Monday, November 22, 2010

The cradle of civilization...for now?

We study history not just to collect facts and dates, but rather to understand where we came from, to ascertain the patterns of human affairs. This is not just to tell us what to do, but also what to avoid. For it is the task of succeeding generations to try and escape history, that is, to remove from possibility the mistakes of other times. In so doing one improves and that improvement is necessary to growth and civilization. When we look at history, particularly since around the 14th century, we see the steady domination of the West even though both East and West began on a kind of level playing field. What happened and what do those patterns of success and failure tell us about the future?  This is the work of Stanford historian Ian Morris, as told in his new work, Why the West Rules--for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future.

My conversation with Ian Morris:

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