sometimes two different people have the same idea at (roughly) the same time. in 2006, "The Prestige" and "The Illusionist" both came out, both movies about turn-of-century magicians, both featuring a-level stars, Ed Norten, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman etc. Box office divided $110 MM vs. $88 MM, making both hits despite shared materials.
in 2011, [a:Niall Ferguson|5790|Niall Ferguson|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1248268930p2/5790.jpg] wrote [b:Civilization|25669|How the Irish Saved Civilization|Thomas Cahill|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348861253s/25669.jpg|3285909] and Stanford Classics professor Ian Morris wrote this work. two books about the current rule of Western civilization over Eastern, and how we were trembling at history's doorstep, with the changeover, five, ten? fifteen years away? both good books that went a long way to explaining cultural standards, technology, [b:Guns Germs and Steel|1842|Guns, Germs, and Steel The Fates of Human Societies|Jared Diamond|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1158959888s/1842.jpg|2138852] etc. and both books now have 700 or 900 ratings, with a fair amount of good repute.
Morris' work, stylistically a little weaker, does a better job of organizing everything with the in-house algorithm, so to speak; Morris calculates, roughly, how much power, energy, fossil-fuel, etc. "West" and "China" were using at each point, to derive a sort of "balance of power" graph. he does a superb job, as well, of characterizing 1100 - 1700, which are six hundred years that are normally a big blank spot in most people's knowledge of history. Xiongnu kingdom, the early Bulgars, etc. who ever heard of these?
according to Morris, China lagging behind West for much of early prehistory; things turn around in the 4th century as Rome collapses but by the 17th century Europe takes off, and of course the rest... is history.
with a little bit of further elaboration on the Guns, Germs, and Steel hypothesis of Diamond (i.e, cultures were determined by availability of domesticable animals, and exposure to disease, and finally, iron ore), Morris does a good classicist's job of interpretation, academically smooth writing, careful footnoting, and excisive analysis.
the work is popular in Asian airports as busy executives on the go grab it for their long-haul flights. but... the less than 1000 ratings probably reveals that most people in the world only read a few books a year, and this, of course, was not it. it's too bad. Morris seems to be predicting a Chinese turnaround in twenty years... but then, didn't we all grow up being told China is "twenty years" away.
the thesis becomes more important as we examine the Daioyu/Senkaku conflict. news of Chinese stealth planes; the chinese space station by 2020. hmm... China may be the real deal.
imagine in 1848 it is not Victoria and Albert who deconstruct Qiying but Qiying who sails up the Thames to accept UK surrender. instead, there was Opium War, burning of Summer Palace (Beijing), Looty, The Maxim Gun. Author admits simplification "East-West" ignores South Asia, lays out plan for book
1 Before East and West
'[b:The Great Divergence|199002|The Great Divergence China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy|Kenneth Pomeranz|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347247260s/199002.jpg|192512]' and '[b:Guns Germs and Steel|1842|Guns, Germs, and Steel The Fates of Human Societies|Jared Diamond|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1158959888s/1842.jpg|2138852]'; already in prehistoric times there are Western hand stone axes and Eastern flaked stones. Is it possible Easterners are Homo erectus descendants and Westerners the superior Neaderathal man? No, genetic studies say all modern humans from same prehistoric stock. Modern humans leave Africa 60000 years ago; reach tip of South America by 15000 years ago.
2 The West Takes the Lead
Fertile Crescent and 'Lucky Latitudes'. Was this all determined? 6000 - 1500 BC, western agriculture and development already 20% ahead of East.
3 Taking the Measure of the Past
Today we use some 50x the energy of early humans. If early humans used 5 units of energy, broken down: 1 unit of plants, 2 of animal-based food and 2 units of energy in their home (firewood), today we use 230+, 63 units of energy every day in transportation, 91 in industry and agriculture (40+ electricity); 76 units of electricity in our homes/commerce, including 40 units of electricity. We Eat 8 units of animal-based calories, and 2 of plant. Introduction to Morris thesis; East rises in energy capture by year 500, holds lead to 1800, and predicted to regain in 2103.
4 The East Catches up
2500BC - 1200 BC, West firmly ahead. but chariots spread to East. civilizations begin, but so do civilization-level disasters: great migrations, collapses, failed states, famine, disease, climate change. age of bronze working, slavery, funeral ceremonies. first ceremonial positions. then in 1200-1000 BC, Western lead evaporates, only 'barely' higher in energy capture than Eastern cities in Han heartland.
5 Neck and Neck
Wu, Bao, Chu microstates in China give way to first real dynasties: QIN Empire. In West, Greek civilization gives way to ROMAN Empire, PERSIAN Empire (which both knew of each other, but communicated only in small amounts: silk road, steppe highway, a few scholars). Roman first imported silk which became material for upper-class Roman elite women, first Chinese girls arrived in Rome and were put to work as imperial concubines.
6 Decline and Fall
the Jews arrive and subvert the ROman Empire. Roman Empire falls and dissolves into microstates (Lombards, Goths), whereas China goes through dynastic succession yet remains under some kind of central rule (Han dynasty gives way to Jin Empire)--Xiongnu barbarians. first time in East-West 'rivalry' that East is more advanced (the civilization as a whole is using more energy than the West-- BUT ah-ha! MORRIS does not mention that Chinese population density is far higher. it may still be clearly better to be an AVERAGE Westerner than an AVERAGE Easterner at this time.). Chinese girls in Rome continue to work as courtesans and inspire Voltaire to write "Candide"
7 The Eastern Age
East pulls ahead, 40-30 to West in social development, according to Morris. Byzantine empire struggling to maintain unity; Arabs almost manage to conquer Europe (unify) but turned away. China going through number of dynasties, then both sides discover coal and begin to burn it. At this moment (year 1100), China appears more dynamic and set to rule the world. hot Italian girls finally reach China and are put to work in extreme upper-class bordellos.
8 Going Global
Ottoman Empire, China invites in Jurchen tribesmen who then sack capital; Mongol invasion, Pacific twice the size of Atlantic, so West discovers America. boooya. Pires diplomatic mission to Nanjing fails (1521) in same year as Aztec falls to Cortes. musings on confucionism; other philosophers on social order.
9 The West Catches up
according to Morris theory, West now starts to accelerate. Chinese labor wages, once 3x bare survival, exceeded by Venetians 4-5x bare survival. beginnings of oceanic trade; chinese have scientific method; jannisaries, habsbergs, clocks, diplomatic envoys on both sides; chinese and spanish even cooperate against filipino pirates.
10 The Western Age / 11 Why The West Rules... / 12 ...For Now
closing thesis; West rules because of geography, luck; we may destroy ourselves, we may ascend into superhumans; "East will grow more powerful than West in 2103"
what does Morris fail to account for:
Eastern contentedness with materialism; Eastern contendedness in general versus Westerner's constant striving for more, spirit of personal exploration
the Asians "in total" may exceed the Westerners, but individual Westerners' lives and personalities are superior (can this be written? non-racist??)
and the, "China is always 20 years away" problem.<-=- at every point, people are saying China is 20 years away. perpetually the nation of the future.
Morris thesis ignores fundamental facts-on-the-ground? at any nightclub western males picking up eastern girls and rarely the reverse? china as mimetic civilization? does not deal with "real" interaction so much as this one precise "energy capture" number... lies, damn lies, statistics.
this woman looks Chinese but actually she is turkic / xiongnu. manchu and mongol have fought; but nobody knows where the next fault line will be...