Why The West Rules – For Now Book Summary - Why The West Rules – For Now Book explained in key points
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Why The West Rules – For Now summary

Ian Morris

The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future

4.3 (85 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

"Why The West Rules - For Now" by Ian Morris examines why Western civilization has dominated the world in the past 500 years, comparing it to the history of East Asia. The book argues that geography, population, and social development are key factors in this dominance, and it questions whether this will continue in the future.

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    Why The West Rules – For Now
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    Common theories for today’s Western dominance are easily debunked.

    There’s no escaping it. The West still dominates global politics and development. The explanations for how this came about are varied, but they broadly fall into two schools of thought.

    There are what have been termed “short-term accident” theories. They argue that today’s Western rule results from mere historical luck. In contrast, “long-term lock-in” theories advocate that some sort of critical factor exists in the foundations of the West, consequently "locking in” the certainty of Western dominance millennia ago. Unfortunately, many proponents of lock-in theories favor arguments for Western genetic or cultural superiority.

    It’s not just that lock-in theories are problematic; they also don’t hold water.

    Let’s take long-term lock-in theories based on biological reasoning as an example. They argue that the genetic lock-in occurred 600,000 years ago when two distinct species of Homo developed, the Eastern Homo erectus and the Western Homo antecessor.

    But that means nothing, as Homo sapiens – modern humans – superseded both of these species around 300,000 years ago. Racial theories based on genetic superiority can, therefore, be disproved.

    But how do cultural lock-in theories stack up?

    In 1879, archaeologists discovered incredible cave paintings of animals in Altamira, dating back 30,000 years. No other art this old has been found. This information is used by some lock-in theorists to suggest that Western culture is uniquely creative.

    But it’s just coincidence. At the time, Europe was confronted with the Ice Age. Consequently, early Western humans spent more time in caves keeping warm. That’s where they refined their drawing skills. The argument’s strengthened by the fact that after the Ice Age ended, we have no more evidence of similar cave drawings.

    We’re going to have to delve a good deal deeper to explain today’s Western dominance. We'll find that neither long-term lock-in nor short-term accident theories can explain it.

    As we’ll see, it’s all about a dynamic interplay between biology, sociology and geography.

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    What is Why The West Rules – For Now about?

    Why The West Rules – For Now (2010) is a treatise on Western rule. It examines what “the West” is and how its current dominance came about. Starting with the earliest development of humankind, it rules out racist genetic beliefs and theories of cultural superiority. It describes how East and West have been locked neck and neck in a race for advancement up to the present day. And, of course, it goes on to address the question: will the West’s dominance last?

    Why The West Rules – For Now Review

    Why The West Rules – For Now (2010) is a thought-provoking exploration of global power shifts throughout history. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a comprehensive examination of the factors that have shaped the rise and fall of civilizations, emphasizing the role of geography, biology, and culture.
    • By comparing the development of the East and the West, the book offers fresh insights into the dynamics of power and provides a new framework for understanding global politics.
    • The author's data-driven approach and engaging storytelling make complex concepts accessible, ensuring that readers stay engaged throughout the book.

    Best quote from Why The West Rules – For Now

    Scientists are often criticized for taking the wonder out of the world, but they generally do so in the hope of putting truth in its place.

    —Ian Morris
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    Who should read Why The West Rules – For Now?

    • Anyone wondering why or if the West rules – and what “the West” is
    • Historians and archaeologists
    • Politicians and those interested in politics

    About the Author

    Ian Morris is the Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and a fellow of the Stanford Archaeology Center. He has written and edited a number of academic books, including The Greeks and The Dynamics of Ancient Empires. Morris is a popular guest on television shows.

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    Why The West Rules – For Now FAQs 

    What is the main message of Why The West Rules – For Now?

    The main message of Why The West Rules – For Now is an exploration of why Western societies currently dominate the world.

    How long does it take to read Why The West Rules – For Now?

    The reading time for Why The West Rules – For Now can vary, but it will take several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in 15 minutes.

    Is Why The West Rules – For Now a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Why The West Rules – For Now is a captivating book that provides insights into the factors behind Western dominance. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Why The West Rules – For Now?

    The author of Why The West Rules – For Now is Ian Morris.

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