"Economists agree about many things--contrary to popular opinion--but the majority agree about culture only in the sense that they no longer give it much thought." So begins the first chapter of "Cultures Merging," in which Eric Jones--one of the world's leading economic historians--takes an eloquent, pointed, and personal look at the question of whether culture determines economics or is instead determined by it.
Bringing immense learning and originality to the issue of cultural change over the long-term course of global economic history, Jones questions cultural explanations of much social behavior in Europe, East Asia, the United States, Australia, and the Middle East. He also examines contemporary globalization, arguing that while centuries of economic competition have resulted in the merging of cultures into fewer and larger units, these changes have led to exciting new syntheses.
Culture matters to economic outcomes, Jones argues, but cultures in turn never stop responding to market forces, even if some elements of culture stubbornly persist beyond the time when they can be explained by current economic pressures. In the longer run, however, cultures show a fluidity that will astonish some cultural determinists. Jones concludes that culture's "ghostly transit through history" is much less powerful than noneconomists often claim, yet it has a greater influence than economists usually admit.
The product of a lifetime of reading and thinking on culture and economics, a work of history and an analysis of the contemporary world, "Cultures Merging" will be essential reading for anyone concerned about the interaction of cultures and markets around the world.
"Jones's scholarship is enormous, and the book is full of fascinating facts... He writes clearly with an absence of jargon, which makes the book accessible to a wide audience. Economists could certainly benefit from the way it opens up a wider set of perspectives. And ... there is more than enough interesting material to make the book worthwhile for the more general reader."--Paul Ormerod, Times Higher Education Supplement "Jones' book is important because it links our economic past and future with our ideas about culture."--Mark Trahant, Seattle Post-Intelligencer "An accessible, illuminating, and inspiring book."--Avner Greif, EH.net "Eric Jones is intelligent, literate, and eclectic. His comments range over many fields besides economic history, and he writes in a sprightly manner. The book is fun to read, and it engages one of the big issues of economic history: the role of culture in economic affairs."--Peter Temin, Economic History Review "Eric L. Jones has written an interesting and well-argued critique of two positions that he believes are well entrenched in the economic history literature. The first, which he terms 'cultural nullity', is widely held by economists and assigns no or at best a trivial role to culture in explaining economic outcomes. Second, Jones criticizes those (often historians) who think of a 'cultural fixity', in which an unchanging culture dominates every other aspect of life... Jones marshals an impressive and at times amusing range of illustrations of the fluidity of cultures."--Harold James, International History Review "Cultures Merging is a remarkable historical tour de force presenting a wealth of argument to indicate the role of economic forces in the modification of culture and vice versa."--Arthur Webb, Journal of Cultural Economics "Jones ... makes a compelling argument for the special place of literature in understanding these dialectics of poverty."--John Marsh, The Minnesota Review "Jones writes in a vivid, attractive manner, expressing sometimes trenchant arguments on specific topics... His book has a syncretic and eclectic feel, and conveys a sense of its author as someone who, having established his standing in his previous, more focused work, now revels in his ability to survey that of another generation or two of scholars, and to tell his readers which leads to follow and which to consider useless."--Gianfranco Poggi, Sociologica