Mike's Reviews > Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
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M_50x66
's review
Jun 01, 10

Read in January, 2007

(I read this 3 years ago, so please forgive me if this review only hits the highlights of what I recall.) It certainly answered a question that's bugged me for years: Why civilization first sprung up in Mesopotamia and why it was so powerful/influential on the rest of the world. The final chapters even explain why Europeans conquered the world instead of the Chinese. I never felt that my education satisfactorily answered why, only what happened. (When getting my sociology degree, I had to read a lot of theories about the state of nature, but they all seemed to either worship society (Hobbes) or the noble savage (Rousseau).)

One thing that did surprise me was the detailed analysis of grain and domestic animals of an agricultural society versus a hunter-gatherer society. In fact, there was very little in the book about guns, germs, and steel. Rather, it was about more fundamental issues of food production that would allow specialists to develop that could create the technology that would let them conquer the world. (Durkheim's theory of society moving gradually from a mechanical to organic structure fits well here, but, like all other theorists, he only explained the how and not the why.)

So the spoiler of the book is that it's all about geography. Grains, food, and germs could pass and be shared among Asia, Europe, and Africa. Meanwhile, the other civilizations were separated by deserts, jungles, and ocean. European geography prevented a single culture and empire, as in China. So European rulers were constantly in competition, on the battlefield, in court, and in public perception.
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