Survival International attacks Jared Diamond

Completely Wrong – and Extremely Dangerous

Survival International has launched an attack against Jared Diamond, enemy number one of the anthropological establishment.

Stephen Corry [head of SI], condemned Diamond’s book as “completely wrong – both factually and morally – and extremely dangerous” for portraying tribal societies as more violent than western ones.

The contrast is not between tribal and western societies, but between non-state and state societies.

“It’s a profoundly damaging argument that tribal peoples are more violent than us,” said Survival’s Jonathan Mazower. “It simply isn’t true. If allowed to go unchallenged … it would do tremendous damage to the movement for tribal people’s rights. Diamond has constructed his argument using a small minority of anthropologists and using statistics in a way that is misleading and manipulative.”

How convenient for them that it is both dangerous and untrue. What if it were true and dangerous? Would they defend Diamond as a truth-teller, albeit an unsettling one?

Actually, pre-state people are on average more violent. States have been agents of pacification. This is not “extremely dangerous” knowledge. It is useful to realize that states have brought some benefits (as well as some costs).

“The clear thrust of his argument is that there is a natural evolutionary path along which human society progresses and we are simply further along it,” said Mazower. “That’s extremely dangerous, because it is the notion that they’re backward and need to be ‘developed’. That thinking – and not that their way of living might be just as modern as any other way of living – is the same thinking that underpins governments that persecute tribal people.”

No, that is not the thrust. The evolutionary path is not natural. But it is progressive in some ways (in other ways not).

And no, living in non-state societies is not “just as modern as any other way of living”. By this logic, anything whatsoever is “modern.” It can certainly be a valid way of living, but being modern it is not.



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2 responses to “Survival International attacks Jared Diamond

  1. Pingback: Anthropologists as Libel Lawyers | Breviosity

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