A Short History of Progress

Overview

Each time history repeats itself, the cost goes up. The twentieth century—a time of unprecedented progress—has produced a tremendous strain on the very elements that comprise life itself: This raises the key question of the twenty-first century: How much longer can this go on? With wit and erudition, Ronald Wright lays out a-convincing case that history has always provided an answer, whether we care to notice or not. From Neanderthal man to the Sumerians to the Roman Empire, A Short History of Progress dissects ...

See more details below
Paperback (New Edition)
$11.42
BN.com price
(Save 28%)$15.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (23) from $5.20   
  • New (15) from $5.20   
  • Used (8) from $6.88   
Sending request ...

Overview

Each time history repeats itself, the cost goes up. The twentieth century—a time of unprecedented progress—has produced a tremendous strain on the very elements that comprise life itself: This raises the key question of the twenty-first century: How much longer can this go on? With wit and erudition, Ronald Wright lays out a-convincing case that history has always provided an answer, whether we care to notice or not. From Neanderthal man to the Sumerians to the Roman Empire, A Short History of Progress dissects the cyclical nature of humanity's development and demise, the 10,000-year old experiment that we've unleashed but have yet to control. It is Wright's contention that only by understanding and ultimately breaking from the patterns of progress and disaster that humanity has repeated around the world since the Stone Age can we avoid the onset of a new Dark Age. Wright illustrates how various cultures throughout history have literally manufactured their own end by producing an overabundance of innovation and stripping bare the very elements that allowed them to initially advance. Wright's book is brilliant; a fascinating rumination on the hubris at the heart of human development and the pitfalls we still may have time to avoid.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A provocative assembling of evidence from history, archaeology and anthropology that what we call civilization may carry the seeds of its own destruction. Already a bestseller in his native Canada, essayist Wright is now making his biggest mark since his debut novel (A Scientific Romance, 1997) attracted wide attention. The "progress" in the present title is purely ironic: These case studies-of ancient Sumer, the Maya in Central America, Rome, Greece and others-aim to show man as a parasitic species that constantly violates its own first rule of survival: "Don't kill off your host." In setting the scene, the author, perhaps most controversially, asserts that Stone Age hunters regularly drove their prey into extinction. As he tracks major transitions in the two linked "experiments" of agriculture and civilization that coincided with the opening of a favorable climate window in Neolithic times, Wright is logical and penetrating: The former wheat fields of Mesopotamia's fertile crescent are now salt pans and flood plains in Iraq, and some 200,000 Roman farmers were on federal subsistence by the time the Gothic horde reached Rome in the fourth century. On Easter Island, somebody cut down the last tree standing to make rollers in order to situate a freshly carved monolith. And if Earth's climate is better today than it's ever been, Wright postulates, what happens if it reverts (as it has before, taking only decades) to its norm of extreme shifts? "As we domesticated the plants, they domesticated us. Without us, they die; without them, so do we." The author declares outright that farmland the size of Scotland, much of it in Asia, is lost every year. Terrorist suicide bombers are nothing new, heasserts, citing Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, written a century ago, and they're a small threat compared to hunger, disease or climate change. Attacking terrorism's causes rather than its symptoms, he believes, might also save civilization from itself. Illuminating and disturbing, and expansively documented.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786715473
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 211
  • Sales rank: 277,917
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Table of Contents

I Gauguin's questions 1
II The great experiment 29
III Fools' paradise 55
IV Pyramid schemes 81
V The rebellion of the tools 107
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)