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Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” in Venkatachalam’s Interpretation Essay (Book Review)


According to Venkatachalam, what is the main thesis of Guns, Germs, and Steel. Support your claim.

Throughout the history of humankind, people have noticed that certain civilizations have their specific patterns of development; hence, the need to analyze and explain those differences appeared. In his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond offers his explanation of why the existing civilizations ended up where they are now. Venkatachalam interprets Jared’s findings, offering an intriguing and peculiar interpretation of Jared’s ideas. Taking a closer look at Venkatachalam’s work, one can see, however, that some of Venkatachalam’s interpretations of Diamond’s ideas are quite unexpected, to say the least.

According to Venkatachalam, the key point that the author is making in his book is that the specifics of the development in the European civilization regarding political, economical, cultural, and other aspects, stand in sharp contrast to the development of other civilizations, not because of the biological differences between the races, but because of the specifics of historical development. As Venkatachalam himself explains, the proximate causes have nothing to do with how civilizations develop and serve only as a foil for people’s interactions (Venkatachalam 85).

In your own words, summarize Venkatachalam’s main thesis. Support your claim.

Venkatachalam summarizes the key ideas of Guns, germs, and steel in a nutshell. The reviewer must focus on the proximity theory, contrasting it with the one provided by Jared Diamond. According to Venkatachalam, the theory of proximity fails to explain several issues that Diamond’s book sheds some light on.

Thus, Venkatachalam makes it clear that the idea of proximity is no longer of any use and that Diamond’s “causes theory” can be used as a substitute for the former. Venkatachalam states that with the help of Diamond’s ideas, one can see the theory of civilizations’ development through a different lens and adopt an unbiased idea of why European culture has advanced differently compared to the rest of the world cultures. Besides, it is essential to add that Venkatachalam considers the ultimate causes of the key reasons for the existence of inequality within present-day society.

Evaluate Venkatachalam’s book review, making explicit its strengths and/or weaknesses. (at least 300 words). Use the readings given above and/or the final project’s grading scheme to help you

When it comes to analyzing Venkatachalam’s review, one must admit that it has its strengths, yet several details make the review look not that strong. Starting with the positive issues, it is necessary to mention that the review offers a very detailed analysis of Diamond’s book. It is worth mentioning that Venkatachalam’s interpretation of Diamond’s ideas is rather original, yet the reviewer still follows the source text quite closely. Moreover, Venkatachalam analyzes the text, allowing the reader to instantly jump to the conclusion that Diamond leads the readers to throughout an entire chapter: “Despite the invention of the wheel, writing and cereal cultivation in parts of America these innovations did not spread on this continent tanks to insurmountable barriers in the form of deserts and the Panama isthmus” (Venkatachalam 85). With the help of his manner of summarizing Diamond’s ideas and offering them to the readers, Venkatachalam manages to create a cohesive and clear work that sheds some light on Diamond’s key ideas without going too deep into the science-related details.

There are a few drawbacks in Venkatachalam’s interpretation of Diamond’s book as well, however. To start with, the uncompromising and straightforward tone of the paper brings the work down a few notches. Even though Diamond’s ideas hardly seem to have any double meaning, Venkatachalam’s certainty in his conclusions seems a bit far-fetched. The given element affects the tone of the paper, making it more persuasive and, therefore, more memorable. Another issue that might seem somewhat ambiguous in Venkatachalam’s review of the book is the fact that the reviewer offers a rather one-sided argument. While he does provide a detailed account of the book, its topic, and key ideas, it still seems that Venkatachalam’s review lacks objectivity. If the reviewer had incorporated at least one more interpretation, offering it as a counterpoint to his one the review would have been complete.

In retrospect, one must admit that the technological development of humankind cannot be considered linear. Though progress can hardly be avoided, there can be no denying that people have seen the times of decay and the times of technological progress. Speaking of the latter, the XIX-XX centuries must be mentioned. The late XIX century was the time when humankind jumped into a pool of opportunities that the numerous technological discoveries offered. One of the most ingenious inventions of the time, the typewriter was bound to become the symbol of the XIX-century progress. In his book, Todd Timmons claims that the change that occurred in the XIX century to the lives of the American citizens is truly unprecedented since the technological advances offered to humankind changed the world. According to Todd, the late XIX century is a unique period in the history of the civilization, because there has never been such a rise in technological development like this before: “Most Americans in 1900 lived a life so fundamentally different than it would have been unimaginable to people only a few generations earlier – and advances in science and technology-fueled these changes” (Timmons, 2005, 1). Along with the idea that the technological development in the XIX century went beyond people’s most daring expectations, Timmons also made it obvious that in the 1900s, the technological development of the USA made an unexpected turn, since the parallels between science and technology were finally drawn. The latter allowed for several possibilities since technological advances finally obtained a theoretical basis; according to Timmons, the given event served as the tipping point for the technological breakthrough and led people to even more fantastic discoveries.

Reference List

Timmons, T. (2005). Science and technology in nineteenth-century America. Westport, CN: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Venkatachalam, R. (2001). Guns, germs and steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years. Web.

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"Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” in Venkatachalam’s Interpretation." IvyPanda, 4 Jan. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/diamonds-guns-germs-and-steel-in-venkatachalams-interpretation/.

1. IvyPanda. "Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” in Venkatachalam’s Interpretation." January 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/diamonds-guns-germs-and-steel-in-venkatachalams-interpretation/.


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IvyPanda. "Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” in Venkatachalam’s Interpretation." January 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/diamonds-guns-germs-and-steel-in-venkatachalams-interpretation/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” in Venkatachalam’s Interpretation." January 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/diamonds-guns-germs-and-steel-in-venkatachalams-interpretation/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” in Venkatachalam’s Interpretation'. 4 January.

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