Towards an antifragility framework in past human–environment dynamics

Yitzchak Jaffe, Ari Caramanica, Max D. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scholarship on human–environment interactions tends to fall under two headings: collapse or resilience. While both offer valid explanatory frameworks for human–environment dynamics, both view stress as a net negative that, if unchecked, disrupts systems in equilibrium. Societies either succumb to stress (and collapse) or overcome stress and persist (demonstrate resilience). We re-evaluate the role of stress and advocate for a non-equilibrium approach to the study of past human–environment interactions. We draw inspiration from Nasim Taleb’s concept of ‘antifragility’, which posits a positive role of stress for increasingly complex systems. We apply antifragility as an explanatory framework to pre-Hispanic coastal Peru, where indigenous farmers adapted to the stresses of highly variable El Niño events through a variety of water management systems. Finally, we note that an antifragility approach highlights the beneficial role of stressors, and that avoiding stress altogether makes a system more fragile.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number915
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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