A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History

By Manuel De Landa

The title alludes to what makes this book so interesting: its atypical treatment of history. In this book, a sort of blend of history and philosophy, De Landa “traces the concrete movements and interplays of matter and energy” across three domains: economics, biology, and linguistics.

He traces the histories of tangible things in these domains, and how they interact with humans and societies throughout the last millennium. Subjects include such things as phase transitions, self-organization, and emergent “transactions”.

I like the format of each chapter, from a purely typographical perspective: one page of large text, two pages of medium-sized text, and the rest of the chapter in a smaller body face.

This all creates a multidimensionally-conscious “materialist history” that reflects complex interactions along many vectors. Coming back to the three lenses, geological, biological, and linguistic: these are distinct types of energies, different manifestations of material reality. They touch our lives daily in ways countless but mostly unseen.

I like the idea of a book that outlines, articulates, and otherwise de-obfuscates some of these hidden dynamics.

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