Stunning. Startling. Mystifying. Reactions to David Landes's latest tour de force will no doubt run the gamut. Filled with pithy sketches of nations (why weren't the . David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and. Some So Poor, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., , xxi + pp. Economic . The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. David S. Landes (Author, Harvard University). Sign up for the monthly New.
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"David Landes has written a masterly survey of the great successes and failures among the the causes of the wealth and poverty of nations—the grand object. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich a and millions of other books are available for Amazon Kindle. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor Paperback – May 17, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is David S. Landes's. Samson, Steven Alan, "David S. Landes: The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Study Guide" might account for the relative poverty of the tropics and subtropics ?.
Improvement, and therefore growth, was only possible with the Civil Code. There is another sense in which an historian who works on the wrong side of the Channel is puzzled. Don't have an account? Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. Instead, we are whisked straight into the industrial revolution in England, and very deftly too.
He does this by comparing the long-term economic histories of different regions of the world, giving priority to Europe and the United States, as well as Japan , China , the Arab world , and Latin America.
In addition to analyzing economic and cliometric figures, he gives substantial credit to such intangible assets as culture and enterprise in the different societies he examines in order to explain economic success or failure.
In doing so, he revives, at least in part, several theories he believes have been incorrectly discarded by academics over the last 40 years:. He also spends a good deal of effort to debunk claims that the Asian miracle did not happen, was not significant, or was financed by European colonialism , and he draws a correlation between the economic level of a country and the way it treats its women.
In short, he argues that the vast economic growth of the Industrial Revolution was no accident but instead resulted from several qualities of Europe, including its climate, political competition, economic freedom and attitude towards science and religion, more specifically from certain countries in Western Europe, primarily England. Critics have charged Landes with eurocentrism in his analysis, a charge which Landes himself does not deny; in fact, he embraces it explicitly, arguing that an explanation for an economic miracle that happened originally only in Europe though he deals with the later ' Asian miracle ' in Wealth and Poverty must of necessity be a Eurocentric analysis, thus siding at least at some level with thinkers such as Bernard Lewis.
Following Daniel Bell, knowledge is the necessary link between 'The European miracle' and the American post-industrial society. Additionally, an alternate theory relies on literacy and the gap between Protestants and Catholics as an explanation for the difference in economic results.
The economist Paul Krugman remarked in The Trouble with History article published on his MIT-hosted blog that the book, while containing an enormous amount of information, offered very few ideas. Landes actually believe? To deny this, however unpalatable or unfashionable it may be today to accept it, Landes says, is to deny history.
Yet at another level, the argument is one that I cannot begin to accept, and believe is manifestly falsified by the historical record. Landes does not merely claim that by the nineteenth century Europeans had achieved an undeniable level of technical superiority over other societies; he argues that this achievement was the inevitable outcome of a longstanding superiority in Europe.
From the dawn of this millennium, Landes argues, the West had been the best: But in pressing this deeper argument about Western superiority, Landes goes overboard, lustily attacking all who disagree with him, and throwing out his arguments in blatant disregard [End Page ] for logic and consistency. He becomes like the lawyer who, in order to defend his client from allegations about the theft of a vase from his neighbor, argues that 1 the vase never existed; 2 the vase is still in possession of the plaintiff; and 3 the vase belonged to his client in the first place.
Here is Landes on slavery and climate: This is to buttress his argument that in the tropics, it is too hot to work, so people do not labor if they can help it; thus they rely on slaves. And where people depend on slaves, there can be no initiative, no labor-saving devices, no great civilizations. How absurd!
Slavery has abounded in all societies where the strong could prey on the weak--the word itself comes from the Slavic peoples of the Black Sea region Caucasians from the lands around the Caucasus Mountains , who were sold by Norsemen to peoples throughout the Mediterranean. Classical Greece--that land of enterprising colonists and traders, nonpareil innovators and speculators, sculptors, poets, and playwrights of genius Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.
