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Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future Hardcover – October 12, 2010
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“In an era when cautious academics too often confine themselves to niggling discussions of pipsqueak topics, it is a joy to see a scholar take a bold crack at explaining the vast sweep of human progress. . .Readers of Why the West Rules-For Now are unlikely to see the history of the world in quite the same way ever again. And that can't be said of many books on any topic. Morris has penned a tour de force.” ―Keith Monroe, The Virginian-Pilot
“If you read one history book this year, if you read one this decade, this is the one.” ―Tim O' Connell, The Florida Times-Union
“A monumental effort...Morris is an engaging writer with deep insights from archaeology and ancient history that offer us compelling visions about how the past influences the future.” ―Michael D. Langan, Buffalo News
“[Morris] has written the first history of the world that really makes use of what modern technology can offer to the interpretation of the historical process. The result is a path-breaking work that lays out what modern history should look like.” ―Harold James, Financial Times
“Morris is a lucid thinker and a fine writer. . .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.” ―Orville Schell, The New York Times Book Review
“A remarkable book that may come to be as widely read as Paul Kennedy's 1987 work, ‘The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.' Like Mr Kennedy's epic, Mr Morris's ‘Why the West Rules--For Now' uses history and an overarching theory to address the anxieties of the present . . . This is an important book--one that challenges, stimulates and entertains. Anyone who does not believe there are lessons to be learned from history should start here.” ―The Economist
“Morris' new book illustrates perfectly why one really scholarly book about the past is worth a hundred fanciful works of futurology. Morris is the world's most talented ancient historian, a man as much at home with state-of-the-art archaeology as with the classics as they used to be studied . . . He has brilliantly pulled off what few modern academics would dare to attempt: a single-volume history of the world that offers a bold and original answer to the question, Why did the societies that make up 'the West' pull ahead of 'the Rest' not once but twice, and most spectacularly in the modern era after around 1500? Wearing his impressive erudition lightly -- indeed, writing with a wit and clarity that will delight the lay reader -- Morris uses his own ingenious index of social development as the basis for his answer.” ―Niall Ferguson, Foreign Affairs
“A formidable, richly engrossing effort to determine why Western institutions dominate the world . . . Readers will enjoy [Morris's] lively prose and impressive combination of scholarship . . . with economics and science. A superior contribution to the grand-theory-of-human-history genre.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Ian Morris has returned history to the position it once held: no longer a series of dusty debates, nor simple stories--although he has many stories to tell and tells them brilliantly--but a true magister vitae, ‘teacher of life.' Morris explains how the shadowy East-West divide came about, why it really does matter, and how one day it might end up. His vision is dazzling, and his prose irresistible. Everyone from Sheffield to Shanghai who wants to know not only how they came to be who and where they are but where their children and their children's children might one day end up must read this book.” ―Anthony Pagden, author of Worlds and War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West
“This is an astonishing work by Ian Morris: hundreds of pages of the latest information dealing with every aspect of change. Then, the questions of the future: What will a new distribution bring about? Will Europe undergo a major change? Will the millions of immigrants impose a new set of rules on the rest? There was a time when Europe could absorb any and all newcomers. Now the newcomers may dictate the terms. The West may continue to rule, but the rule may be very different.” ―David S. Landes, author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations
“Here you have three books wrapped into one: an exciting novel that happens to be true; an entertaining but thorough historical account of everything important that happened to any important people in the last ten millennia; and an educated guess about what will happen in the future. Read, learn, and enjoy!” ―Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography at UCLA, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and Natural Experiments of History
“Ian Morris is a classical archaeologist, an ancient historian, and a writer whose breathtaking vision and scope make him fit to be ranked alongside the likes of Jared Diamond and David Landes. His magnum opus is a tour not just d'horizon but de force, taking us on a spectacular journey to and from the two nodal cores of the Euramerican West and the Asian East, alighting and reflecting as suggestively upon 10,800 BC as upon AD 2010. The shape of globalizing history may well never be quite the same again.” ―Paul Cartledge, A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, Clare College
“At last--a brilliant historian with a light touch. We should all rejoice.” ―John Julius Norwich
“Deeply thought-provoking and engagingly lively, broad in sweep and precise in detail.” ―Jonathan Fenby, author of Modern China: The Fall and Rise of a Great Power, 1850 to the Present
“Morris's history of world dominance sparkles as much with exotic ideas as with extraordinary tales. Why the West Rules--for Now is both a riveting drama and a major step toward an integrated theory of history.” ―Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
“The nearest thing to a unified field theory of history we are ever likely to get. With wit and wisdom, Ian Morris deploys the techniques and insights of the new ancient history to address the biggest of all historical questions: Why on earth did the West beat the Rest? I loved it.” ―Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money
Top Customer Reviews
I was going to try and compare it to some of books in the same genre that I have read, but this book takes, disproves and/ or builds on their arguments - books such as Kennedy's Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, Pommeranz's the Great Divergence, Landes' The Wealth and Poverty of Nations - and they are all cited in his book and Morris takes pains to show how they only focus on one small piece of the picture. Indeed the feeling of reading this must have been similar for those who read Marx's Das Kapital for the first time (although the language is much more accessible and the conclusion is open ended) in that it attempts to set out underlying laws of history.
