Good Books – Cultures, History and the future.

I just finished two good books, both histories focusing on the U. S. and presented from the anthropological perspective.

The first is A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright. It is an extensive review of the literature on rise and fall of civilizations with observations on our’s.  Extremely well footnoted and referenced it however suffers from the author appearing to have little direct experience in the study of his topic. Nonetheless there is good information here and substantiation of the notion that cultures come and go, frequently going as a result of the lack of capacity necessary to change group behavior in response to certain challenges.  He presents compelling evidence that those overwhelming challenges often revolve around irrational and compulsive exploitation of natural resources.

Sadly I share the author’s pessimism in regard to our global culture being likely to respond adequately to the ongoing destruction of our livable earthly environment.  I fear the planet is headed for a massive kill off in the disturbingly near future.

The second book is American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard. This author appears to be more educated and experienced in his topic than Wright though he appropriately relies heavily on  the classic; Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in America (America: A Cultural History) by David Hackett Fischer he adds detail  as to prevailing ideologies and practices and their contribution to the form  political history has taken in the United States.

Neither book is a complete history but the perspective is informative and provocative of further thought.

The tendency to write history as a series of histories of heroes and celebrities  is universal. However I come away even more convinced,  (in comparison to any number of intellectuals, politicians and militarists) that it is the real power of culture that shapes history.

Understanding how culture works is an imperative first step in the process to gain the power of choice, individually and collectively. That said, I believe critical to that understanding is understanding of emotional cognition in man; its  development and applications.