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Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  45,507 Ratings  ·  2,556 Reviews
In Jared Diamond’s follow-up to the Pulitzer-Prize winning Guns, Germs and Steel, the author explores how climate change, the population explosion and political discord create the conditions for the collapse of civilization

Environmental damage, climate change, globalization, rapid population growth, and unwise political choices were all factors in the demise of societies a
Paperback, Revised, 608 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Penguin Books (first published 2004)
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Nanda Ramesh Not a question really....but, yes I agree. Provokes you into thinking of what were doing right now to our planet!
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Jared Diamond looks at several societies that have collapsed as a result of misusing their natural resources, plus a couple (Tokugawa period Japan is the star example) that miraculously managed to pull back from the brink. At the end, he also talks about some present-day cases where we still don't know what will happen.

The one my thoughts keep returning to is medieval Greenland, which Diamond discusses in a long and detailed chapter. Settled in the 11th century by Vikings originally from Norway
Kenghis Khan
The Pulitzer-prize winning "Guns, Germs and Steel" by this dude forever changed the way I look at history. And believe me, I am a history buff of sorts so this means a lot. Unfortunately, "Collapse" fails to measure up to that classic.

The real problem with Collapse isn't the research that goes into the thesis, or even the soundness of the thesis itself (though there are some qualms I have about how politically unstable Mongolia is or basing his analysis of cod fisheries on a single popular accun
Will Byrnes
This is a major work. Diamond looks in detail at the factors at play in the demise of civilizations in human history, using a wide range of examples. He offers a framework in which to structure the analysis and looks in great detail at possible (and in many cases certain) reasons why various societies collapsed. He is not a one-note analyst. All problems do not fit the same mold. There is considerable nuance and common sense brought to bear on this examination. Foolishness plays a part, greed, c ...more
Nov 30, 2016 Lyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating work by the same author who won a Pulitzer prize for Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.

This exhaustive study in Malthusian economics as applied to several societies in history that have failed, such as the Easter Islanders and Greenland Norse, details the thematic traits common to each example. His chapter on Easter Island made me think of Thor Heyerdahl's work there.

Most notably is how deforestation and imprudent population control applies to modern societies in
The halfway point review:

One question I've been wrestling with as I read, as I watch these societies move slightly past sustainability, as I read about societal collapse and the squandering of resources by the wealthy and then the inevitable cannibalism that always seems to show up in the last act, I keep asking myself how the environment became a "political issue." There's no question that environmental resources aren't infinite, yet it seems like the majority of people…or at least the loudest
فهد الفهد

كنت قد قرأت كتاب جاريد دايموند والذي حصل على جائزة البوليتزر (أسلحة، جراثيم وفولاذ) قبل سنوات، وأعجبت به كثيراً، كانت دراسة جريئة تحاول فهم الأسباب البيئية الكامنة وراء صعود حضارات معينة وتفوقها على حضارات أخرى.

في هذا الكتاب يعكس دايموند الوضع ويحاول دراسة كيف تتداعى حضارات معينة وتنهار بسبب تدميرها لبيئتها، وهو يعرض مجموعة متفرقة من الحضارات المعروفة أو المعزولة والتي مارست بلا وعي تدميراً واسعاً لبيئتها ووصلت في النهاية إلى انهيار سريع لحضارتها، كما يعرض في المقابل حضارات تنبهت لتدهو
Jul 15, 2011 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Collapse, Jared Diamond draws our attention to the following problems, which have "plagued" humanity throughout history.

1. Deforestation and loss of habitat
2. Overhunting
3. Overfishing
4. Soil degradation
5. Water management problems
6. Population growth
7. Increased per capita impact of people
8. Impact of non-native species

And now we face four more:

9. Human-caused climate change
10. The build up toxic waste
11. We're approaching the limits of the Earth's photosynthetic capacity
12. Energy shortages
Jul 15, 2007 Conrad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, anthropology
Guns, Germs and Steel occasionally felt like monday morning quarterbacking, but Collapse is superb. In GG&S, Diamond tried to explain how technologies that evolved in some places did not in others, how some communities thrived due to excess food and more advanced agriculture, while others, perpetually on the verge of starvation, had to devote all of their time to dealing with that and thus didn't have time for building the Parthenon. The argument was not airtight - his notion of what constit ...more
Dec 25, 2011 Felicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
So I was in Belize for the holiday and became fascinated with all the Mayan ruins I visited. I had been to Copan in Honduras years ago, but was reminded of the great glory of this civilization, and the controversial collapse that happened to disperse people from these great structures around 900 AD.

I love Guns Germs and Steel more than anything, it changed how I look at history and people and society, so I dug into this one, particularly the Mayan part, with great excitement. And it doesn't disa
Charlie George
[2011 Update: I am re-reading this after not quite 2 years. I have come to regard this book as the best non-fiction I've had the pleasure of reading, and recommend it emphatically if you have an interest in any of the subjects in which I have it categorized on my shelves.]

A masterwork, better even than Mr. Diamond's Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs and Steel. Collapse bridges the gap between anthropology and environmentalism, and critically connects each with our own welfare, both collectively and a
Although I only gave this book three stars, I can recommend it a little bit over that. I found it interesting, but not quite as compelling as I might have if I wasn’t already familiar with some parts of the story. I took graduate classes in International Relations, specializing in China as well as international political economy, so I didn’t find any surprises in the abstract background to Collapse.

Some very intriguing parts were the stories of collapse of vanished societies, as many have noted
Helga Mohammed el-Salami
The esteemed Jared Diamond, author of one of the most insightful and profound books of the previous decade: Guns Germs and Steel, tried to break the wave of his success on Collapse, a book about the failure of societies due to a laundry-list of (mostly environmental) issues. It’s too soon to render a verdict on the bearded Professor (unlike Paul Ehrlich and Rachel Carson) since he wisely chose topics which cannot be gauged within a human lifetime but the book itself was a real steaming pile of e ...more
Mar 19, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Judy by: Nathanael
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed succeeds in educating the reader about components of previous societies that led to their collapses and how those same components present themselves in today's global society. Lest anyone thinks this creates a negative, somber doomsday of a book, it doesn't. Diamond writes positively and offers much hope. I appreciated his approach to controversial subjects such as abortion used as a method to keep population down. He doesn't resort to the typica ...more
From now on, every fledgling civilization should be issued with a little pamphlet outlining the dangers of deforestation. On the cover, there'd be a picture of a toppled Easter Island statue, with the caption, "Learn from our mistakes: if you chop down all your trees, your society will expire in an orgy of cannibalism. Also, you might want to go easy on the monoliths."

Collapse is a sobering book, but I'm just jaded enough that after about the tenth analysis of pollen readings from core samples,
Lilo Abernathy
Apr 19, 2014 Lilo Abernathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you care about the world and the survival of the human race, then you must read this book. Period. Buy it now.

It will teach you more than you ever thought possible in one book. You will look at the world differently. It will expand your mind.

- Lilo
Author of The Light Who Shines

And just to be technically correct, this is not a review. It is a recommendation.
Feb 28, 2009 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult book to give one rating to. Some parts of it deserve four or five stars, some parts deserve one or two. Generally, Collapse lacks the consistency of Diamond's most well known book, Guns, Germs and Steel. Where Guns, Germs and Steel is nearly intuitive in the simpleness but universal applicability of its principles, Collapse is episodic and fractured. Diamond's basic thesis is that societies in ecologically fragile environments "choose" to succeed or fail based on how willing ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I listened to the abridged audio version of this book. Some of the discs were damaged, and I have no idea what I missed, so I won't rate the book. I wanted to listen to the full-length audio version, but I can't stand that reader's style. You'd have to put a firecracker up his nose to get him to put any inflection in his voice. (Don't forget to light the firecracker. An unlit one would just make him sound even more nasally challenged.)

A lot of what was in this book I already knew from my degree
Oct 23, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fatalists
I did read at least half of this book. The section on Easter Island is one of the most memorable things I've read in the past few years, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

This book goes on my guilt shelf because shortly after he got to China, I got too depressed to continue. It's also a bit heavy (literally) for subway reading, and returning to New York from California with it combined with the prospect of learning about China's impact on the environment was just too much for this reader.... So Col
Mar 31, 2009 Amari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary in scope. Makes the news far more interesting even than it already was. However, I withhold star 5 because someone should have run the manuscript by me. Many awkward sentences. Too many sentences that aren't, quite. Or that aren't by a long shot. Penguin? Editors? Anyone? Such a noble and otherwise impressive undertaking deserves better care before reaching the public. But yes. A grand and very fine book indeed.
Apr 02, 2014 Cheri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at how different societies have failed, I read this many years ago, but just noticed that Jared Diamond has a new book coming out which reminded me. Years later and I still think of some of the examples from time to time. While this is not a quick or easy read, it was so compelling I never put it down for very long.
Jan 22, 2016 Arminius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, science
This book explains reasons why a society may collapse or may succeed. It reviews great Empires that have vanished due to mistakes they made. Jared Diamond based the reasons for collapse on a five point framework.

