The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

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The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

Format:  Hardcover,

498 pages

Publisher: Penguin Group USA

Publish Date: Dec 2012

ISBN-13: 9780670024810

ISBN-10: 0670024813

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Book Information

The following content was provided by the publisher.
Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday--in evolutionary time--when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions.
"The World Until Yesterday" provides a mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years--a past that has mostly vanished--and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today.
This is Jared Diamond's most personal book to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn't romanticize traditional societies--after all, we are shocked by some of their practices--but he finds that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. A characteristically provocative, enlightening, and entertaining book, "The World Until Yesterday" will be essential and delightful reading.

Specifications

Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Publish Date: Dec 2012
ISBN-13: 9780670024810
ISBN-10: 0670024813
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 498
Shipping Weight (in pounds): 1.9
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 6.5 x 10.0 x 1.75

About the author

Biography of Diamond, Jared

Jared Mason Diamond is a physiologist, ecologist, and the author of several popular science books. Born in Boston in 1937, Diamond earned his B.A. at Harvard and his Ph.D. from Cambridge. A distinguished teacher and researcher, Diamond is well-known for the columns he contributes to the widely read magazines Natural History and Discover. Diamond's book The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal was heralded for its accessibility and for its blending of science and social science. The interdisciplinary Guns, Germs and Steel--Diamond's examination of the relationship between scientific technology and economic disparity--won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize. Diamond has won a McArthur Foundation Fellowship in addition to several smaller awards for his science and writing.

Chapter outline

List of Tables and Figures
Prologue: At the Airport
An airport scene
Why study traditional societies?
States
Types of traditional societies
Approaches, causes, and sources
A small book about a big subject
Plan of the book
Setting the Stage by Dividing Space
Friends, Enemies, Strangers, and Traders
A boundary
Mutually exclusive territories
Non-exclusive land use
Friends, enemies, and strangers
First contacts
Trade and traders
Market economies
Traditional forms of trade
Traditional trade items
Who trades what?
Tiny nations
Peace and War
Compensation for the Death of a Child
An accident
A ceremony
What if ...?
What the state did
New Guinea compensation
Life-long relationships
Other non-state societies
State authority
State civil justice
Defects in state civil justice
State criminal justice
Restorative justice
Advantages and their price
A Short Chapter, About a Tiny War
The Dani War
The war's time-line
The war's death toll
A Longer Chapter, About Many Wars
Definitions of war
Sources of information
Forms of traditional warfare
Mortality rates
Similarities and differences
Ending warfare
Effects of European contact
Warlike animals, peaceful peoples
Motives for traditional war
Ultimate reasons
Whom do people fight?
Forgetting Pearl Harbor
Young and Old
Bringing Up Children
Comparisons of child-rearing
Childbirth
Infanticide
Weaning and birth interval
On-demand nursing
Infant-adult contact
Fathers and allo-parents
Responses to crying infants
Physical punishment
Child autonomy
Multi-age playgroups
Child play and education
Their kids and our kids
The Treatment of Old People: Cherish, Abandon, or Kill?
The elderly
Expectations about eldercare
Why abandon or kill?
Usefulness of old people
Society's values
Society's rules
Better or worse today?
What to do with older people?
Danger and Response
Constructive Paranoia
Attitudes towards danger
Anight visit
A boat accident
Just a stick in the ground
Taking risks
Risks and talkativeness
Lions and Other Dangers
Dangers of traditional life
Accidents
Vigilance
Human violence
Diseases
Responses to diseases
Starvation
Unpredictable food shortages
Scatter your land
Seasonality and food storage
Diet broadening
Aggregation and dispersal
Responses to danger
Religion, Language, and Health
What Electric Eels Tell Us About the Evolution of Religion
Questions about religion
Definitions of religion
Functions and electric eels
The search for causal explanations
Supernatural beliefs
Religion's function of explanation
Defusing anxiety
Providing comfort
Organization and obedience
Codes of behavior towards strangers
Justifying war
Badges of commitment
Measures of religious success
Changes in religion's functions
Speaking in Many Tongues
Multilingualism
The world's language total
How languages evolve
Geography of language diversity
Traditional multilingualism
Benefits of bilingualism
Alzheimer's disease
Vanishing languages
How languages disappear
Are minority languages harmful?
Why preserve languages?
How can we protect languages?
Salt, Sugar, Fat, and Sloth
Non-communicable diseases
Our salt intake
Salt and blood pressure
Causes of hypertension
Dietary sources of salt
Diabetes
Types of diabetes
Genes, environment, and diabetes
Pima Indians and Nauru Islanders
Diabetes in India
Benefits of genes for diabetes
Why is diabetes low in Europeans?
The future of non-communicable diseases
Epilogue: At Another Airport
From the jungle to the 405
Advantages of the modern world
Advantages of the traditional world
What can we learn?
Acknowledgments
Further Readings
Index
Illustration Credits

Reviews

Review by Library Journal (2012-10-15)

Bestselling author Diamond (geography, Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Guns, Germs, and Steel) delves deeply into the world of humanity's ancient roots by exploring modern traditional societies still practicing hunting and gathering and subsistence agriculture. He skillfully examines the important lessons that technologically advanced societies can learn from traditional ways of life while taking an objective rather than a romanticized look at traditional cultural practices. His extensive examples come from many areas of the globe, with some of the most interesting coming from his own field research in the highlands of New Guinea.

Diamond provides broad coverage of attitudes toward war and conflict resolution, child rearing, treatment of the aged, religion, multilingualism, and diet in both traditional and Western societies. He challenges modern Western societies to creatively explore and incorporate worthwhile aspects of traditional lifestyles and attitudes, providing a perceptive analysis of how they can be advantageous to Western societies today. He conveys a sense of urgency concerning the need to address modern social problems and find useful solutions.

Verdict: This detailed, insightful, and accessible cultural study is bound to be popular with readers of Diamond's previous books as well as with general readers interested in anthropology, sociology, and other related fields.

[See Prepub Alert, 8/1/12.] - Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH

(c). Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book description

Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday—in evolutionary time—when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions.

The World Until Yesterday provides a mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years—a past that has mostly vanished—and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today.

This is Jared Diamond’s most personal book to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn’t romanticize traditional societies—after all, we are shocked by some of their practices—but he finds that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. A characteristically provocative, enlightening, and entertaining book, The World Until Yesterday will be essential and delightful reading.

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