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Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure 1St Edition Edition

3.7 out of 5 stars 169 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0609805367
ISBN-10: 0609805363
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Futurist Daniel Quinn (Ishmael) dares to imagine a new approach to saving the world that involves deconstructing civilization. Quinn asks the radical yet fundamental questions about humanity such as, Why does civilization grow food, lock it up, and then make people earn money to buy it back? Why not progress "beyond civilization" and abandon the hierarchical lifestyles that cause many of our social problems? He challenges the "old mind" thinking that believes problems should be fixed with social programs. "Old minds think: How do we stop these bad things from happening?" Quinn writes. "New minds think: How do we make things the way we want them to be?"

Whether he is discussing Amish farming, homelessness, "tribal business," or holy work, Quinn's manifesto is highly digestible. Instead of writing dense, weighty chapters filled with self-important prose, he's assembled a series of brief one-page essays. His language is down to earth, his metaphors easy to grasp. As a result, readers can read about and ponder Beyond Civilization at a blissfully civilized pace. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

With the publication of his trilogy of novels (Ishmael; The Story of B; My Ishmael), Quinn became something of a cult figure in visionary fiction. In those books, Quinn explored the self-sustaining nature of tribal societies and his belief that the current worldwide ecological and economic crises are due to the agriculture-based organization of civilized societies. He now turns his hand to nonfiction, with an appeal for universal renewal through a "New Tribal Revolution." Acknowledging that it would be impossible for most civilized humans to return to the hunting and gathering typical of tribes, Quinn argues that modern men and women need to invent a completely different mode of existence. To do this, they must question a basic assumption of all civilized societies: "Civilization must continue at any cost and must not be abandoned under any circumstances." Quinn, borrowing from Richard Dawkins, calls this assumption a "meme," the cultural equivalent of a gene. Quinn's main examples are peoples like the Maya and Anasazi, who returned to tribalism after unsuccessful attempts at other types of social organization, and the communal structure of traditional circuses. The author has a knack for stating the obvious with tremendous personal conviction. His articulation of a simpler way of life will appeal to those made frantic by globalization and all the forces conspiring to make people dance as fast as they can. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1St Edition edition (November 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609805363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609805367
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and studied at St. Louis University, the University of Vienna, and Loyola University of Chicago. I worked in Chicago-area publishing for twenty years before beginning work on the book for which I'm best known, Ishmael. This book was chosen from among some 2500 international entrants to win the half-million dollar 1991 Turner Tomorrow competition for a novel offering "creative and positive solutions to global problems." The novel has subsequently sold more than a million copies in English, is available in some thirty languages, and has been used in high schools and colleges worldwide in courses as varied as philosophy, geography, ecology, archaeology, history, biology, zoology, anthropology, political science, economics, and sociology. Subsequent works include Providence, The Story of B, My Ishmael: A Sequel, Beyond Civilization, After Dachau, The Holy, and most recently At Woomeroo, a collection of short stories. I can be found on Facebook, and my Web site, ishmael.org, is enormous, offering news and announcements from readers, suggested readings, speeches and essays available nowhere else, detailed answers to more than 500 questions asked by readers over the years, and a Guestbook with thousands of entries. I and my wife, Rennie, have lived in Chicago, Santa Fe and Madrid, New Mexico, and Austin, Texas. We currently live in Houston.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Beyond Civilization" follows in the footsteps and elaborates on the themes of Daniel Quinn's Ishmael Trilogy ("Ishmael," "The Story of B," and "My Ishmael"), which should be read before this companion volume is tackled. Unlike these three books, "Beyond Civilization" is non-fiction, a collection of short essays in which Quinn clarifies some of the ideas from the Ishmael Trilogy and responds to questions posed by readers and critics. A bibliography and thematic index for all four books are also extremely helpful resources for Quinn readers.
The essays that make up this book deal with varied topics - from school shootings to what it means to "save the world." However, they are all connected in their criticisms of 'civilized' society and support for a "new tribalism." The concept of the New Tribal Revolution occupies a large part of "Beyond Civilization," and it is a complex topic to try to summarize. Basically, new tribalism calls for the immediate creation of a non-ethnic tribal society in which the ravages of civilization - both ecological and social - can be minimized. It should be emphasized that Quinn is NOT a primitivist or Luddite, as some claim. He calls not for the destruction of knowledge and technology, but rather urges people to use them in a different and (in his view) better fashion. New Tribalism is not a return to the past - it is an effort to go beyond civilization and 'save the world' from environmental disaster and social self-destruction.
