Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive Paperback – 26 Jan 2006
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"Mr. Diamond...is a lucid writer with an ability to make arcane scientific concepts readiily accesible to the lay reader, and his case studies of failed cultures are never less than compelling." The New York Times
..".Collapse is a magisterial effort packed with insight and written with clarity and enthusiasm." Businessweek
"Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse represent one of the most significant projects embarked upon by any intellectual of our generation. They are magnificent books: extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in their ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the far past. I read both thinking what literature might be like if every author knew so much, wrote so clearly and formed arguments with such care." Gregg Easterbrook, The New York Times Book Review" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
"Diamonds most influential gift may be his ability to write about geopolitical and environmental systems in ways that dont just educate and provoke, but entertain."
The Seattle Times
"Extremely persuasive . . . replete with fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes [and] haunting statistics."
The Boston Globe
"Extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in [its] ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the far past."
The New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
He begins with modern Montana, specifically Bitterroot Valley, a society in danger of failing because of deforestation, pollution, loss of productive top soil, and other factors. He follows this with Part 2, "Past Societies" in which the melancholy history of Easter Island and some other Pacific Islands is retold in fascinating detail. I was especially interested in the material on Easter Island, which, because of its relative isolation from the rest of the world over many centuries, has always served in my mind as a microcosmic cautionary tale for the entire planet. Although I have read other books about Easter Island and have seen a couple of documentaries, I found Diamond's exposition full of new information, offering fresh insights into how that society collapsed.
Also delineated in remarkably readable detail are the collapses of the Anasazi of the US southwest, the Maya in Mesoamerica, the Viking-founded colonies in the north Atlantic and especially in Greenland. There is some excellent material on how Iceland succeeded (barely) and how the New Guinea highland people managed to avoid the fate of some other Pacific Island societies, and why Japan succeeded in saving its forests and croplands in the time of the Tokugawa.Read more ›
The specific cases he discusses are, nevertheless, fantastically researched and very well described (even if he does go on a bit in places).
I have to say that after reading the Easter Island and the Pitcairn account with interest I had to struggle with the Anasazi and the Maya chapters, they seemed to be reiterating essentially the same albeit more complicated story in different guises and were frankly bit boring. The chapters devoted to the Viking fate in Greenland, with comparisons with their more successful stories in the Shetlands, Faeroes and Iceland, were, however; absolutely fascinating.
The modern section also had some gems, although, obviously , the reasoning couldn't have been as clear as in case in historical processes. Rwandan genocide is well analysed and the introduction of the ecological issues to the equation is indeed a very enlightening one. The chapter on Australia was perhaps the most interesting for me, with (as with the Vikings) the importance it put on the values and systems of the society in defining their treatment of their environment and their responses to the eventual crisis. I had no idea of the fact that until not so long ago farmers got government subsidy for clearing land of forest and other vegetation while the sheep farmers had to keep to minimum rather than maximum sticking levels!Read more ›
The book starts by setting out those questions which soceities must address if they are to survive and flourish. Basically these involve how they respond to changes in the environment (including trying to prevent detrminental changes), their degree of adaptability and their relations with other nearby or related societies. The hypothesis is that by studying these factors in relation to societies which have failed over time, it is possible to develop a theory of how societies fail, or decide to fail.
This is fascinating: history books normally focus on political processes, but Diamond's approach goes one step further back in identifying the material forces promoting certain types of political change (or indeed inertia). The account of the decline of societies in Easter Island and Greenland are as good as anything Diamond has written before and make for compelling reading. We are left with a rather more realistic view of our ancestors than is sometimes promoted: rather than living in harmony with mother nature they often made more shocking environmental mistakes than we do today; rather than being driven by primitive, mystical or religious motivations their social choices were largely determined by the material and economic priorities of governing elites.
The most important message from this book is a warning of what happens when societies throw caution to the wind and adopt unsustainable policies, living off preciouc environmental capital rather than limiting themselves to its fruits.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well written but very dense and needs to be read a bit at a time. Good contentPublished 4 months ago by Musical
there's not much I can say about diamond's writing that hasn't already been said.
he's thorough, sometimes to the point of seeming repetitive. Read more
I admit I was biased before I even started reading this work. I wanted to know about Easter Island and the Greenland Norse. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Søren Aabye Kierkegaard "Ed"
Very interesting perspective! Although bought for university, I ended up reading it again for leisure!Published 8 months ago by Rebecca Smith