chapter  6
THE USES AND ABUSES OF COMPLEXITY
Prehistoric societies in the west Mediterranean
Pages 23

In Chapter 1, I argued that the development of more complex and unequal societies has been one of the key topics occupying the thoughts of archaeologists and social scientists since the Enlightenment. In the last four decades, neo-evolutionary thinking has dominated these thoughts in the Anglo-American world, although it has been subjected to criticism from both Marxism and practice theory, as shown in Chapter 3. The use of social typologies guided us through a sequence of more complex societies, while our study of past societies, using dichotomous terms such as equal/unequal, simple/complex or state/non-state, was criticized in Chapter 4. The case study presented in Chapter 5 attempted to avoid such dichotomous thinking and see how a historical materialist approach helps us to represent a sequence of social change in south-east Spain that is widely conceived as one towards increasing complexity. And yet the word ‘complexity’ was largely omitted from the discussion. I will now examine and criticize its use, not only for this region, but also for other selected areas of Iberia and the west Mediterranean in the same period of time. How is the term defined and used? Is this use clear and consistent? And which theoretical approaches are adopted in the study of society and social change? Throughout the discussion the approach adopted to the study of production and inequalities in south-east Spain will provide the guiding light.