What Can We Learn From Foragers?

Search me. If asked I might reply that we might learn how to live in small-scale, simple, foraging or horticultural societies. But Jared Diamond has pondered the question and has a new book out The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

The anti-Diamond faction is large and vociferous. A hostile review, which accuses Diamond of “neoliberal social scientism,” says this:

From the Siriono of Bolivia, the !Kung of the Kalahari, the Iñupiat of the Arctic, and above all the many tribes of New Guinea, Diamond extracts mild and mostly incontestable lessons: We should consider following their example (he thinks) by spreading child care among a local network of providers, respecting the knowledge of elders, adopting agricultural practices designed to anticipate food shortages, learning multiple languages, and embracing a low-salt, low-sugar diet. This is hardly a controversial agenda.

It’s one of those reviews that accuses its target of either banalities (points on which the reviewer agrees) or major crimes (like failing to blame Western imperialism for most of the world’s problems).

The article is Jackson Lears, “The Round World Made Flat: The curious neoliberal social scientism of Jared Diamond” in Bookforum. But the comments rally to defend Diamond.

Update: Diamond has a piece on how to raise children the forager way here.


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