Why the West Rules-- for Now

Why the West Rules-- for Now

The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
Why does the West rule? In this magnum opus, eminent Stanford polymath Ian Morris answers this provocative question, drawing on 50,000 years of history, archeology, and the methods of social science, to make sense of when, how, and why the paths of development differed in the East and West — and what this portends for the 21st century.

There are two broad schools of thought on why the West rules. Proponents of "Long-Term Lock-In" theories such as Jared Diamond suggest that from time immemorial, some critical factor — geography, climate, or culture perhaps — made East and West unalterably different, and determined that the industrial revolution would happen in the West and push it further ahead of the East. But the East led the West between 500 and 1600, so this development can't have been inevitable; and so proponents of "Short-Term Accident" theories argue that Western rule was a temporary aberration that is now coming to an end, with Japan, China, and India resuming their rightful places on the world stage. However, as the West led for 9,000 of the previous 10,000 years, it wasn't just a temporary aberration. So, if we want to know why the West rules, we need a whole new theory. Ian Morris, boldly entering the turf of Jared Diamond and Niall Ferguson, provides the broader approach that is necessary, combining the textual historian's focus on context, the anthropological archaeologist's awareness of the deep past, and the social scientist's comparative methods to make sense of the past, present, and future — in a way no one has ever done before.

Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c2010
ISBN: 9780771064555
Branch Call Number: 909.09821 MOR


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Apr 21, 2019

Great book. As influential on my thinking as Guns, Germs and Steel but much better. I like Jared Diamond's work but now I'm hooked on Morris.
From one of the many Amazon reviews:
"A 14,000 year review of human history using a value called social development. He gives the year 2000 a base value of 1000 divided into four categories: urbanism, energy, communication and military. Each gets 250 points. History starts in 14,000BCE with a 4 or 5 score while today society gets a score of over 1000. Almost all this gain has been in the last 250 years. Progress has been ragged and often runs into ceilings and drops back for several centuries ( like the dark ages). He then uses this score in graph form and explains what was going on historically to give these results.

He then takes it a step further to compare Western (Middle east to USA) and Eastern ( China) civilizations. We watch the lines run parallel for a long period and diverge and crossover and he this way we have a race. He explains key historical events and shows how that shows up in the values and on the graphs. All very good and very informative and unique to see history told this way."

Jul 07, 2018

Sorry, not too impressed with this - - although I was forewarned by the blurbs on the back from two individuals I consider farces, Jared Diamond and Niall Ferguson.
This author/historian reminds me of Michio Kaku, who sounded like a complete and utter ignoramus during an interview when Kaku volunteered his opinion [which he believed to be entirely factual] that the global economic meltdown of 2007 - 2009 was a typical business cycle. The common fallacy of an academic who might know something in one field, believing that limited knowledge - - if even that - - to be easily transferable to each and every other field!
This guy does know some history of several countries, but perhaps not enough to make such sweeping statements as he does, and he does get some stuff wrong.
His belief that China held US debt for a long period is again factually incorrect - - firstly, China was NEVER the single largest holder of US debt, instead, but for a limited period, China WAS the foreign country holder of the single block of US debt [today it is Japan, who is also the number two foreign investor in America, after the UK], and his conclusions he arrives at in the final chapter therefore aren't based upon solid data.
Reminds me of the other night, when that pervy-voiced dude on NPR's Marketplace, Kyle Ryssdal, suggested that China is important to the USA because Chinese foreign national students spend billions in America [like to see the data to support that] - - whether true or not, trillions of dollars worth of intellectual property theft is also the responsibility of China - - and a trillion is a far greater number than a billion! The author's understanding of finance, financial history and economics is too sorely lacking for such pronouncements he makes.
[And I sincerely wish all those supposed scholars and pseudo-scholars to stop mentioning Kurzweil as if he's some sort of genius - - and ditto for C. Wright Mills, who NEVER, EVER mentions the most important study of his time, the TNEC Committee study, and never covers the important stuff which a real scholar, Ferdinand Lundberg, covered!]
If these so-called historians [or fake newsies] ever related real history and news, they would mention that along with Nixon and Kissinger, aboard Air Force One to China on those trips, went banker David Rockefeller, who within the year would establish banking operations in Beijing. I don't know whether the thick-headed Nixon was being played by Rockefeller, or he was aware of his agenda, but the Rockefellers have manipulated quite an array of presidents, including Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, the Bushes, and Clinton --- they failed miserably with President Kennedy, and we saw what happened to him in Dallas!

Jun 08, 2011

A very substantial book. Goes beyond superficial comparisons. The author constructs a system for comparison that seems practical and uses it as a guideline. One contention is that the individual who invents historical changes is a product of social, geograhpic and more factors. He sees the future as a race between what he calls "singularity' and "nightfall'.

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