December 11, 2010

EXCEPT THAT IF WE ARE TO TAKE THE CONCEPT OF THE WEST SERIOUSLY...:

The Final Conflict: a review of WHY THE WEST RULES — FOR NOW: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future By Ian Morris (ORVILLE SCHELL, 12/12/10, NY Times Book Review)

Fortunately, Morris is a lucid thinker and a fine writer. He uses a minimum of academic jargon and is possessed of a welcome sense of humor that helps him guide us through this grand game of history as if he were an erudite sportscaster. He shows us how different empires were boosted by periods of “axial thought” to surge up the development ladder, only to crumble upon hitting a “hard ceiling,” usually inflicted by what he calls the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse: climate change, migration, famine, epidemic and state failure.

But failure of one civilization only allowed another to arise somewhere else. The Roman Empire, Song dynasty China, Renaissance Europe and the Britain of the Industrial Revolution came along, got lift under their wings from new technology, social innovation or a creative organizing principle and pushed the whole process of development forward another notch.

According to Morris’s scorecard, since this age-old process began, the world index of social development has risen to 900 points. And, he predicts, in the next 100 years this index will rise an additional 4,000 points. He calls such progress “staggering.”

But with the West’s power and confidence now declining, and China’s authoritarian form of capitalism ripsawing its way toward an ever more dominant position in the world, a reader may be forgiven for becoming somewhat impatient. Is Morris ever going to answer the “burning question”? Who will win the next phase of our East-West horse race, the United States or China?


...then not only must we connect Rome, Britain, and America but China as well, which has found some limited success only to the degree that it has developed Western economics and which has a concurrently booming Christian population. It remains at too low a level to take seriously as a significant power and faces too many internal problems to ever reach great power status, but China's rise is exclusively a function of its Westernization.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 11, 2010 6:48 PM
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