A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy

Author(s): Joel Mokyr

Business & Economics

Why Enlightenment culture sparked the Industrial RevolutionDuring 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.


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Commended for 2017 Hayek Prize, The Manhattan Institute 2017 and 2017 PROSE Award in European and World History, Association of American Publishers 2017. Short-listed for "MIT Technology Review'"s Best Books of 2016 2016.

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

General Fields

  • : 9780691180960
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : April 2018
  • : 203mm X 133mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Joel Mokyr
  • : Paperback
  • : 330.9
  • : 400
  • : 1 b/w illus.