- Paperback: 768 pages
- Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (25 October 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312611692
- ISBN-13: 978-0312611699
- Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 3.5 x 20.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future Paperback – 25 Oct 2011
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“Morris is a lucid thinker and a fine writer. . .possessed of a welcome sense of humor that helps him guide us through this grand game of history as if he were an erudite sportscaster.” ―Orville Schell, The New York Times Book Review
“An excellent and amusing survey of the last [fifty] thousand years or so of human history.” ―Jane Smiley, The Washington Post
“The greatest nonfiction book written in recent times.” ―The Business Standard
“A pathbreaking work that lays out what modern history should look like.…Entertaining and plausibly argued.” ―Harold James, Financial Times (London)
“In an era when cautious academics too often confine themselves to niggling discussions of pipsqueak topics, it is a joy to see a scholar take a bold crack at explaining the vast sweep of human progress. . .
Readers of Why the West Rules―For Now are unlikely to see the history of the world in quite the same way ever again. And that can't be said of many books on any topic. Morris has penned a tour de force.” ―Keith Monroe, The Virginian-Pilot
“Readers of Why the West Rules--For Now are unlikely to see the history of the world in quite the same way ever again. And that can't be said of many books on any topic. Morris has penned a tour de force.” ―Keith Monroe, The Virginian-Pilot
“If you read one history book this year, if you read one this decade, this is the one.” ―Tim O' Connell, The Florida Times-Union
“A monumental effort...Morris is an engaging writer with deep insights from archaeology and ancient history that offer us compelling visions about how the past influences the future.” ―Michael D. Langan, Buffalo News
“A remarkable book that may come to be as widely read as Paul Kennedy's 1987 work, ‘The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.' Like Mr Kennedy's epic, Mr Morris's ‘Why the West Rules--For Now' uses history and an overarching theory to address the anxieties of the present . . . This is an important book--one that challenges, stimulates and entertains. Anyone who does not believe there are lessons to be learned from history should start here.” ―The Economist
“Morris' new book illustrates perfectly why one really scholarly book about the past is worth a hundred fanciful works of futurology. Morris is the world's most talented ancient historian, a man as much at home with state-of-the-art archaeology as with the classics as they used to be studied . . . He has brilliantly pulled off what few modern academics would dare to attempt: a single-volume history of the world that offers a bold and original answer to the question, Why did the societies that make up 'the West' pull ahead of 'the Rest' not once but twice, and most spectacularly in the modern era after around 1500? Wearing his impressive erudition lightly -- indeed, writing with a wit and clarity that will delight the lay reader -- Morris uses his own ingenious index of social development as the basis for his answer.” ―Niall Ferguson, Foreign Affairs
“A formidable, richly engrossing effort to determine why Western institutions dominate the world . . . Readers will enjoy [Morris's] lively prose and impressive combination of scholarship . . . with economics and science. A superior contribution to the grand-theory-of-human-history genre.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Ian Morris has returned history to the position it once held: no longer a series of dusty debates, nor simple stories--although he has many stories to tell and tells them brilliantly--but a true magister vitae, ‘teacher of life.' Morris explains how the shadowy East-West divide came about, why it really does matter, and how one day it might end up. His vision is dazzling, and his prose irresistible. Everyone from Sheffield to Shanghai who wants to know not only how they came to be who and where they are but where their children and their children's children might one day end up must read this book.” ―Anthony Pagden, author of Worlds and War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West
“This is an astonishing work by Ian Morris: hundreds of pages of the latest information dealing with every aspect of change. Then, the questions of the future: What will a new distribution bring about? Will Europe undergo a major change? Will the millions of immigrants impose a new set of rules on the rest? There was a time when Europe could absorb any and all newcomers. Now the newcomers may dictate the terms. The West may continue to rule, but the rule may be very different.” ―David S. Landes, author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations
“Here you have three books wrapped into one: an exciting novel that happens to be true; an entertaining but thorough historical account of everything important that happened to any important people in the last ten millennia; and an educated guess about what will happen in the future. Read, learn, and enjoy!” ―Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography at UCLA, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and Natural Experiments of History
“Ian Morris is a classical archaeologist, an ancient historian, and a writer whose breathtaking vision and scope make him fit to be ranked alongside the likes of Jared Diamond and David Landes. His magnum opus is a tour not just d'horizon but de force, taking us on a spectacular journey to and from the two nodal cores of the Euramerican West and the Asian East, alighting and reflecting as suggestively upon 10,800 BC as upon AD 2010. The shape of globalizing history may well never be quite the same again.” ―Paul Cartledge, A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, Clare College
“At last--a brilliant historian with a light touch. We should all rejoice.” ―John Julius Norwich
“Deeply thought-provoking and engagingly lively, broad in sweep and precise in detail.” ―Jonathan Fenby, author of Modern China: The Fall and Rise of a Great Power, 1850 to the Present
“Morris's history of world dominance sparkles as much with exotic ideas as with extraordinary tales. Why the West Rules--for Now is both a riveting drama and a major step toward an integrated theory of history.” ―Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
“The nearest thing to a unified field theory of history we are ever likely to get. With wit and wisdom, Ian Morris deploys the techniques and insights of the new ancient history to address the biggest of all historical questions: Why on earth did the West beat the Rest? I loved it.” ―Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money
About the Author
IAN MORRIS is Willard Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University. He has published ten scholarly books, including, most recently, The Dynamics of Ancient Empires, and has directed excavations in Greece and Italy. He lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California.
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While this might seem to be simply a redux of Jared Diamond's argument in Guns, Germs, and Steel, Morris's arguments are more complex and persuasive. Unlike Diamond, Morris does not think geography gave the West a long-term lock-in for rule. Rather, as social development changes over time, it changes the meaning of geography, as technology and accumulated learning allows people to discover advantages in peripheral areas. Indeed, the East surpassed the West in development for around 1200 years until the late 18th century. Morris further contends that although Western rule was very probable after the 14th century or so, the East had chances to keep its lead into the present before them.
Like many writers of "big history," Morris sees humankind's path as being determined by impersonal forces of nature, geography, and biology, perhaps to the chagrin of historians/history buffs that prefer greater human agency. Morris addresses this convincingly, showing that people do have agency, but usually only over the timing of shifts that dictated by greater forces. However, he proposes that as social development is rising more rapidly than ever before, the world is much smaller, and people--namely world leaders--are poised to have a greater impact on the course of history than ever before. Considering the state of world leadership in 2017, this is a dark prospect. Made all the darker still by Morris's final conclusion that the next few decades are likely to be perhaps the most important in history, as we are poised to either reach transhuman levels of development, or hit a very hard development ceiling that could spell doom.
I hope I've illustrated that I think this is an important book. It explains not only history, but the challenges that are ahead. Morris is also an incredible writer, never losing your attention as he covers centuries in paragraphs. He also has a lively sense of humor and grasp of popular culture. I especially appreciated his references to Isaac Asimov's work, especially his Foundation series, which has strikingly similar themes to Why the West Rules.
he then takes it a step further to compare Western (Middle east to USA) and Eastern ( China) civilizations. We watch the lines run parallel for a long period and diverge and crossover and he this way we have a race. He explains key historical events and shows how that shows up in the values and on the graphs. All very good and very informative and unique to see history told this way.
But in parts there is too much detail and thus the book is excessively long, over 600 pages. I had to speed read at least 200-250 pages and I don't think I lost anything. In fact on reviewing the book I am convinced I didn't miss anything of much value by my skimming vast sections.
He then looks into the future using his developed theories of what contributes to society and its development and hence its history. He acknowledges others who have gone before him in this endeavor, notably the geographer Jared Diamond author of Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse ( I have also read and recommend these excellent books) His look into the future relies heavily on the dominant progress of technology and mirrors what others have said about robots, artificial intelligence, mind/machine merger etc. It is interesting to see how similar the thoughts on the future are among historians, sociologists, neuro scientists , technologists and futurists.
So if you can speed read parts that would otherwise bog you down, while stopping and pondering the significant things the author has to say and those parts that spark your interest, this book is a good and worthwhile read. In other words I would urge you to read discriminatingly and not compulsory. Everything he says does not have equal value or is necessary to know for the reader.