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The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Versión Kindle

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A fascinating survey of a rapidly fading world (Economist)

Jared Diamond is one of the few people who have changed the way we see human nature and our history (Independent (BOOK OF THE WEEK))

Fascinating... a clear-eyed examination of life in traditional societies (Sunday Telegraph (BOOK OF THE WEEK))

Moving, well-told and fascinating.... The wide scope of the book means that almost everyone will find something of interest (Financial Times)

In The World Until Yesterday, Diamond cements his position as the most considered, courageous and sensitive teller of the human story writing today.... Diamond offers inimitable insight into our cultural history through the study of tribal communities, and an entertaining account of the human struggle.... Essential reading for anyone interested in the genesis of modern life (Independent on Sunday)

Fascinating... thought-provoking... A broad sweep through all humanity (Daily Telegraph (FIVE STARS))

The world has been waiting for this book (Times Higher Education)

One of the most interesting and arresting writers of our age.... The vast scope of his analysis, coupled with a lifetime's worth of personal insights, makes it fiercely persuasive (The Mail on Sunday)

Diamond's latest foray into a field that he has virtually made his own will be eagerly awaited by a global army of loyal readers (Observer)

A warm and reflective study... [Diamond] is a master of at least nine academic disciplines, from anthropology to ornithology, and the subject of his books is never less than everything (Bryan Appleyard Sunday Times)

Descripción del producto

From the author of No.1 international bestseller Collapse, a mesmerizing portrait of the human past that offers profound lessons for how we can live today

Visionary, prize-winning author Jared Diamond changed the way we think about the rise and fall of human civilizations with his previous international bestsellers Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse. Now he returns with another epic - and groundbreaking - journey into our rapidly receding past. In The World Until Yesterday, Diamond reveals how traditional societies around the world offer an extraordinary window onto how our ancestors lived for the majority of human history - until virtually yesterday, in evolutionary terms - and provide unique, often overlooked insights into human nature.

Drawing extensively on his decades working in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, Diamond explores how tribal societies approach essential human problems, from childrearing to conflict resolution to health, and discovers we have much to learn from traditional ways of life. He unearths remarkable findings - from the reason why modern afflictions like diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer's are virtually non-existent in tribal societies to the surprising benefits of multilingualism. Panoramic in scope and thrillingly original, The World Until Yesterday provides an enthralling first-hand picture of the human past that also suggests profound lessons for how to live well today.

Jared Diamond is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the seminal million-copy-bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, which was named one of TIME's best non-fiction books of all time, and Collapse, a #1 international bestseller. A professor of geography at UCLA and noted polymath, Diamond's work has been influential in the fields of anthropology, biology, ornithology, ecology and history, among others.

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  • Formato: Versión Kindle
  • Tamaño del archivo: 9409 KB
  • Longitud de impresión: 513
  • Números de página - ISBN de origen: 0143124404
  • Editor: Allen Lane (10 de enero de 2013)
  • Vendido por: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Quizá no sea la mejor obra de Diamond, pero es un gran libro de un autor imprescindible al que siempre es un deleite leer.
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Análisis de sociedades primitivas sobre todo Papua y Pacifico habitos y costumbres comparadas con las de hoy. Mucha información de primera mano y con fuentes confiables analizada inteligentemente, aunque no tiene los grandes "descubrimientos " de libros anteriores. El estilo es el típico de él, repetitivo y un poco pesado. Quizas la mayor parte de esto ya estaba en Levy bruhl y Malinowsky
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Excelente libro sobre las culturas de cazadores recolectores. Compara de forma amena nuestra forma de vida con la suya para que veamos los ventajas e inconvenientes y podamos extraer nuestras propias conclusiones.
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504 de 541 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
HASH(0x9927433c) de un máximo de 5 estrellas Another gem-albeit with some imperfections-from Diamond 31 de diciembre de 2012
Por Ursiform - Publicado en
Formato: Tapa dura Compra verificada
In two previous books Jared Diamond has explored how a fortunate confluence of advantages allowed Europeans to be the ones who largely conquered the world ("Guns, Germs, and Steel"), and how societies can be driven to collapse either by over exploiting their environment or by climate change that is more rapid than they can adjust to ("Collapse"). Now he tackles how people lived (and in some pockets still live) before "civilization" as we know it today arose. Once again Diamond demonstrates broad knowledge and a capacity to draw features of multiple societies together into a better understanding of humans as a species.

