Customer Reviews for

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

Ap History: A description of my opinon of the book

I thought that the book Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed was an exellent read and book. Collapse makes you rethink about our world and the ancient world, including how civilizations even our own civilization, with modern technology and advanced medici...
I thought that the book Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed was an exellent read and book. Collapse makes you rethink about our world and the ancient world, including how civilizations even our own civilization, with modern technology and advanced medicine, can still fall. The information provided in the book was very provocative. The book was overall an exellent read from the beginning to end because of how the information was conveied. Jared diamond keeps the book an interesitng book by telling the information in a non-lecturing way, and more of an intellectual creative way. Diamond is able to show how different societies and civilizations fall or succeed by not only using examples like Easter Island from the past, but also mondern Montana from today. These thoughts, along with how they are presented make this book a great read for students, teachers, professors, and people who enjoy reading about history in a new provocative way.
Jared Diamond is able to complete his purpose very effectivley. Jared Diamond is able to complete his purpose by breaking the book into different parts using effective organization. The book is broken into different parts. Part One is about Modern Montana which talks about the vunlerablities in Montana's social and political frameworks. Parr two discusses the old societies of Easter, Pitcairn and Henderson Islands, the Anasazi, Maya, vikings,and Norse Greenland. Part three discussess modern socities in Africa, the Dominican Republic and Hati, China, and Austraila. Finnally part four summarizes why all of these socities fell or succeeded, or how they may or may not fall. All of the analysis of these socities revolve aroud five key reasons. The reasons are envriomental damage, climate, change, hostile neighbors, frinedly trade partners, and how socities respond to their own, unique environmental challenges. With this style of organization Jared Diamond is able to complete his purpose by continually revist the point of his five point frame work as to why the particular society failed or succeeded. Since Diamond was able to successfully created his purpose throught out the book, the book made more sense and without out the framework the book would have been uncomprehensiable and impossable to read and understand.

posted by abcJL on December 7, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

10 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

Good and bad points - approach with open, critical mind

Diamond uses a broad selection of societies, both historical and contemporary, to advance his thesis that most societies collapse primarily due to environmental causes. However in some instances, I think that he overstates the impact that human mismanagement has on the ...
Diamond uses a broad selection of societies, both historical and contemporary, to advance his thesis that most societies collapse primarily due to environmental causes. However in some instances, I think that he overstates the impact that human mismanagement has on the collapses. For example, when describing why the Norse floundered in Greenland after 500 years there he largely attributes it to their unwillingness to let go of their traditional agrarian values in lieu of adopting the Inuit values. It is quite possible that the defining cause of collapse is that the environment in Greenland was simply too harsh to support that many settlers and one of the recurring droughts was simply too severe to be survived. In other words, they shouldn't have settled there to begin with. Instead of criticizing the Norse for ONLY surviving for 500 years instead of say 1,000 years maybe we should be patting them on the back for managing to last longer than 400 years. A far more critical problem (for me at least) is that in three places in the book he speaks approvingly of China's tough policy on population control. At one point he explicitly acknowledges that the policy is based on forcible abortions and sterilizations of women. Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, it is tough to say that forcibly strapping a woman down and aborting her fetus and sterilizing her against her wishes is a good thing. It's barbaric. Towards the end of the book, when he is making policy suggestions he refers to the famous bet between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich and takes a gratuitious slam at Simon (who died last year and is unable to defend himself). Sure enough, as I read the acknowledgements I came across Paul Ehrlich's name. The slam on Simon was unnecessary and not germane to the book. Another problem arises when he discusses the LA riots and some other aspects of life in LA. I happened to be living in downtown LA during the riots and I had the experience of watching the city burning from the roof of my apartment building. His comments [for example criticizing the wealthy for 'living in gated communities, drinking bottled water, using private security guards and sending their children to private schools'], which were not strictly in support of his thesis, displayed a reliance on the same standard reactionary Liberal dogma. That reduces my inclination to accept his other conclusions because it tends to amplify the possibility that they will be based on a biased interpretation of the facts. One interestingly unexpected point was when he devoted a few pages to extolling Chevron's behavior in Papua New Guinea. Although I bet Diamond would be opposed to oil drilling in ANWR (like most environmentalists), I will use his Chevron-Papua New Guinea pages to lobby Congress in FAVOR of drilling in ANWR. It's a perfect example of how we can successfully drill for oil without disrupting nature! Although there are a number of places where Diamond was not successful at stifling some of his more 'Liberal' instincts, I am intelligent enough to make my own conclusions. The book has a number of good points and it was successful at increasing my sensitivity to the environment. He would count that as a 'win' I am sure.

