METHODS AND ASSUMPTIONS
IN CHAPTER 1, I SUGGESTED THAT THE BEST WAY TO REsolve the two-century-old debate about why the West rules is by building a social development index, because this will allow us to compare Western with non-Western development over long periods. Only when we have identified the shape of the history that needs to be accounted for will we be able to come up with better explanations for why the West rules.
I then looked at research on social evolution since the 1850s and the criticisms leveled against the most recent version, neoevolutionism, since the 1970s. In this chapter, I describe a social development index that seems to me to respond to the most serious criticisms of evolutionism without losing sight of the central goal of being able to measure and compare social development across time and space.
My approach depends on nine core assumptions. I begin by describing them, and then go on to explain how my social development index works. I close the chapter by explaining why I think this index improves on twentieth-century neo-evolutionist indices.
I make nine basic assumptions, which require varying amounts of discussion.