While I admire Diamond, some of his beliefs and conclusions are open to debate, and should not be taken uncritically. Anthropology is not an exact science, and reasonable, knowledgeable people can draw different conclusions from the same facts, with no way to test and prove one or another interpretation as correct. As I will explain, there are many arguments in this book I find compelling, but others where I think Diamond reaches too far. But anyone reading this book with an open mind will learn much about our species, and be challenged to consider a new way of looking at how people lived "until yesterday".

As will be expected by readers with Diamond experience, a lot of the book happens in New Guinea, where Diamond has made many trips to study the birds (he is, among other things, an ornithologist) and has many friends. Those of us who have read his prior books recognize his affinity for the people of New Guinea. Despite some protests to the contrary, it is not hard to get the impression that Diamond really enjoys their company more than that of Americans and other westerners. At times he seems somewhat prejudiced toward their social structures, although he also appears to recognize this and tries to resist putting them on too high a pedestal. But we all have a view of the world that we can't completely escape, so it's not fair to criticize Diamond too harshly for being, well, human.

The first interesting observation of the book is that until recently, and still in some areas, people rarely if ever encountered strangers. They encountered friends and they encountered enemies. But nearly everyone they encountered came from their group or a neighboring group, be that group friendly or hostile. Travelers were rare, and couldn't count on a warm welcome. In populated areas today we pass strangers every day and think nothing of it. We walk into shops and think nothing of exchanging pleasantries with people we've never met before. We travel long distances, and expect to be welcomed upon arrival. None of this happened a few thousand years ago.

Before the dawn of agriculture there were no large scale societies, because no land could support a dense population. There were also no governments, no police forces, no courts, and no armies. People worked out their differences, or they killed each other. When a bad interaction happened, intentionally or accidentally, a customary gesture of restoration might defuse the situation. Or a cycle of tit-for-tat killings might begin, and might continue for generations.

In a modern states wars occur only intermittently and, horrible as they can be, have a limited death toll. Hunter gatherer societies were often trapped in a cycle of violence and warfare with neighboring groups vying for the same resources. They often employed true total warfare, all against all, with the losers exterminated and their land appropriated. (The women might be taken as wives. The men died in the fight and the children were killed.)

The details vary from region to region, and Diamond provides a variety of examples. But when small groups of people have to eke out subsistence from a reluctant environment, neighboring groups can be as much an enemy as carnivores and drought. He also notes the similarity to chimpanzee behavior--the seeds have not fallen so far from the tree. By one calculation chimpanzee death rates due to warfare are similar to those in hunter gatherer societies! (Another Diamond book is "The Third Chimpanzee", about our similarities with and our differences from our cousins the chimps and bonobos.)

He also notes that while modern societies suppress the thirst for revenge, it doesn't go away. Hunter gatherers kill their enemies as part of their life, and go on with the other parts. We train soldiers to kill, but mostly tell them not to, creating a tension not common in hunter gatherer societies.

Diamond has a lot to offer on the differences in child rearing between traditional and modern societies. He notes that most modern research is focused on WEIRD (western educated industrial rich democracies) societies. (The term and concept are not original to him.) In fact, there is a tendency to generalize what professors and students in universities believe to everyone. He thinks highly of the "allo-parenting" that occurs in hunter gatherer societies, where other adults and even older children help rear, protect, and teach younger children. He sees it as helping to develop social skills, and it probably does, but especially for the type of society those children live in. (More of this occurs in rural areas and small towns in the west than in more urban areas, such as Southern California, where both Diamond and I live.)

Yet, for all the advantages he sees in the hunter gatherer lifestyle, Diamond notes that given the choice they choose to adopt a western lifestyle. They do so because living like "us" is simply easier and less risky than being a hunter gatherer.

