Why Europe Was First

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

"The conclusion is consequently that capitalism surely has played an important role in transforming Western societies but also that references to capitalism explain surprisingly little. Long-term growth depends on improvements in productivity but the sources of productivity growth are badly captured by economic theorizing."

Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T03:06:58+00:00
"The conclusion is consequently that capitalism surely has played an important role in transforming Western societies but also that references to capitalism explain surprisingly little. Long-term growth depends on improvements in productivity but the sources of productivity growth are badly captured by economic theorizing."

"Often institutions provide procedures which make it possible for people to specialize on ever more minute and better defined tasks. We can concentrate on what we know best safe in the knowledge that others are concentrating on the tasks they know best. The contribution of the institution is to bring these people together and to provide them with opportunities to exchange the products of their single-minded efforts. In this way the institution vastly magnifies the power of each individual contribution thereby multiplying the combined output many times over. As a result the institution taken as a whole soon becomes far more efficient than the sum of its constituent parts."

Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T03:30:58+00:00
"Often institutions provide procedures which make it possible for people to specialize on ever more minute and better defined tasks. We can concentrate on what we know best safe in the knowledge that others are concentrating on the tasks they know best. The contribution of the institution is to bring these people together and to provide them with opportunities to exchange the products of their single-minded efforts. In this way the institution vastly magnifies the power of each individual contribution thereby multiplying the combined output many times over. As a result the institution taken as a whole soon becomes far more efficient than the sum of its constituent parts."
"What makes modern societies modern is the fact that institutions are in charge of the three activities that make change possible. Change which in previous societies was down to individuals and good luck is in modern societies pursued by institutional means."
Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T04:19:08+00:00
"What makes modern societies modern is the fact that institutions are in charge of the three activities that make change possible. Change which in previous societies was down to individuals and good luck is in modern societies pursued by institutional means."

"The problem with most existing theories of social change is that they proceed by identifying an agent, or some agents, which are seen as responsible for bringing change about. Change is defined as an action for which someone or something is to be held responsible."

Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T03:10:49+00:00
"The problem with most existing theories of social change is that they proceed by identifying an agent, or some agents, which are seen as responsible for bringing change about. Change is defined as an action for which someone or something is to be held responsible."

"By breaking activities down into ever smaller units, each task becomes increasingly easy to perform. In the end each person only knows or does one thing and this thing is constantly repeated. This is the reason why modern society has nothing to do with the achievements of extra-ordinary individuals."

Why Europe was first, The Mechanics of Modernity, Erik Ringmar
2017-04-21T03:31:51+00:00
"By breaking activities down into ever smaller units, each task becomes increasingly easy to perform. In the end each person only knows or does one thing and this thing is constantly repeated. This is the reason why modern society has nothing to do with the achievements of extra-ordinary individuals."
  • 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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