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The Way of the World: From the Dawn of…

The Way of the World: From the Dawn of Civilizations to the Eve of the… (1998)

by David Fromkin

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It seems a little silly to say this about a book that attempts to summarize human history in just under 300 pages... but it moves a little slow. Fromkin's "A Peace to End All Peace" should be required reading, especially for moron presidents with the initials George W. Bush. But "The Way of the World" promises too much and delivers too little. It's a solid introduction for someone who isn't necessarily a history buff, the person most likely to never read this book. What Fromkin does fairly well is pull together the common threads of human progress as societies evolved from microbes to today. If that's what you're looking for though, read "Non-Zero" by Robert Wright which applies game theory and evolutionary psychology (on a macro-level) to explain how we got here today. "Guns, Germs & Steel" is also a good pick. "The Way of the World" just never grips you or offers that "aha" moment. ( )
  wade_coleman | Feb 15, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679766693, Paperback)

Historians and philosophers of history have long debated whether the human story is one of constant improvement and progress, or whether history is instead a wheel that leads us again and again to the same place--the same choices, the same errors. To judge by this slender volume, David Fromkin is an unabashed partisan of the first school. In his view, the logic of history leads to "the only civilization still surviving, the scientific one of the modern world," the civilization of capitalism and technology. That view is, of course, arguable, but Fromkin defends it ably and intelligently. General readers will be more interested in Fromkin's overview of world history, a fast-forward tour of the evolution of civilization from a simple congeries of agriculturalists, as in Sumer, to a collectivity of peoples interested in such ideals as morality and peacemaking. Fromkin's whirlwind approach is sometimes vexing--he treats, for instance, the fall of Rome in just a few sentences, ignoring generations of scholarly inquiry on the multiple causes of that decline--but it nonetheless yields a spirited synthesis of past events and patterns. Fromkin closes by remarking that although the future may promise "a nightmare of nationalist, religious, and language-group wars," the worldwide adoption of an American-style federalism that transcends such distinctions is a more attractive possibility. "For all its faults," he writes, "the American way may prove to be the only viable one to deal with the consequences of the modernizing revolution. If so, the world is in luck, for continuing American leadership, like it or not, seems to be what the world has got." --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:00 -0400)

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