Source: Telegraph UK, 3-6-11
For 500 years Western civilisation was full of self-belief, but now, historian Niall Ferguson argues in his new Channel 4 series, its dominance is coming to an end.
…Yet any history of the world’s civilisations that underplays the degree of their gradual subordination to the West after 1500 is missing the essential point – the thing most in need of explanation. The rise of the West is, quite simply, the pre-eminent historical phenomenon of the second half of the second millennium after Christ. It is the story at the very heart of modern history. It is perhaps the most challenging riddle historians have to solve.
In my new book and series, I argue that what distinguished the West from the Rest – the mainsprings of global power – were six identifiably novel complexes of institutions and associated ideas and behaviours. For the sake of simplicity, I summarise them under six headings: 1. Competition 2. Science 3. Property rights 4. Medicine 5. The consumer society 6. The work ethic.
To use the language of today’s computerised, synchronised world, these were the six killer applications – the killer apps – that allowed a minority of mankind originating on the western edge of Eurasia to dominate the world for the better part of 500 years.
This is of more than purely historical interest. For it is only by identifying the causes of Western ascendancy that we can hope to estimate with any degree of accuracy the imminence of our fall.
My conclusion is that we are already living through the twilight of Western predominance. But that is not just because most of the Rest have now downloaded all or nearly all of our killer apps. It is also because we ourselves have lost faith in our own civilisation.
Civilization: the West and the Rest (Allen Lane) costs £25 T £23 plus £1.25 p&p. Call 0844 871 1515 or click here. The series starts on Sunday 6 March on Channel 4 at 8.00pm