In Plagues and People, does William McNeill believe that the advances of modern medicine have banished microparasitism from the human condition?

In Plagues and Peoples, William McNeill does not claim that modern medicine has eliminated microparasitism from the human condition. Any such claim would be demonstrably false.

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William McNeill does not believe that modern medicine has eliminated microparasites. When considering his thesis, it is important to note that McNeill uses the words "microparasite" and "macroparasite" quite differently from the way in which scientists normally employ these terms. Any type of parasite which multiplies within its host is...

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William McNeill does not believe that modern medicine has eliminated microparasites. When considering his thesis, it is important to note that McNeill uses the words "microparasite" and "macroparasite" quite differently from the way in which scientists normally employ these terms. Any type of parasite which multiplies within its host is usually known as a microparasite, whereas those that do not, such as arthropods and helminths, are macroparasites. McNeill is not making this technical distinction. By "microparasites," he means all the organisms scientists usually classify as parasites, and by "macroparasites," he means human beings.

McNeill contends that people behave like parasites in their interactions with each other, characterizing the development of civilization itself as "fulminating macroparasitism." He not only makes the obvious point that societies have generally thrived by preying upon other societies, but points out the parasitic relationships within peaceful societies. Civilization depends on a stable agricultural system producing enough surplus to support those who live in cities engaging is specialized activities. The city dwellers are therefore parasites in their relationship with the agricultural workers. Alongside making this case, McNeill examines the symbiosis between human civilization and the spread of microparasites. The book thus examines human behavior in parallel with infectious disease, concluding that both microparasitism and macroparasitism are essential components of human existence.

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