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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New world outlook
We humans can often be totally blind to the obvious things around us, like human behaviour for instance. Jared Diamond is an absolute genius - in this book he helped me to `see' our own human society for the first time. It should be obvious, but I had never thought of it before - most humans who have ever lived, experienced the type of life Diamond describes here. By...
Published 16 months ago by M. D. Holley

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea for a book. First part is much better than the latter part
The stated premise for this book is a great one. For the great majority of the human story, people have lived as foragers living in smallish groups rather than farmers or people living in large-scale industrial societies. It therefore makes sense that we could learn a lot of interesting and useful things from people who still live a foraging lifestyle. The first half or...
Published 2 months ago by Scorchio


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New world outlook, 12 Mar 2013
By 
M. D. Holley (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? (Hardcover)
We humans can often be totally blind to the obvious things around us, like human behaviour for instance. Jared Diamond is an absolute genius - in this book he helped me to `see' our own human society for the first time. It should be obvious, but I had never thought of it before - most humans who have ever lived, experienced the type of life Diamond describes here. By looking into humans in their `natural' condition, we learn so much about ourselves.

I especially loved the chapter on languages, which contained information beyond my wildest imaginings. There were many other moments of interest: how the young are treated, how the old are treated, the narrow territory ranges of many groups and the treatment of strangers.

On the other hand I found the chapters on religion and on justice to be slightly weaker, but still worthwhile (Edward Wilson is better on religion in his book `The Social Conquest of Earth').

Diamond is not overly sentimental about his subject, and he points out many features of tribal society that no one would want to copy. But there are still some aspects we could learn from, and in every respect the information here helps us understand ourselves better.

In summary, this is one of those rare books which I think will change my entire world outlook forever. Thoroughly recommended!
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating comparison of traditional societies and modern life, 5 Jan 2013
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markr - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? (Hardcover)
i found this to be a fascinating book in which the author looks at human society and its development by comparing and contrasting modern life with smaller traditional societies of hunter gatherers, tribes and so on. Many of the descriptions of these traditional societies focus on the peoples of Papua New Guinea, which has seen a period of very rapid and significant change. In 1931 much of the population were still wearing traditional dress, and lived without the components of society as we experience it: no phones, clocks, cars, no writing, metal, money or schools. Now traditional life in Papua New Guinea has almost disappeared - western dress is ubiquitous, and mobile phones and air travel are commonplace.

This rapid change provides much evidence for how traditional societies were - many people still remember in detail, and from personal experience, how they functioned - and this provides the basis for this book, along with much information about the !Kung of the Kalahari, the Ache and Sirinoco of South America, the Andaman Islanders of the Bay of Bengal, and many other traditional societies.

The author looks at land use and property, war, trade, crime and punishment, care of the elderly, raising of children, religion, diet and its consequences, language and much else, with frequent reference to modern history and modern state societies from across the world which helps to keep the narrative interesting for the general reader, as well as being very informative. The author concludes that there are aspects of traditional societies which would improve our lives today, as well as recognising the value of much of the progress which has been made in societal development around the world

I have found this book hard to put down - it is well written, at times amusing, and always interesting. I had never read Jared Diamond's work before but I shall certainly read his other books now.

Highly recommended
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Living the way nature intended - Diamond's easy-to-read synthesis, 18 Oct 2013
By 
Geoffrey Bond "Savvyeater" (Paphos, Cyprus) - See all my reviews
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Diamond, who is in his mid seventies, points out that one of the skills that improves with age is the art of SYNTHESIS.

He has done just that with his latest book which sets out to apply the lessons of hunter-gatherer life to today's world. He leans heavily on his experience with the tribes of New Guinea but synthesizes it with a wide range of other sources - for example Daniel Everett's Pirahã of the Amazon Don't Sleep, There are Snakes, Richard Lee's San Bushmen Kalahari Hunter-Gatherers, Frank Marlowe's Hadza The Hadza and many others.

