The Round World Made Flat
The curious neoliberal social scientism of Jared Diamond
IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CULTURE, intellectual celebrity requires the ability to hear the ideological background music of the historical moment, and to play effortlessly in tune with it. Some people have a special knack for this: One thinks of Francis Fukuyama announcing “the end of history” when the Soviet Union fell, or Malcolm Gladwell celebrating the value of snap judgments (in Blink) to the leaders of recently downsized corporations. The key move is to avoid any discussion of power or class relations, of political or social conflict, in favor of apparently neutral and impersonal forces.
In recent decades, there has been a powerful resurgence of deterministic schemes—technological, biological, environmental—all exuding an aura of scientific inevitability as they claim to explain centuries of historical
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