The human experience of social transformation: Insights from comparative archaeology.

PLoS ONE. 2018;13(11):e0208060 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0208060


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML, XML



Michelle Hegmon

Matthew A Peeples

LTVTP-NABO collaboration


Peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Archaeologists and other scholars have long studied the causes of collapse and other major social transformations and debated how they can be understood. This article instead focuses on the human experience of living through those transformations, analyzing 18 transformation cases from the US Southwest and the North Atlantic. The transformations, including changes in human securities, were coded based on expert knowledge and data analyzed using Qualitative Comparative Analysis techniques. Results point to the following conclusions: Major transformations, including collapses, generally have a strong and negative impact on human security; flexible strategies that facilitate smaller scale changes may ameliorate those difficulties. Community security is strongly implicated in these changes; strong community security may minimize other negative changes. The relationships among the variables are complex and multi-causal; while social transformation may lead to declines in human securities, declining conditions of life can also push people to transform their societies in negative ways. Results show that some societies are better able to deal with difficulties than others. One important policy implication is that community security and local conditions can be instrumental both in helping people to cope with difficulties and in staving off some of those difficulties. A multi-scalar approach is essential as we face the increasing problems of climate change in the decades ahead.