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The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress
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The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  197 ratings  ·  16 reviews
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 t
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 1st 1992 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published June 14th 1990)
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Jack
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-science
Where does innovation come from? Why were the classical civilizations able to flourish, create towering intellectual achievements in mathematics, law and philosophy, yet not develop much in the way of fundamentally new technology, nor particularly advance the standards of living of their people? Why was China able to lead the world for over a thousand years in new discoveries, then suddenly regress and involute, losing the most complex clock and best seafaring navy the world had seen? And how di ...more
Bertrand
Mokyr is an accessible, relatively jargon-free and not overly dogmatic economic historian. The Lever of Riches strikes the right balance between historical narrative and a modicum of economic theory, in order to defend a vision of growth which I think I am not entirely in agreement with, but which is well argued, coherent and which readily acknowledges its critics.
The author identifies early on four vectors of economic growth: investment (increased availability of funds), commercial expansion (
...more
Rick
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it

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 t

...more
So Hakim
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An interesting book about relationship between technological inventions and their economical impacts. Roughly divided into three parts:

- History of technological inventions (very compressed),
- Analysis of inventions' economical impacts,
- What is the possible mechanism behind it?


In world history, there is one big question, namely: how did the West rise as technological powerhouse? Why did Renaissance happen in Italy, and Industrial Revolution take place in Eng
...more
Jerry Ward
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I could not improve on the Jack’s excellent review of Joel Mokyr's The Lever of Riches. I will just add a few thoughts.

In my judgment Prof. Mokyr appears to have underestimated the important and fundamental significance of the steam engine, the iconic invention of the Industrial Revolution. He noted its original use in pumping water out of coal mines, and that “it was the first economically useful transformation of thermal energy (heat) into kinetic energy (work).” (p. 85 of the pape
...more
Igor
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economic-history
The first half, covering the history of technological progress through 1914, is fascinating. The other half lists all the theories that tried to explain technological creativity or lack of it, with pros and cons for each. Very interesting and readable book.
Jim Angstadt
Nov 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Linking technology and progress just makes sense. Understanding why seems like a worth goal.
But, my goodness, this book is slow and boring.
Bailed
Mark Isaak
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very thoughtful and well-written book about the factors which are responsible for helping and hindering technological advance. Mokyr does an excellent job of writing clearly about an issue which is extremely complex. Almost half of the book is devoted to a history of technological advance, from antiquity through the 19th century. This seemed excessive to me as I read it, but it is necessary to contextualize the examples which help make the analyses clear. Although Mokyr does dismiss some facto ...more
Adora
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A brief comparative history of technological progress (up to the 1990s) from an economic historian. In particular, why some societies are technically creative and why some are not. The part about Luddites is enlightening. The last chapter about how evolution framework maps to technological progress is a bit forced / dumb, best to skip it.
Kelly
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Starts off a bit dry, but really gets interesting. I learned a lot of interesting details about our historical technological progress, especially the Industrial Revolution at a more detailed level.
David
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
super academic, slow reading but great.
Chuck Kollars
Aug 29, 2016 rated it liked it
About "technological change"; thorough, detailed, accurate, logical, very well organized, and an easy read, if a bit dated a quarter century after its publication. The book revolves around "why did the Industrial Revolution happen in Great Britain and not somewhere else?". By way of background covers so much more though it's easy to forget that -- covers everything from the early Middle Ages through the 1980s, and all of the West; makes excursions into Rome, Greece, Islam, and China too.
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Mk Miller
Jul 01, 2013 rated it liked it
I prefer the way Fernand Braudel treats the economic history of technical innovation. Found this to be a little narrow. But I wanted to read Mokyr's Gifts of Athena instead of this, which I suspect is a bit more broad in scope.
Bradleypeacock
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting reading, this book challenges some economic assumptions; for example, that there are no such thing as a free lunch. He argues that technological advancement spurred by creative innovation creates free lunch for the society through rising living standards.
David
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
A classic look at the evolution of technology from an economic historians perspective. Engagingly written and erudite.
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Joel Mokyr is a Netherlands-born American-Israeli economic historian. He is the Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and professor of economics and history at Northwestern University, and Sackler Professor at the Eitan Berglas School of Economics at the University of Tel Aviv.