Why Europe Was First

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

"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?"

"Modern societies, the argument goes, are far more efficient in translating potentialities into actualities. In modern societies people are actively encouraged to imagine alternatives to the existing order, it is easier to put new ideas into action, and there are established ways of dealing with the coexistence of many incompatible thoughts and projects."

Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T03:22:22+00:00
"Modern societies, the argument goes, are far more efficient in translating potentialities into actualities. In modern societies people are actively encouraged to imagine alternatives to the existing order, it is easier to put new ideas into action, and there are established ways of dealing with the coexistence of many incompatible thoughts and projects."
"Institutions are also important for creating individual and collective identities. Institutions provide rituals with which people can identify and through which they can be identified. In addition there are procedures for how social esteem is to be awarded and structures that encourage people to exert themselves and compete with each other."
Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T04:01:10+00:00
"Institutions are also important for creating individual and collective identities. Institutions provide rituals with which people can identify and through which they can be identified. In addition there are procedures for how social esteem is to be awarded and structures that encourage people to exert themselves and compete with each other."
"Social transformations can happen for a large variety of different reasons, and which cause that is singled out by an observer is to a large extent a coincidence, but this is not true of the general background conditions that allow social transformations to take place."
Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-22T00:44:39+00:00
"Social transformations can happen for a large variety of different reasons, and which cause that is singled out by an observer is to a large extent a coincidence, but this is not true of the general background conditions that allow social transformations to take place."

"Yet as a moment's reflection makes obvious, capitalism cannot possibly be the original cause of all the changes that take place. The reason is that capitalist development itself has causes. Capitalist economies are not after all growing automatically and by themselves; capitalism is not a primum mobile, an 'unmoved mover.'"

Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T03:00:22+00:00
"Yet as a moment's reflection makes obvious, capitalism cannot possibly be the original cause of all the changes that take place. The reason is that capitalist development itself has causes. Capitalist economies are not after all growing automatically and by themselves; capitalism is not a primum mobile, an 'unmoved mover.'"
  • 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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