This is important, since the New Guinea tribes in many ways are not representative of our formative Pleistocene past. They don't live as foragers in a sparsely inhabited savanna but as gardeners/swine-herds in a crowded, wet, jungle environment.
Having said that, Diamond tackles diverse subjects such as Warfare; The Workplace; Justice, Disputes and Vendettas; Religion; Health; Multilingualism; Old People; Risk and many more.

Many of these are difficult topics for a UCLA professor to deal with honestly. He has to avoid academia from metaphorically burning him at the stake for political incorrectness. He has to avoid thought-crime!

So Diamond's prose is reminiscent of Darwin's in The Origin of Species where, almost apologetically, he says that the evidence seems to say such-and-such, but please prove me wrong!
In this regard, Steven Pinker, in his book: The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature is much more outspoken about lessons to be drawn from the evolutionary origins of human behavior.

Warfare
Warfare, Diamond says apologetically, really does seem to be part of human nature. But he doesn't want to be accused of thought-crime, so he spends a couple of pages saying how much he sympathizes with scholars who are distressed by even thinking that warfare is not "due to evil Europeans arriving on the scene and messing things up." On the contrary, the arrival of European administrators swiftly put an end to the endless cycle of killings.

Diamond's review of violence in tribal societies nevertheless brings out many interesting points: tribal fights break off when the weather turns bad or the food runs out, only to resume when conditions return to normal; no prisoners are taken - they are all killed.

On the other hand (unlike scorched earth policies), gardens, women, and other resources are preserved as part of the spoils.
When anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon told a Yanomamo warrior about World War II, he said, "You probably raided the Germans because of woman-theft, didn't you."

In Richard Wrangham's reference work on the subject of warfare, Demonic Males, Wrangham wryly observes that, ultimately, all warfare is about access to fertile women - that is, getting genes into the next generation.
In confirmation, Diamond cites Chagnon: `Yanomamo killers have, on average, 2.5 times more wives and over 3 times more children'.

Bringing up Children
From his experiences with primal tribes in New Guinea, Jared Diamond believes we can learn much about child rearing practices when humans are in a state of nature.

These can be summarized briefly as: a woman gives birth alone, or with the assistance of other women - men are not involved; infanticide is practised in cases of necessity; babies are breast-fed for three years or more; pre-chewed pap is introduced at 6 months; nursing is on demand; babies sleep cuddled up to their mother or close relative.

During the day, small babies are carried in a sling on their mother's breast; older babies on their mother's backs; and toddlers usually on the shoulders. In all cases the child faces the same way as the mother.
Fathers play little role in child-rearing, but are vital for provisioning and protecting the family; children play in multi-age playgroups, not in same-age cohorts; and all members of the band are involved in caring for all the other children in the band - a practice known as `alloparenting.

Crying children are immediately comforted; children are rarely punished - either physically or psychologically; children have great autonomy and are permitted to do dangerous things.
There are no state government interests (e.g. compulsory schooling with its social agenda) to conflict with parents' upbringing interests.
Diamond concludes with an observation echoing Dan Everett's concerning the Pirahã:
"[We] are struck by the emotional security, self-confidence, curiosity and autonomy of the children and adults of small-scale societies."

Risk Prioritizing
When assessing risks in the modern world, too frequently people get it wrong. Personally, I see it all the time. For example, many people believe sea-salt is `natural' and thus healthy, when it is, just like regular table salt, harmful sodium chloride.
But, in forager life, correct assessment of risk is a matter of life and death. Moreover, every day, a forager has to take BIG risks.

Diamond makes the case for foragers being very good at assessing and prioritizing the risks they face in their world.
For example, San hunters driving lions off their kill. It's eat or be eaten! But the San carefully assess the time when the lions are sufficiently sated to not put up a fight yet not so sated that there is no food left.

Diamond also introduces an interesting notion: `constructive paranoia'. This is when it makes sense to be ultra cautious about a possible danger since getting it wrong will mean death.
He cites the example of a broken twig found in the hunter's trail. Is it just chance? Or is it made by hostile strangers? The tribesmen take extraordinary precautions `just in case'.
Today, suggests Diamond, our hard-wired constructive paranoia is triggered in dysfunctional ways. For example over myths such as nuclear power being more dangerous than car driving (it isn't) or that pesticides kill more people than surgery (they don't).

The Elderly:
Those foragers who ran life's full gauntlet and made it to an advanced age could still walk the 10 miles from one camp to the next. When they couldn't they were left for dead Deadly Harvest.

But Diamond explores more advanced tribes where Darwinian logic finds its expression in doing away with old people. That is, old people are history - and it is in the kids' interests for them to disappear.

Some unacculturated tribes still maintain their gruesome traditions where, for example, the old-timers see it as their duty to submit to - and even welcome - garrotting or being buried alive. Others, unsuspecting, are clubbed to death from behind. Many, like the Fijians, would (but don't now) cook and eat them.

For once Diamond, as a 75-year-old, takes comfort that Western ways are superior to such practices - we have no lessons to learn from them!

Belief Systems
Foragers like the San and the Hadza have nothing like our modern religions. No belief in gods, the supernatural, or an after-life for example. However, they have a rich set of myths and stories about the sun, moon and stars plus a modest range of rituals and taboos.

Diamond devotes a chapter to exploring the evolutionary ideas about the function of religiosity. For example:
a) That it be a by-product of humans having a `brain finely honed' to seek `causes' for inexplicable effects;
b) That organized religions arose from a multitude of sects after the farming revolution in a `survival of the fittest' process to meet the challenge of maintaining social control in large groups.
There is much more for those interested in this topic but I move on.

Multilingualism
A multitude of languages co-exist cheek-by-jowl in New Guinea. This is not typical of foragers since the New Guineans live in fixed, mutually antagonistic villages, so each village tends to have its own culture and dialect.
Nevertheless, Diamond rhapsodizes about how the villagers all master several languages and how this would be so beneficial to us today.
He suggests that people who are bilingual (or more), not only have more fulfilled lives through accessing other cultures, but also have a more finely honed cognitive ability. A Canadian study even suggests that bilinguals are less likely to get Alzheimer's disease.

This is all very positive, true. But I have difficulty accepting that multilingualism is part of the human condition. It is unlikely that forager bands in our ancestral past lived next to a band that spoke a different language. In fact, in the beginning, there must have been just one language for all.
Secondly, according to cognitive scientist Steven Pinker The Language Instinct there is a dedicated language center in the baby's brain and the mother tongue takes root there - to the exclusion of the next language. So when we learn a second language it has to make do with the general computing areas of the brain - which is why it is so much harder to do.

Feeding Patterns
Over his 50 years of contact with New Guinea tribesmen Diamond has seen a remarkable change.
In the early years they were `lean, muscular, physically active, all of them resembling slim Western body-builders'.
The degenerative diseases that kill westerners today (e.g. cancers and CVD) were absent even in old people.
Fast-forward 50 years and today one sees obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. What has changed? The westernization of their diet of course.

Diamond fingers salt, sugary drinks, simple (`sugar-yielding') carbohydrates, bad fats, processed food, butter, cream and red meat. He admits that this advice is `banal' but pleads that if people heeded it, then that would still be beneficial.

My readers know that we can do much better than that. Diamond mentions a Palaeolithic diet - but then passes on - New Guinea tribesmen are not true hunter-gatherers and don't fit into his paradigm. Today we have better sources, presumably unknown to Diamond, notably my own book [Deadly Harvest: The Intimate Relationship Between Our Health and Our Food]!

Diamond's Suggestions for us Today
Traditional peoples have been unconsciously executing thousands of experiments on how to operate a human society and we can learn lessons for the way WE do things.

But Diamond admits that it's hard to raise American children like New Guinea children when no one in the neighborhood is doing the same.
On the other hand, he favors on-demand breast-feeding which, with the right determination, is within the possibilities of most mothers.

Like foragers, grandparents can make themselves useful by "easing the lives of their working adult children and enrich lives of their grandchildren and of themselves by providing high-quality one-on-one child care to their grandchildren".

