Collaborative and competitive strategies in the variability and resiliency of large-scale societies in Mesoamerica
Carballo, David M.
Feinman, Gary M.
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CitationDM Carballo, Gary M Feinman. 2018. "Collaborative and Competitive Strategies in the Variability and Resiliency of Large-Scale Societies in Mesoamerica." Economic Anthropology, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp. 7 - 19.
Examinations of the variation and duration of past large-scale societies have long involved a conceptual struggle between efforts at generalization and the unraveling of specific trajectories. Although historical particulars are critical to understanding individual cases, there exist both scientific and policy rationales for drawing broader implications regarding the growing corpus of cross-cultural data germane to understanding variability in the constitution of human societies, past and present. Archaeologists have recently paid increased attention to successes and failures in communal-resource management over the long term, as articulated by the transdisciplinary theory on cooperation and collective action. In this article, we consider frameworks that have been traditionally employed in studies of the rise, diversity, and fall of large-scale preindustrial aggregations. We suggest that a comparative theoretical perspective that foregrounds collective-action problems, unaligned individual and group interests, and the social mechanisms that promote or hamper cooperation advances our understanding of variability in these early cooperative arrangements. We apply such a perspective to an examination of cities from pre-Columbian Mesoamerica to demonstrate tendencies for more collective systems to be larger and longer lasting than less collective ones, likely reflecting greater resiliency in the face of the ecological and cultural perturbations specific to the region and era.