Stunning. Startling. Mystifying. Reactions to David Landes's latest tour de force will no doubt run the gamut. Filled with pithy sketches of nations (why weren't the . David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and. Some So Poor, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., , xxi + pp. Economic . The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. David S. Landes (Author, Harvard University). Sign up for the monthly New.
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"David Landes has written a masterly survey of the great successes and failures among the the causes of the wealth and poverty of nations—the grand object. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich a and millions of other books are available for Amazon Kindle. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor Paperback – May 17, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is David S. Landes's. Samson, Steven Alan, "David S. Landes: The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Study Guide" might account for the relative poverty of the tropics and subtropics ?.
There one authority— Bill Reddy— who argues that what he calls "market culture" had to be invented. Finding Family after Slavery. Critics have charged Landes with eurocentrism in his analysis, a charge which Landes himself does not deny; in fact, he embraces it explicitly, arguing that an explanation for an economic miracle that happened originally only in Europe though he deals with the later ' Asian miracle ' in Wealth and Poverty must of necessity be a Eurocentric analysis, thus siding at least at some level with thinkers such as Bernard Lewis. And the answer, which seems to me to be damning, is that I am not sure. By David S. Improvement, and therefore growth, was only possible with the Civil Code. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations:
This is where someone steeped in the social history of the s, 70s, and 80s has to cry out that there is something wrong here, that, to put it in economic terms, this is a labor force that is far from rational, sensible, or whatever.
For what is worth, it goes without saying that those who do comparative history are onto something, that Europe really was special in some way, but that we ought to focus on what this was. The simple appearance of difference alone was not in itself an explanation of that difference. Let us examine the social history of the past thirty years and ask ourselves whether this would be the labor force any greedy, comic book, capitalist might want. Or put it another way, if anyone were to thrust a non existent, obviously microphone under the chin of an average western European of the seventeenth century, under the chin of any identikit Protestant European, any British European, or even any Calvinist European, and asked them what he or she really cared about, is there anyone in the profession who thinks they wished for anything other than to save their souls?
To what extent did European culture at the popular level reflect the acquisitive, Weberian values Professor Landes endorses? Did anyone feel a sense of gratification in a job well done, or, since this is difficult to know, to what extent did ordinary people feel rewarded for their efforts, and what did they think about it?
We ought to push this as far as we can because the question is vital: And when we get to this level, things get very messy.
As late as , and depending upon region, somewhere between one in ten and one in four young men were rejected from military service because they were too short. As Roderick Floud has argued for Britain where the figures for height are similar, this means that a significant proportion of the population suffered from near permanent undernourishment during their growing years and were so lacking in stamina as adults that they were incapable of sustained work.
Here then is our early modern European person: Here then is the archetype European, the appalling individual who is responsible for all the disasters of the twentieth century in the multicultural world, the European who inflicted a major catastrophe on the present day Third World, but he did it ill, nauseous, nasty, mean, violent, ignorant, and practically deranged.
This is an exaggeration, of course, but the historians of popular culture have shown that culture among ordinary working people on the farm and in the towns was obsessed with avoiding damnation and little else, that popular culture had absolutely nothing to do with inventiveness, with playing around with machinery, that getting on was an enormous labor with too little time to experiment, that ordinary people may or may not have been sensible, rational economic actors but that this has to be demonstrated, not assumed.
There one authority— Bill Reddy— who argues that what he calls "market culture" had to be invented. Still, if Professor Landes is right and culture is all, then we have to ask, "whose culture"?
Who, in other words, were these intellectually and culturally curious folks who gave us the European moment? There is another sense in which an historian who works on the wrong side of the Channel is puzzled. Surely we have to wonder what has happened to the Annales style history of the past twenty-five years. Professor Landes appears to see European history on a rather straight trajectory running from some time in the Middles Ages with its famous burst of invention, to the voyages of discovery, to the extension of European commerce to the rest of the world, to the Industrial Revolution, and on to the present.
Along the way some European nations advance and then decline, until we get to the British who then set a pace everyone must follow.
This is, of course, a caricature of the very complex picture Professor Landes outlines, but it is one in which what might be called the demography-subsistence interpretation has no place. This is the view advanced by Morineau and Le Roy Ladurie, that says that between the Black Death and sometime well into the nineteenth century, French agricultural production stagnated within fixed limits, that existing technology imposed an upper bound on the extent to which production could grow, that in a Malthusian way, the rising population sooner or later pressed up against this ceiling, and the result was a series of violent contractions and shudders— growing impoverishment in the eighteenth century, tragic mortalities in the previous century.
