Contemporary Ecological-Evolutionary Books:

Book Description:
Though we share 98 percent of our genes with the chimpanzee, our species evolved into something quite extraordinary. Jared Diamond explores the fascinating question of what in less than 2 percent of our genes has enabled us to found civilizations and religions, develop intricate languages, create art, learn science--and acquire the capacity to destroy all our achievements overnight. The Third Chimpanzee is a tour de force, an iconoclastic, entertaining, sometimes alarming look at the unique and marvelous creature that is the human animal. 

Editorial Reviews: 

Diamond is officially a physiologist at UCLA medical school, but he's also one of the best birdwatchers in the world. The current scientific consensus that "primitive" humans created ecological catastrophes in the Pacific islands, Australia, and the New World owes a great deal to his fieldwork and insight. In Diamond's view, the current global ecological crisis isn't due to modern technology per se, but to basic weaknesses in human nature. But, he says, "I'm cautiously optimistic. If we will learn from our past that I have traced, our own future may yet prove brighter than that of the other two chimpanzees." --Mary Ellen Curtin 

Physiologist Diamond traces humankind's biological and social development from about 40,000 years ago, to the present, and into the future. For general readers. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or. 
-- Diane Ackerman, author of A Natural History of the Senses

"Wonderful . . . Jared Diamond conducts his fascination study of our behavior and origins with a naturalist's eye and a philosopher's cunning." 
-- Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University

"The Third Chimpanzee will endure." 
-- Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University

"Everyone will enjoy reading this brilliant book. It helps us understand what it means to be human." 
-- Kirkus Reviews

Book Description:
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal. 

Editorial Reviews: 
"An ambitious, highly important book."
--James Shreeve, New York Times Book Review

"The scope and explanatory power of this book are astounding."
--The New Yorker

Jared broadly erudite, writes in a style that pleasantly expresses scientific concepts in vernacular American English and deals almost exclusively in questions that should interest everyone concerned about how humanity developed. . . .Reading Diamond is like watching someone riding a unicycle, balancing an eel on his nose and juggling five squealing piglets. You may or may not agree with him (I usually do), but he rivets your attention. 
--Alfred W. Crosby, Los Angeles Times

"A fascinating and extremely important book. That its insights seem so fresh, its facts so novel and arresting, is evidence of how little Americans --and, I suspect, most well-educated citizens of the most important forces of human history."
--David Brown, Washington Post Book Word

"Guns, Germs and Steel is an artful, informative and delightful book...there is nothing like a radically new angle of vision for bringing out unsuspected dimensions of subject and that is what Jared Diamond has done."
--William H. McNeil, The New York Review of Books

"No scientist brings more experience from the laboratory and field, none thinks more deeply about social issues or addresses them with greater clarity, than Jared Diamond as illustrated by Guns, Germs, and Steel. In this remarkably readable book he shows how history and biology can enrich one another to produce a deeper understanding of the human condition."
--Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University

Science, Materialism, and the Study of Culture

Martin F. Murphy and Maxine L. Margolis (eds.), 1995, Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

From the Publisher:
"Well-argued, clearly written essays by anthropologists committed to understanding culture through theoretically grounded analysis of its material underpinnings. The authors' impassioned call for an anthropology that addresses pressing social problems--exploitation, inequality, violence, hunger, and underdevelopment--is a welcome counterweight to studies that view power primarily as discourse or poetics."
--Marc Edelman, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

The social sciences, especially cultural anthropology, are mired in contentious arguments about the desirability --even the applicability--of scientific and causal principles in the study of culture and society.  The authors of these essays come down clearly on the side and significance of these principles, claiming that a cultural materialist approach is the most productive way of explaining cultural differences and similarities and of understanding many "unexplainable" aspects of culture.


  • An Introduction to Cultural Materialism (Martin F. Murphy and Maxine L. Margolis)
Part 1: Theoretical Perspectives
  • Explanation and Ground Truth: The Place of Cultural Materialism in Scientific Anthropology (Allen Johnson)
  • Infrastructural Determinism (R. Brian Feguson)
  • Politics, Theory, and the Nature of Cultural Things (Roger Sanjek)
  • Anthropology and Postmodernism (Marvin Harris)
Part 2: Applications
  • Hunting Patterns and Village Fissioning among the Yanomami: A Cultural Materialist Perspective (Kenneth Good)
  • Water Theft in Egypt's Fayoum Oasis: Emics, Etics, and the Illegal (David H. Price)
  • A Cultural Materialist Approach to the Causes of Hunger and Homelessness in New York City (Anna Lou Dehavenon)
  • "We Are All Chickens for the Colonel": A Cultural Materialist View of Prisons (Jagna Wojcicka Sharff)
  • Peasants, Projects, and Anthropological Models: Fragile Causal Chains and Crooked Causal Arrows (Gerald F. Murray)
  • Bibliography
  • Contributors
  • Index

Industrializing America: Understanding Contemporary Society through Classical Sociological Analysis 

Frank W. Elwell, 1999, Westport Connecticut: Praeger Press

From the Publisher:
"It deserves to be read and used as a textbook in a wide variety of introductory courses in sociology, anthropology and sociocultural theory.  It can also serve as a text for American studies courses since it contains in-depth descriptions of basic trends in American society and culture, shedding new light on the core institutions of government, global corporations, health care bureaucracies, food production, manufacturing and many other features of what is often but erroneously called 'post-industrialism.'  Against the main current of the social sciences, here is a book that returns us to the classical view that societies and cultures can best be understood as entities whose parts fit together to form systems." 
--Marvin Harris, Graduate Research Professor 
Department of Anthropology University of Florida

An analysis of any part of the social system must be firmly rooted in a framework that outlines the whole system and the interrelationships of the various parts.  Building on classical sociological theory, this volume proposes an original and comprehensive systems theory of sociocultural stability and change, which combines fundamental ecological relationships with social structures and culture.  Relationships and concepts developed by Marx, Weber, Malthus, Spencer, and Durkheim are explained and synthesized into a coherent perspective, which is used to examine multiple phenomena in modern industrial societies.

The author argues that recent changes in social structures (for example corporations, education, or the family) and culture (our socially created and shared symbolic understanding of our world) are interrelated and rooted in massive changes in population size and industrial growth.  By systematically relating the analysis of these sociocultural phenomena to the whole and to one another this volume presents a framework that can serve to organize and integrate many diverse theories, insights, and much empirical information into a comprehensive world view. 


  • Cultural Materialism
  • Structure of Power
  • Hyper-industrialism
  • Bureaucracy 
  • Irrationality factor 
  • Globalization 
  • Economic Rationalization 
  • Workplace Turmoil 
  • Family and Community 
  • Industrial Agriculture 
  • Managed Care 
  • Higher Education
  • Political Campaigns 
  • Ideology of Technology
  • Possibilities for the Future