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Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure

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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,734 ratings  ·  83 reviews
In Beyond Civilization, Daniel Quinn thinks the unthinkable. We all know there's no one right way to build a bicycle, no one right way to design an automobile, no one right way to make a pair of shoes, but we're convinced that there must be only one right way to live -- and the one we have is it, no matter what.

Beyond Civilization makes practical sense of the vision of Da
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Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 7th 2000 by Broadway Books (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kellie
I know I gave the book five stars, but that's a very conflicted five stars. Let me explain.

First of all, Quinn's premise (which he sets out in his other books such as Ishmael, Story of B, and My Ishmael {all fiction}) is that our culture's destruction of the Earth is based on our adherence to our belief system (called cultural 'memes') and lifestyle. We may try to limit the harm we cause through gov't programs, until our culture changes, we're going downhill fast. Now, to really understand his p
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Lucky
I've read some of Daniel Quinn's other books, Ismael and started Life Of B. I liked the ideas, but was kind of turned off by the talking gorilla. This book's a more concise manifesto. There's some brilliant observations and analogies, which make it worth reading, but as I find with all these dystopian books, the solutions seem totally overshadowed by the problems. I actually wish they'd just leave that stuff out. It's always like the last two chapters, and I guess they throw it in to wash their ...more
Ken Deshaies
Daniel Quinn has got to be one of the most innovative and insightful thinkers in the world today. His trio of novels that led up to this non-fiction treatise - "Ishmael", "The Story of B", and "My Ishmael" - were mind blowing in their own right, using metaphor, historical example and downright good research to explain how mankind, instead of creating the best civilization ever, has programmed himself to self destruct in the not-too-distant future. We are the only living beings on earth that are, ...more
Chris P
I was very excited to see what solutions Quinn would present for our "taker society" after expertly pointing out it's flaws in his first three books, sadly he presents essentially none. Very lame. The first three books in the series are amazing though.
Jill Furedy
I read Ishmael probably fifteen years ago. I remember being fascinated by the impact of agriculture on civilization, and enjoyng the story, even if it does fall into the category of stories that beat you over the head with their message. I'm pretty sure I read at least the sequel to that, if not both of the follow ups. But as you can see, they added nothing to my impression of Ishmael and faded away themselves. It's entirely possible I read this one years ago as well and have forgotten it. Becau ...more
Chris
3.5, really, but I rounded down for several reasons.

Those familiar with Quinn's thinking will find little in here that is unique or new, however it is probably the most concise manifesto representing his beliefs to date. It is mostly a rephrased and fictionless abridgment of his previous works. This works in some ways, but it underdeveloped at many points, begging the reader to look elsewhere for depth in philosophy. That said, the facts themselves, as he presents them, are equally profound and
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Conor
Feb 19, 2008 Conor rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like debating the value of heirarchy
Shelves: read-non_fiction
To be fair, I was biased before beginning this book. I had previously tried to read Quinn's "Story of B," which my friends made me put down because I wouldn't stop complaining about it.

Primarily because in that book, Quinn creates a sage character that is constantly blowing the mind of the other character in the book - to the point where they feel like their whole world view is being destroyed. The voice of this sage character is very obviously Quinn's and the whole premise is profoundly mastur
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Francesca Hampton
Still some good ideas, and a neat way of putting them, that help with a perspective on ourselves and our hell bent society. But Mr. Quinn's answer to the powerful questions he raises are still less than satisfying. How do we get back to the sanity and satisfactoriness of a non-destructive tribal way of life from within this modern context? His answer still seems sketchy and undeveloped - since all his proposed examples of neo-modern tribal living seem to live, not separate from "mother culture" ...more
Jared Della Rocca
Excerpted from an e-mail to my sister:

Each page is individually themed. It'll include either his thoughts or a short parable, as you know he's prone to use! But more accurately, it comes across as a lecture. And the lecture he's giving is the Vision he suggested our civilization would need to continue forward. Whereas in Ishmael, etc. he showed the memes we follow, and told us we'd need to break those memes, he never gave his ideas on the big question: what's next? Beyond Civilization is his own
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Maggie Campbell
"They don't wonder why they were compelled to take over the world. They just figure, what else could we have done? We had to take over the world, and that's that."

"No special control is needed to make people into pyramid builders- if they see themselves as having no choice but to build pyramids."

"As things get worse and worse for us, we're going to need more and more of all the things that give us relief and oblivion and all the things that get us revved up and excited...But meanwhile, of course
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Beth Lamborne
I liked this book. I liked that he finally expanded on some ideas he had left floating in the air for years. I don't know if I am sold completely on his definition of "beyond" or how we go about getting there, but I appreciate the hand holding and the glimpse of a different type of future.

However, I also found the book to be very scattered and not entirely cohesive. This, combined with some mild condescension of reader, may prove to alienate some. It is also very built on all previous books ("I
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Sara
Feb 11, 2009 Sara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Haven't read any other Daniel Quinn books, but this was something of a revelatory experience. There's comfort in the idea that running the rat race (or as Quinn says, "building pyramids") may not necessarily be the best way for humans to live/work and could, one day, be a thing of the past. It's rare that a book makes me feel so optimistic about the future (although maybe this just means I should lay off the dystopian novels).
Cindy Duffin-carlson
I love this book! I believe that we need to concede to the fact that we will not end homelessness, and by conceding we will then be free to actually do something to help.
Tabby-matt Powell
I love this book! It is a must read, I am a Christian and I can still get a lot of great information from this.
Eric
I'm very pleased with this summary of the philosophy and action that Quinn promotes in his other books (namely the Ishmael series). The format was a little odd at first (slightly fractured, single page, titled sections) but once I settled into it, found the quick and clear format very fresh. If you have any sort of interest in the cultural analysis that Quinn offers in the Ishmael books, then I highly recommend that you give this book your attention and take some notes. I also recommend it to an ...more
Crossett  Library
Reviewed by Jared
Excerpted from an e-mail to my sister:

Each page is individually themed. It'll include either his thoughts or a short parable, as you know he's prone to use! But more accurately, it comes across as a lecture. And the lecture he's giving is the Vision he suggested our civilization would need to continue forward. Whereas in Ishmael, etc. he showed the memes we follow, and told us we'd need to break those memes, he never gave his ideas on the big question: what's next? Beyond Civili
...more
Flint
Jun 12, 2007 Flint rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: new age hippies who need a romantic argument for worker coops
Quinn's breakdown on the politics of Ishmael without all the fiction. As "primitivists" go, this makes him one of the most practical; but it begs the question of why he uses language and terminology that is so alienating. While being "beyond civilization" certainly makes for some romantic (even Rousseauian) prose, most folks who value feeding the majority of the worlds population through agriculture, having access to modern medicine and indoor plumbing (all things that most readers associate the ...more
Ya Go
This book is a must read for open minded people out there. If you believe you know how it all works and further more believe there is no need for change on the planet, you will not enjoy this book. Obviously there are no pre packaged offered solutions for the issues of our civilization. But the right questions are being asked here. Two for me new and interesting theories of the "memes" and the "tribes" will be well explained during the book. I haven't yet read any other books of the author Danie ...more
Brian Setzler
Quinn's earlier books (Ishmael, The Story of B, My Ishmael) were all novels where Quinn was hoping that a new perspective on our problems would be enough input for us to begin solving them. Unfortunately, Quinn's number one question he's always asked is "What should I do?"

DQ doesn't believe he is in a position to tell anyone what they should do to save the world. How could he possibly know what someone else should do? What talents, passions, or resources they have? Accordingly, none of his first
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Robin
I'm not totally convinced of Quinn's premise that we need to go back to tribal life (and when he says tribal he means making a living in groups without wages, hierarchy, etc., not living in the woods or a commune), but this book is food for thought. I do agree that many people, especially the young, are disillusioned with our society.

