A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0942299328
ISBN-10: 0942299329
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Forcefully challenges habituated understandings of'history., 'urban' and 'economics'." Christopher Hight, AA Files

About the Author

Manuel De Landa is the author of War in the Age of Intelligent Machines (Zone Books, 1991).
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Product Details

  • Series: Swerve Editions
  • Paperback: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Zone Books (September 18, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0942299329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0942299328
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Review Guy on January 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
De Landa is deliciously weird sort of scholar: an autodidact, a committed generalist, a erudite synthesizer, and...oddly enough...an ideologue. The axe he has brought to grind here is a rigorous materialism, and he uses it to hack telos out at the root. He seeks to collapse the distinction between "natural" history and "human" history, and the result is a "history" that is almost unrecognizable as such.

He asks us to imagine the last thousand years as a seething storm of material processes. The "great men," the "human events," the wars and values and struggle are all completely absent. To the extent humans interest De Landa at all, they appear here as crowds, organizations, markets, capital and labor.

Instead, De Landa gives us a plausible (if sketchy and somewhat speculative) account of the thermodynamic, geological, chemical, and biological processes of the past 1000 years. But the genius of this book is that it is not merely the history of rocks, chemicals, and plants. Instead, De Landa has boldly abstracted the logical processes underlying the natural sciences into what he calls "engineering diagrams." He applies these diagrams to the world we know, teaching us to see city walls as sea-shell-like "accretions", society as a stratified riverbed, economies as highly complex chemical reactions, and nations as parasitic superorganisms. Above all, he helps us to see "progress" as a perspectival illusion, resulting from human-centric narrative bias. Again and again, he demonstrates that the "triumphs" of the Western world were spontaneous physical processes; reactions between elements like "biomass" "carbon" "steel" "money" "genes" "population" and "germs." These reactions become interactions, feedback takes hold and wildly complex and diverse forms emerge.
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Luis Reyes on October 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
Application of non-linearity to problems in the Natural (hard) Sciences is not a new concept, and it has long been known that the omission of these terms is what prevents most models from aquiring the complexity we see in real life. De Landa chronicles the development in this area as applied to Biology, a couple of branches in Physics and the Social Sciences, and links all his subjects in such an extraordinary way that the book is itself a meshwork, in the purest sense of Deleuze and Guattari. The historical tidbits are themselves amusing and informative, and thus make the reading quite enjoyable. This is just as well an exposition of the history of nonlinearity as it is a presentation of nonlinearity as culmination of any and all ongoing natural processes.
The book's greatest strength is the presentation of unusual concepts in a strangely clear and persuasive way. In fact, if you have picked Deleuze and Guattari's books and have discarded them as pseudophilosophical bull, as I once erroneuosly did, give them a go again after De Landa; you will be surprised.
Read it, and one day you may brag that you were well aware of the conceptual revolution that shook Science as a whole as the 21st Century began, well before it was fully on its way.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Showalter on October 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
De Landa's take on history is that it is a product of complexity and self-organization much more than we are prone to believe; in this book, he expands on and explodes from those of his (also) brilliant "War in the Age of Intelligent Machines".
The traditional metaphors for human progress that have been coopted from other sciences-- economics, geology, and engineering-- and do not adequately portray what exactly man hath wrought. In this book, De Landa works through history three seperate times and discusses-- through the use of terms like 'bifucation' and 'singularities' how he believes it did progress....
I really like this book: I think that it is definately a text whose time has come..... BUT.... having read both this and 'War...' I want to warn readers of their one failing-- the author-- because of his broad sweep-- seems to occasionally make errors in the myriad of references that he makes (the book is meticulously footnoted, to its credit). Though this is largely an editor's problem, it is bad.... something that someone who is going at things fast-and-furious and from a broad sweep is likely to have happen....
It doesn't blight the whole. This is a must read.... though fans of traditional disciplines might not find a whole lot to like about with it (and might find a lot more along the lines of my above point....)
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Adam Lilienthal on August 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
While reading this I couldn't help but wonder about the advantages to reformatting high school ciriculum with more attention paid to the nonlinear nature of things as presented in here. Forget dates and names and specific places - these things are forgotten anyway - De Landa is all about concepts and reasons why. From urban landscapes as human exoskeletons to the corporate drive to control our very genes this historical account is really an intense examination of the progress of matter-energy over the last one-thousand years as the term progress itself becomes questioned along with a great many other things. I recommend this book to those who have ever asked why - and those who never have. So get your hands on it, read it, read it again, and pass it along. There's not a disappointing page between its covers.
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