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This is the third and last volume in Thomas Sowell's "Cultures" trilogy ("Race and Culture" and "Migrations and Culture" precede it). It is every bit as cogent and well-argued as the first two books - indeed, as every book Sowell has written.
I suggest reading (or listening to: the reader has a baritone similar to Sowell's, not quite James Earl Jones, but in that territory) the whole trilogy; when you've done that, I promise you Sowell's explanations of human cultural history will make sense to you on a gut level like (probably) no history you learned in school ever did.
Sowell has an unsurpassed knack for explaning complex topics in simple, lucid terms; he doesn't obfuscate with jargon or rhetorical sleights-of-hand as do writers won't don't actually have a full grasp of their topics but want to appear smart. There is just no honest way to come away from reading (or listening to) this writer's books and not be convinced that he has mastered his topic and helped clarify your own understanding of it. This should be refreshing to anyone who's had to suffer through the likes of Michel Foucault and his ilk - people who write outrageously complicated nonsense about simple things. Sowell is the opposite of such writers: he writes clearly, lucidly and honestly about complex topics.
Check him out.
18 of 20 people found this review helpful
Sowell, the acknowledged modern master of cultural analysis, cranks off the conclusion to a trilogy thirty years in the making, and thousands of years in scope. Yet he is talking about you.
How did we get to be the people we are, in anything beyond an individual sense? This work examines the history of events in cultural development in a thoroughly engaging fashion by teasing out the geographic, economic, technologic and other factors which produce not only outcomes, but the events themselves. It is one thing to know why a faction won a battle. It is another entirely to know why that battle occurred in the first place, and still another to responsibly draw causal chains between outcomes and following events.
Why did European trade ships sail past resource-rich Africa to reach less-blessed shores at greater expense and risk? Because sub-Saharan Africa has few natural harbors or navigable rivers for trade, and a physical environment hostile to outsiders. Using the technology of the day, Africa might as well have been the moon. Only items with a spectacular value to weight ratio made it out of Africa for trade, *or in for development*. Exporting cotton or wheat from Africa was out, while gold and slaves were profitable.
Why did the magnificent Inca and predecessor empires remain isolated without trade or travel to speak of? They had the wheel and axle, and used it for children's toys, but they had no draft animals which would have made wheeled transport a productive pursuit. This is part of what doomed them to a rising and falling succcession of independent states, which were more easily picked off than might otherwise have been, both by other Mesoamerican cultures and the eventual arrival of the Europeans.
Why did the people of the British Isles not prosper as the Romans departed? Or for that matter why is this true of *most* post-colonial or post-empire localities? If colonialism is so bad, why do thing fall apart when it ends?
This book proposes and defends answers to questions such as these. If the all-too comfortable answers offered by those with an axe to grind leave you with an uneasy feeling that there is more to the story than is commonly admitted to, then this book is for you. We cannot know who we are without knowing who we were, and more pointedly, whom we were not. We cannot reasonably assess or correct problems in modern society without knowing what our society is, and what it is not.
This book is to culture what Sagan's COSMOS was for the hard sciences. Enlightening, inspiring, authoritative, and a crackling good listen. BUY THIS AUDIOBOOK. I have listened through three times now. There will be more. I am so-o-o-o getting my money's worth out of this.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Brilliant, eye opening, fact driven, educational and enjoyable, oh Thomas Sowell, where would I be without you?!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
a fascinating book. You can't go wrong with this download. a ride around the globe.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful