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Guns, Germs, and Steel - Prologue

This is a powerpoint presentation to go along with the book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. It covers the origins of economic stratification by discussing plant and animal domestication, climate, and geographic advantages.

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Guns, Germs, and Steel - Prologue

  1. 1. Social Stratification Guns, Germs, and Steel: Prologue
  2. 2. Why GGS in this class? <ul><li>Human history before 1750 constitutes 99% of the 5 million year history of our species </li></ul><ul><li>If we start with stratified societies (e.g., post the industrial revolution), we don’t fully explain why societies are stratified or why some countries industrialized first </li></ul><ul><li>Ergo, we have to go back into history and pre-history to explain stratification </li></ul>
  3. 3. Eurasia Modern history is dominated by the role of Eurasia
  4. 4. Why Eurasia? <ul><li>Why did Eurasian countries become so powerful and innovative? (i.e., Eurasian countries became empires, dominating other countries) </li></ul><ul><li>Typical answers invoke “proximate forces” – the factors that immediately proceed the event: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rise of capitalism, mercantilism, scientific inquiry, technology, and nasty germs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>But the proximate forces are not “ultimate forces” – the factors that explain the proximate forces </li></ul><ul><li>The roots of Eurasian dominance lie in the preliterate past before 3,000 BCE. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Yali’s Question <ul><li>Yali was a New Guinean politician </li></ul><ul><li>He recognized the disparity in “cargo” between Europeans and New Guineans </li></ul><ul><li>This lead him to ask Diamond, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?” (p. 14) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reformulated, the question is the same as the one we just asked: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why was Eurasia able to overcome subsistence living and produce surplus agriculture as well as produce much more technologically advanced goods before anywhere else in the world? </li></ul></ul>Not actually Yali
  6. 6. New Guinea <ul><li>200 years ago was basically a stone age civilization </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stone tools; no metal tools </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Small villages, no centralized authority </li></ul></ul><ul><li>When whites arrived they considered New Guineans “primitive” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What does that mean? </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Why not another way? <ul><li>Why weren’t Native Americans, Africans, and Aboriginal Australians the ones who decimated, subjugated, or exterminated Europeans and Asians? </li></ul><ul><li>Technological differences in 1500CE were the proximate causes, but what are the ultimate causes? </li></ul>
  8. 8. 11,000 BCE – When it all began <ul><li>Why is 11,000 BCE so important? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All humans were basically hunter-gatherers at that point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We were all at the same basic stage of development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We were basically equal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What happened? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Why did [technological] development proceed at such different rates on different continents?” (p. 16) </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Objections <ul><li>“ If we succeed in explaining how some people came to dominate other people, may this not seem to justify the domination?” (p. 17) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Doesn’t addressing Yali’s question automatically involve a Eurocentric approach to history, a glorification of western Europeans, and an obsession with the prominence of western Europe and Europeanized in the modern world?” (pp. 17-18) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Don’t words such as “civilization,” and phrases such as “rise of civilization,” convey the false impression that civilization is good, tribal hunter-gatherers are miserable, and history for the past 13,000 years has involved progress toward greater human happiness?” </li></ul>
  10. 10. Other Explanations <ul><li>Biological or genetic differences: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Europeans are genetically superior to non-Europeans </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is this true? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Stimulatory effects of northern Europe’s cold climate and the inhibitory effects of hot, humid, tropical climates on human creativity and energy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do some climates lead to smarter humans? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Note: Climate is important, just not in this way.) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(Side note: Diamond says New Guineans are smarter than Westerners (p. 21). How good is his evidence?) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Africa <ul><li>Arguably, modern humans evolved in Africa. </li></ul><ul><li>If we have lived there longer than anywhere else, why isn’t that the cradle of technological advancement? </li></ul>
  12. 12. Summary of the Book <ul><li>“ History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves” (p. 25) </li></ul><ul><li>What does this ultimately tells us about the causes of economic inequality? </li></ul><ul><li>(Note: Environment, coupled with genetic mutations, also explains evolution) </li></ul>