posted by Anonymous on May 19, 2005

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2005

    Good and bad points - approach with open, critical mind

    Diamond uses a broad selection of societies, both historical and contemporary, to advance his thesis that most societies collapse primarily due to environmental causes. However in some instances, I think that he overstates the impact that human mismanagement has on the collapses. For example, when describing why the Norse floundered in Greenland after 500 years there he largely attributes it to their unwillingness to let go of their traditional agrarian values in lieu of adopting the Inuit values. It is quite possible that the defining cause of collapse is that the environment in Greenland was simply too harsh to support that many settlers and one of the recurring droughts was simply too severe to be survived. In other words, they shouldn't have settled there to begin with. Instead of criticizing the Norse for ONLY surviving for 500 years instead of say 1,000 years maybe we should be patting them on the back for managing to last longer than 400 years. A far more critical problem (for me at least) is that in three places in the book he speaks approvingly of China's tough policy on population control. At one point he explicitly acknowledges that the policy is based on forcible abortions and sterilizations of women. Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, it is tough to say that forcibly strapping a woman down and aborting her fetus and sterilizing her against her wishes is a good thing. It's barbaric. Towards the end of the book, when he is making policy suggestions he refers to the famous bet between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich and takes a gratuitious slam at Simon (who died last year and is unable to defend himself). Sure enough, as I read the acknowledgements I came across Paul Ehrlich's name. The slam on Simon was unnecessary and not germane to the book. Another problem arises when he discusses the LA riots and some other aspects of life in LA. I happened to be living in downtown LA during the riots and I had the experience of watching the city burning from the roof of my apartment building. His comments [for example criticizing the wealthy for 'living in gated communities, drinking bottled water, using private security guards and sending their children to private schools'], which were not strictly in support of his thesis, displayed a reliance on the same standard reactionary Liberal dogma. That reduces my inclination to accept his other conclusions because it tends to amplify the possibility that they will be based on a biased interpretation of the facts. One interestingly unexpected point was when he devoted a few pages to extolling Chevron's behavior in Papua New Guinea. Although I bet Diamond would be opposed to oil drilling in ANWR (like most environmentalists), I will use his Chevron-Papua New Guinea pages to lobby Congress in FAVOR of drilling in ANWR. It's a perfect example of how we can successfully drill for oil without disrupting nature! Although there are a number of places where Diamond was not successful at stifling some of his more 'Liberal' instincts, I am intelligent enough to make my own conclusions. The book has a number of good points and it was successful at increasing my sensitivity to the environment. He would count that as a 'win' I am sure.

    10 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2009

    Ap History: A description of my opinon of the book

    I thought that the book Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed was an exellent read and book. Collapse makes you rethink about our world and the ancient world, including how civilizations even our own civilization, with modern technology and advanced medicine, can still fall. The information provided in the book was very provocative. The book was overall an exellent read from the beginning to end because of how the information was conveied. Jared diamond keeps the book an interesitng book by telling the information in a non-lecturing way, and more of an intellectual creative way. Diamond is able to show how different societies and civilizations fall or succeed by not only using examples like Easter Island from the past, but also mondern Montana from today. These thoughts, along with how they are presented make this book a great read for students, teachers, professors, and people who enjoy reading about history in a new provocative way.
    Jared Diamond is able to complete his purpose very effectivley. Jared Diamond is able to complete his purpose by breaking the book into different parts using effective organization. The book is broken into different parts. Part One is about Modern Montana which talks about the vunlerablities in Montana's social and political frameworks. Parr two discusses the old societies of Easter, Pitcairn and Henderson Islands, the Anasazi, Maya, vikings,and Norse Greenland. Part three discussess modern socities in Africa, the Dominican Republic and Hati, China, and Austraila. Finnally part four summarizes why all of these socities fell or succeeded, or how they may or may not fall. All of the analysis of these socities revolve aroud five key reasons. The reasons are envriomental damage, climate, change, hostile neighbors, frinedly trade partners, and how socities respond to their own, unique environmental challenges. With this style of organization Jared Diamond is able to complete his purpose by continually revist the point of his five point frame work as to why the particular society failed or succeeded. Since Diamond was able to successfully created his purpose throught out the book, the book made more sense and without out the framework the book would have been uncomprehensiable and impossable to read and understand.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Over-rated, pretentious and conventional