Just like many observers (e.g. Daniel Everett above) Diamond notes that foragers are WELL-ADJUSTED and at ease with themselves in ways that are rare in Western societies.

He sums it up like this: "Foragers are socially rich and economically poor; Westerners are the opposite."

My View?
This book is an easy read yet has eye-opening notions - especially for those unfamiliar with the wondrous insights gained from an understanding of where we come from, and the lessons for us today.

Diamond marshalled the material to launch a real questioning of modern industrial society - and in this I am reminded of Aldous Huxley's `Procrustean Bed' [Brave New World]. Huxley warned us back in 1936 that "...the scientist will prepare the bed on which mankind must lie; and if mankind does not fit - well, that will be just too bad for mankind. There will have to be some stretching and amputations..."

But in my view Diamond pulled his punches - quite naturally for, as a UCLA professor, he had already pushed the politically correct envelope as far as he dare - so well done!
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We have found a witch, may we burn him?, 17 Feb 2013
By 
Julie Cutler - See all my reviews
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Jared Diamond is a 75 year old American academic who confesses to having trouble with TV remote controls and enjoyed many years studying birds in New Guinea. He writes about evolutionary and historical changes from a multidisciplinary angle.I've found his previous books intriguing, although more recent works have been slightly drier to my taste. This book returns to a more chatty open style found in his earlier works, but to me lacks new content. This is mainly because it is a summary of anthropological literature and I've got this degree thing in Prehistory and Archaeology (bit dusty, but most of the groups mentioned: the Nuer, Yanomami, Inuit, !Kung are old friends).

For some reason, he's really upset some people. You'd think this was a soldier's autobiography entitled "my struggle". Reading this fairly mild mannered book, which considers the good and the bad points of "Westernised" society versus the good and bad points of (uh oh, how to categorise without incurring the ire of guily Whities) "traditional" societies (oops, said it, quick, duck!). Diamond mildly concludes there's contradictory advantages to both. The only point he's really vehement about is how we should all cut down on salt, fat and sugar content. Ta Jared for finally getting into my head what blood pressure measurments mean, but otherwise it was just an imiable read for me hence 4 stars.

So wassup? Technically Diamond's statement that us as anatomically modern humans have been gatherer-hunters for most of our existence is correct (Palaeolithic...old stone age will do as a term). After the end of the last glacial maximum, when European latitudes got warmer and the soggy Sahara got drier (and the same for the Southern hemisphere) our species started to adopt a more settled lifestyle in various geographical locations associated with domestication of animals and plants (Neolithic...new stone age). This wasn't an immediate or total adaptation, and rather depended on available species and their adaptation to climatic variations (Sweden is way later in the wheat-barley domestication than the original domestication in Southern Turkey/ Mesopotamia) There are other starch crop based adaptations worldwide. Gatherer-Hunting still existed but as a total lifestyle would have become increasingly marginalised. Farmers are stroppy territorial folk. However both pre and post farming cultures are seen as egalitarian. Relatively late on in human history (Bronze Age and following) it's envisaged that Some people get richer at the expense of the majority (they have metal rich spetacular burials in exclusive tombs) and this indicates early state formation, which eventually became the joyous economically wobbly city dwelling nations like the one I reside in.

Strangely Diamond is criticised for
1. Using Anthropology studies to extrapolate Archaeological behaviour ( umm, ok so that's the reason for my degree stuffed). "Archaeology is Anthropology or it is nothing" Wiley and Philllips 1958. Well, no you shouldn't lift a contemporary group wholemeal into the past, but as similar groups face the same survival challenges as our (and their) ancestors there will be similarites in behaviour. And it's pretty much all that poor little academics have to go on, especially as most major archeological sites were effectively trashed by past excavators on the hunt for stiffs and goodies. And then they failed to publish.
2. Using data from agricultural societies such as New Guinea.......well he states his pivotal moment is social stratification and state formation, not the adoption of farming.

