Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday - in evolutionary time - when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions.
The World until Yesterday provides a mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years - a past that has mostly vanished - and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today.
This is Jared Diamond’s most personal book to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn’t romanticize traditional societies - after all, we are shocked by some of their practices - but he finds that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. A characteristically provocative, enlightening, and entertaining book, The World until Yesterday will be essential and delightful listening.
©2012 Jared Diamond (P)2012 Penguin Audio
Incredibly fascinating subject, but is colored throughout by Diamonds own biases and preferences. I quit listening finally when he started with his apologia for atheism as an intro to the religion section. This may have been a really great book if someone else had written it.
This book was a disappointment compared to a few other Diamond titles I have read. I wouldn't particularly recommend it.
(1)Write succinctly and to the point. (2) Attempt to be humble and open-minded toward others whose beliefs are different than my own. Both of the above very much unlike the attitude of the author in this book.
Due to having enjoyed GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL and COLLAPSE, I expected more from "Traditional Societies" than what Diamond delivered. Generally, I agree with what many others have said in their reviews. I especially felt that many of his conclusions tend toward the obvious (What? I shouldn't eat these foods?). Hardly worthy of wading through such a long-winded analysis!
I listened to the audiobook version and appreciated the narration. I also appreciated the Anthropology 101 lessons near the beginning of the book describing the differences between bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and nations, and how these categories overlap and interact with decision-making structures, governments, war, agriculture, etc. I also was challenged by some of Diamond's thoughts about not taking unnecessary risks, child-rearing, and multilingualism as a preventative for Alzheimers.
I'll limit the rest of this review to express disappointment in Diamond's treatment of religion. Everyone has the right to believe what they want, but Diamond is way out of his league on the topic of religion. His presentation is elementary, one-sided, and tends toward being downright arrogant. Diamond would be well served by considering the last chapter of C.S. Lewis' THE ABOLITION OF MAN (available for free on line), which while not treating the subject of religion specifically, discusses the limits of the scientific method and the relevance of natural law. Quantum physicists (string theorists and others) have been grappling with some of these implications in recent years. Simplifications which help scientists do science sometimes break down in the end. There is still room for "mystery."
Diamond takes his decades of precious experience in New Guinea to demystify many of the customs and practices of traditional societies. This book dispelled many stereotypes I had of such peoples, and at the same time taught me about horrors that I never had imagined before! He offers many constructive suggestions for aspects of traditional lifestyles that we can, and should, adopt in the modern world. In particular, his observations got me to thinking about aspects of my own life, such as how I interact with friends and family, that probably could use some serious readjustment…
The narrator is very competent, but at times seems to be so utterly obsessed with clear enunciation that his pacing and tempo become, conversely, unnatural and jerky.
I was asking myself questions which Jared Diamond unfailingly answered 2 sentences later.
This book should have a life changing impact on most people!
Adds some much-needed biological and anthropological context to the modern societies we take for granted.
This book is part anthropology, sociology, education, parenting, history and policy making. One of Jared's best works that is well organized, written and applicable for both academics and regular folks.
Yes, only because I've read others from Jared Diamond, and they are much better than this one.
Least interesting - all the anecdotes from Jared's life and career. That might be the most interesting to others but not the reason I picked up this book. Not a lot of new insights, just anecdotal filler complementing a lot of what he already said in Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel
I would, but would jump around a bit more to different topics I wanted to look at.
Diamonds personal stories were quite griping. The section on religion opened my eyes on another reason for religion that I didn't know.
The store of the young child hit by a car and how justice was applied in their culture.
How have people changed sense they once all lived in traditional societies
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