    Jared Diamond is Professor of Geography and Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. He writes, "This book employs the comparative method to understand societal collapses to which environmental problems contribute. My previous book (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies) had applied the comparative method to the opposite problem: the differing rates of buildup of human societies on different continents over the last 13,000 years."

    Part One looks at the environmental problems of modern Montana, Part Two at some failed societies - Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, the Anasazi civilisation in the US Southwest, the Maya, and Norse Greenland. Part Three looks at five modern societies, Rwanda, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, China and Australia, Part Four at the lessons.

    He shows how people have in the past inadvertently destroyed the resources on which their societies depended, by "deforestation and habitat destruction, soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses), water management problems, overhunting, overfishing, effects of introduced species on native species, human population growth, and increased per-capita impact of people."

    Now there are four new threats: "human-caused climate change, buildup of toxic chemicals in the environment, energy shortages, and full human utilization of the Earth's photosynthetic capacity." Diamond outlines "a five-point framework of possible contributing factors that I now consider in trying to understand any putative environmental collapse. Four of those factors - environmental damage, climate change, hostile neighbours, and friendly trade partners - may or may not prove significant for a particular society. The fifth set of factors - the society's responses to its environmental problems - always proves significant."

    Currently, some countries are indeed depleting their forests, wetlands, coral reefs, wild fish stocks (he fails to mention the EU's disastrous Common Fisheries Policy), species, farmland soil, freshwater underground aquifers and fossil fuels. But Diamond wrongly asserts that environmental problems are 'accelerating exponentially'. This is not so: for example, through good forest management, Europe's forest area is growing by about 0.5 million hectares a year.

    He notes the conflict between the short-term interests of those in power and society's long-term interests, writing, "what makes money for a business, at least in the short run, may be harmful for society as a whole." But he defends capitalism's most powerful bodies, the multinational corporations, while admitting that profit not welfare drives all their activities.

    The logic of his argument leads him to call for long-term planning and a reconsideration of our core values, but he never says a word against capitalism and never mentions Cuba. Yet Oxfam's Duncan Green wrote, "As of 2003, Cuba was the only country in the world that managed to live within its environmental footprint while achieving high levels of human development. This was probably due to its unique combination of sound environmental management, excellent health and education provision, and an inability to generate sustained growth in the market economy." (From poverty to power, 2008, page 114.)

    5 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2006

    Collapsing under the weight of it

    Everyone I know seems to have been blown away by this book. Having studies anthropology in grad school, I had a hard time finding much that was really all that original. In addition, Mr, Diamond seems to be from the grand ivory tower tradition of needing to back up his assertions with examples ad nauseum - there is really nothing, in terms of actual ideas, that couldn't have been conveyed in a book 100 pages long, with efficient references to the necessary examples required for depth and legitimacy. Guns, Germs and Steel left me feeling the same way - that I just spent way too much time reading about concepts that I should have been able to digest in an evening.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2012

    Regret purchasing this book

    I don't even know what to say, I read the first couple chapters found several blatant lies and tossed the book on the floor. From what I got out of the book is that he has an agenda of stopping the human race from harming the environment, because you know that's how societies failed in the past.

    I'd suggest buying a book that was written by someone who actually studies civilizations/history. You know instead of a geography professor.

    I rate this book: Complete failure.

