Why Europe Was First

Economic growth and social change in Europe and East Asia, 1500-2050
London: Anthem Press, 2007.

"The future is our god, but since the future is unknown so are necessarily the truths we believe in. All we have for now are instead preliminary theses and best guesses. Our worship is at least as remote as ever the gods of previous civilizations. The future, just as Jesus Christ, will never actually come."

Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T02:56:51+00:00
"The future is our god, but since the future is unknown so are necessarily the truths we believe in. All we have for now are instead preliminary theses and best guesses. Our worship is at least as remote as ever the gods of previous civilizations. The future, just as Jesus Christ, will never actually come."

"When taken together these three steps — reflection, entrepreneurship and pluralism — is what makes social change possible. Reflection allows us to discover the potential which exists in the actual; entrepreneurship allows us to act on our discoveries and to put them into practice; pluralism ensures that a multitude of different solutions survive once they come into being."

Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T03:21:12+00:00
"When taken together these three steps — reflection, entrepreneurship and pluralism — is what makes social change possible. Reflection allows us to discover the potential which exists in the actual; entrepreneurship allows us to act on our discoveries and to put them into practice; pluralism ensures that a multitude of different solutions survive once they come into being."
"The activities of entrepreneurs are unpredictable by definition and hence necessarily difficult to theorize about. Much the same can be said about technology. Technological change is itself a species of social change that both affects and is affected by all kinds of other changes."
Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T03:59:44+00:00
"The activities of entrepreneurs are unpredictable by definition and hence necessarily difficult to theorize about. Much the same can be said about technology. Technological change is itself a species of social change that both affects and is affected by all kinds of other changes."
"The suggestion is that an explanation should proceed by identifying what could be referred to as the "enabling conditions" or the "permissive environment" in which change is most likely to take place. Rather than looking for causal agents the task should be to identify the kinds of situations under which causal agents are most likely to become operative."
Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-22T00:43:51+00:00
"The suggestion is that an explanation should proceed by identifying what could be referred to as the "enabling conditions" or the "permissive environment" in which change is most likely to take place. Rather than looking for causal agents the task should be to identify the kinds of situations under which causal agents are most likely to become operative."

"Why did the future suddenly become something to look forward to as something different from the past, and why did people feel they had the power to influence it? And how is it possible to organize a society in such a way that it is able to undergo continuous social, political and cultural changes?"

Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T02:58:53+00:00
"Why did the future suddenly become something to look forward to as something different from the past, and why did people feel they had the power to influence it? And how is it possible to organize a society in such a way that it is able to undergo continuous social, political and cultural changes?"
  • For most of its history Europe was a thoroughly average part of the world: poor, uncouth, technologically and culturally backward. By contrast, China was always far richer, more sophisticated and advanced. Yet it was Europe that first became modern, and by the nineteenth century China was struggling to catch up. This book explains why. Why did Europe succeed and why was China left behind? The answer, as we will see, does not only solve a long-standing historical puzzle, it also provides an explanation of the contemporary success of East Asia, and it shows what is wrong with current theories of development and modernization.

    The book is published twice, under different titles. For the paperback, published by Athem Press, I came up with the idea of calling it "Why Europe Was First." The idea was that it would sound less boring and academic (to go with the man on the dragon roller-coaster). Yet it's the same book as "Mechanics of Modernity," published by Routledge. Take your pick.
  • It is brilliant: beautifully argued and written, and (mostly) correct.
    Deirdre McCloskey, University of Illinois, author of Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce.
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