This is what Goubert called "the deep breathing of history," the slow recovery after the Black Death, the rapid rise thereafter until the ceiling was eventually breached, somehow--this is never explained— after the mid-nineteenth century.
In other words, Professor Landes has left out not only peasants and agriculture, as the McNeil review pointed out, but he has also left out a vital set of agents of historical change. Further, the polarity of culture versus structure is clearly too simple to be convincing. Still, structures and contingencies matter.
At one level, for instance, the Le Roy Ladurie-Morineau formulation is profoundly pessimistic. Given a stagnant technological level, there is no reason to believe that the inhaling and exhaling of the breath of history could not have repeated itself many times— as no doubt it has in the European experience, and no doubt so tragically has it elsewhere in the world too. After all, what is the benchmark of poverty everywhere, why are some nations rich and others poor?
Surely, when we are assigning weights to the equation on what constitutes poverty, access to food has to be the biggest single defining characteristic of poverty. And why is it that Europeans are rich? Because European countries, not just Britain, broke out of the Malthusian trap and they broke out of it early, sooner, than Le Roy Ladurie and Morineau realize.
Surely Professor Landes needs to tell us more than he has about this. Yet, "enclosure" gets just a page in the index, "agriculture" several more than that, but not in any sustained or comparative way anywhere in the book, and problems of demography and population hardly get discussed at all. Instead, we are whisked straight into the industrial revolution in England, and very deftly too.
After all, industrialization has never taken place anywhere without a highly productive agriculture nearby and for good reason. He clearly thinks religious toleration is a good thing. One of his favorite examples of the catastrophic economic effects of intolerance was the expulsion from the Iberian kingdoms of the Jews and the forced conversions of both Jews and Moors. Caving in to the friars, he says, cost these kingdoms centuries of growth and prosperity.
Yet surely, there are counter-examples that make the picture more complicated. He says nothing about the numerous expulsions of Jews from France or from England in the late Middle Ages, perhaps because there is no historiography that claims that these expulsions had much harmful economic effect on their respective kingdoms.
Indeed, the many forced expulsions throughout European history are surely more complicated than simple acts of religious intolerance and were often motivated by political and diplomatic considerations, while their success or failure had a lot to do with economic contexts and imperatives. More broadly, Landes tends to treat religious beliefs and practices as an unchanging block.
There appears to be one kind of Islam, one kind of Catholicism, one kind of Protestantism. Islam, for instance, is never defined except as a religion that put exceptional debilitations on women and that was hostile to technical innovation, particularly printing.
Why this should be so, whether such phenomena are intrinsic or extrinsic to the religion, that there is a history to these developments, and that the early years of the spread of Islam exhibit no particular hostility to women or to technology— all this is only alluded to, if at all, and never really explained. Christianity is also given a rather cavalier treatment. Surely Professor Landes has to do more than endorse Max Weber if he is to explore the relationship between religion and economic development.
A century after the publication of The Protestant Ethic has produced bookshelves of exploitable material. Catholics after all are hardly the economic nincompoops that are presented here.
It is possible to show that both the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation were part of a broader elite sponsored project that aimed at inducing a sense of self discipline, restraint, hard work and civilized behaviour among their adepts. Whoever writes that book will have to be a person unafraid of offering theories as well as facts, and therefore of saying things that might turn out to be wrong.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. In doing so, he revives, at least in part, several theories he believes have been incorrectly discarded by academics over the last 40 years: The 'cultural thesis' or Protestant work ethic of Max Weber , whereby the values imposed by the Protestant religion on its adherents would have pushed them to value hard work, timeliness, enterprise, free market and free-thinking to a much greater extent than for their Catholic brethren, which would explain the great success of northern Protestant regions such as the Netherlands , Great Britain , Denmark and parts of Germany as compared to southern Catholic nations such as Spain and France.
The 'hydraulic thesis' in Karl A. Wittfogel 's Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power , in which despots would control the use of water in order to submit the population to its will. The 'climate thesis' that posits that tropical climes are, ceteris paribus , poor candidates for development.
Many of the theories of Adam Smith , whose Wealth of Nations is borrowed from for the title. That does not necessarily mean a doctrinaire neoclassicism , as Landes notes that 'comparative advantage' can change over time. Department of Economics University of Munich , retrieved 12 September Retrieved from " https: Namespaces Article Talk.
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