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Comment: This book has some wear. Cover shows quite a bit of age and use. Flyleaf has remains of an old sticker. Book edges have tiny foxing spots. A couple of pages have dog-ear creases and some have reader markings and underlining. Despite the cosmetic issues, this is a very readable copy.
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How The West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation Of The Industrial World Paperback – June 1, 1987

ISBN-13: 978-0465031092 ISBN-10: 0465031099

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465031099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031092
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Nathan Rosenberg, a leading expert on the history of technology, is an economist at Stanford University.L.E. Birdzell, Jr. is an attorney and legal scholar, based in Newport, Rhode Island. Nathan Rosenberg, a leading expert on the history of technology, is an economist at Stanford University.L.E. Birdzell, Jr. is an attorney and legal scholar, based in Newport, Rhode Island.

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Fredrik Gustafsson on March 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
Monographs dealing with West's rise from a backward feudal society to the most technologically advanced and wealthiest civilization this world has ever seen, seem to come a dime a dozen nowadays. Given the large amounts of books available on this topic, and the fact that it was published twenty years ago, what reasons are there for reading How the West Grew Rich? Quite a few I would argue.

The main question of the book is of course: how, or rather why, did the West (as opposed to the South or the East) achieve modern economic growth? The authors come to the correct conclusion that standard growth models can only provide the proximate causes of growth. Innovation and accumulation of capital, labour and natural resources is growth, it does not explain growth.

So what, according to R&B, are the fundamental causes of growth? The answer lies in favourable institutions and freedom from political restrictions - more specifically, secure property rights and the freedom to engage in any line of business and to acquire and sell goods at an unregulated price. This meant that the process of innovation was delegated to private firms and that individuals themselves were forced to bear full responsibility for their failures and reap the full benefits of their successes.

Why then did such favourable institutions and political and economic freedoms arise in the West? The answer according to R&B is political fragmentation and competition between different territories in Europe. Investments and the merchant class were drawn to areas were property rights were respected and where they could carry out their business without too much political interference. There was no single empire in Europe.
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Format: Paperback
It is entirely safe to generalize: innovation is more likely to occur in a society that is open to the formation of new enterprises than in a society that relies on its existing organizations for innovation." Feudalism thus had to be eclipsed for serious change to occur since it "was a society which dealt with the risks of life by legislating rigidity. Economic growth is inherently a byproduct of change, and the political and religious ideology of the Middle Ages guarded against the heresies of change in every way it could," argues the authors herein as they set out to explain "how the West generated the organizational and technological skills required to produce and exploit" its wealth. A "decentralization of authority," thus was crucial...and this was greatly spurred by the Protestant Reformation, the long term effect of which, economically, "was the progressive removal of religion from intimate involvement in the sphere of business activity." "In the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries , the business sphere was, in a word, secularized." "Protestantism sanctioned a high degree of individual responsibility for moral conduct and reduced the authority of the clergy." Under these circumstances, it would have been too much to expect the Catholic clergy to continue to stress doctrines which could only turn prosperous parishioners toward Protestantism." The authors argue moreover that this "was not wholly a question of the theological content of either Catholicism or Protestantism.Read more ›
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Chad M. Brick on December 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
"How the West Grew Rich" is a thorough treatise on the rise of capitilism in the nation-states of the west, from feudal society towards modern times. Rosenthal and Birdzell discuss in the appearances of the requirements for capitilism, such as acknowledgment of property rights and consistent and predictable law. Also discussed are the political, social, or economic changes that caused feudal society to crumble and a variety of free markets to gradually take root and then blossom in Europe.
This book was thorough and informative, though a bit repetitive and somewhat dry. It makes a wonderful companion to Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel", filling in where the later left off.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ken on January 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
The author's efforts are generic geared to express his direction towards the topic rather than to investigate the methods of the west in becoming rich. Details are glossed over for generality, hiding the range of experience of the population during the periods discussed. Summary points are close to modern folklore in their discussion. There is no consideration of the individual in his environment; instead there is a removed observation from a point of view.
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