Doc Opp's Reviews > Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Collapse by Jared Diamond
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Mar 18, 2012

it was ok

The book probably wasn't as bad as the two star review would make it seem, but it gets downgraded for failing to live up to expectations. First off, it's not nearly as good as Guns, Germs, and Steel, and I mean that in terms of quality of writing, quality of research, and novelty/provocativeness of ideas.

But also, the book is billed "why societies CHOOSE to fail or succeed" (emphasis added) but that's not what the book is about at all. It's about how societies deal with resource scarcity and environmental decline. And it isn't that societies ever choose to fail, it's that the culture isn't resilient enough to deal with whatever external pressures the society is facing. In my mind its false advertising and it pissed me off.

For those who are sensitive about global warming, this book has a not-so-subtle political message: if America doesn't drastically change it's environmental policy, then we are 'choosing to fail' and are as doomed as the folks on Easter Island. I happen to share pro-environmental political views, but even I didn't find his arguments compelling - they seemed more sensationalist than reasoned and that bothered me.

Diamond had been on my "Must read" list based on previous work. Not so much anymore after this one.

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