Summary of The World Until Yesterday

What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

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The World Until Yesterday book summary


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Members of bands and tribes in traditional societies make few contributions to such scientific fields as astronomy, chemistry and physics. Their knowledge of the modern world is limited. Yet the modern world also has a limited understanding of traditional societies, for example, the !Kung tribe in Africa or the Xingu Indians of Brazil. Modern states have more sophisticated technology than any band or tribe, but this superiority does not extend to the rituals of everyday living. Traditional societies have effective, time-tested methods for raising children, resolving disputes, caring for the elderly and limiting exposure to diabetes, heart attacks and other noncommunicable diseases. Not all aspects of traditional societies are exportable to modern ones, including certain hunter-gatherers’ practice of infanticide and euthanasia. Historian Jared Diamond brilliantly details multiple realms of modern life that could learn from bands’ and tribes’ traditional approach. getAbstract recommends his comprehensive review of traditional and modern societies to academics, as well as amateur anthropologists and everyone seeking a deeper understanding of what modern people can learn from ancient ways.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What valuable lessons traditional societies can teach modern societies;
  • How the everyday practices of primitive bands and tribes shed light on dispute resolution, child raising, health care, and more; and
  • Which primitive practices – including infanticide and constant tribal retaliation killings – modern civilization shuns.


How Traditional Societies Can Enlighten Modern Ones
Modernity has its advantages, like medical care, comfortable lifestyles and security. Contemporary states put judges and police officers between parties who are in conflict to keep their disputes from deteriorating into violent acts of...
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About the Author

Jared Diamond, a geography professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, also wrote Collapse. His book Guns, Germs and Steel won the Pulitzer Prize.

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