    4 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A sweeping history of failing societies

    In this fascinating, surprising study, Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond examines how and why some societies fail while others thrive. Diamond makes this history of failed societies into a page-turner, while resisting the urge to oversimplify. He unflinchingly examines cannibalism and mass murder in the hellish downfalls of Easter Island and Rwanda. Yet, he also outlines hope-inspiring successes in New Guinea, Japan and the Dominican Republic. This fat tome is quite engrossing, though in spots Diamond shows an academic¿s weakness for repetition and caveats. Even so, this compelling classic deservedly has spent a long time on the bestseller lists. getAbstract recommends it to anyone who hopes to understand how human societies have gone wrong ¿ and right.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2005

    Provocative, but misguided

    Dr. Diamond is a very strong writer and lecturer, and this book is not lacking in the type of articulation you would expect from him. However, it is not obvious -- in light of last century's marked environmental improvement compared with the 19th century, especially in forestation -- that the problems and possible solutions found at such unique cases such as Pitcairn Island have any bearing on current and future policy. Diamond is undoubtedly a partisan (his second book, 'Guns, Germs, and Steel', was strongly endorsed by the Clinton administration and continues to be a progressive mainstay), and this book ought to be read with that in mind.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2005

    popular reading

    Jared Diamond has a popular thesis about the emergence of civilizations. The idea that the environment is the predominant factor obscures the role of human nature in history. An explanation of the world civilizations cannot be reduced to the environment. Human nature, greed, war and conquest are the most dominant themes shaping civilizations. It has for thousand of years of human evolution.

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Great Book

    I enjoyed it, unlike some of the other reviews I found it to be more than expected. The Easter Island chapter alone if worth the cost of the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating

    What a great book! Every time I put it down I couldn't wait to get back to it.

    RapidVisa

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2007

    Well worth the read! It changed my every day life!

    Collapse is a book that has changed my every day life, with a greater focus & more frequent 'second-thoughts' regarding my actions & their affect to not only our economy but more so to our wordly environment. The book is compelling & creates an awareness well beyond what you'll find in any TV show or even documentary. Simply because of the broad range of topics covered & their relation to today & the future, does it really speak to the heart. The book includes so much information that it shouldn't be surprising if there are parts that speak more to the reader than others. However, cover to cover, it's full of critical information that, in my opinion, should be required knowledge of people all across the world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2013

    Too preachy

    Mildly interesting, so long as you don't mind his phenomenal "I'm smarter than you" arrogance. He's waiting for society to fail so he can relish in his "I told you so" smugness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    Very preachy

    While the history of some of the ancient civiliations and their fall was interesting, far, far too much of this book is preachy save the earth rants, over and over.
    Very disappointing, expected more of this author, have read some of his other writings that were a lot more enlightening and interesting.
    We are plundering the land, some countries worse than others - we get it, we get it, now write something we don't know.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    A disappointing book

    The limitations of this book boil down to two things: 1)The paucity of the "historical" record and 2) Mr. Diamond's wish to be heard so he goes out of his way not offend anyone in his ending chapters. To sum up societal collapses have happened in the past due to among other things human environmental damage, climate change, and human population growth. He convinced me of that but whether any specific civilization he cites collapsed for the reasons he states is unconvincing. Second relying on the demographic transition to deal with the current population problem is probably not going to work. Mr. Diamond proposes nothing on this grave matter though he does express admiration for China's one child policy which makes him an exception among current thinkers on this. Mr. Diamond could have condensed this book to 20 pages in my opinion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2012

    Almost as good as Thomas Sowell.

    But not quite.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 25, 2011

    Great Book

    Definitely worth reading.

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  • Posted July 5, 2011

    This should be mandatory reading for all politicians.

    This is a well researched and well composed book. A little slow at first, but it sets the stage. This book is darn scary.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2011

    Fascinating Book!

    It was an amazing page turner and actually had be eating bone marrow (you'll get it when you read it).

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    Eye-opening

    A very comprehensive and easy to read account of environmental issues.

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  • Posted April 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Engrossing and thorough

    Jared Diamond follows Guns, Germs, and Steel with another thoroughly-researched and well-written investigative account of several lost societies. Unlike his previous work that outlines factors that have allowed societies to succeed, thrive, and spread; this work does heavy investigative work to explain the root cause of several disappearances. Overall, Collapse is an engaging read.

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