The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (Magill Book Reviews)
In THE WEALTH AND POVERTY OF NATIONS: WHY SOME ARE SO RICH AND SOME SO POOR, David Landes, professor emeritus of history and economics at Harvard University, attempts to answer the dilemma posed in the book’s subtitle. In his discussion, Landes is destined to raise hackles in portions of the academic community, because it is his contention that all civilizations and all societies are not necessarily of equal importance, at least in contributing to the origins of the modern world. As George Orwell said in another context, some are more equal than others, and for Landes that is the West.
It is his thesis in THE WEALTH AND POVERTY OF NATIONS, which refers to Adam Smith’s THE WEALTH OF NATIONS (1776), that the cultural characteristics of a society’s history is the key to explaining success, particularly economic success, in today’s global world. In a wide ranging historical survey covering the last millennium, Landes explores the differences between the West and the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The West succeeded because of the totality of its past experiences, including political, religious, social, technological, economic, and geographical aspects. In contrast, Landes contends that China was too self-satisfied, turned inward, and lacked the competitive curiosity of western culture, and the Middle East has been in thrall to Islam, in comparison to the division between the religious and secular worlds which evolved in the West....
(The entire section is 356 words.)
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The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
David Landes is professor emeritus of history and economics at Harvard University and the author of several other wide-ranging histories, including Bankers and Pashas (1980), a study of nineteenth century Egypt, Unbound Prometheus (1969), and Revolution in Time (1985). In his most recent work, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, Landes gives an answer to one of the most intriguing historical questions: Why did the forces of Western civilization, notably European civilization, play the major role in the creation of the modern world? The Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the market economy, a secular society, constitutional government—modernity as a whole had its origins and maturation in the West and then spread over much of the rest of the world, becoming the paradigm, if sometimes reluctantly, for many non-Western countries by the end of the twentieth century. As Landes admits, even to ask the question is to go against the current received wisdom of the times, which posits that all cultures and all civilizations are valuable in their own right and that none is superior to any other. Landes refuses to accept such premises, and thus The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is an outrageously politically incorrect book. As he states, it is the story of the West and the Rest.
By his book’s title, it is apparent that Landes sees his study in the tradition of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of...
(The entire section is 1974 words.)