Read Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson Online


Western civilization’s rise to global dominance is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five centuriesHow did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? Acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson argues that beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts, or “killer applications”—coWestern civilization’s rise to global dominance is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five centuriesHow did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? Acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson argues that beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts, or “killer applications”—competition, science, the rule of law, modern medicine, consumerism, and the work ethic—that the Rest lacked, allowing it to surge past all other competitors.Yet now, Ferguson shows how the Rest have downloaded the killer apps the West once monopolized, while the West has literally lost faith in itself. Chronicling the rise and fall of empires alongside clashes (and fusions) of civilizations, Civilization: The West and the Rest recasts world history with force and wit. Boldly argued and teeming with memorable characters, this is Ferguson at his very best....

Title : Civilization: The West and the Rest
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ISBN : 9781846142734
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 402 Pages
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Civilization: The West and the Rest Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-03-24 03:23

    THE ACTUAL REVIEW AS OPPOSED TO THE COMPLAINT ABOUT THE TITLENiall Ferguson is exhausting. He leaps, darts, pirhouettes, swandives, uses statistics as Molotov cocktails, he quotes, he hectors, he nudges, he booms, he hollers, he balances, he bulldozes, his book is like 500 years of history considered as a switchback ride, most of which is spent upside down going at 120 miles per hour. The argument of this book is clear. NF wishes to explain why the West dominated the Rest for the last 500 years, and then ask if the West's time is now up. He identifies six features of western civilisation as essential. Here they are.1. Competition. At the beginning of this story, in 1500, the Western European territories were occupied by a nasty bunch of uneducated murderous louts who would have cut your throat for a ducat but who died of plague before they found their cuirass. Over in the East there were the empires of China and Ottomania which had the science and the tourist attractions. It was clear where civilisation was. But then Westerners discovered the New World and some really violent Portuguese merchant adventurers began creating havoc, followed by Spanish and English versions of the same. Urgent competition broke out between the petty European states. At the same time China stopped trading with the outside world and declined Western approaches.And this is often how it goes in this book – yes, this outbreak of early colonising fervour in South America and elsewhere was vital to what came next, as was China's inward-turning. Exactly why these things happened remains obscure. 2. Science. Christianity accepted a church/state division of power –God and Caesar, the pope and the emperor, spirit and matter – and this allowed a secular science to eventually flourish, once Gutenberg had re-invented printing. In contrast, Islam recognised no such division. Science had flourished under Islam but just at the time Western scientists were freed by printing Muslim theologians were successfully shutting down science in Islam. In 1515 Sultan Selim threatened anyone using a printing press with the death penalty. In the 1570s a scientist Taqi al-Din , who designed astronomic clocks and experimented with steam power, got permission to build an observatory. It was the equal of the famous Tycho Brahe's observatory in Denmark. On 11 October 1577 a comet was sighted over Istanbul. They asked Taqi for an interpretation. He said it prophesied a great Muslim military victory. Theologians then said to the sultan that such peering into heavens and prophesying was blasphemous. In 1580 the sultan ordered the observatory to be abolished. End of Islamic astronomy. This translates to the following statistic – between 1980 and 2000 the number of patents registered in Israel was 7,652. The number of patents registered in all Arab countries for the same period was 367.3. Property. The history of North and South America provides us with a perfect experiment to see which economic system – the Spanish/Portuguese or the British – worked better. Why did South America not become the economic superpower that the USA did? Because, says NF, of property rights, followed by the rule of law, followed by representative government. Which the North got and the South didn't. Imagine if Britain had discovered Mexico and Peru and had captured their gold and silver instead of the Spanish. Then the British monarch would have had this vast source of private wealth which would have freed him from dependence on Parliament to vote him his tax revenue. The importance of Parliament itself would therefore have dwindled. Democracy would never have got going. Gold and silver killed democracy in Spain and Portugal. Labour was scarce in North America and plentiful in the South. Emigrants to North America were given land if they were freemen or if (as most were) they were indentured servants, they could work off their indenture in five or six years, and then be granted land. In South America the Crown owned all the land and simply granted the rights to exploit it to a small conquistador class who immediately turned into the idle rich. They did not plant and farm, as in the north. The North American Revolution created a federal republic . The South had their revolution 40 years later yet this consigned the whole area to 200 years of division, instability and underdevelopment. 4. Medicine. NF says that imperialism was not all bad – look at the war waged by the colonialists against tropical disease. But some of it was absolutely awful. This chapter was actually a survey of Western imperialism in Africa, and I discovered the story of German Namibia. Here's a great review of the book NF used for this part of the story : Consumption. Unlike modern medicine, which was often imposed by force on Western colonies, the consumer society is a killer application the rest of the world has generally yearned to download.(What's that sound – could it be Gibbon and Macauley spinning in their graves?)Here we run into another conundrum as we read about the remarkable explosion of human activity called the Industrial revolution, which began in Britain, spread to Europe and then north America. In one century, say 1750-1850, everything went off the charts – factories appeared, population doubled and trebled, wages increased, workers abandoned the countryside for the cities, appetites were discovered and attended to, such as the insatiable desire for clothes and crockery, and in general the idea came about that everyone gets rich if everyone can afford to buy the stuff and then work more and earn more to buy more stuff from more factories, and as we know, this tendency has not stopped, the gadgets and must haves have kept on a-coming, so the name of this chapter is consumption, which is also the name of a disease. Is this the shape of the Industrial Revolution? :World's largest cities : in 1800 seven out of ten were in Asia. Peking was bigger than London. In 1900 only one was Asian, all the rest European or American. In 2012 seven out of ten are Asian again. Only one European/North American (New York). Ferguson lurches ever more hectically from one topic to another as the book proceeds – talking about the post-World War One period he goes from national self-determination to the Bolshevik Revolution to Fascism to the US economy to Hollywood movies to Duke Ellington to Federal banking policies to Keynes to the USSR to the nude in Western art all between pages 227 and 232.5. Work. NF says it was Protestantism's work-and-save ethic which built up the capital which created the powerful economies in the West. I did not get how frugality, working all the hours and saving co-existed with the consumerism whose demands also created the powerful economies. It seemed a contradiction. But this is what NF is like, by the time you're formulating an objection to the points he slings out right and left, he's off onto something else.NF gets some kind of prize for the most ridiculously eclectic pop-cultural referencing to be found in a modern history book. Quoting from The Hombres' 1967 single "Let it All Hang Out" he footnotes that the song was later covered by Jonathan King, who is "also noteworthy for having produced 'Leap Up and Down (Wave Your Knickers in the Air)'". From Immanuel Kant to Jonathan King in one book. And finally :NF dismisses the conventional notion that civilisations begin, bloom, fade and die in a cyclical manner, slowly, over centuries. He says the USSR is actually the model - civilisations can actually disappear within a decade. Happened to the Incas, happened to the Ming dynasty, various others too. So, yes, it could happen to "the West" - but since the world had now downloaded our killer apps, whoever takes over from the West, if they ever do, will already be as Western as makes no never mind. After sounding like another library-snorting Jeremiah to add to our collection, he ends with a sardonically raised eyebrow.THE PREVIOUS COMPLAINT ABOUT THE TITLEWhat was it someone was saying about everything being dumbed down these days? Look no further, my friends, look no further, should you be seeking proof. I ordered this new history book about the rise of the West and when I ordered it, it was called Civilization : The West and The Restbut when I unwrapped the paperback version, lo! it's been retitled :Civilization: The Six Killer Apps of Western PowerO Niall Ferguson, should I ever encounter you in a public place, I will mock you. - I've now uploaded the cover so you can shake your skinny fists towards heaven and curse along with me.

  • Harpal
    2019-04-05 21:14

    Ferguson’s latest book, grandiosely entitled “Civilization”, is a vapid, meandering, and mostly pointless effort that falls woefully short of its ambitious goals. His stated intention is to explain the rise of “the West” from the 15th century backwater that was pre-renaissance Europe to the utterly dominant powers they became in the 19th and 20th centuries. Not only does he offer no novel explanation or nuanced interpretation, but his very answer is incoherent, disorganized, and downright simplistic. Moreover, though meticulously referenced, Ferguson pays little heed to the enormous treasure of stellar scholarship that already exists on this question and, more importantly, adds nothing to it.Ferguson argues that “the West” rose above “the Rest” (his own tedious language, complemented with references to “Westerners and Resterners”) for six key reasons: competition, science, property, medicine, consumption, and work. These six themes are the titles of his six chapters. Of course, upon seeing the generality of the chapter headings, one rightly expects to find the original theses buried deeper within, and yet one never discovers them. Instead, in his usual fashion, Ferguson unfurls dubiously generalizable anecdotes to argue his broader points, which in of themselves are dull and unoriginal. Yet it gets even worse. Some of his tangents veer so far off course as to have no recognizable relation to any broader point. His nine-page treatment of the French Revolution comes under the “Medicine” chapter, as do his thoughts on the First World War. And yet they are hardly thoughts at all, but a regurgitation of basic facts and agreed upon truths. “Yet there was little else that was backward-looking about the empire Napoleon sought to build in Europe. It was truly revolutionary . . . French rule swept away the various privileges that had protected the nobility, clergy, guilds, and urban oligarchies and established the principle of equality before the law.” You will not find any disagreement from me, but nor will you from the legions of high school students worldwide who have already been taught the same thing. Is this first-rate scholarship or an introductory high-school text?A final point. While I have often appreciated Ferguson’s wit and flippancy, he has crossed the line into frank glibness. For instance, of the French colonial attempt to stamp out native faith healers, he writes “herbs and spells are singularly ineffective against most tropical disease.” Of the 1968 rebellions, he writes “there was one very practical demand that spoke volumes about the revolution’s true aims, and that was for unlimited male access to the female dormitories – hence the injunction to ‘unbutton your mind as often as your fly’.” This is history writing at its finest.In short, “Civilization” adds nothing to the scholarship on one of the most important questions in the study of modern history. I am tempted to write that it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. An apt description this might be were it not for the sobering truth that the author is no idiot, but rather one of the most prolific and influential western historians of the last decade, a prodigious mind who has now forsaken true scholarship ostensibly in pursuit of more venal ends. Here lies the body of Professor Ferguson. May he one day rise from the dead.

