Ye Olde Natural Philosophy Discussion Group

Reviews and comments on
Jared Diamond: Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis [2019]

[Notes from Kirby (email of 10/28/19).]

Kevin — 7
In general, the topic is interesting and it is true crises are cropping up all over the world. No issues with the structure of the book. Found first section the most interesting, Finland went through many events and came up with a unique solution to deal with the Soviet problems they faced. Knew more about Japan, but the other chapter that was fascinating was Chile and seeing how they basically reverted to a pre-Ayende era post Pinochet and Ayende. Skipped the section on Indonesia, since it got repetitive. The US section is a good outline of the issues we are facing today but the book didn’t offer any solutions.

Barbara — 3
Very informative, very revealing of wars in all these countries. Never studied most of this. Found the chapter on Australia the most interesting. Information about the USA being the best was great too. Didn’t care for the subject so has to give this a lower rating. Had to force self to finish reading.

Jack [John] — 4
Good self-help stuff at the beginning. History at the beginning was cool. However, he claims he can tell when a country is in crisis, but this is B.S. Biggest problem was that he can’t actually predict when a country is in crisis and he cherry picked his examples. Disagree with the overall premise of the book. Like the history lesson but not the rest.

Ron — 5
Didn’t know about some of the detail in the history section, but the examples didn’t fit very well for making the argument about being in a crisis. The scale he set up kind of works for people, but doesn’t work for countries at all.

Kirby — 5
Read the book early so some of this is subjective and based on faulty memory. Gave it a 10 for the history, but it went down hill from there. The author says he pulled 10-12 items from a long list of options, which means he selectively chose his examples. Felt like he wrote the book so he could write the two chapters about messed up the US is and then sandwich it into a scholarly work. Totally discounted the psychology and question his motives overall for writing the book.

Vicki — 6
Thought the author had an arrogant streak that came out throughout the book, and was especially grating in the introductory chapters.

*      *      *

Scott missed the meeting, but adds his comments here:

“Unfortunately I missed the previous meeting too, so I really cringed when I heard the group had selected yet another book by Jared Diamond. We’ve read a number of his books, and I’ve hated every one of them. I gave up in disgust after reading a bit more than half of this book and skimming the rest. In some ways this was even worse than all the others. In his much earlier book, The Third Chimpanzee he pushed the reactionary rulling-class doctrine that human beings are inherently selfish and violent by nature (which supposedly justifies their own selfish and violent nature). But in this book he more clearly pushes his general bourgeois political perspective, even denying the well-established key role of the U.S. CIA in overthrowing the democratically elected Allende government in Chile, while also arguing that Allende had it coming and that it was all for the best that he was overthrown. Indeed, that chapter of this book sounds exactly like it would be if it was written by the CIA!

“None of the other chapters are worth a damn either. I really wanted to give the book a zero, but with great reluctance I have to admit there were a few passages of interest in the history section, so I’ll raise that rating up to 1. But overall, I can’t recommend this book to anybody at all.

“As for the overall theme of the sociology or ‘political science’ comments in the last part of the book, I just consider all that foolishness as yet another self-exposure of the pseudo-scientific nature of those subjects in the hands of capitalist ideologists.” —Scott

On a scale of 0 to 10, the group average for the book was a medium low 4.43.

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