In the words of the author - "History is not one damn thing after another, it is a single grand and relentless process of adaptations to the world that always generate new problems (in the form of disease, famine, climate change, migration and state failure) that call for further adaptations. And each breakthrough came not as a result of tinkering but as a result of desperate times, calling for desperate measures." There may be set backs and hard ceilings, with free will and culture being the wildcards that may hinder social development but eventually the conditions give rise to ideas that allow progress to be made.Read more ›
However, on the other hand, the aim of Ian Morris has not been to write a comprehensive history of the the major world civilizations from the stone age to the present. It has been to explain the Western predominance of the last centuries and to predict what the future will look like. His discussion of the future is quite admirable and thoughtful indeed. However, I have found his answer to the central question the book poses to fall below ordinary academic standards on two fronts: it trivializes the question, and lacks novelty.
1. It trivializes the question. The central question of the book is answered by an argument of geographic reductionism and determinism. In short, the Western "rule" of the last few centuries is attributed to the shorter breadth of the Atlantic Ocean as opposed to the Pacific. This shorter breadth made the Americas more easily accessible to Europeans than to Asians, hence the former created an Atlantic economy, therefore faced different challenges than the latter, responded to them by the scientific and industrial revolutions, and hence rule. I find this argument to be rather simplistic, and I do not think that there was a need to write such a long book if its sole purpose was to put this argument down (after all, it has been said before - see below). The problem with this argument is that it stops exactly where the truly important questions should be asked.Read more ›
This is not the sort of book many will be inclined to read fully in just a few long stretches, but on balance it is likely to engage and challenge persons with a serious interest in mega-history. While some specialists in particular domains (say the British industrial revolution, for example) may disagree with some of Mr. Morris' interpretations or find them insufficiently nuanced, that is to be expected for works of broad historical synthesis such as this one.
Morris starts with pre-human "ape-men" (he can turn a phrase) and traces comparative East-West "social development" to the present and beyond. He has devised his own method for measuring it, a quantitative index that takes into account (1) energy capture (calories used); (2) organization, as measured by urbanization; (3) information processing, represented by literacy rates; and (4) the capacity to make war. He graphically plots his estimates of the index scores of the East versus those of the West since 14,000 BCE. The main body of the text describes the historical forces and events underlying the graphical patterns.
There are many objections that might be raised against the quantitative index and Morris is aware of them. He has stated that he nevertheless chose to construct it to help make more explicit what he means when he describes social development in any given period or region.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good book. Truly depicts the notion of how and why the West Rules but also curtails the aforesaid future of the East.Published 1 month ago by King
In this fascinating book of world history Ian Morris tries to explain why the West rules – for now. He considers various theories of what he calls “locked in” views – for example,... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Hugh Murray
I have not read this book but last night watched an hour-long lecture about it from Professor Morris (thanks to the miracle of an extremely popular video sharing service where You... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Myrna Minkoff
Sensational read - Niall Ferguson has it right - about as close to a grand unified model for history as you can get.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
A very thoroughly written book that makes you think. The end is too futuristic to my taste, but the entire book was very interesting to read.Published 8 months ago by Genady Veytsman
a very scientific way to compare the development of global historyPublished 8 months ago by alan cheong