These conservatives seem to get everywhere. I'd always been intrigued, but have never read, Jared Daimond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel." I though it was somewhat obvious and high level, judging the book by the cover...
Anyhow, the NY Times Reviews Diamond's next work, "Collapse" today...but first reviewer Gregg Easterbrook tells us why "Guns Germs and Steel" was postmodern, therfore baaad...
Diamond's analysis discounts culture and human thought as forces in history; culture, especially, is seen as a side effect of environment. The big problem with this view is explaining why China -- which around the year 1000 was significantly ahead of Europe in development, and possessed similar advantages in animals and plants -- fell behind. This happened, Diamond says, because China adopted a single-ruler society that banned change. True, but how did environment or animal husbandry dictate this? China's embrace of a change-resistant society was a cultural phenomenon. During the same period China was adopting centrally regimented life, Europe was roiled by the idea of individualism. Individualism proved a potent force, a source of power, invention and motivation. Yet Diamond considers ideas to be nearly irrelevant, compared with microbes and prevailing winds. Supply the right environmental conditions, and inevitably there will be a factory manufacturing jet engines.
I'm just a simple Buddhist Ph.D. engineer with wife and child, but even I know that China's history is dictated by its geography (lots of open borders with hostile barbarians, earthquakes and floods).
China hit upon a recipe to try to be robust against catastrophe (that is, conditions impacted ideology), of which they'd know plenty. Unfortunately the robustness against catastrophe led to ideological mummification.
If Easterbrook is ignorant of as simple a thing as how Confucianism came to be and came to be maintained, what is he doing reviewing a history book?