This book reminded me of an article I read recently about "gutter punks" who ride trains, dumpster dive, and squat in vacant buildings. These people, whether you l
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Amanda
Dear Mr. Quinn,

I really enjoyed your book because I have been thinking a lot about all of these things and I believe what you are saying. I realyl liked the comparisons of new thinkers vs. oldd thinkers. Old thinkers think, "How do I fix this problem" New Thinkers think, "How do I make happen what I want to happen." I think this was very relevant to my work with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, which receives more money every year to perpetuate a system that does not work.

I also enjoy
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Alfajirikali
I read this at the suggestion of someone I regard very highly. So, when I started reading the book and thinking to myself "the author is crazy", I felt the book must have been beyond my comprehension.

Each page has its own title, and it is in the form of an ongoing monologue. This put me off, as did some passages that the author offers as why his point of view(found in the book) were shaped in that way.

Throughout the book the authors "craziness" waxed and waned. I read the entire thing, and ulti
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=====D
Apr 04, 2009 =====D rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
my biggest question regarding the ideas of this book is whether "tribal" work places are enough of a challenge to our self-destructive, doomed civilization. After all, civilization, hierarchy, and capitalism (as ideas that compete with other ideas) are pretty inventive themselves: they've assimilated many competing tendencies which they couldn't outright destroy, subvert, neutralize in some way. Since "tribal" work environments already exist ( places like local coffeeshops, co-ops, etc.), and se ...more
Dylan
As with Quinn's other works, this makes you see the world and your place in it quite differently. I think that you should read his other novel, Ishmael, before this one in order for it to make more sense but I really think that everyone should read both in general.
Talbot Hook
This should be required reading in late high school or early college, as it causes readers to challenge cultural assumptions and to engage in thoughtful processing of new and foreign ideas.
Also, it seeks to teach a variety of incredibly useful skills and mindsets.
Nathan
May 20, 2008 Nathan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nathan by: Carey
The premise, that civilization has failed in every attempt throughout humanity including ours, but that in our case we simply can't imagine another way, is a profound one. He likens revolution and the ousting of those in power only to be replaced by another shade of the same color, to a crashing plane metaphor. When a plane is going down, do you grab a parachute and jump? Or go shoot the pilot?

Although his alternative of a New Tribalism has some merit, it is incomplete, non-comprehensive, and ul
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Erini George
The author kept repeating the exact same points over and over again throughout the book's sections; the book could be 50-100 pages if each point got discussed once.
Despite that, I liked the author's ideas.
Dave
Definitely not my favorite. The whole time I was reading this I kept thinking to myself "but you're the guy that wrote Ishmael! You know better than what you're saying!"
Carey Lamprecht
Oct 20, 2007 Carey Lamprecht rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: privitimists
This is a short, quick and to-the-point read about his solution to modern day civilization. He first convinces us that this society is sick. No shit Sherlock. Then, he outlines the solution very flatly... His writing style is problematic for me. It's not very based in facts but round-about summaries of history that I leaves me wanting more details. His theories are little more than theories and I would love to challenge this guy to dig deeper into the tribalist solution he proclaims as the golde ...more
Willa
Although very well-written and compelling in its original thinking, I kept feeling confused and irritated because this book is based on the premise that because civilisation has gone off the rails, going beyond it has to be done through going back to *before* civilisation. The tribal way of life is put forward as an ideal, because problems were much less at the time, but this falls painfully short of the complexity of today's world. I feel torn rating this book so low because I think its intenti ...more
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I had and did the usual things -- childhood, schools, universities (St. Louis, Vienna, Loyola of Chicago), then embarked on a career in publishing in Chicago. Within a few years I was the head of the Biography & Fine Arts Department of the American Peoples Encyclopedia; when that was subsumed by a larger outfit and moved to New York, I stayed behind and moved into educational publishing, begin ...more
More about Daniel Quinn...
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit My Ishmael The Story of B: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit After Dachau The Holy

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“The greatest discovery any alien anthropologist could make about our culture is our overriding response to failure: If it didn't work last year, do it AGAIN this year (and if possible do it MORE) 16 likes
“A castaway in the sea was going down for the third time when he caught sight of a passing ship. Gathering his last strength, he waved frantically and called for help. Someone on board peered at him scornfully and shouted back, "Get a boat!” 10 likes
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