Mokyr draws a link between intellectual forces such as the European enlightenment and subsequent economic changes of the nineteenth century, and follows their development into the twentieth century. He further explores some of the key implications of the knowledge revolution. Among these is the rise and fall of the "factory system" as an organizing principle of modern economic organization. He analyzes the impact of this revolution on information technology and communications as well as on the public's state of health and the structure of households. By examining the social and political roots of resistance to new knowledge, Mokyr also links growth in knowledge to political economy and connects the economic history of technology to the New Institutional Economics. The Gifts of Athena provides crucial insights into a matter of fundamental concern to a range of disciplines including economics, economic history, political economy, the history of technology, and the history of science.
Countering the prevailing theory that the Industrial Revolution was sparked by the sudden development of stable political, legal, and economic institutions in seventeenth-century Europe, Clark shows that such institutions existed long before industrialization. He argues instead that these institutions gradually led to deep cultural changes by encouraging people to abandon hunter-gatherer instincts-violence, impatience, and economy of effort-and adopt economic habits-hard work, rationality, and education.
The problem, Clark says, is that only societies that have long histories of settlement and security seem to develop the cultural characteristics and effective workforces that enable economic growth. For the many societies that have not enjoyed long periods of stability, industrialization has not been a blessing. Clark also dissects the notion, championed by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel, that natural endowments such as geography account for differences in the wealth of nations.
A brilliant and sobering challenge to the idea that poor societies can be economically developed through outside intervention, A Farewell to Alms may change the way global economic history is understood.
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.
The book chronicles the sweeping history of enterprise in Mesopotamia and Neo-Babylon; carries the reader through the Islamic Middle East; offers insights into the entrepreneurial history of China, Japan, and Colonial India; and describes the crucial role of the entrepreneur in innovative activity in Europe and the United States, from the medieval period to today. In considering the critical contributions of entrepreneurship, the authors discuss why entrepreneurial activities are not always productive and may even sabotage prosperity. They examine the institutions and restrictions that have enabled or impeded innovation, and the incentives for the adoption and dissemination of inventions. They also describe the wide variations in global entrepreneurial activity during different historical periods and the similarities in development, as well as entrepreneurship's role in economic growth. The book is filled with past examples and events that provide lessons for promoting and successfully pursuing contemporary entrepreneurship as a means of contributing to the welfare of society.
The Invention of Enterprise lays out a definitive picture for all who seek an understanding of innovation's central place in our world.
Professor Mokyr maintains that the ‘Hungry Forties’ were caused by the overall underdevelopment of the economy during the decades which preceded the famine. In Why Ireland Starved he tests various hypotheses that have been put forward to account for this backwardness. He dismisses widespread arguments that Irish poverty can be explained in terms of over-population, an evil land system or malicious exploitation by the British. Instead, he argues that the causes have to be sought in the low productivity of labor and the insufficient formation of physical capital – results of the peculiar political and social structure of Ireland, continuous conflicts between landlords and tenants, and the rigidity of Irish economic institutions.
Mokyr’s methodology is rigorous and quantitative, in the tradition of the New Economic History. It sets out to test hypotheses about the causal connections between economic and non-economic phenomena. Irish history is often heavily coloured by political convictions: of Dutch-Jewish origin, trained in Israel and working in the United States. Mokyr brings to this controversial field not only wide research experience but also impartiality and scientific objectivity.
The book is primarily aimed at numerate economic historians, historical demographers, economists specializing in agricultural economics and economic development and specialists in Irish and British nineteenth-century history. The text is, nonetheless, free of technical jargon, with the more complex material relegated to appendixes. Mokyr’s line of reasoning is transparent and has been easily accessible and useful to readers without graduate training in economic theory and econometrics since ists first publication in 1983.