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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a mind-reshaper, 15 May 1999
By A Customer
Some people read books the way they settle into a favorite armchair--to feel comfortable in a familiar setting or genre. Others read to have the all-too-familiar worldview with which they've grown bored cracked open like a walnut so they can eat a form of intellectual meat they've never before imagined. For the folks who are continually discontented with old ideas and who feed with manic delight on new ones, De Landa's book is a must. Once you've read the first hundred pages, you'll find yourself living in a new geopolitical and historical world. one whose inner workings you now see through a pair of x-ray goggles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but ..., 4 Dec 2011
This review is from: A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (Swerve Editions) (Paperback)
I read this when it first appeared and found it spellbinding (to the extent that elements of its vision became part of my own). However,revisiting the book recently I was struck by its latent eurocentrism. Indeed, stripped of its Deleuzian lexicon and Braudelian materiality De Landa's thousand year non-linear history seems perilously close to the familiar and all too linear history of the inevitable triumph of the West over a homogeneous, benighted 'rest'.

By way of illustration consider the following: 'in northern Europe in the middle ages, there was a gene coding for an enzyme that allowed adult humans to digest raw milk. Elsewhere, in the populations of China and Islam, the gene did not exist'. Given that the prevalence of said gene was about equal in the populations of Southern Europe and the 'populations of Islam'[sic] and far more prevalent than those of the Far East, the conjunction here of the latter two seems intent on biologizing an orientalist narrative. These concerns become acute in the case of the establishment of the 'neo-Europes' wherein the brutal violence entailed in the colonization of the Americas is absolved by the flow of genes. Non-linear history has no place for the kind of sickening, systematic violence chronicled in work like Las Casas' 'Devastation of the Indies'. But as others have noted the the extraordinary susceptibility of these populations to novel pathogens cannot be separated from savagery they endured, their displacement of huge numbers as slave labour, and subsequent malnutrition-factors that barely warrant mention in De Landa's account.

Perhaps the clearest expression of the text's underlying assumptions are found in its claim to 'disclose the self-directed processes of matter interfacing with the whim and will of human history itself to form a panoramic vision of the West, free of rigid teleology...The source of all concrete forms in the West's history rather, are shown to derive from internal morphogenetic capabilities that lie within the flow of matter-energy itself'. To be brief: where does the line between 'will of human history' and the emergent properties of matter lie; why should an account of the latter only yield a panoramic vision of the West; is the implication that only the West's concrete forms result from matter's innate morphogenetic potencies-- what of the concrete forms it liquidated ??

Ultimately De Landa appears to suggest that to raise questions of power and domination with regard to the concrete forms of conquest and genocide is a irrelevant as a morality of geology. But as Mike Davis 'Late Victorian Holocausts' shows there is no reason why a history alert to the impact of large scale non-linear processes (El Nino)cannot be combined with a exacting political economic analysis (the exacerbation of the former's effects by policies of various colonial administrations). In light of this, and taken in conjunction with his insistence that Deleuze and Guattari's be expunged of all residual Marxism, De Landa's reduction of political violence to the abstract movements of matter appears as a tacit endorsement of the kind of ideology more commonly associated with likes of Niall Ferguson.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful but strange, 5 Dec 2007
Mr. R. Wilson (UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (Swerve Editions) (Paperback)
I wrote the following review as part of my BSc Geography degree.

When dipping into a chapter entitled Geological History 1000-1700 AD one would expect to find information on rock types, the development of landforms and possibly the history of the development of geological though. In Manuel De Landa's book A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History however, this is not the case - what will actually be found is discussion of Christaller's Central Place Theory, the development of urban areas in both Europe and the Far East and different philosophical perspectives on these. This aspect of surprise continues throughout the book - De Landa's approach to all the topics covered is novel, and the insights gained from these approaches are huge.

Although the book is entitled A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, it is by no means a standard history book - it focuses on the application of historical processes, and generally the passage of time, to many areas within human geography. The most important word in the title is probably "nonlinear" as this is the way in which De Landa approaches all the areas covered in his book. It is very difficult to define what is meant by nonlinear - the author takes many pages for his explanation - but simply put it is considering history as a tree with many branches rather than one pure and straight linear course. This idea of nonlinearity is extended throughout the book to cover different types of nonlinear development (such as hierarchies and meshworks) and is used as part of the explanation for many areas of geographical development.

The book is divided into three parts (Lavas and Magmas, Flesh and Genes and Memes and Norms) each of which contains chapters which look at the specified topic from 1000-1700 AD and then from 1700-2000 AD. Sandwiched in the middle of each part is a section elaborating on some of the ideas introduced in the part - for example the Sandstone and Granite chapter within Lavas and Magmas elaborates on the ideas of hierarchies and meshworks, their definitions (within a variety of fields from biology to economics) and their effect on the development of urban geography. As mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, the names of the parts are metaphors for the content within them. For example, the first part is entitled Lavas and Magmas, and this metaphor is explained towards the end of the part by an analogy between lava and the physical constructs of cities. Some of these analogies are rather tenuous, but they all serve to give interesting new perspectives on familiar aspects of human geography.

Although De Landa's book is very interesting, and in many ways unique, it is also a difficult read. This is really par for the course when one is explaining the sort of complex ideas which are used in this book, and some may find this book completely inaccessible because of the complexity of the ideas discussed. The majority of topics are explained very well - but some topics come across as rather confusing. Also, some of the language is rather pretentious, and one can't help feeling that some of the ideas are not quite as complex as De Landa makes them out to be.

The presentation of A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History is, like the rest of the book, rather unusual. The striking front cover design makes the book stand out on a bookshelf - although the complexity of this cover design hinders the reading of the blurb on the back - one of the first places a prospective reader will look for information about the book. The choice of font size throughout the book is also interesting. De Landa has chosen to use larger font sizes at the beginning of each chapter - gradually reducing to a rather small font for the majority of each chapter and then increasing again towards the end. I assume this was chosen to accentuate the introduction and conclusion of each chapter - and in some ways that is a good aim. However, this has not helped my reading of the book - or my identification of the important parts of the chapter. It also has the side-effect of making the body of the chapter look very small, and this has made it quite difficult and tiring to read.

Overall, De Landa's book is a very interesting read. It takes a new approach to almost every topic covered and provides much food for thought. Although A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History should not be used as the main text for any of the topics covered it provides much useful background reading. Some parts of the book are difficult to read and understand, but perseverance will result in appreciation of the new perspectives raised by this usual book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deep explanation, 2 Mar 2014
Sabrina Been (San Antonio, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (Swerve Editions) (Paperback)
I didn't what to expect from his book when i chose it. Although it was slow in the beginning it did take a turn to the interesting. Really informative, great explanations, raises a lot of interesting issues. Good for anyone that likes to view the deeper meshwork of the whys of history, it's never as clear cut.
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A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (Swerve Editions)
A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (Swerve Editions) by Manuel De Landa (Paperback - 1 Nov 2000)
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