The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations

By Ian Morris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION: QUANTIFYING
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

THE PROBLEM

A quarter of a millennium ago, intellectuals in Western Europe discovered that they had a problem. As problems went, theirs was not a bad one: they appeared to be taking over the world, but did not know why. The explanations that eighteenth-century theorists came up with varied wildly, although the most popular ideas all held that since time immemorial, something had made the West different from the rest and determined that Europe would one day dominate the world.

In the early twenty-first century, these ideas are still with us, albeit in heavily modified forms. The most influential argument, now as in the eighteenth century, is probably the theory that Europeans are the heirs to a distinctive and superior cultural tradition.1 The roots of this Western civilization are most often traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, although other advocates identify prehistoric Indo-Europeans, ancient Germans, or medieval Europeans as the founders.2

A second strand of eighteenth-century thought credited environment and climate with making Europeans more energetic and creative than other people, and this too has plenty of modern champions.3 Some scholars combine the ecological and cultural ideas, arguing that it was the back-and-forth between the two that sent

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The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Tables xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction- Quantifying Social Development 1
  • Chapter 2 - Methods and Assumptions 25
  • Chapter 3 - Energy Capture 53
  • Chapter 4 - Social Organization 144
  • Chapter 5 - War-Making Capacity 173
  • Chapter 6 - Information Technology 218
  • Chapter 7 - Discussion- The Limits and Potential of Measuring Development 238
  • Notes 265
  • References 321
  • Index 375
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