3. Diamond is criticised for not labelling tribal peoples as "primitive savages" himself, but somehow inciting reviews in different popular newspapers to use the words "primitive" and "savage" (not together in the same article or even language, though). Honestly .....the main cited critic really says this.

What he does that has me going oops is the uncritical citing of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon. Described to us students as a bit of a bruiser, Chagnon's study of the Yanomami, "the Fierce People", has attracted criticism from other anthropologists and the Yanomami themselves as overstressing the role of violence in their culture. This isn't exactly news, it was published in 1968.

"The Satanic verses" was a dull book, this isn't. I don't find it's message particularly earth shattering. I still like Diamond. My respect for Survival International has taken a big dive.

And yes this was the shortened version of humanity, so no point in getting stroppy with me...especially as I'm not hiding my ID. Diamond just wants you to have a healthy happy long life, poor soul.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great idea for a book. First part is much better than the latter part, 22 April 2014
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The stated premise for this book is a great one. For the great majority of the human story, people have lived as foragers living in smallish groups rather than farmers or people living in large-scale industrial societies. It therefore makes sense that we could learn a lot of interesting and useful things from people who still live a foraging lifestyle. The first half or so of the book deals with some of the features of such traditional lifestyles. Much of this part of the book is very interesting indeed, particularly topics such as the danger of violence and starvation. The sections on childcare and raising children is fascinating, particularly the amount of time that babies spend attached to their parents in slings. Mr Diamond has a tendency to drift into long anecdotes about his travels as a younger man, but there is enough interesting factual information in the first half to keep the reader's interest.

The latter part of the book is less good. In this part of the book, rather than telling the reader about traditional societies, Mr Diamond instead shares his opinions on a variety of topics. There is a tired discussion of religion where Mr Diamond provides a long and rambling discussion about why religion may have developed, and he makes the case that belief in religion is superstitious nonsense. Mr Diamond is of course entitled to his opinion, but what on earth has this to do with hunter-gatherer societies? Mr Diamond then shares his opinions on topics such a computer games, monoligualism, and the western diet. This part of the book tells us very little about traditional societies, and seems to have the goal of convincing the reader that Mr Diamond holds the politically acceptable opinions for a US liberal, rather than actually teaching us anything useful or interesting. Nobody likes to be preached to, and most particularly not by someone we have paid to inform and entertain us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit samey, 30 April 2014
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If you have read any other of Jared Diamond's books you'll probably be disappointed as it rehashes his general themes. If you haven't then it may be worth reading.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't get swayed by the critics, 8 April 2013
By 
J. Davies "dondada" (London, London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? (Hardcover)
Not as good as Guns, Germs & Steel but a thought-provoking read nevertheless.
Very disappointed with Survival International for criticising Jared so publicly - they obviously have an agenda to protect traditional people above all else - as the criticisms are quite frankly absurd when applied to Mr Diamond.
The idea that he would intentionally cause harm to the peoples that he loves so much is just ridiculous.
Just as the idea that you cannot in any way criticise traditional peoples is also nonsense.

Very interesting lessons to be learnt by us WEIRD people, particularly on child-rearing and legal retribution.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (3.5/5) Basic, Informative and Grandfatherly, but against valid criticisms, 28 Feb 2013
This review is from: The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? (Hardcover)
I know nothing about anthropology...I speak as a interested but casual reader, Diamonds target audience.

This book is accessible, easy to understand. It has a kind of self-help vibe to it, which you may or may not like. It personally made me think. Jared seems to be always empathetic to the tribes in question, even when talking about infancide, he does not brand it as bad, he is not judgemental - and frankly, who in their right mind could be? We don't practice it in our developed country simply because of the division of labour ie. population size and technology allows us to look after disabled and sick people.

The book doesn't allow itself the scope to look at what current debates in the field are, which would be interesting to know. The purpose is to draw some more community-centred solutions to problems we face in developed nation-societies.

