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Clive Crook

Jared Diamond Puts Countries on the Couch

His brilliant new book applies insights from psychology to nations.

A charmingly modest pitch.

A charmingly modest pitch.

Source: Little, Brown and Company

Jared Diamond’s new book succeeds even though it really has no right to. The theme of “Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis” is that insights from crisis therapy for individuals can also be applied to nations under stress. This is a quixotic undertaking, and the idea remains a stretch as the author applies it to a set of case studies.

Yet the virtues so abundant in Diamond’s previous “The Third Chimpanzee,” “Guns, Germs and Steel” and “Collapse” are again on display, and within a few pages they stifle any doubt about whether “Upheaval” is worth one’s time. Diamond’s amazing breadth of knowledge, intellectual ambition, unbounded curiosity and relaxed, engaging style more than make up for the weaknesses in the theory.