  • James Murphy
    2019-04-18 02:15

    This is a story that can be told in many ways. It's history, a history of the European dominance in world affairs and the reasons for it. It's geopolitics told through Ferguson's prism which receives the vast record of European history during the last several hundred years and projects it into a patten. The West has dominated, he explains, because they differed from the Rest, or excelled while the Rest didn't, in 6 key areas: the spirit of competition, the scientific revolution in the West, stronger social and political systems based on property ownership, the medical breakthroughs of the West, the demand and creation of cheaper goods, and greater capital accumulation through the work ethic.In 6 chapters devoted to these ideas, Ferguson explicates his thesis. I was a little surprised to find the Rest wasn't always the undeveloped nations of the world. Different examples of the Rest illustrate each of the 6 main points. Africa, for instance, is the Rest in comparison with the West's leadership in medical advances and disease control. South America is the Rest when he contrasts the differences in property ownership. In explaining the West's domnance in manufacturing and consumption the Rest becomes the communist political system. As I say, the story can be told in different ways. It has been before and will be again. Ferguson's book is a system of understanding the West's global dominance. But it's a system that works. Ferguson is a learned historian and writer able to fill a book like this with many aha moments and fresh ways of seeing. Religion is mentioned quite a lot. The Protestant ethic drove part of the West's success, he says, and now declining interest in religion is resulting in a less stringent work ethic. In another example, he writes that European geography with its many rivers and mountains dictated the formation of more numerous, smaller states necessitating the competition among them which was at the heart of European exploration and drive for empire. He compares this to China's large single-government rule and less complex geography.Is he right? I don't know. His ideas are one way to explain it. They're convincingly laid out and argued, and in ways providing an interesting, gripping read from beginning to end.. I suspect there's room for disagreement within the community of historians and geopolitical experts at his level, and I suspect there are detractors.He himself is an admirer of Samuel P Huntington. He mentions his thesis of "clash of civilizations" more than once. And agrees with Huntington that such things as the economic rise of China and the rise of Islam held up against the decline of Christianity are direct threats to the West. Like Huntington, too, and many others, he subscribes to the notion that civilizations rise and fall in cycles. Ferguson's conclusion deals with the West's downward trend in the cycle. All civilizations fall, he says, and their fall is always accompanied by and trumpeted by fiscal difficulties. Every time. Like we see on the news and read in the papers. Ferguson says the fall is swift, too--decades, a generation. Cycling upward? China, of course, though he admits there's room for them to stumble. But even with China dominating the globe economically and militarily, it's not the end of civilization. It's geopolitics.

  • Karl Rove
    2019-03-24 01:17

    I read everything this man writes that I can lay my hands on. He’s an opinionated, deeply informed, pungent, pugnacious, provocative and often surprising writer. On these scores, his latest book doesn’t disappoint.A companion volume to British television series of the same name, this trans-Atlantic historian (he teaches at Harvard and Oxford and this year at the London School of Economics) argues the West grew to world dominance because it embraced competition, the scientific revolution, the rule of law and representative government, modern medicine, a consumer society and the Protestant work ethic. He suggests much of the rest of the world (particularly China) is embracing these same “killer aps,” as he calls them, leading to a relative decline of Western power. The question is whether this relative decline will suddenly turn into a complete collapse, as other once dominant world powers suffered.

  • Usman Hickmath
    2019-04-09 03:34

    “In 1412, Europe was a miserable backwater, while the East was home to dazzling civilizations. So how did the West come to dominate the rest?”Ferguson has picked up competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumerism and work ethics as the reasons for the domination of West during last five centuries and supported his argument with ample historical evidences. This book is a proof for Ferguson’s ability to tell history in an interesting way: even with so much of historical information and over 20 pages of end-notes, it never sounded slow or boring.From the exemplary violence Europe engaged in to capture the spice route to the embracing of Western manufacturing and consumption models by East, from the failure of clergies of Ottoman Empire to accept and adopt science to the developments in property right practices of US, the journey through this book was so thought-provoking.

  • Emily
    2019-04-12 04:27

    It's not a good sign when you spend an entire book wondering "What exactly are you getting at?" I admired Ferguson's book on the history of finance and Jared Diamond's much more famous book on why the West dominated the world, so I expected to enjoy this. While it does have some novel discussions (for example, comparing how England, France, and Germany comported themselves in the treatment of their colonies), I was generally unimpressed by Ferguson's failure to tie his observations into a larger argument. For example, he lionizes a particular town in the American Midwest for having a huge number of churches, but doesn't explain why this is good. It would seem that he lumps together secularists and fans of aromatherapy and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in one bucket, as bad Christians, but this seems facile to me (secularists might be productive scientists; aromatherapy devotees might be entrepreneurs) and besides, who cares, if you can't actually elucidate why Christianity produces a better society? To be clear, I don't dispute that the factors he cites (e.g. medicine, science, consumption) are key factors that differentiated Western society from others or tended to make European cultures more outgoing; I do disagree that this was uniformly desirable and frequently failed to see how Ferguson's discussion tied into that point.Since I liked his other book so much, I'm not sure where this leaves me with this author. I would probably avoid his other general-history books, but perhaps read his work on the Rothschilds or his controversial book on the British Empire.

  • David
    2019-04-05 04:36

    Audio book cage match! Niall Ferguson vs. Jared Diamond! Two explanations of western domination of the world go in, only one comes out!(view spoiler)[not really (hide spoiler)]Ferguson and Diamond are public intellectuals, conservative and liberal, respectively, in the modern-day US political sense of the c- and l-words. Both of them have, with great effort, constructed historical folk narratives of how the world got the way it is, whether that way is a good thing, and what will cause that way to continue or fail. (To be completely clear, Diamond's narrative is Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.) Ferguson's book is later, and he talks intellectual smack about Diamond's contention that current prominent place in the world held by the West is a result of happy geographical accidents. No, no, no, says Ferguson, Western domination is the result of superior ideas, referred to somewhat annoyingly as “killer apps”. (This last has been so completely mocked by the reading public here at Goodreads and elsewhere that I feel no need to ridicule it further. Maybe it was something his editor suggested at the urging of the marketing department.)The question simplified: How did the West end up on top?A gross oversimplification of Diamond: we (Westerners) got what we got more or less by luck (e.g. where we were on the face of the planet) and superior intelligence or morality had little or nothing to do with it. Therefore (Diamond doesn't say the following, as I remember, but it is implied) we didn't really earn it and don't really deserve it, therefore maybe we should cut the rest of the world some slack and be receptive to other ways of doing things. A gross oversimplication of Ferguson: we got here by inventing superior institutions, we thought of them and implemented them ourselves, we justly reaped the fruits. The rest of the world will prosper in direct proportion to how completely and sincerely they adopt our way of doing things. Those who reject our way of doing things are condemning themselves, and often their neighbors, to poverty and backwardness. Most of Diamond's causes of the triumph of the west are based on things that happened thousands of years ago (domestication of horses, innovations in agriculture, early exposure to viruses), whereas most of Ferguson's causes of the triumph of the west are relatively new (property rights, the Protestant work ethic). Here's a crazy idea: both of them are right – in sequence. The West got a leg up on other civilizations by dint of lucky breaks. Then the West took those advantages and widened the gap through the creation of Ferguson's six (forgive me) “killer apps” of Western Civ.Diamond came first, so the worst he can really be faulted for is not talking about Ferguson's rest of the story. However, Diamond's book is already a great fat tome already, and it took him years to even get the first half right, so maybe he gets a pass. Ferguson, on the other hand, would have to have been fairly myopic not to notice that his book often covers a significantly different period than Diamond's, but he chose to ignore it. Why? Probably because Diamond's view cheesed him off greatly, and he couldn't pass up a good opportunity to take an ax-handle to it. In short, it is a liberal-conservative story-telling problem. It seems like both explanations account for part of the phenomena. Ferguson won't admit it because admitting that your opponent could be partially correct doesn't play well in the English public-school debating society political culture which his mind seems to be helplessly stuck. A shame. Another opportunity to go beyond the usual political name-calling missed.

  • 11811 (Eleven)
    2019-03-30 21:31

    This dude is a genius. I never hesitate to read every article I come across in Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, or wherever his name pops up but this is only my second book length material after reading Colossus over ten years ago. This was a combo of Colossus and Guns, Germs and Steel - why some civilizations make it and others do not. If macro-history was a real word, I would use it to describe this book but it isn't so I won't.

  • Ian Robertson
    2019-04-20 21:21

    Prolific Oxford, Harvard and Stanford professor Niall Ferguson continues his excellent string of publications with a well researched and erudite tour of the past 500 years of western civilization. The book is very, very detailed (over 700 end notes, plus a 30 page bibliography), but extremely readable. Its many facts are both interesting and woven together logically and chronologically to support a central thesis - that the West has predominated because it developed six killer apps: competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society, and the work ethic. Not just another book trumpeting the West’s superiority, Ferguson highlights the West’s good luck as well as it’s superior political and economic structure. He notes the West’s willingness to have its killer apps downloaded by other countries, which will mean more wealth for all but also a change in the balance of power.Like all history books, the content is filtered through the author’s particular lens - in this case a right wing, British Empire loving polymath and wit - but Ferguson is thorough in supporting his thesis, confronting other historians’ theories and mistakes head-on, and documenting his own views with ample political, economic and cultural references and a fair amount of humour. The prolific references range from esoteric to pop-cultural (e.g. Sid Meier’s Civilization computer game).There are some minor flaws - the chapter on medicine is mostly about subjects other than medicine; the slave trade to the Americas listed as beginning in 1450, almost half a century before Columbus’ voyage to the New World; and Ferguson seems curiously unscientific in his footnote musing that genetics may explain Jews’ disproportionate success in arts, science and commerce - but on the whole this is an excellent, densely packed historical tour. For those familiar with Ferguson’s other works, Civilization falls somewhere between his story filled and highly readable “Ascent of Money” and his more academic “The Pity of War”. A broad, detailed canvas with the most interesting of stories laying the foundation for us to speculate about the future of western civilization and the rise of China. Much better and more thought provoking than other, often economics oriented, books heralding the decline of the West. Civilization the television series will surely cross the Atlantic to North American viewers, just as “The Ascent of Money” did, but read the book for its rich detail. Buy it, read it, and reflect on the future of both the West and the Rest.

