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Cultures Merging: A Historical and Economic Critique of Culture (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) Hardcover – March 26, 2006
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"Jones' book is important because it links our economic past and future with our ideas about culture."--Mark Trahant, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"An accessible, illuminating, and inspiring book."--Avner Greif, EH.net
"Eric Jones is intelligent, literate, and eclectic. His comments range over many fields besides economic history, and he writes in a sprightly manner. The book is fun to read, and it engages one of the big issues of economic history: the role of culture in economic affairs."--Peter Temin, Economic History Review
"Eric L. Jones has written an interesting and well-argued critique of two positions that he believes are well entrenched in the economic history literature. The first, which he terms 'cultural nullity', is widely held by economists and assigns no or at best a trivial role to culture in explaining economic outcomes. Second, Jones criticizes those (often historians) who think of a 'cultural fixity', in which an unchanging culture dominates every other aspect of life. . . . Jones marshals an impressive and at times amusing range of illustrations of the fluidity of cultures."--Harold James, International History Review
"Cultures Merging is a remarkable historical tour de force presenting a wealth of argument to indicate the role of economic forces in the modification of culture and vice versa."--Arthur Webb, Journal of Cultural Economics
"Jones . . . makes a compelling argument for the special place of literature in understanding these dialectics of poverty."--John Marsh, The Minnesota Review
"Jones writes in a vivid, attractive manner, expressing sometimes trenchant arguments on specific topics. . . . His book has a syncretic and eclectic feel, and conveys a sense of its author as someone who, having established his standing in his previous, more focused work, now revels in his ability to survey that of another generation or two of scholars, and to tell his readers which leads to follow and which to consider useless."--Gianfranco Poggi, Sociologica
Top Customer Reviews
"Cultures Merging" addresses the relevance and influence of culture on economic development, advocating a middle road between the extremes of "cultural fixity", in which culture is primary, and "cultural nullity", in which culture has no place or does not matter. But these terms themselves, as Prof. Jones shows, while useful for setting boundaries, fail as self-consistent ideas, for in arguing one position, one must necessarily consider the other or risk becoming irrelevant to the real world. The very notion of "culture", in fact, presupposes biases used in the very decision making processes that economists are fond of analyzing. Thus one cannot hope to approach a complete study of the influence of culture upon economics without also looking at beliefs, customs, social mores, and cultural values. In the spirit of the catholic and liquid nature of his subject, Jones draws liberally upon economics, anthropology, sociology, historical examples, and personal anecdotes to illustrate the many ways that culture influences economics and to what extent one may properly attribute the advancement of the latter to the former.
In the end, Jones's message seems to be a hopeful one, arguing that culture may be used to advance economic development in a way that avoids cultural imperialism from without but also advances the culture--in terms of individual rights and freedoms--from within.Read more ›
Points of view are often put forward by the author with crutches. So and so said a particular thing and then a reference. There is often no supporting argumentation or assessment of differing views in the book. The author fails to understand the difference between an effect and an important effect. At one point he claims that humanity chooses technically inferior solutions. He provides one obscure reference as support. The reader left in limbo land. Is this obscure reference representative of most researchers'viewpoint? Is the obscure reference's conclusion referring to most technical solutions or just to the fact that sometimes inferior technical solutions are chosen? The author implicitly proceeds with the first interpretation. Is that true? Well, you need to find the reference and read it in full to find out. This is plainly an unacceptable way of writing.
I am giving the book a very generous three stars.