December 31, 1986
How did the West – Europe, Canada, and United States – escape from immemorial poverty into sustained economic growth and material well-being when most other societies remained trapped in an endless cycle of birth, hunger, hardship, and death? Nathan Rosenberg and.L. E. Birdzell’s elegant synthesis of economic history argues persuasively that it is the political pluralism and remarkable flexibility of the West’s institutions that explains its unparalleled wealth and prosperity.
Historians have attributed the Western economic miracle to everything from slavery to science. This colorful and well-written book demonstrates that it was the break-up of centralized political and religious controls, rather than any one factor, that allowed and autonomous economic sphere to emerge.
This development encourage the expansion of trade and the growth of urban culture, along with the scientific, cultural, and political freedom that was necessary to feed economic and technological innovation. In this provocative work, the authors challenge the popular notion that the modern corporation and mass production were the basic causes of the economic growth of the West, and in doing so they reinterpret the complex reciprocal relationship between science, technology, and the marketplace.
This fascinating reevaluation of Western economic history challenges many long-held assumptions about the sources of the West’s economic strength. As such it is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of the system.
Nathan Rosenberg is an economist, a leading expert on the history of technology at Stanford University, and the author of Technology and American Economic Growth.
L. E. Birdzell, Jr., is an attorney and legal scholar.