His work has not gone without criticism from Corry[search: Savaging Primitives: Why Jared Diamond's `The World Until Yesterday' Is Completely Wrong]

In short - I think the critic makes valid points. He argues that Diamond overlooks state oppression of tribes people, and cites widely discredited authors, one of which has apparently denied a genocide. Corry's critique of how to measure deaths in a war makes a mockery of Jared's methodology. Certainly Jared does have an ideology that the 'sate society' is the one tribe, and certainly that it is superior to a traditional society.

The conclusion of the critique paints Diamond as a neo-colonial brute - but I simply can't read that into the book. I do think that there are some valid questions to answer for...there is certainly some evidence that puts a question mark over Diamond, but I would like to know how he answers the questions before making my judgement. Corry seems defensive to a point of paranoia, which kind of puts me off him, but once that is recognised and put to the side, his critique is mostly valid.

In the end I say 'mostly' because 'The world until yesterday' is an empathetic book towards the tribes people, there certainly does not seem to be a conquestial manifesto - although he does support *some* manifestation of state order - he iterates that the tribes way is actually better. Ultimately for me, if TWUY disappointing, then it is disappointing only because ACTUALLY I did not learn enough about tribes - half the book is telling us about what we need to change in our society.

I would recommend this book to anyone, as long as they read the critical review too!
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review, 7 Jan 2013
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

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.

This then brings us to the problem of solving the difficulties that civilization has left us with. Now, when it comes to solving our problems, it is without a doubt the spirit of our age to look ever forward for solutions--by which I mean we tend to look for new technologies and hitherto untested arrangements to help us out of our current predicaments. However, when we consider that our traditional lifestyle served us well for millennia on end, and that it was under this lifestyle wherein we underwent much of the biological and psychological evolution that lives with us to this day, we can begin to see how it may be fruitful to look back at this traditional lifestyle for possible solutions to the problems we now face. (This idea is not new; indeed, the `state of nature' has traditionally been of great interest to philosophers--for it has been thought that understanding how we lived by nature may serve as a guide to help us design the most fitting political communities given our present circumstances).

Also of interest here--and deeply connected to the more practical goal mentioned above--is that investigating our traditional way of life promises to shed light on our underlying human nature in a way that is not possible when we look at ourselves through the obscuring artifice of civilization. It is these things that we stand to gain by learning about traditional societies, and it is this very project that geographer Jared Diamond takes up in his new book The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

Diamond is certainly not one to deny that civilization has brought with it many important benefits over our traditional way of life (the most important of which, according to the author, being that state governments are much more effective at ending the cycles of violence that tend to plague traditional societies). However, Diamond does contend that there are many areas wherein traditional practices represent an improvement over how we do things in the modern world, and that these practices could (and should) be incorporated into our modern way of life (both at the personal and societal level). Specifically, we could afford to learn a thing or two from traditional societies when it comes to conflict resolution (how to re-establish and mend relationships); raising children (that it really does take a whole village to raise a child); treating the elderly (that they are deserving of respect, and are still capable of contributing to the community in many important ways); approaching risk (with extensive caution); communicating (in a face to face way, and with multiple languages); and in diet and exercise (favoring natural foods, reducing salt, and sugar intake, and adopting a more active lifestyle).

In the course of his exploration of traditional societies, Diamond also delves into why and how our ancestors transitioned from traditional societies to civilizations (with a focus on such areas as social, economic and political stratification, and also religion).

Diamond has made a career out of studying the traditional societies of Papua New Guinea, and is therefore a very credible authority on the subject matter at hand. What's more, his wealth of experience has left him with a trove of interesting and illuminating anecdotes to draw from, and these are on full display here. Finally, I felt that the author always maintained a very sober and balanced view with regards to the benefits and drawbacks of both traditional and modern societies. I would have liked to have seen certain topics discussed more, and others less, but this is mere personal preference. Altogether a very good book. A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com; a podcast discussion of the book is also available.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible insight, 20 Mar 2014
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Jared Diamond is such an original thinker. He seems to see correlations that we all miss but become blindingly obvious when he points them out. A great student of mankind
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