In Guns, Germs, and Steel, what responses by Diamond to Yali’s question surprised you?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I will look here at two aspects of Diamond's response to Yali's question.

First, on the largest scale, I was surprised when I first read this book by the fact that he argues that culture had essentially nothing to do with which societies became powerful and which did not.  I grew up reading books that emphasized the importance of culture.  For example, in college I read Max Weber's argument about how the Protestant work ethic caused Protestant countries to be stronger economically than any others.  Therefore, to read a book that argued that culture had no impact was surprising.

Second, on the smaller scale, I was surprised and intrigued by Diamond's argument that the fragmented nature of Europe's geography and politics helped to make it stronger than places like, for example, China.  I had never considered the idea that having lots of relatively small countries would allow for more progress than having one large empire as in China.

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