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A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  606 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Following in the wake of his groundbreaking War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, Manuel De Landa presents a radical synthesis of historical development over the last one thousand years. More than a simple expository history, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History sketches the outlines of a renewed materialist philosophy of history in the tradition of Fernand Braudel, Gil ...more
Paperback, 333 pages
Published September 11th 2000 by Zone Books (first published December 1st 1997)
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Mar 24, 2014 Hadrian rated it it was ok
So here's a pretty neat idea. The title sums up the main theme simply - the author wants to rewrite the past 1,000 years of European history away from a linear trend with reference to feedback loops and exogenous effects, and he steals a lot of terminology from non-linear dynamics, biology, geology, and sociolinguistics.

The big problem here is that De Landa is attacking something which doesn't really exist. Does any historian really believe that history is a transition from one smooth state to a
I fawn over Gilles Deleuze the way a 12 year old girl fawns over the Jonas Brothers. And so does DeLanda. DeLanda engages a synthesis I've long been seeking, which is to say a sensible Deleuzean materialism informed by evolutionary theory. Which, as a double major in English literature and environmental science, makes a whole lot of sense to me. I wish, though, that DeLanda had employed more material evidence beyond highly conceptual genealogies.
May 26, 2013 Phillip rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, science
From what I understand, the term nonlinear derives from mathematics and physics, where equations and the phenomena they represent can be categorized either as linear or nonlinear. Linear phenomena refer to those whose systems will subsist in a steady state; those whose functioning unfolds in a consistent fashion. Nonlinear dynamics refers to systems which will change state, either through positive or negative feedback mechanisms, where a system will function via an accumulative or diminutive dyn ...more
Helga Mohammed el-Salami
Jun 28, 2007 Helga Mohammed el-Salami rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History Buffs
My edition was published by Zone Books which seems to believe that games with layout and fonts are fun. They start their chapters with something like 18pt and then shrink it with each turning page until things get normal again. It’s cute on chapters 1 and 2. Less so by chapter 5. And by the time chapter 9 on Linguistic History is rolling around, downright annoying. I wanted to rip out all the 18pt pages and shove them so far up the large intestine of the layout designer that he or she would have ...more
James Curcio
Sep 06, 2010 James Curcio rated it really liked it
Mescaline does something to your sense of scale. You can see your mental view expand from planets to solar systems to galaxies, and find it recapitulate itself in the order of the molecules stitching together the cells in your body. You can see the emergent relationships of cells from the perspective of cultural anthropology, or look for the behavior of cultures in the mathematical expression of a whirlpool. If you understand this, then it is easiest to simply say that this book is history on me ...more
Nick Black
Nov 05, 2008 Nick Black marked it as to-read
Amazon 2008-11-05. That cover seems engineered to make one's eyes bleed; it's the ugliest thing since Turkmenistan's flag (it is not, incidently, as ugly as the flag of the Marshall Islands).
Feb 09, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: greeners, Baker, pretty much anyone
In some ways this book is a gloss on Deleuze and Guattari's "A Thousand Plateaus." The author also relies heavily on Fernand Braudel, and Foucault (although "Discipline and Punish" is the only work he cites). (There was one mention of Wallerstein that was rather dismissive, although he did seem to use his concept of the refeudalization of Eastern Europe in the early modern period). So the book was a good read for me as I'm familiar with much of the above material.

