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Robustness, institutions, and large-scale change in social-ecological systems: the Hohokam of the Phoenix Basin

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    Societies frequently generate public infrastructure and institutional arrangements in order to mediate short-term environmental fluctuations. However, the social and ecological consequences of activities dealing with short-term disturbances may increase the vulnerability of the system to infrequent events or to long-term change in patterns of short-term variability. Exploring this possibility requires the study of long-term, transformational change. The archaeological record provides many examples of long-term change, such as the Hohokam who occupied the Phoenix Basin for over a thousand years and developed a complex irrigation society. In the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, the Hohokam society experienced reductions in complexity and scale possibly associated with regional climatic events. We apply a framework designed to explore robustness in coupled social-ecological systems to the Hohokam Cultural Sequence. Based on this analysis, a stylized formal model is developed to explore the possibility that the success of the Hohokam irrigation system and associated social structure may have increased their vulnerability to rare climactic shocks.

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    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Journal of Institutional Economics.

    Volume (Year): 2 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 02 (August)
    Pages: 133-155

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    Handle: RePEc:cup:jinsec:v:2:y:2006:i:02:p:133-155_00
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Cambridge University Press, UPH, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 8BS UK
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