He discusses the theory of religion, which will offend some people and interest others. He frames the value of religion in terms of defusing anxiety and making people feel better about their situation, in particular giving meaning to what seems meaningless. Diamond notes that religion can be used to explain to believers how "thou shall not kill" can become "thou must kill" under certain circumstances as determined by authorities. A distinction can be made between killing co-believers and nonbelievers. He also discusses how the success of a religion doesn't depend on its being true, it depends on its ability to motivate adherents to conceive children and win converts. (Unsurprisingly, religions that discourage procreation end up as historical footnotes.) A big selling point of a religion is its ability to deliver a functioning society.

Toward the end of the book Diamond become a bit polemical for my taste. His penultimate chapter (ignoring the epilogue) is a pitch for multilingualism. Now I have nothing against multilingualism, and wish languages came more easily to me. But I feel he stretches his arguments too far. After somewhat poo-pooing studies that suggest various intellectual activities slow brain decay and the onset of Alzheimer's disease, he uses similar studies on bi- or multilingualism to argue their benefit. He notes that most New Guineans speak several languages while most Americans speak only one. Europeans often speak several, but he describes that as a mostly post WWII development.

But there are differences between New Guinea and the industrialized world. If you live in a group of a few dozen people speaking an unwritten language it makes a lot of sense to expend effort in learning the languages of neighboring groups. If you live in a country where millions of people speak, read, and write a written language it makes sense to learn to read, write, and do business in that language. And such languages are likely to have much larger vocabularies. In a language spoken by a small number of people who interact frequently, when a word stops being used it leaves the vocabulary. In a language spoken by millions of people over a large territory words leave the language less frequently, are picked up more frequently, and old words live on in writing. I say this not intending to disparage the learning of hunter gatherers, but rather to note that both they and we expend our energy in learning what helps us prosper in our circumstances.

Diamond becomes very polemical in his defense of dying languages. There is a balance between the loss of cultural history when a language is lost and the advantage of more people being able to communicate directly. It is one thing to eradicate a living language. Yet much of what Diamond discusses is what he calls "moribund" languages, where a few elders speak a language, but no children are learning it. But if the elders don't see a reason to teach it to the children, is the loss so great (other than in an academic sense)? Maybe here the wisdom of the people exceeds the wisdom of the professor.

He then has a chapter which is a pretty conventional discussion of the problems with the modern diet, especially excessive salt and sugar intake. Our lifestyle has changed a lot faster than our physiology, with some detrimental effects.

The epilogue has a curious section in which he quotes kids coming to the US from other cultures and criticizing our culture. It's a bit odd and gratuitous, actually, given his earlier admission that, given the choice, hunter gatherers abandon their lifestyle for a western one. He backtracks a bit from there, but I can't escape the sense that he feels the need to polish the traditional experience after revealing many of its challenges.

A fascinating book with a lot of information. But the author's heart sometimes gets in the way of his head. Very worth reading, but worth reading critically.

I was provided a copy for review by the publisher, but have ordered a copy of the finished product for my library.
82 de 90 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
HASH(0x9914f984) de un máximo de 5 estrellas A Brief Summary and Review 8 de enero de 2013
Por A. D. Thibeault - Publicado en
Formato: Tapa dura Compra verificada
*A full summary of this book is available here: An Executive Summary of Jared Diamond's 'The World Unitl Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies'

The main argument: The onset of agriculture and farming some 11,000 years ago (termed the Neolithic Revolution), is arguably the most significant turning point in the history of our species. Agriculture induced a major population explosion, which then led to urbanization; labor specialization; social stratification; and formalized governance--thus ultimately bringing us to civilization as we know it today. Prior to the Neolithic Revolution--and extending back time out of mind--human beings lived in a far different way. Specifically, our ancestors lived in small, largely egalitarian tribes of no more than 50 to 100 individuals, and hunted and foraged for their food.

