The rise to global predominance of Western civilization is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five hundred years. All over the world, an astonishing proportion of people now work for Western-style companies, study at Western-style universities, vote for Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western clothes, and even work Western hours. Yet six hundred years ago the petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed unlikely to achieve much more than perpetual internecine warfare. It was Ming China or Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations. How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed?
In Civilization: The West and the Rest, bestselling author Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts that the Rest lacked: competition, science, the rule of law, consumerism, modern medicine, and the work ethic.
"Thought-provoking and possibly controversial." (Library Journal)
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Thoughtful analysis of the ascendancy of the West.
Niall Ferguson's Most Enjoyable Book
Revised my thinking
Having heard him live, that same charisma he projects comes through the audio.
Not necessarily. But I did listen to the book more than once.
I have always found Niall Ferguson, in his books and lectures, to be insightful and thought-provoking. 'Civilization' may be the best example of this to date. Here is one example of a perspective that I found very instructive, Ferguson includes in his list of explanatory variables for the acceleration of civilization in the West the role of Protestant churches. But he goes beyond the obvious, the Protestant work ethic, to explain how church communities and the mutual trustworthiness they engendered enabled smaller merchants early access to credit and so develop early forms of supply chains in the fledgling free-markets of the colonial US (and Northern Europe). He also differentiates between monopolistic and ‘free market’ religions. The former refers to the state religions common in Europe, the latter to the open market for religion in the US. And clearly, churches and church-going have flourished in the US where free-market competition compelled churches to adapt to the changing needs of their congregations. Without that competitive motive, churches in Europe have stagnated or declined.Agree with Ferguson or not, this is a highly informative and enjoyable listen. And I must add, the voices used for quotes that several reviewers complained about I found neither distracting nor offensive. Niall’s reading of the text was articulated very clearly and sufficiently animated, enhanced all the more by that Scottish accent that I have come to enjoy.
- F. Ribeiro