Environmental determinism vs. social dynamics: Prehistorical and historical examples

G.-F. Sargentis, D. Koutsoyiannis, A. N. Angelakis, J. Christy, and A.A. Tsonis, Environmental determinism vs. social dynamics: Prehistorical and historical examples, World, 3 (2), 357–388, doi:10.3390/world3020020, 2022.



Environmental determinism is often used to explain past social collapses and to predict the future of modern human societies. We assess the availability of natural resources and the resulting carrying capacity (a basic concept of environmental determinism) through a toy model based on Hurst–Kolmogorov dynamics. We also highlight the role of social cohesion, and we evaluate it from an entropic viewpoint. Furthermore, we make the case that, when it comes to the demise of civilizations, while environmental influences may be in the mix, social dynamics is the main driver behind their decline and eventual collapse. We examine several prehistorical and historical cases of civilization collapse, the most characteristic being that of the Minoan civilization, whose disappearance c. 1100 BC has fostered several causative hypotheses. In general, we note that these hypotheses are based on catastrophic environmental causes, which nevertheless occurred a few hundred years before the collapse of Minoans. Specifically, around 1500 BC, Minoans managed to overpass many environmental adversities. As we have not found justified reasons based on the environmental determinism for when the collapse occurred (around 1100 BC), we hypothesize a possible transformation of the Minoans’ social structure as the cause of the collapse.

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Our works that reference this work:

1. G.-F. Sargentis, N. D. Lagaros, G.L. Cascella, and D. Koutsoyiannis, Threats in Water–Energy–Food–Land Nexus by the 2022 Military and Economic Conflict, Land, doi:10.3390/land11091569, 2022.
2. G.-F. Sargentis, and D. Koutsoyiannis, The function of money in water–energy–food and land nexus, Land, 12 (3), 669, doi:10.3390/land12030669, 2023.
3. G.-F. Sargentis, N. Mamassis, O. Kitsou, and D. Koutsoyiannis, The role of technology in the water–energy–food nexus. A case study: Kerinthos, North Euboea, Greece, Frontiers in Water, 6, 1343344, doi:10.3389/frwa.2024.1343344, 2024.