  • Jason Fernandes
    2019-04-01 00:17

    Civilisation is historian Niall Furguson’s attempt to answer what he sees as perhaps the most important historical question; how did the West go from being the world’s backwater, in the early 15th century, to come to dominate the rest?Furguson was inspired to write this book in the wake of China’s impressive rise, exemplified by the speed of their economic ascent, their superlative Olympic Games and their impressive cities. Furguson notes that there is an air of concern in the West that we are witnessing our own decline. In order to consider whether that is in fact the case, he argues, we need to identify what Western dominance consisted of.Furguson argues that it was six things, which he calls ‘killer apps’; Competition, Science, Property Rights, Medicine, the Consumer Society and Work Ethic.Competition between the many small states that comprised Europe allowed the West to develop a ruthlessly competitive streak. The Scientific Revolution gave the West a distinct advantage, particularly in warfare. The fight for property rights in the age of revolution, led inevitably to other rights and democracy. Medical science allowed the West to heal soldiers, colonise the world and experience large improvements in health, infant mortality and life expectancy. Consumerism is the key to why American capitalism triumphed where European imperialism and communism failed. Finally a cultural change as a result of the Protestant Reformation encouraged a strong work ethic and thrifty living leading to increased productivity and surplus capital.Already, anyone reading this will feel their argumentative juices flowing. Some might argue for another aspect that has been overlooked, or challenge the basis these six have been formed on or even the legitimacy for simplifying historical forces into such a format. But overall there is nothing terribly controversial or particularly new in the above summation. A lot of the strengths of this theory will come down to how well Ferguson has argued, presented and demonstrated his case.Unfortunately this is where the book fails terribly. I am not necessarily saying that I disagree with the importance of the factors listed, but this book is a poor attempt to support them. The book is distracted, wayward, unanalytical and ultimately, in its greatest failing, unpersuasive.The chapter on Competition is less than 30 pages. If you are expecting a strong rationale for competition as a driver for efficiency and innovation – economically, politically, scientifically and militarily – supported by carefully considered historical evidence, with consideration of alternatives, you will not find it here. Most of the chapter is an anecdotal comparison of the voyages of Zheng He’s Ming fleet against the voyages to the East by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama.In principle there is nothing wrong with using a historical story to illustrate the points you are trying to make. Ferguson’s point is that, as Ming China was largely unified and without rival and Confucian philosophy made it increasingly insular, the lack of competition stifled innovation and led to decline and stagnation. The voyages of the Ming fleet were not about discovery, trade or conquest, but about showing off might and commanding tribute. European voyages of discovery by contrast were driven by the prospect of conquest and achieving trading advantages over rivals.Interesting as all this may be, it is disappointing for anyone wanting a strongly argued case for the value of competition over rival systems, its limitations, the sources and influences in its evolution, and causative relationships to Western ascendency. It is emblematic of the shortcomings throughout the book.The chapter on Science has similar failings. In attempting to answer the question of how the West overtook the scientific achievements of the Ottoman Empire, Ferguson mostly uses a comparison of Prussia under Frederick the Great against the declining Ottomans, where an increasingly fundamentalist interpretation of Islam led to a rejection of science and mathematics as blasphemous. The fact that a similar restraint of science within Christendom had also existed and how it was overcome is not thoroughly examined.The chapter on Science also contains much that is not, strictly speaking, ‘science’. For instance Ferguson spends much time talking up the value of Prussia’s meritocratic civil service. The Ottoman’s too had a very meritocratic bureaucracy and benefited from it, but without constant reinforcement it declined into favouritism and corruption. The value of appointments based on merit as opposed to high-birth is a good point, but why does it come under ‘Science’? The issues and inconsistencies of labelling, categorising and defining things are a persistent problem in this book and provide strength to arguments against its format.These issues continue in the next chapter. Ferguson argues that Western democracy began with lawmaking aimed to protect ones property. Fair enough, but the chapter spends most of its space comparing the Spanish/Portuguese colonisation of South America to the British/French colonisation of North America. It is interesting and some good points are made but again the relevancy of the material varies, is sometimes questionable and it fails to be persuasive.In his chapter on Medicine, Ferguson briefly mentions the work of Louis Pasteur and the French scientists that followed him in revolutionising medicine. Here his anecdote is a comparison of French and German attempts to colonise Africa, how they dealt with the significant medical hurdles and how all of us benefited. This argument, in addition to the previous chapters lengthy comparison of the colonisation of the New World, will make some readers question what this book is really about. It increasingly feels less of an analysis of Western ascendency and more a polemic championing imperialism, colonialism and interventionism.Ferguson has been accused variously of being ‘nostalgic for Empire’, of lacking commitment to scholarship and that his writing fails to be persuasive. It is hard to argue against these claims after reading this book.What you want from a chapter on medicine is a thorough discussion on how the improvements in infant mortality, treatment of disease and longevity benefited society and the variety of impact it had. Instead, as mentioned it spends much time championing colonialism, and then goes on to a lengthy discussion of German racist ideologies. Ferguson argues that legitimising of racist ideologies, such as those adopted by the Nazis, were an unfortunate consequence of the development of medical and biological science (before the further development that would eventually quash those ideas), pointing first to Francis Galton, a cousin of Darwin, who coined the term ‘eugenics’. In doing so he ignores the social theories that originated in mid-19th century America in response to freed slaves and increased immigration from Mexico, Italy and Ireland (not to mention that most of the Mexicans, Italians and Irish were Catholic). Notions of the supremacy of white Protestants as a race coming from 19th century America have at least an equal claim to inspiring later German ideology.The book was really starting to lose me at this point.The chapter on consumerism is the best in the book. It is the longest and here Ferguson for once makes use of his space and gives plenty of examples and evidence and argues his case much more assuredly.In covering his final ‘killer app’, Ferguson argues that the Protestant Reformation embodied considerable cultural change. The two he highlights as being key to future Western supremacy being a belief in work for the sake of work and of modest living. This, he argues, was a response to some of the issues people took with the Catholic Church leading to the Reformation. Specifically, the emphasis on work as a form of worship was in contrast to the previous belief that the best way to honour God was through a monastic lifestyle of penitence and quiet contemplation, while the thrifty living was a response to the opulence and expensive tastes of the Catholic Church.These two cultural ideas, Ferguson argues, resulted in a boost in productivity and surplus capital that enabled sustained Western economic growth and improvements in quality of life. Ferguson notes that the West has lost touch with this aspect of its culture – Europe is increasingly secular and less productive and, also with America, no longer spends within its means. Ferguson laments the lack of work ethic and net savings and the bubble-and-burst economics it has created.There are many problems with this work, some I have already alluded to. The first problem is with the names, labels, categories that Ferguson has applied. To call the book ‘Civilisation’, referring specifically to the West from the 15th century, is irksome to the point of infuriating to anyone who studies and enjoys history. It carries an implication than those who are not Western, or have not embraced Westernism (the way the Japanese, Koreans and increasingly the Chinese have) are not civilised.Calling the key characteristics of the West, ‘Killer Apps’, is wince-inducing, like a gaudy uncle trying to be cool. It has been suggested the format and language of this book is emblematic of the way history is increasingly being taught to youth in Britain and the US – with an emphasis on categorising, over-simplifying and correlating. Ferguson may be deliberately speaking to the audience he hopes will pick up his book. One can’t help but be concerned if those whose critical faculties are not fully developed take this book as an example of what a history book should be like. This is short-cut history.The names he has given for his six apps are also problematic. And what are they? Are they principles, practices, ideas? As mentioned, the chapter on ‘Science’ contains much that is not science. Would it be better named as ‘Meritocracy’, ‘The Scientific Method’, ‘Institutionalised Reason’? If they are practices then shouldn’t the sixth app be split into two – productivity and thrift? Are they representative of the source of the app or its final embodiment? The chapter on Property Rights is so-named as it is argued to be the source for later achievements. Should the chapter instead be named for those achievements – ‘Democracy’ or ‘Representation’? It might make more sense since those property rights in turn resulted from earlier achievements, history after all is one thing after another.Are these six things really ‘apps’? Doesn’t that give the West too much credit? After all, these things were not invented and developed with much forethought. They were responses to the challenges of the time, and they were not the only ones. At the time no one could have predicted their durability over any other solution that was attempted. Would it be more appropriate to call them the six ‘Accidental Discoveries’, the six ‘Blind Fumbles’?The Chinese were well aware of glass of course. But glass is ineffective when it came to their beverage of choice, tea. So the Chinese spent much more effort developing something more impressive than glass; porcelain. Meanwhile, beer and wine drinking Europeans continued to develop glass, never realising that centuries later their efforts would put them far ahead of the competition in developing reading glasses, telescopes, microscopes and spyglasses that gave them a distinct scientific and military advantage.Frankly, even if the rise of the West can be attributed to a small set of principles such as these, I am more inclined to see the source discovery or invention of those principles as the result of a combination of unrelated factors rather than conscious effort or choice. In the century before the West began its steep climb, the plague reached Europe. In wiping out 30-60% of Europe’s population, it provided the beginning of the end of the feudal system as well as people’s faith in the Church regarding temporal matters. This set the West on a path towards universal rights, representation, a reformation of the Church and a scientific revolution. All of which may not have happened to the West when they did if the feudal system had continued to function and the Church’s authority remained unquestioned as they did in other parts of the world.Let’s consider the series of fortunate events before we start patting each other on the back.As well as failing to be persuasive as to the effect and import of his apps, Ferguson also does not do enough to persuade us that they represent fundamental principles – is this just how things turned out, or are they the only way they could have turned out, whether by the West or anyone else?What about the downsides? For example, competition may have flourished due to Europe’s small states but it also meant near-constant war. Ferguson is not ignorant of the downsides of his apps, the moral questions and the sometimes ugly history of their evolution, but he only briefly mentions them and does not indulge deep discussion. Without that he fails to answer some obvious questions. Is it possible to enjoy the benefits of these apps without the downsides? Can we apply them in such a way that they are universally good, or will we always have to take the good with the bad?Ferguson does not do enough to convince us we can have the advantages without the downsides or how that might be achieved. The path of Western ascendency is littered with achievements we would consider morally dubious today, in particular the exploitation of indigenous people and the resources of their land that mostly went to benefit their colonial masters. Such things could not be repeated today without offending the moral outlook of most people (although, one could argue such things are being done today, not by nations but by corporations). Given that, aren’t some of these apps more like the six cheats, off-sides, forward passes and no-balls of the West? What good are they if they can’t be repeated as they were in the past?A better title for this book may be ‘Imperialism: How the West Got Away With it’.One gets the feeling that Ferguson is an ends-over-means person. Someone for whom the taste of his omelette is the only criteria when considering whether to break some eggs. Whether those eggs could be used for something besides an omelette is not something he thinks about, especially if it has not been done before. Ferguson has defended colonialism in the past, stating that, well maybe a quote will suffice; “Did Senegal ultimately benefit from French rule? Yes, it's clear. And the counterfactual idea that somehow the indigenous rulers would have been more successful in economic development doesn't have any credibility at all."Balance is another thing this book is missing. Not just in terms of alternative ideas to the author’s, or of presenting a larger amount of info for the reader to consider their own conclusions, but that some of these apps oppose each other. Saying that both shopping and saving were keys to Western advances is a relatively easy conclusion compared to the much harder question of where we find the balance between the two. It is a question Ferguson does not attempt to answer even though he laments the shift to spending on credit in the last thirty years that has been to the West’s detriment.Productivity may be falling in Europe, where workers have more leave and shorter working hours than Americans, who in turn are less productive than those in developing countries. But what about the benefits in terms of less stress, longer life expectancy, more happiness? It is not considered. Of course, whether this reduced labour is a luxury than can be afforded or sustained in the long term is a good question, but again it is a question that is never asked.There has been a lot of recent discussion about Scientism. In his introduction, Ferguson argues against using the scientific method to study history. But when the aim of the book is a Newtonian ambition to find the hidden laws underpinning the rise of the West, and yet the book relies heavily on anecdotal, selective evidence, and confuses correlation for causation, it only makes the reader cry out for a better method. I haven’t been this disappointed by a book in a long time and as a non-fiction it is probably unchallenged in frustrating me.What can we say in conclusion?We can be kind and see this book as an ugly first draft. A fumbled ball that a better historian can pick up and run with. Again, I do not necessarily disagree with the import of these factors he has highlighted, but my acquiescence is due more to what I have read and learned from other sources rather than anything to be found in this book.So I am more inclined to say that this is a very poor book, unfocused, full of waffle, selective, poorly written and most of all; unpersuasive.There is a third option.A documentary series was produced to accompany this book which I watched in parallel as I read the book. Documentary series that follow a book are most worthwhile if they provide the powerful visual appeal to bring the material to new life. Their weakness is that they cannot deliver the detail in the short format that a book can. You needn’t concern yourself with that issue here. If after all this you are still interested in what Ferguson has to say, you can save yourself the trouble of reading this book and watch the documentary instead. So thin is his argument that you can absorb it all in less than six hours of television and not worry about missing any essential details.