Many reviewers have criticized Quinn's somewhat vague instructions regarding what they should do to go beyond civilization. The lack of a clear program did not bother me too much - for one thing, it will help prevent dogmatism in any movement seeking to go beyond civilization.
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By A Customer on September 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
BEYOND CIVILIZATION: HUMANITY'S NEXT GREAT ADVENTURE offers the people of our culture alternative ideas on how to make a living. It doesn't claim to be the only way, nor is it one way in itself. This book can get you thinking about how you might go about doing what you really love in life and gain security and what you really need at the same time. Every page is like a jewel of idea and thought. Quinn discusses why we can't take the "Mayan Solution" which was to walk away into the jungle since there is no longer a jungle for us and there are too many of us for that to be a viable solution, but he does show us that we can still "walk away". He likens the rat race that is our current way of life to dragging stones up a pyramid. And he insists that we do not have to continue to do this. He doesn't provide a way for us to sit around and get what we need, but helps us to rediscover the easiest and most workable way that humans have to make a living-- tribally. He notes that when left to choose-- humans gravitate towards the tribal life... not because it's "natural" or "right" but because it is the easiest way for human beings to make a living. He points out that wolves evolved as pack animals, birds evolved as flock animals, bees evolved as hiving animals, etc. and humans evolved as tribal animals. He refutes the critics claim that he is saying that we should go live in a cave with a spear and offers more realistic solutions. But we have to be inventive and do it ourselves. It's not magic-- which is what I think many people who have given this book poor reviews actually want.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for, another way to live, another story to be in, or an extraordinary thought provoking experience!
1 Comment 48 of 49 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I am a student of anthropology and sociology, and I just wanted to offer a few words. I am an admirer of Daniel Quinn, and one of the many reasons I got into the study of human society was reading The Story of B. I've also read Ishmael and this latest nonfiction book. I admire Quinn for tackling such questions, as few other authors of fiction have. I also admire him for his drive and vision, his almost childlike optimism (I mean this without any insult). However, be aware that his logic is at times faulty, and his view of society seems to be limited largely to the realm of economic anthropology (as in Marvin Harris, et al. who argue that resources are the *main* factor in societal dynamics). Also, I think that his view of religion, mainly Christianity, is oversimplified. His points are often excellent, but he simply overstates their applicability. I thank him wholeheartedly for getting people thinking about these issues. Just read the reviews above -- so many people will now be thinking about society in new ways! May I just suggest reading more than Quinn, if for nothing else than simply to get a more balanced view and then decide for yourself what sounds most believable.
3 Comments 62 of 66 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
"Beyond Civilization," the latest and, in many ways, most powerful work from writer/philosopher Daniel Quinn, is the first Great Book of the new millennium. In this latest and stunningly provocative work Mr. Quinn has brought into sharp focus the ideas, observations, and original thinking that have formed the conceptual and thematic basis of his body of work from the award-winning "Ishmael" through "The Story of B," "Providence," and "My Ishmael."
This non-fiction presentation is profound in its format; each page presents a specific topic and discussion which can send the thoughtful reader into the most profound and inspiring rumination on some of the most important issues and considerations for our survival as a species.
The writing is deceptively simple and direct in style, presenting thoughts as significant to political, social, environmental, and personal life in the 21st Century as the deceptively simple equation "E=mc2" was to 20th Century science. Ideas like, "There is no one right way for people to live," for example. Think about it!
This is a book to read, reread, consider and think about over and over again. While seeming to overlook just how many unsolved problems have been created by, and how imperfect is, the way we're living now, some will criticize the book by saying it doesn't solve everything and isn't perfect. But "Beyond Civilization" isn't meant to be the complete answer, "only" the most complete asking of the real questions, along with some of the most profound suggestions for answers ever found in one book.
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