Does the emerging economic power of China and India mean the end of the West’s political and cultural dominance of the world, which has endured for more than 200 years?
British historian and archaeologist Ian Morris tries to answer this question in his book, Why the West Rules for Now: The Patterns of History and What They Reveal About the Future. The first chapter is available for free download.
Describing the patterns of human history over the last 14,000 years, Morris contends that for at least 1200 years, until the late 18th century, the East surpassed the West in development, but industrial revolutions in the West changed the dynamic. With globalization, the East cannot easily “catch up” with the West.
Political and cultural dominance, he reveals, are not determined by race, culture, “or even the strivings of great individuals…” Morris argues that humans are naturally lazy, greedy, and fearful in confronting crises of resources, disease, migration and climate. They are either blessed or cursed by geography. “As geography and human ingenuity continue to interact, the world will change in astonishing ways, transforming Western rule in the process,” he contends.
The “horsemen of the apocalypse” that result in the collapse of civilizations, he says, are mass migration, epidemic disease, state failure, famine, and climate change. Sooner or later, that will probably happen to the modern world or at least parts of it.
And the odds are that sooner or later, nuclear weapons will be used again. “War has been the great driver of history throughout the human story,” he concludes. But on an optimistic note, he observes that “humans have learned to manage violence extraordinarily well over the last one hundred thousand years. You are less than one-tenth as likely to die violently as the average person in stone age society. This is the great success story of humanity.” He believes that the future will be richer, safer and more amazing than ever.