Why the West rules-- for now : the patterns of history, and what they reveal about the future / Ian Morris.

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  • Additional Information
    • Edition:
      1st ed.
    • Abstract:
      Summary: An archaeologist and historian offers his view on why the West has dominated the globe for the past two hundred years and whether or not its power will last, examining the past fifty thousand years of human history and predicting what the next one hundred years will bring.
    • Notes:
      Includes bibliographical references and index.
    • ISBN:
      9780374290023 : HRD
      0374290024 : HRD
    • LCCN:
    • Accession Number:


Booklist Reviews 2010 October #1

Only the supremely self-confident put forth all-encompassing theories of world history, and Morris is one such daredevil. An archaeologist by academic specialty, he advances a quasi-deterministic construct that is suitable for nonacademics. From a repeatedly enunciated premise that humans by nature are indolent, avaricious, and fearful, Morris holds that such traits, when combined with sociology and geography, explain history right from the beginning, when humanity trudged out of Africa, through the contemporary rivalry between China and America. Such temporal range leaves scant room for individual human agency: Morris names the names of world history, but in his narrative, leaders and tyrants, at best, muddle through patterns of history that are beyond their power to shape. And those patterns, he claims, can be numerically measured by a "social development index" that he applies to every epochal change from agriculture to the industrial revolution. However, the reading is not as heavy as it may sound. His breezy style and what-if imagination for alternative scenarios should maintain audience interest; whether his sweeping perspective convinces is another matter altogether. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

LJ Reviews 2010 October #2

Archaeologist Morris (Classics & history, Stanford Univ.; coauthor, The Greeks: History, Culture, and Society) draws on his vast knowledge of the ancient world in a risky attempt to make sense of the future as well as our past. He posits four benchmarks for comparing societies: their success or failure in energy capture, organization/urbanization, war making, and information technology/literacy. For each criterion, he provides measures of comparison that allow him to address the question of the West's dominance over the East in the past two centuries and to ask whether the West's lead is sustainable. He admits that the measures he uses are crude but argues that they allow us to examine dynamics of social change from early times onward. He predicts that, barring catastrophe, China will take the lead in 20 to 50 years. As with Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse, Morris's conclusions will provoke controversy, but he asks the right questions. Ultimately, his book is more successful in its goals than Diamond's. VERDICT Accessible and solid, this may be as popular as Diamond's work. It should be in every library.—David Keymer. Modesto, CA

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