English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980 (Magill's Literary Annual 1982)
Martin J. Wiener opens this notable book with the statement that the leading problem of modern British history is to explain that country’s economic decline. The extent of decline in the twentieth century has certainly been nothing less than spectacular. In the mid-nineteenth century, as the first industrialized nation, Britain towered over all other countries by any economic standard. A century later, the United States, Germany, and Japan had left her behind, and as the twentieth century draws towards a close, Britain struggles to maintain a position among the second rank of western European countries.
Much consideration has been given to the reasons for this phenomenon by statesmen, publicists, and historians. One explanation often put forward is that Britain has suffered from the very fact that she was first in the field, that her growth has been hindered by lack of innovation and increasingly anti-quated machinery. Related to this is the significance seen in the heavy flow of British capital abroad before 1914, resulting in inadequate investment at home. Stress has also been put on technical failures: for example, an indifference both to research and development and to professional training in business management. In this study, Wiener finds the explanation in social and psychological factors, that is, in British attitudes, values, and styles of life which have stifled economic initiative. He sets forth these factors with wide learning,...
(The entire section is 2277 words.)
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