Monday, March 03, 2008

The Western's Wealth

So we don't think that the western's virtue is George W. Bush, or for that matter Paris Hilton. But I guess it is fair to say that the western has been having a great wealth of knowledge, making technological progress, and taking the lead in term of economic income.

The question is why Europe, the western?

David Landes asserts that in Europe the knowledge accumulation, and its subsequent peak of industrial revolution, had been characterized by the growing autonomy of intellectual inquiry, development of (scientific) method (including verification method and common language), and routinization of research and diffusion.

All came from not-so-noble reasons. Autonomy from dogmatic religious authority emerged from the patronage of science from political rulers pursuing pragmatic aim, that is, advantage over rival. Development of scientific method and research routinization was spurred by fame motive and contest for priority.


  1. First, my one and only of western virtue is Kurt Cobain :D..just kidding.
    Hey dude, no doubt about your thought. Western had gone and leave us behind with their holy madly tech. That impact to what David Landes write about. But remember, their strength could be their weakness. Lack of spiritual sides and poor of unpretentiuos should make a time-bomb for their society.
    This is not about competition, this is all about human being in common. We live in the same earth, so keep on track, everybody!

  2. I believe it was Thomas Friedman who wrote about how Europe in the past led innovations, as shown by the number of nobel prize winners they had. But these days not anymore. I think Friedman counted the numbers of recent winners and it was not as impressive as it was years ago.

    Another fact: Lately patent applications increasingly come from China and India, competing in numbers with the US and Europe. (read this somewhere, unfortunately could not find the link).

    yes, as you wrote: western has been having a great wealth of knowledge, making technological progress, and taking the lead in term of economic income
    After all US and Europe had a head start with their industrial revolution in early 19th century.

    In late 21st century (or early 22nd) the story will be very different.
    Wouldn't you think so?

  3. Ben:
    US was the equivalent of today's third-world country when the industrial revolution started in Europe. What's interesting was how it overtook Europe only less than two centuries.

    And about three centuries before the industrial revolution, Europe was no richer than the other parts of the world (China, Mid-East, Africa and the 'new world' of America). Again, what's interesting was why the Europeans who conquered the world, not vice versa (or why not the Chinese).

    Landes' book provided some of the competing explanations. Indeed, anything can happen in the next century -- after all, history is not linear, and it does not have a single equilibrium.