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Crisis management

Upheaval: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change by Jared Diamond (Allen Lane, £20)

“How nations cope with crisis and change” is rather a big subject, which suggests something on the scale of Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History. In Upheaval, Jared Diamond, the great analyst of historical ecological collapses, has produced instead a vivid, interesting but somewhat incoherent set of impressions, drawn from the modern history of countries he knows well.

Like all Diamond’s work, it is meant to be a wake-up call to the world in general, and the United States in particular, to acknowledge and respond to the growing crises facing us, especially in the field of climate change and ecological degradation. The book is structured around a parallel between how an individual responds to a crisis and how societies do; he compares the so-called “ego-strength” in individuals with sources of national unity and resilience in countries.

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In Prospect's June issue: