Why the West Rules - for Now

  • by Ian Morris
  • Narrated by Antony Ferguson
  • 24 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Sometime around 1750, English entrepreneurs unleashed the astounding energies of steam and coal, and the world was forever changed. The emergence of factories, railroads, and gunboats propelled the West’s rise to power in the nineteenth century, and the development of computers and nuclear weapons in the 20th century secured its global supremacy.
Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, many worry that the emerging economic power of China and India spells the end of the West as a superpower. In order to understand this possibility, we need to look back in time. Why has the West dominated the globe for the past 200 years, and will its power last? Describing the patterns of human history, the archaeologist and historian Ian Morris offers surprising new answers to both questions. It is not, he reveals, differences of race or culture, or even the strivings of great individuals that explain Western dominance. It is the effects of geography on the everyday efforts of ordinary people as they deal with crises of resources, disease, migration, and climate. As geography and human ingenuity continue to interact, the world will change in astonishing ways, transforming Western rule in the process.
Deeply researched and brilliantly argued, Why the West Rules - for Now spans 50,000 years of history and offers fresh insights on nearly every page. The book brings together the latest findings across disciplines - from ancient history to neuroscience - not only to explain why the West came to rule the world but also to predict what the future will bring in the next hundred years.

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What the Critics Say

"A formidable, richly engrossing effort to determine why Western institutions dominate the world." (Kirkus)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

I bought it hardcopy

I was so impressed with Ian Morris' viewpoint and breadth that I purchased the hardcopy to re-read and share with friends. As the cover says, this is possibly the closest we'll ever come to a grand unified theory of history. Even more enjoyable if you're familiar with the basics of complexity theory as his arguments (seemingly unintentionally) flow very much along those lines.

The only quibble - and this is a minor one - is that there is significant discussion of various diagrams throughout the book This of course doesn't come across in the audio-format however they are generally explained well enough to be not completely lost.
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- George

Compelling and infuriating take at World History

After an extensive first third of the book dealing with prehistory to dispel any still possible existing claims of racial superiority between East and West, the book becomes mainly a comparative history between "East" and "West".
Of course this description does not do full justice to the scope and ambition of the author, whose main theory is that progress in history is a product of geography and social development, with one feeding on each other, creating both splendor and collapse; he comes up with an index to measure civilizational development and concludes that there is no foundation for one culture claiming superiority over another.
Mr. Morris wildly overreaches in staking a claim for geography as the main driver of history: he concludes that great men, and culture in general, have played no crucial part in civilization, and that history would have taken pretty much the same course whatever these men or women did: would really history have been the same without Napoleon, George Washington or Isaac Newton? This gives his theory a sometimes disturbingly materialistic and deterministic bent.
His definitions of East and West are highly debatable: since for him culture is not important, he does not make a difference of the split between Christianity and Islam, and sees both as part of the West; obviously, he does not make a big deal of the subsequent schism between Catholics and Protestants. Just look at the huge differences between Europe and the Arab World, or the US and Latin America and the claim that these divergences have not had a major role in shaping history seem wildly unrealistic, .
That said, Mr. Morris is a compelling narrator, and in some cases his arguments are definitely persuasive. The close attention he gives to both the rise of the East and the West provide a much needed balance to existing world histories, and shed light on the interconnectedness of the World starting in Antiquity. His final thoughts are quite dazzling. Well worth a listen.
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- Meyer

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-09-2011
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio