Jared Diamond, the author of ‘guns, germs and steel’ theory, aims to explain the material success of European civilization through the lenses of certain preconditions, including geography, use of steel, and immunity to germs. According to the author, a big part of Eurasia has very good agricultural potential due to geographic characteristics such as a variety of animals and plants. The domestication of animals is important in terms of providing social stability and leads to labor specialization. Due to labor specialization the technological specialization on Europe became very quick, which made a very full contribution to the development of weapon. Weapon, in its turn, also enabled Europeans to conquer people from other continents.
As to more geographic characteristics, Europeans grains are richer in proteins and much easier to store, if compared to American maize, for example, which also contributed to the density of population in Eurasia. Jared Diamond also argues that Eurasia had the landmass advantage that was suitable for the development of trade. In contrast, Southern and Northern Americas are ‘stretched’ geographically, which discourages trade and sharing of ideas. In addition to this, Eurasia is much more diverse from the point of view of its population, which created a stronger resistance to germs. This phenomenon the author explains by the fact that close proximity of population in Europe causes the wide transmission of diseases. Due to natural selection Europeans managed to develop a strong immune system to disease, which contributed to their advantage. Therefore, according to the theory, environmental rather than genetic factors caused the material and societal success of Europe.
In my opinion, Jared Diamond theory is important because it manages to manage the levels of discrimination of non-European ethnicities. Ethnocentrism is very common among Europeans and they often explain their dominant position in the world by their superiority. There are various explanations of why people tend to be ethnocentric. Specifically, according to social identity theory, lack of understanding and respect for the cultural point of view of others is the result of strong identification with the in-group. In-group identification often leads to polarization, which reinforces stereotyping and significantly decreases the amount of intergroup communication. In the meantime, according to conflict theory, ethnocentrism is the result of a real or perceived conflict between different cultural groups that compete for resources that are always scarce.
Rejection of the cultural point of view of others can also be explained through the lenses of the process of socialization. Specifically, an individual tends to adopt the values, attitudes, and norms of cultural group that he or she is a part of. This process is usually followed by naturalization, or the assumption that these norms and values are the only ‘natural’ and ‘correct’ cultural elements. As a result, people demonstrate resistance to understanding the culture that differs from the one that they were socialized in and the one that they find ‘natural’ and thus justified. Jared Diamond with his theory thus made a very full contribution to the decrease in the level of ethnocentrism.
It is important to note, however, that some aspects of the theory are debatable. For example, regardless of the fact that some types of grain in the Americas are indeed difficult to store, ethnicities that inhabited the Americas back then had potatoes that are a good source of carbs and are easy to store. In addition to this, the theory is not empirically based. Namely, there is no evidence that non-European ethnicities indeed were less resistant to diseases, if compared to Europeans. Therefore, the theory is based on logical assumptions rather than on the examination of empirical and factual evidence.