The first is the environmental damage a country has produced. Many societies had cut down all their trees to build homes, heat homes and build tools. However, they either lacked the knowledge or did not consider to seed new trees to replace the old ones. Tree loss not only caused erosio
Aug 20, 2007 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
The thesis here is that the success or failure of any culture depends upon five factors:

Climate change,
Environmental preservation or degradation,
The presence of friendly external trade partners,
The presence of external enemies, and finally,
That society's ability and willingness to respond to the previous four factors.

To develop his theory, Diamond discusses about a dozen different societies, past and present, which had experienced various combinations of troubles with the first four factors, and
Nandakishore Varma

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside re
Oct 04, 2008 Irwan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: finished
A great, readable book about past and present societies, their decisions regarding societal and environmental challenges that led to their collapse or survival.

On the side, I found the book very informative about the history of the societies. I particularly enjoy those about the Greenland's Norse(Viking). This book inspire me to expand my reading to those about archaeology and history.

One important lesson: ability and willingness to change core values (religious or secular) proved to be essent
Barb Middleton
I collapsed after reading this. What a slog. Good, but dense, detailed, and darn long. I don't particularly care for Jared Diamond's writing style. He's detailed, scholarly, and repetitive. There is so much information I had to take frequent breaks and snatch some quick reads in-between chapters. I almost abandoned it a few times but then I'd find a different chapter interesting and get hooked again. Diamond has solid arguments for explaining why societies collapse and while fascinating, he's ov ...more
Dec 26, 2012 Will rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
This would have been a better book at about half the length. Diamond is a devotee of that style that is heavily promoted for oral presentations – say what you are going to say, say it using bullets for emphasis and clarity, and say what you just said by way of summary. The dreaded PowerPoint syndrome, in other words. So, when ploughing through the admittedly interesting and illuminating chapters, I found I was waiting each time for the Five Points That Indicate Society’s Success or Failure, and ...more
dead letter office
Extremely repetitive, inadequately researched, highly speculative, and overly assertive. Jared Diamond clearly knows a lot about some things, but he seems to think he knows a lot about everything. And he gets a lot wrong, at least on the things I know something about (Easter Island, for example, where his Collapse hypothesis is generally regarded by people who actually study the island's history and prehistory as wildly off-base and unsupported by evidence).

This book was clearly written by some
May 26, 2008 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
(this book is bigger than I thought...)

I'm finally done! I know, nine weeks later...

For a specific rating, I would say the content is 4.5, readability is 3. This book is definitely worth reading, even if you don't plan on putting in the effort to thoroughly read each section. The section on ancient cultures if interesting, but his level of detail is not necessary to understanding the main points of his book. For example, I found myself slightly skimming the paragraphs describing precisely how sc
Diamond's Collapse is not as well known as Guns, Germs, and Steel, but it is perhaps the more important of the two. The latter work explains how some countries and cultures came to dominate the modern landscape while others became subordinated or even extinct, thus telling the story of our past. Collapse, however, tells the story of our future, by looking closely at the histories of those cultures that drove themselves over the brink of extinction.

This is a heavy read, in every sense of that wo
Sep 19, 2012 Bou rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, english
This book was groundbreaking - I actually started this book in order to explore how societies have flourished and vanished over the course of the years. I expected to receive an overview of all factors, politically, economically and environmentally. However, Jared Diamond only concentrates to the environmentally factors - not only limiting himself to the disasters (Eastern Island, Maya's and the Anasazi) but also the success stories (the Tokugawa Japanese).

However, Jared not only limits himself
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • A Green History of the World: The Environment & the Collapse of Great Civilizations
  • The Collapse of Complex Societies
  • Cannibals and Kings: Origins of Cultures
  • Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
  • Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines
  • A Short History of Progress
  • The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization
  • The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
  • Plagues and Peoples
  • The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself
  • Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
  • The Mismeasure of Man
  • Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization
  • The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions
  • Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
  • After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC
  • Civilization: A New History of the Western World
  • The Revenge of Gaia
Jared Diamond is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. He is Professor of Geography at UCLA and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He has dedicated this book to his sons and future generations.
More about Jared Diamond...

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“[T]he values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs.” 32 likes
“The metaphor is so obvious. Easter Island isolated in the Pacific Ocean — once the island got into trouble, there was no way they could get free. There was no other people from whom they could get help. In the same way that we on Planet Earth, if we ruin our own [world], we won't be able to get help.” 28 likes
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