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Guns, Germs, and Steel

by Jared Diamond

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Student Question

How did complex institutions develop according to Guns, Germs, and Steel?

Expert Answers

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You can find the answer to this in Chapter 14.  There, Diamond tells us that these sorts of institutions developed spontaneously as farming became more widespread.

When societies start to farm, they come to have higher population densities.  When population densities increase, social problems arise.  Diamond talks about how it can be very difficult for groups of people to learn how to live together in peace when the group gets so big that everyone isn't related to everyone else in some way.  He cites the problems the Fayu had with this.

Complex social institutions arise in response to this need.  They arise as a way to make sure that large groups of people can get along together reasonably well.  Thus, these institutions arise as a response to new needs that are brought on by farming.

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According to Guns, Germs, and Steel, how did governments and religious institutions develop?  

You can find this answer by reading in Chapter 14.  In that chapter, Diamond tells us that these kinds of institutions develop because societies come to have larger populations when they start to have agriculture.

When societies get bigger, it is harder to control them through informal means.  When a society is small, everyone knows everyone and there are kinship and other connections between all the people.  In such a case, informal control can work.  But when society gets bigger, these controls no longer exist.  Now, there is a need for more formal ways to (for example) prevent people who aren't related or in any way connected from killing one another.  This is where government and religion come in.  These institutions develop as a way of keeping peace and order within society as society gets bigger.

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