A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy

Author(s): Joel Mokyr


During the late eighteenth century, innovations in Europe triggered the Industrial Revolution and the sustained economic progress that spread across the globe. While much has been made of the details of the Industrial Revolution, what remains a mystery is why it took place at all. Why did this revolution begin in the West and not elsewhere, and why did it continue, leading to today's unprecedented prosperity? In this groundbreaking book, celebrated economic historian Joel Mokyr argues that a culture of growth specific to early modern Europe and the European Enlightenment laid the foundations for the scientific advances and pioneering inventions that would instigate explosive technological and economic development. Bringing together economics, the history of science and technology, and models of cultural evolution, Mokyr demonstrates that culture--the beliefs, values, and preferences in society that are capable of changing behavior--was a deciding factor in societal transformations. Mokyr looks at the period 1500-1700 to show that a politically fragmented Europe fostered a competitive "market for ideas" and a willingness to investigate the secrets of nature. At the same time, a transnational community of brilliant thinkers known as the "Republic of Letters" freely circulated and distributed ideas and writings. This political fragmentation and the supportive intellectual environment explain how the Industrial Revolution happened in Europe but not China, despite similar levels of technology and intellectual activity. In Europe, heterodox and creative thinkers could find sanctuary in other countries and spread their thinking across borders. In contrast, China's version of the Enlightenment remained controlled by the ruling elite. Combining ideas from economics and cultural evolution, A Culture of Growth provides startling reasons for why the foundations of our modern economy were laid in the mere two centuries between Columbus and Newton.

2016. First edition, first printing. A near fine copy only marked by a previous owners name sticker to the front free endpaper. The d/w is unclipped and fine.


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"[A] fine book... One of our country's great economic historians has helped us better understand the greatest transformation in human welfare our planet has ever seen."--Richard Vedder, Wall Street Journal "Wide-ranging and erudite... Mokyr offers a useful corrective to excessively deterministic and materialistic treatments of economic history, emphasizing ideas--the West, he argues, had a uniquely positive view about subjugating nature to human control--and individual agency in shaping broad socioeconomic shifts."--Publishers Weekly "Ultimately, without the impetus of science, economic growth would have fizzled out after 1815. A Culture of Growth is certainly making me rethink."--Brad DeLong, Nature "A Culture of Growth is a brilliant book. You should buy it and even read it. It's long, but consistently interesting, even witty."--Deirdre McCloskey, Prospect "In pointing to growth-boosting factors that go beyond either the state or the market, Mokyr's book is very welcome."--Victoria Bateman, Times Higher Education "What stands out from Mokyr's approach is the highly contingent character of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. They happened because a lot of different things happened to fall into place; small deviations in the course of events could have given us an entirely different world of technological and economic power."--Diane Coyle, Financial Times "Mokyr ... dives into the mystery of how the world went from being poor to being so rich in just a few centuries... Drawing on centuries of philosophy and scientific advancements, Mokyr argues that there's a reason the Industrial Revolution occurred in Europe and not, for example, in China, which had in previous centuries shown signs of more scientific advancement: Europe developed a unique culture of competitive scientific and intellectual advancement that was unprecedented and not at all predestined."--Ana Swanson, WashingtonPost.com's Wonkblog "The sheer elegance of Mr. Mokyr's theory ... has much to commend it. And it is refreshing that an economist is taking seriously the idea that ideas and culture make a difference to economic growth."--Economist "Mokyr has written a book to read slowly and chew over thoroughly... He is a wonderfully well-read lucid and continuously interesting guide to a vast literature and invariably thought provoking."--Alan Ryan, Literary Review

Joel Mokyr is the Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and professor of economics and history at Northwestern University, and Sackler Professor at the Eitan Berglas School of Economics at the University of Tel Aviv. His many books include The Enlightened Economy and The Gifts of Athena (Princeton). He is the recipient of the Heineken Prize for History and the International Balzan Prize for Economic History.

Acknowledgments ix Preface xiii Part I: Evolution, Culture, and Economic History Chapter 1: Culture and Economics 3 Chapter 2: Nature and Technology 16 Chapter 3: Cultural Evolution and Economics 22 Chapter 4: Choice-based Cultural Evolution 34 Chapter 5: Biases in Cultural Evolution 43 Part II: Cultural Entrepreneurs and Economic Change, 1500-1700 Chapter 6: Cultural Entrepreneurs and Choice-based Cultural Evolution 59 Chapter 7: Francis Bacon, Cultural Entrepreneur 70 Chapter 8: Isaac Newton, Cultural Entrepreneur 99 Part III: Innovation, Competition, and Pluralism in Europe, 1500-1700 Chapter 9: Cultural Choice in Action: Human Capital and Religion 119 Chapter 10: Cultural Change and the Growth of Useful Knowledge, 1500-1700 142 Chapter 11: Fragmentation, Competition, and Cultural Change 165 Chapter 12: Competition and the Republic of Letters 179 Part IV: Prelude to the Enlightenment Chapter 13: Puritanism and British Exceptionalism 227 Chapter 14: A Culture of Progress 247 Chapter 15: The Enlightenment and Economic Change 267 Part V: Cultural Change in the East and West Chapter 16: China and Europe 287 Chapter 17: China and the Enlightenment 321 Epilogue: Useful Knowledge and Economic Growth 339 References 343 Index 381

General Fields

  • : 9780691168883
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : 0.485
  • : October 2016
  • : 229mm X 152mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 1 line illus.
  • : 400
  • : 330.9
  • : Hardback
  • : Joel Mokyr