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Upheaval

Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

By Jared Diamond
21-minute read
Audio available
Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond

Upheaval (2019) takes us through some of modern history’s biggest national crises to find out how each nation ended up in such trouble, and how they managed to get out of it. Looking at seven different nations, author Jared Diamond reveals how some of the same problems and solutions have emerged time and again, whether we’re looking at Chile and Indonesia in the 1970s, or Australia and Germany after WWII.

  • History buffs
  • Students of political science
  • Globally minded individuals interested in world affairs

Jared Diamond is an award-winning author and professor of geography at UCLA, whose influential research in the fields of ecology, history, biology and anthropology has been highly regarded by his peers. His work has earned him awards such as the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, while his previous book, Guns, Germs and Steel (1997) earned him the Pulitzer Prize.

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Upheaval

Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

By Jared Diamond
  • Read in 21 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 13 key ideas
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Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond
Synopsis

Upheaval (2019) takes us through some of modern history’s biggest national crises to find out how each nation ended up in such trouble, and how they managed to get out of it. Looking at seven different nations, author Jared Diamond reveals how some of the same problems and solutions have emerged time and again, whether we’re looking at Chile and Indonesia in the 1970s, or Australia and Germany after WWII.

Key idea 1 of 13

Both personal and national crises require selective changes, and the examination of 12 factors to find solutions.

Once you reach a certain age, you’re all but guaranteed to have faced a personal crisis or two. Most people experience crises when the circumstances of life challenge them, like during the major life transitions of adolescence, mid-life, retirement and old age.

Crises can be sudden, such as a relationship coming to a painful and abrupt end, or the onset of a serious illness. Or it can develop gradually, which is what often happens when a person continually refuses to change their behavior to correspond with a changing environment. In either case, a crisis is generally a sign that your current approach to life isn’t working as well as it could be, and needs to be changed.

And this isn’t just true for us individuals – it also goes for countries as a whole. Consider the statistic that suggests US cities will face a technological crisis every 12 years, as the systems and infrastructure keeping the city running become obsolete.

But whether a crisis is gradual or immediate, personal or national, the author has identified 12 factors that often contribute to finding a solution:

  1. Acknowledging the crisis itself. After all, you can’t fix a problem if you continue to deny that it exists.
  2. Accepting responsibility to respond to crisis.
  3. Distinguishing the things that need to change from those that are so important to your identity that they shouldn’t be interfered with. This process is called selective change.
  4. Getting assistance from outside sources.
  5. Learning about the methods others have used to respond to similar crises.
  6. Recognizing a personal or national identity.
  7. Undertaking an honest self-appraisal.
  8. Recognizing and learning from how you’ve handled past crises.
  9. Showing patience in coping with failure.
  10. Showing flexibility.
  11. Identifying your core values.
  12. Determining the constraints on your ability to enact selective change.

In the blinks that follow, we’ll see how these factors were relevant in the history of seven nations: Finland, Japan, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, Australia and the US. Let’s start with Finland as many of these factors came into play in order for its crisis to be resolved.

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