I’ve never read Joseph Tainter…but I have read Carroll Quigley’s books, notably his “The Evolution of Civilizations” — and his theory of why civilizations collapse is very different.
His theory of collapse is nothing like a complexity problem at all, rather a plain human selfishness one.
Please read it yourself as this doesn’t do it any justice — but here is my quick & dirty summary of that book, in simple English:
Nature is harsh, so to survive humans had to help each other. Because of this they grew to care about one another‘s well being. This empathy & co-operation led to ever increasing & successful civilizations
As civilization slowly evolved large enough to seem to have “tamed” nature this artificial comfort caused people & their institutions to “forget” why they cared about each other …. and so became increasingly selfish.
Selfishness led to aggression.
It’s institutions no longer operated for the people but for their own existence & expansion.
The workers were increasingly taxed out of existence by the ruling class to fund these now corrupted & expanding institutions.
Those institutions that originally held society together, splintered through lack of co-operation and war between themselves …..and society quickly weakened or collapsed as a result and was incapable of protecting itself from invasion or absorption by smaller & more primitive societies surrounding it.