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Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great…
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Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure

by Daniel Quinn

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Going Beyond Civilization: "Beyond Civilization" follows in the footsteps and elaborates on the themes of Daniel Quinn's Ishmael Trilogy ("Ishmael," "The Story of B," and "My Ishmael"), which should be read before this companion volume is tackled. Unlike these three books, "Beyond Civilization" is non-fiction, a collection of short essays in which Quinn clarifies some of the ideas from the Ishmael Trilogy and responds to questions posed by readers and critics. A bibliography and thematic index for all four books are also extremely helpful resources for Quinn readers.

The essays that make up this book deal with varied topics - from school shootings to what it means to "save the world." However, they are all connected in their criticisms of 'civilized' society and support for a "new tribalism." The concept of the New Tribal Revolution occupies a large part of "Beyond Civilization," and it is a complex topic to try to summarize. Basically, new tribalism calls for the immediate creation of a non-ethnic tribal society in which the ravages of civilization - both ecological and social - can be minimized. It should be emphasized that Quinn is NOT a primitivist or Luddite, as some claim. He calls not for the destruction of knowledge and technology, but rather urges people to use them in a different and (in his view) better fashion. New Tribalism is not a return to the past - it is an effort to go beyond civilization and 'save the world' from environmental disaster and social self-destruction.

Many reviewers have criticized Quinn's somewhat vague instructions regarding what they should do to go beyond civilization. The lack of a clear program did not bother me too much - for one thing, it will help prevent dogmatism in any movement seeking to go beyond civilization. Readers, in my opinion, should not expect any new culture to spring fully-formed from Quinn's pen. Life and society beyond civilization will evolve into forms that work well; it will not be arbitrarily created.

"Beyond Civilization" is structured as a collection of straightforward essays written in the first person and addressed directly to the reader. All of the essays are less than one page long and they can be read all at once, or slowly and reflectively over a number of days. Was the book written in a condescending fashion, as some reviewers have complained? I personally don't think so - Quinn does his best to be engaging and argumentative, which may not go across well with some readers.

Agree with Quinn or not, you will find "Beyond Civilization" captivating and perhaps even inspirational. You will return to it time and again, drawn by its analysis of civilization, tribalism, and humanity itself. Highly recommended. ( )
2 vote daschaich | Jul 17, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0609805363, Paperback)

Futurist Daniel Quinn (Ishmael) dares to imagine a new approach to saving the world that involves deconstructing civilization. Quinn asks the radical yet fundamental questions about humanity such as, Why does civilization grow food, lock it up, and then make people earn money to buy it back? Why not progress "beyond civilization" and abandon the hierarchical lifestyles that cause many of our social problems? He challenges the "old mind" thinking that believes problems should be fixed with social programs. "Old minds think: How do we stop these bad things from happening?" Quinn writes. "New minds think: How do we make things the way we want them to be?"

Whether he is discussing Amish farming, homelessness, "tribal business," or holy work, Quinn's manifesto is highly digestible. Instead of writing dense, weighty chapters filled with self-important prose, he's assembled a series of brief one-page essays. His language is down to earth, his metaphors easy to grasp. As a result, readers can read about and ponder Beyond Civilization at a blissfully civilized pace. --Gail Hudson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:45 -0400)

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