Re: Jared Diamond's limitations
Carrol Cox <cbcox@...
2005-01-01 18:30:14 GMT
I think Lou stretches and misses the obvious. Diamond does not recognize
the unity of imperialism and capitalism, so he has to find other
interpretations of the disasters rooted in modern capitalism. This does
not necessarily, however, distort his interpretations of specific
(pre-capitalist) disasters, and it is pointless to find such analyses
exhibiting any "basic flaw." Significantly, Lou has nothing whatever to
say concretely about the quoted analysis of Japan in the 1600s, in which
Diamond, incidentally, specifically points out that imperialist plunder
was not available as a solution: "In addition, Japan's isolation at the
time made it obvious that the country would have to depend on its own
resources and couldn't meet its needs by pillaging other countries."
Nothing in the whole paragraph quoted, then, gives any basis for seeing
it as evidence of a "basic flaw" in Diamond.
Louis Proyect wrote:
> [clip]Here's an excerpt that really highlights what's wrong with his basic approach:
> "Consider Japan. In the 1600's, the country faced its own crisis of
> "The shoguns responded with both negative and positive measures. They
> reduced wood consumption by turning to light-timbered construction, to
> fuel-efficient stoves and heaters, and to coal as a source of energy. At [clip]
> This reveals a basic flaw in Diamond's methodology, which is to regard a
> given society as a kind of self-contained experiment with mother nature [clip]
Perhaps Lou is correct in respect to Diamond's "basic flaw," but he
can't base that on the passage quoted, simply because (unless Lou has
evidence to the contrary) Japan WAS "self-contained" at that time, AND
(in the passage quoted, Diamond very definitely _does_ recognize pillage
of other societies as a possible 'solution' to such a crisis.
Marxists at the present time have to depend on capitalist scholars and
journalists for much of the information about the world (past and
present) that we operate with. It is not useful either to swallow such
sources whole OR to waste time and energy proving the obvious: that
non-marxists don't offer marxist analyses. What else is new. Diamond's
account of Japan doesn't help us, it would seem, in understanding
England -- which was NOT isolated.
But the "whole world," as even petty bourgeois greens never tire of
pointing out, IS isolated, and pillage of other societies (planets) is
not available. So it is at least possible (nothing in Lou's post is
relevant to affirming or denying this) that the case of Japan in the
1600s, at a relevant level of abstraction, is of interest.
JAPAN 1600S EXHAUSTION OF WOOD
----------- = ------------------
WORLD 2000 EXHAUSTION OF GLOBAL ENERGY RESOURCES
I'm not arguing this ratio; I'm just saying that if we want to agree or
disagree with Diamond on Japan we can't do it by talking about Diamond
We need specific analysis of specific parts of Diamond; not leaps to
identifying his "basic flaw."