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Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post 
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 Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post
Book review: "The World Until Yesterday" by Jared Diamond
By Rachel Newcomb, Friday, January 25

Diamond continues this approach throughout, describing where traditional practices have existed until very recently, noting which were worth eliminating — such as infanticide, which was prevalent because small, nomadic societies often could not support too many children in infancy — and which we could learn something from, such as diet and nutrition.

The catch is that many of the ways of life that Diamond suggests we imitate seem to disappear once traditional societies become integrated into the global economy. Diabetes, for example, is almost nonexistent in societies that depend on hunting and gathering or small-scale agriculture, but with the adoption of the modern Western diet, high in processed foods and fats, rates of the disease soar. Take the Nauru islanders of the Pacific, who in the 1920s abandoned their fishing and agricultural lifestyle for phosphate wealth. Today, in addition to obesity, two-thirds of the population over age 55 suffers from diabetes, less than a century after the disease first made its appearance.


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At the bottom of this review there is a comment someone left that you really should read:

The first problem with Diamond’s book is that he uses contemporary tribal peoples (of which, in most cases, he has absolutely no first-hand experience) to tell us (the industrialised West) how we used to live. It’s nonsense – the notion that today’s tribal peoples are in some way a relic of the past has not only been debunked by many scientists, it is also extremely dangerous to the survival of those peoples. The second problem is that he extrapolates wildly from highly questionable data, positing as scientific fact the violent nature of tribal peoples. This he uses to justify his belief that they welcome the imposition of the state. It’s the old rhetoric of colonialism and ‘pacification of the savages’ dressed up as science. Were he to be believed, it risks pushing the advancement of human rights for tribal peoples back decades. Survival International will shortly release a critique of Diamond.

And here is a link to Survival International, "the movement for tribal people."



Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:35 pm
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Post Re: Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post
On the violence of "tribal peoples," Diamond would get some support from Steven Pinker, who presents data in The Better Angels of Our Nature indicating that hunter-gatherer life was more violent than the life of settled agriculture. It's all a matter of rates, so a few murders in small groups may be a higher rate than many more occurring in a larger society.



Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:52 am
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Post Re: Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post
Chris OConnor wrote:
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At the bottom of this review there is a comment someone left that you really should read:

The first problem with Diamond’s book is that he uses contemporary tribal peoples (of which, in most cases, he has absolutely no first-hand experience) to tell us (the industrialised West) how we used to live. It’s nonsense – the notion that today’s tribal peoples are in some way a relic of the past has not only been debunked by many scientists, it is also extremely dangerous to the survival of those peoples. The second problem is that he extrapolates wildly from highly questionable data, positing as scientific fact the violent nature of tribal peoples. This he uses to justify his belief that they welcome the imposition of the state. It’s the old rhetoric of colonialism and ‘pacification of the savages’ dressed up as science. Were he to be believed, it risks pushing the advancement of human rights for tribal peoples back decades. Survival International will shortly release a critique of Diamond.


This comment criticising Jared Diamond is slightly bizarre in its assertion that Diamond has little experience with tribal people. He has worked extensively for decades in the remotest parts of New Guinea, among the largest group of humans who recently made contact with the modern world. Diamond has a lot of experience with tribal people. The commenter holds a romantic notion of traditional people.

There is no doubt that today’s tribal peoples are in some way a relic of the past. As Diamond explains, tribal people retain cultural practices from their past, expecially forming small close knit groups. There are many such norms and practices which have largely been lost in the anonymity of mass society. To say the connections that tribal people have to their traditional culture has been "debunked" is really rather stupid. Diamond explains these connections in great detail, for example over access to land. His argument is that many norms from pre-modern culture have lessons to teach the modern world. That is a statement of respect for tradition.


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Sun Jan 27, 2013 10:17 am
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Post Re: Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post
Robert wrote:
This comment criticising Jared Diamond is slightly bizarre in its assertion that Diamond has little experience with tribal people. He has worked extensively for decades in the remotest parts of New Guinea, among the largest group of humans who recently made contact with the modern world. Diamond has a lot of experience with tribal people. The commenter holds a romantic notion of traditional people.


I was thinking the same thing as I read chapter 1 last night.



Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:47 am
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Post Re: Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post
I've posted below the link to "Anthropology Report". The report, just published January 21, 2013 contains numerous insightful comments from real anthropologists on Diamond's book.
It appears to be a good resource for information in general on the subjects of anthropology and anthropologists.


http://anthropologyreport.com/anthropol ... yesterday/



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Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:25 am
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Post Re: Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post
LevV wrote:
I've posted below the link to "Anthropology Report". The report, just published January 21, 2013 contains numerous insightful comments from real anthropologists on Diamond's book.
It appears to be a good resource for information in general on the subjects of anthropology and anthropologists.


http://anthropologyreport.com/anthropol ... yesterday/


Very nice, thanks for the link.

I started reading Diamond, but I'm attempting to do it by taking it out of the library multiple times.



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Post Re: Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post
I bit the bullet and bought the book - $38.00 Canadian, ouch! I didn't want to wait the two weeks it often takes from Amazon and an ebook nonfiction book just doesn't work for me.
I've completed the first chapter and look forward to a good discussion of the book.



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Post Re: Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post
Just saw this article talking about Survival International's criticism of the book:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/fe ... al-peoples

Seems to me they're arguing against the wrong person



Sun Feb 03, 2013 1:26 pm
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Post Re: Review of "The World Until Yesterday" from the Washington Post
Diamond, of course, reaches the same conclusions as Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature. Both cite statistics they say show that h-g and tribal life is more violent than life in state societies. (Interestingly, Diamond tells us that the earliest phases of settled agricultural life are much more violent than the simpler societies.) Diamond also cites h-g people who expressed gratitude at coming under state control, because only then did they find that the cycle of revenge-fueled killing could stop. It would seem that Diamond is facing a pc backlash. It seems a bit unfair of Survival to be saying this when the very subtitle of his book is "What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?" He doesn't answer, "Nothing," by any means.



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