Alfredo's Reviews > Civilization: The West and the Rest

Civilization by Niall Ferguson
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's review
Feb 02, 2012

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This is a book that you have to digest...I finished it about an hour ago and I am not totally sure what to make of it.

Ferguson takes us on a whirlwind historical and analytical tour of Western civilization in a quest to explain what differentiated it from other cultures and how those differences gave an economic, cultural, political, and military edge.

The author proposes a thesis around six killer apps that distinguished the West:

1) Competition
2) Cultural and industrial revolutions
3) Science
4) Property rights
5) Consumption
6) Work ethics

Each chapter provides historical and economic support for these ideas. The bottom line is that while he acknowledges Western society is in decline, its decline is not inevitable (much like Zakaria proposed in his own book.)

I took exception to some editorial attacks on president Obama such as his assertion that Obama is not a realist, which is an oft repeated accusation from the right wing, and which belie the fact that he has been more successful in his foreign policy than Clinton and Bush Jr. through an approach that is inconsistent in its positions, but firmly rooted in the needs of American interests.

Another complain I have is that he quickly glosses over the greatest threat to continued Chinese economic growth, namely the twin demographic threats of an imbalance between male and female which has driven the property bubble, and the insufficient number of young people in coming decades, both byproducts of their genocidal "one-child policy." He does not give enough weight to this coming crisis as a potential factor that will put the brakes on their growth, and therefore their hegemony and power projection around the world to the detriment of Western society.

All in all it is a good analysis of historic, political, and social elements that resulted in the modern civilization.


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