire grew.” (Wright, 90). The assassination of Julius Caesar fueled existing conflicts further. Self-proclaimed emperors after Caesar’s death and the overall political imbalance of the weakening empire lead to war, invasion and trade disruption. These disturbances created a ripple effect that lead to massive amounts of crime, increased cases of disease, and widespread famine. Without the social conflicts regarding political relations, the Roman Empire may not have fallen as extensively. Thirdly, social conflicts in China marked the end...

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