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The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Hardcover – December 31, 2012
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More About the Author
Additional information about Dr. Diamond may be found at his personal website, www.jareddiamond.org.
Top Customer Reviews
While I admire Diamond, some of his beliefs and conclusions are open to debate, and should not be taken uncritically. Anthropology is not an exact science, and reasonable, knowledgeable people can draw different conclusions from the same facts, with no way to test and prove one or another interpretation as correct. As I will explain, there are many arguments in this book I find compelling, but others where I think Diamond reaches too far. But anyone reading this book with an open mind will learn much about our species, and be challenged to consider a new way of looking at how people lived "until yesterday".
As will be expected by readers with Diamond experience, a lot of the book happens in New Guinea, where Diamond has made many trips to study the birds (he is, among other things, an ornithologist) and has many friends. Those of us who have read his prior books recognize his affinity for the people of New Guinea.Read more ›
The main argument: The onset of agriculture and farming some 11,000 years ago (termed the Neolithic Revolution), is arguably the most significant turning point in the history of our species. Agriculture induced a major population explosion, which then led to urbanization; labor specialization; social stratification; and formalized governance--thus ultimately bringing us to civilization as we know it today. Prior to the Neolithic Revolution--and extending back time out of mind--human beings lived in a far different way. Specifically, our ancestors lived in small, largely egalitarian tribes of no more than 50 to 100 individuals, and hunted and foraged for their food.
The transition from our traditional hunting and gathering lifestyle, to early farming (and herding), to civilization as we know it now (which, on an evolutionary time-scale, occurred but yesterday) has certainly brought with it some very impressive benefits. Indeed, many of us today enjoy comforts and opportunities the likes of which our more traditional ancestors would never have dreamed of. However, it cannot be said that the transition from traditional to modern has left us without any difficulties. Indeed, some would go so far as to say that the problems that civilization has introduced outweigh the benefits that it has brought; and even the most unromantic among us are likely to agree that our experiment in civilization has not been an unmitigated success.Read more ›
Professor Diamond's main argument is that traditional societies and "advanced" Western ones learn from each other, absorb and assimilate the customs and cultures of each other in a way that will better serve their interests. That's why, he notes, urban American gangs don't resolve all their disputes in courts, but instead rely on traditional methods of crisis resolution with negotiation, intimidation, and war. It's also the reason members of traditional societies like the ones he observed in New Guinea now have learned to travel broadly, use computers, and wear variations of Western clothing.
The tone of the book is understated rather than preachy, and delivered in a relaxed conversational style. The author likes to let one thing stand for the whole, as when he writes that Harvard University lost a great deal of it's endowment funds during the recent financial debacle. It is well documented that many of Harvard's peer group did as well. Stanford, Notre Dame, Cornell, Princeton and many other elite institutions lost from 25 to 30 percent of their endowment funds, but rather than pound us with the details, the author elegantly lets one example stand for the whole.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Gives you great new context and References to socity and mankind in general.Published 2 days ago by Thomas Chr.
The book becomes amazingly rewarding the deeper you get into it. Especially the chapters on religion and health characteristics of modern and ancient civilizationsPublished 21 days ago by Sa Muller
Interesting. This was more a collection of accounts of human behavior and different tribal customs from Diamond's years in the field than any grand thesis like in his previous... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Matthew T. Carpenter
This is a gift i bought for a friend, although i didnt read this book by myself, but the reviews she gave me were pretty positive, i think this is a good book too, coz it took me a... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kyle WEI
Diamond thoroughly researches his topic and presents the information interestingly. There are lots of statistics that numb my brain but the message is clear.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
May never finish this book. Can't hold my attention like previious two books.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book really makes one re-think how our society is organized. However, is also makes one appreciate that we, on balance, have a better chance at a safe life than do members of... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Lew Ulrey