In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrial revolution--pass into stagnation?
Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr sets the background for his analysis by tracing the major inventions and innovations that have transformed society since ancient Greece and Rome. What emerges from this survey is often surprising: the classical world, for instance, was largely barren of new technology, the relatively backward society of medieval Europe bristled with inventions, and the period between the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution was one of slow and unspectacular progress in technology, despite the tumultuous developments associated with the Voyages of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution.
What were the causes of technological creativity? Mokyr distinguishes between the relationship of inventors and their physical environment--which determined their willingness to challenge nature--and the social environment, which determined the openness to new ideas. He discusses a long list of such factors, showing how they interact to help or hinder a nation's creativity, and then illustrates them by a number of detailed comparative studies, examining the differences between Europe and China, between classical antiquity and medieval Europe, and between Britain and the rest of Europe during the industrial revolution. He examines such aspects as the role of the state (the Chinese gave up a millennium-wide lead in shipping to the Europeans, for example, when an Emperor banned large ocean-going vessels), the impact of science, as well as religion, politics, and even nutrition. He questions the importance of such commonly-cited factors as the spill-over benefits of war, the abundance of natural resources, life expectancy, and labor costs.
Today, an ever greater number of industrial economies are competing in the global market, locked in a struggle that revolves around technological ingenuity. The Lever of Riches, with its keen analysis derived from a sweeping survey of creativity throughout history, offers telling insights into the question of how Western economies can maintain, and developing nations can unlock, their creative potential.
"An excellent volume outlining in great detail, yet wide ranging in scope, the role of technological change in history. Will make a great supplemental text for our future World Economic History course that I'll be teaching."--Michael Haupert, Univ. of Wisconsin-LaCrosse
"Mokyr has demonstrated, yet again, that he is one the best economic historians around. His book is a treasure trove of facts and insights about technological progress often overlooked in other accounts. Further, his argument that economics might do well to adopt the methodology of evolutionary biology instead of the standard application of Newtonian physics is cogent and convincing."--Howard Bodenhorn, St. Lawrence Univ.
"An informative and well-written study of humankind's progress."--J.M. Skaggs,Wichita State Univ.
"The history and the examples Mokyr uses are a delight to read."--Business Week
"Joel Mokyr is a first-rate scholar who has read a wide body of literature. The book is very well written, lively and engaging. It is closely reasoned and well executed"--Nathan Rosenberg, Stanford University
"Joel Mokyr likes telling his story and he tells it well; his book makes for good reading and rereading, and this in itself sets him apart from many of his fellow economic historians."--The New York Times Book Review
"[Mokyr's] examples are so comprehensive, his knowledge so detailed, and his conclusions so broad and firmly drawn that the reader comes away full of insight."--The Christian Science Monitor
"[A] rich, subtly flavored buffet of theories, ideas, insights and examples."--Wall Street Journal
"Lucid and accessible."--Reason
"Raise[s] some very insightful questions."--Informationweek
"In this thought-provoking treatise, Mokyr explores the historical causes of economic growth, with special focus on technological creativity and its impact on economic progress and the quality of life."--Northwestern Perspective
"This is an important book about the determinants of technological creativity and why the West has been successful in promoting and adopting new technology for economic progress....The Lever of Riches is a valuable book that every economist should read."--Gary D. Libecap, Journal of Comparative Economics
"It brings together a wealth of information on the development of technology and the means of analyzing it, and ...it is so splendidly provocative."--Economic Historical Review
"Very well written and edited."--John Murray, Ohio State University
"Moykr is brilliant and insightful....his writing is always a delight to read."--Ane M. Quade, California State University at Sacramento
"This is an ambitious and intriguing book....What marks it our is the sophisticated handling of the theory of technological change, within an evolutionary theoretical paradigm...This is an important, erudite and engrossing book, and is likely to be one of the key works in the emerging evolutionary analysis of technological change. It is essential reading for those interested in both economic history and the development of evolutionary economics."--Geoff
Hodgson, University of Cambridge