That being said, you don't have
Jennifer Peeler
Apr 26, 2013 Jennifer Peeler rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jennifer by: Sara Glee Queen
A Thousand Years of NonLinear History is a must read for anyone remotely interested in cylical or systems thinking. To approach the history of mankind with the same model as a scientists approaches a thermodynamics problem could be one of the most ingenious ideas I've read to date. De Landa walks you (through myriads of systems storytelling) into the philosophical world of Lavas and Magmas, Flesh and Genes, and Memes and Norms on a quest, not for optimum efficiency or evolutionary fitness, but f ...more
Jun 11, 2007 Dave rated it really liked it
a look at history through theme and method rather than chronological cause-and-effect.
more interesting for the way it's organized than the histories it's documenting, though those are sometimes fascinating too.
delanda shows the links connecting biological, geological, economic, and linguistic histories, explaining immigration via pathology (i.e. the way microbes come in and out of the body to effect disease), social class dynamics/formation via rock stratification, and pidgin histories by way o
Richard Smyth
Feb 28, 2015 Richard Smyth rated it it was amazing
I loved this one too. Delanda is amazing, unifying so many disparate fields of study under one umbrella: "...reality is a single matter-energy undergoing phase transitions of various kinds... Rocks and winds, germs and words, are all different manifestations of this dynamic material reality, or, in other words, they all represent the different ways in which this single matter-energy expresses itself" (21). I read this and feel like I really know something!
Dec 09, 2014 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2014
A marvelous tour through the processes of change that form our world (human, physical, geologic, social, linguistic). DeLanda's powers of synthesis are amazing, and he seems to have read everything. Better still, his prose is smooth and lively.

I'll be digesting this one for a while, but at first blush it seems to have rewired me in useful ways. (How's that for a massively mixed metaphor?)
May 22, 2013 Joel rated it it was amazing
Deleuze & Guattari for the common man.
tom bomp
As a different perspective on history, it's fascinating and well worth reading. It doesn't always successfully avoid a teleological perspective and sometimes it feels like "description of history. this happened because nonlinear stuff" without a real connection but it does a pretty good job considering. It works pretty great as a history in itself, too. The conclusion doesn't really explain itself too great, which is the one real annoyance I have. I have a few problems with the theory from a Mar ...more
Eric Lutzuk
Jan 01, 2016 Eric Lutzuk rated it really liked it
I loved this book as it offers an example of the way some of the more abstract concepts of Gilles Deleuze apply to the "real" world. I think Delanda successfully applies topological thinking to European history and does so with language that is relatively easy to understand. If you already have a grounding in Deleuze's ontology you will appreciate this read. If your not all that familiar with Deleuze i would recommend watching a few of Delanda's you tube lectures on the subject in order to get a ...more
Mar 13, 2007 engkiat rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: some people
It is not just a book for Philosophy 101. In paraphrasing the arguments of Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault and gang, it puts forth their difficult concepts in less difficult terms. I'm not saying that the book will be an easy read (it is not!) but it does away with the assumption that you have a working knowledge of classical and cartesian philosophy.

De Landa, in tracing the history of society, presents us with his interpretations of the Deluzian universe and provides us with a platform and basic un
Dec 06, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it
In A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, Manuel De Landa examines the history of the past thousand years, 1000 A.D. to 2000 A.D., with a definite slant towards a Eurocentric point of view. De Landa also uses a chronological linear time flow throughout the text. As he states in the introduction, he did not wish to superficially apply non-linearity. Instead he examines the thousand years of history with three different concerns: geological history, biological history, and linguistic history.

Eric Phetteplace
Jun 16, 2009 Eric Phetteplace rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
a practical application of Deleuze & Guattari, think "The Geology of Morals" chapter of ATP except a whole book. My only complaint would be DeLanda's reliance on other authors and the numerous quotations (feels really weird reading ATP quotes...some of them I can tell he's going to use before they even come up) but in the end that's just because he's summarizing a massive amount of research that I wouldn't bother to read otherwise. The conclusion was excellent, and also owed the most to D&am ...more
Jan 10, 2015 Whoisstan rated it it was amazing
Probably the most important book I read in the last 15 years. I have couple of hardcover issues of it.
Aug 22, 2011 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yellow, science, history
This is my favorite book. It's a little dry at points, but it has to be. Its rhetoric has an intensity rivaled,in my experience, only by impassioned religious sermons - but its tone is crystal clear logic. If someone gave me $1,000 right now to spend only on books, The bibliography of this book would be my catalog for the shopping spree.

