The Industrial Revolution Was No Coincidence



Something extraordinary happened to the human species over the past two centuries: Economic growth transformed everyday life and changed poverty from a near-universal condition to a limited problem. The technologies that enabled this change emerged largely in Western Europe. Why there — and not, say, in China? The Washington Post’s Ana Swanson explores the question in a fascinating interview with economic historian Joel Mokyr.

Mokyr argues that, though Chinese society had a rich culture full of intellectual achievement, it optimized for stability rather than growth. It remained a centralized empire for most of its history, whereas Europe never unified, and evolved a more competitive landscape — one that meant that heretical challengers of received knowledge could find harbor across a border.

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