EE 16-3-Smith_p2.qxd 30-6-05 9:51 am Page 423 Fred L Smith Jr. I. INTRODUCTION Having enjoyed Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel, I expected to find much to admire in Collapse. Advance publicity suggested that the book’s theme would be provocative and certainly the question raised in the title – “Why do some societies collapse, others survive?” – is interesting and important. Having now read Collapse, I am disappointed. The intriguing insights of Guns have disappeared, and have been replaced with the conventional eco-theological view first formalized by the Reverend Thomas Malthus in 1798: humanity’s numbers, consumption levels and misuse of technology inevitably lead to collapse. Diamond draws his examples from primitive communal societies (where cultural norms discipline human activities) and traditional hierarchical societies (where authoritarian dictates control). He has little understanding of modern market economies which have evolved elaborate feedback mechanisms which focus human energy and ingenuity towards emerging problems. His view of the world presented in Collapse is static; he lacks an understanding of human civilization as the gradual evolution of institutions (private property, contracts, trade, science and technology, the market) which permit societies to harness an ever greater fraction of the humanity’s energies and genius to
Energy & Environment – SAGE
Published: Jul 1, 2005
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