The transition from our traditional hunting and gathering lifestyle, to early farming (and herding), to civilization as we know it now (which, on an evolutionary time-scale, occurred but yesterday) has certainly brought with it some very impressive benefits. Indeed, many of us today enjoy comforts and opportunities the likes of which our more traditional ancestors would never have dreamed of. However, it cannot be said that the transition from traditional to modern has left us without any difficulties. Indeed, some would go so far as to say that the problems that civilization has introduced outweigh the benefits that it has brought; and even the most unromantic among us are likely to agree that our experiment in civilization has not been an unmitigated success.

This then brings us to the problem of solving the difficulties that civilization has left us with. Now, when it comes to solving our problems, it is without a doubt the spirit of our age to look ever forward for solutions--by which I mean we tend to look for new technologies and hitherto untested arrangements to help us out of our current predicaments. However, when we consider that our traditional lifestyle served us well for millennia on end, and that it was under this lifestyle wherein we underwent much of the biological and psychological evolution that lives with us to this day, we can begin to see how it may be fruitful to look back at this traditional lifestyle for possible solutions to the problems we now face. (This idea is not new; indeed, the `state of nature' has traditionally been of great interest to philosophers--for it has been thought that understanding how we lived by nature may serve as a guide to help us design the most fitting political communities given our present circumstances).

Also of interest here--and deeply connected to the more practical goal mentioned above--is that investigating our traditional way of life promises to shed light on our underlying human nature in a way that is not possible when we look at ourselves through the obscuring artifice of civilization. It is these things that we stand to gain by learning about traditional societies, and it is this very project that geographer Jared Diamond takes up in his new book The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

Diamond is certainly not one to deny that civilization has brought with it many important benefits over our traditional way of life (the most important of which, according to the author, being that state governments are much more effective at ending the cycles of violence that tend to plague traditional societies). However, Diamond does contend that there are many areas wherein traditional practices represent an improvement over how we do things in the modern world, and that these practices could (and should) be incorporated into our modern way of life (both at the personal and societal level). Specifically, we could afford to learn a thing or two from traditional societies when it comes to conflict resolution (how to re-establish and mend relationships); raising children (that it really does take a whole village to raise a child); treating the elderly (that they are deserving of respect, and are still capable of contributing to the community in many important ways); approaching risk (with extensive caution); communicating (in a face to face way, and with multiple languages); and in diet and exercise (favoring natural foods, reducing salt, and sugar intake, and adopting a more active lifestyle).

In the course of his exploration of traditional societies, Diamond also delves into why and how our ancestors transitioned from traditional societies to civilizations (with a focus on such areas as social, economic and political stratification, and also religion).

Diamond has made a career out of studying the traditional societies of Papua New Guinea, and is therefore a very credible authority on the subject matter at hand. What's more, his wealth of experience has left him with a trove of interesting and illuminating anecdotes to draw from, and these are on full display here. Finally, I felt that the author always maintained a very sober and balanced view with regards to the benefits and drawbacks of both traditional and modern societies. I would have liked to have seen certain topics discussed more, and others less, but this is mere personal preference. Altogether a very good book. A full summary of the book is available here: An Executive Summary of Jared Diamond's 'The World Unitl Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies'
97 de 111 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
HASH(0x9914ff60) de un máximo de 5 estrellas All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away 31 de diciembre de 2012
Por Robert Taylor Brewer - Publicado en
Formato: Tapa dura
Like "Edward Hopper in Vermont" reviewed earlier, Jared Diamond's new book, The World Until Yesterday, is also endowed with a series of gorgeous photographs that depict the author's themes and preoccupations. At least one of them - a photograph explaining why contemporary Westerners gravitate toward obesity while traditional societies have mostly slender inhabitants - is likely to give readers a belly aching laugh. There is a deeper lesson from this one picture, it's clear the author's aim is to create a readable document, not one that is so clogged with statistics that it becomes impenetrable.

Professor Diamond's main argument is that traditional societies and "advanced" Western ones learn from each other, absorb and assimilate the customs and cultures of each other in a way that will better serve their interests. That's why, he notes, urban American gangs don't resolve all their disputes in courts, but instead rely on traditional methods of crisis resolution with negotiation, intimidation, and war. It's also the reason members of traditional societies like the ones he observed in New Guinea now have learned to travel broadly, use computers, and wear variations of Western clothing.

