From the bestselling author of The Ascent of Money and The Square and the Tower
Western civilization’s rise to global dominance is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five centuries.
How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? Acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson argues that beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts, or “killer applications”—competition, science, the rule of law, modern medicine, consumerism, and the work ethic—that the Rest lacked, allowing it to surge past all other competitors.
Yet now, Ferguson shows how the Rest have downloaded the killer apps the West once monopolized, while the West has literally lost faith in itself. Chronicling the rise and fall of empires alongside clashes (and fusions) of civilizations, Civilization: The West and the Rest recasts world history with force and wit. Boldly argued and teeming with memorable characters, this is Ferguson at his very best.
Ferguson (Colossus), Harvard historian, polymath, and bestselling author, joins others who ve tried to explain the rise and dominance of the West, the pre-eminent historical phenomenon of the second half of the second millennium after Christ. He also has his eye on an increasingly pressing concern: the threats, from inside and outside, to Western hegemony. Ferguson attributes the West s supremacy and the spread of Western ways to six factors: competition, science, property rights (the rule of law), medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic. It s a grab bag of plausible conditions that differ from reasons cited by other students of the subject, but all hard to prove. Ominously, from Ferguson s perspective, the fortuitous weakness of the West s rivals is turning to strengths, threatening Western supremacy. Turning from historian to seer, Ferguson thus foresees the West s decline and fall (of which he seems convinced) arising from both self-inflicted wounds (such as self-indulgence and weakening educational systems) and the strengthening of nations, such as China, that are modernizing and improving the education of their young people. Perhaps. The book would have gained by greater focus and less of a jumble of details. The reason for Ferguson s fear of the rest isn t clear, but those who share his concern will find that he has penned a sobering caution. Illus.
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Well Worth Reading
Although there are points in this book that can prove tough slogging to those of us who are not economists, the central thesis is well-developed and is punctuated by interesting facts and anecdotes. Those who enjoy the work of Jared Diamond will - I think - like this alternative approach to explaining the rise, and possible collapse, of Western Civilization.