Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

Book - 2019 | First edition.
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"With his international bestsellers Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse, Jared Diamond transformed our understanding of why civilizations rise and fall. Now, in his third book in this monumental trilogy, he reveals how some nations successfully recover from crises while adopting selective changes--a coping mechanism more commonly associated with individuals recovering from personal crises. Diamond compares how six countries have survived recent upheavals--ranging from the forced opening of Japan by U.S. Commodore Perry's fleet, to the Soviet Union's attack on Finland, to a murderous coup or countercoup in Chile and Indonesia, to the transformations of Germany and Austria after World War Two. Because Diamond has lived and spoken the language in five of these six countries, he can present gut-wrenching histories experienced firsthand. These nations coped, to varying degrees, through mechanisms such as acknowledgment of responsibility, painfully honest self-appraisal, and learning from models of other nations. Looking to the future, Diamond examines whether the United States, Japan, and the whole world are successfully coping with the grave crises they currently face. Can we learn from lessons of the past? Adding a psychological dimension to the in-depth history, geography, biology, and anthropology that mark all of Diamond's books, Upheaval reveals factors influencing how both whole nations and individual people can respond to big challenges."--Jacket.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2019.
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9780316409131
Branch Call Number: 303.4 DIAMO
Characteristics: ix, 502 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Oct 08, 2020

This comprehensive examination of “Turning Points for Nations in Crisis” cuts to the quick as Diamond lays out his vision of historical and current events. His decades long expertise and scientific mind bring clarity and insight, as well as compassion, to historical descriptions of Finland in 1939, Meiji Japan in 1853, Chile under Pinochet in the 1970’s, post-colonial Indonesia, rebuilding Germany after World War II, and the gradual end of white Australia in the 20th Century. Diamond continues his book with current national crises underway in Japan and the United States. This is an important book for anyone interested in understanding today’s global challenges.

Apr 29, 2020

The title is wrong. I think a better, more descriptive title might be,"Seven Countries with Some Big Historical Problems: I will Relate Their Issues to Humans Using Modern Psychology. Also Don't Vote for Bernie. Right Wingers Will Rise Up, Round You Up, Torture and Kill You, etc." Or something like that. I did not need the the human psychological parallels. Guns, Germs and Steel was a formative book for me personally. Upheaval creates a lot of mixed internal thoughts. Hearing that Jared Diamond appeared on Sam Harris' podcast was interesting. Diamond makes one mention of the dangers of radical Islam extremism in a later chapter of this book. It seems reasonable enough. I hope he is not considered part of the Intellectual Dark Web. Worse, I hope he does not consider himself part of it. It is a fascinating book. I read this mid-Coronavirus pandemic. No doubt he's kicking himself for missing it. Covid-19 sucks. Talk about a goldmine of up-heaving material. I bet he could have added a couple chapters. His capsule description of climate change is very good and helpful. Conservatives will probably not like this book, for that matter liberals may not either.

Apr 05, 2020

This is a challenging book to read as the concepts are presented in several different ways - once as an introductory outline then in a general accounting then as an analysis using a multiple step process developed for individual psychology analysis. I found it somewhat tedious but struggled through most of it, especially the general accounting. Basically, Diamond describes a variety of crisis experienced by 7 different countries, how they responded and how that response has led to their present circumstances. His highlights of one of the country’s crisis, the USA, is the most disturbing and leaves the most questions unresolved as he sees the crisis as unresolved. A worthy read for those of us who also think this country is in crisis, but the magnitude of this crisis feels depressingly overwhelming and un-resolvable.

Oct 30, 2019

The premise of the book is intriguing and the author admits upfront that his work here is not particularly deep or broad. The thumbnail historical sketches of the chosen nations was interesting to set the stage for an assessment of the factors leading to change. In at least on case, Chile, the author seems to have a blind spot. He call Allende a moderate who was anticipating a need. Allende, as an avowed Marxist in a capitalistic economy, cannot be termed moderate. Indeed the changes the he made put the Chilean economy into a tailspin which in turn precipitated a crisis. Interestingly, for his factors, the author does not advance the presence of a common enemy though this may be indirectly through "acknowledgement of the problem". A common enemy is something that will bring together factions (e.g. the solidarity shortly after 9/11 in the US).