  • Vaishali
    2019-04-03 23:20

    A must-read for history buffs. Surprising factoids, especially the impressive stats on China (!) Ferguson loses credibility only when he opines that tall height is a western introduction. (Colonial New England diaries are full of encounters with 6-ft Native men, and East Africa's Maasai warriors to this day breed men averaging 6-7 ft.) Wow moments :-----------“In 1500… the biggest city was Beijing, with a population of 600,000 to 700,000.”“As late as 1776, Adam Smith could still refer to China as ‘one of the richest, that is, one of the most fertile, best cultivated, most industrious, and most populous countries in the world … a much richer country than any part of Europe.’ "“By the time his chief engineer Bai Ying had finished damming and diverting the flow of the Yellow River, it was possible for nearly 12,000 grain barges to sail up and down the Canal every year. Nearly 50,000 men were employed in maintaining it.”“It had taken… more than twenty years to build the wall around his capital and it extended for as many miles, with gates so large that a single one could house 3,000 soldiers. And it was built to last. Much of it still stands today, while scarcely anything remains of London’s medieval wall.”“In 1086 Su Song added a gear escapement to create the world’s first mechanical clock, an intricate 40-foot-tall contraption that not only told the time but also charted the movements of the sun, moon and planets.”“Weng Zhen’s 1313 ‘Treatise on Agriculture’ was full of implements then unknown in the West.”“With a combined crew of 28,000, Zheng He’s navy was bigger than anything seen in the west until the First World War… (Vasco de Gama's) four small ships… could quite easily have fit inside Zheng He’s treasure ship.”“The compendium of Chinese learning Yongle commissioned took the labor of more than 2000 scholars to complete, and filled more than 11,000 volumes. It was surpassed as the world’s largest encyclopedia only in 2007 - after a reign of almost exactly 600 years - by Wikipedia.”“In East Asia, an acre of land was enough to support a family. Such was the efficiency of rice cultivation, whereas in England the average figure was closer to 20 acres.” “… China was ruled from the top down by a Confucian bureaucracy recruited on the basis of perhaps the most demanding examination system in all history… 3 stages of grueling tests conducted in specially-built exam centers… observed by soldiers in a look-out tower. The only movement allowed was the passage of servants replenishing food and water supplies for removing human waste.”“The Caliphates also produced what some regard as the first true hospitals… in 707… designed to cure rather than merely house the sick.”“The Ottoman (war) encampment was itself a statement of confidence. Kara Mustapha had a garden planted in front of his palatial tent. The message was clear : the Turks had time to starve the Viennese into surrender if necessary…”“The abandoned Ottoman coffee was used to found the first Viennese cafe.”“… The Quran was translated into Latin and published in Basel by the printer Uranus Operinus. When in 1542 the Basel City Council banned the translation and seized the available copies, Luther himself wrote in Operinus’ defense ‘Set this book free…’ ”“Printing, too, was resisted in the Muslim world. For the Ottomans, script was sacred (due to) a preference for the art of calligraphy over the business of printing… In 1515 a decree of Sultan Selim I had threatened with death anyone found using the printing press. This failure to reconcile Islam with scientific progress was to prove disastrous. Having once provided European scholars with ideas and inspiration, Muslim scientists were now cut off from the latest research.”“In all, between 1500 and 1800, precious metal worth roughly £109 billion at today’s prices was shipped from the New World to Europe or via the Pacific to Asia… The Spaniards had literally found mountains of silver in Mexico and Peru.”“Mexico City had 100,000 inhabitants in 1692… Boston had barely 6,000. Twenty-five Spanish American universities were founded, like the one at Santo Domingo, which predates Harvard by nearly a century.” “What made the Royal Society so important was not so much royal patronage as the fact that it was part of a new kind of scientific community, which allowed ideas to be shared and problems to be addressed collectively through a process of open competition.” “Frederick (the Great) maintained only a small retinue of staff at Sanssouci… In Frederick’s opinion, regal robes had no practical purpose, and a crown was as merely ‘a hat that let the rain in.' "“But abolition was only the first part of this revolution in French Africa. It was also announced that the newly freed slaves would get to vote, unlike the natives in British colonies.”“Not only did the French extend their own public healthcare system to the whole of French West Africa, in February 1905 Governor General Rhume issued an order creating a free healthcare service for the indigenous population, something that didn’t exist in France.”“Yet the scramble for Africa was also a scramble for scientific knowledge, which was as collaborative as it was competitive… Now every European power with serious imperial ambitions had to have a tropical medicine institute.”“We were what we wore… These days people in the world dress much in the same way… the same jeans… What is it about our clothes that people can’t resist? … It’s about freedom, the right to dress or drink as you please, even if that turns out to be like everyone else.”“That quantum leap in material standards of living for a rising share of humanity had its origins in the manufacture or textiles… a dynamic consumer society characterized by an almost infinitely elastic demand for cheap clothes.”“The worker was also a consumer. The wage slave also went shopping… the result is one of the greatest paradoxes of modern society : that an economic system designed to offer infinite choice to the individual has ended up homogenizing humanity.”“Marxism took Carlisle’s revulsion against the capitalist economy and substituted a utopia for nostalgia. Marx himself was an odious individual. An unkempt scrounger and savage polemicist, he liked to boast that his wife was 'née Baroness von Westphalen’... He depended on handouts from Engels for whom socialism was a hobby along with fox hunting and womanizing… running one of his father's cotton factories in Manchester. No man in history has bitten the hand that fed him with greater gusto then Marx...”“Japan’s institutions were refashioned on western models… The Japanese even started eating beef, hitherto taboo… The most visible change, however, was in the way the Japanese looked. It began in 1870, with the formal ban on the blackening of teeth and shaving of eyebrows at court.”“Here’s one of the many puzzles… The Indians were introduced to the textile mill, steam engine, and railway long before the Japanese… Yet industrial development failed to take off in India… ‘Everywhere it was apparent there was little or poor supervision and an entire lack of discipline,’ lamented one American visitor to a Bombay mill."“No less creative was the live, recorded and broadcast music business, once white Americans had discovered that black Americans had nearly all the best tunes. Jazz approached its zenith in the swinging sound of Duke Ellington’s big band, which rolled out hit after hit even as the automobile- production lines ground to halt."“The naked body has been an integral part of western art since the ancient Greeks, a reminder that what we don't wear is often as important as what we do wear.” “Before the war most clothes were made to measure by tailors, but the need to manufacture tens of millions of military uniforms encouraged the development of standard sizes.”“About 15,000 women participated in a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Home Economics of the US Department of Agriculture. It was the first large scale scientific study of female proportions ever undertaken…. The results were published in 1941 as USDA Miscellaneous Publication 454 “Women’s Measurements for Garmet and Pattern Construction.” Standardized sizes allowed civilian clothes as well as uniforms to be mass-produced and sold…”“The key from the outset was the association between jeans and youthful misbehavior… In 1944 Life magazine caused a storm by publishing a photograph of two Wellesley College women in jeans. By the time Levi’s competitor Lee introduced zippers, the reputation of jeans as sexually arousing was established.”“The Protestant ethic… provided the capitalist with sober, conscientious, and unusually capable workers who were devoted to work as the divinely willed purpose of life. For most of history, men had worked to live, but the Protestants lived to work.”“In 1941, over 55% people in what is now Kerala were literate - a higher proportion than in any other region of India , 4 times higher than the Indian average… This is because Protestant missionaries were more active in Kerala, drawn by its ancient Christian community, than anywhere else in India.”“The question is: has the west today - or at least a significant part of it - lost its religion and the ethic that went with it? Europeans today are the idlers of the world. On average they work less than Americans and a lot less than Asians.”.

  • Scott Gates
    2019-04-21 23:38

    Western civilization, the West. Decades ago, Edward Said noted Western Europe’s tendency to claim Greek, Roman, and even aspects of Egyptian civilization as its own. The Roman Empire has long been seen (perhaps anachronistically) by the West as a “Western” phenomenon, but it could instead be seen as a Mediterranean phenomenon. Certainly at the time Rome had less to do with the druids and barbarians in present-day northern Europe than it did tradesmen and soldiers from northern Africa and the Near East. In fact, you could easily take the Goths’ destruction of Rome as the first documented instance of “the West” destroying a foreign civilization: the destruction of a Mediterranean empire brought on by what we would now call militants/terrorists from the West.But the Roman Empire was successful, so let's just say it was Western. But even in Ferguson’s descriptions of “Western Civilization 1.0” you can see the tension in maintaining that the Roman Empire was distinctly Western: It was an empire that arose “in the so-called Fertile Crescent stretching from the Nile Valley to the confluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris....” So, Egypt, Syria and Iraq were part of the West? So much for ancient history. What exactly “the West” refers to today is also not that easy. Ferguson falters when discussing, for example, whether Central and South America are considered part of the West. It would seem that by any definition they should be considered the West. After all, this is a portion of the world that is indeed as geographically Western and Christian as North America, and was largely colonized by Spain and Portugal, the westernmost European countries. And yet, Ferguson does not seem to think Central and South America make the cut. That’s because for Ferguson, the West basically means whichever countries are economically the Best, and so this book is primarily concerned with four countries to the exclusion of all others: France, Germany, and especially the UK and the US. These four interconnected, economically strong republics are the primary reasons for the West’s ascendancy, and so they are the only countries Ferguson is concerned with. The rest of Europe is an afterthought, as are Central and South America (to say nothing of places like Canada and Australia).Since this is a book whose purpose is to indoctrinate the youth and/or appeal to the general public, Ferguson employs young-folks terms (“killer apps”), uses alliteration whenever possible, and comes up with simplistic “what-ifs.”Concerning the organization of the book, there is no organization. The chapter on the “killer app” medicine contains mostly a long harangue against the French Revolution and a breathless appreciation of the “prophetic” Edmund Burke. In each chapter he picks one opponent (in the first, it’s the Chinese, then the Arabs, and so on…) and then shows how the West beat them in this one thing. (The West is usually represented solely by nineteenth-century England or twentieth-century United States.)There are several stretches in this book that are perceptive and compelling, but unfortunately these are undercut by Ferguson’s insistence on rallying the troops for his political ideology. He writes compelling stuff concerning the thriving of faith in the US compared to culturally similar Europe, for example (the difference is competition). And his thought that “we ... seem to doubt the value of much of what developed in Europe after the Reformation” does accurately reflect a kind of disenchantment and lack of appreciation for the rich, extraordinary culture most of us are embedded in.Ferguson is provocative, as they say, but not in a way that effectively challenges prevailing opinion; no, Ferguson’s “provocative” is more of a pretentious, partisan near-idiocy. Too often, he comes off not as an historian you can respect, but rather a wannabe American who spends too much time talking on TV. Concerning empire, his critique of the Iraq invasion early on is telling: the problem was (1) manpower deficit—in Ferguson’s view hundreds of thousands of troops were not enough to destroy an already poor and depleted country; and (2) attention deficit—in Ferguson’s words there is unfortunately “not enough enthusiasm for long-term occupation of conquered countries.” This lack of enthusiasm is not surprising: outside of neo-cons, the arms industry, and right-wing think tanks, the majority of Americans fully support defending this country, but usually not colonizing and invading others. Seeking to control/exploit the affairs of other nations is perfectly okay we learn, as long as you do it the right way. Ferguson takes the moral high ground when it comes to Chinese investment in Africa: He is appalled that China is willing to do business with “military dictators, corrupt kleptocrats or senile autocrats....” This is searing hypocrisy. There’s no need to belabor the point: the US supported Franco in Spain for decades; Saddam Hussein in Iraq; paramilitary death squads, far-right military dictators, and anti-democratic coups throughout Central and South America; Marcos in the Philippines; and continues to do business with dictators whenever convenient (Egypt and Saudi Arabia come to mind). The US has no leg to stand on here.Ferguson, always looking on the bright side when it comes to warfare, nuclear weapons, and colonialism (especially when practiced by the British or the US), claims that “the Bomb’s net effect was to reduce the scale and destructiveness of war, beginning by averting the need for a bloody amphibious invasion of Japan.” The US’s bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed over 200,000 people, and the effects of the bombings have lived on for generations. And its impact on current warfare is purely speculative.Whenever he delves into current affairs, the level of thinking lowers. He is strident and panicked over Iran, to an extent that is out of whack with reality. The double standard with which he takes Iran to task for legally enriching uranium and opening its doors to inspectors under the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is absurd, especially if you consider that, against international law and the NPT, the US supplied Israel with the only nuclear arsenal in the region, thus guaranteeing that other countries in the region would seek such weaponry.Or when he compares today’s science supporting the human impact on climate change to last century’s pseudo-science of racial superiority: “Racism was not some backward-looking reactionary ideology; the scientifically uneducated embraced it as enthusiastically as people today accept the theory of man-made global warming.”Soon after that, he contends that Jews as a race likely have a genetic superiority over other races. I take it Ferguson is scientifically uneducated, at the very least. The level of thought sometimes lowers when covering the past as well. When discussing Marx for example, Ferguson just can’t help himself, he has to gossip about the man’s private affairs. Without saying anything about the atrocious factory conditions that Capital was written in protest of, Ferguson refers to Marx, needlessly, as “the son of an apostate lawyer....” I guess Ferguson thinks that people who convert from another religion to Christianity, or who are more interested in Kant and Voltaire than the religion they were born into, are apostates. He then goes on a long ad hominem rant about this “odious individual” and gleefully reports that he had an illegitimate son by his maidservant. (Presumably the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Fords of the world are without such moral failings). Ferguson will go as low as needed to tarnish the name of someone who has an ideology he disagrees with, a not uncommon tactic.Here’s how he characterizes protests against the Vietnam War (which as Ferguson grudgingly acknowledges had lost majority approval in the US) and racial inequality:“They [young people in the 60s] had every reason to be grateful to their fathers’ generation, which had fought for freedom and bequeathed them opportunity. Instead they revolted.”Nothing is safer than lionizing a generation that is currently dying off. Young men also enlisted in the military and died in high numbers in the Vietnam War, for seemingly no reason. The claim that the US joined WWII to fight for an abstraction such as “freedom” is naïve and ahistorical. I’d expect to hear such assertions from a patriotic citizen who has little concern or interest in the actual complexities of global affairs—not from a supposed historian. Based apparently on the fact that you can see burqas on the streets of Instanbul and that the Turkish government allows this instead of imposing a law curtailing their freedom to do so, Ferguson compares contemporary Turkey’s place in the world to “the days of the Ottoman power.” You can see burqas in the US as well, obviously, since the US to its credit is loath to pass laws that limit people’s religious freedom. Such lazy comparisons don’t do any favors for Ferguson’s arguments.Nor do snotty Ivy-League remarks like this: “He was not uneducated, insofar as a degree in sports science from Leeds Metropolitan University counts as education.”

