Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal about the Future

Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal about the Future

by Ian Morris
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Why the West Rules - For Now 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Winterlight00 More than 1 year ago
And very clearly too. Not only does he answer the question in the title convincingly, he uses it as a springboard to show us, with clear and endlessly fascinating detail, a grand overview of human social and technological development. Wonderful hard core scholarship from a true expert written so the intelligent layman can understand. A damn fine read too!
Septimius More than 1 year ago
Excellent read and quite well written. The premise is a take-off of Guns, Germs, and Steel, and it suffers from many of the same logical weaknesses. The author’s argument centers around "maps not chaps," by which he means that geography has granted the West victory for the moment, and that culture, racial superiority, and other variations of the “long-term lock-in” theory are invalid. Unfortunately, he regularly attacks the culture argument on racism grounds. This is a straw man argument, as the proponents for cultural argument is mainly based on the West’s view of individualism and individual rights (particularly property rights), and not on a racial superiority argument (the latter is a separate argument which the author regularly conflates with the cultural argument, treating them as one). The author has also arranged the geography in favor of his argument. In his view, the Islamic world, Russia, the Americas, etc., all fall into the West, while the "East" is pretty much China, with Japan and Korea thrown in. Many students of history consider the Battle of Thermopylae as a defining "East-West" moment, on the basis that the Greek concept of individual freedom and autonomy was nearly overwhelmed in the cradle by Eastern concepts of kingship and collectivism (the "People" matter more than the individual). If you are going to argue against something, you have to actually address the arguments for it, and not set up straw men and knock them down. The strongest arguments for culture being the reason for success are ignored by the author. Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Persia, Parthia, etc., are considered “Eastern” or “near Eastern” by proponents of the culture argument. This is the first time I have ever seen them labeled as “Western.” Moreover, the author even states himself that he is ignoring India, even though it generated many ancient empires and kingdoms of note. Another area of weakness is the author’s metrics. I am not sure that the size of the largest city in a civilization’s core is the best measure of its urbanization, much less whether or not urbanization in a single city is that significant. If the largest city in an empire is a million people, but no other cities are over 20,000, does that make that empire more advanced than an empire that has tend cities of a half million inhabitants? It strikes me as rather arbitrary. Having said all this, I enjoyed the read. I did experience frustration that the author did not address the best arguments he was battling against, but, like Guns, Germs, and Steel, it was an enjoyable and engaging read. I recommend it, with caution to think seriously about the author’s argument.
Barbu More than 1 year ago
You know you have opened a book that will force you to think when the first line is "London, April 3, 1848. Queen Victoria's head hurt. She had been kneeling with her face pressed to the wooden pier for twenty minutes." If you know your history that line alone will give you pause. And then you will read further and as you delve more into the book you will understand that the alternative history presented in the beginning of the Introduction by Ian Morris was not farfetched but a very possible alternative. The history of the West is not only the history of a region whose people grabbed the opportunities given to them but also the history of all the opportunities that were squandered by the Rest.
Frruss More than 1 year ago
To know where you are going you must know where you have been..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best summary of world history ever bounded in one book. Ian Morris provides incredible insights into the future of the West and the East. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the perfect book to buy in NOOk format. I generally like the feel of books, and the convenience of being able to flip easily to wherever you want, but the hardcover for this was bulky, making it perfect for an ereader. The book itself is absolutely fascinating and extremely on-time. Seeing the recent rise of China, and the claims that the Chinese government has been making about being an ancient civilization, etc., one can't help but wonder how this civilization came to be less developed than the US and Europe. This book provides the answer, and the answer is neither racist nor fatalistic, nor great-man focused. Climate clearly plays a big part in the explanation, but more so as part of the interaction between constraints and challenges in the environment and people's ingenuity and ability to come up with new ways of solving problems. Extreme broadness aside, each chapter brings something new and different, making it a page-turner. I highly recommend it!
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
This panoramic history is formidable reading about the comparative development of Western and Eastern civilizations. It catalogs significant archeological, scientific, and political events of 16,000 years of human history and several millennia in the life of the planet. Historian Ian Morris explains the forces that allowed Western civilization to overtake Eastern civilization and why this critical balance may now be tipping in favor of the East. This is high-quality academic scholarship: an interdisciplinary analysis, tying together esoteric facts and maps spanning geography, historical theories, paleontology, genetics, climatology, archeology and politics. Morris's book supports his detailed model comparing the development of Eastern and Western civilizations. His construct relies on recounting detailed history, analysis and comparisons. This can be challenging reading, albeit leavened by Morris's visible scholarship and entertaining style. You have to want to finish this book, but if you are a serious reader of history, getAbstract assures you that the effort has very substantial rewards - and if you are building up your ambitions, it also makes for fascinating skimming.
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