Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I see the historical problem of growth through the lens of culture more than through the economic history

Marginal Revolution Small steps toward a much better world.
A Farewell to Alms, through p.272 by Tyler Cowen
Core Europe, starting in late medieval times, developed a new and still poorly understood organizational technology. This was, very roughly, the ability to work in groups, cumulate technologies and advances, and learn from each other in competitive environments. Most notably, this new technology led the Florentine and Venetian Renaissances, especially in the visual arts. But there was more. The rise of printing. The rise of classical music, starting in 1685 or whenever. The rise of early modern philosophy. Europe goes crazy with inventiveness, albeit in splats and bursts. (Clark's own chapter 12 gives good evidence for this tendency, though it will play a less central role in his version of the story.)...
England, by the way, also had the literary revolution of the 18th century, and England plus Scotland drove the rise of modern economics. There is no Chinese Adam Smith and that is because that Europe was pulling decisively ahead in ideas production. I consider this a fact of great importance whereas for Clark it is a sideshow to some other story.
Most generally, I see the historical problem of growth through the lens of culture -- in the sense of the history of the arts, music, and letters -- more than through the economic history literature. I am very taken by Max Weber's writing on Western music and also his conception of the broader style of Western rationality. And I see the rise of these organizational improvements as a central -- the central? -- story of early modern Europe and the move to prosperity... Posted by Tyler Cowen on September 4, 2007 at 06:49 AM in Books Permalink 10:58 AM

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