Thirty years ago, for instance, it used to be thought that the rest of the world could catch up with the West and that this could be done through a heavy dose of state intervention. This could take the form of Communist autarchy or, say, "African socialism" which required an activist state that would mitigate the deleterious effects of early industrial capitalism.
The balm would be a generous foreign aid. Or in its western form, common on much of the continent in the post-war era, in Britain until the advent of Mrs. Thatcher, and in Canada now, it is called an "industrial policy" where government took on the responsibility to stimulate the "white heat of technology.
That is, the West did not develop through generating capital in agriculture and transferring it to industry. Yet this misunderstanding of history seemed to prescribe the manipulation of the agricultural sector to serve industry. The result has been truly tragic in Russia, and in much of Africa. Professor Landes has another schema altogether.
The title of the book, which so obviously recalls another, gives it away: The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is a neo-liberal, neo-classical interpretation of economic growth: Above all, there is freedom of conscience, and a strong value is put on disinterested research and invention, and on public education.
Countries that did not do this, or that turned toward the rule of the friars and to religious persecution, after a promising start, like Spain and Portugal, suffered. Professor Landes says in an arresting phrase, that they were cursed with a kind of "original sin" that still plagued them three hundred years later, in terms of parasitic social values, xenophobia, public fecklessness, poverty, and marginalization.
The Iberian countries brought these values to their colonies in the New World and they too suffered generations of poverty, oppression, political instability, exploitative institutions and attitudes, and all the rest. Improvement, and therefore growth, was only possible with the Civil Code.
No doubt Professor Landes would find these arguments interesting. They would certainly support his thesis. Yet if only to swim against this broad current, I would like to suggest the picture might be more complicated. Professor Landes gives us a picture of a triumphalist Europe, a picture of anonymous craftsmen who gave us water-wheels, eye-glasses, gunpowder, heavy-wheeled plows, windmills, paper, printing, and on and on.
A picture of men and women who were hard-working, responsible, industrious, sensible, rational, who knew what their interests were and who knew how to pursue them. This is where someone steeped in the social history of the s, 70s, and 80s has to cry out that there is something wrong here, that, to put it in economic terms, this is a labor force that is far from rational, sensible, or whatever.
For what is worth, it goes without saying that those who do comparative history are onto something, that Europe really was special in some way, but that we ought to focus on what this was. The simple appearance of difference alone was not in itself an explanation of that difference. Let us examine the social history of the past thirty years and ask ourselves whether this would be the labor force any greedy, comic book, capitalist might want.
Or put it another way, if anyone were to thrust a non existent, obviously microphone under the chin of an average western European of the seventeenth century, under the chin of any identikit Protestant European, any British European, or even any Calvinist European, and asked them what he or she really cared about, is there anyone in the profession who thinks they wished for anything other than to save their souls?
To what extent did European culture at the popular level reflect the acquisitive, Weberian values Professor Landes endorses? Did anyone feel a sense of gratification in a job well done, or, since this is difficult to know, to what extent did ordinary people feel rewarded for their efforts, and what did they think about it? We ought to push this as far as we can because the question is vital: And when we get to this level, things get very messy.
As late as , and depending upon region, somewhere between one in ten and one in four young men were rejected from military service because they were too short. As Roderick Floud has argued for Britain where the figures for height are similar, this means that a significant proportion of the population suffered from near permanent undernourishment during their growing years and were so lacking in stamina as adults that they were incapable of sustained work.
Here then is our early modern European person: Here then is the archetype European, the appalling individual who is responsible for all the disasters of the twentieth century in the multicultural world, the European who inflicted a major catastrophe on the present day Third World, but he did it ill, nauseous, nasty, mean, violent, ignorant, and practically deranged. This is an exaggeration, of course, but the historians of popular culture have shown that culture among ordinary working people on the farm and in the towns was obsessed with avoiding damnation and little else, that popular culture had absolutely nothing to do with inventiveness, with playing around with machinery, that getting on was an enormous labor with too little time to experiment, that ordinary people may or may not have been sensible, rational economic actors but that this has to be demonstrated, not assumed.