The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy

The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy

by Joel Mokyr

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Overview

The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy by Joel Mokyr

The growth of technological and scientific knowledge in the past two centuries has been the overriding dynamic element in the economic and social history of the world. Its result is now often called the knowledge economy. But what are the historical origins of this revolution and what have been its mechanisms? In The Gifts of Athena, Joel Mokyr constructs an original framework to analyze the concept of "useful" knowledge. He argues that the growth explosion in the modern West in the past two centuries was driven not just by the appearance of new technological ideas but also by the improved access to these ideas in society at large--as made possible by social networks comprising universities, publishers, professional sciences, and kindred institutions. Through a wealth of historical evidence set in clear and lively prose, he shows that changes in the intellectual and social environment and the institutional background in which knowledge was generated and disseminated brought about the Industrial Revolution, followed by sustained economic growth and continuing technological change.

Mokyr draws a link between intellectual forces such as the European enlightenment and subsequent economic changes of the nineteenth century, and follows their development into the twentieth century. He further explores some of the key implications of the knowledge revolution. Among these is the rise and fall of the "factory system" as an organizing principle of modern economic organization. He analyzes the impact of this revolution on information technology and communications as well as on the public's state of health and the structure of households. By examining the social and political roots of resistance to new knowledge, Mokyr also links growth in knowledge to political economy and connects the economic history of technology to the New Institutional Economics. The Gifts of Athena provides crucial insights into a matter of fundamental concern to a range of disciplines including economics, economic history, political economy, the history of technology, and the history of science.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400829439
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/14/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Joel Mokyr is the Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Economics and History, at Northwestern University. He is the author of the widely acclaimed The Lever of Riches and editor of the Oxford University Press Encyclopedia of Economic History. He is a former editor of the Journal of Economic History and President Elect of the Economic History Association.

Table of Contents

Preface xi
Chapter 1: Technology and the Problem of Human Knowledge 1
Chapter 2: The Industrial Enlightenment: The Taproot of Economic Progress 28
Chapter 3: the Industrial Revolution and Beyond 78
Chapter 4: Technology and the Factory System 119
Chapter 5: Knowledge, Health, and th Household 163
Chapter 6: the Political Economy of Knowledge: Innovation and Resistance in Economic History 218
Chapter 7: Institutions, Knowledge, and Economic Growth 284
References 299
Index 339

What People are Saying About This

Nathan Rosenberg

This is a splendid book. Highly illuminating and often strikingly original, it will be valuable to economists and economic theorists as well as to historians of all sorts but also, thanks to Mokyr's lively, often-provocative writing style, to a much wider audience.
Nathan Rosenberg, Stanford University, author of "Exploring the Black Box"

Jacob

Economists, historians, and people who care about human progress will have to pay serious attention to Joel Mokyr's account of the role of knowledge in fueling economic development. He appears to be right about the West, and the implications for developing countries and their spending on education are staggering.
Margaret C. Jacob, University of California at Los Angeles

William Easterly

Everyone talks about knowledge and technology, but Mokyr's brilliant book is the rare exception that talks about the what, when, why, and where of the knowledge revolution. The book skillfully navigates a vast territory from the Industrial Revolution to the World Wide Web, from the revolution in health to that in housework, from technophobia to institutions. Mokyr demolishes stereotypes and generates a steady stream of fresh facts and insights that keep you turning the pages.
William Easterly, New York University, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth"

Edward Tenner

The benefits of knowledge for health and wealth have been axiomatic for centuries. Showing just how science, technology, and medicine actually pay off is still not simple. The Gifts of Athena bridges history and economics with unusual learning and originality. Wise owls will want this book.
Edward Tenner, author of "Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences"

Easterlin

An excellent and much-needed book. The Gifts of Athena embraces the varied scientific breakthroughs that eventuated in both modern economic growth and rapidly rising life expectancy. Mokyr's intellectual scope is impressive, and he has done scholars a great service by creating this pathbreaking work. The need for knowledge of this type, especially among economists, is great.
Richard A. Easterlin, University of Southern California, author of "Growth Triumphant"

Recipe

"Everyone talks about knowledge and technology, but Mokyr's brilliant book is the rare exception that talks about the what, when, why, and where of the knowledge revolution. The book skillfully navigates a vast territory from the Industrial Revolution to the World Wide Web, from the revolution in health to that in housework, from technophobia to institutions. Mokyr demolishes stereotypes and generates a steady stream of fresh facts and insights that keep you turning the pages."—William Easterly, New York University, author of The Elusive Quest for Growth

"Economists, historians, and people who care about human progress will have to pay serious attention to Joel Mokyr's account of the role of knowledge in fueling economic development. He appears to be right about the West, and the implications for developing countries and their spending on education are staggering."—Margaret C. Jacob, University of California at Los Angeles

"The benefits of knowledge for health and wealth have been axiomatic for centuries. Showing just how science, technology, and medicine actually pay off is still not simple. The Gifts of Athena bridges history and economics with unusual learning and originality. Wise owls will want this book."—Edward Tenner, author of Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences

"This is a splendid book. Highly illuminating and often strikingly original, it will be valuable to economists and economic theorists as well as to historians of all sorts but also, thanks to Mokyr's lively, often-provocative writing style, to a much wider audience."—Nathan Rosenberg, Stanford University, author ofExploring the Black Box

"An excellent and much-needed book. The Gifts of Athena embraces the varied scientific breakthroughs that eventuated in both modern economic growth and rapidly rising life expectancy. Mokyr's intellectual scope is impressive, and he has done scholars a great service by creating this pathbreaking work. The need for knowledge of this type, especially among economists, is great."—Richard A. Easterlin, University of Southern California, author of Growth Triumphant

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