The tone of the book is understated rather than preachy, and delivered in a relaxed conversational style. The author likes to let one thing stand for the whole, as when he writes that Harvard University lost a great deal of it's endowment funds during the recent financial debacle. It is well documented that many of Harvard's peer group did as well. Stanford, Notre Dame, Cornell, Princeton and many other elite institutions lost from 25 to 30 percent of their endowment funds, but rather than pound us with the details, the author elegantly lets one example stand for the whole. This gives the book an airy tone and has the effect of letting him glide over the subject matter rather than bludgeon a reader with reams of data.

While taking note of their attributes, the author takes care not to romanticize traditional societies. He singles out infanticide, for example, as a custom of traditional societies that we are gratefully rid of. At the same time, he gently admonishes those who would abolish the conventions of the modern nation state: "Alas, for all of you readers who are anarchists, you'll have to find some tiny band or tribe willing to accept you."

Even when the author explains differences in societies, a reader is likely to see similarities. Segments of New Guinea society, for example, require the payment of "sori money" or sorry money in cases of accidental death, and truth be told, this is a practice in Western civilization as well, although the term is different. We would call it "insurance". And while the barter system is no longer the basis for Western economies, it hasn't died out completely - on any given day, you can read a story in the papers about a dentist who fixed someone's teeth in exchange for having his car repaired. For every rule, an exception.

The World Until Yesterday is one of the few books I've read that describes eloquently and passionately the damage done to family relationships through Western family courts due to the toxicity of our family law system. It describes convincingly how, in the author's case, after an episode in court, a friend of his will never speak to certain of her relatives again. I can only underscore his comments, and note that because of the brutality and butchery of the family court system, I will never see or speak to my own sons again.

Throughout the book the author weaves stories of traditional languages, religions and attitudes toward food, and his arguments are at their most powerful when he discusses hypertension, salt intake, diabetes, heart failure and other non-communicable diseases that appear rooted in Western style diets. Because of its disarming and conversational simplicity, this book unleashes powerful arguments that teach without propagandizing.
108 de 138 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
HASH(0x9914fe10) de un máximo de 5 estrellas Another sure Best-Seller 31 de diciembre de 2012
Por Hans G. Despain - Publicado en
Formato: Tapa dura
Jared Diamond is quite famous for his well-argued "geographical hypothesis" for helping to explain global (continental) inequality (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies). This can be contrasted with the "cultural hypothesis" which relies more heavily on the role culture plays in explaining the social evolution and dissemination of technology (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: and Other Writings (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)). These positions are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but can be complementary. Indeed Diamond has argued for long-term periods and concerning "continental" trends the "geographical hypothesis" is more important, while for short-term periods and sub-continental or regional trends the "cultural hypothesis" takes precedence.

Thus, according to Diamond if Historian's fail to explain the broadest patterns and exclusively focuses on cultural aspects, there is a large moral gap in our understanding of human society and social being. Likewise if there is an over focus on geography and technology, then there is a large moral gap in our anthropological understanding of day-to-day existence.

In "The World Until Yesterday" Diamond attempts a greater synthesis than he has in his previous two books.

This book will be a very interesting antidote toward Ian Morris's (The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations) to be released in January 2013. I have also read an advanced copy of Morris's book, very little new in his book from his (Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future). In Diamond's new book there is much new material, not necessarily in full agreement with his "geographical hypothesis."

In this new book "The World Until Yesterday" the focus is on so-called tribal societies. Clearly, much more than in his recent work his focus is honed in on cultural factors. Diamond believes traditional societies have much to offer civil societies of modernity. Cultures of tribal society are capable of enriching our culture and lives today.

Diamond maintains the watershed moment is the rise of state government and systems of law and courts.

In tribal society a dispute would have to be solved face-to-face between members. Diamond does not argue the face-to-face interaction is necessarily better than legal court systems for resolving disputes, but to point out the difference are important and certain advantages do exists for tribal organization.