When the author turns his attention to the United States, he identifies some four problems. Three of those problems are real but the fourth identified problem, income inequality, misses the mark in my opinion. My happiness and well being is not in the slightest affected if Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks quarterback to put a face to a 1 percenter) makes (or loses) a $1M next month. I think that one should be looking at metrics related to the well being of people rather than on some relative metric between social classes. And when one does so, the "problem" may not be so acute.

When the author turns his attention to the world, he does not address the findings of Steven Pinker (Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress) or Hans Rosling (Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think). In his discussion on the high levels of energy usage per capita expended by 1st world countries, the author wonders off into the relative standard of living of the United States and Europe. He makes the claim, without any supporting evidence that Europeans enjoy a higher standard of living than Americans. That is quite debatable. There were other statements presented as facts without evidence that are debatable such as social mobility in the United States.

In summary, this book touches on an interesting topic but is hardly the last word.

Oct 30, 2019

I have long been a passionate fan of Jared Diamond's popular works. I devoured and have re-read many times "Guns, Germs and Steel", "Collapse" and "The World before Yesterday". They sit prominently on my bookshelf.

While I greatly enjoyed parts of "Upheaval" I found some of it very tedious. His overviews of how Finland, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Germany and Australia have dealt with 20th Century crises is well worth the read. I was particularly fascinated by his discussion of Finland's complicated position particularly before and during WWII and how they have managed to straddle two geopolitical worlds. Some interesting parallels with Canada and the USA. While I learnt a lot from his perspectives on the other countries they were not as new for me as Finland's.

The second half of the book where Diamond runs through a checklist of factors that influence a country's resilience using examples from the seven earlier cases struck me as a polymath well outside his comfort zone. Frequently I skimmed through these as his bald generalizations unfounded by his usual rigour lost my attention. Even his unsubtle attracts on the current Trump Administration (which I loath) could not hold my attention.

I'm glad I've read this book but also glad I didn't break down and buy it when it first came out.

Jul 16, 2019

Should be standard reading in all government offices- provided they actually read, and university-level history/sociology courses.

Jul 15, 2019

I probably did not give this book the close reading it deserves -- I sort of skimmed parts that were more analysis than story.

Jul 06, 2019

Can’t say this is his strongest offering. I found that he very loosely followed the defining structure he presents at the start of the book. In fact he hardly makes credible links to that structure when winding up his very loose history of the country’s period of upheaval. I think there are better historical authors and works that I would look for before recommending this work. With Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse he makes a much more credible case for his thesis than with this book. I couldn’t bother to finish it because I found much more interesting works to read.

Jun 05, 2019

I decided not to wait for this book to be available and bought it. Just finished it, and I found it both interesting and very helpful. The framework he uses to analyze and compare how 7 nations dealt with crises is familiar to me because I've been through it in dealing with crises in my own life. He explains it quite clearly in the prologue and first chapter in the book. He proposes this framework as a way of understanding history and a way of thinking about what might be happening in the future world wide (last chapter). Makes a lot of sense to me.

I was a child at the end of WWII so I have lived through the period since and remember the news stories and reactions to world events. This analysis put the bits and pieces of what I remembered into a better understanding of how we got to where we are today that I wondered about. For example, why Finland survived as a nation, how Germany recovered relatively quickly and is now our ally, just what happened in Chile. (We in the United States .know appallingly so little about South and Central America!)

I think this book is very valuable, and I hope my children and grandchildren will be reading it - soon!

May 24, 2019

The author defines "crisis" very broadly and doesn't come up with a grand formula for how countries deal with one. But I did learn some interesting things.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top