Nova knjiga Nialla Fergusona Civilization: The West and the Rest.
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THE two great issues of the age, Niall Ferguson believes, are how a handful of Western countries came to dominate the world, and whether their domination is now threatened by the rise of Asia. Not one to shrink from epic questions, Mr Ferguson, a British historian, has written a dazzling history of Western ideas that sets out to provide the reader with epic answers. Broadly speaking, he is more successful in explaining the West’s triumph than in forecasting its fate.
Mr Ferguson starts with the overwhelming success of European civilisation. In 1500 Europe’s future imperial powers controlled 10% of the world’s territories and generated just over 40% of its wealth. By 1913, at the height of empire, the West controlled almost 60% of the territories, which together generated almost 80% of the wealth. This stunning fact is lost, he regrets, on a generation that has supplanted history’s sweep with a feeble-minded relativism that holds “all civilisations as somehow equal”.
Science, medicine and the protestant work ethic are familiar characters in this drama. More unusual are the grubby commercial trio that Marxist historians often underestimate: competition, property rights and the consumer society.
Mr Ferguson is almost gleeful when he argues that the consumer society, butt of the bien pensant left, was the cog in the industrial machine that communism overlooked. “Capitalists”, he writes, “understood what Marx missed: that workers were also consumers. It therefore made no sense to try to grind their wages down to subsistence levels.”