Likewise Diamond is interested in how individuals in tribal society bring up their children, how elderly are cared-for, the role of religion, health, how we deal of danger and treats, etc. Again Diamond emphasizes there are strong differences between tribal and modern societies, some good some bad.

Diamond is famous for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies." In it he develops and defends a version of environmental determinism, attempting to explain why Europeans were able to conquer and colonize other nations around the world. His thesis argued Europe had an environmental advantage of plentiful plants and animals. The environmental advantage was the basis of disease immunity, greater health, etc, stimulating technological innovation and political organization and offering tremendous economic advantage.

The `negation' of "Guns, Germs and Steel" is taken up in his next book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" (Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition). The thesis in "Collapse" is how environmental misfortunes and catastrophes help to explain the extinction of cultures and civilizations.

"The World Until Yesterday" makes Diamond's three books a true trilogy. Here he is arguing that societies of the past don't only collapse, but offer us insights into how to organize our own civilization to avoid collapse and extinction ourselves. For example he argues multilingualism has benefits. That certain dietary practices (e.g. too much salt and sugar) are bad for the individual, but also for the survival of civilization.

As alluded above, Diamond is also interested in how treating our elderly and our infants and toddlers, young children more generally contribute to survival or collapse of civilization. Thus, bad parenting is not merely an individual event, but has consequences for civilization itself. Diamond also analyzes institutions of religion and their function in the successful reproduction of society.

As in his previous books, Diamond is impressive in his synthesis of anthropology, evolutionary biology, sociology, human nutrition and physiology, economics, and linguistics. This is arguably the best book of the three. Although Diamond is rather elusive with conclusions, normative pronouncements are abundant. He clearly finds great merit in "traditional" practices of previous and current societies. At the same time his environmental/technology determinism shine through to remind us "progress" happens for a reason. Thus, his normative pronouncement are rather circumvented to suggest traditional practices may be able to reduce warfare, take better care of children and youth, and provide better care and empathy for the elderly and downtrodden.

Diamond is always a fascinating and fun read. This book seems less of the environmental/technology determinism of his "geographical hypothesis" as argued strongly in his previous work.

It provides much more room for culture. This is important, it is a major contribution to post-formalist anthropology. Five stars for what Diamond writes and develops. Two stars for what he fails to develop. What we can see from studying anthropology is limited. Diamond is groping to bring in culture, but in a far too limiting way. It is remarkably disappointing to discovery that what we have to learn from traditional societies (the very subtitle of the book) is to take better care of our children and elderly, to practice better nutrition, and to be kinder to one another. David Graeber's anthropology (Debt) is far more relevant to contemporary society, specifically written to understand power-relations and hegemonic movement of one culture to another. From Graeber we learn how power, debt and money have been used to conquer and control. From Diamond we learn how people should eat more nutritiously and be kinder to one another. Graeber, for me, is far more important and relevant for understanding contemporary society.
11 de 12 personas piensan que la opinión es útil
HASH(0x9914fa80) de un máximo de 5 estrellas Extraordinary insights 18 de enero de 2013
Por amprof8 - Publicado en
Formato: Versión Kindle Compra verificada
A look at "traditional societies" through the eyes of a disciplined academic equipped with a variety of professional tools. Diamond traces the development of states from clans, tribes and chiefdoms. Along the way he describes traits and characteristics of those various social organizations, and which of those traits and characteristics have prospective salutary prospects of those of us who live in centralized, bureaucratized states (within which are communities that in some such respects are more like clans or tribes).

I live in a town of about 2,500 permanent residents that behaves in some essential ways like a tribal society. It has a core of families with continuous descent spanning 7 or 8 generations and dating from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The post office doesn't deliver mail, we all have to go and get it. There are no traffic signals, no movie theatre, no fast food franchises, a K-12 school. It is an island accessible only by ferry or private boat.

A lifetime in most of the world until yesterday did have its nasty and brutish aspects, and it was generally short. But child-rearing, decision-making, routine health care and providing for food, and protection against inclement weather or seasonal variations were mediated almost exclusively within the community. Diamond's look at such things, and his ideas on whether and/or how they can or should be considered in a state society, is a welcome and worthwhile read.