Lears in the sky – with Diamond

The world until yesterdayI know I’m not alone in my critical reaction to Jared Diamond‘s work, but two recent commentaries are particularly helpful.  Earlier this month the Guardian published a long review of The world until yesterday by Wade Davis – though most of the online comments will make you weep – and the latest issue of bookforum has an incisive commentary by Jackson Lears that nails what he calls Diamond’s ‘neo-liberal scientism’.  En passant, Lears has a riff on Diamond’s views on war:

 Anthropologists have claimed that war is just a game among traditional peoples; in fact, Diamond maintains, it is in deadly earnest. This is a persuasive argument, though it is coupled with Diamond’s less persuasive tendency to minimize European responsibility for the slaughter of indigenous people. Equally unconvincing are his suggestions that modern state-sponsored warfare is easier to manage and contain than traditional war. Surely this is a provincial American perspective, the product of a country that has yet to be laid waste by a distant enemy. And most troubling of all is his claim that modern state authority makes wars easier to stop—especially given the situation in the contemporary United States, where the national security state prosecutes endless wars around the globe, conducted in secret and without congressional authorization.

Teo Ballvé thinks we’ve ‘lost the war of position’ to writers like Jared Diamond and Robert Kaplan…. but maybe not.