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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I am a big fan of Niall so I am pretty disappointed. There is a lot of information, which is great, but it gets to the point where you forget what the chapter is about and fail to connect the relevance of what is being said to the chapter.
I am struggling to finish. Also, the accents are so very bad, it really sounds like they having people impersonating someone else with a fake accent whenever they quote someone.
Guns germs and steel... Almost
This isn't a bad book, it is full of interesting information, but it tries too hard and doesn't flow very well. Early in the book Niall mentions guns germs and steel and tells how this book is going to go into details overlooked and ignored in that book... Ok, I can respect that, but instead it seems like the entire book is trying not to cover the same topics more than it is trying to paint an accurate picture. Further, the book starts out very strong and I throughly enjoyed the first few chapters, but eventually it seems like much of the rest of the world begins to be ignored and descriptions are no longer about how the west succeeded over the "rest", it is just about how the west succeeded. Lastly the book doesn't seem to have focus within each chapter. Niall does a great job setting chapters up, but quickly seems to go off on tangents that don't seem to be relevant to the topic at hand.
As I said, it is a good book, and it is full of interesting information, but it could be better focused and more to the point. I would say if you haven't read guns germs and steel, read that first for sure, this is a decent follow up.