Anyone interested in ideas or thought should definitely give this book a shot.

Anyone interested in ideas or thought that spurns this book should be shot.
Oct 25, 2012 Ty rated it it was amazing
awesome history. each section is interesting as heck. if nothing else, even if it were not of philosophic worth or whatever, it would still be a great read and well-told review of different ideas. the book's contents are examples of the concepts in D&G's "Geology of Morals" chapter in A Thousand Plateaus. when i first read that d&G chapter it was like reading an English translation of an alien encyclopedia entry on advanced math but after de Landa the chapter makes a little more sense.
Jun 14, 2016 Graydon rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I think I was fond of this when I read it several years ago and would now find it intolerable. Given that: I think it plays a helpful role in convincing a beginning student of history that there are many levels of theory and meta-theory to peel back, people working many levels of history. As an appetite whetting book it is effective, if self important and cluttered.
Mar 07, 2011 Szplug added it
Is De Landa one of those PoMo intellectuals whom Sokal takes to task for dressing in logorrheic robes of difficult language what is, at heart, meaningless gibberish? I don't know, but the premise of this book is fascinating and its bright, rainbow design keeps calling to me from over in the corner where it sits flirting atop an under-read pile of modern philosophy.
May 11, 2011 Jen rated it really liked it
Anyone who can render Deleuze and Gauttari comprehensible is worth 4 stars, but this book was a laborious read. The point of the book is made in the finer details of human history, and I appreciate that, but this is 500 straight pages of fine detail. It's just overwhelming (and therefore underwhelming at the same time).
Jun 27, 2013 Rod rated it really liked it
I coincidentally read this right before Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" which shares most of its themes except De Landa applies models from harder physical sciences and mathematics (for example, energy flows and nonlinear dynamical systems) in explaining the impetus behind the development of human society.
Emily Beall
Nov 26, 2008 Emily Beall rated it really liked it
i will someday read the last chapter, though it will take me a while before i can groove on "aggregation," "sorting," and "stratification" as concepts for big organizing again. economics chapter was most compelling--as if i needed it, gives me another way to be captivated by 'materialist history.'
Brian  Kubarycz
Dec 19, 2010 Brian Kubarycz rated it really liked it
I got little out of this the first time through. Subsequent readings in math, physics and architecture helped loosen up the numerous and deeply entrenched prejudices which prevented me from seeing this a responsibly and oddly joyous exposition of human populations' capacity for auto-assemblage.
Jan 29, 2008 Jacob rated it really liked it
I know books like this are probably out of style, but this one gives a great description of the fluidity of language development in Western Europe and other topics. It's much more clearly written than the books that influenced it- mainly A Thousand Plateaus.
Nov 04, 2009 Teddie rated it it was amazing
This book is more accessible than people would think given the title and heady topic. I urge everyone interested in history, culture, politics, and philosophy to give it a read -- I can honestly say this book completely changed my outlook on the world.
Jan 15, 2010 Alex rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology
this book was incredible, an alternate exploration of human phenomena through the lens of non-linear dynamics. it actually got me interested in reading deleuze—which is a feat in itself—and provided some thought experiments for non-linear poetics. rad.
Jeremy Wineberg
Mar 28, 2008 Jeremy Wineberg rated it really liked it
this book attempts to see the world as the complex and inter-related mess that it is, and in doing so crosses enough boundaries to make your head spin, but in that crazy ecstatic whirling dervish type way that only leaves me wanting to read more.
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Manuel De Landa (b. in Mexico City, 1952), based in New York since 1975, is a philosopher, media artist, programmer and software designer. After studying art in the 1970s, he became known as an independent filmmaker making underground 8mm and 16mm films inspired by critical theory and philosophy. In the 1980s, Manuel De Landa focused on programing, writing computer software, and computer art. Afte ...more
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