In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond suggests that more research needs to be done on how cultural factors influenced the distribution of wealth and power. How might culture affect the...

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond suggests that more research needs to be done on how cultural factors influenced the distribution of wealth and power. How might culture affect the development of these differences? Do you think that culture plays more or less of a role than the environment in this distribution?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to this question is, of course, a matter of personal opinion, as we do not have the ability to go out and do rigorous research on this issue. My own view is that culture can affect the distribution of wealth and power.  However, I would say that culture can affect this distribution within regions much more than it can affect the distribution between regions. In other words, I would argue that culture could cause differences in wealth and power between Germany and Poland, for example, much more than it could have caused differences in wealth and power between Germany and Angola.

If culture causes differences in wealth and power, it does so because it affects how the degree to which people are open to change and how they think about things like work.  For example, imagine that you have a culture that is strongly opposed to change. It might prevent women from getting educated and/or entering the workforce because that is not how things have always been done. This society will likely end up poorer and weaker than one that is open to change.  In the second society, women would end up working and would increase the country’s economic potential. As another example, people in one society might think that work for its own sake is morally good. Those people would work hard for long hours because they thought that is what good people do. That society would end up richer and stronger than one where people felt that it was okay to work only as much as necessary.

While it is (in my view) possible that culture can affect wealth and power, I would argue that this is more likely to matter within a region than between regions.  I say this mainly because Diamond seems to prove very convincingly in Guns, Germs, and Steel, that the environment caused the differences between regions that we saw when the Europeans dominated the world.  It is hard to argue that he is wrong in any particular circumstance.  I cannot refute his arguments, for example, about why Australia remained poor and weak until Europeans came.  Therefore, I am inclined to believe that culture does not cause differences between regions. Furthermore, I am more inclined to believe that the environment is very different between regions than within a region.  Germany and Angola were clearly very different environments where Germany and Poland were not.  Therefore, it seems logical that something else must have caused the differences between Germany and Poland. 

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Guns, Germs, and Steel

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