Friday, December 17, 2021

Review of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

This book review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History
Intriguing Connections = 1) How To Allocate Resources?,

Short Description

Elaborate Description


The planet has scarce resources which societies need to choose how to allocate.  Some societies choose to modify their actions, decisions, behavior when resources cannot sustain the level of extraction, thereby surviving past the danger.  Other societies choose to exacerbate the environmental problems which has led to their collapse.  The environment is not the only reason why societies collapse, nor is it always a choice that societies make.  This book highlights a variety of societies in which it was the environment that precipitated in a society’s collapse, and a choice because societies within very similar environmental condition chose different actions and have survived within the environment.  Lessons drawn from ancient and modern societies can guide current societies into a sustainable future.  Resources need to be used, but using them too much leads to collapse.  What matters is how much and what resources are used for what purposes.  

Past societies and current ones are different.  The lessons cannot readily be applied to different situations, but the past can still be used to learn from.  The book is written for environmentalist and businesses alike.  Environmentalists and businesses tend not to want to negotiate how resources are used, but this book indicates that negotiation and communication are needed if societies are to be sustainable.  The public is very influential in making environmental policies, but rarely want to pay for the sustainability efforts. 

Failure of a society is a failure of group decision making.  They can fail in four different ways which are 1) failure to anticipate the problem, 2) failure to perceive the problem, 3) failure to try to solve it once perceived, 4) failure of solutions.  Alternative resources and technology do not become readily available, and may not solve the problems.  


The book is a bit difficult to read with examples giving a lot of details and information, of which some information would be best left to an appendix. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why did great societies of the past collapse?
•What role did environmental have in shaping societies? 
•What choices did societies make to survive their situations? 
•What are the contributing factors to a societies collapse? 
•How do environmentalists want to use resources?
•How do businesses want to use resources?
•What are the differences between the short-run and long-run views on resources use?
•Can alternative resources and technology be me available? 
•What are failures of group decision making? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780143117001
Pages to read:   539
Publication:     2006
1st Edition:      2011
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          3
Overall           3