  • Tony
    2019-04-21 02:23

    CIVILIZATION: The West and the Rest. (2011). Niall Ferguson. ****. Although this study reads at times like a book for the genral reader, it often slips into becoming a scholarly study, hence becoming neither fish nor fowl. The rating of four-stars could easily have feen five-stars except for this flaw. The author is a noted British historian who, up until now has focused on the world of economics and its effect on the growth of civilization. This study expands the range of influences beyond those simply monetary. The six novel complexes of institutions and associated ideas and behaviors under which he classes his findings are as follows: 1, Competition 2. Science 3. Property rights 4. Medicine 5. The consumer society 6. The work ethic He then goes on to fully describe what he means by each category and provide examples of events falling under each to outline the impact they had on progress in the East vs. the West. The examples the author provides are almost endless. In the category of science, he follows the discoveries made between the period 1530 to 1789 by ‘scientists’ in the West. He has selected only the most important twenty-nine breakthroughs. To list them all here would take up too much space, but I have to grab a few: 1530 Paracelsus pioneers the application of chemistry to physiology and pathology. 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus’ “De revolutionibus orbium coelistium” states the heliocentric theory of the solar system. 1589 Galileo’s tests of falling bodies revolutionize the experimental method. 1610 Galileo discovers four of Jupiter’s moons and infers that Earth is not at the center of the universe. 1628 William Harvey writes accurately describing the circulation of blood. 1640 Pierre de Fermat founds number theory 1669 Isaac Newton presents the first systematic account of the calculus, idependently developed by Gottfried Leibniz. 1789 Lavoisir states the law of conservation of matter. You can scan the entire list on pp.65-66 in the text. The impact of these discoveries in the West was tremendous, while the East remained flat in their pursuit of science. “The best explanation for this divergence was the unlimited sovereignty of relifion in the Muslim world.” The author then goes on to support his thesis. This book is full of detailed examples for all of his six categories, ultimately nailed down into intelligent conclusions. The book is also full of my favorite types of factoids – things I never knew, or once knew and have forgotten. Here are a few: In South America, where slavery (discussed under his heading of property) was much more rampant than in North America, and, the reality of interbreeding was recognized, the South Americans had names for the issue of these relations: mestizos, the offspring of Spanish men and Indian women; mulattos, born of unions of creoles and blacks; and zambos, the children of Indians and blacks. Under his heading of consumption, the author describes the ultimate conquest of our jeans society over the rest of the world. He goes on to say: “There are just a very few places where people hold out against the giand sartorial blending manchine. One of the is rural Peru. In the mountains of the Andes, the Quechua women still wear their brightly colored dresses and shawls and their ittle felt hats, pinned at jaunty angles and decorated with their tribal insignia. Except that these are not traditional Quechua clothes at all. The dresses, shawls and hats are in fact of Andalusian origin and were imposed by the Spanish Viceroy Francisco di Toledo in 1572.” I could go on quoting items forever, but will, mercifully stop. The last chapter of his book presents the author’s conclusions about this study and his tentative predictions as to what the future might bring. All in all, this is a fascinating book. Recommended.

  • H Wesselius
    2019-04-07 01:37

    Ferguson is a conservative economic historian and an ardent Anglophile. Although there's nothing wrong with either, the bias comes out throughout the book. Ferguson is only the latest in a series of books trying to assign a cause to the rise of the west over other civilizations. Jared Diamons' Guns, Germs and Steel comes to mind and is more original and better than Ferguson's efforts. Ferguson neglects to discus natural resource starting points and begins instead with cultural advantages. He posits seven reason behind the rise of the West and outlines each "killer app" and its contribution. There's nothing wrong with any of his choices and in fact they are so broadly defined that its impossible to say that each "app" didn't contribute. However, he never supplies the evidence necessary to prove that each app was essential and that the decline of these factors will allow the Rest to catch up. He needs to do both to be successful. Instead the reader should be left wondering why China and other countries which he admits are catching up don't seem to use all the "apps" and in fact may be using the exact opposite of his factors. In one case, he describes China's new successful foray into the African resource game but doesn't admit this success is due to state owned countries whereas his factors of civilization include the free market, property rights and the individual entrepreneur. This in turn should remind the reader that much of Europe's initial success was due as much to mercantilism as its later success was due to capitalism. Finally, expressing one's personal opinion does give a book a human dimension but at times Ferguson becomes snide and overly confident. A small but illustrative example; he condemns Marx for never having a job yet Marx was a journalist (correspondent for a New York paper), an entrepreneur (ran several small newspapers which were usually shut down before they could go bankrupt) and a published paid author. One can see the parallel job histories between Marx and Ferguson -- except as a conservative Ferguson has better patrons.

  • Bas Kreuger
    2019-04-06 05:26

    Is Niall Ferguson an historian? Some people doubt it. I can see what they mean when reading "Civilization, the west and the rest". He is certainly no historian who just relates what happend and how it happend. He is not afraid to give his view on the way the West gained supremacy over the rest the last 500 years or so. I see him more as a pamphleteer, an opinionater, a publicist with a historical streak. His thesis why the west became dominant rests on the 'six killer applications' (to use a modern analogy) which the west invented or used best while the rest ignored these mostly. They are competition, science, property, modern science, consumption and work ethic. By showing the reader how the west has lost the edge in most of these nowadays, he explaines why the rest is closing the gap by applying the apps to their own civilazation. He concludes by saying that the west has to re-invent the use of all these apps to stay ahead of the pack.Ferguson is very readable, has a broad palet and sweeping statements and is a joy to read, wether you agree with him or not! Highly recommended.

  • Hammad Alhajri
    2019-04-12 03:25

    يتحدث الكاتب عن الفروق والأسباب التي نهضت بالحضارة الغربية وتفوقت وتقدمت على باقي أنحاء العالم واستعمرته ابتداءً من عام ١٥٠٠م ، وذلك عن طريق طرح سؤال : لماذا سيطر الغرب على بقية أنحاء العالم ؟ فكانت الاجابة : بأن الغرب طور ستة استخدامات استثنائية افتقدتها بقية أنحاء العالم وهي :-المنافسةالثورة العلميةحكم القانونالطب الحديثالمجتمع الأستهلاكيأخلاقيات العملفكانت هذه الاستراتيجيات او الاستخدامات هي مفتاح الصعود الغربي .في الختام الكتاب مفيد وفيه تحليل وتوثيق كل ذلك عبر رحلة تاريخية أدبية مميزة من منظور جديد لبناء الحضارة ، ولكن يعيبه عدم الموضوعيه في التحليل وانحيازه للغرب بشكل واضح .

