The scale, governance, and sustainability of central places in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica
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Citation (published version)Feinman G.M., Carballo D.M. (2019) The Scale, Governance, and Sustainability of Central Places in Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica. In: Lozny L., McGovern T. (eds) Global Perspectives on Long Term Community Resource Management. Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation, vol 11. Springer, Cham, pp. 235 - 253. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15800-2_11
Examinations of the variation and relative successes or failures of past large-scale societies have long involved attempts to reconcile efforts at generalization and the identification of specific factors with explanatory value for regional trajectories. Although historical particulars are critical to understanding individual cases, there are both scholarly 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 highlighted how successes and failures in communal-resource management can be studied over the long term through the material record to both engage and enhance transdisciplinary research 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 preindustrial urban 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 pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican urban centers to demonstrate tendencies for more collective systems to be larger and longer lasting than less collective ones, likely reflecting greater sustainability in the face of the ecological and cultural perturbations specific to the region and era.