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The Rise of the West-Or Not? A Revision to Socio-Economic History

Jack A. Goldstone
Sociological Theory
Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jul., 2000), pp. 175-194
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/223311
Page Count: 20
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The Rise of the West-Or Not? A Revision to Socio-Economic History
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Abstract

The debate over the "Rise of the West" has generally been over which factor or factors-cultural, geoographic, or material-in European history led Europe to diverge from the World's pre-industrial civilizations. This article aims to shift the terms of the debate by arguing that there were no causal factors that made Europe's industrialization inevitable or even likely. Rather, most of Europe would not and could not move toward industrialization any more than China or India or Japan. Rather, a very accidental combination of events in the late seventeenth century placed England on a peculiar path, leading to industrialization and constitutional democracy. These accidents included the compromise between the Anglican Church and Dissenters, and between Crown and Parliament, in the settlements of 1689; the adoption of Newtonian science as part of the cosmology of the Anglican Church and its spread to craftsmen and entrepreneurs throughout Britain; and the opportunity to apply the idea of the vacuum and mechanics to solve a particular technical problem: pumping water out of deep mine shafts in or near coal mines. Without these particular accidents of history, there is no reason to believe that Europe would have ever been more advanced than the leading Asian civilizations of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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