  • Yves Gounin
    2019-04-21 02:24

    Niall Ferguson est une star sans équivalent de ce côté-ci de la Manche. Un mélange détonnant entre Thomas Piketty et Jacques Attali. Comme le premier, c’est au départ un universitaire, spécialiste de l’histoire de la finance, qui consacra ses premiers travaux aux conséquences économiques de la Première guerre mondiale et à l’histoire de la banque Rothschild. Comme le second, il produit à marche forcée des synthèses ébouriffantes sur l’histoire du monde, animé d’un louable effort de vulgarisation mais non exempt de critiquables raccourcis simplificateurs. Ses ouvrages aux titres ronflants (The World’s banker, , Empire, Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, Civilization) n’ont pas été traduits en français à l’exception des deux derniers. Ils ont pourtant eu un grand retentissement au Royaume-Uni, dont cet ancien élève d’Oxford et de Cambridge est originaire, et aux États-Unis où il s’est installé avec sa seconde épouse, l’ancienne députée néerlandaise d’origine somalienne Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Car Niall Ferguson défend sabre au clair des thèses politiquement incorrectes. Empire était une ode nostalgique à l’Empire britannique, Colossus un plaidoyer en faveur de la politique néoconservatrice menée par les États-Unis. Civilization (bizarrement traduit Civilisations) a autant sinon plus d’ambitions que ses précédents ouvrages. Il s’agit, selon les propres termes de son auteur, de répondre à « la question la plus intéressante que puisse se poser un historien de la modernité » (p. 9) : comment l’Europe occidentale a-t-elle réussi à imposer, depuis cinq siècles environ, ses valeurs et son mode de vie à l’ensemble du monde ? Niall Ferguson explique cette domination par six « applis fatales » (six killer apps) : la concurrence, la science, le droit de propriété, la médecine, la société de consommation et l’éthique du travail. Chaque chapitre du livre (et chacun des six épisodes de la série documentaire qu’a diffusée Channel 4 à la sortie du livre) montre comment la civilisation occidentale a successivement maîtrisé chacune de ces « applications » alors que les autres civilisations n’y sont pas parvenues.Plus que la pertinence de ces six choix, dont on peut débattre à l’infini, c’est la démarche de Niall Ferguson qui mérite qu’on s’y arrête. Sur la forme : son livre est à la fois chronologique et thématique. C’est sa principale force : il réussit à dynamiser une histoire du monde moderne en six chapitres qui fourmille d’anecdotes et séduira un large public. Mais c’est aussi sa principale faiblesse : à vouloir tout à la fois suivre la chronologie et organiser son propos selon six grands axes thématiques, Niall Ferguson saute du coq à l’âne, n’évite pas quelques retours en arrière ou verse dans le hors sujet Sur le fond : Niall Ferguson articule avec force deux théories difficilement compatibles. Il oppose – c’est le sous-titre de son ouvrage – « the West » et « The Rest » - oubliant au passage d’attribuer la paternité de cette expression à Samuel Huntington – tout en affirmant que la modernité pourrait s’acquérir en téléchargeant des « applis fatales ». Comme Huntington avant lui, il exhorte l’Occident au sursaut, une réaction salvatrice qui, selon lui, passerait moins dans le combat d’un ennemi réel ou fantasmé (« ce n’est pas l’essor de la Chine ou de l’islam, ni les émissions de CO² qui nous menacent le plus … ») que dans le retour aux valeurs occidentales fondamentales (« … mais notre perte de foi dans la civilisation que nous avons héritée de nos ancêtres »). Mais cet appel miroite avec la démonstration d’une « Grande Reconvergence » - par référence au titre de l’ouvrage de Kenneth Pomeranz The Great Divergence : si le reste du monde nous rattrape en téléchargeant nos « applis fatales », en d’autres termes si le monde s’occidentalise, faut-il s’en alarmer ?

  • Данило Судин
    2019-03-28 23:35

    Доволі безпорадна книжка: автор намагається відповісти на запитання, чому Захід панує, але просто не здатний побудувати структурований наратив. Більше про книгу - в моєму відеоблозі

  • Guru
    2019-04-07 23:33

    Niall Ferguson, the clever British historian-author, indeed has the gift of explaining things. In "Civilization", he looks at the "West" as we know it (both as a culture as well as the socio-economic state that it is) and the "Rest" - the erstwhile colonies, 3rd world countries, South American countries, etc. and tries to see what sets the "West" apart. The book starts with a peek at the world in the beginning of the 16th century - when Asian cities were not just the largest but also the much more prosperous than the cities of "West" like London. So what happened in a span of 500 years that turned things completed around. Then, as Ferguson walks down the paths of history, he proposes six "killer applications" that help the "West" get where it is and these are i) Competition, ii) Science, iii) Medicine, iv) Property rights and legislation v) Consumerism and vi) the Work Ethic. Each of the six arguments are brilliant, no doubt. The problem with the book is that Ferguson tries too hard. What could have been a superlative 100-page essay is dragged to over 325 pages allowing the author to ramble away throwing in bits of interesting, but seemingly unrelated, historical notes. A bigger problem is that his justification is not consistent: To prove one point, he picks up a particular set of players (say, Ming dynasty in China vs. British colonizers) but completely drops these players for the next point. I am not saying I was expecting his arguments to be universal, but the point is that Ferguson spends thousands of describing the subtleties of the social condition of the players - which is a complete waste of ink and the readers' time. For instance, I do not see why should I read all about French colonization in Senegal when the topic is about Medicine - what happened to the Italian and British pioneers of medicine? Also, the book tries to extrapolate, in patches, to apply history to future - using several references of how civilizations are cyclic in nature and death feeds new life and stuff. What is the point? If I need to read speculation and "connect-the-dots" kind of literature - I will pick up whatever Malcolm Gladwell or Steven D. Levitt print next. Not really impressed beyond the base point of the book - the six "killer apps" that worked in the West.

  • Patrick F
    2019-03-26 22:12

    I give this book a four not because I agree with this, obviously, biased account of how "the West" dominated the world for the last 500 years, but because it was an enthralling read, and it's super enjoyable for me to challenge my own opinions and knowledge.It's also, at times, relatively nuanced, and it does, in horrendous detail, explain the pseudo-science, hubris, and psychology that precipitated colonization, empire and imperialism, for example. The sections on Nazism, and how it grew from African colonization was something you just not would see discussed by other Neocons this honestly. (At least I've never read/heard any other Neocon do this.) That being said, much of the book is problematic. His categorical, and shallow, (and laughable) take down of all-things "Marxism", is but one example. The other salient categorical insult was shouted at Islam. Also, Ferguson's almost complete refusal to discuss ecological, environmental destruction and collapse, caused by the same "Western" ideals, values, and attitudes he admittedly mostly praises, was disappointing, yet expected. Again, I highly enjoyed this book, and yes, in the hands of the uneducated, uncultured, or people with an agenda, the history provided will probably only reconfirm what they already think, and add fuel to their capitalistic-Eurocentric-loving fire. However, I am not one of those people, so I can "entertain a thought without accepting it."So yes, if my rating 4( out of 5) was based on one factor - Did I agree with it? - I would have given the book a lower rating but I rate things differently with all sorts of factors in mind.

  • Tanja Berg
    2019-04-16 21:10

    The author argues that the West has dominated the Rest because of the following six "killer applications" that the Rest lacked:QUOTE1. Competition, in that Europe itself was politically fragmented and that within each monarch or republic there were multiple competing entities2. The Scientific Revolution, in that all the major seventeenth century breakthroughs in mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology happened in Western Europe3. The rule of law and representative government, in that an optimal system of social and political order emerged in the English-speaking world, based on private property rights and the representation of property-owners in elected legislatures4. Modern medicine, in that nearly all the major nineteenth- and twentieth-century breakthroughs in healthcare, including the control of tropical diseases, were made by Western Europeans and North Americans5. The consumer society, in that the Industrial Revolution took place where there was both a supply and productivity-enhancing technologies and a demand for more, better and cheaper goods, beginning with cotton garments6. Worth ethic, in that Westerners were the first people in the world to combine more extensive and intensive labour with higher savings rates, permitting sustained capital accumulation.UNQUOTEI don't know what to think. It was an interesting read and I feel unqualified to argue against the themes presented here, although I certainly don't buy into everything. Whatever the reason for the West's dominion the past few hundred years, it is certainly beginning to waver now.

  • Dvd (polemologico e pantoclastico)
    2019-04-10 21:23

    L'insostenibile pesantezza dell'anglosassoneSono perplesso.Premetto, il saggio è scritto benissimo. Scorrevole, chiaro, ammiccante verso il lettore. Tipico dei saggisti anglosassoni. Fin qui niente di nuovo.Poi c'è il ragionamento di Ferguson, che parte da basi storiche, politiche, economiche e si protende fino al presente; e proponendo la sua teoria, ovviamente opinabile, costruisce i capitoli del libro.La teoria è che la civiltà occidentale, la nostra, sia fondata su 6 aspetti, che ne hanno decretato il ruolo dominante rispetto al resto del mondo negli ultimi 5 secoli e che sono:1) la competizione derivante dalla sua peculiare frammentarietà;2) lo sviluppo scientifico e tecnologico;3) lo stato di diritto basato sulla proprietà;4) il consumismo e il capitalismo;5) le conoscenze mediche;6) l'etica del lavoro;Non serve sottolineare che il fatto di considerare il consumismo e il capitalismo come uno dei punti di forza dell'Occidente pone Ferguson lontano da coordinate marxiste e socialiste. Il che è comprensibile, anche se a parer mio la liquidazione brutale e sbrigativa di Marx e del comunismo è poco valida: sia per l'impatto che ha avuto sui diritti dei lavoratori (enorme) che per l'importanza storica della sua applicazione pratica, se così si può dire, ossia l'URSS: credo che senza la presenza di quello sciagurato blocco, che tanti morti ha pur fatto, e lo spauracchio che è stato per 60 anni, gli stati capitalisti dell'Occidente europeo mai avrebbero dato vita a quel sistema di welfare e intervento pubblico nei settori fondamentali della vita sociale di cui oggi andiamo tanto fieri rispetto agli yankee. Sono d'accordo invece sul fatto che il consumismo, con tutti i suoi enormi difetti di sterminio culturale e la sua struttura a circolo vizioso, sia per assurdo il migliore e più adattabile sistema economico che si sia riusciti a creare. Nonché quello che c'ha garantito il tenore di vita attuale: sputtanarlo radicalmente ora dopo averci amoreggiato senza pudore per decenni lo trovo assai vigliacco; criticarlo e rivederne in maniera virtuosa molti aspetti, lo trovo invece saggio.Sul punto 1) c'è poco da dire, e ne aveva già parlato J. Diamond nel suo saggio Armi, acciaio e malattie; abbastanza ovvi anche i punti 2) e 5).Pienamente d'accordo anche sul punto 3): un sistema sociale non costruito sulla proprietà privata non può stare in piedi. Essenzialmente perché siamo uomini, fallibili e instabili, con tutte quel che ne consegue. Ed è infatti qui, nella non considerazione di questo aspetto, che la teoria (comunque fondamentale) marxista cade di schianto. E sarebbe auspicabile, come suggerisce l'autore, anche una rivalutazione complessiva dell'epoca del colonialismo. Senza paraocchi moralisti ma tenendo pur conto senza pietà dei misfatti e delle rapine perpetrate, ieri come oggi.Sul punto 6), si può molto discutere. Ferguson non riprende del tutto la celebre teoria di Weber sull'etica protestante del lavoro, ma la tiene giustamente in considerazione. Poi l'allarga su tutto l'Occidente europeo. E la stessa cosa avviene su tutto il resto. C'è il mondo anglosassone (prima) e poi c'è il resto dell'Europa (dopo): il padre nobile, che aveva già capito tutto, e i figli piacchiatelli e un pò tardi che colgono, se colgono, dopo. E giù a latere col mondo moderno forgiato dall'impero britannico prima, e da quello americano poi, con l'unica descrizione sensata di "civiltà" che è quella fatta da Churchill, con l'unico ad aver capito le dinamiche sociali corrette che è Locke. Con i testi fondanti della civiltà occidentale che sono, nell'ordine: la Bibbia di Re Giacomo, Newton, Locke, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Darwin, Shakespeare, Lincoln, Churchill.Che ci sia anche (soprattutto, probabilmente) un altro continente un pò più a sud e un pò più a est che da più o meno 2500 anni elabora teorie, concetti, idee che hanno portato agli autori di cui sopra e a numerosi altri altrettanto importanti negli ultimi secoli, pare conti poco.L'hybris anglosassone è inarrivabile. Ve lo dice uno di lontane ascendenze francesi. E purtroppo questo senso di superiorità malcelato è la principale tara di questi bravi storici e abili narratori: vale per Ferguson come per parte degli altri. Non si può essere obiettivi quando non si vede un metro oltre il proprio centro di gravità permanente (che varia, da Neew York a Londra, da Londra a Los Angeles).Detto questo, la tesi finale è che l'Occidente sta declinando (e non c'era ombra di dubbio), che la Cina è vicina (anzi, c'ha già sorpassato) e che il nostro collasso sarà, con ogni probabilità, molto più rapido e improvviso di come siamo abituati a pensare.Con le classi politiche che abbiamo in Europa, non c'è da dubitarne. Sarà uno schianto improvviso e magari poco sorprendente, ma sarà uno schianto a modo suo memorabile. I fucohi d'artificio che ne seguiranno li vedranno pure da Marte.Resta da capire se li vedranno inglesi o americani. O forse, quel giorno, saranno troppo impegnati a guardare quelli provenienti dal Continente tutto senza accorgersi dei bengala sopra le loro teste. Dies irae, dies ille...per noi, obviously, mica per loro...

  • Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
    2019-04-14 22:26

    The elevator pitch for Niall Ferguson's "Civilization: The West and the Rest" is simple: Western civilization has risen to dominate world affairs over the last five hundred years, a record unmatched in world history and at odds with its population and geography relative to other countries and civilizations, due to six "killer apps" that have provided an advantage on the international stage. Further, it may be the West's loss of those same "apps" that is leading to decline now.Ferguson pegs the rise of the West to dominance at about the same time as the discovery of the Americas, and so, having just finished a look at that chapter of history in "1491" and "1493", I decided to take a closer look at Ferguson's argument. What was the secret of the West? And could we really be headed towards decline or collapse?Where many histories today focus on the specific "modules" of history, drilling down to look closely at specific persons or events (think Goodwin's "Team of Rivals" on Abraham Lincoln's political management or Horowitz's "Midnight Rising" on the John Brown raid at Harper's Ferry), Ferguson takes another tact by looking at the broad strokes of history to find themes, the grand "narratives" of history, as he calls them. Where other historians dig into the details, Ferguson wants to look at the big picture. As he explains in the preface:"Watching my three children grow up, I had the uneasy feeling that they were learning less history than I had learned at their age, not because they had bad teachers but because they had bad history books and even worse examinations. Watching the financial crisis [of the late 2000s] unfold, I realized that they were far from alone, for it seemed as if only a handful of people in the banks and treasuries of the Western world had more than the sketchiest information about the last Depression. For roughly thirty years, young people at Western schools and universities have been given the idea of a liberal education, without the substance of historical knowledge. They have been taught isolated ‘modules’, not narratives, much less chronologies. They have been trained in the formulaic analysis of document excerpts, not in the key skill of reading widely and fast. They have been encouraged to feel empathy with imagined Roman centurions or Holocaust victims, not to write essays about why and how their predicaments arose."With that flippant, matter of fact, almost "devil-may-care" attitude then, Ferguson determines to take the reader through a grand narrative of the last five hundred years, identifying six "killer apps" that Western civilization adopted to rise to a dominance unmatched in breadth and duration in human history. It is this broad overview, as told in Ferguson's urgent and quick-witted voice, that makes the extended argument so interesting and in an age of multicultural relativism, refreshing. Welding his argument--not just about the cause of Western civilization's success, but also that "the historian can commune with the dead by imaginatively reconstructing their experiences" to inform and predict the future--Ferguson spins together the documents, events, and personalities to form a narrative, a story, about why the West succeeded in the face of larger, richer, and, at the onset, more wealthy civilizations.The "tools" to which he attributes the rise of the West are likened to "apps," downloadable software that augment computers and mobile devices. By looking at the narrative, Ferguson finds the roots of the West's success, as well as why, perhaps, the West as begun to decline while other civilizations advance. Not specific to the West, but, like the real world apps in the metaphor, the values can be "downloaded" by any culture for similar results, and in the closing Ferguson addresses the adaptation by non-Western cultures that have done, and are doing, just that with success.The "apps" Ferguson finds, while not necessarily surprising, are informative: competition, science, property rights, medicine, consumption and the birth of the "consumer society" (“without which the Industrial Revolution would have been unsustainable”) and Max Weber's Protestant “work ethic”. While the narrative is anything but chronological, Ferguson's grasp of history and the sweeping strokes with which he paints the narrative provide fascinating reading. One cannot sense, however, that Ferguson, almost anything but apologetic, is on the verge of glorying in the success of the British Empire during its hey-day as a colonial power, noting with statistical explanation the improvements brought to the world through Western influence, whether it be in medicine, literacy, and education. Or blue jeans, for in the end, one side effect of rise of the West is not diversity, but conformity as cultures imitate and emulate Western styles, habits, and philosophy.Ironically to this writer, who sees such deep and lasting value in the political institutions of the West, Ferguson notes that one area where the West has not been uniformly imitated is the political."Only in the realm of political institutions does there remain significant global diversity, with a wide range of governments around the world resisting the idea of the rule of law, with its protection of individual rights, as the foundation for meaningful representative government."In other words, we'll take your blue jeans, your medicine, even your work ethic, but you can keep the Bill of Rights and representative government, they say. Indeed, it is that imitation of the West that has brought China from the depths of the Cultural Revolution to heights today when its economy can weather the financial crisis without more than a hiccup.After Ferguson's narrative through the six "apps", then, we reach the essential question suggested by any study of the West's rise: is the West now in decline? And if so, is it too late to reverse?Perhaps not. Although China's rise seems ominous, and indeed, Ferguson cites China's relative nonchalance towards doing business with the dictators and warlords of the world business "it's just business" as evidence that China is more concerned about rising than its popularity, China still faces problems that could arrest its progress, especially from social unrest, political pressure from its growing and unrepresented middle-class, or friction with its neighbors in Asia.Noting that a "retreat from the mountains of the Hindu Kush" (Afghanistan) seems to proceed the fall of any empire--be it Alexander's, British, Russian, or most recently American--Ferguson is unwilling to give up on the West, yet. No, the things that set the West apart are no longer distinct, but nor has the entire package of "apps" been embraced."The Chinese have got capitalism. The Iranians have got science. The Russians have got democracy. The Africans are (slowly) getting modern medicine. And the Turks have got the consumer society. But what this means is that Western modes of operation are not in decline but are flourishing nearly everywhere, with only a few remaining pockets of resistance. A growing number of Resterners [Ferguson's name for non-Westerners] are sleeping, showering, dressing, working, playing, eating, drinking and travelling like Westerners. Moreover, as we have seen, Western civilization is more than just one thing; it is a package. It is about political pluralism (multiple states and multiple authorities) as well as capitalism; it is about the freedom of thought as well as the scientific method; it is about the rule of law and property rights as well as democracy. Even today, the West still has more of these institutional advantages than the Rest. The Chinese do not have political competition. The Iranians do not have freedom of conscience. They get to vote in Russia, but the rule of law there is a sham. In none of these countries is there a free press. These differences may explain why, for example, all three countries lag behind Western countries in qualitative indices that measure‘national innovative development’ and ‘national innovation capacity’."True, the West is not without its faults, he says, but our downfall will come from within, not from external pressure. It's the loss of the "killer apps" by our culture that will, in the long and short run, lead to our continued decline. Don't mistake the adoption, however, by others as the reason for the decline of the West. Rather, it is the West's abandonment of the values that brought them prominence that is leading to the decline. Here, again, Ferguson picks up the theme in his preface--we must learn from history. If we are to maintain the great values that gave the West its rise, we must study and learn the great works--the documents--that teach those values.* Add up all the values, and, like any follower of Churchill, it adds up to courage and action."Today, as then [1938 and the German Nazi threat to Western civilization], the biggest threat to Western civilization is posed not by other civilizations, but by our own pusillanimity – and by the historical ignorance that feeds it."__________________________If you're interested in a brief version of Ferguson's views on the six "apps" that he discusses in the book, check out his speech at TED.__________________________* Ferguson's recommended "standard works" for Western civilization are:The King James BibleIsaac Newton's PrincipaJohn Locke's Two Treatises of GovernmentAdam Smith's Moral Sentiments and Wealth of NationsEdmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in FranceCharles Darwin's Origin of the SpeciesWilliam Shakespeare's playsSelected speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Winston ChurchillAlso, if he could select only one of the above, it would be Shakespeare's collected works.Related articles

  • Leo
    2019-04-12 21:27

    een verdomd interrestant en prettig boek om te lezen, waarom is het Westen zo verdomd dominant t.o.v. de rest van de wereld?

  • Alan Jacobs
    2019-04-07 21:12

    Disappointing. The overall theme of the book is enlightening. The division into the West's "killer apps" is thought-provoking. (The six killer apps of the West, which led the West to preeminence while the Rest stagnated, are: Competition (small competing states in Europe vs. huge empires in the East); Science (kabosh put on science in Arabia, China, while Europe forged ahead); Property (private property in North America, widely distributed and alienable, a key to prosperity); Medicine (longer and more certain lives); Consumption (as producers realized that the key to growth was providing goods for their own workers--a virtuous circle); and Work (specifically, the Protestant work ethic).So I was hoping for some profound revelation near the end, but when talking about the work ethic, he starts blasting the free-love culture of the 1960s, blaming the West's downfall on hippies and such. And then he goes on about how important it is for us all to be Protestants. Once we lose our One True Faith, we lose the work ethic, and the Chinese (who are becoming Protestants in large numbers, says Niall) eat our lunch. And so Niall turned into a crank, and I lost all respect for his thesis. Or maybe half my respect. This is still a damned interesting history book. And I have more highlights in my ebook than I've ever had in any other book. Here are some examples of fascinating facts:"The Dutch East India Company, founded in 1602, and its eponymous English imitator were the first true capitalist corporations, with their equity capital divided into tradable shares paying cash dividends at the discretion of their directors. Nothing resembling these astoundingly dynamic institutions emerged in the Orient. And, though they increased royal revenue, they also diminished royal prerogatives by creating new and enduring stakeholders in the early-modern state: bankers, bond-holders and company directors.""the Muslim clergy effectively snuffed out the chance of Ottoman scientific advance – at the very moment that the Christian Churches of Europe were relaxing their grip on free inquiry.""Between 1980 and 2000 the number of patents registered in Israel was 7,652 compared with 367 for all the Arab countries combined. In 2008 alone Israeli inventors applied to register 9,591 new patents. The equivalent figure for Iran was fifty and for all majority Muslim countries in the world 5,657."And many more.

