A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (Princeton Economic History of the Western World)
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Why are some parts of the world so rich and others so poor? Why did the Industrial Revolution--and the unprecedented economic growth that came with it--occur in eighteenth-century England, and not at some other time, or in some other place? Why didn't industrialization make the whole world rich--and why did it make large parts of the world even poorer? In A Farewell to Alms, Gregory Clark tackles these profound questions and suggests a new and provocative way in which culture--not exploitation, geography, or resources--explains the wealth, and the poverty, of nations.
Countering the prevailing theory that the Industrial Revolution was sparked by the sudden development of stable political, legal, and economic institutions in seventeenth-century Europe, Clark shows that such institutions existed long before industrialization. He argues instead that these institutions gradually led to deep cultural changes by encouraging people to abandon hunter-gatherer instincts-violence, impatience, and economy of effort-and adopt economic habits-hard work, rationality, and education.
The problem, Clark says, is that only societies that have long histories of settlement and security seem to develop the cultural characteristics and effective workforces that enable economic growth. For the many societies that have not enjoyed long periods of stability, industrialization has not been a blessing. Clark also dissects the notion, championed by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel, that natural endowments such as geography account for differences in the wealth of nations.
A brilliant and sobering challenge to the idea that poor societies can be economically developed through outside intervention, A Farewell to Alms may change the way global economic history is understood.
Posts discussing this item
posted to Stumbling and Mumbling on Thu 30th Jul 09
In this new paper (pdf), Gregory Clark of A Farewell to Alms fame makes a gobsmacking claim:Premodern England, all the way from 1250 to at least 1860, was a society without persistent social classes. It was a world of complete social mobility, with no permanent
posted to Falkenblog on Mon 9th Feb 09
It's Darwin's 200th birthday February 12, in the sesquicentenial of the publication of his Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. I think his seminal theory, that of evolution as the
posted to Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed on Mon 16th Feb 09
Greg "Farewell to Alms" Clark thinks that the days of $500,000 academic economists are over. (You knew those existed, right? Well, they do, as mad as it might seem.) The prior salary moonshot was partly a function of increased demand through more
posted to the alpha and omega on Wed 25th Jun 08
The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are here. What's on your reading list? Here's mine:Remember, if all else fails, playing dead is always a good option!The Art of Asset Allocation: Principles and Investment Strategies for Any Market This is the second edition
posted to Stumbling and Mumbling on Tue 10th Jun 08
In the Spectator, Tony Curzon Price talks abut Malthus inflation. This not only does violence to Malthuss idea, but also perhaps understates the problem we face now.Malthuss theory was not about the general price level but about relative prices. He thought
posted to The Bayesian Heresy on Sun 16th Mar 08
A History Of The World In Six Glasses by Tom StandageAnd a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktailsby Wayne Curtis Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky History of the Breast by Marilyn YalomThe
posted to Organizations and Markets on Fri 14th Mar 08
| Peter Klein |Greg Clark’s A Farewell to Alms has received a lot of attention in the econo-blogosphere. I haven’t read the book and don’t have much to say about it but you can read as much as you like from Cowen, McCloskey, DeLong, Caplan,
posted to Leonardo Monasterio's Blog on Fri 16th Nov 07
What are the causes of the Industrial Revolution? It is amazing that THE most important event in human history remains a mystery. Gregory Clark and James "Reversal of Fortune" Robinson take opposite sides on the issue. Greg has a point when he says that institutions