Why the West Rules for Now : The Patterns of History and What They Reveal About the Future Paperback
by Ian Morris
In the middle of the eighteenth century, British entrepreneurs unleashed the astounding energies of steam and coal and the world changed forever.
Factories, railways and gunboats then propelled the West's rise to power, and computers and nuclear weapons in the twentieth century secured its global supremacy.
Today, however, many worry that the emergence of China and India spell the end of the West as a superpower. How long will the power of the West last? In order to find out we need to know: why has the West been so dominant for the past two hundred years? With flair and authority, historian and achaeologist Ian Morris draws uniquely on 15,000 years of history to offer fresh insights on what the future will bring.
Deeply researched and brilliantly argued, Why The West Rules - For Now is a gripping and truly original history of the world.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 768 pages, Illustrations, maps
- Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 04/08/2011
- Category: General & world history
- ISBN: 9781846682087
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Review by jcbrunner
Ian Morris has written a highly pleasurable comparative history of China and the West that highlights the similarities and parallelism of the human development at both edges of the Eurasian continent. The social development index he constructs allows both a longitudinal comparison (when does the West return to a Roman level of development?) as well as lateral between the West and China. The big flaw is that while China more or less remains one cultural player, the West is an amalgam from Assyria to the United States of America. A more honest accounting would have split the West, showing that for much of the time, England was a backwater. A multi-actor model would also have allowed for the inclusion of India, the big civilization left out of the picture (except for its transfer of Buddhism to China). Still, the book is an enjoyable read of big picture history that is marred by the author's predilection for cheesy movies and crank authors (von Däniken, Gavin Menzies, ...). His weak account of the 20th century which relies upon such important "thinkers" as Tom Friedman severely damages the overall impact of the book. It is truly puzzling how such a great read could end up with a train wreck ending.Another element I found severely missing is accounting for inequality. Morris basically measures and compares the pinnacle of a civilization. That size and wealth of Rome was built upon the backs of millions of slaves and plundering of peoples is something that escapes his conservative 1 % point-of-view. All is well as long as the Virginia and Orange county suburbs enjoy a pleasant lifestyle. A parallel read of David Graeber's Debt and especially Richard Wilkinson's The Spirit Level is highly recommended as an antidote. One can only hope that his next book will not follow Niall Ferguson down the conservative rabbit hole.