  • Петър Стойков
    2019-03-29 02:28

    Добре де, защо някои държави са приятни за живеене, богати и устроени, а други са отвратителни бедни дупки?Много хора се опитват да обясняват това с географско местоположение, природни ресурси, империализъм, даже масоните. Но за мен тия теории не обясняват достатъчно - защото от държавите с много ресурси има и бедни и богати, от държавите които са били империи има в момента и бедни и богати, от тия, които са били колонии има и бедни и богати... Едни са били силни, огромни империи в миналото, а в момента са други...Найл Фъргюсън е британски историк и икономист, който има няколко доста добри книги - а в тази обяснява неговата идея за просперитета на държавите, чрез 6 идеи/практики, които много държави през човешката история са прилагали поотделно и са имали известен успех, но тези, които са прилагали повече от тях едновременно са имали по-голям. Те са:- Конкуренция- Наука- Собственост и нейната защита- Медицина- Потребителска култура (консумеризъм)- Трудова етика за упорита работаНаличието/отсъствието на тези практики обяснява (според мен много добре)защо китайската империя, построила неизмеримо по-огромни кораби за околосветско плаване от тези на Колумб така и не завладява нищо и не се развива, а мънички Португалия, Холандия и Испания стават огромни световни империи. Защо Япония, сразена във Втората световна война аграрна островна държава без никакви полезни изкопаеми се издига до световна икономическа сила за 30-40 години и т.н.Накратко, идеята на книгата, в лекция на автора:

  • Nallasivan V.
    2019-04-23 03:19

    This book - going by all the reviews - is supposedly well written. But it has a dead certainty about itself that turned me off. Its premise is ambitious: to illustrate that western civilization fared better than oriental civilization because of six unique things like competition, property laws, work ethic, etc. The book starts with a short introduction which briefly explains all these six apps (as it is referred to in the book) and goes onto elaborate on them in the following six sections. But the way the six apps are introduced to us has an air of finality about it. So as to say that it cannot be challenged. Or even worse, as thought the author is fixated upon them. Even the back cover confidently lists down all the six apps. This air of simplification of two millennia of civilization into six sentences immediately gave me a feeling that I already know what is coming and need not waste my time reading the arguments presented for the case. The history books I have enjoyed are written mostly like detective novels where we don't know where it is leading to. But this book provides the solution first before elaborating on the case.

  • Logan
    2019-03-31 23:35

    I don't agree with everything Ferguson says, but he brings up some good points. I enjoyed reading the book but the biggest disappointment I found was a lack of arguments, being mostly a barrage of random facts and declarations without much support. Lots of statements were made without evidence and he jumped from event to event with startling rapidity. It was a whirlwind overview of Western Civilization but I found myself wanting a deeper analysis. Perhaps I'm just not clever enough to connect all the dots and the implications behind them.

  • Claude Forthomme
    2019-04-06 04:19

    An excellent book, well-written and easy (even fun!) to read. A must read if you're wondering where our world is heading, as we are under siege from Islam on one side and China on the other...Niall Ferguson does not need to be presented: he's probably the top Historian of our Times, together with Paul Kennedy. When he writes something, you should take notice. You many not agree with him on everything (I certainly don't) but his book is never going to be a waste of your time!In this case he's done a superb job in identifying what he sees as six factors at work in our civilization that largely explain the West's rise and dominance over the rest of the planet over the past 500 years (whether you like it or not, that's true: the West has shaped how everyone acts, thins and dresses - including those who dress "against" the West, by openly and defiantly clinging to their burqas and other traditional vestments). Without going into the details here, the six factors at work - or "killer applications" as Ferguson calls them that the West developed and the Rest lacked, are as follows: economic competition,the Scientific Revolution, the rule of law and representative government based on private property rights, modern medicine and health care, the Consumer Society, the work ethic combined with higher savings rates and capital accumulation.This does a pretty convincing job of explaining the rise of the West - except for the fact that Ferguson does not take into consideration the effects of the "Columbian exchange", which is somewhat surprising considering how well read he is. The "Columbian exchange" is a new concept very well presented by Charles C. Mann in his latest book (1493:Uncovering the New World Columbus Created - see link below) that explains why with the global spread of disease and/or plants after Columbus had discovered America some civilizations (example the Chinese from the 1600s onwards) have collapsed. Because to explain the rise of the West, it helps to also explain why the rest might have started sliding down.But the real issue I have with Ferguson's book is that he doesn't do a very thorough job in explaining the (coming) downfall of the West (should it come - and I for one, do believe it will and that it has already started). Ferguson mentions anthropologist Jared Diamond's grand theory of cyclical rise and fall based on the observation that societies, through their very success, end up abusing their natural environment and causing their own downfall (as he convincingly argues in his book How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, with a slew of striking examples ranging from the Maya to Easter Island).Ferguson doesn't like Diamond's theory, he doesn't really like any theory that sees the historical process as cyclical, from birth to maturity to death. And he asks the question: "what if History is not cyclical and slow-moving but arrhythmic - sometimes almost stationary but also capable of violent acceleration?...What if collapse is not centuries in the making but strikes a civilization suddenly, like a thief in the night?" An intriguing idea. Sure civilizations, as Ferguson writes, are "highly complex systems...They operate somewhere between order and disorder - on the 'edge of chaos' in the phrase of computer scientist Christopher Langton." He points to the collapse of the Soviet Union with the fall of the Berlin Wall as the most recent example of "precipitous decline". And this is where he begins to lose me. Sure, he talks knowingly of all sorts of factors at work, from the financial crisis of 2007 to the Euro crisis to the rise of China as a major economic power poised to surpass the United States. It all makes for fascinating reading. But not convincing. Because he seems to have lost sight of his definition of the "West" as short hand for "western civilization". For example, when the Chinese decide to overtake the "West", they do it with a "new grand strategy" that Ferguson summarizes as based on "Mao-fashion, as the 'Four Mores':1. Consume more2. Import more3. Invest abroad more4. Innovate more"If you examine the 'Four Mores', you realize immediately that what the Chinese are doing is apply completely Western factors or "killer apps" to use Ferguson's metaphor. By that argument, if China surpasses the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia (to cite the countries most closely associated with the "West" concept)in the course of the 21st century, it will NOT signify a downfall of the West as a civilization. It's just a continuation in another corner of the planet!Ferguson ignores or rather rejects Huntington's Clash of Civilizations argument, reminding us that none of his predictions have come to pass. Huntington had predicted (in his own words)that "conflicts between groups in different civilizations will be more frequent, more sustained and more violent than conflicts between groups in the same civilization". True enough, so far we've had more wars within civilizations than between civilizations: Ferguson cites the numbers and takes comfort in them. Of the 30 major armed conflicts that have taken place 12 years after the publication of Huntington's essay, he argues that "only nine could be regarded as being in any sense between civilizations, in the sense that one side was predominantly Muslim and the other non-Muslim". Only nine? But even if it were just one, it would be one too many. And one to worry about! No, I cannot agree with Professor Ferguson and take comfort in such numbers. This is not a question of numbers, but of what direction our civilization is taking. And there's little doubt that it is under siege by a "side that [is] predominantly Muslim", whether our civilization is flourishing in China or the old West (indeed, the Chinese have problems with their Muslim minorities too...)I just wish Ferguson had not dismissed other major thinkers this way because his conclusive chapter could have been much stronger than it is! Which is why I've given his book - otherwise magnificently written and researched - only 4 stars... 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus CreatedCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or SucceedThe Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

  • Amal Al Salem
    2019-04-20 02:29

    اسم الكتاب : الحضارة (كيف هيمنت حضارة الغرب على الشرق والغرب)اسم الكاتب: نيال فرغسون بروفيسور التاريخ الأبرز في جامعة هارفردعدد صفحات الكتاب: 527 صفحة العرض الأول ل 120 صفحة  الكتاب يحتوي على مقدمتين و 6 فصول مقدمة الطبعة البريطانيةيطرح الكاتب بحث متكامل إجابة لسؤال يعتبره في غاية الأهمية للمؤرخ في الحقبة الحديثة وهو:- لماذا تمكنت حفنة من الدول الصغيرة الواقعة عند الطرف الغربي من أوراسيا ( كتلة اوربا وأسيا) بدءًا من العام 1500 من السيطرة على بقية أنحاء العالم وهي مساحة تضم بعض أكثر المناطق كثافة سكانية وبعض أكثر المجتمعات تقدمًا في أوراسيا؟ ويفرع من ذلك السؤال تساؤل آخر:- إذا تمكنا من الحصول على تفسير مقنع عن صعود الغرب في الماضي فهل سنستطيع تقديم توقعات لمستقبل ذلك الصعود؟ يُعرف الكاتب التاريخ وما يحتاج إليه المؤرخ لكتابته بمعاني جميلة وعميقة جدًا أخترت منها:المعنى الحقيقي للتاريخ يتولد من تراصف الماضي والحاضر:<< إن المعرفة التاريخية هي إعادة إحياء تجري في عقل المؤرخ للفكرة التي يدرس تاريخها).مقدمة: سؤال رسيلاس رسيلاس اسم بطل رواية (كتاب تاريخ رسيلاس) للكاتب الإنجليزي صموئيل جونسون ويطرح فيها رسيلاس سؤال (ما هي الوسائل التي جعلت الأوربيين أقوياء هكذا، أو لماذا لا يتمكن الآسيويون والأفريقيون، ولأنهم يستطيعون زيارة آسيا وأفريقيا بسهولة من أجل التجارة أو السيطرة زرع مستعمراتهم في موانئ هاتين القارتين؟ويعلل جونسون على لسان الفيلسوف إيملاك الشخصية الثانية في روايته ذلك بتفوق المعرفة على الجهل.الكاتب يعلل ذلك بستة تطويرات جديدة ومتميزة في النُظم وما رافقها من أفكار وسلوكيات ويفردها مفصلة على ستة فصول وهي:1- المنافسة 2- العلوم.3- حقوق الملكية.4-  الطب.5- المجتمع الاستهلاكي.6- أخلاقيات العمل.يتدرج الكاتب بنا في معرفة تاريخ مفهوم الحضارة حتى يصل بنا إلى التعريف الخاص به فيقول: أن الحضارة هي أكبر وحدة مفردة للمؤسسة الإنسانية، هي أرفع حتى من إمبراطورية وإن كانت أكثر غموضًا منها، ينتقل بعدها في شرخ مختصر للعوامل السابقة ليستنتج أن الفرق بين الغرب وبين إنحاء العالم -ويوضح الكاتب حين يطلق كلمة الغرب فهو لا يعني حدودًا جغرافية بل المعنى يمتد ليشمل مجموعة من المعايير والسلوكيات – الفرق هو اختلافا مؤسساتيًا.تقييم أولي للكتابالكتاب قيم بكل ما تحمله الكلمة من معنى، تمكن الكاتب من تحقيق تمكُن المؤرخ من إعادة إحياء الفكرة التي يدرس تاريخها، شعرت بأنني انتقلت لأعيش ذلك الزمان بكل ما فيه من وقائع، برع الكاتب في ربط تاريخ تلك الأفكار بواقعنا الثقافي، السياسي، الاجتماعي وبجوانب آخري مختلفة.ابتعد الكاتب عن الأسلوب المعتاد في الطرح التاريخي للوقائع والاحداث فكان الكتاب شيق، الواضح من الكتاب ان الكاتب لديه قدرة تحليلية عميقة، ما زلت في بداية رحلتي مع الكتاب ولكن أحتجت ان اراجع افكاري وارتبها.أمل سالم 5/10/2017م