[Marxism] Jared Diamond

Mike Friedman mikedf at mail.amnh.org
Wed Dec 29 10:26:18 MST 2004

You should take the Gladwell review in the context of Diamond's thinking. 
He *has* tended to an ecological or biological determinism, or rather a 
reductionist view in which social evolution can be attributed to one or a 
few or even various neatly causal environmental factors. He has no concept 
of mode of production as any kind of mediating factor between the 
environment and "culture." For example, his discussion of Rwanda: surely 
the "steep hills farmed right up to the crests, without any protective 
terracing; rivers thick with mud from erosion; extreme deforestation 
leading to irregular rainfall and famine; staggeringly high population 
densities; the exhaustion of the topsoil; falling per-capita food 
production," played some role in the explosion that ensued, but what 
happened to the imperialism that led to that environmental destruction and 
starvation or that fanned the flames of tribalism or that armed the Hutu? 
Or the class divisions within that country itself that led some to benefit 
from the massacre? Sometimes, as in this case, Diamond's work verges on 
crude neo-Malthusian, victim-blaming rubbish.


At 09:59 AM 12/29/2004, you wrote:
>Message: 13
>Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2004 05:54:29 GMT
>From: "acpollack2 at juno.com" <acpollack2 at juno.com>
>Subject: Re: [Marxism] Jared Diamond
>To: marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
>Message-ID: <20041228.215451.8879.90466 at webmail21.nyc.untd.com>
>Content-Type: text/plain
>Finally read Gladwell's piece. I've only had time to skim the Blaut piece 
>and Diamond's work he's reviewing. But if Gladwell is right, the new 
>Diamond book is ANYTHING but environmental determinism. Quite the 
>opposite! Using the example of Norwegians starving to death on Greenland, 
>Gladwell leads you to believe that Diamond thinks it was the Norwegians' 
>culture that blinded them to their ecological bind, that the Norwegians 
>had to junk the parts of their culture that were killing the environment 
>and thus their society. At the end Gladwell (interpreting Diamond) almost 
>screams, "Hey you fucking Vikings! Forget your damned norms and eat the 
>goddam fish!"
>And implicit in all that are similar warnings about our own culture 
>leading us down the brimstone path today...

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