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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 9 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.

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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.

    6 out of 8 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 April 29, 2014

    FlaringStar

    A dappled grey and gold shecat paced, icy blue eyes blazing nervously. She hoped at least a few cats would show up.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2009

    Very informative, but not the book for me.

    When picking up this book the title drew me in. Another thing that drew me in was the cover of an Aztec monument. Unfortunately, the title mislead me into thinking it would be about societies forced to eat each other for lack of food, or war tactics which lead to men dying. When reading the prologue, I was informed that my fantasy of a book was non existent. Instead, in the prologue, I read things about families in Montana and his enjoyment for fly-fishing. Not something you would expect from a book of that title. This was not the ideal book for me, and it being 592 pages wasn't a good asset since I had limited time to read it. For some reason, I decided to persevere in hope that it would be a book that would get better as you get into it. By the time I had gotten into the actual book I realized most of the things he talks about have to do with the environment, such as taking away all our resources, not about war. I didn't think this made sense at all because in our history class we had learned so much about how civilizations like Rome and China whose corruption within the society would lead to their downfall. Instead he talks about civilizations like Easter Island, the Maya, and Anasazi. All of which didn't succeed due to some type of environmental damage.
    I would recommend this book to someone 18 or older because of his boring ideas of how societies are and have been making themselves collapse. The most interesting portion of the book in my opinion is when he talks about possible factors of collapse in the future. That isn't saying much though because it could put most people to sleep, including me.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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