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*FEATURED IN BILL GATES'S 2019 SUMMER READING RECOMMENDATIONS*
'A riveting and illuminating tour of how nations deal with crises - which might hopefully help humanity as a whole deal with our present global crisis' Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens
In his landmark international bestsellers Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse, Jared Diamond transformed our understanding of what makes civilizations rise and fall. Now, at a time when crises are erupting around the world, he reveals what makes certain nations resilient in the face of tremendous upheaval.
In a riveting journey into the recent past, he traces how six countries have survived defining catastrophes - from the forced opening of Japan to the Soviet invasion of Finland to Chile's brutal Pinochet regime - through selective change, a coping mechanism more commonly associated with personal trauma. He identifies unique patterns in the way that these distinctive modern nations - all countries in which he has lived - have recovered from these upheavals. Looking ahead to the gravest threats we face in the future, he investigates the risk that the United States, and the world, are squandering their natural advantages and are on a devastating path towards catastrophe. Is this fate inevitable? Or can we still learn from the lessons of the past?
Adding a psychological dimension to the in-depth history, geography, biology, and anthropology that mark all of Diamond's books, Upheaval reveals the factors that influence how both nations and individuals can respond to enormous challenges. The result is a book epic in scope, but also his most personal yet.
Drastic national course corrections flow from complex social psychologies, according to this rich but unfocused treatise in comparative history. Pulitzer-winning UCLA geography professor Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel) examines episodes of national upheaval and change, including Japan's opening to the West after 1853, Finland's accommodation of the Soviet Union after they fought during WWII, and Chile's whipsawing from Salvador Allende's socialist regime to Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship to liberal democracy. He analyzes these developments through the lens of "crisis therapy," a psychological treatment program for trauma victims, identifying 12 factors that help societies rebound from crises, including honest self-appraisal, a strong identity and core values, flexibility, help from external sources, and freedom from geopolitical constraints. He also applies these factors to present-day crises, including Japan's population decline, America's political polarization, and climate change. Diamond offers far-ranging, erudite, lucid accounts of historical cruxes, spiced by sharp-eyed personal observations he seems to have been everywhere of national characters and quirks. Unfortunately, his social-psychological framework lacks the concise explanatory power of his books on geographical and environmental influences on history; his factors often seem like squishy truisms that fit any happenstance without proving much beyond the importance of realism and adaptability. The result is a suite of notable historical retrospectives that point in no singular direction.